Let me start on a narcissistic note. Empowered Muslim Youth has put up an interview with this humble blogger. If you’re a sucker for punishment, head on over there.
Does this news about American permanent bases in Iraq surprise anyone?
The good sister at What She Said posted this news item on Turkey dropping its ban on Hijab.
And finally, check out this amazing series of photos featuring a great white shark attacking a seal off the coast of South Africa.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Let me start on a narcissistic note. Empowered Muslim Youth has put up an interview with this humble blogger. If you’re a sucker for punishment, head on over there.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Humza’s been a bit under the weather lately with a runny nose and the sort. He’s not yet learned how to efficiently blow his nose, so he’ll take a tissue and wipe his nose once and then throw it to the side. After a few minutes, you’ll see him next to a pile of barely used tissues all crumpled up. He can literally go through an entire tissue box in less than a day.
I finally got fed up with him and yelled, ‘Humza! Stop wasting these tissues. You think they grow on trees?!’
Smart-aleck Maryam looks up and says, ‘But Abujee, tissues *do* come from trees.’
Flustered, I quickly reply, ‘Fine, but that’s not my point...’
Humza interrupts with a confused look, ‘Tissues grow on trees?’
Maryam continues in her Ms. Know-it-all voice, 'Tissues are made of paper and paper comes from trees. Right, Abujee?'
'Cool', says Humza as he wipes his nose with another tissue from the box.
Throwing my hands up in the air, I walk away mumbling to myself, ‘You kids may have won this round...'
Just for fun (and moreso, to irk my wife), I wanted to see how my kids would react to the topic of polygyny. I first asked Maryam how she would act if her husband wanted to marry another wife.
She replied, 'He better make sure to take care of me...or else.'
Interesting response...I think there is some sort of osmosis phenomenon going on between her and her mother.
Then I turned to Humza and asked if he would ever get married twice. Without even thinking, he blurted, 'No way!' Puzzled, I asked how come.
(His exact words) 'They are too hard.'
'Strong within you, the force is, young Skywalker,' I thought proudly.
No doubt about it here, folks...there is definitely osmosis between me and him.
UPDATE 1/04/09: In addition to the blatantly one-sided letter that Obama wrote to Khalilzad (below), Obama has revealed his true colors through his silence on the current Israeli onslaught. He may be correct when he states that there is only one President at a time, yet that slight technicality didn't prevent him from making his statement of condemnation on the Mumbai attacks. Nor has it prevented him from holding regular press conferences to address the nation's economy. So why now has he decided to take the stance that America can have only one President at a time??
UPDATE 1/29/08: It seems that the infamous letter is authentic. Here is a picture of the letter and the related news story. (Thanks to Amy for providing the links). Now if someone could please explain to me the eerie silence by the mass media on this issue. Media coverage of the leading candidates has kicked into high gear, so whenever Obama scratches his ass, its headline news. How come this letter didn't receive any airtime by the MSM?
I just ran across this letter 'written' by Obama to the US Ambassador to the UN:
Dear Ambassador Khalilzad,
I understand that today the UN Security Council met regarding the situation in Gaza, and that a resolution or statement could be forthcoming from the Council in short order.
I urge you to ensure that the Security Council issue no statement and pass no resolution on this matter that does not fully condenm the rocket assault Hamas has been conducting on civilians in southern Israel...
All of us are concerned about the impact of closed border crossings on Palestinian families. However, we have to understand why Israel is forced to do this... Israel has the right to respond while seeking to minimize any impact on civilians.
The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks... If it cannot bring itself to make these common sense points, I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all.
United States Senator
Now I'm no fan of Obama, and his unwavering support for Israel is no different than any other US politician's, but the authenticity of this letter is in serious doubt.
First of all, the only place I could find this letter was on some message board, a few blogs, and a second-rate news outlet.
Secondly, is it normal practice for Senators to include a bunch of '...' in their official correspondences?
