You Cannot Believe Without Questioning

There is no doubt that Barack Obama dominated the first Presidential debate against John McCain. Obama was confident in his responses and he completely hammered McCain with a solid plan for improving the U.S. economy, while McCain looked tense and countered with unsubstantial responses. Most notably, perhaps, was how McCain didn’t make eye contact with Obama once, which I interpret as being incredibly disrespectful and immature. As other political commentators and analysts have pointed out, McCain’s debating style personalizes the differences between both candidates. In other words, by not making eye contact or addressing Obama directly, McCain reaffirms his self-perceived dominance over Obama, but he also alludes to Obama being his “opponent” (or even “enemy” according to the Bush Doctrine’s your-either-with-me-or-against-me sermon). Obama, on the other hand, looked at McCain directly and even addressed him by his first name, “John.” Obama even looked into the camera to address the viewers, which I believe earned him a significant boost in the debate.

But there are issues to discuss and question, especially for the Muslim community. There can be no argument that Muslim-Americans have been stigmatized ever since September 11th, but even more so after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. When both candidates talk about the “spirit of national unity” after September 11th, this may be true for most Americans, but it is certainly not true for the Muslim community. There have been over 3,000 reported incidents regarding discriminatory acts, hate crimes, and prejudice towards Muslim-Americans, and neither of the candidates have spoken about it. Obama seemed to allude to it during the debate when he mentioned the world’s perception of American has changed significantly as a result of the wars, but he didn’t mention the repercussions Muslim-Americans have experienced and still endure.

When it comes to Iran, Obama is right in his approach of strong diplomacy, while McCain wants to paint Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel and the West. While Obama pointed out that Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not the most powerful man in Iran, he didn’t point out another key fact and that is this: Ahmadinejad never said “wipe Israel off the map.” This is an over-used slogan for war – you repeat it enough times, it becomes true. The Guardian’s article “Lost in Translation” cites four different translations – which include professors, the BBC news network, the New York Times, and even the often anti-Islamic and pro-Israel news station called MEMRI – and none of the translations contain the word for “map.” What Ahmadinejad actually said was, “The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” The Iranian President was clearly referring to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, which has created a lot of Arab and Muslim bitterness and antagonism towards Israel and the West. This is an extremely important issue that the West needs to understand if they are truly interested in establishing peace in the Muslim world. Obama seems more likely to acknowledge this issue, while McCain seems determined on attacking Iran since its acquisition of Nuclear Weapons is such an “existential threat.” I wonder if McCain bothers to think about how many countries in the world, especially Muslim countries, feel threatened by the U.S. possessing nuclear weapons. I do not support Ahmadinejad or any of his views, but the truth of the matter is that the U.S. has no right to invade or bomb Iran. I feel it would serve a great benefit to both candidates, as well as to the people of the world, if they actually watched Ahmadinejad’s interview with NBC news anchor, Brian Williams.

When the issue of Pakistan came into the picture, McCain accused Obama of wanting to invade the country. “You don’t invade an ally,” McCain said, “You don’t do that.” Obama responded and stated, “No one said anything about invading Pakistan.” This may seem to debunk McCain’s accusation, but Obama continued and said that there needs to be more U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan since Al-Qaeda forces are “in those mountains.” He also said that if Pakistan was not willing to cooperate, then the U.S. would intervene and take out Al-Qaeda. The problem with this tactic is that it contradicts Obama’s foreign policy with Iran. Obama has stated before that he will hold a congregation of all the Muslim leaders and discuss with them what needs to be done. Communication is essential in building strong alliances, and lack of communication is the reason why there is so much tension between the East and West. And yet, despite his aspirations for strong diplomacy, Obama’s statements towards Pakistan are hostile and accusatory. His tone and choice of words vilify Pakistan, which unnerves Pakistanis and generates suspicions about Obama’s intentions. Pakistan has lost a lot of soldiers while combating extremist factions and doing America’s dirty work. Pakistan has been disrespected by the American press numerous times, including in a political cartoon where a dog was labeled “Pakistan.” Every Pakistani knows how huge of an insult “dog” is.

What troubles me is when I see my fellow Muslims reducing themselves to the exhaustive “terrorism” rhetoric. “Terrorism” is a word used by contemporary politicians and the media to describe only one group of people: Muslims. Consider the Virginia Tech shooting, or the Amish school shooting in 2006, or the Church shooting in Missouri, or the Omaha mall shooting – were the perpetrators ever called “terrorists”? What about Ariel Sharon, who was responsible for massacring thousands of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps? What about George W. Bush who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S., Iraqi, and Afghan causalities? Despite how they terrorized people, the answer is “no,” they are not called terrorists. But if they were Muslim, don’t you believe the media would pounce on that and label them “terrorists?” Obama should not be concerned with putting pressure on the Pakistanis or threatening to attack them, but instead, he should be focusing on building an alliance with them and understanding why the extremist factions are opposing Pakistani leadership. These extremist groups identify with the Palestinian and Iraqi struggles, and therefore they oppose any affiliation or cooperation with the United States because the U.S. government funds the Israeli military and also has soldiers stationed in Islamic countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also reports that President Bush secretly approved orders in July of 2008 to permit American Special Operations to carry out ground assaults in Pakistan without approval from the Pakistani government. Without taking these issues into consideration, neither Obama nor McCain will fully understand why violence ensues in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I agree with most of Obama’s policies, including his policy on cutting taxes for the middle class, and making college and health care affordable for citizens, but this doesn’t mean that I cannot criticize him. I know there are a lot of Muslims who support Obama, but you shouldn’t hesitate to say he is wrong on certain issues like Pakistan. Don’t be afraid to disagree – no one is perfect, and that includes politicians and world leaders. I will not blindly follow someone, and no one else should. For eight years, we have been criticizing the Bush administration and calling those who support him as blind followers, so the last thing we want ourselves to become is blind followers of Obama. Like everything in life, we cannot believe in something unless we ask the right questions first.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” – Malik Al-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Salaam/Peace

~ Broken Mystic~

The Ink and the Maiden

The ink of the pen longed for a book of pages to fill with rhymes
The poet purchased a canvas instead
To paint an enchanting maiden amidst the silent clouds
How jealous the pen became of the brush, it bled and bled
On the dull wooden table, it died in a pool of black ink
And never wrote a verse again

That night, the Poet-turned-Painter lay to sleep
While tragedy of the pen came to the attention of the blessed Stars
And the beautiful maiden emerged from the painting like an ethereal dream
With her affectionate touch, the pen’s dark bloodstains became like clean waters
And she gracefully poured it back to its container

As she gazed into the puddle
The liquid awoke from death and met True Beauty
It rejoiced in a way that no human eye could see
And thus, the world became anew to the pen

Even when it was sold, it remained happy
No matter if it was forced to write of the unreal or the real
It savored every press and release and every touch of paper
Because each time it wrote, it knew:
The face of the Friend was imprinted on every drop

How oblivious the Poet & Painter was
He had no clue
That his actions led to a Love
So beyond his world

~ Broken Mystic ~

How to Save a Life

So this got me a little teary-eyed. As many of you know, I am a huge “Star Wars” fan, and even plan on making another “Star Wars” fan film after I complete three original films. My little cousins inspired this decision of mine since they were so captivated by some of my earlier “Star Wars” fan films. Before leaving, one of my cousins said to me, “when are you going to make another ‘Star Wars’ movie?” The magic and excitement in his eyes were impossible to ignore. It reminded me how I would Love to make a few films especially for children. Like I said, I have three films — which are all original — that I want to complete first, and then for fun, I want to just make another “Star Wars” fan film especially for my cousin. I want to make it soon too because he could grow out of it when he hits his teens (I know I didn’t grow out of it, lol, but it varies from person to person).

Anyway, I found this video on YouTube while I was searching for the song, “How to Save a Life,” and what do you know, I happened to find one with “Star Wars” footage. I think this video is brilliantly edited. The song and lyrics fit the visuals perfectly. It shows the tragedy of a really wonderful friendship between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). “Star Wars” is one of those rare films/stories where I can actually get emotionally involved with the characters, but I can also relate it to my own life. I’m sure a lot of us have lost friends — either because of heartbreak, arguments, death, or even distance.

If you haven’t seen the “Star Wars” films (particularly Episodes 1-3), this video pretty much tells the whole story in visuals. It shows Anakin Skywalker as an innocent 10 year-old (as seen in Episode 1) and then how he matures into a Jedi Knight (as seen in Episode 2), and finally, falls to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader (as seen in Episode 3).

Since I am making a film right now about friendship (more details on that soon! I’m almost wrapped up with it!), I know there are things in life that separate us from other people. Sometimes, we have to separate from these people and we suffer from a lot of pain. I believe that friendship is strong enough to best the storms and overcome the differences. I know there have been times when I asked myself, “where did I go wrong?” How can such a beautiful friendship fall to darkness? You have all these flashbacks and still can’t believe what happened.  Anakin was suffering from inner conflict and pain, but he didn’t tell Obi-Wan about it.  He didn’t open himself up to his friend, and instead, darkness overwhelmed him and clouded his mind.  It made him think that Obi-Wan was his enemy.  When we have arguments with our friends, we sometimes think that they are the problem.  We think that we are always right, and they are wrong.

I want to be there for my friends. Without our friends, we would not be the same person that we are today. I don’t like being separated. I want them all to know that I Love them and if they ever want to talk to me about anything or need anything, I am always here. If you are lost, tell me, and we can be lost together. We can find our way together. We can stay up all night and work things out. Encouragement and emotional support is so important and it means so much to people. Arguments and differences are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean there is no more Love. There is always Love. We just have to remember that.

