Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bad Consequences of the Tongue

(Viper-Tongued Orchid, 2010)

"Oh Allaah
do not punish me for
what they say about me and
make good that which they
conject about me, and
forgive me for that
which they do not know about me."


*dua of Abdulilah Ibn Rabah Lahmami as-Salafi, translator of Sheikh Ahmad Zamzami's advice on "The Bad Consequences of the Tongue"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dreary Monday ... and Thoughts About Water

As Salaamu Alaikum and Greetings of Peace to All Who May Read Me Today!

It rained like crazy last night, and is still raining a bit as a I write. To most people, rain makes for a dreary day. We complain that the bad weather keeps us indoors, preventing us from enjoying the sunshine.

But the Muslim doesn't, or shouldn't, complain about rain because we know that rain is a mercy from Allah swt.

Allah swt tells us in the Qur'an, An-Nur: 43, "See you not that Allah drives the clouds gently, then joins them together, then makes them into a heap of layers."

(Rain clouds dissipating over the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul, Turkey, shortly after Shuruq)

After the clouds, comes the rain.

"It is He Who sends down water from the sky, and with it We bring forth vegetation of all kinds." Al-An'am: 99

(Tomatoes from my 2009 harvest, Masha Allah!)

It is supposed to rain here on and off for a few days, but toward the end of the week, we are expecting warm temperatures and sunshine, Insha Allah. I am so excited for my flowers to come up. The other day, I was driving in "town" and there were daffodils everywhere. Mine are still in bud.

("Morning Drink" - My orchid after getting its morning spritz)

We had a lot of snow in the northeast United States, so we don't have the drought conditions that we have occasionally had due to lack of abundant snow over the winter. Actually, in some areas, like New Jersey, they have had severe flooding lately.

But for the most part, the Muslim welcomes rain storms that fill the rivers, lakes, streams, oceans, seas, and reservoirs.

(Seagulls over the Bosporus, Istanbul, Turkey)

Allah swt tells us, "He it is Who sends down water from the sky; from it you drink." An-Nahl: 10

Outside of my office window at the prison Chapel, there is a beautiful fruit tree. The inmates are not permitted to eat from that tree (sound familiar, lol?!), but they do. The tree has such beautiful, fragrant blossoms, Masha Allah. He said,

"See you not that Allah sends down water from the sky, and we produce therewith fruits of various colors." Fatir: 27

One of my sisters in Islam lives about a half an hour from me, and her husband planted beautiful fruit trees in their yard. The sister makes jams and preserves which are very good, Alhamdulillah.

I have roto-tilled my old garden behind my garage, and have extended it clear across my property. The new area will get more sunshine, and it will also give me the opportunity to plant more. I bought a nice chest freezer and put it in the garage last year. So, Insha Allah, more vegetables and herbs to freeze and to share with neighbors and friends!

In the current issue of National Geographic, they have highlighted many of the global water problems.

A number of these problems exist in Muslim lands ... Palestine, Syria, Jordan ... countries in Africa, etc.

The problems are caused by water-wars, droughts, and pollution, etc. Many people around the globe would fall on their knees and thank Allah swt for rain.

Next time you are faced with a rainy day, grab a cup of coffee or tea and your Qur'an, and go sit on your porch glider and give thanks to Allah swt.

... just some thoughts on a not-so-dreary rainy Monday morning by a grateful Muslim!
(Coastal masjid along the Bosporous in Istanbul, Turkey)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Truth and Consequences: The Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy

(Reminder: my photography is copyrighted and cannot be used without my permission. Hint: if you ask and attribute me, I'll probably tell you "yes" you can use my work!)

Last night, I attended a lecture at Susquehanna University on the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy and its consequences on men and women in the US military and our country as a whole.

The guest speaker was US Army Lt. Daniel Choi, West Point graduate, Arabic linguist, Iraq veteran, and activist for the repeal of the DADT policy.

When Lt. Choi "came out" on The Rachel Maddow Show by publically announcing, "I am gay," the Army notified him one month later that they were beginning discharge proceedings against him.

Since then, Lt. Choi has been a tireless advocate for the repeal of the DADT policy. He appears on television, gives lectures, and participates in public demonstrations, and as of late, engages in civil disobedience as evidenced by his arrest last week for chaining himself to the White House fence.

"The DADT policy is the common term for the policy restricting the United States military from efforts to discover or reveal closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members or applicants, while barring those that are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from military service. The restrictions are mandated by federal law... the policy prohibits anyone who 'demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts' from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because 'it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability'... the act prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces." (from lecture program)

Lt. Choi and others believe that it is time to hold President Obama to his campaign promise to end DADT.

Numerous foreign armies, including Britain and Israel, have integrated openly gay people into their ranks with little negative effect on effectiveness and recruitment. In Britain, this change was a result of an order from the European Court of Human Rights. Gay partners are now afforded full benefits.

