Blindness

Blindness is looking out of a window and finding the view exactly as you remember it.

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Sans Sense

The Art of Nothingness

Muslim women are born with a defective design.

Why, we are remarkably similar to other human beings in our anatomy and workings! We even have our sense organs on our heads. Now that would usually be fine for animals and other persons on planet Earth, but since we keep being told that the face is awra (a private part!), I wonder whether a trunk and snout might have been a more functional design choice for us. At least we could breathe, eat and talk in peace. The blasphemous British have said it for centuries that the eyes are windows to one’s soul, and some clerics have finally caught on to it by asking that one or both eyes be covered, lest your soul escaped through the open window. If you’re wondering what took them so long, it turns out that the brain may have been equally unnecessary to both sexes.  Now hold your sniggers, because I don’t think Darwin got it right, either. If all that evolution clap-trap worked as he claimed, we would be faceless, sense-less, brainless amoebas, by now. So there, you heretic!

Take a moment to ponder on the grand scheme, our religious patriarchs have prepared for the weaker sex. Even sunshine is a test for the pious. Never mind the fact that many of us live bang in the middle of the Earth, the rightly guided ones have either acquired Vitamin-D deficiency rickets by now, or are on course to giving it to their nursing babies. Even our immigrant sisters are teaching the West some humility. Those creeps were claiming that they had eradicated rickets during the Victorian era. Well, not any more.

Reader, if you do wear a niqab, you probably already favour a black one because of its heat-absorptive properties. In our climate, it may after all enable you to attain the perfect temperature for a tenderly sautéed brain masala, without the use of natural gas or cooking oil.

Wait. I have more to say about the face, or rather, it is the science book written by infidels that says that facial recognition is the principal way through which social primates have, for several hundred thousand years, identified family from non-family and friends from foes. They even say that the face expresses subtle or obvious emotional cues that are universal to humans and critical to communications. If you’re a Muslim woman, that information or any benefits purported to accrue from owing a face, are entirely superfluous to you, as the Muslim men may not think your identity or your emotions are worthy of attention, in the first place. Whether you’re happy, worried, angry, grieving, or plain excited, just shut the hell up visually and verbally, and go back to the kitchen. And for your own safety, don’t bother stepping out, because in a phenomenon that is present in uniquely eccentric proportions in Muslim societies, you are indeed quite likely to be jeered at, leered at, groped, molested, assaulted, or otherwise harassed by other men, veils notwithstanding.

If you’re wondering what the point of this mumbo-jumbo is, let me be more direct:

How can God in all his wisdom create humans in the best of designs and then limit half of them from using their endowments? How do women in other societies carry on with their lives without living in constant terror of harassment or a crippling fear of judgment based on looks?

If you are already forming a rebuttal in your head, AND if you are a man who has never worn a veil to work, let me tell you that you will never understand the limitations that it imposes on women when they’re interacting with the environment or other people. And please, stop chasing away common sense with the ‘religious obligation’ baton.

In case you haven’t guessed and cursed me for it already, I am phobic to the full-face veil, and I’m not even French. It’s a hard-wired human response to mistrust what isn’t apparent. If you’re in for a social experiment, try approaching an infant, wearing a mask, even a black one, for greater drama. This baby will be not only refuse to be held, but will be visibly distressed by your presence. Lacking may he or she be in language skills, but the baby definitely understands trust and security, warmth and goodwill. Unfortunately, a niqab is the exact opposite of trust, security, warmth and goodwill. While some may consider it to be their right to wear the niqab, let it be known that it encroaches upon my right to feel safe in their presence. For all I know, they may be shop-lifters, stalkers, or men wearing suicide jackets.

I admit I can neither undo centuries of brain washing by our patriarchs through a post, or address the social factors and prejudices that are leading to marginalization of Muslims in many parts of the world. But maybe you will agree with some bite-size logic: that the Muslims of today are increasingly adopting symbols of misogynist dessert cultures, in the name of Islam, to express their defiance, and to set themselves apart, in a world where cultures are blending together like ice-cubes in water.

If you are a Niqabi reader, donning this out of ‘choice’, for the sake of reason, or even God, please drop it – really!

Take it. It’s free.

Illustration of advice

Advice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a Pakistani, I just loooove to give advice. The line between my life and yours is a little blurry, you see. Everyone I know, or don’t know, between Gwadar and Parachinar, is an extension of my really extended family – bhai, baji, amma, baba, khala, chacha, beta, beti, uncle, aunty, bua. So naturally, I have your best interests at heart, muah!

