Thursday, July 16, 2009

I just don't get it!!

I was dumbfounded when I watched a youtube video sent to me yesterday that shows a northern cost beach in a Muslim country where young ladies were walking around with bikinis and talking about the latest styles and "so in" colors! I had a difficult time to explain this to my 9-year-old daughter who along with her Canadian friends go to the swimming pool with knee-long shorts and covering tank tops. I could not believe the care-free attitude of both young ladies and men who happen to belong to a Muslim country known for modesty and conservatism when it comes to dress codes. Then I was hit today again by this

The question is, where do I go if I want to enjoy the beach with my family? I do not swim anymore and do not believe really in that "hijab swimsuit" that is common out there. I do not want to have to explain this to my kids who were raised to believe in modesty and decency because I still cannot figure this out myself. If I decide to go to my homeland, will I be allowed to join my kids and sit next by watching them playing in the pool or will I be prohibited from entering in the first place like that Norwegian Muslim lady. I can understand that I feel like a stranger and think a thousand times before I decide to go to a lake here where everyone is wearing sweatsuits and odd ones like me feel like strangers to this world; though I do not mind that distinction at all mind you! But if this is how it will be like in my own homeland, then till when will I feel like a stranger? Will I be kicked out and denied the freedom I do enjoy here? Can anyone explain this paradox to me?

A Scottish poet with an African background was talking yesterday on the radio explaining how we take our homeland values with us when we leave and lead a life of holding on to them and nourishing them in the souls of our kids only to go back and find that many things have changed leaving us the ever strangers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The "West" and us? A personal perspective on the reaction to the killing of Marwa ElSherbiny

I very well remember that in a class I took long years ago after I moved to the “West”, I insisted to write about hijab as my final research. I was passionately defending the concept against Western misconceptions in my presentation when the instructor stopped me to ask, “But what do you mean when you say “the West”?

For some reason I get it now, of all times, as I read about the reaction to the unjust killing of Marwa ElSherbiny. I got what he actually meant by the question. He wanted to know what is it that I am standing against because he certainly was not a part of that confrontation. Actually, I have seen no one taking part in that confrontation. I have been living in Canada for almost a decade now and hijab was never a barrier to me wherever I went. I have not been treated but with respect while my fears and anticipation, since I was new to hijab then, were only in my head. In fact, I had several nice ladies ask me about how beautiful and convenient it looks and I always tell them that I never suffer from bad hair days!

So, it is certainly not the people. I admit that Canadians are known for being a polite and civil nation and it is also true that variety here and seeing people of all colors and backgrounds is simply the default. But I have been through one single incident that the current situation shed great light on to make me understand why anyone would be intolerant to others.

It was around 10 in the morning when my son opened the door for a lady who told him in a hurry that we have to remove the car right away from the street to the driveway of our house since the street has to be cleaned otherwise it would be towed away. I had to run downstairs to talk to her. I was already wearing a t-shirt and loose pants and I grabbed my praying long loose garment and put it on. It is one big garment that shows only my face and hands and covers me almost to the knees. The lady was away already knocking on other doors so, still in my fluffy slippers, I tried to talk to the young men that were already sweeping the streets. The man was already smiling when I approached him saying that the transmission of the car is broken and that there is no way I can move it. He called for some other men to see what to do; or to share the laugh maybe which is something I was not aware of at the time. They said that I still had to move it. I tried to explain that this was simply impossible and that they could not tow away the car anyway since they had given me no prior notice. I was completely clueless trying to think quickly of a way out and offering that we clean under the car ourselves when we get the chance to move it. I did not pay much attention to their side looks and smiles to each other. Yet I noticed that those were not genuine smiles, nor were they the “plastic smiles” given to customers to get the job done. But I had no time to think about that. My Canadian neighbor, who was standing by, witnessed the whole thing after he moved his car and since he knew about cars already he managed to figure out a way by which I put the car on and then the men move it and it worked. But by then, the smiles were almost laughs and the whispers shared were almost audible murmurs. Although I had all the right, and could have been stubborn about the whole car episode, I really wanted to be as cooperative, reasonable, and understanding as possible without stooping to their level of ridicule. It is all about self-control. This is a responsibility that having a hijab on puts you in really. You know very well that once you wear that symbol you are simply representing all Muslims and you do not have much chance to yell or fight, no matter how much you want to sometimes, cause you do not want to bear the guilt if people then get the impressions that “then what we hear is true, they are aggressive!” So, I thanked them and my neighbor and went back inside with a firing rage that I could not put off for a long time. I was mad for my dignity! No one dares to laugh at me, or rather at how I look, without having to pay for it! I was absolutely fuming with anger. Why? What do they know about me that gives them the liberty to laugh that way? The anger infested my mood as I tried to think of all possible explanations for their rude behavior. My son asked me why I cared in the first place when I have always been proud of how I look and never took it for granted or was self-conscious about it. But the bitterness of being ridiculed and mocked is not an easy pill to swallow, let me tell you that!

I tried to calm down using every possible means I know, then I tried to think it out. Why would people act that way at what they don’t know? The answer was that simple… because they don’t know. People are generally aggressive and intolerant against what they fear or do not understand, and they simply did not see beyond my cover to appreciate the human being inside. That was it! They simply did not know and covered their unease with not knowing how to deal with “that thing” with those nervous laughs! All they knew was that there was a lady with something like the burqa’ they have seen people make fun of on TV. And this is where media comes in.

Biased media is indeed what fills that void of ignorance with false ideas and fuels intolerance amongst the simple ones that have no other means to know or understand. Go back to who owns the media in the “West” and the agenda they have and you will understand the big picture here. After 9/11, it was very common to see on TV crime show killers and robbers for example that were shown earlier as praying in a mosque. They either have an accent or dark skin, and it is almost old school now to have the sound of athan (call to prayer) in the background of what is suspicious or threatening. Those are the hidden voices, let alone the outright clear cries of fear mongers that blatantly single out Muslims as terrorists on public TV every day. I watch this with clear frustration knowing that they are nothing but lies and very well aware of what is going on in our region and the injustice that is scantly reported and easily forgotten.
So, it is not the West that we need to fight, tease, or please. The people here are simply human beings that are controlled by a misguiding media. We need a similarly powerful media if we want true Muslim voices to be heard. Actually, the Western figures like Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky and many others that go through the trouble of digging up the truth hidden under that heavy rubble of lies are the ones that do what they can to explain; although their voices end up subdued next to the loud bangs of liars. They will keep defending us though until we play that role ourselves.
It was my very neighbor that told me few days later that he was very upset by what those people did the other day. Instead of standing up to them and exchanging some blows and fists with them like many would think he should have, he hit them where it actually hurts. He called their boss and explained that this is outright intolerable and that we have every right to call the Canadian Human Rights Commission to report what happened and sue them to compensate for the damage! What does our neighbor know about Muslims to act that way? He knows us.

There is absolutely no doubt that the incident of Marwa should never go unnoticed and that every legal right should be given to her family to pursue that killer. And I will not even bother call for our governments to protect our rights, because change is what we make ourselves. That said, we need to go beyond raging yet momentarily emotions to see the big picture if we want long term solutions. We need to hit the core of the problem and cleverly solve it instead of helplessly trying to crack the shell while remaining victims of a media of prejudice and injustice.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Losing faith

I lose faith sometimes, in people and start questioning the point of sharing per se. Blogging as well sometimes? What is the limit to what you can post online? Who reads it? How much should we open up and why? Exactly! To no avail sometimes if people change and do not understand. Silence is sometimes better than saying what one might regret. Change; oh that constant change yet how we always end up more of ourselves.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On sincerity

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why sincerity is fundamental in Islam? The concept was mentioned in Qur’an around 27 times and numerous verses explain its gravity and significance:

Indeed, God does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with God has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin. (4[an-Nisā']: 48)

Indeed, God does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with God has certainly gone far astray. (4[an-Nisā']: 116)

And he who associates with God - it is as though he had fallen from the sky and was snatched by the birds or the wind carried him down into a remote place. (22[al-Hajj]: 31)

I remember how taken aback I was when I first realized how crucial it is to purify your intention and to make sure that every little deed you do is for God’s sake alone. Now, this is not easy! What do you do with your ego then, the innate need to stand out and be praised for your deeds? What do you do with the wish to please others and be granted their approval and admiration? Yet, in spite of the difficulty to attain that in everything you do, sincerity must be that important for a reason and maybe entails some sort of benefit to human beings.

It was almost a couple of weeks ago that I was blessed with the why!

