Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jumuah Mubarak!


Amaryllis Blossom on Sunporch
(Copyright © 2010 S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved)
How Perfect is Allaah t'ala, Creator and Sustainer of Everything ... Jumuah Mubarak Everyone!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Arabian Perfumes


   Copyright © 2010 S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Memory Lane ... The Projects

As Salaamu Alaikum and Greetings of Peace:

Insha Allaah this finds you all and yours well!  How is everyone coping with the upcoming Winter?

Me, in addition to my usual complaints, Alhamdulillah, I've been dealing with severe pain in my wrists and fingers.  Haven't been doing too much online except commenting on blogs here and there, and updating/venting on Face Book ...

I've been reading a lot, but I've also been a lot busier than I like to be.  Since retirement, I have enjoyed doing exactly what I want to do and not what others want me to do.  At this point in my life, my constant reflection is on my akhirah.  Approaching old age is an opportunity from Allaah t'ala to catch up, do things one has always wanted to do but never had time for, and most of all ... an opportunity for good deeds and tauba.

I went to Pittsburgh last week for a business meeting.  I used to live there from about age 11 or so until my early 20s.  So, there are many traces and tracks of me there.  It's been at least 10 years or so since I last visited Pittsburgh.  While there, I visited the graves of my family.  After that, I decided to go down Memory Lane.

Someone told me that the old housing project where I used to live is no more.  Because it had became so crime and drug infested, the government tore it down.  At one time, there were 20 buildings there.  We used to live in 17G.  Strange how those kinds of details stick with a person.

A lot of the old housing projects in America were originally built as housing for veterans returning home from World War II.  Once the veterans got situated and on their feet, the government converted them into low income housing.

Our entire project was situated around an oval road.  And the road is all that remains of the lives of the people who had lived there.  Grass and weeds now replace the row houses.  It was so weird to drive my car around the oval, remembering where everything and everyone used to be.

I was practically born and raised in the projects.

The first one was in the Bronx.  Today the area is called Harlem, but it was the Bronx back then (the 1940s).  The hospital where I was born, Bronx Hospital, is no longer there.  We used to live in a high rise on E. 113th St. and 3rd Avenue.  I remember trying to visit the building while on a "tour" of New York City with an Urban Sociology class in college.  But, our class couldn't get past the drug dealer who stood sentry in the entry foyer.  Because they do business in the foyers and stairwells of the high rises, the punk wouldn't let anyone in who wasn't a resident of the building.  One wonders how people live like that.  But then again, the fear of the building residents and the lack of protection by the city both play into the condition there.

When I was about 4 years old, we moved from the Bronx to Chicago - for a better life.  All of us went except for some of my great aunts/uncles and my great grandparents.  A few of my great grandparents' children stayed there to look after them.  They didn't want to leave New York City, the place they immigrated to from the "old country."

I still can remember the caravan to Chicago:  my paternal grandparents, my aunt and her kids, and my parents and us.  We lived there until my parents got divorced when I was 11 years old or so.  That's when we moved to Pittsburgh to live near my mother's people.

After a short stay with my maternal grandmother, she kicked us out.  My mother was an alcoholic, and one alcoholic in the house (my grandfather) was enough for my grandmother.

So, we went to stay in the projects with one of my aunts, my mom's sister.  She had a three bedroom place for herself, her daughter, and her five sons.  Once we got there, we were two adults and eight children living in a three bedroom place.

My mom and my aunt slept in one room.  The little kids slept in the other room.  And us four older kids slept in another room.  As one of the older kids, I slept in a bedroom with three of my older cousins. 

It was in that room where I was sexually molested by my two older cousins while the one who was my age watched.

It wasn't the first time ... actually the first time was by an uncle when I was about three years old.

After a few months, we got our own place in the projects.

A lot of people reflect on the negatives of project life, but there were also a lot of positives. 

First of all, everyone knew everyone.  And everyone knew everything about everyone.  It's impossible to maintain total privacy in the projects.  If you try, people will put their heads together and make up stuff about you.

Domestic violence, divorce, rape, child abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and much more ... it was all there.

So was love and friendship.  And camaraderie.  It wasn't all bad.

I remember us all going down to the township building to stand in line to collect our allotment of surplus food - flour, sugar, lard (!), pasta, powdered eggs, butter, cheese ... the best part was when we got home and our neighbor, Mrs. Berger, used to make cakes from her supplies.  There was always cake in her home!  Her specialty was chocolate mayonnaise cake.  She always gave every kid in the project who came to her house pastries.

It was in the projects where I watched the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show.

Most of all, I remember that my mother always thought that we were better than everyone else.  She always held on to the fantasy that we were different from everyone else, that we were only there temporarily, that we weren't like the rest of the residents there, that the projects wasn't our lifestyle ... she was bound to get us out someday.

And get us out she did.  She got married to a wonderful man who took us out of there and bought us a real house in a real neighborhood. 

So I guess in the end it seems like a fairy tale ending.  It wasn't.  But, I guess that chapter of my life ended up well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kindle ... And an Announcement

I bought a Kindle!


Go to my Wordpress blog and read the photo essay I wrote about e-readers and books.

I had this Wordpress blog for awhile now.  I was using it as a private blog, writing all kinds of garbage on it, mostly rants, under the cover of anonymity.  For a long time now, I've thought about transferring this site to Wordpress.  But I've decided to keep them both and delete all of the vitriol from the Wordpress one.

It took me about 3 minutes to upload the above image to this post.  Arggggggg.  I thought Wordpress would be faster, but alas, it is not.

I wish uploading images to the Internet was as fast as documents are to upload.  Even my Flickr pro account is slower than I like :(

Anyhow, I hope you like the first post on my Wordpress blog.

Oh, and while I'm at it, feel free to check out my chaplain's blog.  I haven't updated it in awhile, but intend to soon, Insha Allaah.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

2010 Brass Crescent Awards


As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu and Greetings of Peace:

As I was going through the blogs and sites on my feed, I noticed that quite a few of them were talking about the 2010 Brass Crescent Awards.

So, I schlepped over there to see who had been nominated.

Imagine my SURPRISE as I discovered that one of my posts had been nominated in the category, "Best Post or Series," which is an award for a "single post or group of posts in the Islamsphere" that was the "most original and important above all the others." 

The piece that got nominated is "Somebody's Always 'It' in America."  It addresses some of America's attitudes towards minorities, especially post World War II from my personal perspective. 

Subhan'Allah!  I am truly honored and humbled.  Even if I don't win the actual award, I am still a winner .  Jazaka Allahu Khayrn to everyone who made this happiness possible for me.

So get on over there and vote - for me, if you want, but more importantly, for all of the great nominees!  And VERY IMPORTANT - once you vote, they will send a confirmation email to you.  If you don't confirm your vote, it won't count.

Polls close end of Friday, November 19.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"CIGAR TREE" LEAF IN THE FALL

Sorry I haven't had much time for writing lately, but Insha Allaah you will enjoy my photographs in the meantime!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Samir (Again)


Samir, originally uploaded by Shaalom2Salaam (Safiyyah).

Like I said before, I NEVER tire of photographing this guy!

He was sleeping and when he heard the camera noises, he got up and I caught him mid-yawn just in time.

I love his face, Masha Allaah!

