Sunday, July 24, 2011

Meet Benjamin- his religion was hijacked

Yes I know people are sick of hearing how Muslims are annoyed that everyone assumed the Norway terrorist attacks were carried out by Muslims. And then when we found out it was done by a white right-wing Christian male, many news outlets failed to point out his faith or race. That's American media and double standards for you.

So I just want to put some things in perspectives since this has been irking me and yes I will whine. Let's say if everything that happened to Muslims post 9-11 happened and will continue to happen to Christians today. It would look something like this. I will use the name Benjamin, and his religion has just been hijacked. These scenarios are all true and have happened to Muslims and/or Arabs or any brown person.

Benjamin goes to a Catholic school. As soon as they heard about the terrorist attacks, the principal requests that everyone go home. There have been death threats.

Benjamin finds out his Church has been vandalized. The windows are broken and graffiti is painted on the walls with swastika signs, and "go back home."

Benjamin's little brother is made fun of at a public school and he is called a terrorist.

Benjamin's parents explain to him and his little brother that this is not what his religion teaches and that there are bad people in every religion.

Benjamin was minding his own business on his way to the grocery store when a group of Arabs stick out their middle fingers at Benjamin and tell him to go back home

Benjamin and his family are heading to Florida for the weekend and they all get to be randomly searched at the airport, how fun and not humiliating!

Benjamin looks for a job but is having a lot of trouble, although he is over qualified for many jobs. Some of his friends told him they had been treated differently at work because of their religion and race.

WHen Benjamin goes back to school, he is made fun of. He is called a terrorist, a killer, mental, white-trash, dirt, etc. Although America is his homeland, he feels so out of place!

People cannot seem to stop staring at Benjamin when he goes out. He'd rather stay at home. Why do so many people hate me for an act I didn't even do? I don't even like to kill flies, he wonders.

Whenever Benjamin goes to stores, parents make it obvious they are afraid of him. They suddenly hide their children, as if Benjamin would hurt him!

Benjamin's parents notice they are being treated differently at work. They all remind each other to stick together and that many people are open-minded and will not stereotype them!

Benjamin's cousin in Oklahoma is beaten by some gangs and his ribs are broken. The police said it's a hate crime.

Benjamin's parents get a phone call from the FBI-- they want to meet them for lunch!

Benjamin learns to move on with life, but after 10 years, people still hate. Many people refuse to build Churches in his town, there are still hate crimes, many people at work still give him weird looks, he is still randomly searched at airports, and people still ask him where he's from. His brother is occasionally bullied at school, he still notices the biased media, and people are still afraid of him.

But since Benjamin is a white, blue eyed, conservative Christian male, all those things will never happen. However, replace Benjamin with Muhammad, and those are all real stories that happened to a Muhammad or Guirges or Khadija. Arabs, both Muslim and Christians, and as well as non-Arab Muslims (and Sikhs) have been stereotyped, racial profiled, and victims of hate crimes since 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I pray for all the victims and families of those who were destructed by terrorism and inequality all over the world. Terrorism has no race, religion or culture.

Monday, July 11, 2011

To Him We Belong and to Him We Shall Return

A friend of mine, Hannah wrote her conversion story. It's so beautiful I thought I'd share here.

To Him We Belong and to Him We Shall Return
by: Hannah Nemec-Snider

On May 27th, 2011, I took my shahada, or my declaration of faith in Islam in front of our crowded masjid. However, I did not become a Muslim on that day. I have been Muslim my entire life, but was unaware of it. I have always believed in one God and Him alone. This thought is one of the most basic, but most important, pillars of the religion. The reason I never knew I was Muslim was because no one ever told me. I have a Muslim roommate, have met many Muslim people, but no one ever told me what Muslims believe in. All along I had believed in Islam, but had no idea that my faith was the same faith as millions of people around me.

Finally, after years of trying to understand my beliefs, attending different religious services and only believing in parts of what I would hear, a close friend asked me what I believed in. We had been friends for a while and I never talked about religion with him. I explained my fundamental beliefs, that I believe in God, but not the trinity, and I believe in heaven and angels, but also noted that it did not fall under any one religion and I “didn’t know what it was called”. He told me that I had been wrong all this time and that all of my beliefs are consistent with his beliefs as a Muslim.

At first I thought he was just trying to make Islam “look good”. Explaining the most appealing parts of the faith. He would send me ayas (or “verses”) from the Qur’an and I agreed with them, but I thought he was only picking and choosing the best lines that would make me more interested. I went out and bought a Qur’an for myself to find things to point out to him that I did not agree with. I couldn’t find one single thing. I agreed with every aya. I easily understood why the literal translation of “aya” is “miracle”. Every verse is a miracle. As a matter of fact, every word is a miracle.

