February 27, 2006

Isabelle Eberhardt- Drowned in the desert

The life and death of mankind has always fascinated me. Even more so that of people who led lives beyond convention and category. I recently came across such a person. From beginning to end, every aspect of her life was beyond all norm. Long dead today, her person echoes on.

Isabelle Eberhardt, born in 1877 in Geneva, spent her first 19 years there only to move to Tunis with her mother in 1897, where both converted to Islam. Isabelle already knew how to speak Arabic since her father, an Armenian ex-priest, Alexander Trophimowsky had taught her that growing up.

In order to overcome certain obstacles being a woman could entail, she dressed as a man and called herself Si Mahmoud Essadi. This however didn't mean she was far from male company, for in 1901 she married Slimène Ehnni, an Algerian soldier she met in El Oued in the Algerian desert.

Perhaps the most fascinating legacy she leaves behind her, after joining the first, oldest and at the time secret Sufi brotherhood Qadriya where she became an influential figure in the politics of the region, are her writings on her adventures and life in North Africa. She died abruptly at the young age of 27 in a flash flood, buried under a beam in a clay house in Aïn Sefra, anticipating the arrival of her husband Slimène. In a clay pot in her house, her final manuscript was found and later published by her close friend, journalist Victor Barrucand, under the name Dans l'ombre chaude de l'Islam (In the hot shade of Islam).

Once in my life, in a soul that I thought was free, I watched a pure, strong passion grow, and I said to my friend: "Be careful, when we're happy we cease to understand another's suffering." He set off for happiness, or so he believed, and I toward my destiny.

-Isabelle Eberhardt

February 22, 2006

Holy linguistics!

Religion often colours the language in the countries where it has played an integral part in society. The Bible itself contains many proverbs that are today integrated in e.g. both the English and Swedish language. "There is nothing new under the sun", is a proverb used today that has its origin in the Bible.

Wether you adhere to a certain faith or not, it is interesting to see how religious texts become an integrated part of society and language, and thus further forms new proverbs based on those very same religious ideas or texts. In "The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce, a new saying is coined based on the old Biblical one; "There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don't know".

Same is the case with Arabic and Islam. A very descriptive example lies in a saying commonly used in the Levant area; "yesoom yesoom wa yefter 3ala basale" which means "he fasts and fasts and breaks it with an onion".

Usually this saying is used in the case of a man (or indeed woman) wanting to get married to someone who is, in the eyes of the mother or anyone else, not good-looking enough, or simply not good enough. To understand the context of this saying, and indeed, to have a good laugh at it, one can look to Islamic traditions for an answer.

Men and women, in general, who are not married have been recommended by the Prophet Mohammad* to fast every now and then, in order to avert ones focus from desire of the opposite sex. Thus, in this case, the man fasted and fasted, and when time came for him to be able to marry, he chose someone not "worthy enough", or metaphorically, opened his fast with an onion instead of choosing something else from all fruits and vegetables and foods available.

Think about your own language (or indeed languages), do you find any similar examples?
What are some of your favourite expressions or proverbs?

Ps. Don't hold back...

*May peace and blessings be upon him

February 18, 2006

As the summer dawned...

The snow it fell as the summer dawned,
and the birds flew south in the middle of June.
The leaves that proudly clad the trees,
fell down on the ground many months to soon.

All the rivers with vigour gushing by,
made way for the ice that slowed them down.
And the lonesome flower that hung on to life,
was a bride in white with a snow-clad gown.

And the breeze that used to stroke the skin,
gently with a softness and warmth of the sun,
laid to rest on top of a peak-less mountain,
singing songs of a life that could have begun.

So the story was told that had no beginning,
and the last page was read without an ending.
The snow still fell as the summer dawned,
and the broken hearted continued pretending.

First cousin marriages: Poll result

I figure the time has come to print the poll results of my first poll "What is your take on first cousin marriages". I suppose I asked this question mainly because it is a very predominant custom among my Pakistani friends and family and it is something that is being more and more debated and even questioned. Every man to his own I say.