Now, if you were clever like me, you would have realized that advice is free, just like a smile. Since smile is charity, advice is too. You should follow logic baba on twitter. He says A is equal to C (uff, we’ll talk about B when he’s left the room). Now don’t ask me for money – I have none to give, only advice, on how you should have spent yours, more prudently. As it is, I’m already over my budget this month because I bought this blessed pair of chappals that the phuppo next door swears by – they ARE the secret to obedient husbands. So for the rest of the month, I’ll give you smiles and advice.

What I’m about to tell you is derived from centuries of hair-whitening research from our nannies and grannies. It is specific to the Pakistani phenotype and genotype. If you are our Afghan or Saudi brothers, please triple the strength for each tip before use. If you’re Indian, Israeli or American, go flush yourself down the toilet. (That’s advice too.)

• Don’t work on Fridays. It is for baths, prayers and pelting stones on passing cars, if you feel offended.

• The secret ingredient in finger-licking good food is perspiration. Work up a sweat.

• The antidote to envy is to have a tablespoon of sour grapes soaked in gripe water at bedtime.

• Don’t buy lawn from Peepak Derwani. He has cheetah prints and even zebras know that cheetahs are not halal. Only Jay-Jay has halal lawn.

• Rickets is better than a sun-tan. You’ll get married as long as you’re fair.

• We have no CNG in cars and no electricity in homes, because there is no Haya in women. Stop blaming the government.

• Bald men are virile. Ladies use that information carefully, and use polio drops when necessary.

• If you want to be filthy rich, avoid frequent hand washing.

What did you just say? Mind my own business? No, no, no. I don’t own my business. It is in my great-grandmother’s name, because she doesn’t have an NTN.

Of never-ending needs …

People vary in what they expect from others – some need financial assistance or tangible things money can buy, and others demand your time, attention or reassurance. There are some who claim it out of necessity, and others as a matter of right. Before, I evoke defensive responses in some of you, let me clarify that I believe in charity and I believe in helping those in need. It is desirable and highly recommended, actually, to share some of your good fortune with the less endowed, of your own initiative.

English: A leech (Hirudo medicinalis) beginnin...

A leech (Hirudo medicinalis) beginning to suck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post however discusses people who claim out of a sense of entitlement. Some call them free-riders, and others call them leeches, but the fact is that these people live off the hard-work, smarts or compassion or vulnerabilities of others.When applied to these individuals, you’ll discover that neediness is a state of mind more than a state of deprivation.

If you have lots of time at your hand, like I do, and know a few needy people, you’ll realize that they have a lot in common.

They are, to their credit, keen observers and resourceful people. If you have what they want, they’ll spot you from a mile and embark on instant rapport and trust building exercises. In fact, until they’re needing, they’re very charming people. A few steps into establishing trust, they may work to socially isolate you. You may notice yourself spending disproportionate amounts of time with them, by neglecting your person or by ignoring those around you, or worse, some of your former friends may actively start avoiding you, probably because of the way your *new, best friend* treated them behind your back! You’ll be amazed at the variety of tools that they employ – they can switch back and forth between the babe-in-the-woods, to the blood-sucking, blackmailer, and the shy, vulnerable man/woman, to the determined pushy individual that lurks underneath. If you’re stuck with them, don’t depend on them though. Most of them are selfish to the core. Once you’ve fallen into their trap, they can drain you with their incessant demands for whatever it is that they are after, without bothering to think of the negative impact it may have on you. Fortunately for you, when you are no longer able or willing to meet their demands, they turn bitter and eventually disappear.

While I am no expert on human behaviour, I suspect, that neediness has its roots in low self-esteem and a marked inaction to address the causes of low self-esteem. A needy person highly values wealth and social status. They are masters of illusion and excel at superficial expressions of success and achievement. Despite the fact that they’re determined in their pursuit of you, there is real inaction on their part to improve themselves. Their insecurities never really go away, no matter how much you feed them, because, deep-down they know they are inadequate and incompetent.

Now, I’m taking the liberty to make a sexist remark here. Neediness is more commonly observed in women rather than men. It is possible that women, especially in the East, are raised to be dependant, both mentally and physically, upon the men, or older, authority-holding women, in their lives. Because independent thinking and action is widely frowned upon, in time, the women learn to constantly seek approval for who they are and what they are doing. I’m sure though that they exist everywhere in both genders.

Because of the baggage these folks bring to relationships, it is best to run, before they invade your life. Speaking for myself, I am wary of unusually sweet people. If I am suddenly the centre of someone’s world, I would guard my wallet and my heart. There are other signs too. If someone’s income doesn’t explain their lifestyle, you want to be careful. If someone asks for a favour, without looking visibly embarrassed (never mind the words, watch the non-verbal cues), asking is not strange to them. If you’re barely acquainted with someone and they start pouring out dark and mushy secrets about their life, you ought to be suspicious. And here’s the over-arching rule, stay away from drama queens and drama queers.

