Bloggin’ Banat

two arab-american chicks takin’ over the blogosphere

Adversity: A Fact of Life September 16, 2009

Filed under: Islam,Nawal,Pop culture,wtf — Nawal @ 1:22 pm
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adversityI don’t know what it’s been about this summer but it seems adversity has been lurking around every corner.  Whether it’s in one’s personal or professional life, adversity doesn’t discriminate.  We all face it in our lives, and it can be a total bitch, but it’s in how we deal with it that matters.

When we’re going through tough times we tend to ask ourselves ‘why is this happening to me?’ or ‘how am I going to get through this?’  Loved ones will tell you not to worry, things will be fine.  They’ll tell you that you may be worried now but things will always end up working themselves out.  Sometimes it’s comforting to hear those words but other times, when you’re on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, it’s just annoying.

We’ve all been there, feeling sad and confused like Taylor Swift at the VMA’s, thinking to yourself  ‘what the hell just happened?’  Just when you think you’re having your moment in the spotlight, your moment of achievement, your moment of joy and happiness–just when things start to look up–it all comes crashing down.  You think, ‘this isn’t how I planned it…I don’t deserve this!’  It’s sad when bad things happen to good people. It sucks, actually.  I don’t know why it happens but people of faith will tell you that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  But I can’t help but think why does it have to hurt so bad?

The great Arab-American poet, Kahlil Gibran, once said that “out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”  Of course, since we all face adversity we all have the scars to prove it, though some of us have more of them and ones that run far deeper than others.  What I wonder is how many scars can one person endure before it becomes too much?  Is there ever too much?

Like the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.  The problem is some of us spend most of our time worrying about what will kill us. Sadly, that only ends up holding us back from enjoying and appreciating a lot in life.

I think deep down we all know that somehow we’ll get through difficult times. Just the mere passing of time helps and, of course, the love and support from friends and family is vital.  It’ll be those who are there for you and by your side during the difficult times that truly care.

For Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan is coming to an end.  It’s a time when, amongst other things, we are to be thankful to God, as always, for what we do have in our lives.  I’ll do my best to always keep that in my head and my heart, no matter how difficult the times, and say alhamdulillah.

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Tradition Isn’t Always Right May 15, 2009

The other day I came across an article in the Christian Science Monitor about one of the two first female Islamic judges in the Middle East.  The article focused on Khouloud el-Faqeeh who is Palestinian. She is described as not only being exceptional in her knowledge (top in her class at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University and one of the highest scorers out of 45 people in the qualifying sharia judge exam) but she’s also a straight arrow; she won’t bend the rules for anyone.  Pretty fantastic.

But there was one thing in the article that annoyed me.  It was the view that women are ‘too emotional’ to take on such a position.

Sheikh Hamed Bitawi, who’s the head of the Association of Islamic Scholars and Scientists,  said that there are two schools of thought on the issue: that every position but that of a caliph is open to women, and that women are too emotional to make legal decisions – as judges or as witnesses.

“I am of the second view because I consider women to be gentle human beings who should not be subjected to difficult situations or difficult decisions,” Mr. Bitawi says. “They cry easily, and hence their judgment is tainted with emotions. Moreover, lawyers are difficult to deal with and people who come to courts are angry and violent.”

Give me a break.  I’ve heard this perspective before and for the life of me I still can’t believe why people continue to buy into this archaic and stereotypical argument.  As if men aren’t emotional?  Men indeed are emotional. One could also make the stereotypical argument that men tend to have a short fuse and they consequently yell, scream or react violently.  Therefore, they too are ‘tainted with emotions.’  Would that make them a better judge?  Of course not.  That’s why one’s qualification shouldn’t be based on gender but by their individual abilities.

El-Faqeeh explained that “In Islam, it says a sharia judge has to be a Muslim, rational adult” – not necessarily a man.  Whenever I would discuss this with the chief judge, he would say, ‘This is tradition.’ ”

I’m all about tradition. But when it comes to professional matters, sometimes tradition counters common sense and what’s right and that needs to be corrected.  As el-Faqeeh said “I’m a legal person, and, to me, legal issues are stronger than tradition.” Case closed.

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Guest Post: A Jihadist Worth Emulating April 3, 2009

The following article was in today’s Washington Post PostGlobal section.