Finally, one of the sources often cited is this Haaretz link. Its a blog of their Chief US Correspondent, Shmuel Rosner. He doesn't source the letter, so I remain in doubt.
Anyone have a concrete, reliable source for this letter?
If not, I'm guessing that it was 'leaked' by the Obama camp to shore up support from the pro-Israel voting bloc, where he's taking a beating.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saudi Arabia provides a very interesting case of a society aggressively welcoming the indoors-oriented 21st century but equally mindful of its passion for nature and the outdoors.
I've spent the past 5 years in Riyadh and have been witness to an amazing economic boom taking place, with a construction pace only bested by the likes of Dubai and Beijing. But even though malls and business offices are filling the Riyadh skyline and the Saudis are getting plugged in (Internet, satellite dishes, 3G cell phones, etc.), they somehow are still retaining their connection to the outdoors.
The most popular pastime remains weekend outings to the desert or to the local park. There are a number of public parks sprinkled throughout the city and during the weekend, you'll be hard-pressed to find a patch of grass to sit on. To meet the high demand, there are even a handful of private parks, available to those willing to pay a small entry fee.
You see, everyone flocks to the park at weeks end. Most people either live in apartment flats or homes that lack a front/backyard. So the women and children are cooped up indoors without a place to roam outside their homes. And if they ever dared to venture outside, the neighborhoods are not designed to allow for casual strolls, with the absence of sidewalks and presence of drivers oblivious to the concept of pedestrian right-of-way. Thus, the only remedy is to spend a few hours in the park.
To that end, you'll see families gathering at parks, men sitting on one blanket grilling some kebabs, women sitting on another blanket sipping tea, and kids running around wreaking havoc. These grass-filled parks are especially nice as greenery is an scarce commodity in the desert oasis of Riyadh.
People here are so starved for outdoor activities, that I've seen many families park their cars at the outer limits of the huge mall parking lots (where traffic is sparse). They lay out a blanket on the concrete and proceed to have a small picnic with their kids enjoying the open space. I've actually done that myself with some friends – while our wives were inside shopping, we took the kids outside to play in the parking lot (away from traffic, of course) and relaxed on a small patch of grass.
However, if the crowded scene of the parks in the city is not your cup of tea, the expansive desert that surrounds Riyadh provides a more serene setting.
What really amazes me is the widespread popularity of the desert. At first, I didn't understand the appeal of spending time in the desert – isn't that where the merciless sun beats down on its visitors and scavenging vultures circle overhead?
So I was initially surprised when I heard that droves of families go out to the desert as a social outlet. It was only after I tried it myself that I found something eerily calming with the open desert. The lack of visual distractions really forces a more meditative frame of mind. The adults seem to engage in more introspective discussions while the kids are forced to entertain themselves in innovative ways.
And when nightfall arrives, the obligatory campfire brings its natural flickering light to the dark abyss of the surrounding desert. Sitting around the fire, drinking Arabic coffee and munching on dates, under the starry sky, surrounded by friends and family brings out the romantic in even the most hardest of hearts.
I find this magnetic relationship with the outdoors programmed into the social fabric of this society – and I'm not simply restricting it to the Saudis. Many of the participants are in fact expats from all over the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. It's so refreshing to see this zeal for the outdoors very much alive, starkly contrasting the murky electronic age in which most of us are mired.
And what's most wonderful is the simplicity surrounding these social settings. Whereas entertainment in the West often revolves around an event, such as a concert or a ballgame or a carnival, laying down a blanket in a park or the desert is a sublime act of the greatest simplicity requiring nothing more than a group of family and friends, accentuated with some nice mint tea.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Here's an amazingly accurate guide on the Do's and Don'ts of raising kids.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I've been thinking some more on the issue of Islamic polygyny, specifically about the humanity (or lack thereof) surrounding the practice. A commenter from my last post referred to the pain experienced by the first wife:
"but tell me, if tomorrow you decided to take another wife, how would your wife FEEL? proud? happy? excited? or would she feel embarassed and EXTREMELY hurt that perhaps she is lacking something? who would be proud telling their mom 'guess what mom. my hubby is taking on another wife! yay'"
On top of that, I found this very interesting post by Achelois, where some very real, agonizing questions have been introduced into this discussion – questions revealing the very human aspect of this issue.
