While it is definitely in vogue to publicly denounce the 'brutal actions' of the Afghan Taliban, the few who try and proffer an alternative narrative are seen as "retarded Muslims" who are intent on blindly defending the indefensible.
Why are people so digital? Analog is not so bad.
It needn't be an either/or situation.
I support them in their resistance against occupation forces. I don't support them in their attacks on civilians.
Is that so complicated?
It bears repeating that reports on Taliban atrocities must be taken with a grain of salt, especially when it's been reported that US forces are aggressively employing "strategic communications" (read disinformation) to counterweigh their losing military strategy in Afghanistan.
Like in the aftermath of the May 2009 drone bombing in the Farah province that killed almost 100 civilians:
"The U.S. military tried desperately to spin the story, initially denying that any significant civilian casualties had resulted from the air strikes. Carefully placed leaks in the media suggested that the Taliban themselves had killed dozens of innocent people with grenades to make it appear that they had been killed by U.S. bombs.That "message" failed to gain traction, and was quietly abandoned.
When doctors and public health officials began to speculate on the reasons for the horrendous burns suffered by the Farah victims, the U.S. military circulated reports that the Taliban had been known to use white phosphorous. That, too, was not substantiated." [source]
So unless you are reporting from the battlefield, please spare me the blanket denunciations against the Taliban (or any other resistance for that matter).
I prefer not to base my judgments on press releases and government officials, especially when it's in their blatant interests to obfuscate the truth.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
While it is definitely in vogue to publicly denounce the 'brutal actions' of the Afghan Taliban, the few who try and proffer an alternative narrative are seen as "retarded Muslims" who are intent on blindly defending the indefensible.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
It's understandable that the vast majority of non-Muslims would not know the difference - after all, their primary source of information (Corporate Media) chooses to overlook such 'nuances'.
But I'm more worried about us Muslims and how we're slowly falling into the same confusion.
Most of us will label our Chechen brothers fighting against Russian aggression as Mujahideen. Same with our Palestinian brothers. As long as their efforts are utilizing legitimate means, directed towards legitimate targets.
But are we as clear in our convictions when it comes to our fellow Iraqis and Afghanis? As Western Muslims, are our perspectives affected by the fact that they are resisting American and European forces?
It's funny how so many of us were so vocal in support of the Afghani jihad when it was the Russian in the 80's, but when the same resistance is taking place against NATO forces, we've turned silent.
OK, let's say that we support our brothers in Afghanistan, as it's their right to resist foreign occupation. What then do we think of outside Muslims who travel to Afghanistan to join the resistance?
Just because these folks are constantly termed as foreign fighters linked with Al-Qaeda, are we to blindly condemn them? Or should we look upon their struggles and sacrifice as praiseworthy and admirable?
These are the questions that we all need to ponder over as we read this recent story of a group of European Muslims who traveled to Afghanistan to join the jihad.
The story chronicles the strange journey of a group of Muslims from France and Belgium. This group had no gripe with their adopted nations (as they weren't looking to carry out terrorist activity in Europe). They simply felt the need to support their brethren in Afghanistan. Of course, as the story details, their struggle was not rewarded:
"After getting ripped off in Turkey and staggering through waist-deep snow in Iran, the little band arrived in Al Qaeda's lair in Pakistan last year, ready for a triumphant reception.
"We were expecting at least a welcome for 'our brothers from Europe' and a warm atmosphere of hospitality," Walid Othmani, a 25-year-old Frenchman from Lyon, recalled during an overnight interrogation in January.
Wary of spies, suspicious Al Qaeda chiefs grilled the half-dozen Belgians and French. They charged them $1,200 each for AK-47 rifles, ammunition and grenades...Then the trainees dodged missile strikes for months. They endured disease, quarrels and boredom, huddling in cramped compounds that defied heroic images of camps full of fraternal warriors."
So I'm left wondering, should we be supporting them or denouncing them? As citizens of the West, are we to sacrifice our loyalties to our faith in order to save face in our local communities?