What about the US? America? Land of the free and home of the brave? Where all citizens are guaranteed the right to freedom and happiness?

If the partner of a gay American military person dies overseas, the partner is not even notified by the military, yet alone given any benefits!

America: where a gay Mississippi high school student, Constance McMillan, was barred from taking her girlfriend to the prom?

Hello?! Most of us can remember being at high school dances and proms and going with another girl (or your big brother or cousin, lol) because we couldn't get a date with a boy. No one said anything about it.

And it's probably still okay in a lot of situations -- unless you TELL that your female friend is actually your lesbian girlfriend.

Why should gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) people be harrassed and discriminated against, have their human and civil rights taken away in a country like America?!

Why should GLBT be fired from jobs or have their child custody challenged because of their sexual preference?

Why are identity politics such a big deal in our beautiful United States?

At a time, when America is engaged in two wars, at a time when the forces and their families are stretched by multiple deployments, etc., why should we be denying otherwise qualified military applicants from serving soley on them being truthful about their sexual identity?

It just doesn't make sense. It just a'int right!

No matter where you personally stand, no matter what your personal position is, you have to admit that it is a national shame in a great country like America to have a military policy such as DADT.

Hasn't this country been here before? Excluding folks from the military based on identity politics? Blacks? Women? Japanese? All people with criminal records no matter what their crime is?

As Muslims, we know that our deen tells us that homosexuality is not an option for us. The only "halal" sex between Muslims is that between a married man and his wife/wives.

DADT is an Islamic concept in a way. After all, most Muslims know it is bad adab (manners) to ask someone something deeply personal or something that the person might not want to discuss, reveal, or have known about himself.

Allah swt also tells us in the Qur'an not to reveal our "sins" to anyone else. He promises us His mercy and forgiveness as long as we don't "lift the veil" in the morning by talking about it.

And of course, there are NO LGBT MUSLIMS now, are there?!!!! I'm sure there are no LGBT Muslims serving in the Muslim-populated countries' military forces now, are there?!!!

Of course not! LOL!

As Muslims, we know that no one has the right to oppress anyone ... for any reason.

Allah swt even prohibited oppression for Himself!

Finally, you don't have to be LGBT to have a "propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts." Remember Abu Ghrayb? Or ask anyone who is incarcerated who is "gay for the stay."

As Muslims, we stand up for justice. It's not just for our government to oppress any of its citizens for any reason. It can be us (Muslims) next. Think they're keeping an eye on Muslim service men and women after what Major Hasan did?!

Congratulations and thanks to Susquehanna University, The Gender & Sexuality Alliance, Susquehanna University College Democrats, and The Center for Diversity and Social Justice for sponsoring Lt. Choi's lecture, and for making it free and open to the public.

The reception, coffee, brownies, and cookies at the end weren't bad either :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Intrusive Photography?

(Disclaimer: Please do not turn this post into a negative religious debate about photography. If you do, I will delete your comment.)

I took the above photograph in the women's section of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

I think it is a touching and beautiful photograph. I especially like the little boy sitting in the window waiting for his mom. I posted it to one of my Flickr groups and a sister left the following comment:

"I think it is a speacial connection between the person and alaha we should not inteuup this realtionship"

I felt hurt when I read her comment. To be more accurate, it pushed my shame button.

When I take photographs of this nature, I usually stand a distance off, and bring the photograph nearer in the editing process. I also turn off my flash, and put my camera on "museum mode" so that no shutter click is heard. Unless someone physically sees me take the picture, no one knows it is being taken. Therefore, I don't think I was interrupting anything.

I am not a papperatzi (spelling, lol?) who sticks my camera in the faces of people. As a matter of fact, I do frequently ask people if I may photograph them in certain instances (like when I photographed the Turkish police, lol).

I believe the camera is like another "eye" in the room. It capture what I see with my own set of eyes.

Is the masjid "hands off" for picture taking?

Is it in bad taste to photograph someone while they're in prayer with their Rabb?

I think the sister's comment pushed a button in me because it reminds me of some of the criticism I have received in my writing.

I feel the same way when someone tells me what I should write or not write.

Photojournalism has always been my strength, Masha Allah. When I first became a Muslim, I gave up photojournalism until later in my deen when I became convinced that there is nothing wrong with photographing people. I came to this conclusion after examining all of the evidence from respected Muslims.

But, why not photograph Muslims in the beautiful act of communication with Allah swt?

There are so many images of Muslims involved in violence and other haraam. I think my Istanbul street photography is a refreshing change.

Your thoughts?

Friday, March 12, 2010


We're back! And I spent most of this past week recovering from my awesome experience.

I took incredible photographs which I've been posting to my Flickr site a few at a time. The above shot was taken while we were waiting on the boat to leave for a tour by way of the Bosphorous Sea.

Insha Allah this coming week I will write a post about the whole trip. In the meantime, check me out at Flickr if you want.