Thursday, December 30, 2010

Multiculturalism and Me

This a short-and-sweet "introductory" piece I wrote that may be published somewhere. That might work out or not, but I figured it shouldn't matter if I posted it here for people's feedback :)

* * *

It's true that coming from a multicultural background, as I do, makes you feel sometimes that you have no real place to call home. You don't fully belong to any one country, and there always seem to be pesky hyphens in however you self-identify. Saudi, American, Palestinian… I don't know which to ascribe to myself. More often than not, my answer to the question "Where are you from?" depends on who I'm talking to and where.

I live in an Arab country, Saudi Arabia, and I was born in an Arab country, Egypt; but my pale skin and somewhat accented Arabic never fail to arouse the curiosity of strangers, and the answer "Oh, I'm from Saudi" doesn't satisfy. (Unfortunately for me, Arabs are notoriously curious.) On occasion I have given a painfully condensed tale of my tangled lineage to people I've never met before and never will again in tram stations, in hospitals, and even on the street sometimes.

In America, it's my headscarf that gets the attention. I'm not automatically assumed to be foreign, but once it's established that I don't actually live in the States, the question "Where are you from?" tends to make me a nervous wreck. I always answer as breezily as I can, and I've never gotten what you'd call a bad reaction – usually people are quite nice and inquisitive about it – but Saudi Arabia, to put it lightly, is not often seen to be a very nice place to come from!

However, I'm not complaining. I always think the advantages of being multicultural far outweigh the disadvantages.

For one, it gives you a kind of 'oomph' factor. Once you've gotten over the "She's gotta be oppressed" hurdle from Americans, I usually get reactions like "Wow, that's near Dubai, right?" (For all the good publicity it's given to the Middle East, I personally owe the UAE). Stereotypes must be shattered in the meantime: it's kind of funny and sad at once that there are things I have to say like "No, I don't live in a tent," "No, I don't ride a camel to school," "YES, I go to school, girls are allowed!" But I am glad to say them.

In Saudi Arabia and most Arab countries, contrary to popular opinion, being an American is actually a source of wide-eyed amazement, even envy. The technological advancement of Western countries (Western soap operas aired on Arab TV must also get their proper due here) is mostly seen as something to be aspired for and looked up to. People love American culture and the only problem I usually get is the incessant questions that follow, things like "Ooh, you've actually been there? What's it like? Speak some English for us!"

Which brings me to the second advantage of bring multicultural: I love that I'm bilingual.

Witnessing the struggles of my fellow classmates in English class has given me a renewed appreciation for my parents' efforts to make me proficient in both Arabic and English. In this age of globalization – the age of English! – it's an invaluable tool to have, and guess what? I got it for free, along with countless other children from multicultural families who have had to learn both of their mother tongues.

Finally, it gives you a singular vantage point: two of them. Based on your own experience, you learn that there is more than one side to every conflict; that your opinion might not necessarily be the right one; that there is much to gain and little to lose from befriending your neighbor.
And that, in my opinion, is basically the essential conclusion of the Age of Globalization right there.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Islam and Violence (2): If You're Telling The Truth, Why Are Muslims Violent In The First Place?

Greetings and peace to everybody!

I don't think my previous post, and what it entailed, is enough in explaining why the core and truth of Islam is one of peace.

Listing down violent-sounding verses in the Qur'an, and detailing why they're actually not, is all very well. However, how does that resolve the question of "Why are Muslims violent anyway?" Sure, they may not supposed to be - but they ARE. Ha! says the New "Expert" on Islam: Explain that!

Today I will attempt to post the summation of my theory on that topic. I'll try to keep it short and concise as possible, which may be difficult because I haven't actually put it in words before, but I'll do my best.

The difference between violent Muslims and moderate Muslims is the difference between a medieval state of mind and a modern practice of religion, the difference between the way nation-states were formed in the past and the way they are now.

To make a long story short: you know how Islamophobes like to say "Islam is a political movement"?

Well, if you've been living in the fifth century it was. ALL religions were political movements. If you were in a country, you followed the same religion as everyone else. You believed what everyone else believed - or you were supposed to. After all, if you didn't, the nation would fall into anarchy and strife and would eventually go kaput, right? Right - because in those times, it was true. (More about that later.)

Delving in further, another branch of that thinking is the one that goes: Everyone has to be the same! Everyone has to look the same, talk the same; basically, all those trappings of the Dark Ages that the we've been trying to cast behind us with diversity and globalization and all that, that's been going on for a while and is the great gift of the modern world.

We indoctrinate our kids with it (if I had a penny for every cartoon character that's reached the enlightening conclusion of "IT'S GREAT TO BE ME!"...) and it's getting quite tiresome, actually.

But the reason I bear the achingly sweet Disney songs is that in the end, however cheesy they are, they are true. We humans are more alike than we realize. With the celebration of diversity and globalization and all that, and the tinny notes of "It's a Small World After All", we reach the most precious thing of all...


That blessed idea that as humans, we're all together in the same boat, however different from each other we are; so we need to respect that. You may not necessarily like it - it doesn't have to appeal to you - but you need to put up with it because it's the right thing to do.

That, there, is Conclusion One. Modern world = (mostly) tolerance.

So what does this have to do with Muslims?

Well, to bring it along, there's a touchy topic in Islam. It's the issue of overzealous following of what medieval jurists who came centuries after the Prophet ordained.

That no more is open to interpretation: it's all been done already, you don't need to bother your head about it...

"Just sit down - there, right there! - take this book" (you struggle with the weight) "Now - don't think, just MEMORIZE!!! Shhh. No arguing. Memorization. Do you think you're better than all these learned scholars who wrote these books?! Huh? Do you?!

"I didn't think so. Now MEMORIZE."

I can say a lot more about this topic, but suffice it for the moment to say that that's why the medieval way of doing things - not the Islamic way, but the seventh-eighth century way - has stuck. People are so afraid of 'going against the Righteous Ancestors' that they won't put a toe out of the line that has been drawn by them.

This is Conclusion Two.

Keep in mind, and this is very important, I'm not dissing the Righteous Ancestors. I respect them for their tremendous awareness of God, their passion for their religion, the degree of which that we modern people can hardly hope to attain! I'm talking about the general medieval way of thinking. Which is what brings us to Conclusion Three...




Nation-states go to war with each other, right? Obviously. The difference between now and then is that nation-states were based UPON religion. This was the land of the believers, this was the land of the non-believers. If that nation-state invades you, it's the non-believers attacking you - not the people who are probably just want what you have and they don't.

That medieval mentality - the Righteous Ancestors' mentality, justified as theirs was and unjustified as it is now - has carried off into today. When the US invaded Iraq, it wasn't the US invading Iraq. It was THE NON-MUSLIMS BATTLING OUR MUSLIM BROTHERS! WE MUST GO AND FIGHT FOR OUR MUSLIM BROTHERS AGAINST THE NON-BELIEVERS!

I believe that may be a direct quote of Osama bin Laden; and just about every other terrorist there is out there. They ALL cite Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any of the countless Muslim countries the US has invaded as reasons to PICK UP YOUR WEAPONS AND GO FIGHT, YOU COWARDS! Not as "it's the US invading" - as a Christian country, as the NON-BELIEVERS invading.

So hostility is created towards Christians: a majority targeted for the actions of a minority. This is the issue: realistically, terrorists wouldn't have a game plan if the US hadn't invaded wherever they invaded.

I'm not justifying what they're doing. But, Americans: They don't 'hate you because they're free'. They 'hate' you because they see themselves as wronged, they want to get revenge, and they decide to use the verses in the Qur'an that a less learned person would accept their interpretation of without question, to justify their wanting to kill and kill and kill.

In the end, in Islam there really is no such thing as "Kill the infidel just 'cos he's an infidel". As illustrated in the previous post, there was always a reason: the oppressors, the ones who have fought against you, those who have broken the treaty...

That is why Islam is a religion of peace. And because this has gone on for so long, I'll leave it at that. (Short and concise? Dream on, Maryam...)

Finally, I just hope I got the message across.

To everyone:


Friday, December 3, 2010

Islam and Violence (1): The Verses


Not that I expect anyone to have been actually paying attention, but if anyone was, I owe them an apology for the unholy delay that plagued this post.

Here at last are some of the violent-seeming verses in the Qur'an, and my replies to those who see them as "incriminating" for the religion of Islam in any way. It also is a refutation of the empty claims of those "Muslim" people who claim that these verses do, in fact, urge them to MAKE WAR UPON THE UNBELIEVERS, however that may be.

(Which is why I disagree with the empty "Islam's a religion of peace" refrain. Anything can be twisted to unscruplous advantages, and these verses are the ones that are always pointed to in the New "Experts" on Islam's finger-pointings.)

Enough intro. Here we go.


(A) Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate. (Sura 9:73)"

"The true believers fight for the cause of God. But the infidels fight for the devil. Fight then against the friends of Satan. (Sura 4:76) "

"When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads...(Sura 47:4)"

These three I've lumped together because the same defense can be used to each. The key words are "Prophet", "the infidels fight", and "in battlefield". "Prophet" makes it clear that this is in historical context, talking directly to Muhammad, the second: "infidels fight" makes it clear that this is not one-sided agression, and the third: "in the battlefield", makes it obvious that we are in a state of war the moment.