I guess we can always fall back on the fail-safe method of denouncing them for 'attacking civilians' and carrying out 'indiscriminate bombings', as reported to us by the occupying forces and their media henchmen.
Yeah, that would seem most safe.
[Inspired by this TalkIslam exchange]
According to the foremost leading military man in America, the Afghan Taliban (with their evil cohorts Al-Qaeda) are going to shift their operations into Pakistan. Why? Well duh! The US surge of troops in Afghanistan is going to force them over the border and into Pakistan.
Reason #2,947 for the destabilization (and inevitable failed-state status) of Pakistan.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Before we begin hearing the usual calls for denunciation and condemnation, let's put this "extremely" dangerous plot into perspective.
First, let's look past the minor detail of the ringleader getting stoned before carrying out his havoc on civilized society (read the comments at the TPM link - hilarious!).
Based on a scientifically based algorithm, I've compared recent terror plots and I'd say this latest one is a bit more dangerous than the Miami Seven who were not so close to bringing down the Sears Tower (according to the FBI, their plot was "more aspirational than operational") but not as threatening as the pizza-delivery guys in Jersey who were insidiously planning on attacking an entire US Army base by their lonesome selves.
Of course, all these jokers pale in comparison to the evilness (and ineptitude) embodied by the Ghettoist Terrorist in history.
I just read this awesome anti-teen-dating diatribe by Mohja Kahf. She compares the odd ritual of teen-dating as found in Western society to the alternative of early marriage:
"For Muslim parents to provide a nubile woman with a reliable life partner, with whom she can build a home as well as satisfy her sexual desires—someone who bears witnessed responsibility if she conceives a child, in a union nurtured by surrounding family—this is oppressive, while parents providing ill-prepared teens with the means for furtive groping amid all sorts of conflicting messages about what they are to do in this badly set-up ritual, that’s benign?"
And it reminded me of my rant on Sex Ed from two years ago:
"I would much rather have my adolescent son ask me why his wife gets upset every month or my daughter ask why her husband is so stubborn than to explain to them why their high-school peers are dating and they aren’t. I would rather have them struggle with the complexities of a marital relationship than struggle to create their own chaste space amongst their promiscuous schoolmates.
In the world I envision, Islamic sexual education would not be veiled behind social taboos nor would it be an instrument to blunt the natural urges of young adults. Rather, it would consist of teaching the adaab (etiquettes) of sexual education to couples preparing for marriage, not teenage kids worried about the next school mixer."
Yeah, I just quoted myself. I'm all about self-love.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Update: One cool feature I just discovered: While viewing the panoramic files, if you wish to capture a shot, just hit the PrintScreen button. Then open MS Paint (or MS Word, etc.) and click on Edit, then Paste. Then you can save the file and mail it your friends, pretending that you took the picture yourself!
Thanks to almiskeenah, I ran across this most beautiful website.
It's got panoramic views of the Kaaba, Prophet's Mosque, and other masjids from Saudi Arabia as well as Turkey.
In addition to that, there are views of historic sites such as Battle of Badr, Cave Hira, Topkapi Palace (Istanbul), and more.
My favorite is the special page dedicated to the beautiful Blue Mosque (more appropriately known as the Sultan Ahmed Jami).
Now you never need to visit Turkey, except maybe to taste that extremely delicious, mysteriously halal, fermented drink called Boza.
See how reading my blog just saved you a bunch of money?!
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Be righteous believers.
That's what I learned from the story of Prophet Musa (as) and Khidr (as). Here are the exact verses from Sura Kahf:
"And as for that young man (killed by Khidr), his parents were [true] believers - whereas we had every reason to fear that he would bring bitter grief upon them by [his] overweening wickedness and denial of all truth: and so we desired that their Sustainer grant them in his stead [a child] of greater purity than him, and closer [to them] in loving tenderness.
And as for that wall, it belonged to two orphan boys [living] in the town, and beneath it was [buried] a treasure belonging to them [by right]. Now their father had been a righteous man, and so thy Sustainer willed it that when they come of age they should bring forth their treasure by thy Sustainer's grace." (18:80-82)
Notice how both incidents dealt with children of righteous parents.
