Friday, October 28, 2016

The US Presidential Debates And Elections

It is only nineteen days to the history-making day in my fine (adopted) country; the final presidential debate is over, and I’ll soon return to not hearing ‘he said she said’ rhetoric and all the excitement and vigor of a robust and relatively free democracy. Not ideally free and democratic, but still one of the few options under the sky. Regardless of my choice, the winner will be my next president, and I pray for kheyr, not only for all of us here in the US but worldwide, insha’Allah.

So I am watching the aftermath of the debate and every TV channel’s expert opinion when Mullah Mchungu calls on WA from Dar, I can see his name flashing on my cell phone. As I am technically ‘busy,' working on my novel and watching TV, I am within my akhlaaqi circle to ignore him. But the guy is as persistent as an agitated Afghan fly and calls back; I have to pick it up the third time he calls.

Sallam Mullah, I say in an insincere gay tone.

Sallam my foot, ghadheera, he retorts angrily, why are you ignoring me? You are becoming as insolent as my son Ali. Is this how you treat a dying old man…

I let him blow off steam. He has been ‘dying’ the last few years, so I am not too concerned; this is one way the lonely man can get sympathy and attention. So after complaining about everything under the sky he suddenly asks, Hillary Clinton is a Muslima in taqiyya, like Obama, you know nai?

My heart kicks violently, and I groan audibly; where is all this leading to? This election has made some already eccentric people even more radically peculiar than I imagined.

Don’t be condescending, Kisukaali, and have some respect for an old man. I have seen many more Diwali’s in my lifetime than you. Yes, I tell you, she’s a Muslima! Did you observe her yesterday? She did not shake Donald’s hand!  And Obama’s half-brother was there as well! A practicing Muslim, don’t you see? And she…

Was he? I didn’t see Obama’s brother, whole or half, and what has he got to do with Hillary for crying out loud? I want to argue that Hillary could be seen shaking hands and even hugging other men after the debate, etc. but it is useless deterring the old geezer, so I let him rant out his take on the debate and election, muting the TV, putting him on the speaker phone and doing my work. After about thirty minutes of rambling, the old man tires and signs off, promising to call in the days ahead with more takes on the election as the day nears; I shudder.

The Mullah can be excused for being eccentric, but I am bewildered at many who share my background, apparently young and educated, with seemingly sane marbles, act so naïvely, especially on Facebook. They bellyache about any and every US faults, more imagined than real, with the country that provides them with freedoms and liberties they or their parents migrated for. Nothing pleases them, no matter what the US does; I guess it is easy to shoot from the keyboards. The US is not the paradise in janna that we have been promised. It is one of the very few countries where I can live in peace, with liberty and justice and dignity. Is it flawless? Hell, no. But I’d rather be here in the US than any other country in this world. Trust me, I state this with great confidence. I’ve been to many, many where I could be squashed like a fly for no reason.

This election has been made apparently remarkable, what with building a wall and mass deportations and ban on Muslims threats, etc. And the curry has been made unprecedentedly more pungent with fantasy masalas of Obama being a Muslim and not a US citizen and accusations of groping and forcing tongues down lips and WikiLeaks and election rigging conspiracies and election frauds – enough steam in here to make any Hollywood / Bollywood producer salivate. Why, even my usually sedate teen daughter Maaha Zainab gets animated and energized in the process and discussions.

I remember being as excited and roused, watching Reagan and Carter and Bush and Clinton and Obama make their claim at the helm. Born in Tanzania and entirely apathetic to the political process in my birth county due to my community and parental paradigms, I was equally indifferent to the anything political when I set foot in the US way back in 1980. But the competitive nature of the electoral process here and the seemingly open debates between candidates fired up, in me, the urge to get involved, at least in casting the ballot and making a difference, however minor, in determining the future of a country that has given me so much; in professional and personal successes.

I have already voted, like millions of others and now await the outcome, a bit anxiously. Being a Muslim in the US is not as carefree as it used to be ago; I face many challenges, obviously. Not in the practice of my religion, for Allah is my witness, I am more worry-free and assured to worship in complete security in this country than I am in many ‘Muslim’ countries. But these are trials out there all right, for my daughter and me and the larger community. From those who, due to innocent ignorance perhaps, perceive me as a possible threat to this wonderful country.

Maaha Zainab wants Michelle Obama to make a run for the presidency after Hillary Clinton. Boy, Michelle is one fiery mama, her speeches would want the dead to rise in arms. Listening to her many speeches, why, I am more fired up than after one of my seven-mile runs. To the critics of the US, especially from within my community here, sit up and take note. If Michelle and Obama can swim with the system and reach ashore, we have no excuses and plenty of hope and abundant opportunities.

