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Aisha Lowry: Carers and disabled rights’ activist

14th May 2021

The last few emails we, of the Muslim Blue Stockings group set up by the late (marhoomah) Aisha Lowry, who passed away on April 20 aged 75, received, just hours before her death, speak volumes about her character and the loss she represents to the Muslim community. She may not have been well-known, but she was a legend to us.

The emails (not to mention WhatsApp), comprised three petitions which she urged us to sign: demanding 1) an investigation into dodgy-doings re: Government Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procurements; 2) that Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, reverse ‘do not resuscitate’ orders for Covid-19 patients with learning difficulties and 3) that George Eustace protect our oceans from destructive commercial fishing. And then there were also the cc’d letters for our attention, sent to her MP, local councillors, the local paper and Sussex social services demanding better and fairer treatment of the carers of the UK who contribute billions to the UK economy through their dedicated sacrifice.

A particular bug-bear being charges for direct services. “I am not paying and that’s final; let them take me to court if they dare!” She was motivated in her quest for a fairer world by her own experiences as the carer of learning disabled son, Byron, to whom she devoted herself, giving up her career, first as a beautician in Harrods, then an EFL Teacher.

Of Anglo-Irish stock, Aisha had always been a fighter who converted to Islam in the 1980s in Dublin and then spent the rest of her life in Bermondsey and then Hastings St Leonards (East Sussex). She loved the community togetherness in Dublin and that’s why as a member of AMR, she loved the weekend retreats she attended on some occasions.

Although Aisha wore her religiosity lightly, she was passionate about Islamic principles of justice and equality particularly in relation to women and that’s why, following a group visit to the National Gallery, where she told us the story of the Blue Stockings Group, she suggested that her little group of friends should be called the “Muslim Blue Stockings” (cementing the deal by sending us all a pair of blue stockings, of course).

More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement had awakened a massive interest in the issue of racial inequality within and without the Muslim community; Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism as well as mainstream racism were a constant source of debate in our group. It was an in-joke that she was quite enamoured by Historian David Olusoga and his series inspired her to do several courses on post-colonial studies and racism.

She was also signed up to do an MA in September in English Literature or History; despite the drain on her time of being a full-time carer and battling social services for just treatment for this vast neglected group, her quest for knowledge was unbounded. As a group, our main raison d’etre was discussing contemporary issues and supporting each other, but at Aisha’s behest, several years ago we started to sponsor a young Gazan orphan girl who is now almost ready to go to university where she has the ambition to be a doctor.

Earlier, in the 1990s she helped to set up a Muslim disabled association to campaign against the discrimination and stigma Muslim disabled suffered within the community. Indeed, The Muslim News featured some of the activities she helped to organise.

Her friends have been left devastated by her sudden demise, particularly the circumstances of it, but we will remember a larger-than-life, gregarious, very passionate person who loved everything Jane Austen, Victoriana (especially gardens and stately homes), going on coach trips with “other biddies”, curry, cakes and chocolate. She had an infectious guffaw we remember with fondness and was always keeping in touch with friends through cards and little gifts.

Aisha Lowry was a very brave and principled woman who inspired us by her stoical service to the son who she doted on and the ardour with which she advocated for a more equal society. Allah reward her abundantly and grant her His forgiveness and mercy. Ameen.

Sarah Sheriff, ACL Tutor of ESOL

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