It has been three years since the removal of Mubarak from the presidency yet the situation on the ground in Egypt appears remarkably the same. One of the goals of the revolution was to end the autocratic tendencies of the presidency and usher in a new period of political and economic freedom. Disillusioned with the perceived autocratic tendencies of Dr. Morsi, some of the revolutionaries went to the streets for a second time and with the aid of the Egyptian army successfully removed him. Almost immediately after removing Dr. Morsi, the new interim government began wiping out any resistance to their rule. This began with closing any channels with opposing views and morphed into establishing laws that limit the freedom of the press, vague definitions of terrorism and the banning of unsanctioned protests. Indeed, it has gotten so bad that Ahmed Maher one of the leaders of the April 6 youth movement (one of the main organizations behind the January 2011 protests that toppled Mubarak) got three years in jail just for protesting without a permit. To understand how draconian this rule is, it is important to compare it with Mubarak, who also got three years in jail. However, Mubarak offense was embezzlement of $17 million dollars of state funds.
What went wrong? Why did the first democratic experiment fail so badly that people are rooting for an autocratic leader fully aware that El-Sissi will not fulfill the two of the primary goals (freedom and liberty) of the revolution? To understand this it is important that the revolutionaries realize that the problem is with the system and not with the man on top. Each of the constitutions that were passed recently just rehashed the same system with empty promises of freedom, sharia, and slight modifications to the breakdown of power among the president, parliament and the judiciary. In Egypt, people can vote only for the president and their parliament or local council representatives. Every other important position in the country gets selected. The president either directly or indirectly selects his prime minister, his cabinet, the governors, the mayors, the interior ministry, the local sheriffs and judges. With so much power in the hands of such few people, how can you not expect the system to become autocratic. More importantly such a system breeds corruption. When a local policeman tortures his prisoners, the only recourse people have to address this is the interior minister, who might not be reachable to common folk. In the same way with the local police only having to answer to the interior minister, they have no incentive to respond to the needs and demands of the local people. In other words, no matter which president comes to power, they will be either deemed autocratic or will be autocratic. Moreover, the system works best only with a strongly autocratic leader.
But this is no excuse or time for revolutionaries to give up now. First, it must be recognized that they have already accomplished one major goal and that is they showed the government that citizens have power and their voices matter. Today the revolutionaries must change tactics to remain a positive force in Egyptian society. They must realize that the solution to truly change the country is by decentralizing political power through decoupling sheriffs, judges, mayors and governors from the president. Instead of protesting against one autocratic president followed by another they need to protest against the unlimited powers of the presidents. They should protest to allow the Egyptian people directly elect their mayors, governors, local sheriffs and local judges. Giving local Egyptians control over their cities and governorates will hopefully bring several positive developments to Egypt. Firstly, it will allow positive political discourse in Egypt and allow a diversity of political opinion to flourish. Some governorates might become Islamist strongholds, other liberal/secular strongholds. This diversity will give Egyptian people the ability to experience what different political ideas such as conservatism, liberalism and socialism actually mean when it comes to governance without creating havoc on the national level. In addition, it allows for political discourse on tangible ideas rather than abstract concepts. It is much easier to make and track a promise to improve the economic conditions of Cairo by reducing traffic gridlock rather than lofty ideals of improving the economy.
Secondly, while local government will not be able to stamp out corruption they will do a better job at controlling it. A sheriff directly responsible to the local people will less likely to allow torture to occur in his police stations. A judge knowing that he will be up for elections will less likely make court decisions based on whim rather than rule of law. Lastly, it will give our youth practical experience in campaigning, politics, holding office and most importantly teach our political leaders the importance of positive political discourse and the importance of compromise to reach the greater good of improving the lives of every Egyptian.
I wish the best to all the revolutionaries out there and remind them that this is only the beginning of the Arab spring and only by working together regardless of political camps/ideals can they change Egypt for the better. I am looking forward to the day when start hearing chants of “We want to elect our governors” in Egyptian streets.
I finally finished and deposited my thesis :), back to writing blogs…
I had a dream today morning that I was in Cairo, Egypt. More specifically I was near the Presidential Palace and the recently formed barricades. I was with a motley group of Muslims; Men and women; very religious men with nice looking beards on one side, to women who did not wear hijab. We were all wearing white or light colored cloth.
