Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How do you Explain Violence?

Toronto Muslims are in a state of shock and horror about the story of Aqsa, a young teenaged girl mercilessly killed by her father, allegedly over her refusal to wear the hijab. There are no meaningful words for me to try to explain such an act, such a state of mind.

We have indeed created man in the best of moulds, then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low. (Qur'an 95:4-5)
It is the depths of inhumanity and complete ingratitude to God to take His Just and Merciful words and use them, coupled with the power He gave you to oppress the weaker amongst you.

It astounds me that some men, perhaps given more physical and psychological strength than women, could express their power in such a heartless, abusive manner. This isn't the first case of severe abuse we've seen in the Muslim community, and it won't be the last. To have a daughter, mother, wife, living in a real and constant fear of her male relatives, what kind of a life is that? I'd like someone to explain to me what kind of an Islam this has become.

I am sad that some hearts have gotten to this level, that what is supposed to be a vessel of faith and mercy and love has become so hardened.

I can only hope this man gets exactly what he deserves.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Saying Goodbye

How do you say goodbye to someone? How do you look someone in the eye, or talk to him or her over the phone and know that at the end of the conversation, you'll never speak to or see that person again?

I had to do this a couple of days ago. One of my friends from high school went back to Kenya to get married and live out his life. And it was a strange conversation we had the day before he left. He phoned me on his way to jummah and we had our final "may Allah (swt) bless your life and give you all the happiness you deserve" conversation. It was extremely unnerving. Not because are very close or anything, but the concept of it was horrifying.

I used to see him around the subway station or at the library, grocery store once in a while. Maybe at the mosque in Ramadan. Beyond that I don't think about anything related to him, nor do I talk to him except when I see him. But knowing that he'll never be around anymore, that some routine surprise of seeing him buying milk or waiting for the bus no longer exists...you are now completely living a life apart and without any minute relation whatsoever.

This might sound strange, but the knowledge of being completely disconnected bothered me. How do you say goodbye to someone forever?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blasphemous Teddy Bear

This news from Sudan was tickling my funny bone.

Officials at Unity High School where Gibbons taught say she was teaching her 7-year-old students about animals and asked one of them in September to bring in her teddy bear. Gibbons then asked the students to pick names for the bear and they voted to name it Muhammad.

Each student then took the bear for a weekend to write a diary entry about what they did with the bear, and the entries were compiled into a book with the bear’s photo on the cover and the title “My Name is Muhammad,” in what teachers in Britain said was a common exercise to involve pupils.

At first I thought "these Sudanese folks...crazy people!" But then I was thinking about it very deeply and I thought to myself, I think they were right in reacting so harshly. I mean...setting aside the "Muhammad" naming, teddy bears are just pure evil. Those beady eyes. That smug look on their faces. It's obvious that they're out to get us. We should be very afraid.

Also, I think anyone who owns a teddy bear should be destroyed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

One Random Friday

So, it's been a while. I could make excuses about how I've been WAY too busy to post anything. But no. My randomness is being depleted. There is something about being in the workforce (sounds pretty cool, eh?) that slowly drains the creative energy out of you.

But don't be sad, I have some random pictures to entertain you (maybe).

So last Friday I came across this magnetic poetry thing in a bookstore, and I stood there for a couple of minutes putting together a poem. It was kind of cool.



Closer:

I also went to Friday prayers that same day, and happened upon this:

Because HEAVEN FORBID the males and females use the same stairwell!! Like, Astaghfirullah.

Then this shortly thereafter:



Not sure what to make of this poster...now when I say the phrase "halal meat," it'll never be the same :(

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Samosas!

By Rukhsana Khan

Mr. Kareem is coming today. All the kids are excited, and I can't blame them. He always brings a sadaqa for us. Today we are expecting special treats. Some people say it's because he was once an orphan too, long ago. But I think it's just because he's so kind.

Often he brings his wife. She's the fattest lady I've ever seen--she looks like a walking pillow. Or a cloud. Like she'll float away. But she's so nice. Always smiling. Her eyes shine with gentleness. Too bad she never had children. She'd be a great mother.

"Ahmad!" I sit up. The teacher, Mr. Feroz, is looking at me. "Dreaming again? What did I just say?" There's no clue on the dusty chalkboard. He could have been talking about anything. I shrug.

"Come here." I shuffle up to the front. I know what's coming. I always get it. Grab your ears. I do. "No. No. With your hands through your legs, grab your ears." I'm cramped with my arms wound through my legs, grabbing my ears. "Now stay that way."

Mr. Feroz continues the lesson. Some kids are snickering. I feel like a fool. I should be used to this position, I'm in it enough.

I wonder what Mr. Kareem will bring. I hope it's pakoras, or maybe ludoos or gelabis. Or maybe...My stomach growls so loudly everyone can hear it. Mr. Feroz scowls at me. "Ahmad! No talking."

"It wasn't me," I mumble. "It's my stomach." All the kids burst out laughing. Mr. Feroz is furious. "Get to your seat then and keep quiet."

"Yes. Sir." But I can't help wondering what the treat will be. There's never enough food here in the orphanage. My stomach's still grumbling. I give it a punch to stop. It quiets down a bit. Still an hour till lunch.

When class is finally over, we're let outside to play in the courtyard until lunch is ready. I gallop around the corner and crash right into a po belly. Looking up, I see it's Mr. Kareem. I open my mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. And, just my luck, Mr. Feroz saw the whole thing. He rushes up and grabs me by the shoulder.

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Kareem. This silly Ahmad. He never watches where he's going. Always absent-minded he is. Beg pardon." I'm so embarrassed. My face is hot. Why'd he have to tell Mr. Kareem that? Now he knows about my, and I wish he didn't.