It was a miracle in my own life that after searching for twenty years, after being confused, after thinking I would never find anyone else with my beliefs, I found Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) through His will. The best part was, however, that He had always been with me. I would stay up as late as possible reading Qur’an and crying knowing that I was reading the truth. I reflect on how beautiful it is that Allah (swt) gave all of the other Prophets the power to perform miracles for the people of their time to see, but he gave Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alayhi wa salaam) a miracle that I get to hold in my hands every day, the Qur’an.

I knew I was Muslim and I knew I was so incredibly blessed that Allah (swt) wanted me, a twenty-year old college student, to come to Him. How could I be so lucky? And how could I do anything but seek all the knowledge and faith possible when I was chosen by Him to come to Islam?

There is a hadith that says, “if you draw nearer to Allah by a handspan, He will draw nearer to you by a cubit, and if you draw nearer to Him by a cubit, He will draw nearer to you by a fathom. And if you walk towards Him, He will rush to you.” Well, I drew nearer to Him by miles and miles and He far surpassed my efforts. And I sprinted to Him, and He rushed to me at lightspeed.

That is not to say there were not times when I was terrified. Americans do not think too fondly of Muslims, and after all the negative media portrayals I expected my friends to feel similarly about the subject. Some do, and I do not mind letting them go as friends. A friend should accept you for what you are, and also should draw you nearer to Allah. Spending time with those friends makes it obvious to me that they are not what is best for me, and that I prefer friends who are of my religion. When it’s time to pray, I can go pray without having to explain myself. When we see someone walking down the street that is “different” we do not judge them, as opposed to tease them or harass them as my friends and I had done in the past. That is not to say I do not make du’aa (or prayer) for them.

There are friends who support me and love me no matter what my choice is, and to them I am thankful. I can only hope that Allah (swt) draws them nearer to Him. However, what I was surprised to find out of these friends is the complete lack of knowledge about Islam, and oftentimes about their own religions as well. I was ignorant about Islam before converting, but I had not thought that all of my friends would equally as ignorant about Islam and their own religions!

It is my biggest honor in life to be Muslim. It is my second biggest honor to explain Islam to others. I am thankful that people feel comfortable enough around me at a grocery store, or in line at Subway, or at my office, or at the park to ask me about my faith, I just hope that I am eloquent and intelligent enough to speak for my faith.

There’s nothing I love talking about more than what we believe in and why we believe in it. I cannot force others to believe in Islam: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error” (Qur’an 2.256). However, I can educate people who do not know what Islam is about the basic beliefs. I cannot teach faith, that is only in the heart and that is only between you and Allah (swt), but I can teach religion and His message. This teaching, or dawah, is a critical part of Islam. Islam does not belong to us, it belongs to all of mankind. Islam, and the Prophet (saws) are a mercy for the entire world.

I have been told to “go back where I came from” in a WalMart parking lot (to which I responded, “I’m from Cleveland!”). I have been told to “shut up” while eating ice cream with Muslim friends for no reason. I have had people make sure their children did not walk anywhere near me at restaurants. I have had people tell me that Jesus loves me (to which I responded, “I love him too!”). I have had a woman tell me she feels bad for the way I dress when I was wearing a long dress and turtleneck and she was wearing a tube top and mini skirt (to which I responded, “honey, I feel even worse for you”). And, I have had parents tell their children the reason I was wearing hijab is because I have cancer. And that is perfectly fine. If these people knew the peace we had in our hearts, they would be fighting us for that.

I hope to teach people more about our religion, and I hope that more people are open minded enough to learn, and I hope that I continue learning forever. I encourage the Muslim population to get to know people from different cultures and religions and explain ours. There’s no need to fight, but how beautiful is it that we would speak for ourselves instead of letting others speak for us. May Allah (swt) continue blessing us with the bounty of iman, and inshaAllah (God willing) we will all draw each other nearer to Allah.

“To Him we belong and to Him we shall return.” (Qur’an 2.156)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

#Tahrirideas for July 8 Protests

(photo copyright(c)Zeinab Khalil)

Egyptians are planning massive protests on July 8 in Tahrir and many other places in Egypt. There have been injuries, harassment and other problems that have been occurring at protests since the January 25 revolution.

(photo copyright(c)Zeinab Khalil)

Many people have been coming up with ideas on how to keep protesters safe (for the most part) and to take several precautions at Tahrir. On Twitter, there was a hashtag #tahrirideas and there were so many great ideas so I compiled them all here. Please keep these all in mind. If you have any other suggestions, do use the hashtagh on twitter #tahrirideas or comment down below. It would be great to have committees to carry out and organize these ideas. Get ready ...