~Broken Mystic~

After Iftar

After the blessed feast, I climb to the lone tower
Where I stare off into the cool night
And watch the world pass by below…
So troubled by its disbelief and destructive power
I see neither the Holy Book in my hand
Nor the stars sparkling above

My heart still reacts to the mute cries of humanity
Where is the Heaven that is near?
What have I learned from the morning of starvation?
Where is the hand to dry these tears?

Like an ethereal dream, a gust of wind flows from the sky
And takes shape of a beauteous translucent Angel
Her luminous fingers gently brush across my face like an art
The healing touch tells me to travel within and close my eyes

The vision of the Sea appears like an elegant Persian tapestry
I listen to the soothing waves crawl towards shore
And watch their pure waters dance like flowing garments
Waiting to enwrap their beloved in this Ocean of Love and Beauty

The fragrance of sweet vanilla maddens me and opens my eyes
To find the Angel’s candle lit beside the Holy Scripture with no abuse
I watch the pages dissolve and liquefy into tiny drops
Dripping into a drinking glass like Heavenly grape juice

The Angel reveals the face of my Beloved and swiftly swoops downward
Quenching my thirst, I consume the elixir of Love
And throw it hard to the concrete behind me,
Listen to the glass shatter and resonate passionately

I plunge off the balcony ledge as if it is my springboard,
And dive towards the depths of the unknown
I straighten my body like an arrow
Spiraling through the vapors of fear like a fearless cyclone

Appearing out of the mist, I see the Ocean my heart so longs for
But at the last moment, a chain tied to my foot catches me unexpectedly
And prevents the union, only a finger’s length away
A mermaid emerges from below to show me the way

She caresses my face softly as I hang upside down
Whispering in my ears, and breathing the warmth of Divine Secrets
Speaking in an unworldly language, She sings:
“Free yourself of the worldly chains without regret”

I gaze into Her eyes and see the Heaven She brought from the Sea
“Take Imam Ali’s sword and be free!” She says
As Rumi once said, ‘When the Ocean of Love comes,
Marry the experience at once!”

Listen to the sword whistle as I swing the blade and strike the shackles
The Music of Angels echo throughout the ocean blue
I splash into the Pure Waters and soak myself in Divine Love
Here my Ego drowns and my Spirit is filled with You

Accompanied by the wondrous sights of my dear Beloved
I swim to the Vision of Holy men and women
Show me the modest woman the Virgin Mary was
So that I may always be reminded of her when I attend my mother

Show me the compassionate Soul of Jesus
So that I may always show kindness and kiss the cheek of a brother
Show me the persistent heart of Moses
So that I always have the courage to endure challenges
Show me the Passionate Lover Muhammad was
So that I may fill my Soul with the Beloved

The Ocean leads me to shore where I find the Field of Unity
Slowly make Your way to this long haired Dervish, O Heart
As my hands stroke the dancing barley
Lift the veil of the Unseen and reveal the Beloved Friend!

Stand behind me and wrap Your arms over my shoulder
Let me collapse in Your arms and drift off into a deep sleep
And let me hear You say:
“The Angels, the Beloved, the Field, it is all Me.”

Silent in this field…
My eyes closed…
Arms open…
Here, so much Beauty is revealed:

I own nothing…
Everything is Yours…

Embrace Me, O Light…
Take Me…

Take Me, Beloved

I am Yours

~ Broken Mystic ~

Rudy Giuliani’s Islamophobic Remarks

As I was driving home from school the other night, I tuned into NPR and listened to the various speeches at the Republican National Convention (RNC).  I found most of the speeches to be pretty typical and generic; nothing out of the ordinary or spectacular.  Sometimes, I really don’t understand how some American citizens (or citizens of any country) can be so trustworthy of politicians who constantly glorify the candidates they favor.  I understand support, but when you glorify someone, you paint such a perfect image of them, as if they are saints, super-human, or without faults.  And in the realm of politics, who would want to elect a leader who admits his/her flaws?  We want to vote for perfect people, right?  After all, that’s what leaders are “supposed to be,” right?

When we glorify people, we are subsequently erasing their flaws and humanity.  We are making them equivalent to Prophets (depending on your interpretation of Prophets) and even, to God Himself.  We don’t see them as human beings like ourselves; instead, we perceive ourselves as inferior, incapable, and imperfect compared to the leader.  This is why we turn to them, because we believe they possess traits, characteristics, and skills that we lack within ourselves.  This is the brainwashing of politics that I absolutely despise.  Even some of the greatest leaders that I admire like Salah Al-Din and Haroun Al-Rashid had flaws.  In fact, I admire a leader more so when he/she admits his/her mistakes.  Malcolm X for example was never afraid to announce his mistakes, and his actions reflected the kind of leader who was open and receptive to learning and improving.