The first case (of the child being killed by Khidr) was Allah's (swt) way of providing for the spiritual well-being of the child (which sadly meant that he be killed). The child was destined for evil and wickedness, but due to the upright character of the parents, Allah (swt) saved them (and the child as well) from such a troublesome destiny.
The second case (of the orphan children and the wall) was Allah's way of providing for the physical well-being of the children. The parents were unable to provide for the children before their untimely death, but due to their righteousness, Allah (swt) found a way for the orphans.
"And whosoever is conscious of God, He grants a way out (of difficulty), and provides for him in a manner beyond all expectation."(65:2-3)
Raising children is never an easy task. There's no science to this most difficult of responsibilities. People have written books, given lectures, held workshops, and done whatever else can be done to guide parents. But in reality, there is no fail-safe method to raising upright, model children.
So what is one to do?
I've seen the most wicked children come from the most pious of homes and vice-versa. It's truly illogical and unpredictable.
In the end, it's not us who are raising the children as much as it's Allah (swt) using us (and everything else) to raise them. If we fulfill our part of the deal by being virtuous, God-conscious servants of our Creator, all the while striving to foster a positive home environment for the children, Allah (swt) will take care of the finishing touches.
In the manner He deems most appropriate.
What do I mean by that last statement? We may conclude that our children are successes or failures based on our standards, but in reality that counts for little. In the end, success/failure is what Allah (swt) decides.
Let me finish with a real example.
Several years ago, back in my community in America, a young man (who I used to teach in Sunday School) got caught up in the wrong crowd and got involved in an extremely messy criminal situation (he was convicted of murder). He was sentenced to life in prison and needless to say, it tore apart the community.
You see, his father was one of the pillars of the community - very pious and well-respected. People failed to understand how it was possible for such a tragedy to befall such a family.
But I sincerely believe that due to the righteous actions of the father, his son was saved from a far worse fate than life in prison (think apostasy or a life full of evil). Instead, the young man is stuck in prison where he has since repented (from what I hear) and is now protected from the evil he may have wrought against himself or others.
So is he a success or a failure?
Friday, May 15, 2009
When I read the story below, I felt it was special enough to revive my Good News Post series.
The Christian Science Monitor has this excellent article covering Judge Khouloud el-Faqeeh who is the very first Qadiyah (female judge) in Palestine.
While there are many female judges all over the Muslim world, she is believed to be one of the first female judges for Shariah-based courts.
Now, I wonder if the same people who sensationalized the case of the singular Saudi judge who condoned slapping of the wife are going to overplay this story in a similar manner?
I don't think so.
I wonder why.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
During countless casual conversations, this question has been asked. And every time, the questioner is referring to the occupation of the one being questioned.
And thus, one's job has come to define that individual.
I work in the IT field, therefore I'm an IT guy.
My friend works in a hospital as a surgeon, so he's a doctor.
My sister teaches, so she's a teacher.
But the problem with this approach is that IT is NOT what I do and more importantly it definitely is NOT who I am.
Of more significance (I would hope), is that I'm a father, a husband, a son, a servant, a neighbor and so much more. I am someone who hopes to make my mark in this world and this mark has absolutely nothing to do with IT.
I struggle for more hours each month raising my kids than I do at work, yet I'm supposed to answer the question 'What do you do?' with my official job title??
'Yeah, I'm a networking engineer.'
No, that's not what I do.
What I really do is constantly struggle on the path back to Allah (swt). I struggle to please my parents, take care of my wife, and empower my children with goodness.
My entire life revolves around *THAT*. That's what I do.
I use my job merely to assist me and my family on that journey.
However, our society has turned us all into meaningless automatons, whose primary function is to work. And if we're not working, we're either studying to work or vacationing from work.
What the hell sort of existence is that??
Our conversations revolve around our ephemeral existence. The context of our vocabulary is completely of *this* world. If our intention is to talk of the other-world (you know, the REAL world), we are forced to specify it. But in our normal day-to-day interactions, it's become understood that we are referring to what our limited physical senses perceive.
