June 20, 2009 at 7:28 pm (Miscellaneous)
I have officially decided to start a new blog for a number of reasons. As you can probably tell from my “About Me” page, “Broken Mystic” originally started off as a very personal and private blog. Somehow, the blog evolved into a more social and political one, lol. There’s nothing wrong with that because I think those posts show that I’m getting back on track with my life, alhamdullilah, but I just think this blog should be limited to my personal and private thoughts.
I will still blog here and cross-post my poetry, but I won’t post anything on politics, current events, feminism, and media literacy here anymore. I really appreciate all the readers I have on this blog. For a long time, your comments have been so encouraging, supportive, and thoughtful, and they really mean a lot. Sometimes, I would come home and feel in a bad mood, but then I’ll check my e-mail and see a really nice comment on one of my posts that tell me to keep my chin up or to remind myself that I’m not alone. I created this blog so that I could vent and recover from heartbreak, and it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have the support of my friends and readers. It might sound strange to some, but blogging can really make a difference! Having said that, I would really Love to share my new blog with you all.
If you’re interested, you can either e-mail me or you can just leave a comment here and I will e-mail you! Whichever one works for you
Thanks again! Peace be upon you, from my heart to yours.
June 13, 2009 at 6:14 am (Community, Culture)
Tags: Arab, Bigotry, Ethnic Slur, Hate, Hispanic, Hockey, Ignorance, Latino, Muslim, Racial Slur, Racism, South Asian, Stereotyping, White gaze, White privilege
Over the past week, my friends and I have been playing on a new roller hockey court that isn’t too far from my house. Prior to that, we’ve been playing on a relatively unused basketball court (pictured above) for months, which has been fun for recreational hockey/pick-up games, but we really wanted to play on a better surface and actually use a puck instead of a ball.
We finally found a roller hockey court where a good number of people play at. Although competitive, no one plays a rough game, there are people of all ages, and unsurprisingly, everyone is White. Except for me (also pictured above) and my brother. Being the only person of color at a hockey court isn’t something new to me. When I played for an in-line roller hockey league in high school, I found myself getting self-conscious about it when people, including my teammates, would poke fun at my first and last name. I remember one time, a couple of kids I played hockey with called me a “a stupid Afghanistanian” when I was carrying my hockey gear off the court.
I find myself operating under White gaze a lot, if not always, especially when I’m playing hockey with people I don’t know. I can’t help but think about how they perceive me, a brown-skinned man, playing a sport that is filled with predominately White athletes (at least here in the United States and with what we see in the NHL). If my friends and I are playing hockey on our old basketball court, I don’t feel like I’m going to be judged if I’m wearing my Pakistani cricket jersey or my Egypt and Turkey soccer shirts. I don’t worry about it because I’m playing with my friends — people I know. But when it comes to going on this new hockey court, I feel that if I wear a jersey that says “Pakistan” on it, people will be gunning for me or treating me in a rude way.
Maybe I’m thinking and assuming way too much, right? Wrong. Yesterday, before I went to the new hockey court, I swapped my red Egypt soccer jersey for a red Nautica t-shirt. I figured, “I don’t want to deal with people giving me smack about my shirt saying ‘Egypt’ or making some stupid racial slur or whatever.” I got to the court, laced up, and said “hi” and “what’s up” and “how’s it going, man” to all of the people there. Everyone was friendly, conversational, and pretty much just wanted to have fun. So far so good, I thought.
Since there were so many people, we played with line changes, and I think I played at least six shifts the entire day. I ended up doing really well too and scored four goals. When everyone packed up to leave, my friends and I said “good game” to everyone and that was the end of that. Fun day, right? Well, today, my friends and I played at the court again and a friend of mine told me, “Oh man, I have to tell you something. When you scored your second or third goal yesterday, this kid on the bench said, “f****** spic!” My friend said he was going to say something, but before he could, someone shouted at him and said, “yo, watch your language!”
It kind of messed up the rest of my day. I’ve noticed that some people at that court try to play more aggressive against me (as opposed to others), and it could be because I stick-handle really well and they’re just trying to steal the puck from me, but then there’s another part of me thinks it’s because of my skin color. Playing hockey for a long time in my life means I’m familiar with how the frustration and aggression levels can rise when you’re on the losing team or not performing as well as you would like to. When you factor in a brown guy scoring most of the goals for the other team, would it be wrong to assume that the frustration could build into a racial slur?
The word choice of the person who delivered the racial slur just shows us even more how racists don’t even know who they hate. It shows how ignorant, childish, and idiotic they are. I am familiar with the racial slur, I know it’s directed towards people of Hispanic descent, but since this is the first time I was called it, I decided to run a few online searches just to read about it’s origins and use. Reading about it just made me angrier and I don’t think it’s appropriate to share that information here.