Mr. Kareem laughs. My ears burn at the sound of it. I wish I was anywhere else. "That's all right." He says. "I used to be in a big hurry myself. Now I take my time."

He smiles at me. And it seems like he's not mad or disappointed. Which would be worse. And before I know it, I'm smiling back.

Mr. Feroz is talking. He says, "of course you can take your time now. You're a wealthy businessman. We must teach these children manners, especially Ahmad here. He's slow to learn."

Again my face is hot, and I'm embarrassed. Why does he always have to pick on me? Other kids do bad things too. How come he only sees it when I do bad things? Mr. Kareem is frowning. He must be displeased. Mr. Feroz takes him by the arm, "come sir. The superintendent would love to meet with you."

I'm forgotten. Standing there while all the other children are playing in the yard. Funny, but I don't feel like playing any more.

What if I try harder? What if I were to be good? Would they even believe me? Or would they think I'm playing another trick? If only I wasn't so bad. Then the teacher wouldn't have told Mr. Kareem all those awful things about me.

For lunch we have daal and rice. The daal is thin, the rice is sticky. But it fills me up. A little. And then it's time for Zuhr prayer.

Most of the boys only pretend to make wudu. Usually I'd be one of them, just pretending too. But today is different. I make it properly. And I hope Mr. Feroz sees my doing it. But he doesn't. I even take my time so he will look my way, but he's busy with someone else. Oh well. At least I know I made it properly.

Then we go to pray. Most of the boys are too busy nudging each other and stepping on each other's toes to concentrate on praying. And usually I do that too. I guess I really was bad. I'm starting to see the things I do wrong. But this prayer time, even though the boys beside me keep nudging and shoving, I don't shove back. I pray properly. But no one notices.

I knew it! After lunch Mr. Kareem is standing at the front of the prayer hall with a large sack. Mmm. Samosas. With meat! My favourite. There are big ones and little ones. And I'm at the end of the line. Everyone is grabbing the biggest ones they can find. Pushing and shoving. I would be too, but I'm on my best behaviour. Waiting my turn. By the time I get up there, there's only one small samosa left. Hardly a mouthful. My eyes burn. I want to dry. Being good is so hard! But I take it. I do remember my manners. I do! But before I can say thank you, that same Mr. Feroz reminds me. I want to scream, I'm so mad. But that will just get me in trouble, so I don't. I just say "Thank you Mr. Kareem."

There's a gleam in Mr. Kareem's eyes, and he smiles widely at me. "You're most welcome, Ahmad." He remembers my name! Somehow the anger is gone.

I take a big bite of the samosa and almost lose my tooth. Ow! There's something wrong. Something in my mouth. Not a bone. Metal. I fish it out. It's a gold coin! So expensive. What a grand amount it would fetch in the market place! What should I do? It must have fallen in the mixture by mistake. It must belong to Mr. Kareem. But he's so rich, would he even know it is missing?

I had promised I'd try to be good. But that was before I found this! If only I'd promised after. But I can't keep it. I need to show Mr. Feroz, show myself that I'm a good boy. Not a bad boy as he thinks I am. So I take it back up to Mr. Kareem. Tap on his arm and say he must have lost it.

Mr. Kareem looks funny. Like he wants to cry. He hugs me hard, my ears rub against a button on his vest, but it still feels good. Been so long since anyone hugged me.

He's babbling to the teacher. Saying he will adopt me. I can't believe what's happening. He said that he's been wanting to adopt a child, waiting for one who would return the money he hid in the treats. There was other money?

I can't believe it. Mr. Feroz tried to convince him to take another boy, but Mr. Kareem is firm. He refuses. He wants an honest boy. He wants me.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time to Decide

Decisions, decisions, decisions. "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." - Napolean Bonaparte.

I never thought I was an indecisive person. But when in school, I didn't have to decide on much. Maybe what courses I wanted to take, whether to apply for masters or not, what to eat for lunch, etc. Now that I'm out of school, I'm suddenly forced to become an adult when I doubt I'm ready to be one.

Sometimes I just wish someone else could make my decisions for me. (Not in the "Jesus take the wheel" way, but you know what I mean.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Choosing to Think of It

Today, ten thousand people will die
and their small replacements will bring joy
and this will make sense to someone
removed from any sense of loss.
I, too, will die a little and carry on,
doing some paperwork, driving myself
home. The sky is simply overcast,
nothing is any less than it was
yesterday or the day before. In short,
there's no reason or every reason
why I'm choosing to think of this now.
The short-lived holiness
true lovers know, making them unaccountable
except to spirit and themselves--suddenly
I want to be that insufferable and selfish,
that sharpened and tuned.
I'm going to think of what it means
to be an animal crossing a highway,
to be a human without a useful prayer
setting off on one of those journeys
we humans take. I don't expect anything
to change. I just want to be filled up
a little more with what exists,
tipped toward the laughter which understands
I'm nothing and all there is.
By evening, the promised storm
will arrive. A few in small boats
will be taken by surprise.
There will be survivors, and even they will die.
-- Stephen Dunn

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Finding a Path

Check out Calla's new photo gallery called "Finding a Path"...

Click the left-hand menu that says "documentary," then you'll find it. You might recognize some people :)

A note that I have to include: if you're going to check out some of her other photo documentaries, there are ones that include nudity, so consider yourself warned!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Let me tell you a story...

(pardon the blurry photos, these pics are taken with my phone, and I have yet to master the art of holding it still while snapping!)

Once upon a time, there was a very naughty bus. While his driver was trying to fix him, the bus decided to run away.

He ran along the road beside a train. They made funny faces at each other and raced each other. But the bus had to go on alone because the train went into a tunnel. He hurried into the city where he met a policeman who blew his whistle and shouted, "Stop, bus!"

But the naughty bus paid no attention and ran on into the country. He said, "I'm tired of going on the road," so he jumped over a fence. He met a cow who said, "moo! I can't believe me eyes!"

The bus raced down a hill. As soon as he saw there was water at the bottm, he tried to stop, but he didn't know how to put on his brakes. So he fell into the pond with a splash and stuck in the mud! When the driver found where the bus was, she telephoned for a tow truck to pull him out, and put him back on the road again.

The end.

Did you like the story? Lots of 3-5 year olds nearly die laughing when I tell them about the bus and his misdemeanors. And some of them stare at me blankly.

Okay, let me give you some context so you don't think I'm a complete nutcase. I'm doing this temporary research position that involves gauging little kids' grammar, vocab, and reading comprehension. The bus story is one of the stories we tell them to see how much they understand. So I work in two schools in the TDSB. It's pretty interesting because there are basically no white children in either of the schools. At all. Sometimes my coworkers and I will go into the playground at recess and play "spot the white kid." It's interesting for the first 30 seconds, until you realize no one can win.

Kids are great. Well most of them anyways. We give out stickers to bribe them to be good while we test them right...so one 3 year old insisted that I put a butterfly sticker on her nose. So I did. And then there are other kids who can't speak English at all. They like talking to me in their native tongues, and they repeat words over and over, thinking that I'm stupid for not understanding them. But yeah, I've come to the conclusion that kids are such interesting little human beings.

Finally, the piece de resistance. Meet Sivathepan: he licks himself beckus he is smart. Ahh, kids.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Exciting News

Today I found a cookie in the shape of a heart. If you look closely, you just might be able to see Elvis, a goat, and a lion in a boat on Lake Ontario.

Friday, September 28, 2007

stuff de duff duff duff

This Ramadan has been tough for me. For some reason it's harder to fast these days and I've been getting easily frustrated with things and people. Or rather, I've been tested in so many little ways. I always assumed that the more years you fast, the easier it gets. But it doesn't work that way.

Updates with me...working temporarily, looking for a permanent job. Taking in Ramadan, being disappointed at the lack of colour on the trees this fall, writing poetry in my mind but never getting it on a piece of paper, trying to learn how to be more patient (why is it so hard?) and grateful. And making dua that there is something better for me in the near future. It feels good to put your full trust in Someone besides yourself.

Yeah :) I will make it my objective to post something substantial soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baggy Pants Offend White Folks

I was furious when I read this article in the Toronto Star the other day. Here's an excerpt:
Proposals to ban saggy pants are starting to ride up in several places. At the extreme end, wearing pants low enough to show boxers or bare buttocks in one small Louisiana town means six months in jail and a $500 (U.S.) fine. A crackdown also is being pushed in Atlanta. And in Trenton, N.J., getting caught with your pants down may soon result in not only a fine, but a city worker assessing where your life is headed.

"Are they employed? Do they have a high school diploma? It's a wonderful way to redirect at that point," said Trenton Councillor Annette Lartigue, who is drafting a law to outlaw saggy pants. "The message is clear: We don't want to see your backside."
Besides the mind-numbing wordplay, where are human beings on the evolutionary scale when we have to fine people and throw them in prison for dressing a particular way? You think it's about decency and modesty that they're doing this? Think again. It's clear that the folks over in New Jersey feel that sagging pants are an indication of unemployment and high drop-out rates. They are also targetting only a certain population with this new law. Namely, young black men. It's no wonder that there's unemployment and school drop-out rates in a city that is so biased against the black population. Perhaps policy makers need to take a few sociology courses. Or, they could just try really hard to stop being bigots. Either option would work.

I wonder that the folks in New Jersey didn't feel the need to institute a law again females wearing mini-skirts that are so mini, they show your "backside." I was downtown today and saw a female wearing an absurdly short skirt, it was like wearing nothing. Or the numerous times girls flash their thongs or wear brutally innappropriate clothes. Why is there not a law in New Jersey about that, pray tell?

The answer is clear, because white girls may dress this way, and we wouldn't want them to end up in jail for 6 months, would we? And of course, the black men will end up in jail anyways, right? So why not just put them in ahead of time? What a contradiction. This is one of the most blatant racist laws I've seen recently. And law-makers down there are trying to justify it by assuming that males who dress this way are dangerous people. They define the clothing as "an indecent, sloppy trend that is a bad influence on children."

Heaven forbid the children want to wear low pants. What they are really teaching children in the long run is that if you're white, and in power, you can make up whatever laws you want, and not care about the impact on the affected population.

I'd rather see the kids wearing pants at their knees.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Strength in Diversity

I was at the first night of tarweeh yesterday. I was in the back and I looked at the rows of women in front of me. The Somalian women and their big hijabs and colourful clothes, the younger girls wearing basketball jerseys and hoodies, babies crawling around between the rows. And then the Imam prayed witr at the end and made dua, asking Allah to forgive us in this month and accept our fasting and prayer.

And it suddenly struck me as beautiful that throughout Ramadan, every single night, these people come out for the sole purpose of worshipping God. Next time you're in your mosque, look at the rows of people and how each of them is different. From the old men in thobes to the young thug-like teens, every shade of black, brown and white. The diversity within our community is beautiful. It just adds to the amazing spirit of Ramadan; all of us being so different, yet more alike than we sometimes care to admit :)

Ramadan Mubarak.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Halal Skittles

Muslims are obsessed with halal skittles. Whenever they're in a Muslim country they come back with skittles. Whenever their friends go to Muslim countries, they ask them to bring back skittles. Skittles this, skittles that.

Back to my point, I jumped on the bandwagon (partly because of peer-pressure) and decided to bring back some halal skittles from Egypt. (See the Arabic? That proves they're halal)

I brought some back and I gave them out to some friends, who will now apparently love me forever (or until their skittles run out). So here's the deal. I have exactly one handful (see picture) of skittles left. That means 10 packs.
Today may be your lucky day because I am now auctioning them off. Meaning, make your best offer. And I expect to hear some quality offers, like maybe your first-born son.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Worthwhile Literature

I went to the library today because I could feel a rattling sound in my brain due to lack of reading. Once I was there, I got a couple of books, but it didn't seem right. Something was missing. Then I realized I hadn't read a Garfield comic book in years. So I got a couple.

My basic conclusion is that Garfield is my hero. Please do not confuse this admiration for the comic with that of the Garfield movie, which was about as entertaining as a cute baby seal stuck in a thick layer of ice.

I'm pretty sure the laziness, sarcasm, food-addiction, etc. are the reasons I love him so much. He's basically the cat version of me. On that note, my mom told me that I remind her of Garfield. And way before that, she told me I looked like Stewie, the evil baby from Family Guy.

Oh, familial love.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

yo-yo

I can't wait for Ramadan.

In my (thus far) unsuccessful ventures to find permanent employment, I've been a yo-yo. I'm up, I'm down. I'm "man I need a job" to "maybe I can take time off and work on my writing/painting/sleeping." That second option sounds good, I know. But how long can it last?

There is something so desperate about making plans, making plans for your entire life, and then coming to a point where they're just not materializing, they are beyond your reach. And all you can do is seriously hope and pray that there is a better plan for you, even better than what you've been dreaming about.

Which is why I'm glad Ramadan is around the corner. Amidst the chaos of everything, the confusion of being, sometimes you need to clear it all out, vacuum your mind, wipe away the cobwebs (you get the metaphor), and get a new perspective on things.

Random doesn't always cut it for me. I am dying for a new perspective.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bookshelf Identity

As per Faraz's general tag, my bookshelf. Let's see what we can deduce from the random stuff here.

Exhibit A


Textbooks from school, as well as one (very out of place) Stephen King book which I have never read. I promise you I didn't buy it. It was a gift. Various writing guides, a book of super-old English plays, stuff on mental health. In the left bottom corner there are some copies of The Muslim Voice from when I was editor (vanity much, I know).

Exhibit B


My favourite textbook of all time: Deviance and Social Control. That was possibly my all-time favourite course. I realized that society does not like deviants such as myself, but that it's okay because there are people out there who understand. As well as other random texts. The Brothers Grimm complete compilation of stories (which I borrowed from the MSA office once when we were cleaning it out. Nobody knows why it was there in the first place). Let me take this opportunity to say that they were perverts. All the fairy tales you read are watered down versions of the originals.

Exhibit C


Top left corner is a bunch of AlMaghrib course packages, then there's cream, sunglasses that I never wear, a jar of seashells I picked in Egypt three years ago, old poetry books. The Muqaddimah is there somewhere, too. Have yet to make a significant dent in it yet.

So Deduce what you will. Analyze what you will. I think it's a fair representation of my interests (except that Canadian Literature book which was full of super super boring stuff. Not that I dislike Canadian literature in general).

So how well do you think my bookshelf represents me? Not that you know me, really.

Friday, August 24, 2007

♥ Canada ♥

I'm back, and it's great. I missed the quiet. I missed actually having the option of putting a seatbelt on in a car. I missed the pedestrian's right-of-way. I missed cleanliness and not being fearful of encountering large crawling things every time you venture into the outdoors (and indoors too actually). I missed fruit! Oh man, I missed fruit. Peaches and bananas and oranges and grapes that don't have flies hovering over them.

The funny thing about changing environments so fast is how you end up feeling about yourself. In Egypt, I'm practically considered irreligious. Aparently all the really dedicated Muslim women wear niqab or are on their way to doing so. But I just tended to blend in with all the other hijabi women. It was harder for me to focus on my Islamic identity there for some reason, even though you hear the athan 5 times a day and there are mosques everywhere. There's something about being in a non-Muslim country that makes me feel like I need to hang on to Islam a little tighter, that I need to be a stronger Muslim here. Someone please analyze this for me since I'm still too jetlagged to think straight.

I've decided that I love Canada. That is all. And now I am off to sleep for the next 15 hours.

PS: if anyone has a job they'd like to offer me, please feel free to do so. Thanks.

PPS: anyone wishing to phone me should realize that I no longer have a cellphone. Will likely buy one once I have more than $40 in my bank account. Bye.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Buckles and Beads

So I'm traveling back to Toronto in a couple of days. I'm looking forward to coming home. Sometimes I get so frustrated here because I don't know my way around and have to rely on other people (who are often unreliable) to take me places. That's what I most about home: my independence.

But then, being still unemployed when I get back is going to suck. Being unemployed in Egypt isn't that hard since you'd fit in with the majority of people anyways. I think I'll miss it here.

Sometimes I think it'd be okay for me to live here for longer, to get a better taste of what every-day life entails. For some reason I've been thinking about what the Sound of Music would've been like if it were made in Egypt...

Bright neon clothing and shiny gold buckles.
Bearded old men with thobes and bloody knuckles.
That scraggly grey cat and the tune that it sings.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Bad English grammer on storefronts and t-shirts.
Glittery hijabs and tight short beaded skirts.
Half pound sandwiches fit for fat kings.
These are a few of my favourite things.

When the cars smash
when the streets stink
when I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things,
and then I don't feel so bad...

So yeah, Egypt has definitely had some unforseen effects on my brain cells. I need to re-grow them and come back to Canada.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The girl is MARRIED

No, not me. My sister got married yesterday here. So far two of my sisters have gotten married in Egypt...so yeah, it's been a busy time :)

It was chaos, pure and utter chaos. We went to the mosque and found that it was packed with other people who we didn't know. They had apparently double-booked the place: 2 nikkahs at the same time. So we sat in the crowded and hot prayer area and waited for the other nikkah to be over, which took just under an hour. My sister was sitting there and saying to me "uhh can you go make sure this isn't MY nikkah going on" since we couldn't see anything due to the crowdedness of the place. People pressing up against you while you're trying to breathe in the moment, very distracting.

So the unfamiliar crowds finally dissipated and we were left with our guests, mostly family (of which we have an unspeakable amount). There we were, looking over the balcony at the men's area, pointing out our cousins, waving at random relatives, listening to our uncles making speeches before the marriage was performed. It was surreal. You know when you have to do a double take in your mind to make sure what you're seeing and hearing is actually real? That's how it was.

Then she went down to sign the contract and fingerprint it, and came back up. We watched our dad with her fiance, now husband, "giving her away." And it was really a couple of seconds and it was over, and I looked at my sister and thought, you're married now. I cried like a baby, it was pretty despicable. To make up for it, I took around 200 pictures.

So the groom's family gave out chocolate and mango juice to the Egyptian crowd. Another custom they have here is that the groom gives the bride the "shabka" which is jewelry, including a diamond ring and blah blah. So what they do is put the jewelry on a platter and walk it around the mosque for people to ooh and ahh at. My sister was irritated. We all came back to our apartment and ate cake and drank pepsi and 7-up from glass bottles.

I must have greeted at least 80 people, most of which I didn't know. And each one got three kisses (sometimes four, depending on who they were). It was interesting, watching all these people, some complete strangers congratulating my sister so sincerely. I couldn't tell if it was genuine or not. I'm pretty sure every single person who said salaam to me said "3obalik," meaning "may you be next." I was afraid. The pressure is on.

The end. Amongst all the stress and arranging stuff for the wedding, I told my sister that as long as she's married by then end of the night, nothing else matters.

Now that's the end.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A summary of why shopping in Egypt is hard...

a) hideous clothing.





b) english that gives me a headache.

c) naked, dismembered mannequins.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

If Only

Looking beyond the irritable flea and mosquito bites that are on every part of my body, the roaches as big as my face, and the general air of stinkiness, I like it in Egypt. People here are open with you. If they're angry, you'll know it. It's kind of entertaining actually when you see men getting out of their cars to argue with one another on who's right-of-way it was.

Or you know, weddings in the street with full out bands, blocking traffic. Or bearded men on motorcycles, with their niqabi wives and sometimes babies riding behind them (this entertains me to no end). There's the walking on the shore of the sea every day and watching the sun set. Everybody will talk to anybody.

Then there's the hearing the adhan 5 times a day, or more, and seeing people flock to the mosque, or pray in the streets because there isn't enough space in the mosque. And sometimes you'll find shops that close during prayer, and a sign on the door that says "we're praying." On Saturdays we attend this halaqa at the mosque for women, and there are always more than 100 women there, probably around 150 who come to listen each time. Makes me wonder about the sad halaqas I've been to in Toronto with a 4-people attendance.

My 7 year old cousin, who wears hijab now was telling me that her parents didn't want her to wear it yet. She's like, "I had to cry and scream so that they'd let me wear it." So I asked her why she wanted to wear it at all, and she replied "because it's summer, so it's going to be hot and I'll get more rewards because of the heat." There's being with your extended family and how it gives you more of a sense of identity and heritage.

This is likely why I find Egypt to be a place that's full of a culture that is so far from being indvidualistic. You can probably make this conclusion about every "back home," not only Egypt. So yes, if you look beyond the fact that you may not have hot running water, or that blackouts happen more often than you'd like, there is an enchanting quality to being among your peers, and when you've always wondered why you were a certain way, you find out.

And yet, I miss Toronto. I miss my university, Hart House Jummahs. I miss the subway, I miss MULTICULTURAL FOOD (esp somalian and Indian)!! I miss my buddies. If only, yes if only I could transport all of those things to here, I would be happy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Tactless Nation

Check out this picture. This was a huge ad in a really upscale mall that I went to. Egyptians don't know what tact means, it's hilarious. Simiarly, this is a video of some dude calling out "Bikya." He basically rides around yelling this, and he means for people to come sell him their old stuff like pots and pans, then he sells it after he fixes it up.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Egyptian Hospitality

Egyptians and food, ahh well what can I say? It's really a great wonder that Egyptians are not an obese nation. You might find a small handful of relatively fat men and women, but I have yet to see an actual obese person. Egyptians love food.

When you go over to someone's house for dinner (which by the way is around 4pm here), you should basically make sure you've starved yourself for the previous two days, or else you'll likely die of being overstuffed. We were at my mom's friend's place, and she kept putting food on our plate, despite our pained cries that we were full. Egyptians get offended when you don't eat a lot. I'm sorry, they get offended even if you do eat a lot, but aren't writhing on the floor in pain. I know we're supposed to honour our guests, but this is taking it to a whole new level...

Needless to say, I got sick after the visit, and am still getting over it.

In other news, so far I've seen a fist fight in the street, and a fire in our apartment (Alhamdulillah none of us were hurt). Also, I saw this shirt that said "your boyfriend thinks I'm hot." I did a double take at this point, like uhhh what? Are you serious? But when I came closer to the shirt, lo and behold, it actually said "your boyerend thinks I'm hot."

Nice.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Being Random in Egypt

Currently sitting in a dank internet cafe, buried in a quiet corner of Alexandria...a few unemployed men probably looking over my shoulder. I'm sorry, did I say quiet? Egypt is a zoo (I mean this in the best possible way, of course). But seriously, in the middle of the night you'll hear people yelling and fighting randomly, and the walls are paper thin, so they're basically fighting in your living room. Then there are the men selling things, walking around shouting the names of their products. And stray cats and dogs. And manure-smelling streets, etc.

But I kind of like Egypt though, it's fascinating. Not because there are all these amazing sights to be seen or the people here are super nice or anything. It's just so different, the culture is the opposite of everything you'd ever know in Canada. And the beach is a 15 minute walk from where we live, so it's pretty cool.

Anyways, so I think I know one of the reasons why I am so random. I'm going to attribute this to my being Egyptian. Let me explain.

Everything here is incredibly random. For example, you'll find that on the back window of some mini-buses or taxis, the drivers have stuck "Allah" stickers. Which is understandable. But I also saw a sticker of the face of one Che Guavara on the back of another minibus. Random much?

And everything is chaotic and yet so seamless. I've almost died several times while trying to cross the street or even walking on the sidewalk. There are no stop lights here, no driving lanes, no speed limits, nothing. It's the peak of insanity. But the people seem to accept this lack of sanity with ease, and participate in it without batting an eyelash. The logic of it all evades me.

And the athan being called everyday is pretty cool, especially when you hear several masagid at once. Yes, masaGid. And heaven forbid you ask a vendor for a "coke" instead of "coo-ca-coola." Just don't.

I would take pictures for you guys, but it's been somewhat difficult so far...because I'm afraid to take out my camera lest a) people find out we're foreigners, or b) someone feels like stealing it. But I will try to post some pictures for your entertainment sometime soon inshaAllah.

Until the next internet cafe!

Yours,

Asmaa

Sunday, June 17, 2007

8 random facts about some girl

Common Placer tagged me, so now I comply. She asks me to write eight random facts about myself. A nice change from the regular blog post topics! (I'm being sarcastic here, for those of you who can't read between the lines.) Anywho:

1. I can't have a fully serious conversation with someone, ever. There must be a joke or a pun or a weird metaphor or something thrown in there. I'm like 6 years old.

2. I hate flossing. And yet I must in order to prevent my teeth from falling out. From cavities and such.

3. You know those big sunglasses that are in style these days? Yeah, those crazy ones that cover over half your face? I bought a pair, and I'm kind of ashamed.

4. I'm allergic to mangos and strawberries and chocolate and melons and nuts. And yet I eat them all and hope for the best.

5. I attempt to be more girly these days. It's a conscious effort I make not to always wear black, and to carry hand bags instead of my backpack, and not to wear mens shirts. I'm actually quite annoyed at this whole girly thing.

6. I get so frustrated with fully-grown people who can't express themselves or who are shy to an unhealthy degree. Like, someone will say to me "Asmaa, can you ask this question for me?" or "can you get that thing from the brothers' section for me?" It's like they know that I'm so "immodest" that I'm happy to make a spectacle of myself at any point in time. Like, get a backbone and go do it yourself.

7. Wow, I'm so mean.

8. I love writing drivel on my blog. It gives me a real warm and fuzzy feeling inside to know that you just read this post for no reason. I'm evil like that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Don't let the bed bugs bite...

Okay so there is currently this monster bug in my room. It flies and it flies quickly...and it makes creepy noises. I am afraid. I am getting a couch in the living room ready for my immediate use.

Not quite sure how I'm going to deal with various flying insects and rodents in Egypt. Will probably die of heart attack while there. Good night.

EDIT: it came back last night and I had to sleep on the couch again. You people just don't understand. It was making really freaky noises...the first noise it was making sounded like a grocery bag being scrunched up. And then it was making whirring sounds. Like, wrrrrrrrr. I hate it!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lists, Lists, Lists

Besides all the lists that I'm making of stuff to take with me to Egypt, my sister's got some requests of her own. Here are some things she'd like us to bring to Egypt for her...

1. Peanut Butter. 2.5 Kilos.. you know the HUGE container. I want smooth (big one)and crunchy (small one):)
2. All Bran... as much as you can carry
3. Shampoo and conditioner (Dove)
4. Whole wheat spagetti (3 packages) (Make sure it says whole wheat, not multigrain)
5. Spagetti Sauce (Hunts Hot & Spicy, 2-3 cans)
6. Ceareal (One of Rasin Bran, Shreddies, 2 Oat squares (mapleflavour)
7. Extreme BBQ chips (2 pks)
8. Two-bite brownies (a small package)
9. Omee's carrot cake
10. Omee's baklawa (like 2 peices.. one for me and one for Marwan.. if you have it already)
11. White casual bag
Just so you know, I already bought her this bummy bag. Egyptians don't know the meaning of "bummy." They're always dressed up like they're going to a wedding, and all their handbags have buckles and gold stuff dangling from them. It's actually quite sickening. So yes, she's made me buy her a handbag. But alas, the one I bought for her is not white. And it must be WHITE.

If you spotted the spelling errors, you'll know that this is Egypt's general effect on people. When they are there, they can't speak very much sense. It's against the rules or something. In addition, it's interesting to note the things that someone in Egypt is craving from Canada. Some of the above items seems so arbitrary.

That is all for now. Carry on.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Evolutionary Revolution

Nauman of Target Theory has sadly ended his blog, but generously donated his unpublished posts to Randomly Placed. Here is one of them...

Everyone tries to better themselves to become more than they are. Then again, there may be some who don't but those individuals have little to gain from life than if they don't strive to be better. Regardless, over time, people do gain skills and become better individuals because of them. People and other creatures evolve over time to incorporate new skills into their skill-set and strengthen their ability to survive and succeed.

I've always loved turning weaknesses into strengths because I didn't want to be riddled with weaknesses. From trying to make sure that I was as intelligent as I could be to being the best that I could, I strived. Of course, it's a never-ending struggle because once a person becomes complacent, they fall prey to vulnerabilities. You simply can't give up on the pursuit of being better than you are... unless you're a shark since they haven't evolved in nearly 65 million years thanks to simply being designed from the start as vicious and timeless predators.

For every time I was told I wasn't good enough at something, I like to adopt a "prove-them-wrong" and "kill 'em all" mentality. I like to fondly remember the fight between Muhammad Ali and Ernie Terrell where Ali tortured Terrell for 15 rounds and kept yelling at him "what's my name" throughout the fight. Terrell kept calling Ali by his original name of Cassius Clay before he converted to Islam and Ali punished him for it. I find that whole situation motivating since Ali made a fool out of Terrell for essentially underestimating him and putting Ali down verbally and Ali did it in a very effective manner. Suffice to say, I don't plan to yell that to anyone but I do love the mentality there... it's an evolutionary revolution.

"Free thinkers are dangerous..."
-System of a Down (Mind)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

We'll be Comin' 'Round the Nile

So.

I'm leaving to Egypt in 12 days inshaAllah, June 18 until August 22nd. We're staying in Alexandria for the most part, and I'm super excited to see my sister again after a year. My plans for this blog aren't quite set yet, but I'm hoping to update pretty frequently with the crazy quirks of Egypt as my inspiration.

My aim is to take pictures in Egypt of all the images in this poem and post them here, for your entertainment :D

Besides that, I've never been out of Canada for this long before, so it'll be an interesting experience. I'm not really sure whether it'll be a positive or a negative one, but we shall soon find out. Until I leave, you will no doubt be:

a) mourning my departure.
b) hearing about my numerous annoyances with packing and planning and such.
c) no longer mourning my departure. ♥

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Reality of Love

I posted something a few days ago outlining my aversion to reality, to the news, to bad news in particular. But I really felt ashamed, so I took it down. But now I see that it really matters. I know most of you are confused and don't know what I'm talking about. So for those who didn't see it, I wrote:
"A few years ago I used to be completely obsessed with the news. I'd have to read at least the entire front section of the Toronto Star every day--without it, my day was incomplete. And I would really care about things, I would get worked up about the inequalities in this world. I would get angry at the bigotry of journalists.

And then I stopped wanting to know.

Because I absorb. If I opened up to the sad things in this world, they would engulf me, overtake me. They would render me a meaningless object of time that has been strewn into the extreme chaos of life."
I was thinking about this problem and I realized that it has everything to do with selfishness. I need to conserve love, like I don't have enough to go around. To quote the prince in Ever After: "I used to think that if I cared about one thing, I would have to care about everything, and I'd go stark-raving mad." But this is a twisted selfishness, because without loving other people, without sharing yourself and what you have, you can't love and respect yourself. So by being selfish, you're really taking away that potential for a greater love within yourself, towards yourself.

I went to a lecture last night where the speaker said we have to learn to love better. Some say that love is naturally instilled in us and somewhat chaotic. Isn't love something beyond reason and logic? So how can we love better when love is out of our control? To love yourself and others with something, some power that is not superficial. Some power that is not controlled by money.

Love. Don't we know that love is not a fancy or a fleeting attraction, it's a whole-life devotion to something beyond the physical sphere of living. It's not only something you do with your limbs, it's something you do with your heart. And you might disagree with me, but I find the only way to love better, is to first find that love in God, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. To truly know, to have the knowlege of His Love and what that love really means. One of God's Names is Al-Wadud, The Loving One: "And He is the Forgiving, the Loving" (Al-Burooj, 14).

He gave us the capacity to love. Allah is The One who loves better. Allah loves best. And the only way for me to also love better is to seek and know His love first.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Black Sheep

So apparently, this isn't actually a joke. I can see it now, the next hit horror movie: Attack of the Killer Meatballs II. What has this world become...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

too bad

Some random youtube video I came across: SNIP. You either saw it, or you didn't and it sucks to be you.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Let's drink ourselves into stupour!! Hey Muz, you in?

Perspection is now officially a word.

In other news, what's with people inviting me to clubs and/or drink-fests? I seriously don't understand how my non-Muslim classmates can look at me and say "hey, you want to meet up and go clubbing?" Okay so basically you are asking me to...


(I had to put the X over it, to emphasize that this is not my ideal state--understatement of the year, no doubt.) Look, I can understand the situation if I was a male since I may be less identifiably Muslim. But I'm a fully-clad hijabi woman (I make this sound as though I live in a barrel, which I assure you, I do not).

Anyways, I'm sure it's just out of ignorance and misinformation. But then again, don't all people know that Muslims don't eat pork or drink alcohol? Ironically, people tend to know these two facts about Islam and little else. And anyways, I look way happier here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's with me and google anyways?

Again, googled my name under images, and found this (I assure you this isn't me):

I have no idea why I find this humourous, but I do.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Trouble with Muslims

Yes, how often we've heard about the so-called troubles with Islam, and the need to reform and modernize ourselves to suit the New World. We've seen the various struggles between traditional Muslims (classified as extremists by some), and the modernists who want to shun everything that doesn't appeal to them in Islam, which is almost everything.

But what is the problem with Muslims? I mean, you have to admit that there is some problem, right? Why else would we all be (violently) bickering amongst ourselves and be portrayed by outsiders as thobe-wearing, beard-growing, burqa'd fanatics weilding guns? I mean, what is lacking in Muslims that we've allowed ourselves to be distorted and completely bent out of shape in the eyes of so many people?

I have a theory (I tend to have many unsubstantiated theories, but this one makes a little more sense). This theory can adequately be summarized by this article about religious enforcement, so to speak, in Tehran. My favourite part of the article is:
Police are cracking down on barbers giving Western-style haircuts and shop owners wearing T-shirts with English slogans. They are looking for women wearing headscarves that are too small or colourful.

Authorities also recently announced they would filter mobile-phone messages that they deem to be "immoral."
Look at us. Look at what Muslims are doing. Don't tell me that the biggest problem that Muslims in Tehran have is women who wear colourful hijabs or men who have western haircuts (and by the way, what does a "western haircut" even mean?). I'm not picking on Iran here, I just happened to come across this article today. These things happens in various "Muslim" countries all over the world.

So getting back to my theory that is illustrated by the above example: Muslims have lost a sense of what the essence of Islam is. And if we don't even know the essence of Islam, why do we expect non-Muslims to respect what we believe? We don't know what we believe or why.

Last time I checked, Islam wasn't about forcing women to wear black or men to wear their hair in a certain way. Rather, it's about devotion to God. And through that devotion, being a good person, I mean really good, not just having the appearance of being good. It's about being kind to your family and neighbours, serving the needy in your community, and wishing the best for your fellow man. Where along our path have we forgotten this?

Muslims are so caught up in images. Like, making sure that women dress just so. But this is only because we are so afraid that if we didn't uphold the image, everything would fall apart because of its superficiality. Think about it, if a woman in a pink hijab upsets the balance of an "Islamic state," what kind of confidence and basis does that state have? Insecurity causes people to do strange and unnatural things.

The Qur'an repeatedly issues statements such as, "those who believe and do good deeds, We will admit them to gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow, lasting in them forever" (Qur'an, 4:57). It always says those who believe and do good deeds. Islam was never about just doing good deeds, it was always about the sincerity of belief that is the cause of the good deed. And yet we've lost the core, the sincerity, but held on with our teeth to superficial goodness.

What's the point?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

my teeny bopper days, unveiled

I googled my name a few months ago and I came upon something that was quite disturbing: a poem that I posted on a public forum when I was 15 years old. I don't even remember what it was about, most likely an emo response to some crush or another. ICK. When I read it, I wanted to cry and laugh all at once.

Although this is quite embarrassing, I figured I'd just embrace it and accept the humiliating consequences. Enjoy!

You left me broken and bruised,
Without a single word.
Yeah, I felt completely used
And trapped in a cage like a bird.

I searched for you everywhere
But couldn’t find where you were hiding.
This pain I could never bear
Because you, I would never be finding.

You ran away without looking back,
Without one single tear to shed.
Now my love is empty and black
And upon nothing is it fed.

This tear streaming down my cheek,
What exactly does it mean?
From my eyes, tears often leak
Always showing where I’ve been.

I made the mistake of letting you go-
You left without hesitation.
And now when my tears do flow
All I gotta do is have patience.

Friday, May 04, 2007

It's a Long Way to the Top

I remember when I first went to school. I was 3 years old and my dad drove me to school, at which point I panicked and wept, and vomitted, and wept some more. But my dad had to go to work, so I was left there with people I didn't know. I remember sitting in my cubbyhole, not joining the other kids when they were playing. I would regularly sneak out of my classroom when the teacher wasn't looking and go to my sister's class (she was in grade 2 then) and stand at the door until she made me go back.

18 years of school later, how have I changed? (You know, I would still prefer to sit in a cubbyhole than with people I don't know.) And what a strange journey it has been--the most amazing memories, and the most degrading and painful ones, all wrapped up in a little thing we like to call education. And how impatient I have been to be done with "education" and start making a difference in the world instead.

It's interesting what we learn in these years, and how we grow. I understand now that education isn't just about getting A's and building yourself a future. And even if it was, I'm seemingly at the end of this building project, with little more than a mud hut. But no, this is not what education is about.

Learning is a spiritual journey as much as it is one of the mind. So often do we try and try, and fail. But then we learn to deal with failures, and to brush ourselves off, start afresh. Such is the soul--a consistent failure until we brush it off and start again, and again, and again. The soul is about sleepless nights, about regret that you didn't push yourself a little harder for a little while longer. It's about writing yourself in the history books of others, and learning to read those histories for what they really are. It's about learning that you have to do your best and then put your trust in God.

I suppose in the end, education is really meant to teach you the futility of itself! Because what is education, really, without any kind of higher purpose or enlightenment? What is an education that doesn't make you a better person to be around? The way I see it, formal education just highlights the other experiences you have growing up.

With all this in mind, it is so scary to actually be moving on to something new and different. All I've known is school, a place where you are under the control of another person. Now I have to take control of the wheel of my life. And to be honest, I don't know how well of a driver I will make.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

While I'm contemplating my next post about the end of being a student, and subsequent feelings of inadequacy, you may visit this blog. It's made up of a group of Muslim women, including myself, trying to find meaning in creative writing. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

From Egypt, with Love

My dad and sister came home today from their 3-week visit to Egypt. So they brought gifts for us and all sorts of interesting things. Amongst these interesting things are the following pictures...

These are the pyramids from the airplane:

The view from their window at the hotel in Cairo, this is the nile:

Some weird art in their hotel room (clearly, my sister's hand does not approve):

A man reading Qur'an on the Mediterranean:

The Mediterranean at sunset:

A view of the seashore at night:

Stanley Bridge that overlooks the Mediterranean:

The streets of Alexandria, you have to love the donkey carts:

All the food stuff we sent to my other sister in Egypt, as per her request:

Enjoy some mango or guava juice.

Some crazy deathly desserts:

More death by ice cream:

Some fruit thing that looks awesome. It cost 5 pounds, which is equal to a Canadian dollar, yum:

And, my all time favourite, a shirt they found while shopping (hey, every day is worlo love day at!):

And for all my special and valued blog readers, a wink from my cousin: