Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem

Wow, and I thought I was harsh on Obama.  Isn’t it interesting that there are people on the Left who think Obama is just another Bush, while there are others on the Right who absolutely abhor him because they think he’s a “secret Muslim” (laugh) or the, ahem, “anti-Christ”?  I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Obama is exactly like Bush, but I’m not overly enthusiastic about him either.  Yes, his speech was brilliant and beautiful, but let’s see how he follows up on his words before we start leaping for joy, shall we?

Anyway, I found this clip almost immediately after I watched Obama’s speech in Cairo.   Before you watch it, just be warned that it contains excessive profanity, offensive racial slurs, and homophobic remarks.  It’s also very important to keep in mind that these individuals do not represent the opinions of all Jews.  The people in this clip are obviously ignorant, childish, and poorly educated, so it would be foolish and counter-productive to associate them with Judaism.

At the same time, this video is important to share because it shows the kind of tension and animosity that exists concerning diplomacy with Muslim nations.  Remember when the mainstream western media showed video clips of Palestinians dancing in the streets after the 9/11 attacks?  It created the perception that all Muslims and Arabs rejoice whenever Americans and/or Jews suffer.  It told us that non-Muslim Americans and Jews were innocent and morally superior to Muslims.  Why do we only see Palestinians doing horrible things in the news?  Why don’t we see things like this video clip of American Jews and Israelis making racist comments?  Will that hurt the “good guy/bad guy” image it’s been trying to promote for the past 8 years?

Don’t count on seeing this clip on CNN.

Open Discussion: President Obama’s Speech in Cairo

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Also published on Islam on My Side.

President Obama delivered a very moving and powerful speech in Cairo on June 4th, 2009.  The speech focused primarily on improving American and Muslim relations, but also addressed issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I admit that it was heartening and emotional to hear Obama cite so many verses from the Holy Qur’an, as well as referring to the miracle of al-Isra, the Night Journey, in which the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to the seven heavens and met with Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, peace be upon them all.  When Obama said “peace be upon them” after mentioning these Prophets, there was enormous applause from the audience because the attendees, as well as Muslims all around the world, knew exactly what it meant:  Respect.

It was also nice to hear Obama stress on the importance of Islam being part of America.  He acknowledged the contributions of Islamic civilization, particularly in mathematics, science, poetry, architecture, and music.  When he spoke of Israel and Palestine, he emphasized on a two-state solution and recognized the struggles that both Israelis and Palestinians face.  For many Muslims, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is crucial simply because U.S. foreign policy has been overwhelmingly supportive (politically, militarily, and economically) of Israel while vilifying and ignoring the plights of Palestinians.

Although there were many times during the speech where it seemed like Obama was hesitant to acknowledge certain atrocities, such as Israel’s recent airstrike on Gaza, it was at least refreshing to hear a U.S. president recognize the Palestinian humanitarian crisis.  I really liked when he said “children of Abraham,” because that kind of language speaks to the hearts of inter-faith communities around the world.

While citing the Qur’an and reaching out to Muslim majority countries displays the President’s desire to improve relations, it’s important to stay mindful that actions speak louder than words.  As Tariq Ramadan mentions in his recent article, “Obama’s speech to Muslims will mean little if its symbolism is not followed up by concrete measures to restore trust.”  In no way am I trying to deny Obama’s efforts, but rather I’m simply pointing out that I truly hope he follows up on his words.

What are your thoughts?  If you missed the President’s speech, you can watch it below (it’s divided into 6 parts):

Watch Part 2
Watch Part 3
Watch Part 4
Watch Part 5
Watch Part 6

Checkpoint

checkpoint
You watch me closely
With your sniper rifle
A weapon you call security
An instrument I call fear

I show that I am weaponless
As I pass through your checkpoint
Spinning like a whirling dervish
Fearless in this worldly separation

I want to open your eyes
So you can see the unjust persecution
I want you to look into my soul
And listen to the endless cries of desperation

I want you to watch my heart bleed
Every time I pray for Abraham’s children
I want you to hear me gasp for air
Every time a face and name is forgotten

Why are we, brothers and sisters, so torn apart?
Here I cross again, spinning in my Sufi dance
And dancing to the song of yearning
That plays forever in my heart

Like planets dancing around the sun
This is the dance of the celestial heavens
Where even the gunman is invited
No uniforms, no flags, no bombs, no guns

As you watch, I want you to listen:

My Beloved is Here
My Love is Here

My Home is Here

~Broken Mystic~

Why Are You Silent?

