Archive for September, 2010

On Raising Children in the West: Reflections of a Muslim Mother

My mom often tells me that she thinks raising children is getting harder with each generation.  She is horrified by how different my generation is from hers.  As societies become more individualized and stress the importance of the nuclear family over collective styles of living, we face unique issues that previous generations dealt with in a different way.  There are problems of drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and violence that plague our schools and youth today.  These modern crises seem to be affecting children at a progressively younger age.

As new Muslim parents, my husband and I often discuss the problems we will encounter when trying to raise our daughter.  All of the issues of violence and the overt sexualization of youth are on our minds, yet we also face the complexity of being a minority in America; a much hated minority in many parts of the country.  I personally embrace my identity as a Muslim in America, but I also acknowledge that it is becoming more difficult for Muslims to do so with every passing day.  Hate crimes are on the rise in American culture and there is a pervasive feeling of Muslims being the “Other” in mainstream society.

I know my daughter right now has no way of understanding that her parents are “different”.  Once she begins to realize that her Muslim identity sets her apart from her peers, what are the developmentally appropriate methods of helping her to embrace her identity from an early age?  How can I teach her to be proud of who she is while still accepting other people’s life choices?  How can I hold her to Islamic moral standards while helping her to understand that she can not be judgmental of others?
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28

09 2010

Islam and Consumerism III: Those Who Mold

This should have been a preliminary article but I feel that it is necessary before continuing the series. We should keep in mind that this theorizing on Islam’s purpose and its ethical imperative toward consumerism and the ills and repercussions of such a worldview—including alienation, oppression, and complacency— demands action. It is not a luxury to be able to “wax philosophical” about the implications of a highly individualistic society that encourages people to fulfill their individual, base desires. Rather, it is a duty that demands a constructive, ambitious plan to effectively change the “reality on  the ground”—to be those who mold.
“What has been put asunder shall again be whole”

At every waking moment an act which defies man’s great status is committed. These acts occur at every level of reality: from the low depths of one’s soul where evil inclinations arise to the high altitudes where the “developed world’s” bombs descend onto innocent civilians in Afghanistan and other war-torn parts of the Third World. If one leaves their cyber-life on Facebook and walks outside with open eyes, opens a book, or reads a newspaper this will all be utterly apparent.

On the other hand there are those who mold—the thinkers and activists who feel empathy, mercy for those who suffer or experience suffering directly. Few and far in between, they struggle and challenge the status quo. They seek to “reveal and expose the underlying causes of the wreckage piling” at mankind’s feet—wreckage created by all of us as a human community.
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25

09 2010

A Woman is a Woman’s Worst Enemy

If you’re a fan of “Mad Men,” then you’ll know this past week illustrated the early struggles of feminism. Joan, part of the old guard of working women from the ‘40s and ‘50s, finds that the young men in the office don’t respond to her va-va-voom style the same way that the older generation did. She goes about her old, more subtle way of punishing a young employee who is disrespectful to her, but the results aren’t materializing. Peggy, the 20-something face of the ‘60s workplace, takes matters into her own hands and fires the employee. Both get the results they want, but Joan isn’t too happy that she needed to be “rescued” by this new generation and Peggy is confused as to why her way of doing things aren’t satisfying to her older counterpart.

I see the same scenario play out in masjids all the time. There’s a struggle between the old guard of Muslim women and the new generation. One issue that is constantly coming up is the idea of a partition between the men and women’s sections of prayer. Despite which side you’re on in this argument, it’s a contentious one. Neither side wants to compromise, and both think they’re right.  The sides are usually split between older women – who think it’s right to have a partition – and a younger group, who don’t want to be separated from the goings-on at the mosque.

The same idea comes up with the discussion of hijab. I can say from my own experience, and from what I’ve heard from many friends, that most of the people who’ve objected to us covering our hair are Muslims. I’ve had maybe one or two confrontations with non-Muslims who have issues with hijab, but most of the objections I’ve heard are from Muslim women. There are those who think I’m limiting myself and representing Islam as repressive. On the other end, there are those who think I should do more to cover my body.

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21

09 2010

Islam in America I: The American Indian

After proper analysis, we realize that the theory of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” is based on false assumptions and preconceived notions that pander to those that seek deliberate confrontation. The theory or idea is further exploited in mainstream media coverage in current domestic and foreign affairs. It transforms itself as a tool to demean and degrade Muslims and Islam. On the contrary, a thorough analysis of the history of America in relation to Islam and Muslims totally debunks this idea.

Trying to undermine the historical narrative of Islam and Muslims in this country will only lead to further confusion, animosity, and fear of the “other”. We must ask ourselves, is Islamic culture really a separate entity from American culture, a culture of multiplicity? The idea that Muslims are foreign to America is a bogus idea promoted mostly by orientalists that are set on degrading Islam and Muslims as a monolithic population that originated and stayed in the East up until recently. Nevertheless, as we are living in the “information age” this idea is naturally fading away.

These series of posts will look at how Muslims and Islam influenced the American narrative from the Native American era to recent times. We will look at different periods of times, social movements, and essentially how Muslims played a major role in shaping the America we live in today. This is not to deny that there were other distinct cultures that influenced native and recent American culture, but to claim that Muslims were totally alien to America is either a deceptive or a misinformed belief, hopefully the latter.

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18

09 2010

Pakistan is Drowning – A Personal Account

Emirates flight from Dubai to Islamabad is uneventful but delayed, typical Emirates style; the pilot wakes up 15 minutes after scheduled departure, tells us how sorry he is and blames late arrival of this aircraft for the delay. As if I care; you are late, period, I don’t care an ant’s ass why; save me the sob story. Would Emirates care if I told them I am late checking in because my driver was delayed picking me up? The food served on board is so bad, my neighbor takes one bite of his chicken korma, makes a face, hurriedly covers his tray, pulls a blanket over his face and is fast asleep in about two minutes; lucky guy. I eat the salad and bread, for I am hungry, this is my iftaar and sleep afterwards is impossible. There is commotion on board after we land, people are on their feet, emptying overhead cabins before the aircraft comes to a full stop; cabin crew franticly force them to cease, but my fellow passengers are in a hurry, they ignore pleas to sit down; the crew give up.

A strikingly young attractive lady immigration officer, scanning through my passport wants to know why I go to Afghanistan so much; I explain I am an aid worker building schools and taking care of orphans, widows there. A sad look clouds her pretty face and says in very heavy accented Pinglish, they kill you American, be careful, no? Some Pakistanis too, I want to add but bite my tongue instead. She waves me towards a desk where I am to apply for visa on arrival. I leave her reluctantly; not sure why, maybe a feeling of shared camaraderie between us in the few seconds of our interaction.
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14

09 2010

The War on Logic

Recently the author of the “LSAT Blog” posted an entry in regard to the controversy surrounding Park51 in New York City. In it he used the arguments put forth by the opponents of the construction of Park51 near ground zero as a teaching tool for identifying logical fallacies. In reading this lesson, it struck me just how useful teaching formal logic to all American citizens (and not just attorneys) would be. While many wars have been fought over the past decade, one that is rarely discussed is the war being waged on logic.

With the advent of the Internet, social media and cell phones, information is more readily available today than any other time in human history. Due to this, our society has the potential to reach greater intellectual heights than ever before. However, that status will never be reached unless we are able to distinguish the truth from what simply looks like the truth. Without possessing the requisite analytical tools to distinguish between the two, namely, knowledge of formal logic, we do not stand a chance. Due to the variety of perspectives in society, a real understanding of logic, whether through formal education or a google search, is perhaps the most necessary tool for a 21st century citizen to posses.
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12

09 2010

Glenn Beck Rally

As I walked, I looked for different faces—for faces that stood out, that embodied the dream of a diverse and inclusive America.

1
It was nothing more than morbid curiosity that drew us to Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor to America” rally last week.

2
It was a bright, sunny day in the nation’s capital. It was hot. I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd, but I was wrong; the National Mall was packed. I’ve been on the Mall for many rallies and events –and this was one of the largest I’ve seen.

3, 5,6, 7
We had already missed Sarah Palin’s speech.

8,9
But decided to work our way through the crowd to a) see if it was really as packed as it seemed and b) to get closer to the stage “two flights down” from where MLK made his historic speech.

10
Most rallies I’ve been to and/or organized have been packed with the young, the idealistic. This was a different demographic – older, with more responsibility and more anger, more distrust.

11, 12, 13, 14
The signs were also not as original or as creative as I’ve come to expect from rallies. There were a lot of “ChristenNationNow.com” shirts. Lots of “Honor, Faith, Charity” shirts that had George Washington’s face on them. Lot’s of mocks of Benjamin Franklin’s famous “Join or Die” political cartoon.

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07

09 2010

Islam and Consumerism II: A Muslim Affluenza?

A Muslim Affluenza?

Affluenza

In my last blog entry, I mentioned that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consumerism as:  “the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable; also: a preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods”[1]. I would like to add another definition to the mix: “affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”[2].

Affluenza is a play on the two words affluence and influenza. It symbolizes the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses”—matching (or exceeding) the same level of material wealth (affluence) and status as your neighbors, co-workers, friends, etc.—but frames it as an illness, a virus. It is the title of both a television documentary and a book that challenge our materialistically-inclined society. In fact, it can be said that we spend (sometimes until we are in massive debt) to feel a quick, fleeting happiness in purchasing a new item.

This condition crosses lines of status, race and religion. The religious perspective, however, is what I am interested in exploring further. More particularly, how does Islam view this conception of life?

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02

09 2010