Abd el-Kader put greater jihad first. Muslims and non-Muslims alike should emulate his lifelong jihad for personal righteousness and control over destructive passions.

By John W. Kiser and Michael L. Owens

Jihad. The word inspires fear in Western minds. Jihad means extremist Muslims blowing themselves up in crowded markets in order to kill as many infidels as possible. Jihad means attacks like 9/11, USS Cole, Madrid, London, Beirut, and so many more. Jihad means grainy videos of masked men beheading journalists followed by even grainier videos of bearded men in dirty white robes reading demands and calling America the devil. Jihad cannot possibly be something good, right? Wrong.

Do not let the extremists fool you. What they are doing has very little connection with right Islam or true jihad. First and foremost, greater jihad is about a personal and life-long struggle for righteousness and to become a worthy servant of God (Jihad an-nafs: Jihad against oneself). Only a distant second to this idea of personal struggle is the lesser jihad of waging war to defend the faith (Jihad bil-sayf: Jihad by the sword). In cases where this physical defense becomes necessary, the Qur’an lays out very clear rules about how to engage in warfare. No harming of innocents, women, children, or the elderly. No mistreatment of prisoners. Not even the use of fire to destroy nature. In short, a very intentional, limited warfare. True jihad must be conducted in a godly manner.

Islamic scholars the world over have condemned the violent, extremist acts committed in the name of Islam, yet the negative connotation of “jihad” will not go away. In addition to reading all of the fatwas and scholarly writings against unholy jihadists, we should look to an example worth emulating: Emir Abd el-Kader. With the exception of the Iowa town named in his honor, few Westerners have heard of him. Yet there was a time when his name was celebrated internationally by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, drawing accolades from the likes of President Lincoln, Queen Victoria, and Pope Pius IX. He won the respect of the French nation despite being their enemy in war for fifteen years. When he died in 1883, the New York Times proclaimed him “one of the few great men of the century.”

Abd el-Kader was raised as a Sufi scholar but was transformed by the French invasion of Algiers in 1830 into a warrior saint. For fifteen years, he battled the French occupation, earning a reputation for chivalry and compassion. Ultimately acknowledging the futility of his struggle, he surrendered, spending five years in French prisons before retiring to exile in Damascus. While in Damascus, he and his men saved the lives of ten thousand Christians during a Turkish-led pogrom, earning him international humanitarian recognition. The praise which the emir cherished most came from Mohammed Shamil, the Muslim hero of Chechnya: “You have put into practice the words of the Prophet… and set yourself apart from those who reject his example.”

Abd el-Kader put greater jihad first. Muslims and non-Muslims alike should emulate his lifelong jihad for personal righteousness and control over destructive passions. For Muslims, Abd el-Kader reminds them that true jihad, or “holy exertion,” lies not in the zeal of bitterly fighting whatever the cost, but in living righteously in peace and war. During a life of struggle with foreign occupation, with despair in prison and exile in a foreign land, he never allowed the demons of hatred and revenge to gain the upper hand. His timely story is one of struggle, of restraint and self control harnessed to Islamic law, as befits a man whose name means “servant of God.” Those who commit crimes, call it “jihad,” and call themselves “Muslims” would do well to reflect on the emir’s life.

In fact, they already are. Madrasa leaders in Pakistan have requested Urdu translations of “Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader” (Monkfish Books, 2008). After a recent presentation of the emir’s story, a number of Taliban sympathizers admitted needing to reexamine their previous understanding and teaching of jihad. “Neither the fighting in Kashmir nor in Afghanistan is true jihad,” declared Abdul Qadir Khamosh, a leading religious scholar in Pakistan and champion of new thinking about jihad in madrasas.

So jihad is not a bad word, but a word used badly. We in the West should take the emir’s example to heart as well. We can embrace and encourage the many righteous Muslims who advocate true jihad, supporting them as they struggle against those who wrongly use their religion for perverted ends. Just as the emir battled those Christians who fought against him yet later rescued Christians who had done no harm, we too must make the elementary distinction between the many good, faithful Muslims and those few violent men who know no limit to their anger. If we are ever going to win this struggle against extremist terrorism, we must also realize that real grievances fuel this violence, including our self-righteous and misbegotten belief that we have all the answers. Perhaps a little true jihad is needed here in the West, too.