I was working on a research on the impact of work on health and wellness when I came across the “dualistic approach to passion” by Vallerand and his colleagues (Vallerand et al., 2003) . They define Passion as, “a strong inclination towards an activity (e.g., work) that is important, liked and involves investing considerable time in its pursuit.” They distinguish between Harmonious Passion (HP) and Obsessive Passion or addiction (OP); the former being integrated into one’s identity and undertaken freely and willingly while the latter is not well integrated into one’s identity and is the result of internal pressure (e.g., to increase one’s self-esteem in the eyes of others).
It was found that the activity actually controls the person when it is Obsessive Passion; while it is the person that controls the activity under Harmonious Passion. This means that not acting in order to increase self-esteem in the eyes of others leads to more positive effects, less negative effects and higher levels flow; while Obsessive Passion produces the opposite effects.
Furthermore, when not aiming to please but rather choosing an activity freely, the individual is engaged in the activity more fully and flexibly leading to greater concentration, absorption, flow, and positive effect.

After developing measures of both types of passion, Vellard and his colleagues suggest that Harmonious Passion would likely be correlated with psychological health while Obsessive Passion can actually lead to psychological distress! So it is where you choose to direct your passion and intention that may either create motivation, increase well-being, and provide meaning in one’s life or can lead to negative emotions, rigid persistence, and unbalanced life.

It is your choice really.

Friday, April 10, 2009

In the open palms

She was listening to an audio book about a unique teacher who helped the little girl find her voice and identity and snatched her from a world of confusion and fear. I was listening along as I was having another cup of coffee. The teacher was asking the kids to have her carry for them their troubles in her big bag while they were with her in class. The bag was always heavy.. She left the Smarties she was sorting out based on their color, put her palms next to each other and said to me, “Put your troubles here” looking at her opened palms that were ready to carry my troubles. I looked like I was picking one from nowhere and placed it in her hands. I knew exactly what that was. She said smiling, “One more.” I picked another and another; I knew them all. She then closed the open palms and placed them on her shoulder and to my surprise said, “They are heavy!” It was my turn to have her put her troubles in my hands. I kept asking for more; for them all. All were placed in my hands and then I seemed to carry her share on my shoulder and said, “Oh, they are OK. Not heavy at all. It will be just OK.” She smiled in comfort and left me with one thought; if only it were that simple.

In the open palms

She was listening to an audio book about a unique teacher who helped the little girl find her voice and identity and snatched her from a world of confusion and fear. I was listening along as I was having another cup of coffee. The teacher was asking the kids to have her carry for them their troubles in her big bag while they were with her in class. The bag was always heavy.. She left the Smarties she was sorting out based on their color, put her palms next to each other and said to me, “Put your troubles here” looking at her opened palms that were ready to carry my troubles. I looked like I was picking one from nowhere and placed it in her hands. I knew exactly what that was. She said smiling, “One more.” I picked another and another; I knew them all. She then closed the open palms and placed them on her shoulder and to my surprise said, “They are heavy!” It was my turn to have her put her troubles in my hands. I kept asking for more; for them all. All were placed in my hands and then I seemed to carry her share on my shoulder and said, “Oh, they are OK. Not heavy at all. It will be just OK.” She smiled in comfort and left me with one thought; if only it were that simple.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Silence, revisited

I don't talk. I realized that I just do not talk. I am home on my own in the day time either to work, study or do nothing. Then I go to my evening classes. I walk silently to my bus stop, wait silently for it, remain silent on the bus, and then I reach my school. I might, or most probably might not, exchange a "Hi" or something in the rare case of exchanging eye contact with anyone. They must see me as weird, but it is just that there is nothing to talk about with them or any thing in common. I sometimes remain silent when it is a group project cause it is not worth it to say much or defend my point of view; and I hate to boast anyway, so I just watch. Cause it really is not worth it. Then I take the bus home, have dinner and sleep. And on go the days. Friends? I do not have that at the moment and not sure that I can open the door for that again. Neighbors? None. I barely see them. Family? well, they are in a different country. Kids and husband? Yeah, they bear me and maybe this is where I can be myself and take away most of the layers I hide behind when I am with strangers. I even do not share my good or bad days on Facebook cause it does not represent me much as it represents my mission. So, there you go. I speak only when I write; that is my true voice. And when I don't, then it is back to silence again I think. Do I regret this seclusion? I am not sure I do. Enduring that is ten times easier than missing others, waiting for them, being tormented for their absence or misunderstanding, or expecting them to be there an understand all the way through. Angels do not live on earth, and since I am not one myself and certainly have my limitations, then I decided to remain silent. But hey, I talk to myself sometimes; all the time actually. I think and meditate. I listen way more. And that is making me a better person I hope. Happiness? Well, this is very relative and does not really belong on earth. It is waaaaay up there you know!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Harold R. McAlindon

I went through a unique experience a couple of days ago and since Adage is in the fabric of my life and thoughts, I could not resist relating that experience to it. I hope that you would not mind that I share this with you.

I live in Western Canada where the weather is exactly as brutal as it is in the Arctic sometimes. The coldest it might get in Europe, Russia, or even the U.S. is say -20? When it is so where I live, we go out with unbuttoned jackets and call it a mild winter day. I have witnessed the -30s, -40s, and even -50s and because I know that this is not easy to imagine or comprehend let this story explain to you what that is like. The other day I heard in the news about a young lady who collapsed on the sidewalk because she was not dressed properly for the weather. She was barely alive when she was found; her lips were frozen shut, limbs frozen stiff, and it took hours in the hospital to literally “thaw” those limbs back to life. She survived after all, but lost some fingers and toes because of the frost bite! I didn’t fully understand how Hellfire will have seasons of summer and winter till I experienced myself how such weather can actually burn skin and severely damage it. I had such burns on my face when I was not smart enough to cover it one day.

So now that you got the picture, let me get back to my story. It was -36 the other day and I knew that I had to bundle up for the weather when going out. To able to go to my evening classes, I have to walk for a distance of around 500 meters to the nearest bus stop. In the summer, such a walk is a pure joy especially when I am surrounded by luscious green grass, three beautiful clear ponds, nourishing sunshine, and refreshing breeze. It is a long, winding walkway through soft hills that surround houses in my new neighborhood. But it was not so that day. Not long after I was out of the door did I realize that the weather was the least of my concerns. I totally forgot that people who have to work outdoors are legally forbidden to do so when it is below -20. That meant that the walkways were not shoveled and that no one cleared the walkways! Now, after a heavy snow storm that lasted all through the weekend, I am talking here about deep soft snow that has been accumulating for days. After about 100 meters, the walkway gets very steep. It was hard enough to carefully tread on snow, but as I went on, it got deeper and deeper that I found my boots scooping up snow that reached up to my knees; and I am by no means a short lady! Imagine walking in a desert where sand surrounds and paralyzes you as it grips firmly every step you make. But sand is kind because it does not freeze your limbs! It got very scary as I struggled to go on because there was no path to follow. I had to depend on my memory sometimes to remember where to walk. Each time I took a step, my feet got so deep in the snow that I could not get it out and I had to follow that with another step with the other foot to keep my balance. I almost fell so many times and stopped even more times to think of what to do next or where to go. I could not go back; it was too late by then. I had to keep going. I noticed the traces of someone who was there behind me but it was no use to step on those very traces because they too were equally deep. There was no human being anywhere around me to help and I thanked God that no one was there to see the mess I was in. My long skirt kept getting stuck in the snow, my leather handbag was frozen and stiff, and my long boots kept scooping up the snow that chilled my knees and spine; but I had to go on. At that point I completely forgot about the cold and after a long and chilling ordeal, I finally made it to my destination but was left gasping for air that seemed like daggers of freeze stabbing my lungs.

The next day, I dreaded walking there again, but I could not escape it. It was still not easy, but the fact that 24 hours followed the first time on that snow meant that many people have already been there. I literally saw what it means to walk where others have “paved the way” for you. As many people walked there, the snow got leveled that the walk was relatively much easier. I was not the only one there anymore. Others have been there before me that day and defined the walkway for me. I kept watching the snow as I walked and this is when I had the eureka moment of, “This is exactly how it is like in Adage!” Everything seems difficult and almost impossible now. We are defining guidelines, setting standards, and building everything from scratch. We are doing everything we can to provide professional resources, recruit people, learn more and implement it. But none of us did this on his/her own before. No one has shown us the way. We just had the will and unyielding trust in God that this is what we are meant to do with what we know and can do. Years from now, it will be much easier for the generations to come, the languages that will follow, and the members that will join, to proceed and go on. It is simply because others have done it the hard way and paved the way for them. Going alone, like I did, was physically excruciating and mentally dreadful just like it is draining here in Adage to work together to come up with ways to build and improve it for those who will follow. But it will not be so for long God willing; at least not as we pave the way together. I do sincerely believe that we now the pioneers that will keep gaining the reward of those that we are striving to make their lives easier.

