Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shaalom2Salaam (Safiyyah)'s photostream

Squirrel TracksTurkish Soldier at the Entrance to Kopkapi PalaceKippah כִּיפָּה Table at the SynagogueJewish Tallit (טַלִּית‎‎) Close-UpSynagogue Tallit (טַלִּית‎‎) RackAt the Synagogue
Hebrew ClassWinter OrchidView from Blue Mosque CourtyardYeni CamiTurkish Street Calligrapher
Fresca Truck"I Don't Like Fruit!  Anyone Know Where the Fish Stand Is?"Zeytinburnu Neighborhood, TurkeyCruise Boats on Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul
Turkish School GirlsNYCOld San Juan, Puerto Rico, ChapelBirdie CupcakesTurkish Light

Here's a link to my Flickr photo stream. I keep losing the badge on my sidebar, so I'm trying this route :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When I was a Zionist, and the Murders of Palestinian and Israeli Children ...

 "Star of David"
Digital Art - Copyright 2011
S. E. Jihad Levine
All Rights Reserved

by Sharon Elayne Levine
Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

Israel, oh my blessed Israel!

When will You find
Everlasting peace?

Your borders are torn

With war and
Bleeding discontent,

Your children are falling
Day by day
For Your life.

May G-d let You
Find Peace soon,

For the sake of Your children,

And for all of the world!

I remember writing this poem in 1974, sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table looking out the window onto her sunny garden she had just planted.  I was a Zionist then, and I remember feeling very anxious and sad.  It's not the greatest poem in the world, but as was and is my habit, I write poetry when I am upset.  It's practically the only time I do write poetry.

What was happening in that part of the world in 1974 that had upset me?

Well, on May 31, 1974, Israel and Syria signed an agreement on disengagement following the Yom Kippur War in October of 1973.  Weeks before that on May 15th, the Ma'alot massacre occurred.  Palestinians crossed the Israeli border from Lebanon and attacked a van killing two Israeli Arab women.  Then they entered an apartment building in the town of Ma'alot and killed a couple and their four year old son.  Then a local school was taken over and 105 students and 10 teachers were taken hostage.  The Palestinians demanded the release of 23 Palestinians from Israeli prisons under the threat of killing the hostages.  When the elite Israeli Golani Brigade unit stormed the building on the second day of the standoff, the hostage-takers detonated their grenades and shot the children.  105 children.  25 hostages were killed, including 22 children, and 68 more were wounded. 

The month before, on April 11th, the Kiryat Shmona massacre occurred.  Palestinians crossed the Israeli border from Lebanon, entered an apartment building in the town of Kiryat Shmona and killed all 18 residents there, half of whom were children.  (Above history from Wikipedia)

The relentless attacks on Israeli citizens and the slaughter of so many children was a shocking horror to Jewish people, especially Jewish people in America.  Jewish people like me.

I was a young Jewish woman in my mid-20s in 1974.  Like many Jews, I had no clue who the Palestinian people were and what they wanted from us.  No one taught us about them in the synagogues and temples of America, and many of us didn't accept responsibility for learning the whole history of how "our country," Israel, came to be born.  We were just glad that we had a home for our people.  World War II and the Holocaust were still vivid in the minds of many Jews in 1974.  G-d had returned us to our land.  That's all most of us knew. That's all most of us cared about.

One of my favorite books in 1974 was Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary, the story of a young girl who gave her life to help Jews leave Europe and settle in Israel.  Of course, I read all the stories of Zionist heroes:  Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, David Alazar ...  And oh, how jealous I was of the Israelis referred to as sabras, those born on our country's soil.  And the women!  I wanted to fly planes like Hannah Senesh.  I wanted to grow up and be the president of a country like Golda Meir.  I wanted to be a soldier like my sisters in the Israeli military. I wanted to live on a kibbutz.  I was trying to learn Hebrew.

I was a Zionist!

And since 1998, I am a Muslim.

With a heart divided between two peoples, it saddened me deeply to hear of the murder of five members of the Fogel family last Friday evening who were butchered in their sleep in the Jewish settlement of Itamar on the West Bank.  Although many are blaming the murders on Palestinians, the truth is that the Israelis are still investigating and no one knows who did this yet.