John W. Kiser has written two books on Algeria. The most recent is “Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader.” His earlier book, “The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria” won the French Siloe Prize. Kiser is on the board of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, where he has been active in Pakistan and madrasa reform.

Michael L. Owens is Special Assistant to the Cumbie Chair of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.

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Know any 25-yr-old men who go cruisin’ for 75-yr-old women? March 9, 2009

Know any 25-year-old men who go cruisin’ for elderly chicks? No? Well Saudi Arabia’s religious police know of at least two who, along with the 75-year-old woman caught chilling with them, will be severely punished. CNN reports that 75-year-old Syrian woman Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi was sentenced to 40 lashes, 4 months in jail, and deportation from Saudi Arabia for having two unrelated, twenty-something men in her house. Literally, God forbid any intermingling of the sexes. I mean, imagine what would have happened had the religious police not intervened? Who knows? Maybe the grandmother would have offered these boys tea and cookies. We all know how tea and cookies can corrupt humanity.

Those sneaky guys tried to get away with it, though:

Fahd told the policeman he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.

But don’t worry, this treacherous breast-fed man and his buddy didn’t get away with their inappropriate behavior:

Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes.


I am having a hard time gathering my thoughts about this idiotic sentencing, which is yet another coup for Saudi Arabia’s heinous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. If anyone was near me after I read this absolutely abhorrent report they would have seen steam pouring out of my ears like a fuming cartoon character.

This commission’s police force patrols and regulates behavior based on a strict interpretation of Islam (Wahhabism). This repressive organization bases its power on being judges of piety and forces a population to follow its interpretation of a religion. But who or what gave them the right to judge anyone’s piety? This commission and its ideology is extremism at its worst, but some people are astutely pointing out that religion may not really be the driving force behind this group’s actions. The CNN story quotes Wajeha Al-Huwaider, a Saudi women’s rights activist, as saying:

“This is the problem with the religious police, watching people and thinking they’re bad all the time. It has nothing to do with religion. It’s all about control. And the more you spread fear among people, the more you control them. It’s giving a bad reputation to the country.”

Really, if any good could come from this sickening story it is that the court’s verdict and sentencing has created public outrage, and hopefully the sentences will be overturned.

“It’s made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother,” Saudi women’s rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider told CNN. “Forty lashes — how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it.”

Saudi Arabia is hardly the only country with puritanical policing of its people, however. What about Iran during the Islamic Revolution, or Iraq, where barbers are attacked for shaving beards, or in Afghanistan, where girls are attacked for attending school? Clearly, when a population is vulnerable, using the guise of religion makes it easy to maintain power by enforcing strict rules and instilling fear in society.

I am just glad that people in these countries are becoming more vocal in their outrage. Rather than being regarded as the rule of law, these police forces are being openly criticized by the very societies they try to oppress. Consequently, more and more people will shed their fear, and the police forces will ultimately loose power.

I am reminded of a great scene in Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s film, Persepolis, which is set during the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Late for class, Marji races down the street, books in hand, as Tehran’s religious police call out repeatedly for her to stop. Finally getting Marji to turn around, the policemen demand that she stop running. Marji tries to explain that she’s late for class, but one of the policemen explains that when she runs, her rear end moves in what he calls an “indecent” or “obscene” manner.

Fed up with the tyranny, Marji explodes with “Well, stop looking at my a**!!”

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Bars, Dancers and Prostitutes: Positive Developments In Baghdad? March 2, 2009

The Washington Post has published a series of photographs by Andrea Bruce titled “Soldiers’ Night Out in Baghdad.”   The photos show US soldiers, in full combat gear, dancing and mingling with Iraqis in bars on Abu Nawas Street.  I take it from the photo captions that the fact that US soldiers are hanging out with Iraqis is viewed as a good thing.  And I think that’s a good thing too.  However, these photos show the soldiers in the same company as drunk Iraqi men, prostitutes and dancers. One of the captions points out how these kinds of establishments are a “surprising atmosphere” in what is a conservative Muslim society.  I wouldn’t necessarily call bars in Baghdad surprising but they sure do look sleezy.