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It is in this direction you refuse to look
As if doing so would alter your faith in “hope” and “change”
As if standing up for the oppressed is something as simple as “choosing sides”
As if speaking up for the murdered would threaten your “political outlook”

It is here, amidst these ruins of dead children
You dare to even shed a tear
As if mourning for Arab blood were forbidden
As if flags could dictate what hearts should feel

It is here, where blood is on the inside and outside
You sit at your desks and dinner tables
Arguing and debating like a bunch of fools and cowards
Over the meaning of “genocide.”

It is here, where Palestine is crying and bleeding
She asks: What have my children done to you
To cause this reclusive silence?
How much louder do they need to keep screaming?

What did they do to you to make you shut your mouth?!
What did they do to you to make you close your eyes?!
What did they do to you to make you cover your ears?!
What did they do to you to make you ignore their desperate cries?!

What did they do to you to make you get so offended
When all someone did was beg you to speak for them?!
What did they do to you to make you so blind
From realizing this atrocity needs to be condemned?!

Yes, with all this blood and death
I see you look the other way
With all this murder and madness
I see you turn and walk away

Not your concern, not your child
Carry on with your everyday life
Someone else’s problem, someone else’s job
Not your war, not your strife

Yes, with all this terror, all this wailing
All you can say is “I’m not educated enough”
Or “I don’t know the history”
As if that had anything to do with human empathy

Yes, with all this bloodshed and slaughter
You remain oblivious to how many lives it took
With all this horror and mayhem
It is in this direction you refuse to look

~Broken Mystic~

Sky Garden

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SEEKER LOOKED out her window
Only to see the world crumbling around her
Watching those luminous colors drain to monochrome
And those joy-filled smiles fade into the shadows

Tears rolling down your heavenly-crafted faces
As sweet memories are torn away
Like history altered by a tainted pen
We cannot hear the music begging for that old kingdom to stay

Rage and madness pounding in your head
Screaming so loud that the earth shatters
And yet drowned out by the hate-bombs falling
Only apathy blackens the heart when it sees blood splatter

O’ Palestine, we hear you
You are not alone
O’ Palestine, we mourn with you
With your Soul’s endless cry for home

Seeker shut her windows and wept
Feeling so weak and powerless; forgetting how to smile
A mystic in black robes knocks at the door
He says, “Friend, retreat from the world for a while.”

Know that God does not burden you beyond your means
Travel — Deep within yourself where secrets await
Discover — You are a Flower plucked out from His Garden
Be — The Gift that you are in this world, sent from the Unseen

She shook her head in doubt and uncertainty
She looked at the children she gave refuge to
Sitting in her house; helpless and hungry
“I’m not doing enough” she says

The mystic replies, “Darkness has overwhelmed you”
“And blinded you from seeing all the Love that you share”
“The helpless need you to be strong for them”
“They cannot see you fall into the abyss of despair”

Come to where the Romantics gather
Where the Lovers leap off the highest mountain
And spread their multi-colored wings
To journey into their Elysium sky

Come to where magic is Real
Where children run through the fields
And paint Om Shanti in the clouds
Where beautiful stallions emerge from the Sun
And ride us all to His Jerusalem

Come to where Beauty is heard
Where you can hear recitation of the Qur’an
The Psalms of the Torah, the chant of Christian monks
Spiritual voices from every nation of the world

Come to where revolution marches onward
Never lose hope, even in the heart of a hurricane
Defy the storm of division, your destiny is unity
When you sail on His ship, there is no fear, no pain