Essentially it's clear that the "infidels" are not being fought just for the sake of them being "infidels". People should read up more on the history of Islam and just why all those wars took place. Either way, war is ugly - but it's not an Islamic phenomenon and the verses do not speak of initiated aggression by one side. Therefore these verses cannot be used to signify that Islam mandates mindless violence.

(B) "Slay them wherever you find them. (Sura 2:190)"

"Arrest them, besiege them. And lie in ambush everywhere for them. (Sura 9:5)

"But he forbids you to make friends with those who have fought against you on account of your religion and driven you from your homes or abetted others to do so. Those that make friends with them are wrongdoers. (Sura 60:9)"

Now, the problem with these three are one and the same: a laughable elimination of the proper context. Let's just get these verses as they are supposed to be read and perhaps then they will make sense.

2: 190. And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.

191. And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.

So here we have self-defense. "Those who fight you".

9:5 - Sura 9 deserves an explanation. From the very beginning of the chapter we are told that treaties with the polytheists are to be disbanded. Why? A reading of verses 1-15, approximately, will tell us that it is especially because the polytheists have not respected the treaties they themselves have made. Therefore the Prophet is under no further obligation to honor these treaties that have already been betrayed by the polytheists. (You can find Sura 9 here:

60:9: (on unbelievers) God forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are wrong-doers.

This is the most obvious one, and to deal with it one must only read the verse immediately preceding it.

60:8 - Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.

With this understanding, we continue:

60:9 - It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that God forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are wrong-doers.


(C) Muhammad is God's Apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (Sura 48:29)

This is Robert Spencer's translation (for those who are so fortunate as to never have heard of Robert Spencer, he is a most notorious and shameless New 'Expert' on Islam, and has written several books maligning Islam I do not deign to mention here, for fear it will lead to him gaining just a little bit of profit from his lies.)

I think he used the N.J.Dawood one. With this, I need only point out that the translation is not correct. The correct translation of the term "shadeed" is not "ruthless" but rather "firm" or "tough". And, uh, given the circumstances, somehow I feel that firm treatment with the unbelievers was justfied...

(D) He that leaves his dwelling to fight for God and his apostle and is then overtaken by death, shall be rewarded by God. (Sura 4:100)

People point to this to say it encourages fighting and violence; however, would one refuse a Christian martyr God's reward? Not mention all the reasons I've mentioned already on what exactly the circumstances of the fighting were. (I should elaborate on this in a future blog post. Just what WERE the circumstances of the Muslims and the nonbelievers at that time?)

So there we have it. Several verses that are always pointed to when "proving" that ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF VIOLENCE!!

And my reply to say that: in fact, they do not. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Break: A Story! (1)

While I am busy gathering Qur'anic verses that might incriminate violence (actually no, I'm not: I could probably finish the blog post promised in half an hour if I really tried, but I haven't!) I thought I might give you a (hopefully) pleasant diversion.

It's a story I might add to, an edit of something I've already posted on one of my Facebook notes, inspired by a font no less!

Here you go.


There was once a man who had a knack for blending into a crowd. Tall as he was, and thin, and insistent upon wearing black, he wove himself in seamlessly as you like into whatever group of people you put him in; or, rather, into their background. Among the colorful dresses and jaunty feathered hats of this particular peasant marketplace he caused no disturbance, regardless of the difference between he and them. He did not exactly flit from shadow to shadow; he was a shadow, one you would rather ignore than investigate. It was a gift the man had, a gift that would have to be inherent rather than learned, an instinct.

Well... a little dust on the black suit also helped. People paid so much less attention to you when they thought you were poor.

The man in black, whose name happened to be Zlatan for this particular mission, went along for quite a while unnoticed until he ducked into a stall almost as nondescript as himself. Inside he was vociferously accosted by the stall's owner as soon as he'd given the laid-out wares a paltry glance.

The owner was portly, his suspiciously raven-black hair slicked with olive oil and combed so finely you could see the gleaming tracks his morning toilet had left. In an obviously put-on French accent he exclaimed: "Excellent choice! C'est excellent, mon ami," and widened his greasy grin even further. "'Ow would you like..."

Zlatan wasted no time. "Drop the pantoime, Victor, I'm here on official business," he said, not bothering to raise his voice above the din from outside, or to meet the other man's eyes. "You're ordered by the Baron to close your shop for a short time in order to relay your report verbally."

