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 ~

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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~

A Few Words On Those Who Have Passed On…


Salaam everyone,

I just wanted to briefly share some thoughts that I’ve been having lately. This is not an entry exclusively about the death of Hollywood star Heath Ledger (pictured above) who passed away last week; it’s actually more about reflecting upon the loss of all human beings.

The other day, I was standing in line at my local Border’s bookstore and a particular magazine cover caught my eye. I’m not sure if it was People or Time magazine, but the headline read something like: STARS GONE TOO SOON. And there was a collage of pictures of young celebrities who passed away too soon. Actors and celebrities like River Phoenix, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, etc. I was standing there and immediately thought about how we don’t know these people personally, yet we grieve for them as if we do. We see their faces on television and silver screens, we admire their talents, their good looks, their performances, and although do not know them, we’re strangely able to make a personal connection. Then I thought about the countless number of Iraqis, Afghanis, Kashmiris, Chechens, and Palestinians who have been either bombed, shot, stabbed, poisoned, or God knows what other kind of horrible death they experienced. My thoughts continued; I thought about how some old man in Japan could be passing away right now in his hospital bed, or some old grandmother kissing her children goodbye as the hour of death comes near. I thought about that beautiful young Kurdish girl who was brutally stoned to death by heartless extremists, and then about the poor children who starve to death in Somalia. I thought about the children in Gaza who are without food and electricity. I thought about downtown Philadelphia where some desperate thieves rob a store and accidentally shoot the clerk behind the counter. I thought about the Indian Sikh who was mistaken for an Arab Muslim and murdered by an ignorant bigot. I thought of those who are murdered and forgotten by humanity itself. Who are these faceless people? Who are their families? Who are their loved ones?

Then it was time for me to pay for my book, but I couldn’t stop thinking. As I drove home, I looked at the cars driving by and just meditated on the thought that each and every individual has a story, each person has value, each human being has something special to share in this world. What happens when these fellow beings — our fellow travelers in life — pass away? Are their stories broadcasted on the news? Do we ever give them any thought? Their friends, family, and Loved ones would grieve their losses and hold a funeral, but the world just keeps moving. Everyone outside that circle is playing their video games, partying with friends, going out to dinner, buying tickets for a new concert, debating about who should win the election, chatting online, going to school, going to work, and etc. Yet when a celebrity dies tragically like Heath Ledger, the whole nation (or even world) acknowledges it. While we return to the daily functions of life, we begin to discuss his death. We pick up the phone and call our friend or our brother or sister, “Oh my God, did you hear what happened?” What about your neighbor who just lost his/her mother, or that little boy who died of cancer? I’m sure their families, friends, and Loved ones would Love for the rest of the world to know how special those people were/are to them. I’m sure they would Love to tell us how righteous, friendly, or compassionate those people were, or tell us how that particular person meant the world to them. Imagine if we all could hear the stories of these people, imagine the teenager who says proudly, “my grandfather built this place,” or the widower who says, “she may not have been on billboards, but she was the woman of my dreams,” or the grieving mother who says, “my son gave his best to the world and I’m very proud of him.”

I once read that the Universe is not filled with stars, but with stories. Everyone has a story. Mr. Ledger was one of my favorite actors and I believe he has shared an enormous talent with the world, and may have touched the lives of many people. I also believe that the countless other human beings who have died should not be forgotten either, even though we’ll never know their names, their stories, or their faces. They, along with Heath, can be remembered through prayer, through meditation, or even through a mere thought.I just thought it would be nice if we could remember all those people who have passed away the next time we pray or the next time we hold a moment of silence. Think about how so many people in this world mean so much to another person or another group of people. Think about how special we all are to one another and how precious this life truly is. Let’s make sure no one is forgotten. In Islam, we are taught to never underestimate the power of prayer and that those who have died are not dead, but they actually live on in spirit. I know that there are many of you in this note who devote much of your time to helping people and I honestly cannot think of anything better than that. Many of us help without even knowing it. Even a smile, said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), can be charity. May God bless you all, keep us happy, and grant peace to those who have passed on.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi Raje’un
From God do we come, and to Him do we return

Thanks for reading. Salaam/Peace.