Come to where secrets no longer wish to remain hidden
You are a planet kept in balance
By a Sun that will never let you go
Your orbit is your Way to Divine Radiance

Come to where thorns will become roses
Mourning will soon become joyous laughter
The dead will be raised again and carried into His arms
Recite the Great Name and witness wonders

O’ Seeker of Truth
Heavens says: Hand me your tears
And I will show you what Ocean they belong to

Unchain yourself from these worries and fears

O’ Seeker, as you gaze upon those helpless faces
Know that your contributions are never without meaning
You are their House, you are their Sky Garden
You are their Immortal Flame, burning through the darkness

Embrace the wind, breathe in the fragrance of Divine Romance
Throw yourself at the Beloved’s feet — the Friend of the Heart
Become wrapped in this painted cloak of Love
Turning and ascending, the Way of Beauty’s eternal dance

Turning and ascending…
To where my heart calls me…

~Broken Mystic~

Tears for Gaza, Tears for Husayn

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The free world turns a blind eye
The modern-day Yazids laugh in their palaces
The Holy Land bleeds and weeps
When the sons and daughters of Abraham die

Selfish kings are drunk with their riches
Cowards flee at every opportunity to protect
The everyman worries about his daily bread
Peace plans of so-called democracies are in reject

Only those who listen to their inner calling
Will rise for the defenseless and oppressed
Only those learned in the ways of Peace and Love
Can bring Unity to this world so terrifying

Jews, Christians, and Muslims
Are we not of the same family?
O humankind, are we not all human?
Is it so hard to see this truth and beauty?

Remember those black banners in Kerbala
Those blood-soaked flags of dearest Husayn
The endless teardrops in the sand
The Earth that mourned for the Beloved’s name

Ya Husayn, Mountain of Forbearance
Shadow of the Divine, Pearl of Radiance
In the footsteps of the Prophet
You stood boldly in the face of a thousand spears

Ya Husayn, Garden of Truth
Master of the Spirit, Beautiful Friend of God
O’ how your blood was massacred across the lonely hills
Within your immortal sacrifice streams the fountain of youth

Ya Husayn, Martyr of Elysium
Illumination of Mystics, Second Petal of Fatima’s Rose
You forgot about self and bled for union
Fearless you became, a secret blossom for those who reflect

I weep for you, Husayn
I mourn for you, Gaza
In this cruel world that we live in
Your faces will never be forgotten

Remember how Husayn left Medina
In pursuit of uniting the Ummah
He left that material world behind
And entered the abode of selflessness

Free yourself from the chains that bind you
Emerge, peacemakers
Like a new being blooming into color
And like Husayn, say:

“I HAVE RISEN
As I seek to reform
The community of my grandfather
I wish to enjoin the good
And forbid the evil”

~Broken Mystic~

South Asian Unity: A Priority for India and Pakistan

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Like everyone, Muslims are saddened and horrified by the recent Mumbai attacks. However, unlike everyone else, Muslims find themselves defending their religion from stereotypes, misconceptions, and bigoted accusations. It’s not an easy burden to live with — especially in Western countries like the United States — when the media not only scrutinizes and vilifies your religion, but also criticizes you for “not doing enough” to speak out against radicalism.

What’s worse is the division I’m seeing within the South Asian community, Indians and Pakistanis in particular. I was shocked and appalled at the excessive amount of anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistani bigotry written in discussion boards of South Asian internet forums and group pages on Facebook. Not only are fingers being pointed at Pakistan, but also at the religion of Islam, which has been accused continuously for teaching “hatred” and “waging war” on non-Muslims.