Victor took a deep breath as though in protest. However, he was composed and still by the exhale, and by the time he took another breath Victor had become another person entirely. His hair still shined faux under the dim lights of the stall, but cunning was in his face where there had not been cunning before. His eyes narrowed, his back straightened just a bit; he cast a careful glance around before taking a ring of keys out of his pocket. He darted to the front of the store, with a speed belying his portliness, and drew a rusted steel mesh gate across the stall's opening - with a loud screech - before locking it.

Finally he drew a ragged, oil-stained grey curtain across the door, and beckoned for Zlatan to follow him to the back of the store and through a door that led to a back space which was common to all stalls in this marketplace. It was usually used as storage for wares, for a workroom where private accounts could be settled, and in some cases it even doubled for living quarters.

He entered a narrow corridor, Zlatan just behind him, whose walls were completely covered in stacks of cardboard boxes that stretched up to the ceiling. Presumably, they contained wares - probably shoes - but judging on the appraising eye Zlatan cast upon them, they contained something that might be...

More volatile, we might say.

Far more volatile than any innocent shop-owner's merchandise.

Those boxes contained the reason Zlatan had been sent here. After all was said and done, one thing must be understood about the man in black: his comings did not always bring on joy.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Islam and Violence

My first topic will be Islam's relation to violence. That much is obvious; it's probably the most discussed thing about Islam today, the most controversial, the most vehemently argued. You hear contradictory things all the time about it - the media is either singing an "Islam is terrorism" mantra or "a religion of peace" mantra.

Obviously I disagree completely with the terrorism=Muslims thing because it is untrue and I can prove it. However, I'm not comfortable with the blindfolded "religion of peace" stuff either.

Now, that argument is perfect for TV spots with limited time, used by well-meaning people who don't have much in-depth knowledge or who don't have the time to elaborate, the ones who do know but are afraid it's too complicated to explain. This is the case most of the time.

Unfortunately, saying "Islam is a religion of peace," which is completely justifiable and totally correct - as I hope I can contribute to proving - leads you into a whole different kind of maze. It's become the kind of thing that 'So-called Experts On Islam' (hereby referred to as SEOI) just love to hear. Someone saying "Islam is the religion of peace" point-blank gives them the opportunity to brandish all the 'REAL TRUTH ABOUT ISLAM' stuff they have - verses, traditions, etc. - that appear to support their convoluted message: a message that says Islam = violence.

The SEOI's argument is, "Real Islam supports violence so real Muslims must also. If you do not support violence you must be one of those 'secular' Muslims, if you remain Muslim at all." Replace the word "violence" with any controversial Islamic topic and you will get what keeps me up gnashing my teeth at the laptop screen at night.

My argument will be that you can be a practicing Muslim who follows all mandates of the Qur'an and of the Prophet Muhammad, and not support unwarranted violence in anyone's name.

Coming up -
Islam and Violence: The Verses.
Are there any verses in the Qur'an that you, in fact, feel a tad uncomfortable reading? Please feel free to contribute. I'm going to try to go through them one by one.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Concerned Muslims

- Note: This'll hopefully be short, as three introductions are rather too much to ask people to stand. As a 'tantalizing tidbit', I'm going to start with Islam and Violence as a topic. Any suggestions you have as to what I should tackle first within that framework?-

Okay. I have one last thing to say before beginning in earnest. This is mainly to people who are already Muslims.

So, Random Muslim. When you hear or see or encounter something that makes you question your faith, what do you do? Someone brandishes an iffy-sounding verse or tradition of the Prophet in your face, or you hear about it on the radio or on TV. (Assuming that it's legit enough to merit looking into it: people say such crazy stuff about Islam you can be justified in not paying attention :)

Now, what you do with this verse is you pick it up, read it, double-check it in your own copy to make sure it's there and discover in fact that it is. What are you supposed to think? It's there, looking you in the eye. Muhammad had nine wives. It's there, looking you in the eye.

Intersection. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWLEDGE. So that things can't sneak up on you like this and leave you helpless, in the wake of anti-Muslims with serious ammo! (Believe me, they exist.)

Let's say, though, that you don't know much about these issues. How are you supposed to react?

First of all, don't panic. If this path is what God wants us to follow, it will never and can never contradict our human mind. There's no such thing as 'blind faith', especially not closing your eyes to something that disturbs you immensely. So what you do is start searching; search to keep your faith.