I know: these settlements are illegal. 

I know: many many Palestinian children have been murdered by the Israelis.

True.  But that's not why I'm writing about it today. 

I'm writing to demand that the violence stop.  Is anyone listening?!

How many Israeli and Palestinian children have to die before both sides will sit together like the adults they are and come up with a peace plan?  How much blood has to be shed before the international community will give more than lip service to trying to help?  How many children will die before the UN enforces its resolutions? 

Let's face it:  Israel probably isn't going anywhere.  But I would like to see a peace plan and enforcement of the UN resolutions that call for Israel to return the borders to the 1967 lines.  I would like to see Israeli honor the agreements they signed.  The ones Anwar Sadat died for.  The ones Yitzhak Rabin died for.

But that's going to take a lot of work.  And both sides have to do it.  What's the alternative?  Ongoing violence and oppression?

My poem, written in 1974, and the question it asks is still relevant today in 2011.  If I would have known better in 1974, I would have directed the question to both the Palestinians AND the Israelis.  I would have asked for peace for all the children.

Sadly, there is still no answer.  Yet ...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Can YOU Defend Islaam?

"Qur'an Kareem"
                        Copyright, S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved

By now, the majority of the Muslims in the United States, and even abroad, are aware of Rep. Peter King's (NY/R) plan to hold Homeland Security hearings to investigate the American Muslim community.  These hearings begin tomorrow.

Although King claims that he is only seeking to investigate the problem of radicalization in the Muslim community in America, many people accuse him of putting Muslims and Islaam itself on trial.

And Florida pastor, Terry Jones, is at it again.  You may remember him and his followers as the good Christians who had plans to make a bonfire and burn Qur'ans.  This time, it's even crazier.  On March 20, he is planning to put the Qur'an on trial.  He says the public will be judge, jury, and executioner.  If the Qur'an loses its case, it will receive the death penalty.  Perhaps he will burn the Qur'an or even subject it to a firing squad.  He's not sure yet.  He even has a Face Book page for his project.  Will somebody please donate another car to give to this guy so he will relax for awhile?!

Seriously though, how about you?  Could you defend the Qur'an?  What if Pastor Jones or some other non Muslim asked you to explain the following:

"Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."  (9:29)

Keep in mind that the above is quoted from the Yusuf Ali translation, the small paperback gold colored Tahrike version that is most commonly distributed to non Muslims for dawah.  There are no footnotes or explanations in this Qur'an translation.  What is the non Muslim supposed to take away from this ayah?

How about the Noble Qur'an translation, by al-Hilali and Khan.  How does this translation treat this same ayah:

"Fight against those who believe not in Allaah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (saw), and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (Islam) among the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."  (9:29)

Is this better?  Does it clear up the confusion?  Before you say that the ayah is taken out of context and does not mean anything intolerant or violent, read the footnotes in this translation.  Yea!  Footnotes!  Surely, they will clear it up!

The footnote for this ayah directs the reader to the footnote for 2:193.  Let's see what that says:

"al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah's Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands).  By Jihad Islam is established, Allah's Word is made superior, and His religion (Islam) is propagated.  By abandoning Jihad Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position, their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish.  Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite."

Wow!  Since when is Jihad a pillar of Islaam? 

And the footnote claims that every Muslim must be willing to engage in this type of jihad or at least wish to in his heart.

"Hog wash!" you cry?  Well, you will then be accused of takiyyah which loosely translates into halal lying to non Muslims. 

"No way!" you say.  "Takiyyah is a Sh'ia practice."  To the Islamophobes, there is no difference between a Sunni, Sh'ia, Sufi, or Salafi ... see the problem?

"It's a problem with translating the Qur'an into English," you say.  "Bull!" they respond.  They have Arabs like Brigitte Gabriel telling them that the Arabic version is even worse, not softened up for Western audiences like the Yusuf Ali translation.  "She should know," they cry.  "She was born and raised in the Arab world and can read the Qur'an in Arabic."  Despite her claim that she is only against Islaamic radicals, her public statements about Islaam and Muslims suggest otherwise.

How about Sharia law?  Are you willing, as a Muslim, to assert that you do not believe in or support Sharia law? 

There's a lot of work to be done.  And every Muslim has to do it.  Sorry, but it's true. 