Do vote in my next poll:
"Under which of the following would you categorize the publication of the danish caricatures?"

February 17, 2006

Looks that kill

Apparently Paris, (the city, not Hilton), is now the victim of a kidnapping mob of young blonde women and men, who flirt with guys, kidnap them and ask for a ransom. If you don't pay up you die.

They recently kidnapped a 23 year old mobilephone salesman and asked for a ransom of 400 000 Euros (!!!). After not recieving the money (Duh!), they lowered their bid to 4000 euros (now that's more like it).

Apparently the victim had told his friend, prior to going out on a date with the deadly blonde, "Look what a woman I have a date with!" Where was his internal alarm?

The Police in Paris now warns us: "Watch out for beautiful blonde women and men who flirt with you". Umm, isn't that like the whole of Paris...? (and world for that matter)

Hey this is a perfect time for a Muslim campaign! Let's take away some of the focus off the cartoons and place it on Parisian men and telling them to "lower their gaze"!

Merci beaucoup Paris Police Department for those words of warning. I'm off to Paris in April, will stack up on sunglasses and eye protection gear...

February 16, 2006

Five FAQ's on the Hijab*

  1. Did your father force you to wear it?
  2. Do you sleep with it on?
  3. Do you shower with it on?
  4. Those needles that you place to hold it up, do you push them into your skin as well?
  5. Doesn't your hair fall off because of lack of sunexposure?

To be derived from these questions is, that I have a dictator father, who forces me to sleep and shower with my hijab on, while pressing needles into my bald head, like a female Frankenstein.

Mind you, all of the above questions have been asked in all honesty by real people.

*Hijab is the traditional muslim headscarf, covering the hair and neck, not face, worn by many muslim women but indeed exists within other religions and cultures however with a different name.

February 15, 2006

One coin, two sides


A story is told of a Jewish man, Moshe Katz, who was riding on the subway reading an Arab newspaper. A friend of his, who happened to be riding in the same subway car, noticed this strange phenomenon. Very confused, he approached Mr. Katz. "Moshe, have you lost your mind? Why are you reading an Arab newspaper?" Moshe replied, "I used to read the Jewish newspaper, but what did I find? Jews being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation and intermarriage, Jews living in poverty. So I switched to the Arab newspaper. Now what do I find? Jews own all the banks, Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, Jews rule the world. The news is so much better!"

Thank you to HumanBeforeJewish for allowing me to post this anecdote.

February 14, 2006

Two "reel" deals

Hollywood has not been known for creating unbiased, balanced films about the U.S hand in the world's down spiralling affairs. About the real reason why the Middle-East and Gulf region stays the same. Nor has it been known to show an un-simplistic view of how a person turns into a suicide bomber. Why countries or people who want change and development in their country, are "eliminated".

Syriana however, does just that and is a refreshing but deeply disturbing movie of just how little we know, at the same time, knowing it all. Everything is connected.

Spielberg's Munich has received a fair amount of media attention so most of you probably heard about it, however do watch it the way it is meant to be watched. It is at the end of the day, a story about "home", and the lengths we go to preserve it, no matter on what side of the battle-field we might be standing on.

February 13, 2006

When silence is golden

While writing your CV, I am sure you have been informed that you don't have to include every single thing you did in life, especially less flattering or unsuitable ventures in the context of things, so to speak.

If not, well you might meet the same fate as one Iraqi man in Sweden.

At our local employment agency, there are people present to answer your inquiries regarding work and applications, and immigrants make it a habit of stopping by and asking them to review their CV just in order to make sure it is as flawless as can be.

Bassam (we will call him that), did just that. The "agent" handling his CV looked at it, spelling was fine, content was fine, and off he went to apply for work.