On our left were the so called “secular” protestors who were marching to the palace. On our right were the so called “Islamists” who were marching to protect the palace. We immediately stood in the middle and formed a barricade wall between both groups. We were not many and the line was only one person deep. Nevertheless, we formed the line between these two groups. As the two groups descended upon us we shouted
“We are all Muslims”; “Hit us and leave the other side alone”, and other chants along those lines.
We did get beaten by some perverted men on both sides. However, we kept the line rigid and refused to allow the two sides to mix and fight each other. In the end both sides withdrew and left us in the center of the square all alone.
The dream ends with us setting up camp and discussing what we found in the square, including the palace key, which we believed the protesters had with them to storm the palace. This reminded us about the time of Uthman, where his house was surrounded by a hostile group that eventually entered and killed him. We remembered all the strife that happened and how the Islamic nation had its first civil war due to this event. We decided that we will never let that happen.
This dream left me with more questions than answers:
Where is the third camp of Egyptians? Who will stand up to the excesses of both sides ? Who will rise up to protect each side from each other and help change the atmosphere in Egypt from one of strife to one of dialogue?
We have reached a dangerous place were both sides consider each other as evil and must be dealt with. How do we expect them to have dialogue with each other?
The reason I used the word so-called secularist and islamists earlier, is because for the most part they are all Muslims and they all care about Egypt.
I am not Egyptian or in Egypt and I cannot do anything to affect change. However, I hope by writing about this, maybe I can raise awareness of those who do and can have an impact directly in Egypt.
One of the comments (obtained from this website ) stated the following :
” BY THE WAY… for all those saying that we should just TOLERATE the Muslims and let them live their own lives… I might agree if they did not care about influencing how our COUNTRY works !! Yet Sharia Law is what they want. What does it say about our COUNTRY when our present-day politicians debase themselves to begging for Muslim votes at elections and later try to arrange political swindles with …”
Does the commenter not realize the irony of his own words? While he tries to condemn Muslims for trying to change the country and for the politicians trying to get the so called Muslim vote he forgets that the strongest lobby in Washington is the Jewish lobby. Every president wannabe must now go to pilgrimage to Israel and declare his support for Israel even at the expense of America. Does he not see the irony in this all? This reminds of the story of a loyal man who went out to defend his town against an often talked about but never seen monster in the forest and while valiantly defending his home from this monster his whole house gets robbed.
This is sadly what is happening to America, while we strongly warned against the monster of Islam/Muslims and warned against terrorism the wealth of the USA gets pocketed by corporations, it policies get set by foreign nations and it slowly getting ransacked in a much more thorough manner than Rome was ever ransacked.
I really hope that God will continue to protect America from all those who are trying to destroy it and wake the populace up before it too late. What makes America great is that it is the land of freedom and justice, but sadly these rights are rapidly disappearing under the guise of security and terrorism.
Update 12/15/11 : I hope I did not make it sound like all corporations are bad and they are the bad guys. I do not believe that at all, however, I strongly believe that some corporation are exerting undue influence on our economic and political systems and abetting the current situation.
The purpose of the article is to point out the irony in the attitude people have about Muslims, which is why I used very large brushes when comparing it the actual circumstances
Welcome back!!! I wonder who I am actually welcoming, is it my loyal followers (lol that sounds so wrong to me), or is the general blogging body or am I just welcoming myself. How does one restart blogging, do they start slow and rebuild their brand/name? Do they write banging blogs? Or just meek welcomes. I want to give you a meek welcome, and be on my way for next week blog, but that would not be fair to anyone including me.
Mediocrity is the key to life. Yep, that the answer I know we all were looking for. It is the key to success that is if you plan to be average. And honestly, who really wants to be average. Mind you I am not suggesting being perfect since only Allah is perfect, but how about just above-average. I am sure we can all achieve this if we try hard enough.
When it comes to achieving our goals and vision we generally run
into two problems. The first is time and the second is lack of opportunity. How many times we spent an hour on the phone complaining about how little time we have? I know I have done it so many times yet it never occurs to me how silly I must sound or how superficial my complaints really are. I am so used to the drill of saying no to spending an hour listening to a useful lecture and instead spend 2 hours watching 5-min youtube clips in quick succession. Do I not see the irony of my own decisions? Truth be told my father said it best, there is no such thing as busy it just how you priorities your hours and your tasks.
The second part of being average is opportunities. We always
complain against them. I was not born in a rich family, I did not have a chance to go to MIT and so forth. This was a point that I could not argue against until a recent
article published in New York Times that should be a read for everone (linked here). Read it….
What are you waiting for; it is a very important read especially if you still consider yourself young….
Now that you have read it, it really raises a great point. Everyone gets a series of good and bad luck or in other words opportunities. It becomes up to us to take the lead on these opportunities and turn them into successes, whether monetary or otherwise, or we end up missing them and complain about our bad luck when the car breaks down. As the article said the extremely successful people were extremely disciplined and took advantage of opportunities (good and bad) and were not afraid to change their plans (as in Bill Gates example of dropping college to establish Microsoft). The sad truth is each opportunity seems to build on each other, kind of like the GRE. If you answer the first question correctly, you jump in points and you get another harder question and it keeps cycling through questions till it finds your actual potential (for the sake of this article I guess). It makes me wonder about all the opportunities I lost; but hey we can’t look back just forward. In all honestly I really do not care about monetary reward or recognition (I guess Nobel Prize) but I am still far from success based on my definitions.
Okay my fellow friends, let’s hold hands and make a circle around the camp fire and let’s sing. “I do not want to be average”.
Books are truly amazing, each time you open a book you enter a mind of a faraway author. Concepts and ideas that you have never even imagined thinking of suddenly are at the door steps of your brain. The moment that you open the door and let them enter fireworks explode. Suddenly, experiences that feel completely different become linked and mysteries and puzzle solve themselves. It is truly a wonderful experience and all a person needs to do is it pick a book. Well, yes one also needs to pick the right book, but that about it.
Thinking about this wonderful and marvelous experience I am going through made me think of my Prophet (peace be upon him) who more than 1400 years ago received the following revelation:
“Read, O Prophet, in the name of your Lord who has created!. He has created man from a clinging clot. Read! For your lord is the Most Gracious One, who has taught by the pen, has taught man what he has known not! : (The Holy Quran 96: 1-5)
These were the first verses to ever be revealed to our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and how marvelous they are. Allah tells us in one word that he has taught by the pen, taught us what we know not. WOW….
Okay, you are probably saying what up with this dude. It just amazing what books can give you. They honestly make my brain go spinning and give me a deeper appreciation for what I am experiencing and help me resolve my struggles. Of course there is no book that provides a total solution or is complete. Also, a person might not even agree with everything that a book says. But that’s it; each book helps you to take one step higher towards understanding yourself, the world around you and most importantly your relationship with your Lord. In the end you have to do the thinking and processing and reaching your own conclusions, the books just open doors for you and make new bridges where you thought was not possible. It is no wonder to me that the libraries were the first buildings to be destroyed when an army invades. No better way to destroy a civilization than to destroy their books.
Like everything in life, to become an avid reader one must take steps. Slow baby steps. One starts with reading baby books with lots of pictures and very little words. They then transitions to comics or to short story books, then to story books with in-depth storyline and finally to books that really open your mind. I think I have finally made that last transition. Not that I do not like stories or fiction, I still love them and read them I just have a deeper appreciation for books that now give me an Aha moment.
So why did I ever stop? I claimed I was too busy and instead got my entertainment from TV (youtube for me :), anasheed/music, news or other games. While each form of entertainment is entertaining and can be even considered beneficial to yon they pale in comparison to books. Think about it, in books you control the speed of the show, you control what significant by pausing at it or what useless by skimming over it. They act as a reference that you can go back to anytime you have questions or want to ponder a concept more. In TV, even the most educational ones, shows are made for your entertainment and to keep you busy. They throw fact after fact at you, but give you little time to ponder over the significance of that fact. Lastly your options are extremely limited. I am not bashing TV, it is just completely pales in comparison to books. Yep, to all the books in the world, I am coming after you.
In a shout out to a friend of mine, it reading the books that give the Aha moment, not buying them 😉
For my avid readers, I will soon create a list of books that I recommend reading and hey maybe we can spawn an online book reading club.
Lastly, I strongly urge you to pick a book and read. Let it be on a subject that you have strong interest in, but little knowledge about and get ready for a journey of a life time (My selected topics now are nature and love ) and please do suggest a good book in the comments. I would love to read it.
I found this very interesting video by political economist Mark Blyth from Scotland about our current financial situations and what should the government do about it.
Let me know what you think, do you agree or disagree?
Before I start, I would like to send my condolences to the family of my great Uncle; I have never had the chance to meet him, yet I have always heard great things about him. He was a man that always placed the family first. My God rest his soul. Second, I would like to congragulate my sister on her beautiful daughter, Raghad, pictures will be posted.
It funny, one can see how I am managing my time based on the time span between two posts.
1) Pasta conquered? Definitely. After that first successful event, I made pasta with white sauce (I made the sauce just how my mom makes gravy for the biscuits& gravy for breakfast; fry flour and slowly mix it with milk) and tuna; delicious. I then made pasta with yogurt, where I fried (or boiled?) the yogurt and then added it to the pasta, another success. It turned out to be delicious, but ironically the process made me realize how they make Mansuf. I then made 3 pounds of pasta for a major dinner, and it was all gone (sadly I did not get to taste it, but I did take pictures 🙂
2) Yearning to God is hard but well worth the effort. I failed my Ramadan objective, yet I succeeded in gaining one of the nights.
3) Life is so confusing and contradictory. Some days I feel like I can conquer the world, others I just want to lay down and just watch the world. Some days I want to lead my community, others I just want to lay in bed and be a distant observer. [This is all figurative examples of how I feel]
4) Marriage, I decided I will love my wife tremendously just because she picked me :); Whenever that day comes
5) Wrestling is a lot of fun and I happy to have found a wrestling partner. Sadly, I shocked another person in the process.
6) Imam Abdulmalik: It was amazing having him here with us for three days in a row. He made a difference in our community, I am so happy that he agreed to come. As a community we need to do everything we can to support his Islam on Capital hill campaign (www.islamoncapitalhill.com) by spreading the word, sponsoring him and attending the jumaa prayer in Washington, DC to make a statement.
7) Influences…. I few years ago I like most youth felt as though I was a separate entity from my parents and that I was creating my own path without influence of my parents. Now I know that whether you deny it or not, 85-95% of your actions (everyday actions), thoughts and ideas originate from your parents. It does not matter what field you pick, what path you take or what religion you choose. Parents have tremendous influence upon you. For that I would like to sincerely thank my parents for raising me and taking care of me and giving me all the tools I need to succeed in the world and the next. In the same instance, I wonder is babysitting worth the risk of your child getting influenced by others?
I have now removed all of these ramblings from my head and can now go ahead and write an coherent article next week. God willing of course
If you just want a recipe to make pasta, I would suggest you skip to the ingredient list below, otherwise read at your own risk
While I have forayed into the realm of pasta before, (especially macaroni), I could never claim that I have entered it until before yesterday; I went in with my guns blazing.
It was about 10pm and I had nothing to eat all day, (ie I was starving, that probably how I always start my food blogs 🙂 ). Initially I thought that I did not have anything in the fridge, I was out of bread, most vegetables, cheese and so on. I knew that I had pasta and rice, and that was a building block I could start on.
Before I continue on, let me talk about what I constitute as a meal. For a meal to be fulfilling, nutritious and enjoyable it must consist of three items. First every meal must have what I call a building block, which means that every meal needs to consist of either rice, bread or pasta (note cereal is an interesting case). Second, each meal must have some sort of sauce that maintains the water level of the food (so it’s not too dry), and gives flavor to the food. Lastly each meal must have vegetables and meat (if possible), these items give the meal its texture, color, aroma, support the sauce and add flavor to the meal. Where and how did I come with the above, I just made it up based on what I consider experience but my father calls meddling with food too much. Actually if you noticed the above construct is missing a major food type; beans/peas which I have not had a chance to explore yet. Also, you will find many dishes that are exceptions to the above meal construct, but many more follow it whether bread (sandwiches) pasta or rice.
Back to the kitchen, I start by trying to think of the easiest way to feed myself. Sadly I considered making eggs to much of an effort and end up constructing a meal from scratch. The way I construct a meal, is that I try to decide what base do I want to build it on (rice, pasta or bread), Then I ask what flavor/sauce I want (spicy, tomato sauce, creamy sauce, etc) and based on the information above I start narrowing down the vegetables and the meats I will be using based on what color, texture and complementary flavor I want to make.
Before I go on to make the meal, I have just one more principle that I follow regarding meals. A dish can only be made with the ingredients currently available in the kitchen; I will never go to the store just to buy ingredients for the dish I want make today. This means I have to make my meal under the constraints of what I have in the kitchen (this is actually very fun to do and leads to creativity and innovation) and if I want a particular dish, then I just have to plan ahead. Of course, this also meant that I got my sister angry on many occasions.
Okay back to the kitchen, I had a raging debate between pasta and rice with rice having the upper hand until I chose pasta (Conchiglie or seashell shaped pasta). As I started the pasta on the stove and then focused my attention to my sauce. I wanted something with tomato sauce, slightly spicy but not overwhelming and something that utilizes any remaining vegetables. Initially I was very conflicted about meat, because I only had canned tuna and that did not sound appetizing, but luckily I remembered that I had two frozen breaded chicken patties, which I promptly defrosted and diced. I also found a lonely half onion in the fridge, which I also diced and threw it with the meat in a pan with olive oil to fry and added some minced garlic, Italian dressing, salt and pepper for flavor. The only other vegetables I had were celery and sweet peppers (a gift from someone’s garden) and I had a lot of them. I decided I might as well utilize both and used the celery for texture (crunchy) and the sweet peppers for color (green and red ones). Both were diced and I added them after the onions and meats were properly fried. I let them fry for a bit longer and then added hot sauce (liquid crushed pepper), and mixed some more. I then found a used can tomato paste with only a third left and that made my day. I added it to the mixture and then added a cup of water. I boiled the sauce for a few minutes and then let it simmer for a few more minutes until the pasta was ready. After draining the water from the pasta, I mixed the sauce with it and to top it off I added the remains of grated cheese used for spaghetti a couple of days earlier and finally I served it and ended up eating a bit too much. The whole meal took about 15 minutes.
While, I might be biased when I tell you that it was delicious, at least I can also tell you that a roommate of mine who beforehand told me he was not very hungry ended up eating three plates of pasta!
To recap here is the ingredient list and a more straight-forward set of directions if you ever plan on making it.
2 celery stalks
2 table spoons of liquid crushed red peppers
1 tea spoon of minced garlic
Salt and pepper
1/3 can of tomato paste
1 box of pasta (1 pound)
2 patties of chicken
1 cup of water
½ cup of grated cheese
- Prepare pasta according to instructions on box (boil water, add pasta, mix occasionally for 8-10 minutes and drain)
- Dice onion, sweet peppers, celery stalks and chicken
- Fry diced chicken, onion and minced garlic in olive oil and add Italian dressing, salt and pepper to taste
- After chicken cooks and onion appear sautéed add sweet peppers and celery stalks, mix and fry for a couple more minutes
- Add hot sauce and let it mix for one more minute then add tomato paste, mix and add water.
- Let sauce boil for a couple of minutes and then let it simmer until pasta is done.
- After pasta is drained, place pasta in serving bowl and add the sauce on top of the pasta and mix until all pasta is covered with sauce
- Sprinkle grated cheese on top of pasta and serve.
Enjoy and make sure to utilize ingredients you have in your kitchen.
I used to tell people that we Muslims pray five times a day (called Salat in Arabic) and I would get responses such as “ I only pray to my Gods when I need something (comment from a Hindi friend)” or “ we are better, we only pray to God one (or three) time(s) and thus we bother God less than you”. These statements confused me, our five daily prayers are basically avenues in which we can remember God and his greatness, why is praying less better?
I then realized that maybe we are using the same word to explain two different phenomena. In Islam our five prayers involved following a strict set of steps. We stand for prayer and recite the opening chapter of the Quran (Surah Al-Fatihah), followed by verses or chapters from the Quran that we choose. After that we kneel/bow, glorify the greatness of Allah and then we prostrate to the floor and glorify the highness of Allah. This is repeated anywhere between 1 to 4 times depending on the type and time of prayer. Compared to Christianity where they may kneel and pray to God in usually an unscripted manner (to the best of my knowledge), this is probably what leads to the above confused statements. Our prayers are mainly to glorify and remember Allah, while others pray usually to thank or request something from God.
What does the word “prayer” actually mean? I checked oxford dictionary and got the following meanings for prayer, “(noun) a request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity…”. While the word correctly defines the Christian mode of prayer, I found it lacking in describing what we call prayer. If prayer is not the best word then what is a better word? Worship which is defined as “(noun) the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. 2 religious rites and ceremonies…” according the Oxford dictionary seems to be a better definition.
Okay now that we resolved the name question regarding our five acts of Worship (see, I am adapting already), I can speak about the Muslim form of prayer. In Arabic it is called du’aa and before today I could not use a term to distinguish it from our five acts of worship (since both would translate into prayer). Like the Christian prayer, it is unscripted and basically a means to ask or thank Allah for something. It is usually done after an act of worship, at night, in the morning, before we eat, after we eat, before an exam or basically at any and all times of the day or night. Since Muslims are encouraged to constantly remember God and ask from him, du’aa (or the Muslim prayer), happens countless times a day. Even our greetings ( my favorite greeting ever), Salam Alakium or Peace be upon you is a form of du’aa and we try to compete with each other by returning a better greeting such as “and Peace be upon you and Allah’s Mercy and Blessings” (Arabic version: Walakium Asalam wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatu)
All du’aas’ are not equal and there are usually simple forms that we should follow in our du’aa to increase the chance of Allah accepting the du’aa. Surah Al-Fatihah, the first chapter in the Quran (literally translated as the Opening) and the chapter that we must recite during every act of worship we do, teaches Muslims how to make du’aa (prayer) that is most acceptable to Allah. Actually the reason I wrote the whole article above, was to get a chance to take about Surah Al-Fatihah and it verses. This topic, however, I will leave this for a latter blog. I guess consider this post an introduction
For some reason the word worship used to define the five daily prayers does not seem to be the best word fit. Worship, feels too big and vague, let me know if you have a better suggestion.
I will end with a reminder (to Muslims) or an interesting theological point to others.
When Muslims make du’aa, they hope that it will be accepted (as everyone else). However, sometimes ones du’aa never gets answered (according to our perceptions), then what? Well Muslims believe that any du’aa that has not been accepted will be a reward waiting for us in the Day of Judgment and that Allah loves to hear and respond (which may not be in the manner we expect or realize) to our du’aa and thus Muslims are encouraged to make du’aa for every small and large thing they can.
A couple of days ago I was sitting with a group of Muslims in the Masjid. As we were talking a Malaysian brother comes up to us and in broken Arabic converses with us. He told us that he is extremely happy because today he walked all over campus and spoke with different groups of people and everyone understood him. It took him a while to express this thought but then he asked us if we ever experienced that experience before. That took me for a surprise; I never thought about that before. I have always taken it for granted that as an Arab and English speaker I could speak with about 1/5 (I am guess-estimating here) of the world’s population. I have never really experienced living in a country where you can’t understand the people and worse they cannot understand you. It is amazing how much we take for granted, to such a degree that most items never even cross our minds. The capacity and ability to understand others and be understood is another thing that we take for granted. It a miracle from God and no wonder that brother was so happy that people can know understand him. It was amazing how happy it made our brother that other people can now understand him. As the old proverb says “Money cannot buy happiness”, in the end, Allah grants happiness to whoever he wishes.
I will end with a short prayer.
Oh Allah, all praise is due to you, you are our provider and the one who gave us so much that we take for granted. Oh Allah, bless us and forgive us for misdeeds and neglect. Oh Allah, grant us the ability to experience the cause that made our brother happy and may we all learn how to understand each other at all levels of language.