Flickr

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Oh, The Joys of Google'ing Your Name

Forum fraught with misconceptions - Letters - News Item

Since the comments are "closed" for the letter written in the above link, I thought I'd respond to it on my own turf:

Mr. Charles H. Shuey, you said:

"And Levine seemed to forget that Muslim women are not allowed to vote, drive a car, obtain an education, or appear in public unescorted, among numerous other barbaric restrictions."

For the record, sir:

I am a registered Republican and "you betcha," I vote!

I not only drive, but I own my own car!

I have a Bachelors degree and various professional certifications!

I am very visible in public!  If you remember, you saw me at the forum unescorted!

Any other "barbaric misconceptions" I can clear up for you?

You cannot paint the entire Muslim world with such a wide brush. The result is exactly what you have written: "fraught with misconception."

Insha Allah Mr. Shuey, you will Google yourself and see this.  In case you miss this, I'll mention this over on Facebook, too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Samir

     Copyright © 2010 S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved


I never get tired of photographing this guy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

SUNDAY SCHOOL!


Copyright © 2010 S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blogger (I Want to Add a Bad Word)

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu Dear Readers:

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth.  I've been REAL busy the last few weeks.  I was going to upload some pictures tonight, but Blogger is behaving badly.  Every time this happens, I think of defecting to WordPress.  I'm just too lazy and too busy to redesign a new site.  Who knows?  I may get some inspiration to do so yet :)

Arggggggggg ...

Will try again tomorrow, Insha Allaah.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Afghani Children's Juggling Competition

Alhamdulillah! May these children always smile, sing, and have fun. Ameen!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Safiyyah on the Radio!

My friend and I were on the WKOK radio program, Leaders and Lawmakers, on September 23, talking about Islaam.  You can listen here. It's a little less than a half an hour.

The first one of us speaking is my friend.  The host mistakenly called her by my name, lol.  She's the one with the Arab accent.

By the way, if anyone knows how I can permanently post this to my site (I have it downloaded to my computer), please let me know.  I think the link is live only for a few weeks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How Far You've Come ...

                         Copyright © 2010 S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved

... from the Nation of Islam, years ago ... to where you are today ... loving Allaah t'ala ... being steadfast in your prayer and in all of your duties to Him ... from the mean streets of Philly to the classroom, teaching our young men of tomorrow ... Subhan'Allaah! ... I love you ... and am proud and blessed to be your wife.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

QUR'AN KAREEM


                                                          © 2010, S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved
Hope you all had a wonderful Eid!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Collective Guilt: The 9/11 Qur'an Burning Controversy

I read a Cagle Syndicate op ed piece in my local newspaper written by Tina Depuy.

The name of her piece is A Burning Question: Extremists on 9/11.

By now, I'm sure most of you are familiar with the Dove World Outreach Center's plans for burning Qur'ans on 9/11 in Gainesville, Florida.

I find it ironic that journalists and talking heads are going out of their way to comment that one pastor's bad decision should not reflect on all Christians or all Americans.

"Everything about our country is about to be boiled down to a picture of a heap of Korans smoldering," Depuy writes in the piece.

They fear that all Christians and the American people will be identified with the pastor.  The apologists are out in full force.  Even the military has taken to pleading with this pastor to change his plans.  They say that the Florida pastor's actions will endanger the troops. 

Oh yes - national security.  As if this reprehensible act is not sufficient enough.  We have to drag the troops into it.

"They" could stop this pastor.  First of all, he doesn't have a permit for burning.  The police could stop him.  All they have to do is show up and when the pastor lights the torch they move in and arrest him for burning without a permit.  Or, they can arrest him under the Patriot Act as endangering national security.  After all, if it were a Muslim doing this, they'd pick him up in a hot minute.  Or, they can let him go.  After all, in America, we have the right to do stupid things as long as we are willing to live with the consequences.

Let's see who else in history has burned books (called "libricide)."  According to Depuy's piece:

1.  The Ancient Library of Alexandria - burned by Julius Caesar.
2.  The Mayan codices of their history and religion - burned by the Conquistadors.
3.  The Library of Baghdad - burned by the Mongol invaders.
4.  Book burnings in Germany, Bosnia, Kuwait, China, and Tibet.
5.  Harry Potter books have been burned. 

America's in good company, eh?  A book burning in America.  In 2010.  Imagine it!

Author and professor Rebecca Knuth who studies libricide has concluded that libricide often precedes genocide according to the article.. 

But the most important part of Depuy's piece is the following:

"So as all Muslims are apparently judged by their extremists who on 9/11 crashed planes into buildings - all Americans will be judged by our extremists who on 9/11 burned Korans into ashes ... but most notably it means that THE MUSLIM WORLD AND AMERICANS ARE ABOUT TO HAVE MORE IN COMMON THAN THEY THOUGHT."

Are Americans finally starting to learn a lesson about collective guilt?

Since I wrote this piece, I am thrilled to see all of the non Muslims come out and support the Muslims and condemn the extremist attitudes of some American Christians.

More importantly, they are not so much defending the Muslims as they are defending the US Constitution, religious freedom, and everything that is decent about America.

I pray that Allaah t'ala, with Whom all things are possible, makes something happen so the event on Saturday does not go forward. He tells us,

They intend to put out the Light of Allaah with their mouths.  But Allaah will bring His Light to perfection even though the disbelievers hate it.  (Surat As-Saff, 61:8)

Even if the event does go forward, we will be okay.  As a Muslim, I will look at it as another test, and pray that "this too, shall pass" as it has with other groups in America who have traveled the same path.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Goodbye 2010 Garden Season














Above is the garden once it got going:  nice path, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, tomatoes, peas, peppers, tomatoes (big boys, cherry, and plum), cucumbers, okra, carrots, and lots of different types of herbs.

Once it was harvest time, I was getting a huge basket of vegetables every day.  My whole day consisted of picking, washing, cutting, boiling, and packing into bags for freezing.  And then, there was the joy of giving everybody of the block bags of fresh veggies!
 
Lately, as fall approaches, I've been getting less and less.

Yesterday, the basket looked like this:


One thing I am getting PLENTY of Masha Allaah t'ala is the berries.  We've had a real hot and humid summer.  The bees have been real busy, and the berries are looking good.  They are so sweet and good, Alhamdulillah.  We have been eating them with cake, ice cream, smoothies, and just plain by themselves! 

We had a lot of days where the heat was well into the high 90s and even 100 one or two days.  We had a bit of a drought in July, and the local farmers were very upset.  But, I was out there with the garden hose every night.  The biggest problem with the drought is that even the insects are looking for moisture and cannot find it.  So, they start eating the leaves of everything in an attempt to get moisture.  In the following picture, some type of beetle is making holes in my beautiful poppies.  Oh well, I chalk it off to sadaqa.  Everyone has to eat.

Other flowers have made it, though:



And mums are now in season, so I bought a few pots for my front porch.  Once they start looking a little crazy, it will be time to re-pot them on the side of the house.  I have three years of mums over there and the bushes are HUGE, Masha Allaah t'ala:





So - that's about it.  Pretty soon, it will be time to move all of the porch furniture into the garage, and pull out Buddy's winter house.

Thank you Allaah for the wonderful 2010 gardening season.  Please give me the health and strength to plow the garden under in preparation to do it all over again next year/Ameen!