For the most part, America had no problem with Islaam until 9/11 happened. Before 9/11, many people didn't pay much attention to Muslims, and the majority of Americans probably couldn't have told you the first thing about the religion of Islaam even if it were the million dollar question on a game show.  If you really pushed them, maybe they could come up with Nation of Islam, Muhammad Ali, or Malcolm X. 

Oh boy, is it a different story now! The average Islamophobe has read the Qur'an from front to back VERY carefully.  Many non Muslims and Islamophobes (I'm not saying they are the same - not saying that non Muslims are Islamophobes) are intelligent and know how to use research tools.  Not knowing any better, many of them sit at the feet of Sheikh Google or apostates from Islaam who "know".  It's not unusual to hear that many of them own numerous copies of the various translations of the Qur'an which are available.  Many of them can quote surah and ayah where they take issue with our religion, and use the Qur'an to support their view that Islaam is religion of hate, intolerance, and violence.

Allaah t'ala tells us that the Qur'an is His book for ALL of mankind.  He tells us that it is the last revelation.  There will be no more books.  The Qur'an was revealed in the Arabic language.  Muslims believe it is the word of God Himself.  How does non-Arabic speaking mankind get the message of the Qur'an?

Through you.  Through me.  Through every Muslim.  It's called dawah and it is the responsbility of every Muslim.  If we don't do it, Bin Laden and his like, and other extremists will.

We cannot stick our heads in the sand anymore.  We cannot defend Muslims who speak lies against Islaam.  We cannot defend terrorists or extremists.  We cannot be silent when atrocities are committed in the name of Islaam.  We cannot support conspiracy theories as excuses for haraam actions.  We cannot blame others, especially the Jews, for all of the problems in the Islaamic world.

The refrain "Islaam is a religion of peace" does not work anymore.  Islamophobes are now claiming that Islaam is a relgion of piece - piece by piece.

There is an old saying, "The squeakly wheel gets the grease."  In the case of Islaam of Muslims, it is the extremists and ignorant Muslims who get the grease.  The grease is the media.

There is a famous quote from Anne Frank's diary:

"In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

Most Americans are basically decent people who are good at heart.  But they are afraid.  I can't blame them.  They are uninformed.  Some Americans do make an honest effort to explore Islaam and learn.  Many of them become Muslims as a result, Alhamdulillah!  But other Muslims listen to the nut jobs and believe them.

There is no central authority in Islaam at this time.  There is no caliphate or vatican where people can get "official" answers.

American Muslims cannot squander the opportunity.  It is an opportunity.  And Allaah forbid that something else happens here!  Islaam is definitely at a crossroads in America. 

But we can't defend Islaam if we ourselves do not know our deen.  We must study Qur'an, especially the verses that trouble the non Muslims, and know the tafsir (explanation) of them.  We must ask questions of knowledgeable scholars and teachers.

Allaah t'ala has promised to protect the Qur'an.  We don't have to worry about the Qur'an.  But many Muslims all over the world are being tested, and are suffering under the yoke of governments and societies. 

I believe in the goodness of America.  My family came to America from Eastern Europe for the promises of this country.  I believe they can be fulfilled for Muslims here, too.  Allaah t'ala blessed us to be here. 

Monday, March 07, 2011

Poor Birds!

(Image - Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved)
We had a March dump of snow here in the north east United States last night. 

Poor birds in my neighborhood woke up this morning to the site of their feeder covered in snow!

February and March are the most difficult months for wild birds.  The earth is in a hard freeze, making it difficult for them to resort to their normal sources of food.  They really appreciate backyard feeders.

So, it's important for us who have bird feeders to keep them filled with food and cleared of snow.  It's a sadaqa to Allaah's creatures.

Do they not see the birds held (flying) in the midst of the sky?  None holds them but Allaah (none gave them the ability to fly but Allaah).  Verily, in this are clear Ayat (proofs and signs) for a people who believe (in the Oneness of Allaah) 16:79

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Kippah כִּיפָּה Table at the Synagogue

The kippah is sometimes referred to as the yarmulke. Jews cover their head during prayer, but some Jews always wear something on their head because the Talmud states, "Cover your head in order that the fear of heaven may be upon you."