First, why is Pakistan being blamed when there is hardly any evidence? As we have seen in the last eight years, jumping to conclusions has resulted in foolish and deadly consequences. The fact that Indian authorities almost immediately accused Pakistan of being behind the attacks indicates that they deny and dismiss the possibility of homegrown terrorism. Tariq Ali, who is a Pakistani novelist, historian, and political campaigner, recently pointed out that the Deccan Mujahedeen — an extremist militant group based in India — made a claim to the Mumbai attacks. In his article on “Counter Punch,” Mr. Ali writes:

“The Deccan Mujahedeen, which claimed the outrage in an e-mail press release, is certainly a new name probably chosen for this single act. But speculation is rife. A senior Indian naval officer has claimed that the attackers (who arrived in a ship, the M V Alpha) were linked to Somali pirates, implying that this was a revenge attack for the Indian Navy’s successful if bloody action against pirates in the Arabian Gulf that led to heavy casualties some weeks ago.”

When I looked at my local newspaper, the article on the Mumbai attacks used the following words to describe Pakistan: “volatile,” “rival,” and “archrival.” And I’m sure many of us remember President-elect Barack Obama warning Pakistan that if they are “unable or unwilling” to fight terrorism, then the U.S. will invade the region (which they already have under the Bush administration).

This hostility and antagonism towards Pakistan is irresponsible. For one, Pakistan has been fighting Taliban militants in North-Western Pakistan since 2004, and according to “Times Online” Pakistan has lost about “1,000 soldiers fighting militants in border mountains that have never come under the control of any government.” Thomas Houlahan wrote a brilliant piece for “The Middle-East Times” titled “Pakistan: Separating the Facts from the Myths” where he criticizes the media for reporting a lot of misinformation about Pakistan. He writes:

“Pakistan has lost more civilians in the war on terror than the United States; Pakistan has lost more troops killed in fighting insurgents than every foreign contingent in Afghanistan combined. These facts fly in the face of the misinformation bandied about that Pakistan is soft on terror.”

Houlahan has also pointed out that “more than one in four insurgents killed in the Afghanistan/Pakistan insurgency (4,500 of 16,500) has been killed by Pakistani security forces.” Last night, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Asif Zardari, appeared on Larry King Live and stated that Pakistan had no involvement with the Mumbai attacks. Furthermore, Zardari insisted that he looked forward to building peaceful relations with their Indian neighbors. Despite these facts and condemnations by Pakistani officials, one must question why the media and even the newly elected President of the United States are skeptical about Pakistan’s commitment to the “War on Terror.” Pakistan has been doing America’s dirty work since September 11th, 2001, and has suffered on several occasions for it. We seem to have forgotten about the recent Marriott Hotel bombing in Pakistan on September 20th, 2008.

To see this kind of division and hostility take shape among every day Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others is discouraging and unsettling. None of us are responsible for what happened in Mumbai and none of us are trying to justify what happened, but when the media starts to influence our fellow South Asians into thinking that “Islamofascisim” or “Islamic Jihad” is simply about killing non-Muslims, particularly Hindus and Jews, then it is imperative for us to engage in mature and civilized dialogue. Because of the fact that a Jewish Center was attacked in India, many perceive this attack to be an “attack on the West,” but what’s so problematic about this assertion is that it completely ignores and overlooks the real factors involved.

Before I continue, it is important to understand that I am not justifying what happened in Mumbai or anywhere else. It’s not about justification, it’s about understanding, and only through understanding can we find the root cause of the problem and develop real strategies to solve them. Rather than chanting war slogans like “Bomb Pakistan!” why don’t we ask intelligent questions as to why an atrocity like this happened? If there is anything that I expect the West and other nations to learn, it’s this: Bombing another nation will only make matters worse; it radicalizes people and creates more violence. This is evidenced clearly in the Iraq war.

Has anyone bothered to ask, “who were the militants” or “who was in that hotel” or “what drives such people to attack innocent people?” Many right-wing pundits will simply say these militants are driven by the teachings of Islam. This kind of ignorance generates mythologies. Mythologies such as “Hindus and Muslims have been fighting for centuries.” Really? Since when? Widespread violence between Hindus and Muslims didn’t start until the 19th century. Prior to that, Muslims, Hindus, and others enjoyed coexistence in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. This is not to say there wasn’t any violence – of course there were under particular Muslim rulers – but for the most part, large scale violence between the communities occurred after British colonialism. Other mythologies formulate, such as “Jews and Muslims have been fighting forever.” Again, since when? Much of the antagonism and wars between Muslims and Jews started during and after the creation of Israel. Prior to that, Muslims and Jews coexisted for centuries, especially in Jerusalem. Before Muslims ruled the city, Jews were exiled out of Jerusalem. Muslim leaders like Umar ibn al-Khattab and Salah Al-Din invited the Jews back into the city (may God be pleased with them).

Without understanding the struggles of Muslims in regions like Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even India, we won’t be about to solve the problems. But what’s frustrating for many Muslims is that the media only uses the word “terrorism” for one group of people: Muslims. In 2002, over 2,000 Muslims were massacred in the Indian State of Gujarat, while hundreds of Muslim women were gang raped. The worst part is that the government was complicit in these horrible crimes and many of the victims have yet to receive justice. Where was the mainstream western media when those atrocities were committed? Did we hear the media call the assailants “Hindu extremists?” Over 200,000 Muslims were butchered in the Serbian genocide against Muslims in Kosovo, but the Serbians were never called “Christian terrorists.” When over 700,000 indigenous Palestinians were forcefully evicted out of their homes by the Israeli military, the Israeli soldiers were never called “Jewish terrorists.” When Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, the media neglected to report that he was a member of the extremist “Christian Identity Movement.” The Columbine and Virginia Tech school shootings never provoked people to point fingers at a religion or even use the word “terrorist” to describe the shooters, but if the perpetrators were Muslim, you could count on the media to label them “Muslim terrorists.”

So why does the media ignore horrible acts of violence when they are committed against Muslims? Why does our government refuse to make efforts to understand why terrorism occurs in the first place? What is probably more disturbing than anything else is government-sponsored terrorism because it hides behind the guise of “freedom,” “liberty,” and “justice.” When things are made more systematic and acceptable, the more chances it has of being unnoticed.

Lastly, more than anything, Indians and Pakistanis have to stop pointing fingers and blaming each other. We can’t allow that kind of hatred and prejudice to present itself in our communities. We have to stand together, ask the right questions, and find the root cause of the problems. Only then will we be able to effectively prevent horrible atrocities – committed by all groups of people – from happening again.

Salaam, Namaste, Sat Sri Akal, Peace.

~Broken Mystic~

Saracen

UPON the lonely minaret
She sat and watched as the moon wept in sorrow
Cowardly armies marching on her beautiful fields
Colonizing her land, frightening her people
Brandishing their swords, pounding their shields
Beheading sweetly scented tulips
Ignorant to the ancient history beneath their feet
They are deceived by the mission
The agenda of modern-century Crusaders

Blessed is the poetess
Who lived her joyous years
With the company of romantics and storytellers
Sharing the smiles and easing the fears
Giving peace and displaying wisdom
Like Shabistari’s Rose Garden
Radiating and shining with timeless Beauty
She brings light upon the lonely faces,
And like petals dancing in the wind
Her words gently float and glide
Landing upon even the darkest of places
Where a cold-hearted stranger runs into the street
And becomes maddened with song and dance

But war erupted one night
And mayhem surrounded our innocent friend
She saw the army roam through the land
And soar through the sky
She feared for her Loved ones
Frightened by the thought of never seeing them again
She ran from village to village just to stay alive
But nothing in her power would stop the invasion

She will never forget the day
When she heard the explosion
When olive trees and peaceful cities were blown to pieces
When she held her murdered father in her arms
What does this army know about her story?
What do they know about her family?

They march over the blood stained hills
Obedient to the orders of their leaders
Hunting for labels
They once said “Saracen” and “Barbarian”
They say “Towel-head” and “Terrorist” now
Ya Insaan (O People!) when will you tear down the flags?
So-called Muslims, Jews, and Christians
When will you start believing?
When will you have the courage to journey within
And listen to the Soul that sings: Human Being?
When will you have the courage
To burn down the walls of separation?