The first 20 or 30 rejections were not cause for alarm, however when it started reaching 50+ with not so much as a "thank you, but no thank you" letter, Bassam became worried and asked his friend to look at his CV.

On top of the list of "Previous Employment", the following was written:

I served in the Iraqi Army for many years.


February 12, 2006

"Action" speaks louder than words

From "News of the world" , a disturbing video depicting British soldiers, "in combat", in Iraq. There is not much one can say after watching this. And though actions speak louder than words, I am at a loss in understanding exactly what is being said here.

Warning to sensetive viewers, disturbing content.

Voltaire and the cartoons

One of Sweden's biggest newspapers Svenska Dagbladet, decided already from the beginning, before the media hysteria, not to publish the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad*. Chief editor Lena K Samuelsson writes in her editorial on Saturday, february 11th with the title:

"Freedom of press is also the right to disregard"

Furthermore she writes:

One can think what one likes about Jyllands-Posten's publication or presumed less noble motives, but they did make use of the right to publish whatever they want. A basic right in a free and open society.

Svenska Dagbladet defends that right, we promote a spirited discussion and debate with room for a lot. However with the right to publish whatever we feel as being of importance, the right and responsibility to disregard (certain materials for publication) follows.
Without influence from the outside.

The caricatures depict a tired stereotype of a "dangerous stranger". It was actually not a difficult decision to disregard them for publication, not last autumn in correlation to Jyllands-Postens publication of them, nor now either.

On "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" (CNN) today, an interview with a tired yet spirited Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, we could hear similar tones, for the first time, coming from the State of Denmark.

While defending the freedom of expression and press, Fogh Rasmussen reiterated time and again, the responsibility that comes with such a right.

From the start of this debate, there has been a tepid response from the leaders of Denmark and Europe regarding the nature of the publication of the caricatures. Indeed, the media is separated from the press (with exception of Berlusconi's empire), and thus the real object of debate from the Muslim side has not and should not have been the idea of the state controlling the media, but in the words of Voltaire;

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."-

Voltaire himself, after writing a play called “Mahomet, ou le Fanatism”, experienced some censorship. And ironically it is his words today that echo in the current debate surrounding the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad*.

However we never heard Fogh Rasmussen or French Finance Minister Sarkozy say the first, most important part of the quote they continuously base their arguments on. A quote from a person like Voltaire that French, and later, European democracy and freedom of speech were built on;

"Jyllands-Posten, I disapprove of what you say..."

*Peace and blessings be upon him

February 03, 2006

The poem of the cloak

Imam Busairi lived in Egypt during the 13th century but travelled and lived across the Arab world in Yemen, Jerusalem, Mecca and finally Medina, where he became paralyzed and one night recited a poem that he dedicated to the Prophet Mohammad* in hopes that God would forgive his sins.

In his dream that night he saw the Prophet Mohammad* lay his cloak on him, and thus the poem was named Qasidatul Burdah, the poem of the cloak.

This is most likely the most famous poem written in Arabic and is read by non Arab Muslims as well and taught to children, often in the form of a song.

Here are excerpts of it:

Wa raawadatho'l jibaalo' shhommo min zahabin
When mountains dressed themselves in gold to tempt him,

3n nafsihi fa'araaha ayyama shamami
he was completely disinclined due to his courage.

wa'akkadat zohdaho fiha darouratoho
His piety increased inspite of his need.

inn'addarourata la ta3dou 3la'l 3isami
For verily need never prevails (overpowers) the infallible.

wa kayfa tad3ou ila' ddonya darourata man
How could necessity attach him to the world?

law laaho lam takhroji donya mina'l 3adami
When the world, had it not been for him, would not have been brought into existence.

Mohammadon* sayyido'l kawnayni wa'thaqalayni
Mohammad*, leader of both the worlds and both creations (man and jinn),

wa'l fareeqayni min 3rabi' wa 3ajami
and of both groups, Arabs and non Arabs.