I don’t care if people mistaken me for another race, there isn’t anything wrong with being Latino, Asian, Arab, or anything else. What is offensive is when people use racial slurs — there is simply no excuse for it. It’s offensive, it’s racist, it’s flat-out wrong. If he thought I was Arab, he would have used another racial slur; if he thought I was South Asian (which is what I am), he would have had a racial slur for that too. The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that I refused to wear a “team Egypt” soccer jersey for the sake of avoiding ethnic/religious stereotypes, but since I’m brown-skinned, I ended up getting stereotyped anyway. How do you hide your skin color, right? Thank God that I don’t wish I could hide my skin color, but what about the people who do wish they could hide their skin color just for the sake of avoiding conflict? Maybe there are times when I do feel that way.
If there is something positive that came out of this, it’s that it reminded me that people of color face similar struggles. I would say that most people assume I’m Indian (which is correct and incorrect at the same time, lol), but there have been a few people who mistook me for Latino, Arab, and even Greek. When I hear a racial slur that is used against other people of color, it not only angers me, but also makes me think about the struggles they experience. There are so many different stereotypes applied to all of us and they are experiences that we all share. Most of the time, when I’m sharing some of my experiences with racism with a fellow person of color, I feel comfortable because I feel like they can empathize and understand where I’m coming from. This person who used that disgusting word may have thought that it was “ok” or “acceptable” to use it, but I doubt he understands how hurtful it is.
I try to stay positive about it all. At least someone on the bench told him to shut up, right? Much Love to everyone who has experienced any form of discrimination, hate, or racist bigotry in their lives. Keep your chin up, friends.
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.
June 5, 2009 at 12:17 am (Community, Current Events)
Tags: Arab, Barack Hussein Obama, Cairo, Children of Abraham, Christianity, Egypt, Gaza, Inter-Faith, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Muslim, Palestine, President Obama, Qur'an
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):
June 2, 2009 at 6:52 pm (Entertainment, Media)
Tags: Arab, Arab-American, Dean Obeidallah, Detroit Red Wings, Jordanian, Justin Abdelkader, Middle-Eastern, Muslim, NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ramzi Abid, Stanley Cup finals, Stereotypes
Justin Abdelkader, the 22-year old rookie center for the Detroit Red Wings, scored two consecutive insurance goals in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Abdelkader, who was called in as a replacement for an injured Tomas Kopecky, plays on Detroit’s fourth line and is making unexpected headlines with his first, and timely, NHL career goals.
As you can probably tell by his surname (which NHL commentators hilariously mispronounce) there is another exciting fact about Justin Abdelkader: He is of Jordanian descent. The last time I heard about an Arab ice hockey player was when Ramzi Abid (a Muslim of Tunisian descent) played for the Nashville Predators. Abid no longer plays in the NHL, so from what I understand, Abdelkader is currently the only Arab in the league.
As I ran searches to learn more about Abdelkader’s ethnic background, I came across many comments on internet forums and fan websites that said, “He doesn’t look Arab at all” or he is the “least-Arabic looking person with an Arabic last name.” These comments reminded me of an article I read a few years ago called “What Does a Muslim Look Like?” by Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American Muslim, where she writes about the stereotypical images of Muslims that many non-Muslims expect to see based upon limited media coverage and representation. I saw one comment on a forum that read, “[Abdelkader] definitely doesn’t look Muslim.” No, Abdelkader is not Muslim, but even so, what is a Muslim supposed to look like? Islam is a religion open to all people, regardless of ethnicity. There is no such thing as a “Muslim look.” In response to those who say Abdelkader “doesn’t look” Arab: What is an Arab supposed to look like?
Confusion regarding Abdelkader’s appearance and Arab background stems from the stereotype that all Arabs are dark-skinned. What seems to be overlooked (and perhaps unknown to many people) is that the Arab world consists of 25 countries populated by cultural, religious, and genetic diversity. It’s not uncommon to see some fair-skinned Arabs like Justin Abdelkader in countries like Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. For history buffs out there, this shouldn’t come to a surprise since those regions were colonized and ruled by Western imperialism and empires several times throughout history (Romans, Greeks, Crusaders, French colonialists). On the other hand, Arabs from North Africa (like the aforementioned Ramzi Abid) and the Gulf areas tend to be darker-skinned.
Of course, this is not to say all Arabs from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan are light-skinned. For instance, there are some Syrian Muslims at my Mosque who are blonde-haired and light-skinned, and there are some who are dark-skinned. What also needs to be factored in is the possibility that Justin Abdelkader’s grandmother is not Arab, since it is only reported that Justin’s grandfather is Jordanian. Regardless, when we make statements like, “He doesn’t look Arab,” we’re reinforcing the stereotype that Arabs have a certain or specific “look.” It also underlines the immense amount of influence that the media has played in shaping our perception of Arabs.
At the 2009 CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) banquet in Springfield, Pennsylvania, Arab-American comedian, Dean Obeidallah, pointed out that since he doesn’t fit the stereotype of how an Arab is “supposed to look like,” many people have made racial slurs about Arabs around him. When he told them he was Arab, they replied, “You don’t freakin’ look like it!”
On a positive note, it’s great to see an Arab-American like Justin Abdelkader making a notable presence in the NHL. The recent spotlight on him is an excellent way to break stereotypes about Arabs, especially for those who may not personally know or interact with many Arabs.
Enjoy watching his awesome first goal in game 1:
May 25, 2009 at 5:38 pm (Entertainment, Music)
Tags: Bat for Lashes, Bjork, Claire Voyant, Cocteau Twins, Fantasy, First Unitarian Church, Magic, Natasha Khan, Pakistani, Philadelphia, Reality, Spirituality, True Love, Unseen
Earlier this month, I went to see one of my favorite musicians, Natasha Khan (aka “Bat for Lashes”) perform live at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. It was definitely one of the most unforgettable musical experiences I’ve ever had.
I wanted to attend the concert with some of my friends, but everyone I called that day were either busy or out of town, so I decided to go by myself. While I would have liked it if someone came along with me, I think going alone made the experience that much better. It gave me some personal time to privately connect with the music and escape with it. It’s hard to describe or even categorize the music of “Bat for Lashes” because of how unique they are, but if I were to draw comparisons, I would say they’re like a cross between the “Cocteau Twins,” “Bjork,” and “Claire Voyant.” It was amazing to see Natasha Khan’s energy on stage; you can tell how passioante she is about performing and singing. She has an incredibly beautiful voice and unlike most mainstream singers, she doesn’t manipulate or alter her voice. The way she sounds on the album recordings is exactly how she sounds live.
There are a lot of magical themes in Natasha’s music and it’s something I appreciate enormously. I think a fantasy element is essential to us, and yet it seems that humanity runs away from it. I’ve noticed, especially in the academic setting, that people tend to take on a more “logical” and “rational” approach to things, which is fine, but whenever a spiritual perspective is suggested, it seems there’s often a negative reaction to it, as if spirituality is something reserved only for places of worship. I get a strong spiritual vibe from Natasha’s music, but I think there’s a unique fantasy element that is intertwined with it.
When we “grow up,” we detach ourselves from fairy tales because we learn that they’re not “real” — “real” in the sense that we cannot see a unicorn or actually fly out of our windows. In the midst of this reasoning, I believe we miss out on the point of these stories, particularly the beauty and gift of the human imagination. I believe everyone has an inner life that serves a significant purpose in the way we look at the world, interact with others, and manifest our own creativity. Our ability to imagine things, to me, is not so much about seeing than it is about believing. Sure, there’s escape and fantasy, but there’s something else there that connects with us deeply, something that evokes the importance of transcendence. We’re surrounded by superficiality all the time and yet I believe a lot of us remain confused about what is “real” and what is “unreal.” True Love versus the material world — both things are perceived as unreal to us, but in different contexts. We think True Love cannot exist because it’s just too good to be true, but mostly because of the superficiality that surrounds us. It doesn’t make True Love false, it simply reveals that True Love is something to be discovered amidst the illusions of the world.
Natasha Khan sings about things that many of us don’t believe in anymore. She calls us to return to our childood, to revisit forgotten fairy tales, and to learn there is purpose in believing. I let my imagination take flight after the concert was over as I walked towards my car in the parking lot. I was reminded of the Angels that sit upon my shoulders and guard me. I imagined them and reflected on how much we ignore the unseen reality. I was reminded that we have friends in the unseen world; friends who never want us to see us frown or feel alone.
I also have to say that it meant a lot to see a fellow Pakistani on stage (Natasha Khan’s father is Pakistani) and seeing so many people who appreciate her music. I read in an interview that she received a lot of racial slurs when she was younger and it’s really repulsive when I see the same remarks being made about her on some of the YouTube comments. On the bright side, it’s nice to see people taking a stand for her and showing their support. I’m sure that, for the most part, she’s breaking a lot of stereotypes.
Here’s a live performance piece by “Bat for Lashes” that I’ve been hooked to! Definitely check out 2:57 and onward — everything from Natasha Khan’s energy, vocals, the incredible drumming, and the synth work works in beautiful harmony: