Archive for December, 2010

Jerusalem

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the most spiritual, mysterious and exotic places in the world: Jerusalem. Its name conjures up images of enchanted tales and rich history and tradition. “Islam’s second holiest site” is the pseudonym it typically goes by in Islamic circles. Serving as the cornerstone and holiest city for the Abrahamic faiths, even images of the landscape evoke deep religious sentiments amongst the people of the book. It goes without saying, then, that I was intrigued and excited by the prospect of exploring its ancient corridors during a recent business trip to the West Bank.

The old city of Jerusalem consists of 4 quarters: the Christian, the Jewish, the Muslim and the Armenian. A taxi dropped my colleagues and I off at the old city at the mouth of “Jaffa Gate”, the entrance to the Christian and Armenian quarters. We began our journey by first entering the Armenian quarter which was very reminiscent of the old city streets in Western Europe with its very clean, charming and narrow streets. We found ourselves engulfed by a wave of Italian and Indian tourist groups enroute to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where we unexpectedly ended up. The courtyard of the Holy Sepulcher was just as I had imagined it: cobblestoned, quaint and inviting. Incredibly, I was able to waltz right in. In fact, I could reach my arm out and touch the encasing of the shroud believed to have once wrapped the body of Jesus. And even more incredible, I could visit the very tomb housed within the church, which, according to Christian tradition, is where Jesus rose and ascended to heaven. I looked around, puzzled; there was no security and everyone was welcome in. I closed my eyes, said a prayer in front of the tomb and felt at peace in my surroundings. Soon after, the mobs of religious worshippers started to gain momentum. After finally fighting our way through the sea of Spanish, Indian and Nigerian pilgrims we found the exit and pushed onward towards the path leading to the Jewish quarters. Read the rest of this entry →

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31

12 2010

The Tricky Hijab Question

Recently, another argument (I guess you could call it a discussion) about hijab has come up. The issue resurfaces every once in a while when something shocking happens or when someone has a new thought about the topic.

An article appeared on altmuslimah in response to this article in The Guardian.

As a woman who wears hijab, I must say I agree with The Guardian writer. He writes about a trend in Egypt of young girls wearing hijab, which he says sexualizes them. The Altmuslimah article argues that this is an oversimplified view, but I do think it brings up some relevant points.

It worries me when someone prior to puberty starts wearing hijab or is told to wear it by either their schools or parents. I understand when they are praying or reading Quran, but it’s disturbing to me in an everyday context. I think it does sexualize young girls unnecessarily because that is the point of wearing hijab: To cover up modestly after you have reached puberty. There’s no point in subscribing that to someone who hasn’t reached that age of maturity yet.

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27

12 2010

When Speakers become Superstars

Most of us would condemn the crazy glitzy lifestyle of young athletes who hit stardom at an early age. They have adoring fans and people waiting on them hand and foot. They have an air of luxury – that seems more of their image than their actual talents.

Unfortunately some of our speakers are also heading toward this path. There are speakers who only travel in “first class,” or who request that they arrive at a gathering just when the speech should start because they don’t care much for mingling with the “common folk.”

I wish I could be wrong about these people but I am not. These stories have been verified by trustworthy people and sadly I am also witness to some of these accounts. Read the rest of this entry →

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19

12 2010

Anti-Semitism is a Scrambled Egg

…except not as tasty…at least not when you are the one getting scrambled.

I am involved with Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul University which has been getting some press recently due to our campaign against the not-so-tasty Sabra Hummus sold in our school dining quarters[1]. The boycott campaign started because “[t]he Strauss Group [a parent company of Sabra] maintains a direct material relationship with the Israeli military, particularly providing two elite Israeli brigades with financial support and care packages”[2] (see more in our Public Statement in the footnote). At the moment the Fair Business Practices Committee is analyzing DePaul’s relationship with Sabra and deciding whether or not it is in line with DePaul University’s stated values. So, what does this have to do with anti-Semitism?

As should be expected, our friends at Hillel objected to the campaign, especially because DePaul’s dining services temporarily removed the hummus from shelves[3]. That is all fine and dandy, they are entitled to their opinion and their own political activism (at least they care about something…right?…eh, maybe not). They decided to plug their statement to the university and to the Fair Business Practices Committee. It included this:

“However, by improperly restating the parameters of this conflict to one of human rights it puts SJP into a position to allow its agenda to influence the environment on the DePaul campus to the point where it successfully secured the school’s Dining Services to remove Sabra hummus. It is this environment that bodes ominously for our school’s future for Jewish students and genuine dialogue between Jews and Muslims.”[4]

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11

12 2010

Women in the Masjid

I’ve long heard of this NPR story about the female Imams in China, and I was finally able to read through it.

It’s heartening to see that women are taking such a strong control of their religion in China. Female imams are leading women-only masjids in the Eastern society, becoming responsible for the education of young girls.
The institutions are run independently, solely by women.

In fact, the centuries-old tradition began in China so that girls could learn to read the Quran.  One of the women quoted in the story, Tang Guiying, who is now 83, said that the women’s masjids were the only places where girls could receive an education. It’s amazing to think that Islam was so intent on moving ideas forward so long ago, but those same ideas have been diluted. Now, fanatics use the religion to deny young girls education. Read the rest of this entry →

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08

12 2010

American Birthing: Part II

Approximately one in three women in the United States who give birth this year will end up with a major abdominal surgery.  The caesarian section (c-section) will leave many women with outcomes that are often not disclosed to them before, during, or after their pregnancy.  Some of these outcomes include (but are not limited to not limited to) hemorrhage, infection, decreased fertility, difficulty with breastfeeding, complications with future pregnancies, reduced early contact with baby, longer hospital stay, increased pain, and long recovery (1).

In a previous article, I discussed the model of birthing in The Netherlands where midwives possess most of the power and influence in obstetrics and one-third of women give birth in their homes.  The basic premise of birthing as a natural process seems to be a foreign concept to many Americans.  Our hospitals are deliberately modeled to promote unnecessary and often risky interventions to the birthing woman and her baby.  Fetal monitors limit movement and are often inaccurate, IV fluids provide women with little control over their own body’s cues, epidurals numb the body and increase the risk of other harmful interventions, and artificial oxytocin (i.e., pitocin) leave women with contractions that are extremely painful and difficult to bear.  Women are often pressured to have the baby within a certain time frame, otherwise, they are threatened with interventions due to “failure to progress.”  Then, because women are connected to machines, their mobility is restricted, and they are forced to lie down on their backs to give birth.  This position is not only the most painful position in which to give birth, but it is also the most ineffective and restrictive to oxygen and blood flow (2). Read the rest of this entry →

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04

12 2010

On Critically Reading the Wikileaks

By Ali A.

Only a small proportion of the announced documents have been released so far by the Wikileaks. As such it is a bit early to suggest anything conclusively on the value of these documents and their impact. While following the release, a few tentative thoughts came to mind that I want to share here in the interest of starting a constructive discussion. The examples I mention below are not from the Wikileaks, but they are close to some of the released bits I have seen. The purpose here is not to analyze specific cables but to elaborate a critical perspective for reading these leaks.

Rarely do diplomats speak out their minds and hearts in candid terms. The most sensitive information is almost always communicated in person, not over digital lines or mails. Therefore, one needs to think about not only what was said in these cables but also what was not said.

Even for communications over digital lines and mails, on important issues the US diplomats and other government officials usually use plain but coded language. The person sitting on the other end has to decipher the language and read between the lines. The dots can be hard to connect for an outsider, who may understand no more than just the apparent meaning of a leaked text. However, the added layers can be uncovered by placing such texts in the context of the politics and interests of the involved political players.

A person’s perspective matters a lot for this reason. For example, a leak could suggest that, “Iran is a threat to regional stability and the Arab nations fear its nuclear capabilities.” Now, this message may mean one thing to a devoted FOX News follower and another to the one critical of the American hegemonic ambitions and support to the status-quo regimes of the Middle East. Hence, the interpretation and value of such a statement depends on the perspective with which people judge it and how critically informed are those perspectives.
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01

12 2010