We have lost sight of our true purpose and our social lexicon reflects that loss:
A 'successful' person is one with worldly fame or fortune.
An 'alive' individual is one who truly experiences life.
One who is 'bankrupt' is one without any wealth.
All terms that ought to have higher, other-worldly significance, but instead have become restricted to this-worldly (mis)understandings.
So, next time someone asks me what I do, I'm gonna answer that I'm a struggling traveler.
'Hmm, you mean you're a traveling salesman?'
Monday, May 11, 2009
I've kept quiet over the past few weeks with all this crap flying around about the countless problems plaguing Pakistan. But I really need to let out some steam.
It's such BS how the image of Pakistan succumbing to extremist forces is being paraded around in the MSM. This recent piece* by a NY Times writer really set me off.
The main themes you'll find in most reports are these three:
"Oh my, look at how close the Taliban forces have gotten to Islamabad - only 100 miles away!"
"The Pakistani nukes are in danger of falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda."
"Pakistan has given up control by signing over the Swat valley to the Shariah. The Shariah is taking over the world! "
Outright fear mongering at its worst.
Look, I'm no fan of the Pakistani government. They are crooks to the highest degree. They've stolen from the population as well as from the international community. Shame on them and shame on the world for continuing to support them.
And I'm also no fan of the nation of Pakistan, as so many Pakistani nationalists who live and die for the nation. Zaid Hamid is one character who at first impressed me, but recently I'm getting very tired of his pro-Pakistani, pro-army stance riddled with Zionist and Indian paranoia. These folks have gone off the deep end, referring to Pakistani forces as the real mujahideen.
But let's get real here folks. Pakistan is (and sadly always will be) the same useless country of corrupt feudal lords and army generals. The country is not losing control to anyone. The army is the seventh largest in the world. They have an established federal infrastructure with semi-stable governmental services. Police run the streets, not gangs or warlords. Legal cases are settled in courts, not by local mafias.
So what's with all this propaganda painting Pakistan with the same brush as failed states Afghanistan and Somalia?
First, I'm convinced the powers-that-be desire for a more controllable Pakistan. And the best way to achieve said desire is to either break it up or declare it a failed state. Both options would result in an outside presence needed to oversee the nation.
The other possibility is along the lines of Pepe Escobar's theory that all eyes are on the main prize: resource-rich Baluchistan. This theory includes the chess-game going on between the US, Russia, and China.
Regardless of the various theories posited to explain the outside presence, it's painfully clear that America is screwing things up, what with the careless drone bombings and the recent findings of them using white-phosphorous.
And that's why I love how this picture of a US soldier in Afghanistan perfectly sums up America's poorly planned presence in Af-Pak. Just like this fool who didn't consider using a weight clip to hold the plates. Idiot.
It's really too bad that so much international politics is hamstringing this region. I really would've liked to have seen how far the Afghan Taliban could have gone with their project from the late 90's.
*The author basically served as a mouthpiece for the liberal elites of Pakistan. Fearful of losing their lavish secular lifestyles, they're coming up with this crap:
"All the world's achievements for the past 500 years are at risk"
"Once you bring Islam into politics, it's hard to handle..You don't have the tools to control it."
For them (Islamists) "laughter is not permitted, not even a full smile"
"This is really a war for the soul of Pakistan"
Huh? You mean the soul of Pakistan was never threatened by the gross economic disparity that you thrive off of? The soul of Pakistan was never threatened by the institutionalized cronyism fueled by your greed? Ya, it's just now that some folks up north are fed up with the ineffective local government and are calling for Shariah courts that you fear for the soul of Pakistan.
Get real you losers.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Al-Jazeera recently exposed some US military personnel distributing Bibles and spreading the Gospel to locals in Afghanistan. The US Army denied the report citing quotes taken out of context and an overall misunderstanding, stating that "it is not our position to push any specific kind of religion."
Al-Jazeera fired back with this article, including an unedited video clip of various chaplains discussing their 'strategy'.