Oh, by the way, if anything in this description sounds remotely like you, I have a few generous tips for you:

  • Don’t take all the eggs out of a single basket/nest. Have at least 5-10 hens in your resource network. 
  • Pace your demands. Don’t ask more than two favours in a row, of the same individual.
  • Don’t demand instant gratification. It triggers a fight-or-flight response in the other person.
  • Choose your favours carefully. Several small ones can be more irritating than one big one.

Now that I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say, let me concede some ground. This post is not meant to be a harsh judgment on some persons. After all, we are all needy at some point or the other. And we need different things at different stages in our life. The challenge is to not let neediness become a habit or a lifestyle. To quote Mohammad (PBUH), ‘the hand that gives is better than the hand that receives’, so be the upper hand.

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Rising

This poem, by Maya Angelou, is dedicated to all the wonderful women who make this world worth living.

Onebillionrising.org

Onebillionrising.org

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

You, Creep, You!

Wordle: Hate

You can love someone with all your heart and if you had two hearts, you could hate someone with both. After all, the poor hate the rich and the rich loathe the poor. Fat people resent the thinner ones and the thin ones despise their endowed counterparts. The faithful abhor the faithless and the faithless find them insufferable. The list just goes on.

At the heart of all hatred, you’ll eventually discover a deep sense of insecurity about resources which may be as tangible as money or a job, or as intangible as affection or appreciation. 

At a very basic level, the process works like this:

  • You don’t have something you value. Let’s call it the prize.
  • You consider all the reasons you don’t have the prize and choose a convenient one – you don’t have it because you were denied it (the denial of rights)
  • You look around and find others who do have the prize. These are the usurpers.
  • You make fundamental assumptions about the usurper’s intentions – that the denial of rights was intentional because they’re either supremacists or simply deceitful and unprincipled.
  • You are enraged and decide to fight back, because they deserve it. Now you’re not only playing to kill, you want to be as brutal as possible.   
  • They retaliate and the cycle starts.

Several sociologists, notably Dr. Martin Oppenheimer, have looked at organized hatred that is against the other race, religion, ethnicity, gender, value, choice and basically any and all differences between you and them. They note that sometimes it is based on actual injustice but most often, all the provocation one needs to deal with their own weaknesses and frustrations, is a perception or bias against another, fuelled by notions of supremacy and entitlement.

Whatever the cause or the object, the bottomline is that hatred is destructive for all involved. If you’re acting on it, you’re starting a vicious cycle. If you’re not acting on it, it’s affecting your mental health and possibly your heart health.

So then how do we deal with hatred?                                      

Confucius has nailed it before me by saying:

“He who requires much from himself and little from others, will keep himself from being the object of resentment”.

On a personal level, when (and thankfully, not very often) I am feeling resentful towards a person or a group, I first try to address the rage because it not only propels undesirable actions, but also impairs logic. So, calming down is crucial. No, I don’t, in any way try to be in their shoes – it’ll always be a bad fit, but I try not to let my dislike for them influence my actions. For example, I shall not cross my arms, frown, say anything rude, or change my plans, in response to their presence. Many times, I succeed at pretending they don’t exist, at other times I don’t. But I try, nevertheless. In the longer term, it is best to distance ourselves from people or situations that make us angry or act irrationally.

I’m sure everyone experiences the dislike/resent emotions once in a while. I’d love to hear what other readers do to deal with it.

Justice for Lama

I don’t know if I should cry or scream.

In the Arabia predating Islam, young girls were buried alive. Several centuries and a prophet later, the region shows little promise of reform. Now, young girls are raped by their fathers, burnt and tortured to death.

I can, with some effort, ignore the fact that the perpetrator is a Muslim and a cleric at that, because perversion, cruelty and evil transcend boundaries, religions, and professions. But, I shall forever begrudge it if Fayhan Al Ghamdi could atone for this crime by paying USD 50,000 to the mother, and worse, that any morally bankrupt judge, could sign off Ghamdi’s freedom, by negating everything the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) stood for, and instead quoting a weak hadith, that enables him to overlook the transgression.

Lama Al Ghamdi

Lama Al Ghamdi

I am ashamed to say that while most Muslims look towards Saudi Arabia for religious guidance, the Kingdom, in many ways tolerates or even encourages the hate, bigotry, stereotyping and abuse practiced by many Saudis in the name of Islam. I’m baffled as to how a society, that practices rigid gender segregation, even entrusts a father, with the care and custody of a minor girl? Isn’t incest and rape a crime that is worthy of stoning to death in the opinion of many Islamic scholars? Can you pay blood money for your own child?

I demand justice for Lama (#Ana Lama) – an exemplary punishment that I wish could be as gruesome as the treatment this little girl received.

Readers, spread the word and sign this petition. If you are not with Lama, you are with Fayhan Ghamdi.