Christiane Amanpour hosted a special edition of "This Week" on ABC featuring a panel of Muslims talking about "Should America fear Islam?" She then held a special online edition, of which I was a panelist.
Something that i never do anymore is stay up late with college students and eat desert and talk politics - yet this is what occurred last night after i spoke at the Columbia MSA Fast-A-THon. It has officially been over a week since my wife departed from JFK. Not much has changed really since that time. We had a tornado in NYC tonight, the thunder and lightening was pronounced and the skies darkened in the latter part of the afternoon making the day unusually foreboding, like the fall-back savings time was prematurely in effect.
In part because my wife, Fatima Ashraf, was not there, I “went with the flow” and ended up with a bunch of the youth of our community in a West African bakery, talking politics, race, class, and gender and i ended up - in part because of Fatima’s absence, advancing her arguments.
Then as the night wore or I realized why it is that I Do NOt do that anymore: Bedtime!
Still, we had good halal fun. I got to engage in somewhat irreverent political discourse on the role of government and i ended up on the A train. A black man on the train sang a lovely spanish language tune, keeping the rhythm by tapping a black and white bic pen on a role of clear packing tape.
It was hauntingly beautiful and I moved, at 59th street, closer to where he was sitting so that I could nowhear his foot tapping and soak up the melancholy and hope wrapped into his redeyed melody. He wore black shoes, white socks, grey slacks and a white collared shirt. His hair was cropped short and he was clean shaven. When the train filled up at 42nd street he pulled the white box that was on his right and put it on his lap. I wondered if he was a man who had just ended a job and was leaving the office for the last time. That is what it felt like. Then at 34th street, as the train filled up even more, he stood, waited gingerly by the door then he was gone...
Meanwhile... in Hyderbad India... Where Fatima is to join in the celebration of her cousin's "Sumo's" wedding, he and his Bride were in their traditional states of bliss:
I always suspected it but now the rumors and allegations are true. Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, who is suspected to be the alter-ego of Peter Parker, from Forest Hills, Queens - Mets and Jets fan, Photographer, all around nice guy, member of the New Avengers has announced to the world that he himself is a Muslim!
"As soon as the villan Islamophobia started using his mind control powers on the American people I knew i had to speak out," Spidey said in an exclusive interview, "i mean, seriously, how could 1.6 billion people all be bad? For myself, i have been battling islamophobia since the Secret Wars, through the Civil War and recently when we kicked the crap out of Norman Osbourne and his brand of patriotism on steroids."
Spidey went on to say that he is looking forward to Eid, the celebration of the of Ramadan, and apologizes for any spike in crime in the 5 boroughs as he has been at the mosque each night for Tarawih prayers which has made it hard for him to get out and web swing, etc...
"One villan i have been haunted by throughout this ramadan has been Islamophobia, he's been lurking around mosques, burning Quran's, and overall just bringing his brand of terror to hard-working people - he uses a particularly potent mix of mind control that he uses to stir up mayhem - you may not even know you are under his influence until it is too late!"
Spidey refused to acknowledge that he is or is not Peter Parker and would not take off his mask, he also denied reports that he is now using Park51 as his new hideout, citing the fact that there is very little rooftop access and not a terrible amount of tall buildings around.
"I prefer midtown" he says, "and i usually pray anywhere - you know, rooftops, even dangling upside down or just on the side of a building - i mean, i have the power of a spider so it's no problem for me"
When asked how long he had been Muslims Spidey replied, "well, just after Uncle Ben died, but that is personal for me so i do not talk about it much. The real point is this: Islamophobia is a terrible villan - if you see him let him know that Spider-Man is going to kick his butt - as soon as Ramadan is over - i gotta fast these last few days and plus i have been staying in the mosque trying to get as many blessings as i can. Salaamu Alaikum!"
first the idea of a classic blog post is that it has to have plenty of links - although these links do not have to be about anything related to the hyperlink, they just have to be clickable and take you someplace like this one HERE
I started blogging in 2004 mainly in response to the weather - the raging storms of the summer of that year prompted me to think differently about the climate and the way that we are impacting the planet. That problem has grown exponentially worse in the span of time from then until now - here is a statement illustrating that.