That very thought made me stop looking at my destination. I did not have to worry about that anymore. Each step we make now counts. There is no point in worrying about tomorrow when we keep doing what we can for this cause. We are certainly no ordinary people when we believe in God’s aid and strive to please Him. The comfort and reassurance are all in His words, “God does not charge a soul except [according to] what He has given it. Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease.” (65 [at-Talāq]: 7)

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْساً إِلَّا مَا آتَاهَا سَيَجْعَلُ اللَّهُ بَعْدَ عُسْرٍ يُسْراً

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

25 Random Things/Facts About Me

1- I always thought I should be a singer, or a radio anchor. Yeah, I know! I still sing not-so-cheerful songs and had the audacity to record and share that with close friends at times :-) But reciting Qur'an audibly is actually very much soothing.

2- Played music by ear and till now piano and cello music still hit the right spot and bring me to my knees as they dig in a sadness well I sometimes never knew it existed.

3- Been a stranger and a loner in all shapes and forms; trust me on this one. Have always been the expert, and still am.

4- I am built to be strong, I wonder why I gave up; on life in general.

5- It is interesting what you can see in people's eyes. I read faces, feel voices, sense words, and see through people loud and clear and my first impression is seldom wrong.

6- I have been writing ever since I do not remember when and my dream has always been to write my own book. I stopped for such a long time though as I lost my voice and inner compass. But maybe when I regain that voice it would be an audio book :-)

7- I am best when I am in charge. That said, I know cannot do that alone.

8- It takes a whole lot to let anyone in my inner circle of close people, and not much to let go once I am not appreciated. Any BFF's out there? :-) Yet, flickering candle light, white roses, the smiling contemplative moon and deep blue sea, are my lifelong friends.

9- I am a super mom! They also call me "nerd", "old school", "not cool", and the list goes on. The apples of my eyes, even if they grow taller than me and assume that they know more. I just smile back and say, "when it's your turn to be the parent, you will know."

10- I have learned that it is the ones who do not cry and wail when losing a loved one, that are never able to get over the grief. They learn to live with it.

11- Winter can be literally brutal in here. I dread walking on ice since that got me a concussion not too long ago. I learned to love snow though and live with it. Fresh snow reminds me of beach sand. You can still slip on it; I just did today :-S

12- I hate cooking! I do it as a duty and for survival purposes only. It's weird that I am not bad at it. It is just not my passion. I am an organization freak though. I can get you anything at anytime from my place here; blindfolded (no kidding!) My strict rules drive every one around me nuts. But tough life, you still have to clean up your rooms, and the house, kids!

13- My sense of smelling is annoyingly sharp sometimes. But in the spring... well, the very thought brings a smile to my face.

14- I am in no-man's-land now. I am neither a youngy nor an old lady. Stuck in between!

15- It's scary how you can be your worst enemy especially when your support system fails you down. A wise lady told me today that I have to be there for me at tough times.

16- I will never stop learning. My eyes are wide open, my mind just never stops, and life's strikes and blows will keep teaching me.

17- I once said casually that my life is a series of goodbyes. Cheesy, eh? Never knew where that came from then. Never knew then that it was so true.

18- I miss warmth when I think of my family. It was a real blast the last time when we were all together. It won't be the same now; but life goes on.

19- Been away and around for too long that it is tricky sometimes to know where home is. I know where to resort to though when I miss home.

20- We take our health for granted, till it's time for reality checks!

21- Leaving a legacy behind is an interesting concept.

22- The pride of being a Muslim and the comfort of knowing Allah are what keeps me alive when the going gets tough.

23- I was hiking in a park once when I enjoyed remembering Allah audibly. I knew that the trees and nature around me were all listening and wondered if I was the first one to do this in that remote spot. Doing that has become my secret ever since.

24- It so hard to plan for a future or any career when I am on the move and always on new challenging turfs. Only Adage anchors me down and nourishes my sense of purpose. I will just keep doing what I can and leave the rest to God's most generous hands.

25- Tough situations that require taking a stand bring out in me innate strength, resolution, and strong will.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


She stopped writing. Somehow, somewhere she lost her voice. What is the value of mere words in a worthless fading world. The rose is dying. They cut her life supply. She looks now in the eyes of strangers wondering how this and that would be her friend; could be her friend. She wonders what warmth feels like. Those smiles kill her, the smiles of two people who talked cordially to each other. Fake smiles for sure; they too will die. She looks at her reflection and cannot recognize it. Does it show, that reflection of mine, that I have given up? She wonders.