(photo copyright(c)Zeinab Khalil)

Security and safety
@Psypherize If we get attacked in #Tahrir Square again. We need slingshots for the rocks, better than throwing. #TahrirIdeas #Jan25 #July8

@H_I_S_H_A_M RT @sandmonkey: RT @ivasostar: @Sandmonkey bring bike helmets in case of emergency #Tahrirideas #TahrirIdeass

@ntantawy @Sandmonkey how about using a unified warning sound, like a horn, etc to warn of thug/army/police attacks? #TahrirIdeas

@A_M_Sabry #Tahrirideas We need watchers that can tell of any threats at at least 500 mt away from tahrir We need 15 minutes alarm before any attack

@Mwforhr RT @nellyali: @Sandmonkey we should make badges for all first aiders so we can keep pressure off the doctors in emergencies #TahrirIdeas

@Salma_El_Tarzi @ntantawy @Sandmonkey #TahrirIdeas during the 18 days we wore whistles around our necks in case we got attacked going in or out of square

@dshawki Having people secure entrances to the square to ensure that no weapons (or things that can be used as weapons) or thugs get in #tahrirideas

@omarelsewefy #Tahrirideas guys bring masks , bicarbonate and first aid supplies in case the cops wanted to tango with us

@nolesfan2011 #tahrirideas boxes of premade gas masks

@msibrahim One tent at the Center clearly marked for first aid, heat injuries;stock with gauze, disinfectants, aspirins, ice, ice bags #Tahrirideas

@msibrahim A few motorcycles for transportation of supplies, and emergency transportation of people #Tahrirideas

Rights and Equality

@nellyali: we should have, during the day and evening (any number) of workshops about ur rights if arrested #TahrirIdea

@LeilZahra Be attentive to racism in big gathering i.e. #Tahrir - say no to racism and classicism #TahrirIdeas

@zaynabon #tahrirideas don't pollute+always make sure to clean up after yourself. politely ask others to do so too. tahrir is hallow ground:respect it

@E_T_C_H Simple idea, everyone will go with his supplies, water, cola, mask, and whatever,if going home, he will leave anything unused #Tahrirideas

@Ahmed1khalil Also have some volunteers(I will be the first) to clean the square to clear up more space #tahrirideas

Hydration and Food

@mubaraketganen #TahrirIdeas bribe the fire dept. to show up & sprinkle the protesters with water to help prevent sun stroke

@noodlezzzzz "@Sandmonkey:need 2 set up the Tahrir public Kitchen, to feed people for free. Volunteer cooks & servers getting the food out. #Tahrirideas"

@msibrahim Depending on weather condition (heat, humidity) and health, take frequent breaks, 1 or 2 breaks each 5 to 20 min every hour #Tahrirideas

@radoooda Going to be very different on #july8 @ #tahrir with the summer heat. For those that go, remember to stay well-hydrated. #egypt #tahrirideas

@DaliaNewYork #Tahrirideas ladies, Pack some snacks in ur purses on #july8 guys won't think about that :-)

@omarelsewefy #Tahrirideas also bring lots of water in order to stay hydrated and avoid sun knock out , also come wearing something comfy

@Sama_Singer #TahrirIdeas Cotton white clothes avoid dark ones and get caps with you as well

@AalamWassef Reserve space for tea-koshary and merchandising vendors outside the square. #tahrirideas

Statistics and documentation
@iriniepoxy #TahrirIdeas Distbt small flyers w URL of pre-made survey to collct names, emails, intrests & gauge commitmnt. Incl email addy on ppr for Qs

@Sama_Singer #Tahrirideas report any violation (harassment , theft , fights..etc) and preferable to oust the violator out of the square

@shadenfawaz @Sandmonkey how about a lost and found?? #TahrirIdeas

@LeilZahra say no to sexual harassment and take an active part in making #Tahrir women-friendly #endSH #TahrirIdeas

@omarelsewefy #Tahrirideas we need survillance and information order to insure quality of information and prevent spreading of rumors

@shadyramadan Wtch out to sexual harrassments. Tough actions should be taken against whoever is doing this so it won't turn into goup action #Tahrirideas

@b9AcE @Sandmonkey An infopoint that gathers and disseminates info on upcoming events, missing people, debunks rumors, etc. #tahrirideas

@Sandmonkey We need 5 people running around with video cameras all the time. And to upload them on hourly basis.#Tahrirideas

@Sandmonkey We need 6 guys with walkietalkies, 4 on each side, one roaming, and one in front of the computer sending out realtime updates.#Tahrirideas

Technology and Getting Around

@hananzaz Welcome&Guiding Tent near main entrances to tell ppl where everything is. Perhaps a small map (on paper) to keep would be best! #Tahrirideas

@iRafla #Tahrirideas signs for places fiha Internet (wi-fi) hotspots coz using 3g and egde sa3b ma3 el za7ma..load 3al network

@noodlezzzzz "@Sandmonkey: We need electrical eng who will get car batteries & convert them 2 charge cell phones & cameras. Also computers.`#Tahrirideas"