As my thoughts wandered on these issues, I heard loud applause and cheers when the former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, walked on stage.  At first, he made the expected remarks and criticisms of the Obama campaign, and he even encouraged the audience’s disrespectful mockery of Obama’s experience.  A few moments later, Giuliani made remarks that reminded me why I sometimes feel so insecure living in the United States.  For four days in Denver, the Democrats were afraid to use the term “Islamic terrorism,” he said loudly, while the audience booed at the Democratic party.  “I imagine they believe it is politically incorrect to say it. I think they believe they will insult someone. Please tell me, who they are insulting if they say, “Islamic terrorism.” They are insulting terrorists!”  Thunderous cheers and applause followed.

As I was driving past the street lights, the gas stations, the department stores, and the neighborhoods, I felt so disconnected from everything; like I didn’t belong.  I felt like I couldn’t recognize anything for a moment.  I couldn’t help but feel discouraged, powerless, and subordinate.  The fact that thousands of people agree with Giuliani’s statements is probably the most disturbing thing to me.  It represents how prejudice, intolerance, and ignorance exists in a significant portion of the United States.  It’s too obvious for people see how the word “Islamic” automatically associates terrorism with the religion of “Islam,” and yet, Giuliani is able to follow up with some ridiculous statement that doesn’t make any sense at all!  “They are insulting terrorists”?  First he mentions “Islamic terrorism” and then he says it insults “terrorists.”  All he did was omit the “Islamic” part in the last sentence!  How hard is it to see the hypocrisy, the manipulation of words, and the brainwashing?  How hard is it to see the Islamophobia?

No, Mr. Giuliani, saying “Islamic terrorism” insults the 5-7 million Muslims living in the United States, as well as the estimated 1.4 billion Muslims around the world.  It not only reinforces misconceptions and ignorance about Islam, but it also implicates that terrorism is only conducted by Muslims.  When the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Omaha mall shootings occurred, the shooters were not described as “terrorists.”  When some Israeli soldiers bulldoze Palestinian homes, harass and murder civilians, or launch rockets into Lebanon, they are not called “terrorists.”  When some American soldiers rape young Iraqi girls, torture prisoners, and deliberately kill innocent civilians, they are not called “terrorists.”  But you can surely count on the fact that if the shooter of Virginia Tech was Muslim, the headlines would have been labeling him a “terrorist.”

As the RNC crowd cheer and applauded Giuliani for these remarks, I felt so outnumbered and hated just because of what I believe.  I felt so hated just because of who I am on the outside and on the inside.  These kind of fear tactics and word associations are what generate divisions, hatred, and violence.  It doesn’t help our society at all, especially with the way our foreign policy is now.  If you support the Republican party and Giuliani’s statements, how do you answer for this?  How can you prove to me that his remarks don’t promote Islamophobia?  How can you assure me that this will not trigger more hate crimes, stereotypes, and discriminatory acts that Muslims, including myself, experience?

Politicians say they are right with us, the people.  They say they understand the hardships and struggles that we endure.  They say they know what it’s like to pay for high gas prices or search exhaustively for a job.  They say that they’re by our sides, but the truth is, they’re not.  They don’t present themselves as fellow commoners or citizens.  They present themselves as perfect and flawless people.  They present themselves as all-knowing entities who can make declarations, laws, and judgments in a disturbingly Divine manner.  They present themselves as gods.

~ Broken Mystic ~

Happy Ramadan!

Tonight, we gather in the dining hall
One last meal till the journey
We turn our hearts to the Divine Call
Knowing the time has come to bid farewell to old “you”

All quarrels and disputes must be put to rest
For the Sacred Month of Learning has come
Close the doors to envy, hate, and violence
Return to the spirit of transcendence

Timeless verses and beautiful teachings
Are Flowers of the Qur’an
Send the profane back to nonexistence
And emerge as a Mirror of His Word

In the morning, how empty your stomach was
But how filled your heart was with remembrance
Our bodies starve, but the Soul blooms like the Garden
Newly filled with the fruits of wisdom and patience

And upon sunset, the hour of the feast arrives
I must speak inwardly: O’ self, what have you learned from fasting?
Ramadan is a mercy to you – shine with its Beauty
And Be the Light of your Being

What purpose does starvation serve
when old habits cease to persist?
How can you sit under the same tree?
It withers in time, journey onward my friend

Facing East, I recite the Eternal verses:
“O’ Lord, increase me in knowledge” (20:114)
And the Holy Scripture responds:
“God advances guidance in those who seek guidance” (19:76)

God of Mercy and Love:
Thank You for Your Message
For this Blessed month, for this Gift of Life
Thank You for everything

Happy Ramadan to all
with Love and Peace

~ Broken Mystic ~

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