Wa kayfa yodriko fi'ddonya 7aqeeqataho
And how can the reality of him be comprehended in this world?

qawmon nayyamon tasallaw 3anho bil7olomi
A sleeping nation whose description of him are like (interpretations of ) a dream.

famablagho'l 3ilmi fihi annaho basharon
So the depth of (our) knowledge concerning him is that he is a man,

wa annaho khayro khalqi'llahi kollihimi
and verily he is the best of all the creations of Allah.


*May peace and blessings be upon him

February 02, 2006

Does anyone really know what it's all about?

No doubt...No doubt, you have all heard and followed the debate about the cartoons published in Denmark in September last year.

Jyllands-Posten who printed them, and many other Europeans, majority of them having not even seen the cartoons, waved the flag of "freedom of speach", saying it was a challenge directed to the Muslim world's tendency to self-censureship (i.e not animating religious figures).

Muslims all over the world, 99% having most likely not even seen the pictures, feel hurt, upset, and some ready to boycott thinking that the debate is about forbidding western media to in general print pictures of Prophet Mohammad*.

  1. The debate is not about freedom of speach.
  2. The debate is not about wether or not media is allowed to print pictures of Prophets*.
So then what is it all about?

To know why the printing of those particular pictures was so distasteful and downright hateful, one will have to actually have seen the pictures, understand the context of the situation for Muslims in Denmark and Europe, but especially Denmark where Muslims truly are undergoing enormous pressures and political chastisement from certain extreme right parties in Denmark.

Muslims in the Arab world or Asia and even around Europe, and supporters of the publishing of the cartoons in the rest of the world have no idea what they are talking about and most likely majority of them like I said, have no understanding of the situation at hand, and why this debate is so important and why truly all Muslims and non-Muslims who do not want to have another Holocaust should be worried.

Part of the persecution of Jews before the Second World War consisted of similar cartoons published in newspapers. Anti-semitic, large crooked-nosed, dark eyes and hair, bushy beards depicted in a negative way, a way that we saw eventually led to a whole nation letting millions of Jews be killed infront of their noses for almost a decade.

When you look at the cartoons depicted in Jyllands-Posten, you find the same anti-semitic touch, large crooked noses, The Prophet with a turban carrying a bomb, bushy beards...

The question is, did freedom of speach, throughout history, ever become strengthened by a majority speaking out against an already kicked at, lying down, minority?

We Muslims cannot forbid any magazine in the world from drawing pictures of the Prophet* even though it is forbidden for us, even though deep inside we reject it, feel hurt and sad. No... that is not to be the basis of the debate because we can legally never defend our point. They draw Jesus* and God and so they will claim their right to draw our Prophet* as well.

The real issue is not that they drew him, it is in what way they drew him.

Did they simply draw him as a normal human being? No...

Why add the bombs, the veiled women, the violence, the prejudice, the Islamophobia, the hinting towards terrorism, extremism, why?

I won't get that answer from anyone it seems, Muslim or non-Muslim because everybody is busy discussing a totally different issue, trying to decide wether to boycott or not, wether to "let" Danish media print pictures of Prophet Mohammad* or not.

What we can demand as Muslims, Citizens of Europe, Taxpayers, Voters and contributors to our home countries in Europe, is to not be persecuted, kicked at while lying down, have the central figure of Muslims being depicted as a violent being, to collectively be named terrorist through racist, Islamophobic inciteful pictures such as those we have witnessed.

And until we all realise this, and come down from our "reactive high", Islamophobes around the world will seize this opportunity to fuel and sustain their wish to marginalize Muslims and reduce them to uncultivated beings who "don't understand our democratic way of life and cannot support our freedom of speach".

It's one large Islamophobe playing field and yet we constantly shoot the ball into our own goal...

*Peace and Blessings be upon them.

February 01, 2006


She's learnt to accept what she never got,
as she searches for it now, wanting it alot.
Acceptance doesn't mean that she forgot,
all of the things that you were not.