Behold, the courage to believe:
She kisses her father’s grave farewell
And marches to the front lines
She says: I am not a knight in shining armor!
They won’t allow me on the battlefield
With my Persian drums and flowers
So I will charge into the crossfire
And bring with me an orchestra
One like that of a mystic song

Enigmatic horns, passion drums, Arabian strings
Gregorian chant, wailing of Souls, ancient tongues
A symphony of Angels, fantasia bells, cinematic splendor
Words like shooting stars and exploding into musical rapture!

And when she stood before a thousand soldiers
She was unarmed and fearless
Snipers cannot fire upon such a display of Love
Bullets cannot kill what cannot be seen
Leaders cannot defeat such devotion to ideas

“Who are you?” they ask
And she responds:

I am Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan
I am Kashmir, Chechnya, and Bosnia
I am Lebanon, Palestine, and Pakistan

Point your rifles at me as long as you want
I don’t care

Because I know, and God knows:
You have no right

You have no right

~ Broken Mystic ~

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~

Jerusalem Cries for Peace

I was worried that I was not going to have time to blog about this, but as I waited in rush hour traffic and enjoyed the gentle breeze and pleasant weather, I was reminded of how grateful I should be. Grateful that I am not living under the extremely violent, horrific, and turbulent conditions that others endure on a daily basis. With this realization comes purpose and meaning. In Islam, we are taught that everything has meaning, even the smallest details that we tend to overlook. No leaf falls without God’s knowledge, as the Qur’an says (6:59). For those of us in the west, we typically do not think reflect on the hardships and struggles that people on the other side of the globe are battling (look at what’s happening in China today). Many times, I believe that one of my purposes in this life is to help people in all possible manners. Not just through words, but more through action.

For most of the west, May 15th of 2008 is the 60th birthday for the state of Israel, but for the Muslim world, it is Youm al-Nakba — “The Day of Catastrophe”. I have seen other people decorate their blogs and Facebook profile pages with Palestinian flags and “Free Palestine” slogans. I’ve seen people change their profile pictures to images of themselves wearing a Palestinian scarf, or keffiyah. I have no intention to generalize about people, but from the certain individuals that I know, they display such patriotism for Palestine and yet they hardly know anything about the current events, the history, or even about the politicians. I remember when I was directing my short film, “A Flower from the East,” my main characters were Palestinian, and my film professor asked, “what is the significance of the Palestinian scarf? Does it serve any religious significance?” This question made me reflect on what the Palestinian cause means to me personally, and I believe this is a question we all should ask ourselves. What do the flags, scarves, and slogans mean and symbolize? We have to avoid chanting slogans emptily. It’s like the young and proud Pakistanis who shout “Pakistan Zinadabaad!” (Long Live Pakistan) just for the sake of showing off their Pakistani pride, but not really understanding what they’re saying.

The Palestinian people have suffered a great deal and their story is still neglected by the mainstream media, which is what frustrates Muslims around the world, myself included. A common mistake that many anti-Islamic and even well-intentioned conservatives make is that they think anti-Zionism equates anti-Jewish (yes, I’m one of those people who refuse to say anti-Semitism, since Arabs are Semites too, not just Jews). This is absolutely false. Another mistake is that they think Islam teaches Muslims to hate and kill Jews. Again, this is false. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has nothing to do with Judaism and Islam; this conflict needs to be understood in light of historical context. More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were brutally and systematically evicted from their homes by the terrorist organizations known as Irgun, Stern Gang, and the Haganah, “the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces.” Examples of where these groups evicted Arabs can be found in the villages of Deir Yassin and Duwayma. According to Dan Freeman-Maloy of ZMag, the Zionist forces controlled 78% of mandatory Palestine by 1949. They declared the State of Israel after razing “some 400 Palestinian villages to the ground.” As mentioned earlier, to this day, the creation of Israel is infamously known around the Muslim world as a great historic injustice and/or the Nakba (Catastrophe). In the years that followed, the Israeli military occupation (or the Israel Defense Force) patrolled the Palestinian settlements for “security” purposes. This is not to insult or stereotype the Israreli Defense Force, but just to point out that so many horrific crimes against innocent Palestinians have been committed by countless Israeli soldiers, who are not branded “terrorists” or charged with war crimes. In 1982, the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, ordered the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps. He formed an alliance with a Lebanese Christian militia-men, who were permitted to enter two Palestinian refugee camps (Sabra and Shatila) in an area controlled by the Israeli military. They massacred thousands of Palestinian civilians — something that the Palestinians and the Muslim world will never forget.