I will sincerely miss President Obama at the White House from next January. He has been an outstanding leader in recent American history, especially in the context of his ancestry. He’s not perfect, for sure, who is? But considering the very many challenges, in particular on the economic front he inherited when he assumed office in 2008, he has come a long way. So thank you, Sir, for steering us safely through some very rough seas.

So let’s see if Hillary Clinton makes history and we have our first female President. Kareebu sana mama.  Or Donald Trump perhaps? Mungu atujaleeye.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mockery And Hijacking Of Ashura

I testify there is no god but Allah.

I testify there are no associates to Allah; He is One, the Only, the most High, the absolute Authority, the most Just, the Master of the Day of Judgement and that I am only a mortal slave of Him.

I further testify that Mohammed (s) is Allah’s last and most beloved prophet.

And I further testify that the Imam Ali (a) is the chosen successor of Mohammed (s) and the 11 Imams from the womb of Fatemah (s) are my rightful Imams and Masters.

It is the eve of Ashura and I visit the Husseini Islamic Center, a stone’s throw away from my home, here in Sanford, FL. I am going for magreeb jamaat prayers and then will pay my respects to the martyrs of Karbala. But only after a hefty helping of Azeem’s fiery booni kitchri and choondo curry first.

Right adjacent to the main prayer building, our excellent and dedicated team of hard working volunteers are putting up an enclosure pen, made of a blue plastic shield, as if in preparation to hide something from prying (public?) eyes. The pen is at the expense of very hard to find parking space. Intrigued, I stop to ask a young harassed helper what’s it this about.

Why Uncle, he says, his eyes wide in surprise, as if I have asked the most preposterously obvious question, we are preparing for the zanjeer maatam for tonight, of course. The young teen, Allah bless him, puts me in a sour mood immediately. Not only does he innocently address me using a most inapt title, his notion that I should know about the zanjeer maatam puts me off. I nevertheless thank him and go about my business.

My mind, however, is in turmoil. Here we go again. Nothing changes. We are stuck in our ritualistic mindset, unable or most likely, unwilling to change. I was hopeful the new, younger, more educated MC at HIC would usher in changes demanded by a growing, more progressive community. Wrong! Same old, same old. Shame on you! Do not allow this illogical and barbaric ritual take place! Show some spine and stand up to what is right, no matter how hard they twist your arms.

You let few old-timers, who have their heads buried in muck, dictate to the majority how to mourn the supreme, sublime, holy sacrifice of our Imam (a). This minority, who hijack the whole concept of Ashura and make a mockery of a noble sacrifice. Year after bloody repeating year. Aree Baba, what will it take to make you change this wrong and barbaric ritual? Are you deaf, dumb and blind?

Let me repeat the whole anti-zanjeer argument here again:

*None of our Imams practiced or encouraged, even remotely, this repugnant practice.
*The practice is illogical.
*The practice is prone to injury, disease and impurity.
*The practice is harming and hindering the message of the Imam (a).
*The practice is shameful, insulting and embarrassing to the honor of Islam.
*We can propagate the message of Ashura in so many other ways; logical, safe, clean, legal, progressive avenues that’ll make the Imam (a) and we stand tall and proud of the day.

The conflicting opinions of our ulemas don’t help. Many leading Marja says zanjeer is not permissible, while few others tell me I will not get Lady Fatema’s intercession if I refrain from robust zanjeer, not that I have ever seen them spill their blood.

Aree Baba, Ashura is about dignity, pride, patience and intellect. Study Lady Zainab (a)’s patience, mannerisms and poise, through all the trials and tribulations she had to endure. Did she do anything that was irrational? Study Imam Sajjad’s (a) stance, wisdom and fortitude; were any of his actions illogical? Of all the people in then Karbala, Imam Sajjad (a) was the most grieved after Ashura, and he would be excused for acting in any manner without any finger pointed at him. Yet, he chose to bear all the atrocity with incredible calm, poise, forbearance and dignity. Dignity to Islam, to himself, to his household and to that of the entire Ahlebeyt (a). And ditto with all the following Imams (a), all of them. Same poise, patience, forbearance and dignity.

With all the examples we have from these idols, some of us take upon ourselves to practice demonic rituals, all in the Imam’s (a) names. Just because we found our fathers and ancestors doing it. Because it is uncomfortable and fearful letting go of rituals that bind us in comfort zones. Even though the Quraan condemns this very argument – following the rituals of ancestors.

I know the inevitable rebuttals. Why should I care and we are spilling our blood and nobody is forcing me to do it and it is our way of showing we love the Imam (a) and shut up and mind your own business… Wrong! As long as the tamasha is played out in the premises of HIC, whose member I am and with who I affiliate, it is my business all right. A wrong done here and we become collectively responsible, legally and morally. If you want your blood shed in a ritualistic manner that has no Islamic basis – DO IT IN YOUR BACKYARD!