I appreciate these often-overlooked perspectives for they provide an insight that is sorely lacking in this discussion.
But the reality is that sometimes there is serious pain involved in fulfilling social responsibilities. And that is how I view Islamic polygyny – as a social responsibility to be practiced in the context of extenuating circumstances. I view polygyny as a most effective means of caring for orphans and single mothers. I see it as a means of providing for women when there is a dearth of men capable of providing for these women.
I don't see it through the twisted lenses of men who are looking for kinky, sexual pleasures. I don't accept that lame excuse that it helps curb adultery. I don't buy the statistical argument that there are more women than men. I don't paint my opinion of Islamic polygyny with the abuses of the countless men indulging in their sexual fantasies.
I view the institution of Islamic polygyny as a necessary aberration to address societal 'situations'. I see it eerily similar to Islamic Jihad.
The hallowed institution of Jihad is universally accepted by all Muslims, regardless of its many abuses across the globe. Even with the prominence of Al-Qaeda and their jihadist brethren, no Muslim will ever opine that Jihad has become an outdated institution.
No sane Muslim will talk of the personal difficulties created by Jihad as justification for its abrogation.
Surely there is pain involved in taking the soul of another human, the horror of ending a life which had the potential of becoming a beloved servant of God, the anguish of creating another widow and another orphan, the mental and emotional toll it takes on the participants, the torment of the wife who kisses her husband one last time before he goes out to fight, and so on.
These are very real issues created when fulfilling the responsibilities of Islamic Jihad.
But these truths don't detract from the harsh reality of having to pick up a weapon and fight for the sake of Allah (when the requisite conditions have been met).
Nor should the pains involved in polygyny sidetrack individuals from fulfilling their social responsibilities (when the requisite conditions have been met).
This final part is work-in-progress:
[And just like the requisite conditions for Jihad have been spelt out in our tradition, I believe that a similar effort ought to be undertaken for Islamic polygyny. There are many rules with regards to declaring and carrying out Jihad that have been extracted from the principles of the Quran and Sunnah. Why shouldn't there be similar rulings outlining the do's and don'ts of polygyny.
Sadly I fear that is something that will never happen. For it is the condition-less practice of polygyny that allows men to indulge and abuse this most sanctified of Islamic institutions.]
Saturday, January 19, 2008
This recent post by Sister RadiantLight got me thinking about Islamic Polygamy and how its being treated by our current generation as if it’s the second coming of the plague.
Back when my wife used to teach a class of young girls at the local masjid, I would advise her to address the topic of polygyny in a positive, receptive manner, with the intent of freeing the girls from all the negativity often associated with it. Unfortunately, the complexities behind this phenomenon that has afflicted the mindset of modern-day Muslims cannot be fully confronted in a weekend classroom.
There are too many forces that are painting this horrifying picture of Islamic polygyny as some abhorrent behavior, only practiced by the most barbaric of men and most naïve of women.
Now I clearly don't see polygyny as the normative mode of marriage, but I also believe that it shouldn't be viewed as some horrible anomaly. It should be embraced as a healthy alternative to nonstandard circumstances.
Too many young women are being raised with the belief that being in a polygynous relationship is socially unacceptable. They are being taught that only the most desperate and most abused are ever partner to such a relationship. They are being told that these are the misguided ways of misogynistic men.
We need to break this ugly trend and begin to teach our daughters and sisters that a family with one husband and two wives can be as healthy and functional as any monogamous relationship. We need to teach the women that it is a completely acceptable situation.
And more importantly, the teaching needs to be done to the men as well. They need to be taught that marrying a second wife is not to be taken lightly, based solely on one's sexual desires or born out of apathy towards the first wife. They need to be taught the Prophetic way of marrying more than one wife and more importantly, the staunch warnings against treating them unjustly.
They need to be taught that in some circumstances, it would be irresponsible for them NOT to marry a second wife. Unfortunately, there are men who would be prime candidates for having more than one wife (proper religious understanding, upright character, financially sound, etc.), but have resigned themselves to one wife, for one reason or another.
And what's even more unfortunate is that men who are absolutely *unqualified* to ever get married to even one woman are the ones marrying two or three at a time.
My point is I find it very troubling that there are so many women out there, struggling to find a husband, that simply would never entertain the thought of entering a polygynous marriage, regardless of the upstanding character of the man and the accepting nature of the first wife.
And if ever a woman is willing to consider such a situation, the parents would never allow for it, citing social pressures and the like.
That's just too bad.
That mindset needs to change.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Yes, me. And others like me.
The vast majority of voters in America are simply not going to put in the required effort to educate themselves where each candidate stands on the myriad issues.
Just not gonna do it.
And that is why leaving the vote to numskulls like myself is the greatest of travesties.
The masses are so easily swayed. Votes can be manipulated, bought, or simply cast in outright ignorance.
And even those who put a semblance of effort in understanding the differences between the candidates, they are influenced by the all-powerful media which frames the discussion of the issues and the candidates (see how they're hamstringing the Kucinich campaign by excluding him from the debates).
Look at the two frontrunners in the Democratic party, Obama and Clinton. Most will agree that a vote for Clinton is a vote for the status quo. But few will admit the same of Obama.
A cursory look at his platform shows that he is a man of the establishment, for the establishment, with nary a chance of rocking the boat (h/t to gess).
Obama's team of advisors are a bunch of recycled politicians from Clinton's presidency. And one doesn't raise as much campaign funds as Obama ($80M as of last September) without serving the interests of some powerful lobbying groups in Washington. And a closer look at his foreign policy shows many similarities to that of Mitt Romney's.
I'm afraid that many Muslims will get lulled into voting for him, in the same manner that they voted for Bush 8 years ago. The man is charismatic, saying all the right things, and is promising change, yet has accomplished very little on the political scene (domestically and especially internationally).
And then there are those who are advocating voting for these Obama/Clinton based on their racial and gender minority status. (Many voted with that same spirit in the past two elections - voting for the candidate from the mentally handicapped minority group - and look where that got us?...OK, that was cheesy - couldn't help myself)
But to even suggest that a leader be elected based on gender or race is extremely ignorant. But I'm sure most votes will be cast with that being the major factor.
And don't even get me started on the change-resistant nature of the two-party system. What a joke!
Let me be clear that I'm not against representational governance. I'm just fed up with all this hoopla about western-style democracy being the greatest thing since sliced bread. Lets acknowledge the absurdity of the claim that democracy is the height of man's political evolution.
Check out the list at Dunner's blog.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
A few months ago, I had posted about the astonishing rate of military suicides (around 120 per week since 2005), primarily linked to the stresses of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I had written:
"War is not only ravaging the innocent families over in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also those families who have foolishly sent their loved ones to fight these unjust invasions."
That's why it was little surprise when I read this NY Times piece detailing the sad plight of some soldiers who end up committing homicide:
"The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.
About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain."
And that's simply the tip of the iceberg, with many more veterans suffering in other ways:
"Clearly, committing homicide is an extreme manifestation of dysfunction for returning veterans, many of whom struggle in quieter ways, with crumbling marriages, mounting debt, deepening alcohol dependence or more-minor tangles with the law."
"Today the focus is on PTSD, but military health care officials are seeing a spectrum of psychological issues, with an estimated half of the returning National Guard members, 38 percent of soldiers and 31 percent of marines reporting mental health problems, according to a Pentagon task force."
As I did in my previous post, I implore you to read the Chris Hedges article at the Nation where he interviews 50 soldiers. The horrifying stories they narrate display the sheer inhumanity and gross disregard for life and law with which these wars are being carried out. Its no surprise why so many vets come home in such a miserable psychological state.
"'He came back different' is the shared refrain of the defendants’ family members, who mention irritability, detachment, volatility, sleeplessness, excessive drinking or drug use, and keeping a gun at hand.
“You are unleashing certain things in a human being we don’t allow in civic society, and getting it all back in the box can be difficult for some people,” said William C. Gentry, an Army reservist and Iraq veteran who works as a prosecutor in San Diego County."
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
My sweetheart has finally shown her true colors. After 14 years of marriage, I’ve discovered that she’s a closet Arab Supremacist. The discussion below is proof of my findings:
(Humza is H, Maryam is M, Naeem is N and my Arab Supremacist Sweetheart will be...oh wait...that doesn’t sound right. Let’s instead call her ASW for Arab Supremacist Wife – that’s better).
(Sitting in the car, looking for a way to pass the time)
N: I got a game, think of a name that starts with the letters of the alphabet. Start with A.
(confused look on all our faces, silently praying for his future wife)
Game goes on through all the letters, until P, when no one can think of a name, so I jump in...
H: Is that even a name?
N: Yeah, its my sister’s middle name
Then, we get stuck at U and again, I chime in with Umbreen. Then all hell breaks loose when I suggest Vaseem for the letter V:
ASW: (in her look-at-me-imitating-Naeem dorky voice) Perveen, Umbreen, Vaseem (back to her normal dorky voice) What’s with all these Paki-stanki names? (in the spirit of full disclosure, she actually said Pakistani and not paki-stanki, but I know she was thinking it)
N: What do you mean? They’re not Pakistani...they’re just normal Muslim names.
ASW: Yeah right. What’s up with Vaseem? Its supposed to be Waseem, with the Arabic ‘waw’, not the Urdu version of it ‘v’. That’s just straight up retarded. (again, she didn’t say that last part, but was definitely thinking it!)
N: Listen, certain cultures adjust the Arabic names to better suit their indigenous language. The Turks did it with Mehmet, which is the Turkish version of Mahmood or Muhammad.
ASW: Well, they’re dorks also. You wouldn’t change the pronunciation of the Quran to suit your lingual deficiencies, would you? The Arabic name is supposed to stick to the original pronunciation. Anything else is simply unacceptable.
N: Not true. What about your good buddies from Egypt (ASW's best childhood friend is Egyptian). They changed Jamal to Gamal, right? Are they dorks also?
ASW: (stunned silence)
N: (turning to Maryam, with my strongest desi accent) Vat u tink Maryam, I vill reply vith the ‘Boo-yah!’
On a serious note, I’m really intrigued by the way the different regions across the Muslim world have incorporated Arabic names into their local languages.
The Balkans are a good example with surnames like Hadžiosmanović (son of Hajji Osman) and Izetbegović (son of Chief Ezzat) and first names such as Dunja (Dunya), Ilijaz (Ilyas), Ejup (Ayub), and Yekup (Yaqub). The Turks have many as well with Ahmet (Ahmad), Murat (Murad), and Zeynep (Zainab). Africa has its own with names like Imamu (Imam), Sefu (Saif) and Mamadou (Muhammad).
Sunday, January 6, 2008
(h/t to American Muslim)
UPDATE 1/9/08: Based on some comments, I felt it necessary to clarify that while I disagree with the overall undertones of this video, I have the utmost respect for those involved in its production. I'm no fan of arm-chair Muslim critics, who whine and moan about our screwed up situation without lifting a finger. May Allah (swt) bless these individuals who actually stood up and did something constructive (as much as I may disagree with their approach). Good for them!
I'm really not diggin' the vibes in this video. I feel its too... apologetic... submissive...
I understand that Muslims are in dire need of a PR makeover.
I understand that far too many media outlets seek out the bearded FOB with the broken English as representative of the entire American Muslim community.
I understand that the war on terror has made the Muslim into the 21st century Commie/Nazi/Bogeyman.
I do understand all that.