I would guess that in pretty much all predominately Muslim Middle Eastern countries, you’ll find alcohol-serving bars and clubs; even if they are on the down low.  And the fact that these establishments exist isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I guess.  Because regardless of the Muslim population, there are always non-Muslims who would patron these places.  But in my opinion, I don’t think the fact that these soldiers are hanging out in bars with these members of Iraqi society should be seen in a positive light. It would be nice if the soldiers hung out with Iraqis who would actually remember their encounters with them the following morning.  I don’t know how Iraqis feel about this but drunken men, prostitutes and dancers isn’t exactly what I’d want to portray to the world as a positive development in Iraqi daily life; even if it does exist.

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Senator To Host Anti-Muslim Dutch MP February 24, 2009

Republican Senator Jon Kyl from Arizona will be hosting anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders on Thursday.  Wilders will be screening his 17 minute film, Fitna, at the Capitol to members of Congress and their staff.  The screening is being co-sponsored by the neoconservative think thank, Center for Security Policy, led by Republican Frank Gaffney.  And it won’t be open to the media.  Gee, I wonder why?

So what’s wrong with this whole idea?  First of all, in the film, Wilders compares Islam to Nazism and calls the Quran a “fascist book.”  That’s enough reason right there to not hold this event.  Not only that, but Wilders also wants to ban the Quran completely. This from a man whose supporters say is a proponent of free speech.  Really?  Banning books is free speech?  And an American senator wants to listen to this crap?  That’s just wrong.

Senator Kyl’s spokesman put out a statement saying: “Senator Kyl understands the controversial nature of the film, Fitna, but agreed to facilitate the screening and Q & A with Mr. Wilders because he believes that, all too often, people who have the courage to point out the dangers of militant Islamists find themselves vilified and endangered.”  Okay, talking about militant Islam is fine. But, when someone vilifies over 1 billion people and the their holy book, that’s not fine. This guy has no place speaking in the Capitol.

Earlier this month, Wilders was banned from entering the UK because officials felt he would cause public unrest due to his views.  Now, I don’t think this guy should be banned from coming to the United States, but he sure as hell doesn’t deserve the opportunity to speak to members of Congress.  Even though he’s not my senator, I’ll be writing Jon Kyl a letter and giving him a piece of my mind.

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Sami Yusuf Going Mainstream? February 17, 2009

sami_yusufSami Yusuf is known as the king of Islamic pop.  That may sound like an oxymoron but the British born singer of Azeri origin has made a name for himself and garnered fans from all over the world with his spiritual music.  His first two albums al-Mu’allim (2003) and My Ummah (2005) have sold over 5 million copies.  His song “Supplication” was also featured on the Kite Runner soundtrack.  He’s now set to release a new album in a month or so.  In a recent interview with Riz Khan on Al Jazeera English, Yusuf talked about the legal battle with his former record label, Awakening Records, that’s taken place over the past year or so.  Awakening decided to release an album last month with songs that Yusuf says were a “work in progress” and incomplete. It goes without saying that the album was released without his blessing.  However, his new real album, delayed as a result of the legal battle with Awakening,  should be released soon and it’ll be a crossover of sorts.  Most of the songs will be in English. And Yusuf says he does not want to focus on just recording religious songs just because they sell.  He feels he has so much more to offer and to say as an artist.

There’s no question Sami Yusuf is quite gifted.  He writes and composes almost all of his music and he has an amazing voice. The only thing that I find off about his songs sometimes is that the English lyrics seem to be a bit weird.  I don’t know if it’s a result of him trying to adhere to the exact translations of the words from the Quran in Arabic or what, but they do seem odd at times.  However, the combination of his voice and his music composition can be very mesmerizing.  His good looks don’t hurt either. 

After seeing what happened in Gaza recently, Yusuf decided to release the song “Forever Palestine” as a free download on his website.  The song was originally recorded in 2002 but Yusuf didn’t feel it was complete at the time.   After seeing the effects of the assault on Gaza, particularly among Gazan children, he chose to complete it and release it. 

I’m anxiously awaiting to hear his new songs.  Yusuf has been able to move millions of young Muslims with his music so far. Perhaps he will become even more mainstream. He definitely has the talent.  Hopefully he can reach millions more with his new English focused album; Muslims or not.

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