While this mindset is a bit annoying, I just don't get all the uproar over this sort of military preaching. What's the big deal? Isn't that what conquering forces do? Muslim forces did the same thing for centuries. Why should we cry foul?
What pisses me off is the absurd stance taken by the US Army. Why deny the existence of missionary efforts? It's such a farce how they present themselves as some benign, humane army, respectful of local customs and religions.
Get off your high horse. You people are no better than any other conquering force.
You see, I'm really not worried about folks in the Muslim world changing religions. I'm more bothered by the cultural and economical proselytizing that's long been taking place in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US Forces are not Christian crusaders on a mission to convert or kill, as much as they're foot soldiers for free market capitalism and liberal values antithetical to local cultures.
If anything, THAT should be our greater concern.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
when you take an extremely talkative 10-yr old girl, a yellow belly 8-yr old son, a cranky 2-yr old baby, an even-crankier pregnant wife, and a cheap bastard (who won't pay for air tickets) and throw them all in a car for an 8-hour trip to Mecca?
Baddest. Road-trip. Ever.
And I don't mean 'baddest' as in Michael Jackson "I'm Bad". I mean bad as in it was so rough that I had to resort to a grammatically incorrect term to fully express my misery.
Half way to Mecca (around 11pm at night), I blew out a rear tire. The force of the tire tread ripped out the plastic molding of our Toyota Prado as well as part of the rear bumper.
So there we were, middle of nowhere, pitch-black desert, on a weeknight (being the Mr. Smartypants I am, I figured traveling on a weekday would result in less traffic, which it did - so there went my chances of getting any roadside help), without a flashlight, having to change a flat on my Prado that I had never done before.
Now, I've changed many flat tires in my life, but never from an SUV which has the spare tire mounted underneath the rear of the vehicle. The procedure to simply REMOVE THE SPARE took over 30 freakin' minutes!!! I had my son holding up my cellphone to provide some semblance of light, with headlights of the occasional passing car or truck helping out.
Once I got the spare down, I had to jack up the truck and switch tires. This proved to be an even bigger ordeal, for our fearless son, whose sole task was to hold the cellphone, got startled by a tiny desert mouse running around our truck. He started hopping around, letting out screeches and screams that would've put any woman to shame.
So much for naming my son after the Prophet's uncle, Humza, also known as Asad-Allah (the Lion of Allah).
After he bravely situated himself back inside the truck, my wife took over cellphone duties and I got the tires swapped.
It took me one hour exactly for the whole operation.
And wouldn't you know it, right when I was pulling out, emergency roadside service pulls up behind me. I kid you not. He was probably hiding behind some desert hill, just waiting for me to finish.
But I was impressed by one taxi of three youth who pulled over about 15 minutes before I was done. They kindly offered assistance, which I politely declined since I was basically finishing up.
It took me another hour or so, stopping at 4 or 5 different gas stations, looking for a tire shop where I could buy a tire to replace my blown one. And also I stopped several times to take power naps. And also I drove extra slow, mainly because my wife kept nagging me every time too fast for her nerves.
So our trip that normally has taken us 8 or 9 hours ended up taking 13 grueling hours.
Which was nice for my wife, because it gave her even more time to make sure I understood that she's NEVER driving to Mecca again.
Worsest. Road-trip. Ever.
But in the end, as you all probably guessed, it was totally worth it - with images such as this one to really sweeten our experience:
That's a clip of Humza and Aya relaxing on the second floor near mount Safa inside the Haram.
One last note. We got rooms at the Zamzam tower hotel, one of the hotels at the megacomplex right outside the Haram, better known as Burj al-Bait.
While it was annoying at having to pass MotherCare and Promod and Starbucks on the way to the Haram, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Zamzam. The rooms had a beautiful view of the Haram, as well as the audio from the Haram connected directly into each room (with volume controls!). The executive suites were reasonably priced (500sar/night) for 2 rooms plus a sitting room, although the valet parking was a bit pricey (150/night).
Oh and when I returned to work, I found out that one of the towers under construction had a full blown fire that took out 6 floors.
Weird how we totally missed that.