And the west ponders why the Muslim world is so antagonistic towards them and Israel. Extremist televangelists like John Hagee claim that this is a “religious war,” which sounds very medieval if you ask me. It reminds me of the Crusades, when the Pope Urban II called for a holy war against the Muslims. The truth of the matter is that Christians, Muslims, and Jews have coexisted for centuries. Contrary to the “Islam-spread-by-the-sword” myth, Christians and Jews were allowed to practice their religion, pray in churches and synagogues, and hold honorable positions in the government (for example, the Christians would translate the Greek philosophical texts into Arabic). When the Muslim leader, Salah Al-Din, captured Jerusalem in 1187, he did not slaughter a single Christian civilian. He established peace and coexistence among the Christians, Muslims, and Jews. To read more about Salah Al-Din, read my entry on the Crusades here.

Why do I mention history? Because if we really care about the Palestinians and peace among human beings, we must learn from our history. Salah Al-Din and the Christian King Baldin IV were not afraid of negotiating with one another. Right now, President Bush is heavily criticizing Barack Obama for wanting to negotiate with “terrorists.” Notice the terminology: “terrorists.” In the mind of right-wing extremists, the Palestinian leaders, along with the Iraqi and Iranian leaders, are nothing less than “evil.” According to tonight’s CNN report, there are many Jewish-Americans are concerned about Obama’s wanting to negotiate with the aforementioned leaders, particularly with Hamas. My question is: what’s the alternative? Violence? War? Salah Al-Din and Baldwin IV negotiated to prevent bloodshed and slaughter. Salah Al-Din and Balian of Ibelin negotiated for the same reasons. What happens when there’s no communication and understanding? People start to fear one another, and fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, and hatred leads to suffering (I learned that from “Star Wars”).

We are told that the Palestinians “hate freedom and democracy”. This is probably one of the biggest insults to human intelligence. By promoting this mentality, we are ignoring what is called cultural responses. When people are oppressed by a foreign invader, they develop a stronger connection with their culture and religious background. When the British occupied India, for example, they stripped the Indians of their language, culture, and religion. Many Indians who studied in England would come back to the India and didn’t even know how to speak their own language. They were culturally confused. The rebellion against the British was sparked by the violent and brutal treatment of Indians, but the Indians also used their culture and religion(s) to energize and motivate them even more. “Why should we be like them?” they thought, “they’re taking away our culture and religion.” So they established a stronger and more patriotic connection with their ethnic identity and used that to fuel their energy to rebel. Cultural response.

Palestinians shout “Allahu Akbar” and other Islamic slogans because of the same reasons I mentioned above. War splits people into a duality, it separates humankind. Dehumanization occurs in the media, in the newspapers, on the battle field, and in society. Terms like “rag-head,” “dune-coons” and “camel-jockeys” (among much worse slurs) are used to dehumanize the opposition. The media needs to vilify the “enemy” in order to rally more supporters of their political agenda. The Nazis did this with the Jews – they depicted them in cartoons with hooked noses and ugly features so that the rest of the country didn’t feel sorry about killing them. The American cartoons even did this to Africans, drawing them ridiculously ugly and mentally retarded (see Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled”). It’s important to understand that the same is happening to the Arab/Muslim world. Instead of understanding why people behave certain ways, the media just simplifies it for us. They simplify it so that the rest of the west doesn’t feel like they’re supporting the deaths of other human beings; they want to know that they’re killing “terrorists,” and saving the “innocent” Israel (notice how Israelis use images of children on billboards and television advertisements). No one is born a suicide bomber, something happens to them in their surroundings and environment that cause them to behave that way.