Second, keep in mind that your position might not be the correct one, that's there's a wiser opinion: as is the case with a lot of things in life, so don't start with "I trust my own mind!" Times and minds change: just compare the minds of 7th-century Arabia with today's. The tricky thing with Islam - with any religion, really - is that to prove itself as God's word, it needs to prove that it can be compatible with all times and places, right? If people now and forever can be expected to follow it, obviously it's got to be such a thing that can be acceptable to people now and forever.

So that's also what I'm going to try to achieve with this blog. Muslims need to know that they have nothing to fear from their religion. I want to stamp that down in permanent.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Talking Objective!

I'm going to cut to the quick here. The thing that concerns me most at the moment – overlooking school and all the mundane worries of life – what concerns me, just as a person living in the world, is the way people see Islam.

I've had a lot of interaction with people of different faiths (predominantly Christian or people) and while most of them treat me as just another person in the world to get along with, some – while having no personal objection to me – feel the urge to "explain" my faith to me, or "expose" it.

Let me elaborate on this.

Have you noticed how all of a sudden there are so many people who sell themselves as "experts" on Islam? This in America or otherwise; they are people who, without naming names, quote authoritative-sounding passages in the Qur'an or in the examples of the Prophet Muhammad that are to the average non-Muslim or even a less knowledgeable Muslim quite frightening.

For example:

Islam is violent.

Muslims are ordered to kill/maim/subjugate/enslave/not live peacefully with non-Muslims.

Muhammad was a filthy human being who lied, cheated and lusted his way to the top and happened to be a pedophile.

Islam's Shariah law is primitive, degrading, demeaning and unfair - especially to women: who deserve a category to themselves in speaking of smears against Islam. Let's give them one.

Women are seen as objects (incidentally, a point that one could definitely make about the treatment of women in today's pop culture); they have no rights in marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.; they are punished for being raped - I once talked to someone who thought that women are LEGALLY RAPED as a PUNISHMENT in Shariah law; and are just in general treated extremely unfairly.

Of course, we also have the barbaric and primitive nature of the Qur'an. But then that's a given isn't it.

So. God willing, I'll be discussing...

OH, I nearly forgot. Now THIS, ladies and gents, is just priceless...

'Al-lah' is not OUR God! Not the merciful, just Judeo-Christian God, ho no. Allah is nothing but a moon god that the ancient Arabs used to worship. And Muhammad, um, how shall we say it? 'Stole' the god and basically made him the main one to kinda ease the transition for them pagan Arabs... Kind of like Zeus over all the other Greek gods. Must have something to do with all the other cultures that influenced Muhammad - like how he practically copied the Bible word-for-word. Yeah.


To get back to a few sentences up, I will, OUR God willing, be discussing each of these points. Next post will hopefully be about just how I will go about doing that.


I just want to assure everyone here that I am by no means an absolute word of authority. Pretty much nothing I'll say here will be original; I'll try to go back to sources in trustworthy books and websites whenever I can. I just hope that my contribution might help whoever might read this.

Peace to you all.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

On Intros and Greetings

To begin with:

Peace to you, whoever you are.

One thing I should make clear is that I have posted something on here before.
However, seeing it around six months later brought on a bout of embarrassment, and I decided to delete it. It was too immaturely excited. I am determined to begin my blogging experience properly; if it means I need to delete the REAL beginning then that means I will.

So much for trustworthy historical record!

In any case, I can't let everything that's on the Internet and in the world go unnoticed, undocumented, by myself and as I'm not disciplined enough to make myself type out a disgruntled Microsoft Word once in a while that'll never be seen by anyone else, I guess I'm going to make my foray a public one.

Or, rather, as public as one can get in one of many millions of blogs, among all these other people with the same intent I have. In this elusively enormous cyberspace.

Your question, reader, is WHY SHOULD I KEEP READING THIS?

I say, if you've read that far, you should keep going.


So my goals for this blog - what I'm going to write about, basically - is what I'm interested in, obviously. I'm a Muslim, interested in current affairs, political or otherwise, I enjoy reading (so you might find a nice and juicy scathing, sarcastic book review on here now and then) and you might just find me blogging about the latest Real Madrid game once in a while. My age is none of your business, nor is where I live, but I hope the quality of my thoughts transcends those common standards of gauging worth. (See? I can craft sentences, too! Whether they're good or not...)

Did I mention I want to write a ground-breaking novel?


Oh, I didn't realize it was already a memorized given for these pontificating blogger types. Pardon me.

Finally, I'm studying so this may not be frequented that much. But I can guarantee it: if I read/come across/see something that really deserves to be here, it'll be here. (If you can see the loopholes I've left for myself in that, good for you. if not, continue on oblivious, if you please.)

I shout out:



Is the world listening? *


* Ahem. Ignore that last philosophical part. I'm talking to myself.)