*The situation in Pakistan continues to worsen. Please consider making a $10 donation to UNHCR's flood relief efforts by texting'SWAT' to 50555 from your cell phone.*
Typically, a blog from me tends towards some of the most controversial topics of the day... things everyone and their mom’s mom seem to be talking about... even things that make us feel a little uncomfortable - but need to be said.
Are you following the links? it is important to click on them to get the context. I am not trying to push you to think in a certain way - i am just trying to showcase to you that the narrative of any given day may be strange to you - we all have different filters and a blog from me is just a way to allow people to see - and perhaps benefit from my filter.
At the end of the day no post is complete without some conspiracy theory, and an inside joke:
Two Guys were lost in the Sahara desert .One is David, the other is Michael .They were dying of hunger and thirst when they suddenly came upon anoasis, with what looked like an emirate with a mosque in the middle .David said to Michael : "Look,let's pretend we are Muslims, otherwisewe'll not get any food or drink. I am going to call myself "Mohammed."Michael refused to change his name , he said :" My name is Michael ,and I will not pretend to be other than but what I am . ...Michael."The Imam of the mosque received both well and asked about their names .David said : "My name is Mohammed ."Michael said : "My name is Michael. "The Imam turned to the helpers of the mosque and said :" Please bring some food and water for Michael only ."Then he turned to the other and said :Salaams Mohammed , Ramadaan Mubarak.
I also have to find a way to promote stuff that i support and like :) yaya deanna! and in the process leave you with a little history lesson, leave you inspired, or just leave you... in the blink of an eye - after all it is just a blog :)
it also does not hurt to have a photo - this one is of a watering station in Brooklyn Botanic Garden, it looks like a wudu station!
With Ramadan in full effect, with the floods in Pakistan, and with the controversy around the proposed Muslim Cultural Center at Ground Zero, I thought it necessary to remind people that the Earth is a Mosque. Every place on this planet is sacred. Everything is a gift from Allah, not to be abused, but to be protected. We are stewards of the Earth.
Therefore, I am encouraging you to "Green Your Deen in 30 Days." The attached guide provides some very simple steps that you, your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your masjid can all do - steps for the individual and steps for the collective - to reduce waste, save water, conserve energy, and provide food to as many as possible.
Download UPDATED Green Your Deen in 30 Days: The Ramadan Kit is a checklist of things you already have in your home that you can use and reuse each night during iftar. There's no reason our mosques should have to buy tremendous amounts of paper products and plastic cutlery - its just as easy and more cost effective for each of us to bring our own plates, cups, and forks, and take them home for washing - unless of course, your mosque has a large kitchen with easy access to a sink.
Please send the attached "Green Your Deen in 30 Days" guide to as many people as possible. Post it on facebook. Tweet about it. Let people know that this Holy month of Ramadan is an opportunity to reduce, reuse, recycle, right alongside our attempts to recite, reflect, and revere.
I cannot help but think this "natural" disaster in Pakistan is actually man-made - like the poorly constructed buildings in Haiti that collapsed the foundations of the country during the earthquake and the poorly maintained levy’s in New Orleans that allowed water to rush into struggling and vulnerable areas. Could we be the root causes of the human toll of natural calamities such as the catastrophic flooding in South Asia? Learn more about my thoughts on Pakistan on my blog,Brooklyn Bedouin.
The controversy around Park51 is testament to how humans have taken the sacred out of everything.
The construction of a mere building - with space for worship of our Creator - has become political and is now being used to divide people, deny people, and destroy spirits. I say, let's focus on how Park51 is doing it's part to protect the planet. Read about it in my piece for The Daily Beast.
