Saturday, August 28, 2010

Things I cherish about Ramadhan

Each Ramadhan presents a chance for any muslim to better their iman. The other day my friend, Julia, asked me what it is that makes me nostalgic for Ramadhan and I listed a bunch of things. I like the fact that the family as unit eat iftar together and pray together. I like the fact that in Kenya we sent an assortment plate of food to all our neighbours and it came back laden with their dishes. I like the fact that everyone is respectful, contemplative and mindful of their actions. In Mombasa the streets would be packed with people selling iftar that even when iftar finds you enroute to your home you can find dates and coffee a step away, but most of all its the Quran hafiz competitions that makes my heart yearn for my childhood home.

The competition, these days is more organized and is held in Makadara with contestants coming from all over the world. The prize this year is a trip to Hajj. I wish the best to all the contestants and Mashallah may Allah reward their knowledge and skill. Below is a clip of the ongoing competition which will conclude tomorrow. Enjoy.

PS:- I have been meaning to post about a Surah this Ramadhan and I already picked it and researched it but I haven't been able to sit down and write about it. Inshallah I hope to have it up for Laylatul Qadr. Remember that these last ten days Allah SWT forgives his believers. May all our sins be forgiven Inshallah. Ameen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Creating the divide between Americans and American Muslims

Watching the news media in the past few weeks I have felt exceedingly alienated with each day. I didn't realize what effect all this negative propaganda had on me till I was sitting at work and a news item about the Cordoba center came on. I suddenly found myself feeling self conscious and I looked around at the people sitting at the tables. I tried to catch their eyes and read their thoughts. To see if they regarded me as an 'other' and all I was met with were eyes that looked passive. I steeled my heart because I realized that all over America people might be watching the same channel, and perhaps their eyes were as passive as the ones around me.

On 9/11, I was on campus drinking my coffee and catching up on notes when I saw the first images of the towers going down. It was shocking and I remember saying a quick prayer to God for mercy on all the souls that were going to be touched by this tragedy. The next day I got text messages about not coming to school because of fear. I remember my mother asking me to stay home but I was so sure of this country, my country. Apart from some odd stares here and there I didn't feel any fear at all. So tell me why the other day as I was driving with my window down and listening to Quran I felt fear creep into my heart when I stopped at a red light. I noticed an eerie silence and I chanced a look to my left. A man was staring intently at me. I smiled at him and he didn't return the smile and kept staring daggers at me. I looked back to the road and tried to shake the creepy feeling off me.

My tale is not singular in essence. The illusion of the 'other' in American history has led to certain minorities being persecuted i.e. Japanese, Jews, Blacks. The foolhardy, short sighted plan of the political candidates as well as cultural leaders is slowly unfurling the very fabric of the pluralistic and tolerant society that is United States. Scapegoating Muslims and Islam for political capital has long lasting effects that feeds off the fear of some Americans. I am as American as the next person. My religion is a personal choice that is protected by the constitution. Do not marginalize the American Muslims, who are contributing members of society, for the sins of the few. Division in society has never led to prosperity and I should know for Somalia has been mired in war for 20+ years due to divisions.

This is not only about the Cordoba Center anymore, this is about standing up for values that are intrinsically American; freedom, democracy, religion, acceptance, diversity, loyalty etc.  As a society that shares these common beliefs, I implore you to live out the motto "E Pluribus Unum" {Out of Many One}.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ramadhan and Muslims

First off Ramadhan Kareem and Saum Maqbul to my beloved readers.

Today as I was sitting in contemplation during my lunch hour, something on TV caught my attention. It was a story of a muslim woman suing Disney because they wouldn't allow her to work with her hijab on, at least not while she was hosting. According to the report Disney told the woman that she is allowed to dorn her Hijab in the back but when she was interacting with Disney guests she had to remove it. A minute later former Mayor of New York Rudy was on the tube talking about the Cordoba Mosque.

I am not sure how to feel about Islam in the media lately. Personally I can understand the stance Cordoba Institute is taking regarding the planned construction but I feel that perhaps in the interest of peace they should just find another site to build their center. Its apparently is a hot issue for some New Yorkers and now its gaining national momentum.  A house of worship shouldn't stir such hateful sentiments and if it does then its better to rethink the decision.

As for muslims in general I feel like we have invited this type of attention and phobia to ourselves by secluding ourselves. The muslim communities/families around where I live stick to their own kind and never branch out into the community or society. In America we enjoy the freedom to practice our religion how we want to but we have isolated ourselves and our communities by being so close knit. Perhaps if we talked to John down the street he might come around to ask why we fast during Ramadhan or why Samira wears a hijab.

We need to intergrate ourselves into our communities like taking part in national night out or the local fair. Thats my humble opinion and I pray each day that USA doesn't become like Europe and strip away some of the freedoms we enjoy. Education is the key here and I hope we all do something to better the situation instead of making it worse.