Monday, September 06, 2010

(Close-up of the carpet in the women's section of the main prayer hall of Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, Philadelphia, PA)
© 2010, S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 04, 2010

how to get free Qurans to burn on "Burn Quran Day"



via Aaminah Hernandez on Face Book. 

Jazaka Allah Aaminah!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Somebody's Always "It" in America, and Currently the Muslims are "It"

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu, and Greetings of Peace:

As things heat up with Muslims and Islaam in America, I find my thoughts swirling like crazy.  Disjointed.  Angry.  Fearful.  Naive.  Denial.  Humor.  Just a few words that come to mind.  What follows is probably a trip down Memory Lane and a long post that doesn't make much sense, even to me, but I feel a need to get it out.  Perhaps brainstorming my thoughts will help to write a cohesive piece somewhere down the line :)

Besides, I had a nightmare last night which I still remember in vivid detail, and when that happens, it always leaves me emotionally vulnerable the following day.

So, if you care to join me and read on, here goes ...

When you were a kid, did you ever play that tag game, "It?"  You know, one kid would tag another, saying "you're it," and then everyone would chase around "it" until he/she was caught.  When kids play the game, it's usually harmless and a lot of fun.  But when we play the game in America, it is anything but fun.

Somebody's always "it" in America (Japanese, Jews, Catholics, Blacks, etc.,) and currently the Muslims are "it."  Just last month, the undocumented were "it," but now, since the NYC mosque controversy, the Muslims are "it."

My mind has been drifting to the past lately, and also to a conversation I had awhile back with a Bosnian sister.  Also, someone commented on one of my other  posts about wondering how the Jews in Europe must have felt prior to Hitler getting a strong foot into Europe.  That also got me thinking.

I was born in New York City a few short years after the end of World War II.  My mother was a Polish Catholic, and my father was a Polish/Russian Jew.  Shortly before I entered kindergarten, our family moved to Chicago.  The city had a large Polish immigrant population and my mother had relatives there.  So we and practically my entire family on my father's Jewish side moved to Chicago.  Why?  Well, mainly the face of Harlem and the Bronx at that time was starting to change to Blacks and Latinos and many Jews fled for the suburbs of New York or other places.  Not that America had a love affairs with the Jews in those days like she does now!  Believe me, we were part of "it" in America in the 1940s and 1950s.  Most Americans could give a rat's behind about the "creation" (theft) of Israel.  Things didn't really start to change for us Jews until after the rise of Evangelical Christianity and the role of the Jews in their agenda which is another post for another time.

Anyhow, my parents bought a small house in a Chicago suburb called Norridge, and my aunt rented a place in Skokie, which had a large population of Jewish people.  My grandparents rented a place smack in the urban part of Chicago.  I remember as a child when my dad would take us around on errands on the weekend, and we would go to Skokie to visit my aunt and so that my brother and I could play with our cousins.  The non Jews used to roam around the Jewish commercial district of Skokie and put their "dawah" materials under the windshield wipers of Jewish cars.  I remember my dad and I returning to our car and him seeing the papers under our windshield, and him getting real mad and tearing up the papers.  As a 6 year old or so little girl, I knew that we were different and people didn't like us because we were Jewish.  I was afraid of non Jews. 

In Norridge, we lived next to a German family.  I think the husband was a German, I can't remember, but for sure, the wife was.  I think she was a German immigrant or a "war bride," or something like that, because she didn't understand English very well as I remember, and she had a thick German accent.  I don't remember the husband having a thick German accent.

(Post for another time: war brides.  Many American soldiers married German women and brought them back to America.  Also, many African-American soldiers married German white women, too.)

The family's name was George and Mary Farr.  To the Farrs: if you are reading this by some chance, maybe you are "Googling" yourselves and come across this post, PLEASE FORGIVE ME AND MY FAMILY for the way we treated you when we lived next door to you whether you were aware of our meanness or not.

As the saying goes, "shit rolls down hill," or "hurt people hurt people," and this is exactly what my Jewish family fell into.  Even though my mom was not Jewish, we were living as a Jewish family at that time, exclusively going to synagogue and identifying as Jewish.  Even though few people liked us or wanted anything to do with us on our block because we were Jewish, my family, and me by extension being a child and copying my parents, contributed to the psychological and social torture of the Farr family.  In those days, Americans didn't like Germans either.  The Germans were "it."  After all, many of our "boys" fought the Germans in the war.  And many of our "boys" lost their lives at the hands of Nazi soldiers.  Just like nowadays, we use words like the "n" word and other offensive words to describe different groups of people and individuals, in those days, many American referred to the German people as "krauts" to refer to a popular German food, sauerkraut.  (By the way, the Jews were mainly called "kikes."  It always makes my skin crawl when I hear some Muslims refer to us Jews as Yehudi ...)

Mary Farr was a housewife.  She took care of her children and home and didn't bother with the neighbors.  Maybe she was anti-social, maybe she was intimidated by her language skills or by our culture, or maybe she was just plain busy.  But the fact remains, that the Farr family was a mystery to our community.  Sometimes we kids would see her in the backyard hanging out her laundry.  We would watch her from behind the bushes, laughing and knocking each other over, calling out, "Mary Farr, Mary from far far away."  She never said or did anything, but she had to have heard us.  We never trick-or-treated at their house on Halloween, and none of the neighborhood gossip ladies hung out at her house for the afternoon coffee clutch.  

(The American housewife coffee clutch: also a post for another time, lol)

Her children didn't come out and play with us or get dirty.  I don't think she allowed them to get dirty.  It was said that she had a spotless house.  Don't know who went in there to see and be able to report back to everyone else, but that was what was said.

But the fact remains that our community was not friendly or welcoming to the Farr family because they were "krauts."

Many years later, when my parents got divorced, my mom and step-dad bought a house next to another German family, lol, the Hess's.  They had a daughter named Janet.  They were a similar family to the Farrs - didn't bother with anyone, kids never played in the neighborhood, etc., and us kids also used to torture Janet and her brother.  I remember that I, myself, beat up Janet real good at the bus stop one morning while waiting to go to school.

These are some of my memories as a Jewish child dealing with the legacy of World War II in America and dealing with the German-Americans.  As we now know, German-Americans aren't treated like that in America anymore, but like I said, someone is always "it" in America.

Recently, I participated in an interfaith seminar with some German Christian chaplains who are first-generation Americans.  They shared that in Germany, the people have a sort of collective guilt and shame about what happened in their country during the war, and for the role that some of their people played in the crimes against millions of people.  They also told us that Germans make it a priority to do interfaith work in that country, and they do not shy away from talking about what happened in their history in the schools so it doesn't happen again.

---

How did most of the Jews feel in Europe when Hitler and his buddies were starting to make noises?

Well, the rich and those with the means saw the writing on the wall and left the various countries of Europe, especially Eastern Europe.  Then there were those in denial.  Jews who believed that no harm would come to them.  How could anyone believe that their government or their neighbors would intentionally engage in genocide?  It was unimaginable to many Jews.  Besides, many Jews believed that being the Chosen People, G-D would protect them.  Even after the Nazis were seizing their property and possessions and driving them from their homes, many left in a passive manner, telling themselves that the situation was only temporary.  Did the message sink in when they were made to wear arm bands with the Star of David identifying them as Jews (think identity cards in America - which many politicians and Americans are in favor of).  Initially, there was a collective denial among the Jewish people that anything bad would happen (kind of like now for the Muslims: we have Constitutional rights, yes?)  Only after they were taken to concentration camps, stripped naked, lead to gas chambers and used in medical experiments did some of them think that perhaps there was no G-d after all.  Then again, some Jews endured it all, seeing it as a test (sound familiar Muslims?), believe that G-d had a plan which they did not even start to try to figure out what it was.  By the end of the war, many Jews were convinced that there was no G-d.  "If there is a G-d, He wouldn't have let this happen to us." 

This is true for some Jews.  I heard these things from my family when I was a child.

---

Something similar happened in Bosnia.  A Muslim sister described to me how the Bosnians initially were in denial about the possibility of the Serbs harming them.  Many Bosnians and Serbs were intermarried.  Bosnians and Serbs lived side by side in the same neighborhoods.  Bosnians and Serbs were friends.  Although the Serbs were the majority and also the ones mainly in powerful positions (police, mayors, etc), the Bosnians never feared them.

Until Bosnian families were awakened in the middle of the night by mobs of Serbians who had the intention of driving the Bosnians from their homes.  Initially, they were asked to leave or driven from their homes.  Those who resisted were beaten and even killed.  It wasn't long before the Serbians lost their manners and stopped asking.  The brutal rape of Bosnian women and girls was commonplace.  My friend knew of Muslim women who, after being raped by scores of men, had rifles put up their vaginas and the triggers were pulled.  My friend and her family saw the writing on the wall and didn't wait to be driven out by the nighttime raids.  They fled their home with only what they could barely carry and ended up in a refugee camp.  They were transferred to several camps in Europe before they were finally sent to America as part of the refugee resettlement program.  They had no choice really as to where they would go.

You may be reading this and thinking that my friend and her family were fortunate.  Sure, they suffered a bad situation, but they were blessed.  They got out, didn't they?

Well, maybe.  But she doesn't see it that way.   My friend's mother, who was ill to start with, died while in the camp.  Her father was practically catatonic with grief, and eventually had a stroke which left him paralyzed and bed ridden.  Once in America, my friend was his sole caregiver.  The well-intentioned brothers at her masjid hooked her up with an Afghan brother for marriage who treated her like crap and forced her to live like a prisoner in her own home.  He took her to the masjid one day during Ramadan, gave her talaq in front of the imam, and left her at the masjid without any of her things or her father.  The brothers had to return to the house to figure out what to do with her and her father. 

And man o man was this sister ever bitter at the United States government and the irony of being resettled to a country for whom she only had hate.  Why?

Because when the Serbs aggressed toward the Macedonians and Croatians, the arms for defending themselves poured in from the UN.  But when it came time for the Muslims in Bosnia to defend themselves, according to her, President Clinton ordered that no arms be given to the Bosnians. 

My friend ended up with PTSD and emotional scars that will never go away.  The only thing that keeps her from going completely crazy is the love for Allaah t'ala in spite of everything.  Subhan'Allaah!

---

One of my commenters said something about making "provisions" NOW in case the Tea Party or their likes end up in power in America. 

What will happen to the Muslims in America in that case?

I can relate.  My passport is in order.  And I have one credit card that could get me and my family out of here.

---

"Ah Safiyyah, why you got to be talking like such a paranoid downer during Ramadan?" you may be saying if you have made it reading to this point.

Do you think it can't happen here in America?

Well, my friends, I think I will enjoy an extended vacation in Istanbul!

Because, at the end of the day, rational voices will prevail in America.  Unlike some other Muslims, I believe America is a wonderful country.  Allaah t'ala tells us in the Qur'aan that He sent the Prophet, peace be upon him, as a mercy to ALL of mankind.  That means everywhere.  I believe that we ARE different than some other countries in the world.  And those of us who believe that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is suppose to work for ALL Americans, have to stand up against the current injustice. Because if we don't, who is going to stand up for whoever else ends up being "it" next in America?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

MOOZ-lum Official Trailer


Watch the trailer and spread the word!

I'm An American, Too!

Over and over on conservative TV and radio, we hear the commentators saying that the United States military men and women are "fighting" for our rights.  That they are fighting to keep us free.

Whose rights?  Whose freedom? 

Just a select few, or only a select few groups of Americans?

I am an American.  Born and raised in the USA.  I am also a Muslim.  American Muslims, like any other group of citizens, deserve the protection of our Constitutional rights. 

I am from a military family.  Even my mother served and was honorably discharged from the military.  I am the ONLY person in my immediate family who did not serve in the US Military.

My mother's people were Catholic, and my father's people were Jewish.  Both groups went through hell in America.  Just like the Muslims are going through hell now.  I think my family has paid our dues!  My family fought for the rights of ALL Americans.

My Mother: 


My Father:



My Step-Father:



My Brother:



There was a time in American history when Catholics, Jews, and Mormons could not or had difficulty building houses of worship.  Haven't we learned anything from the lessons of history?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where Are All The "Moderate" Christians? An Appeal!

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Baraktu and Greetings of Peace:

As I take in all of this controversy over the building of a mosque, Islaamic center, whatever you want to call it, near Ground Zero in New York City, one thing keeps getting hung up in my mind: Where are all of the "moderate" Christians?  Where are your voices?

Why are you not speaking out?  Why do we not see your leaders and clergy on CNN and Fox News?  Do the extremists among you speak for the rest of you?  Shall we hold all of you accountable for the minority among you?  Isn't that what some of you did with Islaam and Muslims after 9/11?

Or is there really a minority?  A CNN poll shown this morning reveals that 68 per cent of all Americans polled, or two-thirds of those polled, do not favor the construction of the mosque near Ground Zero.  Who are these Americans?  Two-thirds of all Americans are against the First Amendment according to this poll?  Don't say that "we are for the first amendment and religious freedom, but just not "there," meaning near Ground Zero.  It is not a matter of apples and oranges.  It is the same thing.  You are either for freedom or against it!

We cry loudly about how America's sons and daughters are dying so "we" can be free. 

Who are "we?"

We cry out in agony, mourning the passing of "our" way of life in America?

What does "our" way of life mean in a diverse, pluralistic America?

After September 11th, you asked, "Where are the moderate Muslims?  Why are they not speaking out?"

Now, I ask you the same question. 

What are you doing to quell the rising tide of Islamophobia in America?

The Ground Zero controversy is a symptom.  It's not about "sacred ground," or the area being a cemetery, or possible body parts in/on the building.  If that were the case, we wouldn't see the push back at the building and renovation of mosques all around America like we are seeing (California, Tennessee, Staten Island, etc.).  Something bigger is going on.  Consider the demonstration held a few weeks ago against the Temecula, CA, mosque proposal:

According to the Valley News in its report "Temecula mosque proposal targeted in pending protest"



-- "a loose-knit coalition of area residents is planning a demonstration at the Islamic Center's existing facility along Rio Nedo west of Murrieta Creek."


-- "An e-mail alert sent to area newspapers last week announced that a one-hour 'singing – praying – patriotic rally" will begin at 12:30 p.m. July 30 at the Islamic Center’s existing facility. The advisory -- sent by a leader of a conservative coalition that has been active with Republican and Tea Party functions – recommended participants 'bring your Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voices.'"


-- "'We will not be submissive,' the notice proclaimed. 'Our voices are going to be heard!' The alert went on to question what its authors described as Islamic beliefs. It suggested that participants sing during the rally because Muslim 'women are forbidden to sing.' It suggested that rally participants bring dogs because Muslims 'hate dogs.'"God help us!