But what are we aiming to achieve with this public service spot? Is a message consisting of 'Hey look at me! I'm just as American as you. I love Britney Spears and the NFL just like every other Joe Six-Pack. Please accept me! Oh and I also cheated in high school' really worth saying?
It seriously irks me the lengths we go to in order to humanize ourselves to those hellbent on dehumanizing us.
I would much rather prefer a more substantive portrayal of Muslims in America with signs stating our hatred for the economic injustices of capitalism or the disgust for the racism ravaging American cities or intolerance for the greedy crooks running the big pharmaceuticals.
How about a video with more substance - reflecting the higher principles we stand for as opposed to the weaker image of a domesticated people asking to be accepted?
While I won't knock the MAS Media Foundation and the dedicated individuals who put this video together (May Allah continue to motivate them to help the situation of Muslims in the West), I just don't feel its necessary to show our American-ness by citing Grey's Anatomy or Justin Timberlake or Victoria's Secret.
In its defense, I liked that the video conveyed an anti-alcohol, pro-abstinence, pro-environment, pro-social justice message.
But why is showing that a young Muslim is able to rap to all of Tupac's songs so important in establishing our American Muslim identity?
Its not about integrating into society. Its about elevating society.
One final note: I don't care much for the choice of the song. Generally speaking, its a nice song, but to even remotely intimate that Muslims are in America because they see it as a Paradise is highly questionable and quite insulting. Let's not feed the Amero-centricism so prevalent in American society.
Friday, January 4, 2008
I’d like to bring everyone’s attention to Br. Yursil’s latest post. He highlights a most beautiful saying by one shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaraghi, an 18th/19th century scholar from the North Caucasus region, speaking out against the Russian incursions of the time:
"Go to the mosques, weep and pray in repentance, shake dreams from your eyes and God will forgive you and restore you to the righteous path and arm you for great deeds.
Then [after purification of their souls] Almighty God will reinforce you for the battle against the kaafir. Azrail will fly over the Russian troops, their bayonets and cannons will not be dangerous to you and you will learn that God has more power than any earthly tsar.
You must be ready when the hour comes and you are called to battle. God will give me a sign when this day has arrived and I will tell you. Meanwhile, pray and weep."
I was particularly intrigued by the timing of the quote since over the past few days, my recent Pakistan post has spurred an interesting conversation in the comments section, with one brother calling on us to quit all this nonsense chit-chatting and do something more constructive.
My response to Young Skywalker was for us to focus first and foremost on personal rectification. Our automatic response to our problems is to jump into action and implement whatever solutions our minds can construct. The Ummah has fallen into a scientific worldview which sees everything as a worldly cause and effect. Change can only come from action, we boldly declare.
Sadly we have shifted from tawakkul (trust) in Allah (swt) to relying on our actions. While we say and preach that all results are from Allah (swt), our actions speak otherwise.
Our highest goal must be to work towards refined souls focused on achieving that state of Ihsan. These souls will then become the divinely inspired fountains from which all our actions will flow.
But I must add that there needs to always be a component of action to supplement this internal cleansing process. That is why I was so impressed with the approach of Sh. Al-Yaraghi. He wasn’t simply calling for an open-ended purification of the soul. He had a long term goal which integrated the corporal with the spiritual.
How come we are forced to choose between the two extremes? We either have politically oriented groups like the Jamati Islami or the Ikhwan, whose idea of tarbiyya (self-improvement) is to learn Fiqh-us-Sunna, or we have Sufi groups who solely focus on the spiritual, leaving the political to scoundrels and the like.
Where are the Sh. Al-Yaraghi’s of our time?
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
For those of you living anywhere near my old stomping grounds of Baltimore, Maryland:
Al-Madina Institute is pleased to announce its first one of a kind seminar entitled “The Portrait of the Prophet.” This will be a two day in-depth look at the wonderful book, “Ash’ Shama’il Muhammadiya,” taught by Shaykh Muhammad Bin Yahya Ninowy. This event will inshaAllah be hosted at Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB). For program details and registration information, click here.