Archive for August, 2005

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Unprofessional Staff

August 31, 2005

I just spent the last half hour being subjected to a group of teachers and aides running their mouths about nonsense, complete with street talk and cursing. Aside from the fact that they are totally unprofessional and should probably not be working in a school at all, it made me realize something about the education system.

I’ve long advocated adding moral education to classrooms so that students could learn how to live as peaceful citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation (or lack thereof). But that will never happen as long as the teachers themselves are morally bankrupt and corruption is rampant. They are the role models for the next generation, and the future is looking more and more bleak everyday.

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Amazon.com Sells Books?

August 31, 2005

Has anyone else noticed that Amazon.com isn’t so great at stocking the books you need anymore? On two occasions recently, I’ve gone to Barnes and Noble (and other stores) because they had books that Amazon.com wasn’t carrying (or had significant delays in ordering).

On the other hand, I just bought this wonderful $18 wet/dry cordless vacuum cleaner from Amazon.com. Go figure.

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American Intolerance

August 31, 2005

I have come to a conclusion: Americans are some of the most intolerant people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. In America, you can do almost anything you want and get away with it. Americans enjoy unprecedented freedom. In many cases, they enjoy freedom even from their own laws. Just take a trip down any interstate and watch as thousands of Americans collectively and harmoniously break the speed limit. I suppose they figure that, if they break the law in unison, it is acceptable. But I digress.

As long as you live in America, you can enjoy such freedom, but if you live in another country, America must impose their perception of freedom on you. By now you should realize that my ulterior motive for this article is to discuss Iraq. A new constitution is being formed in Iraq, and as long as the Shi’a majority stay in power, no matter how long it takes, Islam is going to play a role in the new government.

The United States has tried every possible move to avoid this, and even the liberal opponents of Bush are upset that he has allowed this to occur. Those in favor of the Bush plan have always voiced their disapproval of anything Islamic and of traditional Muslims, in particular. The terrorists, they explain, hate “our way of life.” Their goal, according to them, is to take away American freedom. There is no chance, according to them, that the motives of the terrorists are to change American foreign policy, particularly their unflinching support of the Zionist Israeli regime, despite what the terrorists themselves say. Odd isn’t it? The terrorists claim to support one thing, but America wants us to believe they want another thing.

Clearly the methods used by the terrorists are wrong, but the majority of Muslims agree with the motives. What does that mean? Does that mean the majority of Muslims are terrorists? No, Islam forbids the killing of innocent people. But the cause, that is the liberation of oppressed people, wherever they are, is something that all Muslims cherish deeply. American policy makers are well aware of this, and so their goal is not simply to silence the terrorists but to also silence any criticism of their policies.

They also have a more obvious goal: to spread “democracy” to all parts of the globe. This global democratic vision is one that includes other western ideologies, such as secularism and materialism. It is, for example, not enough to be democratic. A country must also be materialist. That is why the democratically elected president of Venezuela is now receiving so much heat from the American democratic iron. How dare he empower the poor and exclude the rich! Even the great Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists is in favor of someday making Tibet a democratic state (free from Chinese oppression), but America would never take interest in supporting it because it would still be a religious, not secular, democratic state.

Which brings us to Iran. The Supreme Leader of Iran (the wilayat-e-faqih, the wali-e-amr, the head honcho, whatever you want to call him) is, according to western media, “unelected.” In reality, he is simply an anomaly. He did not steal his authority, like many dictators do, and he did not even necessarily want power. The Supreme Leader is, indirectly chosen by the people. If he were not a religious authority (mujtahid), he certainly could not be supreme leader. If people did not follow him religiously (taqlid), he would not have the people’s support. It is a collective acceptance of his authority. They also have a parliament (majlis) of elected representatives, an elected president, and elected vice presidents. Now, they do have a council of Guardians who are appointed, but so is the US supreme court, who determine whether something or someone (in the case of presidential candidates) are in line with Islam (which is part of their constitution).

So, to make a long story shorter, Iran is a constitutional democracy, and their constitution is based on Islam. Their laws, their way of living, and their foreign policies would be tolerable to most people. They are certainly not perfect, and their mistakes have been plenty. Nevertheless, they are a stable government, much more stable than any other government in their region, including Israel. And even the people who want reform in Iran wish to do so by peaceful means and an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, political process.

But even if Iran was not at all democratic, what business is it of any American? If the Iranian people are happy, why should we, the pinnacle of tolerance and freedom, care? Therein lies the extreme intolerance of Americans.

America’s hatred or Iran, then, is not because they are unstable or undemocratic. Their hatred stems from the fact that Iran is unsecular and unmaterialistic. They do not share America’s goals of materialism. The Shah of Iran did, despite his dictatorial oppression of his people. Musharraf of Pakistan, an unelected general, shares the US interest in “stomping out terrorism (read: Islam).” The King (yes I said king) of Jordan is practically a “good ol’ boy” to the US simply because he supports their material interests. The royal family of Saudi Arabia, that was formed through the killing of thousands and oppression of many, is one of America’s biggest Middle East allies.

So, why is an Islamic constitution opposed by America when it comes to Iraq? Is it because America truly believes an Islamic constitution will oppress women? (Iran, for the past several years, had a female vice president. America has never had one). Is it because they will support terrorism? (The only real evidence of any regimes supporting terrorism point to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, two US allies). Is it because they oppress non-Muslims? (According to Islamic shari’ah, non-Muslims must be allowed to practice their religions, and their tax, jizyah, is actually less than the Islamic taxes on Muslims). No, it is not any of those things. America is opposed to the plans of the SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) because they know that such a regime will not support America’s secular and materialistic interests. They will not allow American corporations to run their countries, and they will not sit by idly and allow Israel to run the religion according to their agenda.

Oddly enough, America cannot support the secular arabs of Iraq, because they are the ones leading the insurgency. It is not the Sunnis, who would probably love an Islamic government as much as the Shi’a. It is the secular arabs, who were on the payroll of Saddam Hussein, who stand to lose the most from any new government in Iraq. Saddam was once a US ally, and their only goal in taking him out was to replace him with another Saddam who would obey their orders better. That plan has already failed, and now the United States is left with the one thing they have never wanted: Islam. It’s growing, like a weed to them, even in their own backyards.

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Higher Level Thinking

August 30, 2005

Many teachers grow timid when one suggests to them that they should
engage their students in higher level thinking. I try, as often
as possible, to ask the difficult questions to my students, to
challenge them, and to encourage them to think outside of the
box. So, why do so many adults think that you are confusing
children or being too hard on them if you make them think critically
instead of simply replaying what they’ve been told verbatim?

My only conclusion is that these adults, themselves, have long since
given up higher level thinking. They are content with the
mundane. Thinking takes too much work and too much time away from
the simple pleasures of ignorance. They never question
anything. I’m sure they did at one time, but there was probably
an adult over them who crushed any dreams of intellectual maturation
and forced them into dormancy.

For that I can say that most Americans do not think deeply and never
ponder their own realities. Why are we happy with mythology
(particularly Greek Mythology) but afraid of philosophy? Is it
because mythology is pretend and philosophy is real? Is it
because philosophy challenges you to think and mythology helps you
forget reality?Â

What I’ve found is that when a teacher starts to ask the deeper
questions, students get more involved. They don’t want to sit
around and recite dates of historical events while ignoring the
significance of them. They don’t want to be told a particular war
was beneficial to America or the world and not be allowed to decide for
themselves whether or not it was beneficial. And what of free
thought and free expression?

Challenge your students and encourage them to question everything, even you.

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Preserving our heritage

August 29, 2005

There is a blog post on Ihsan this week called The Last Moments of Makkah, detailing the Saudi regime’s plans to demolish most of the historical buildings, including the Prophet’s own house, around Masjid al-Haram in Makkah.

It is well known what they did to the cemetary, Jannatul-Baqi and other significant landmarks in Madinah. Now, they want to bulldoze the Prophet’s house to construct tall buildings, parking lots, shopping malls, and, no doubt, more western businesses.

People often ask, why do you have to “celebrate” the Prophet’s birthday, the birthdays of all 12 imams, the dates of their deaths, ‘ashura, al-isra wal-mi’raj, 15th of Sha’ban, Ghadir-khumm, etc.? Well, it actually has nothing to do with celebrating (and certainly not the death-dates) and everything to do with our heritage. We must commemorate these days because, if we do not, who will we entrust with retelling our history? Oxford? Harvard?

We, as Muslims must preserve what is left of our heritage so that our children will not forget what happened. If only Muslims in Afghanistan had studied our history and what happened when Muslims divided and fought, they might have avoided the bloodshed that they caused after defeating the Soviet Union. If only Muslims would learn from the past instead of pretending like it did not happen, we would see the clear path to our success.

I cannot count the number times I’ve heard Muslims debating issues that were solved 1000 years ago in historical debates. Had they bothered to read the history, they would know. I also can remember numerous times when Muslims have brushed off the incident at Karbala and the personality of Imam Husayn as though it were John Dough killed at the 7-11. It is odd that Muslims are almost belligerent in their denial of history, while our enemies study our history and use it against us. I firmly believe that the unity of Muslims will ultimately depend on how willing we are to accept our past, learn from it, and plan for a better future…insha’Allah.

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How Capitalism Works

August 28, 2005

In America, we live in a society that prides itself on “free trade” and a capitalist-based economy. It is interesting to see how this interplays with democracy and freedom of speech. Anyone is free to have views and free to express those views. However, those with money can express themselves loudly. As a result, the “haves” get their way, and the “have nots” are subjugated by the former.

The Islamic concepts of zakat, sadaqah, and bayt-al-mal remedy these inequalities, but it would mean that the powers-that-be sacrifice quite a bit for the greater good of society. This, after all, is a society driven by usury.

What surprises me is that so many lower-class Americans are materialistic and obsessed with obtaining the elusive “American Dream”, all the time unaware that their personal struggle is part of the machine that oppresses them.

If only they had been content with what Allah and His Messenger gave them, and had said, “Sufficient unto us is Allah! Allah and His Messenger will soon give us of His bounty: to Allah do we turn our hopes!” (that would have been the right course).” (Qur’an 9:59)

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Cherish the Time

August 18, 2005

I’m trying to manage my time better, insha’Allah. Islam, of course, helps a lot with that, and the whole point of doing so is to focus more of my time towards thikr of Allah and studying the deen.

There should be a reasonable balance between deen and dunya. Too often we get consumed by the dunya and neglect remembrance of our Lord. There are some writings of Imam al-Ghazali on this matter. Perhaps I’ll peruse them for some answers.

We have such a limited time on this earth. Let us not waste it.

This day I will reflect on how I have spent my time and how I could spend it better, insha’Allah.

“I have experienced every type of delight and found well-being to be the best. I have suffered every kind of hardship and found turning to others to be the worst. I have carried iron and stone and found being indebted to others to be the heaviest. Know that there are two kinds of days: one favorable and the other unfavorable. If it is good, do not lavish, and if it is unfavorable, be patient, as both are temporary.”

–Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him)