When the church in Florida has its Qur'an burning on September 11th, will America's Christians be there protesting against it?  Or will they be tossing Qur'ans into the fire?  Or, will some let these hate-filled people do the dirty work?  If we're not part of the solution, we're part of the problem.

It is with great sadness that I read about mosques all over America asking for police protection for Eid celebrations.  Eid is the celebration of the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting and spiritual renewal.  It is just coincidence that the Eid date falls around September 11th this year.

Some people are asking Muslims not to have Eid ul-Fitr celebrations on September 11th.  Let's see:  no Eid on September 11th.  No Islaamic center near Ground Zero.  What CAN we do Christian America? 

It's been nine years since the horrible events of September 11th.  You've had nine years the learn the truth about Islaam - not the old tired talking points of the Islamophobes given a voice in the media.  Not the cherry-picking of verses from the Qur'an.

Numerous Muslims died in the attacks of September 11th.  The 9/11 families include Muslim families. 

As a Muslim chaplain and as someone committed to interfaith relations, I do a lot of speaking engagements to non Muslim audiences who are primarily Christians.  You know, it's the same questions they ask each and every time.  The people in the audience are confused.  My friends are confused.  What the media and some of their hate-filled Christian chain emails tell them doesn't jive with what they know about Muslims from being friends and neighbors with me and other Muslims they know.

Truth.  We MUST have the conversation in the land of the free and home of the brave.  Truth.  It requires courage.

I heard a 9/11 firefighter say on television, "That mosque will NEVER be built there."  What will you and your supporters do, sir?  Physically prevent the construction?  Blow it up like the church in Atlanta was blown up resulting in the deaths of Black children during the Civil Rights era only to show displeasure because Blacks wanted equal rights in America?  Is that where this is heading?

Americans tell the Iraqi government that Sunnis and Shias must get along, work side by side in tolerance to build the future of Iraq.  We like to hold up our American values as a model for them.  We like to tell people in the Muslim-populated world that America is not at war with Islam, but only with the terrorists.  Every American president since the creation of the state of Israel has tried to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together, asking them to work toward the creation of two separate states where everyone can live in tolerance and peace.  Does America have the moral authority to do this work considering that it appears that we are heading down the road where American Muslims require police protection and lawyers to defend their Constitutional rights?

My mother was a Catholic.  One half of my family is Christian.  I practiced Christianity for years.  No one ever taught me to hate or oppress people of other faiths.  I am from am immigrant family.  We came to America from Eastern Europe to get away from the kind of stuff going on in America today.

If we want to "win hearts and minds" overseas, we better start here in America.

The Muslim world is watching.  Christians: find your voice!  Speak out against the hate, fear, and oppression.  To the Christians who are fighting against the insanity: thank you!

Ask yourself: WWJD? (What would Jesus do?)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

LGBT (LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDERED) MUSLIMS: DO THEY HAVE A PLACE AT THE TABLE IN OUR COMMUNITIES?

                                                         (Image by Antonio Martins here)


As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu and Greetings of Peace:

Insha Allah this finds you all and your families well, and preparing for the start of Ramadan next week, Insha Allaah.

We are very busy at the prison, getting it together for about 175 Muslim women to participate in the month's activities: fasting, iftar, community dinner, Eid prayer, and finally Eid feast! 

In the meantime, I am fascinated at how the world seems to be going crazy, especially here in the USA.  The illegal immigration battle heats up, and as well, the ongoing opinions of everyone in the media about the New York City mosque controversy near Ground Zero. 

Then yesterday, Proposition 8 in California, which restricts marriage to one man and one woman, was overturned by a US District Court Judge who ruled that the voter-approved law violates federal equal protections and due process laws.

Regardless how anyone personally feels about homosexuality and gay marriage, and religion aside, it makes sense that in a country like America any law prohibiting one group of people to do something that everyone else in America is allowed to do, based on race, gender, religion, etc., is indeed unjust.  And illegal.

Still, the homophobes continue their fight, and are appealing the judge's decision.

I say "religion aside," because I am talking about marriage that is sanctioned by the government.  In America, one can marry in a church, synagogue, masjid, or wherever, but for the marriage to be "legally" recognized by the secular government and the IRS, a secular marriage license is needed. 

To clarify, I do not agree that gays should be allowed to have a nikah in the masjid.  Nor do I think that the religion of Islaam needs to be "updated," to permit gay marriage.  I'm just saying that there's a difference between religious and secular marriage in America, and we must advocate for every one's rights in America, least they come after us next. 

Back to the New York City mosque controversy, I was pleased to see that the rabbis were out demonstrating today in support of the mosque project.  In my opinion, all religious groups should be out there doing the same.

I was also pleased to see a link on my JTA mobile news service describing how a group of Orthodox rabbis, educators, and mental health professionals signed a statement supporting gays in the Jewish community. 

WHAT?!  Rabbis supporting gays?!

"For the last six months, a number of Orthodox rabbis and educators have been preparing a statement of principles on the place of our brothers and sister in our community who have a homosexual orientation," the statement explains. 

Yes!  From the mobile link, "All human beings ... deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot) ... Embarrassing, harassing, or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism."

The statement of principles views the treatment of gay Jews with dignity and respect as an obligation. 

It affirms that "halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression.  The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle."

Halakhic Judaism still views all same-sex sexual interactions as prohibited.  It does not prohibit orientation or feelings of same-sex attraction as impermissible, just the sexual acts.  Nothing in Torah devalues the human beings who struggle with the feelings. 

The group also affirms "the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous." 

Jews struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values need and deserve the support of the Jewish community, and should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community, the statement says.

When will the Muslim community officially develop such a statement of principles?

Is there a middle road?  When will our communities become all-inclusive?  (Disabled Muslims have been asking this question for a long time.)

Muslims are people, and all of the "problems" and issues of general society are present in our communities.  As much as we like to think these problems don't exist, issues such as homosexuality, teenage pregnancy, HIV, and substance abuse are rampant among us.  May Allaah t'ala protect us from them/Ameen.  Only recently, have the problems associated with domestic violence in the Muslim community received the needed attention they desperately require and deserve.

While some among us spend our time worrying about whether or not our sister wears a hijab or plucks her eyebrows, or why our brother refuses to grow a beard, we run the risk of neglecting some other very serious issues.

Muslim families will live in shame and secrecy if a family member is gay or has HIV. 

This shouldn't be.

In my work as a Muslim chaplain, I routinely interact with Muslim inmates who insist they are a lesbian or bisexual. 

Are they really lesbian or bisexual?  As women, are they merely lonely?  Are they afraid and seeking protection?  Are they trying to fit in?  Are they being a predator and taking advantage of each other (getting money, commissary items, etc.)?  Have they always been curious and feel safe to "experiment" while incarcerated?

If so, how can I help?  And with what attitude do I approach this area of pastoral counseling within an Islaamic framework?

And if they are truly a lesbian or bisexual.  AND a Muslim?  Then what?  Do I shun them?  Shame them?  Enjoin the good and forbid the evil?  Be a warner and then leave it between them and Allaah t'ala?  After all, they know Islaam's position and have probably thought about it more than I have.