I woke up thinking about Pakistan. The flood there is said to be worst than the Tsunami and the events that unfolded last year in Haiti. Our response must be greater than both of those.
I have them on my mind as i start my day and the fast of Ramadan, day 6 for me, and 7 for others. I am thinking about all the meals that i have had in the past 24 hours and how someone wading in the filth of rising waters could only dream of the comfort i have enjoyed to eat that meal, the ease with which it came to me, and the calmness with which i gobbled it down.
These are harrowing times for one getting closer to oneself because externally there is more than enough to distract one from the personal mission of getting closer to Allah - but therein lies the rub, the trick, the challenge. If i, a thinking, sane, well-educated, and gainfully employed person, were to go about my affairs solely obsessed with my own station between me and my Lord - is this the objective of the Holy month?
There is a knowing that i have which makes that all seem false. Not sure what it is that i WILL do, but i do have this knowing that the actually application of Ramadan in action, the month of the revelation - is to extend oneself, and to become connected to our collective purpose to support one another and to protect the planet at the same time.
I keep thinking that something man-made allowed this flood to happen - like poorly constructed buildings in Haiti created conditions for a quake to shake the foundations of the country, and poorly maintained levy’s in New Orleans allowed water to rush into areas that were already struggling and vulnerable. What have been and still are the root causes of the human toll of natural calamities such as this?
I do not know the answers, clearly, i am halfway around the globe in relative comfort in a small flat at the edge of Brooklyn. From my roof i can see Lady Liberty...
We left ISNA and boarded the plane bound for LaGuardia Airport, in Queens. By the grace of Allah we happened to sit next to a young muslima mother, and her daughter. In our broken arabic we determined that they were Palestinian - but that was all. My wife and did our best to be helpful with the sister and her restless daughter - whose eyes soaked in the entirety of the sky the higher we rose.
Upon our arrival she needed help carrying her bags and we obliged. Her daughter had finally settled down and was fast asleep in the stroller. We helped her find baggage claim only ti discover, after waiting for some time, that her bags were delayed. My wife helped by talking with the baggage claim people and to the Palestinian woman’s husband, on the phone, who was coming to pick her up.
It was a muggy, oppressive night but we stayed there for an hour or so waiting for him to drive out to pick her up. In that time my wife called her sister who is fluent in arabic and they put her on speaker phone and she translated their conversation. The young mother was born and raised in Palestine, and her husband was living in Brooklyn. She joined him recently, and was in Chicago visiting a sibling. She was ever-grateful, and Allah was ever-Merciful for us to be able to be helpful in her time of need and for her to have helpers in her time of want.
In fact, we were happy to be of help. We all can recall a time when we have needed more than ourselves to get through a day. Sometimes that help comes in the form of hands, arms, legs, and the soft companionship of people who care - and try - to communicate. Other times it comes and we realize it inside ourselves.
I have been following the chatter about the planned Mosque on Park Avenue in New York City, i work near there and have spent a a few days praying my afternoon prayers so in following the recent spate of hateful comments from some regarding a mosque in downtown i have some opinions that i thought needed to be shared.
Europeans Took this Land from Native People
We all want to remember the past in our own way. Some of us want to get reparations for the horrors that slavery inflicted on black Americans and others that think that people need to “forget the past” and move on.
My own family are from pioneers that helped to build America into a nation. We are a mixture of the best and the worst - those humans that were enslaved and those that made slaves out of humans. We are also from the native people that called the land upon which lower Manhattan were as, if nothing else, Distant Relatives. My folks were First Nation people from what we now call Upstate NY, there is no doubt that they had a lingual and cultural connection to what we now think of as the hallowed ground of Lower Manhattan.