Do I know what it’s like to have a Loved one murdered? Do I know what it’s like to see my home demolished? Do I know what it’s like to be evicted and deported to another country? I have not been in these situations, yet I am deeply saddened and disturbed whenever I hear about what happens. Both the Israelis and Palestinians are suffering heavily, and whenever I speak about Palestinian causalities, I am accused of being a “terrorist sympathizer.” I would like Israelis (and those who support Israel) to know that Muslims do not hate Jews and that there is nothing within Islam that teaches us to hate or kill them. Whenever Palestinians are killed by the Israeli military forces, those soldiers are never called “terrorists.” When Israel bombed Lebanon in 2006, we were told by the mainstream media that it was an act of “self-defense.” And yet, when a Palestinian defends him/herself, it is an act of “terrorism.” I had a neighbor who was once an American soldier stationed in Israel. He saw with his own eyes, Israeli soldiers taking two Palestinian teenagers on top of a hill and then beating their faces in with rocks. He wanted to stop it, but his fellow soldiers held him back and told him to “let it be.” The next day, as my neighbor told me, there was nothing on the news about what happened to those two Palestinian teenagers. What were their names? Who were their families? Who cares?

To my fellow Muslims, I say that we cannot allow hatred toward Jews and Israelis to persist. There were some people on my Facebook who wrote something against the Jews and I was really disturbed by it. I personally do not feel that the state of Israel should have been created without a Palestinian state. Since there are human beings living in Israel now, I do not believe it is practical or even humane to say that they should be annihilated or evicted. They have homes there and they shouldn’t be punished for what their ancestors did. We need to think forward. I believe in a two-state solution. I believe a Palestinian state needs to be established and I don’t think we should rely on the United States government to make that happen. One of the major lessons in life: If you want something done, do it yourself. Never rely on someone else to give you “freedom”. We are all born as free human beings. That is our God-given right.

We must learn from our history. We must learn that despite our differences, we can still get along and establish a much needed understanding. Christians, Jews, and Muslims are the descendants of Abraham — the children of Abraham, peace be upon him. Promoting hatred towards Palestinians/Muslims or promoting hatred towards Israelis/Jews is not going to solve anything. The more we promote these of attitudes, the more of a mess Jerusalem will be. Allah says He does not help people until they change what is in themselves first. I believe there can be peace in the Holy Land. I believe in it because it has happened before. Deep down in my heart, I wish to see the Jerusalem that I see described in the pages of history — a Kingdom where people of all walks of life can live peacefully and together. Allah did not bring us into this world to fight each other. He brought us here to Love.

I dream of a day when the world will announce, “Jerusalem has come!” and over the ruins of war, there is a congregation — a new generation of Muslims, Christians, and Jews who will not tolerate the violence and hatred that greedy and corrupt politicians have fueled relentlessly for so many years. A new generation that will restore the world with consciousness and understanding. Jerusalem is not just the land of our Holy Prophets, it is in your heart. The Kingdom of Heaven is one of unity, peace, acceptance, and Love; it is within us all. And just like anything in life, if you want to accomplish something, you must have the confidence. You must have Faith, and the Universe will open a path for your dreams and aspirations. If we don’t believe, then how do we ever except to achieve anything? What would we be without Love?

Wa ana ba’min be-mamlakt al-Janaah
Wa ana ba’min be-mamlakt al-Houb
Wa ana ba’min be-mamlakt al-Janaah
Wa an-nour al-Hayaat hiya al-duniya
La ilaha illa Allah

(Arabic)

And I believe in the Kingdom of Heaven
And I believe in the Kingdom of Love
And I believe in the Kingdom of Heaven
And in the Light of Life of this world
There is no god, but God

~ Natacha Atlas
From the “Kingdom of Heaven” soundtrack

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