In his book, "Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims," Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle bravely puts the gay card on the Muslim table.  You can read the first 42 pages here.  Kugle maintains that Islaam is not so clear about homosexuality as most of us Muslims may think.  "Many Islamic authorities claim that homosexuality is categorically forbidden, but the reality is much less clear-cut.  There are no verses in the Qur'an that unambiguously condemn homosexuals, and there are even some that suggest they can be tolerated in Muslim communities.  In addition, reports from Hadith that denounce homosexual and transgender persons are of dubious authenticity," reads the back cover of the book.

Subhan'Allah!

Notice that the author does not talk about the sexual acts between same-sex Muslim persons as being acceptable to the religion of Islaam, he merely challenges Muslims to think about how we perceive our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) brothers and sisters among us - much like the rabbis have done in their Statement of Principles.

What do you think?  Do you know any gay Muslims?  How are they treated within your communities?  Does Islaam differentiate between the "sin" and the "sinner"?

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Perfect Balance" and Perfect Headlines

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu and Greetings of Peace:

When was the last time you passed by a newspaper kiosk and saw Islam portrayed in the headlines like this?!

Our local newspaper, The Daily Item, did this piece on our masjid.  That's me, praying behind our masjid president, Sobhi Ammar.

I feel truly blessed to live in a small rural community where the neighbors and the community are so lovely and so tolerant.  Especially after six young Christian missionaries from our area were hurt in the recent Uganda bombings.  I wrote about that here.

Today is a good day, Subhan'Allah!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Aging, Friends ... And Other Thoughts

                                                                    (Daddy and me)

It seems like only yesterday that I was a little girl, playing, laughing, spending a lot of time with my Daddy ... that was before the divorce, before the sexual abuse began ...

Now it seems like the years have flown by, and all of a sudden, I have become an old woman.

Alhamdulillah.

But one of two things can happen, I think, once we age.  One is that some of us say anything we want, with little reserve and tact, and few people hold us accountable to the extent they did when we were younger.  After all, some people think that we older folks lose a few marbles when we get "up there," so they cut us a break.  The other thing that can happen is that we get older and wiser, and we learn how to keep our mouths shut. 

A few weeks back in our spiritual care class, we were discussing free speech.  Someone asked whether or not it is always necessary to respond to ignorant people.  Does every moment have to be a teachable one?  Are some people even willing to learn, to become a student?  Is there ever a time to just let stupidity fly?

I think so, and I am working hard at it.  It's something I should have probably done a loooong time ago in my life.  But, better late than ever (see? you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!).  I like to think it is part of improving my Islaamic character.

You see, I can have a very sharp tongue, Astagfirullah.  Ask anyone who knows me.  I am also very direct, which bothers a lot of people.  I think it comes from years of working in prisons where, at times, you have to let everyone know what time it is up front. 

I try REAL hard to be nice to people, but it seems that some people, even outside of the prison enivronment, mistake this for a weakness.  And some Muslims don't have good adab to start with, so they try me.  And then when they get what they asked for, they are offended. 

I'm trying very hard to improve in this area, keeping in mind the advice of the Prophet, peace be upon him, the one with the best character:

Ibn 'Abbas reported that the prophet of Allah, upon him be peace said, "...If you become angry, remain silent." (Bukhari)

I was thinking a lot about this, mostly because of visiting Facebook, and some other blogs/sites of Muslims.  Some of the nonsense I read is just mind-blowing.  I used to be real quick in clicking "leave a comment," but I've stopped doing this, Alhamdulillah.  If I can't say something nice, I don't say anything at all (like my mother taught me). 

Here's an example:  some Muslims on Facebook were ranting about the 5,000-friend limit policy of Facebook.  5,000 friends?  Subhan'Allah!  I know I've never had close to 5,000 friends over my entire lifetime. 

And are people really our friends?  Or merely aquaintances?  I have learned this the hard way, even as a Muslim.

I have made close friends with Muslim sisters only to have it not work out well.  So, now, I take the advice in this hadith:

... 'Ubyd al Kindi said, "I heard 'Ali say to Ibn al Kawwa, 'Do you know what the first one said?  He said, 'Be a little reserved in your love for your friend, for some day he may become your enemy.  And be a little reserved in your hatred for your enemy, for some day he may become your friend.'"  (Bukhari, Taabarai, Tirmidhi)

Subhan'Allah!

Likewise,

... Aslam reported that 'Umar ibn al Khattab said, "Do not let your love become dependency, nor allow your anger to become desctructive."  Aslam said,, "And how is that?"  'Umar replied, "When you love so much that you become as attached as a child is to its mother.  And when you hate so much that you wish destruction for the one you hate."  (Bukhari)

I'm not saying that some of us have that kind of love or hate for our cyber-friends, I'm just saying that it perhaps would be wise to be reserved both online and in real life.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting rid of Spot


I saw this picture on the web and also watched a piece on CNN about all of the pets that have been turned in to the shelters in the Gulf as collateral damage of the BP oil spill.

They said that people down there have been forced with the "hard" decision to get rid of their pets because they cannot afford to feed them due to job loss, etc.

Now people: maybe it's just me, but I don't get this.  I really don't.  As an animal lover and owner of four cats myself, I just don't get it.

Taking a pet into your home implies a heavy responsibility.  It involves committing to keeping and caring for that animal for life - no matter what.

After all, I don't think there's a mad rush in the Gulf to turn children into the authorities because people can't feed them.

You may say that it's not the same thing, and you may not agree with me.  That's okay.  But, for me, it is.  You just don't "get rid of" family members.  And pets are part of the household, and family.

Americans value the family pet.  I've been told it's not such a big deal in some other places, but here it is.

I saw one dog that was the family pet for nine years.  Nine years!  How could that family do that?

I could NEVER get rid of one of my cats!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thoughts About the Uganda Bombings and a Sense of Community

(AP Photo)
With the exceptions of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state of Pennsylvania is mostly peppered with small rural communities.  And the majority of people here are Christians.

Many of them have never met a Muslim in real life unless they are members of the US Military and have been stationed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. 

So when terrorism, from which most of us here in Pennsylvania like to feel we are directly immune, hits our small communities, people feel shocked, angry, and fearful.  Like most people everywhere touched by terrorism, right?  After all, isn't that one of the objectives of terror?

The first time terrorism hit us in a big way was on 9/11, when one of the three hijacked planes, United Airlines Flight 93, dropped out of the sky into a farmer's field in Shanksville, PA.  With all of the news coverage of New York City and Washington, DC, Shanksville, and the people of Pennsylvania were mostly forgotten.  And when that particular flight did receive attention, it was mostly about Todd Beamer and his famous last words, "Let's roll!"

While on a business trip to the area, I visited the Shanksville site.  At that time, there was a temporary memorial set up.  You have to drive up small roads and twisting turns to get to the site.  The last leg of the journey involves driving uphill on a small makeshift road, and then at last, a HUGE field under a HUGE sky appears before you.  I have never seen such a big sky!  It is eerily quiet up there except for the sounds of mobiles and other mementos clinking and tinking against the memorial.  One is only left to look at the scene and use the imagination as to the horror of that day.  I wrote about it and took some pictures which are here

A few days ago, terrorism in a faraway land hit us personally in Pennsylvania again.  This time, less than a few miles away from my house.  Six members of a local Christian missionary team were injured in the Uganda bombings.  You can read about it here.

I went to the prayer service at the United Methodist Church of Christ last night.  I was the only Muslim there that I was aware of (no one there looked like me, lol).  I thought it was important for them to see Muslims there.  For them to know that we, as their neighbors and members of the community, are there with them and for them.  To let them know that we, too, are shocked and angry.

As a Jew, I remember stories told of the numerous people, Christians and Muslims, who helped us during the Holocaust.  Christians and Muslims who hid Jews in their homes.  Christians and Muslims who helped us at the cost and threat of their own lives and the welfare of their own families.  As people of faith, they knew it was the right thing to do.

And participating in Interfaith activities is the right thing to do in my opinion.

I was supposed to go to the service with our local rabbi, but at the last moment she had an emergency at her synagogue.  I met Rev. Kind from the United Methodist Church of Christ and extended the thoughts and prayers of both the Jewish and Muslim communities.

In her prayer service, Rev. Kind told the people that despite all of the feelings of fear, sorrow, and anger, she also knows there are feelings of hope, and she encouraged the people to turn their hearts with love toward God.  She reminded the people to never diminish the power of prayer, and asked them to let go of bitterness and hatred, and replace it instead with forgiveness.  In the midst of hope and possibility, she celebrated the fact that "the love of God is so great that nothing can overcome it."

Please keep all victims of terrorism in the world in your dua.  And do not be afraid to be "present" in the face of fear and confusion.  The terrorists are counting on the fact that Muslims everywhere will isolate.

After all, what they did is not jihad ... it is murder.   

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How Do We Get Our Kids to Love Their Lord and the Masjid?

(Muslim school children in the masjid performing "Allaah Nay Banaya Hum Sub Ko" (Allaah Made Us All) - What Happens to our Precious Children When They Become Teenagers?)

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu and Greetings of Peace:

I am co-teaching a a course at the Geisinger Medical Center, Division of Spiritual Care, called "Islam: Religion, History and Culture."  The course runs four Tuesday evenings during the month of July.  We are using Seyyed Hossein Nasr's book, "Islam: Religion, History and Civilization" as a required text.

There are no Muslims or Jews in the class, but there is a wonderful group of Christians who have a sincere desire to understand Islam and Muslims, Alhamdulillah.  My colleague is a Buddhist, and there is one other Buddhist woman in the class.

At the very beginning of the class, we were talking about the general dis-interest of our youth and even some adults, in coming to the masjids, churches, and synagogues.  We were putting our heads together and trying to come up with why this is so.

My colleague suggested that perhaps one reason may be that people have the perception of "what's in it for me," or put another way, some people lack a personal relationship with "God" separate from the rituals involved with religions and houses of worship.

I notice this trend with the Muslim youth in my area.  Not necessarily the young children, but the pre-teens and teenagers.

At my masjid, we have a general musala upstairs, and of course, a women's section downstairs.  On the ground floor, you can find the general entry way where people come in, hang up their coats, put their shoes on the shoe rack (wishful thinking, lol), and there are also some long benches in that area.  Usually, the benches are used by people waiting for rides, waiting to collect the entire family to go home, or by people putting on or taking of their shoes.

A curious phenomenon happens though once the Family Nights or Eid parties get going in full swing.

The teenagers can be seen on the ground floor standing around or sitting on the benches, chatting to each other, usually both boys and girls together.

If their parents do ask them to sit with them, they are usually bored out of their minds, and many of them can be seen with their eyes glued to their Blackberrys and iPhones.

It seems that they really don't want to be at the masjid.

I see similar things with our Islaamic weekend school.  The little children LOVE coming and participating.  As a matter of fact, they cry when the school season is done.  In our masjid, there is no summer Islaamic school because most of the families are traveling.

The teenagers on the other hand, do not like to come to the Islaamic school.  Their parents make them come.  The majority of the teenage students are actually children of our teachers.  Given a choice, the teenagers wouldn't come at all.  This is especially reflected in the fact that they do not come to class prepared.  They have been studying the same surahs for the few years I have been there, and the teacher tells me they were studying the same ones before I got there.  In reality, when most of them are 14 or 15 or so, they stop coming at all.  After all, their parents claim, they are "busy" with school and other activities, and "we really can't force them, now can we?" they say.

Who's the parent and who's the child?  When I was a kid, I did what my parents said.  If my mom said, "get in the car," we got in the car, lol. 

The big question is:  why should the young people (and even some older ones) WANT to come to the masjid?  What's in it for them?

Like my collegue implied, most people adhere to a religious life because of the perception that it means something to them.  They have a personal relationship with "God."  Religion to them is worth sacrificing for, worth dying for, and worth loving for.  Didn't Allaah t'ala say in the Qur'an:

"I only created jinn and man to worship Me." (adh-Dhariyat, 56)
So, does it matter whether or not we have a personal relationship with "God."  Do we have a choice?  If we were created only to worship Allaah t'ala, that's that ... right?

Well, on the other hand, we are told that there is no compulsion in religion.

Why aren't our Muslim children getting this message?  Do we raise them to understand that the only reason they are in this dunya is to worship Him?  Or do we give them the message, directly or indirectly, that they have a choice in the matter?  By allowing our children to give preference to a soccer game instead of Qur'an class, what kind of message do we convey?  Don't get me wrong.  There's nothing wrong with activities and sports.  But, where is the priority? 

When I go to the masjid, I see sisters and their children dressed beautifully in the clothing of their countries, etc., but when these same children go to school, they are dressed like the other non Muslim children.  Do we give the message that a hijab or jilbab is only for the masjid, and not for the rest of our activities?  Why do parents allow their kids to wear skinny jeans and shirts/blouses that outline their blossoming figure?

In case you think I am overly strict, or a fuddy duddy, I am going somewhere with this.

My point is that if we don't insist that our children value an Islaamic lifestyle, we cannot expect them to "enjoy" being a Muslim.  The result is that they don't have a personal relationship with Allaah t'ala. 

Let's face it.  As much as some of us like to think that our kids are Palestinian children or Egyptian children, or whatever ... the truth is that they are American children.  Born and raised in America and in an American lifestyle.  They don't even think like some of us from the "old country" do.

Do we insist that they identify as Pakistani, Palestinian, Egyptian, etc., as opposed to Pakistani-American, Palestinian-American, Egyptian-American?  Do many of our kids suffer from identity issues?

In my little town, there may be only two or three Muslim children in the entire high school.  I acknowledge that it must be hard for them, espcially if they are darker than most of the American white children.  Children are cruel sometimes.  But I think it may be a little easier perhaps if they are secure in their identity as Muslims, and if they know who their Lord is, and LOVE Him.

How do we get our children to love Allaah t'ala and the masjid?  How do we ensure that they grow up developing a personal relationship with their Lord?  What do you think?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Award from Rukhpar Mor, Masha Allaah



As Salaamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu and Greetings of Peace:

My dear sister over at Rukhpar Mor acknowledged me and some other bloggers with this award.

Going places? Where will I be or want to be in 10 years?

Hmmm ... I'm not going to try to predict such a thing since Allaah t'ala knows best. Ten years from now would make me almost 72 years old, Alhamdulillah!

So, if He still has me around, I would pretty much like to continue what I am doing now: working as a prison chaplain, teaching weekend Islaamic school, writing, photography, making jewelry, gardening, and above all, worshiping and pleased my Lord.

Jazaka Allahu Khayrn Rukhpar for thinking of me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Welcome to Obama's Jewish America


                                                                                   (Theodore Herzl - Father of Zionism)
                                                                                              Picture credit here

As Salaamu Alaikum and Greetings of Peace:

Not along ago, I read an article/opinion piece on the JTA website written by Ron Kampeas entitled, "Welcome to Obama's Jewish America."

Mr. Kampeas wrote the article in response to the May 27th White House celebration of "Jewish America Heritage Month". He wrote:

"The athletes, the astronauts, the alternative music, the black rabbi, the white dress uniforms, and above all, the left-handed baseball immortal: Welcome to Barack Obama's Jewish America."

Mr. Kampeas maintains that the first-ever celebration "underscored the Obama administration's determination not to be locked into Washington's conventional notions of Jewish leadership."  In other words, he means Zionist and pro-Israel leadership.  He writes that Obama "did not exactly snub" the usual guest list of Jews like those from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, etc., but asserts that they were probably included because both were major fund-raisers for Obama's campaign. He claims that the White House purposely sought to convey an image of American Jewry that was not necessarily organizational or pro-Israeli. Instead, he writes, "Obama presented an array of Jewish heroes and celebrities who pronouncedly defied Jewish stereotypes."

After reading the article over a few times, I'm still not sure whether the tone of Mr. Kampeas's article is positive or actually critical.

One thing is clear for me, though: it's about time that Judaism and Jews are starting to be defined separately from Zionism and Israel. That many Jews in America can be seen for who they are as individual people, be defined by their accomplishments as individuals, and not be perpetually defined by their allegiance to Israel or lack thereof. 

"The lack thereof ..."  Herein is the problem for American Jews.  To talk about this, it is necessary to give you a little Zionism 101.

ZIONISM 101 (Compiled from Wikipedia Sources)

Judaism is not necessarily Zionism. And not all Jews embrace Zionism. In actuality, and especially since World War II, not all American Jews are religious. Some of them don't even believe in God, and many identify themselves mainly as cultural, ethnic, or secular Jews.

Zionism (or "Tsiyonut" in Hebrew) originally had anti-religious sentiments and actually had more to do with diaspora politics.  It is a nationalist and political movement, originally having NOTHING to do with the religion of Judaism.  It has more to do with self-determination of the Jewish people, and a desire for a sovereign national Jewish homeland based on its historical and religious ties of the Jewish people to the land in Palestine.

Zionism was founded in the late 19th century, mainly by secularist Jews as a response to anti-semitism and persecution of Jews in Russia.  It encouraged Jewish immigration to Ottoman Palestine until finally in 1948, the state of Israel was born.  "Aliyah" (think hijrah) to the Land of Israel is a recurring theme in Jewish prayer.  In current day, the world's Jews are about equally settled betweeen Israel and America.  

All Zionism is not equal.  Categories of Zionism include: labor, liberal, nationalist, and religious - with the religious category coming on board last.  According to Wikipedia, "In the 1920s and 1930s Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine) and his son Rabbi Zevi Judah Kook saw great religious and traditional value in many of Zionism's ideals, while rejecting its anti-religious undertones. They taught that Orthodox (Torah) Judaism embraces and mandates Zionism's positive ideals, such as the ingathering of exiles, and political activity to create and maintain a Jewish political entity in the Land of Israel. In this way, Zionism serves as a bridge between Orthodox and secular Jews."

But not all Jews believe in and embrace the concept of Zionism; many Jewish groups are strongly anti-Zionism.  The ultra-orthodox Jews (Haredi) reject Zionism as a doctrine and some among them reject the establishment of a religious state as being against Jewish laws.  Haredi Jewish communities are non-Zionist but willing to participate in Israeli coalitions. A minority of other Orthodox Jews, (the Satmar Hasidim and the small Neturei Karta group) are strongly anti-Zionist.

The early Zionist rejected a good deal that traditional Jews in the diaspora embraced.  For example, the Zionists revived Hebrew as the everyday language of the new state, and branded Yiddish, which most Ashkenazi spoke, as "contemptible."  The new Hebrew language was adopted with the Sephardi, not Ashkenazi, pronunciation.  The Zionists even abandoned the traditional clothing that the Jews of Europe wore.

But the biggest bone of contention between the Zionist Jews and Jews from other places (including America), was/is that the Zionists view aliyah as a duty of every Jew.  Rejection of life in the diaspora is a central assumption in Zionism; living in the diaspora is seen to be restrictive of the full growth of Jewish individual and national life.  Jews who refused to make aliyah to Israel were seen as not being "real" Jews.

***

This attitude is the one that dredged up feelings for me from my life as a Jew.  Particularly, about the arrogant question of "Who is a Jew?" and the resulting stereotypes and divisions among Jews in America (and elsewhere) and Zionists.

Isreal was created in 1948.  I was born in 1949.  The Holocaust was fresh in the mind of every Jew when I was a young girl.  It seemed that our entire identity, as an individual and as a people, revolved around our Holocaust experience. 

Add to that the fact that Jews did not enjoy the popularity  in America that they do nowdays when I was a young girl.  Synagogues were fire bombed on a regular basis.  Jewish men with long beards and sidelocks were accosted and assaulted on a regular basis.  Having a Jewish name sealed your fate and kept you back from opportunities and even jobs.  Even living in a Jewish neighborhood didn't guarantee peace.  I remember going to the commercial district of the Jewish neighbood of Skokie (near Chicago) with my dad on the weekends.  We would get out of the car and do shopping.  When we returned, we would often find anti-semitic literature under our car windshield wipers.   

Most non Jewish children really did believe that Jews killed Christian children around the Jewish holidays and used their blood to make matzo.  Many Jewish children were asked by non Jewish children if they could pull down their pants so they could see the tails of the Jewish children.  Non Jews used to pass around the "joke" that Orthodox Jewish men wore their big hats to hide their horns.

Many people had no problem with calling us names:  Kikes, Yids, Yehudis - to name a few.

To make matters even worse, the Zionists and the Aliyah-bound did not consider those of us who wished to remain in America as "real" Jews.  Kind of reminds me of some Muslims who believe that every Muslim in America should have hijrah as their goal.

So, when I read the article, it was refreshing:

1.  For America to recognize the contributions of everyday Jews
2.  To ackowledge Jews outside of the context of Zionism and Isreal.

Zionism is not neccesarily Judaism.  To be against Zionism IS NOT anti-semitic.  It IS anti-Zionism.

I consider myself ethnically Jewish.  Even though I have reverted to Islam, I am still an ethnic Jew.  My people have a culture - language, genetics, food, music, and yes, some of us practice the Jewish religion.  More importantly, some of us don't ... (even us Muslims).  If an ethnic Arab Muslim were to leave Islam, wouldn't they still be an Arab?

Many people say there is no such thing.  That if you are a Jew, you practice the Jewish religion.  Nonsense.  Not all Jews practice Judaism, but they still identify as being a Jew.  Even the "secular" Jews will tell you that they are every bit a Jew.  No one has the right to say who is or who is not a Jew.

The big problem the Zionists are facing is how to deal with all of the non Jews who consider themselves Israelis.  How does a Muslim Israeli fit into their dream of a Jewish national homeland?  And now, there are many evangelical Christians immigrating to Israel.

What will the face of the future Zionist Israel look like?