Many People Claim America as HOME
We all want to define American in our own way. Are we a nation of immigrants? or are we a nation of the native born? Does American mean that you are white and speak english? who can claim title to what it means to be a valid member of this pluralistic society? Who can tell others what is acceptable form of worship? I left NY yesterday to attend a wedding. My wife’s family is from Hyderbad, India but mostly have been in the USA for the better part of the last 40 years or so. They are wonderful people, somewhat insular and very focused on family - but what well-adjusted American family is not oriented that way?
It seems this question was dealt with by the Framers of the Constitution and the authors of the Declaration of Independence when they declared that all men are created equal and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” to whom has the right to deny rights to any group the right to build a house of worship in this land? is that not an idea that founded this great nation?
9/11 was a Tragic Day
There are many ways to grieve. You cannot tell the world how and what are acceptable forms of grief. I know 9/11 survivor families. i know one in particular, Jeremy Glick who went on TV and debated pundits on why he did not want to go to war in the name of his fallen father. Grief has many faces. Not all are angry. Some have love in their hearts for even what they do not understand.
I add all these layers because for me the tragic events on 9/11 were very deep and un-theoretical - it was a harrowing day filled with uncertainty and the smell of death in the air. And on that day, September 11, 2001. Where were you? were you wondering where your sister was? It was an “attack on America” yes, but was it a harrowing experience for YOU personally? Did you walk past the makeshift memorials in Grand Central Terminal everyday and one day see the picture of your college football teammate?
I, Too, Know someone that DIED on 9/11 Christian DeSimone. He and i were linebackers at the University of Rhode Island in the late 90’s and he was a tragic victim who died on 9/11. He story is told here and here
Prayer is important.
Regardless of the hateful comments of some that condemn a mosque in downtown Manhattan, this is a place of worship and the United States was partially founded as a place where religious freedom was respected. I, the descendent of African-Americans, Native Americans, and a Native New Yorker look forward to praying just a few blocks away from where I work.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his companions: “If one of you had a stream running at his door and bathed in it five times every day, do you think any dirt would be left on him?” His companions answered: “No dirt at all would be left.” To which the Prophet replied: “That is what the five (daily) prayers are like, with which God washes away your sins.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Hadith 506
The Prophet once went out when the leaves were falling from the trees. He took hold of a branch and said: "Verily, when a servant of God prays seeking only His pleasure, his sins fall away just as the leaves have fallen from this tree."
Last night i was honored as a "Steward of Progress" by the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR, New York Chapter. It was at their annual fundraiser held at a location on Columbia’s campus. Sadly, CAIR did not reach its fundraising goals, although a considerable amount of money was made.
To understand what they do I think you have to imagine the impact that the NAACP has had on the black community over time, particularly some 40-50 years ago when the tensions and struggle for recognition were acutely present. CAIR is the Muslim Civil Rights frontline organization. They work in front of and behind the scenes protecting the rights of the unprotected and ensuring that lights are shown on issues that would otherwise be lost in the dar corners of government. DONATE TO CAIR!
I was honored last night but that honor was just a reflection of the people that were in the room that work hard everyday to create spaces for Muslims to just be - happy, healthy, and productive.
From the outstanding staff - Aliya Latif (quarterback) and Faiza Ali (starting pitcher) and of course the Board members and the wonderful volunteers that pitch in to help make the night a great gathering of some of the most politico muslims in the city.
earlier in the day I stepped back in time and wandered around the glorious world of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. As a kid my mother would let us go a few places by ourselves and luckily those few places were around the corner from where we lived in Brooklyn. 1 Children's library at the Brooklyn Library, 2. the Brooklyn Museum, (which i used to know like the back of my hand) and 3. the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
So, yesterday my wife and i enjoyed the morning and early afternoon strolling through my childhood haunts.
Khaled Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns this is the next one on the list. My wife read it in like a day and a half, i read a little slower but it is already going fast, so far it is painful but i like the writing.
Colum McCann: Let the Great World Spin: A Novel what i am reading right now, such an amazing book and a great fiction offering to start a new decade by devouring. It was the first thing i read this morning and last night before i went to bed. it is a book of souls.