Friday, December 31, 2010

Misconception of a Beauty

It was probably the year 2000 – an entire decade ago – when I first learned of the word soul-mate. I was so intrigued by the word that I could not wait a second longer to find my own 'soul-mate'. It was so surreal to the mind of an eleven year old how two people could have souls that were created specifically to relate and respond to each other. Could two people really be meant together, forever? On such vague promises, I made a pact with my best friend, Fayyadhah, that regardless of our future, regardless of the men that would enter our lives, WE would be soul-mates (it was our own version of a different kind of BFFs).

Ironically, with romantic love, there was a period in my life when I was highly skeptical of it. I remember preaching that love doesn’t exist. I suddenly stopped believing that a man and a woman could possibly be soul-mates for life. How can a child not think so when the rate of infidelity and divorces is always on the rise? Since then, I have always viewed marriage as a contract between two people who happened to meet at the right time in their lives to live together with mutual respect, expecting nothing more. Honestly, I have not changed much in that regard.

However, I am not altogether hopeless, thankfully! I now believe that love does exist. Being compassionate as it is, I discovered that it is not impossible to resurrect a love long gone. Having said so, my fascination with soul-mates is currently a mere flicker of my past. Personally, there is no such thing as “if the person comes back then he is yours”. There needs to be work and a genuine effort to rekindle – on both sides.

Love can be both strong and fragile. As long as it is nurtured, it can be the fairytale of every girl’s dream. True love’s kiss does not belong in this world. True love is the person who cares and respects you enough to treat you as the unique individual you are, and not as a prisoner in a game of tug-of-war. Just because someone has all the same qualities you cherish, it does not automatically make him or her The One. I feel sad when I read about women accepting physical or mental abuse out of fear of losing her ‘true love’. Even though it is inherently work, love should be pleasant – not the red-hot candle-lit dinner kind of love – but the kind that knows someone will unconditionally have your back, which interestingly does not need to be between two people who are supposed soul mates.

Although I have been best friends with Fayyadhah for more than a decade now, that does not mean we are soul-mates, and neither does that mean I can take her for granted. I have learned that nothing is truly given. We could last despite the time and distance apart because we work on our friendship. It is true that I feel she is one of my many friends that gets me, but that is just a minor ingredient in the whole recipe. The love between Fayyadhah and me is based highly on us making time to work on our friendship. Basically, just because a relationship is established, it does not make it permanent.

Going into the New Decade, my resolution is a simple one: I want to work harder on nurturing the massive love I feel around me every day. I am ready to do a little spring cleaning and get rid off as many negativity – or toxic as I love to call it – in my life so that I can create a reality that does not necessarily be smooth-sailing, nonetheless, very much worthwhile to live in.

-C-

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Friends...

I've never had this much support for a looong time :) It's nice to learn who your true friends are. My favorite part? In between two AMAZING conversations, I suddenly received a "Hello!" email from Fayyadhah all the way in India! She didn't know how I was doing, or the crap that I had to wipe off my face (and wall), yet somehow we kind of have a telepathic ability to sense each other's need. Oh I love my friends, and I love my life, totally :)

-C-

Monday, December 13, 2010

In less than 140 characters…

…or the how many characters allowed by Facebook to write a status update. It was a stupid, sleep-induced mistake for me to assume my friends could get the gist of what I meant in a short paragraph. Therefore I’m going to use this other mean I have as a vehicle to explain what happened.

The whole situation escalated partly because I did not stand my ground on what I meant. Even though I wrote that I was angry, most of all I was disappointed. Let’s just say that seeing the picture was kind of the last straw for me. I did not mean to point my finger at anyone. That was the reason I did not point Zaim towards her profile page; I felt it unnecessary. I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad at the state of affairs of Muslims in general; the same reason I am mad at Turkey, the nation; the same reason I wrote that post a while ago about the Adam Lambert concert. I am disappointed that people, who proudly proclaim they are Muslims, are also questioning the word of God. Maybe I’m the weak one for being unable to comprehend their thinking, but I find it absurd.

If an individual makes a mistake, I have absolutely no problem. I’ve had friends who love wearing revealing clothes and enjoy a good party since…since we were at the age where we were allowed to go out without supervision. She was not the first Muslim-Malay I saw wearing a bikini, and neither is she the first who posted the picture online. I’ve never had a problem with individual choices. But my problem is when a person mixes being proud of a wrong, with being proud as a Muslim.

I have to thank Kumayl for doing a better job at explaining. Of course someone who drinks has the right, and is encouraged to, remember and thank God. A person’s iman, much like mine, fluctuates all the time. But how can a person who is drinking remembers God at the same time? It shows how shallow that person is till a point that God is just part of a sentence you blurted out of culture, not out of true belief. It becomes fitnah. Islam is a very, very beautiful religion, where it is a religion of faith and practice. Just believing in God is not enough, and that is where the five pillars of Islam comes in. Islam is beautiful if it is practised as a whole. Yet, everyone has the right to act the way they wish, but please, don’t drag Islam’s beautiful name with your acts.

I know the famous argument made by people who disagree with me, including a former Minister of International Trade and Industry: “But people who are clad from head to toe in an abaya are also sometimes rude, selfish, arrogant, and loves to gossip, thus degrading their status as a Muslim too.” I totally agree100%. Just because someone is covered from head to toe does not justify her having a filthy heart. But I will always remember my favorite defense made by a teacher to that argument: “If someone who remembers God enough in her everyday activities to cover herself is still not a perfect person, just imagine what kind of things a person who doesn’t respect God enough to follow his rule is willing to do.”

This blog may sound arrogant, but these are not my words, these are the words of the Almighty you profess to believe in, and He, the creator of all, has the right to be proud, even though He is not.

At the end of the night, I discovered who my true friends are. Friends are people who when they argue and fight, they focus on the specific issue at hand. Friends, when they disagree with you, do not attack your personality. Friends, when realized they had make a mistake, will immediately apologize as a friendship is worth much more than an inflated ego. I learned last night who my true friends are.

When I went to sleep last night, I slept like a log because of two things:

1. I was happy that I had the strength to spread a piece of God’s words, even though it was a risky thing to do in a world – especially on the World Wide Web – where everyone is concern over conformity.

2. Because of the risk, I discovered who my true friends are :)

Now the story hasn’t ended yet. Right before I went to sleep, I received a very sweet, emotional, and sincere personal message from the girl I was supposedly attacking. Not only did she forgive me, but she also apologized for her behavior because as a Muslim, she knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and that it was just a matter of lack of judgment, not of questioning God’s laws. And for that, I know I did the right thing.

-C-

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

White lies, white secrets.

To a certain degree, I am more liberal than most Malaysians. With Reason, I believe that human beings have the rights and the capabilities to make his or her decision based on various rules and guidelines. But recent events showed me that on the international platform, I am very conservative than most young idealists my age.

I do not like what Wikileaks is doing to the world. I firmly believe that there are many things in this world that not everybody can understand, thus, they do not need to know of these things - much like how we could not possibly understand some of God's great creations. I am talking about international diplomacy. Diplomacy is 'sacred'. Why do you think diplomats get to live in the big houses and drive the big cars? Diplomacy is difficult and the decisions made can be fragile. If the public get their hands on these information, the fanatics will most probably than not infer from them what they only wish to believe.

Pessimism is permitted when one is talking about the general public. It is true, though, that people who seek information on Wikileaks are those who are most interested and therefore more informed about specific matters, but I am more afraid of those who are making their judgment on issues bigger than their lives thinking that they can belittle the power of the states.

The general public needs to understand that diplomacy and militaristic decisions have to be made behind closed doors because they need to be frank in order to achieve immediate result. Yes, the consequences are not always pretty but this is international diplomacy, not a petty argument between two nosy neighbors. If everybody wants to have a say in it, nothing can ever be done, only creating a world where we are enslaved to a majority that really does care about their next meal.

If states cannot trust other states in a flat world, no states would be able to protect their citizens from the bigger enemies out there. No states would want to share important information for fear of irresponsible leaks, and we will soon return to a time when snails carry our mails.

-C-

Friday, November 12, 2010

Water In The Sand

She walks on barefoot looking for strength
Reached the sea to walk right back
She finds nothing reflecting the laugh
Once so jovial not rotten enough
I stooped and looked for trace of light
A barren land provide with none
In absence we find thee, pride
Tears of salt for none we felt
Finding the cloak void with answers
Vomiting words from empty thought
Circling where she sought to after
A crescent faith shall not discover
Guns and barrels in ways of both
Foreseeing ash
Still wind and black cloud
My undesired love speaks none but death
She scratched the wall of green and white
Bitter is the name of might
Never good was any side
Once shallow fog encloses the lies
She danced with legs up to her eyes
Invisible hand behind her arms
The power of voice she so despise
Far from sight those who decide
To ride a shooting little star
To wave old solemn days behind
Impossible for a scar to resemble
Scarcity of life not to remember
People in green blew and shoved
Though red is violent splashed on Blue
A hollow throat there came a shout
Please, please, please
Her head I hold
Her body I see
Falling bombs of piercing cold
History entangles two entities
History of a future need to escape
Not to be caught in wars of faith
Into the sea the stones are slipped
Love is all kinds of blind that bleed

-C-

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When a snake with two toungues disguises as a blue bird

On Thursday Adam Lambert performed his first concert in Malaysia. Similarly to other artists before him, his visit was highly criticized. But this time it is not because of his performance, but because of his lifestyle. It is also not a wonder that the most vocal of the protests came from PAS.

I’m no stranger to concerts. I’ve been to my share of concerts by western musician and had honestly enjoyed myself. So you could trust me that what I’m going to say is purely rational, not emotional.

When PAS protested, they have their reasons. Maybe not everyone agrees with them, but on what basis, may I ask, do these people counter-protest PAS? PAS stands for Islam. Obviously they do not have a lot of fans, but if Islam, or PAS, compromises to the demands of the people who do not know what’s up in the sky and below in the ground, then the religion defeats its purpose as a mechanism to keep society peaceful.

I am fully aware that Adam Lambert took it to his twitter account to say that he finds the commotion uncalled for because he is not preaching for gay rights, but solely for the rights to love. Sounds acceptable to a liberal’s mind. But if the liberals want their rights to be respected, they need to be sensitive of Malaysia’s Muslim-majority population and what these people believe in. I know Malaysia is a multi-cultural, multi-religious country, and those who do not believe in the teachings of Islam should have the freedom to lead their life without the constraints of Islamic teachings – including their freedom to go to concerts. But what saddens me is when MUSLIMS question the actions of PAS members, and are embarrassed by how the western media portrays Malaysia.

Let me start with the western perception. Borrowing from Plato (an obviously non-Muslim philosopher), we should NOT care about what the masses think because the masses DO NOT KNOW what is the right thing in the first place. They (the media) do not have knowledge of what’s beyond their senses. So who cares if TMZ ridicules Malaysia? First of all, they do not hold the same values as us, and second of all, their words do not matter except to those who pay attention! And those who pay attention to entertainment news make up a very small number of the population.

My second argument is a much simpler one. If as a Muslim you are embarrassed of the RIGHT thing, then don’t call yourself one. It is more embarrassing that when Facebook has a “Draw Muhammad” competition you called them insensitive, but when at home you want to be the bully and call other Malaysians embarrassing. You are the embarrassment for you speak out of ignorance, and do not have a coherent opinion.

Finally, I repeat that I am a concert-goer myself. If Adam Lambert comes to Pittsburgh, I’ll be among the first to get his tickets. Not to mention that I have a couple of friends who are gay, therefore I am not homophobic. I acknowledge my friends for who they are, without publicly condemning or accepting their lifestyle. That is between them and the God they believe in. All I know is that my knowledge is limited and I do not intend to act all-knowingly on such fragile ground.

Thus neither should you.

-C-

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mine



Just HAVE to post this song. Cried the first time watching it.

"...you...left a small town never looked back"

"I was a flight risk, with a fear of falling"

"you made a rebel of a...careful daughter"

"you learned my secrets and you figured out why I'm guarded"

"...bills to pay, ...nothing figured out"

"...that fight 2:30 am"

"braced myself for the goodbye...you took me by surprise...you said, 'I'll never leave you alone'"

"THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER BEEN MINE"

Story of moi :)

-C-

Friday, August 27, 2010

Help in the Holy Month

I know that I thought it won't be a smooth journey coming back to the US, but I was delightfully mistaken. There weren't as many glitches as presumed. I should be forgiven for thinking so as before we left, I called Korean Air to find out that Rassyid and I won't be sitting together for our THIRTEEN hour flight from Seoul to Washington. Next, I wasn't able to check us in for our flight to Pittsburgh. And when we arrived at KLIA, they couldn't print out Rassyid's boarding pass to DC supposedly because, and I quote, "Because his name has Bin and Abdul. They will want to do a checkup at Seoul."

But I tried to be optimistic. There will be ways around all these. Because at the end of the day, we HAVE to find ways around it.

After arriving at Incheon, the first thing we did was getting Rassyid his boarding pass to DC. Alhamdulillah, they didn't ask to do any checks on his background and above that, we GOT to sit together! We were ecstatic. We then went to find the prayer room and prayed, and thanked God for all his help. Unfortunately, our problems began again when I still couldn't check us in using the online check in feature at US Airways's website for our flight to Pittsburgh.

Once touched down in DC, I was thinking, this is it, immigration. But again, everything went smoothly than expected! The immigration officer was super nice. There was no "Is Malaysia on 'the list'?" thing that we went through last year. It was super quick.

After re-checking our bags bound for Pittsburgh, we went to get our boarding passes. On my e-ticket, it says we will be taking US Airways, but at the airport everyone (yes, all of FOUR people I asked), pointed me toward United Airlines. I thought, maybe that's why I couldn't check in through US Airways's website. But at United's self check-in kiosk, I faced the same problem. I don't want for us to repeat the same thing that happened while checking in for Delta from Pittsburgh to NY, where they couldn't find our name, or a seat for us, or anything for the matter. But no, we were very lucky as it didn't take long for them to help print out our boarding passes.

After that, we went to find the 'prayer room', which was actually an open space in Dulles where Muslims pray. We got to join in the Zuhur jamaah just in time. That was a nice experience.

On our way to security check, I foresaw 'the cubicle', and minutes wasted for them to tap my head only to find nothing. Yet, again, everything went not as expected and they simply let me through! Even though it was flashing orange on the security level - indicating High Risk. How trusting they are of me now.

The only major problem, after 26 hours of travel, was that our luggage didn't arrive with us at Pittsburgh. Apparently they were left behind at Dulles. However, it was not just us, four others on the same flight had our problem too. We left with our report, and took a Super Shuttle home.

Lailee was there, fatter than ever, and the three of us waited for our luggage which arrived at 11 pm. Not bad.

All I can say is, thank God for surah al-Inshirah. Words of God I wet my lips with the whole 28 hours. If there're still doubt over the power of this surah to lessen any worries, I have proofs that it works (even though I've always believed so).

-C-

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Ramadhan Wish

In our never-ending attempt at soul-searching, no one answer of life’s many questions will be as clearly apparent as we wish for it to be. Sometimes, we unexpectedly contradict ourselves of what is right from what we believe in. During this month-long journey to remain true to who I am – a person firmly against blind faith – I'd like for others to stay true to what Islam is truly about too.

I realize that when I say things like that – to think and not to follow – people get scared and assumed I’d be swinging from one side to another every few seconds. But I believe these people need to ask themselves, why are they so scared to use the best gift awarded by God to them – their mind? I do understand that certain things we can’t comprehend do need a helping hand to guide us through. But for things much closer to our heart, why not do a thorough operation? Don’t be scared. If there is an unshakable belief that Islam is the truth, should we not believe that the more time one spends thinking, the more one will see and feel how real Islam is?

Last month my best friend gave me a simple book written by a very interesting man. The interesting part was not who he is, but of his views on things that matter. Finally I found someone who can put what I’ve been thinking and feeling in plain words.

Islam is not a religion of empty practices. Islam is a combination of the heart, mind, and physical self. None should be left behind if one is to be considered a Muslim.

When looking at statistics, the number that usually comes up is that of a very small amount of Muslim extremists. Is that a true estimate? What kinds of extremism were they talking about? Maybe most of us do not have the slightest idea of how to differentiate among lethal chemicals, but what about ideas of self-supremacy? Isn’t that more hazardous to mankind? I'm not trying to make a bad name for my fellow brothers and sisters, but it's time for them to realize the effects of their actions.

The Prophet was a man of kindness and grace. He taught us to follow his path when passing through life. But how many of us when ticked off by the smallest of provocations do we talk about boycotts? About generalizing a certain race or religion as ‘evil’. Did we not remember what the Bush administration used to call us?

In the book previously mentioned, the author brilliantly made an analogy of the Prophet’s deeds and sayings as the used and broken memorabilia in our homes: we do not wish for them to be taken yet we do not make full use them either. When New Yorkers object to the building of a mosque and community center near ground zero, we shout and we scream. But how many of us actually spend our days during Ramadhan trying to seek as many blessings from God as humanly possible? Which is more important? What is our priority?

Stop making huge deals out of small worldly problems; start practicing the little things in life that the Prophet taught over a thousand years ago. Its accumulation would mean more to us later than making another country suffer the same way we did. Revenge is never good on a personal basis, what makes us think it’s permissible on a bigger level – or any level?

The memorabilia, if you use it, then nobody would have the guts to make fun of it, much less snatch it away from you, no? Think.

Don’t look far, search within yourself. What have you done to make them understand and respect our beautiful religion?


-C-

Monday, July 19, 2010

Don't think again when you know what you saw.

If anybody who thinks they knew me dare say I'm a spoiled kid who easily gets everything I screamed for, I wish for them to stay a week with me and see how much Ringgit truly flows out of my own - a lot.

Even for the most basic of needs, from toothbrushes to a new sandal to replace a pair of torn oldies, I have to dig out my own cash - and I'm not working.

I don't get free shirts because they're on sale.

Talk of a dream for a few luxuries - it's either I've saved enough for it or my husband has to listen to my whines - and that's how I'm kept at home all months long.

I'm proud to say most things I do have, I earned. Take my dslr - I got it for a special occasion.

I can't whine for things. Trust me, I've tried, it seldom work.

It's not that I'm ungrateful for the fines I do have, it just breaks my heart in two when they think I'm spoiled when my hints for a few dough always fall on deaf ears - whomever's it might be.

-C-

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ways to bring honor - the hard way

At a time when individualism is advocated as the answer to not only surviving, but most importantly to success, how much is too much of a uniqueness one should be proud of owning in relative to one’s personality? Do we – all of us – truly believe that conformation is only part of a past forgettable by the best of us? What is rebellion if not the part of a person we dare not be?

In the Chinese poem the Ballad of Mulan, the heroine, Hua Mulan, joined the army when only males were supposed to defend the country. Or when talking in a more familiar territory, the heroine Mulan in the Disney animated film of the same title, it is not only her decision to do the unthinkable that makes her different, it is also her traits that were exaggeratedly portrayed during the opening scenes of dancing and singing whilst getting ready to meet a matchmaker that introduce us to a more complex individual.

But, is her personality really complex, or is it complex because society refuses to see her as she is until it is agreed for her to stop all eccentricities in the name of acceptance?

At the end of the movie, after all her adventures involving an eagle-whistler and a talking dragon neared to an end, she returned home with the sword of the enemy, and a gold medal by the emperor. All these presented to her father, yet he did none but hugged her. And so we found out that she is, and always will be, loved by her family without having to endure harsh weather and war in her effort to bring honor to the family – finally.

Sometimes I wonder, after centuries of the same story being told, why hasn’t the epic of fighting insecurities be in favor of a more open-minded society which realizes a cocoon is no more but a danger in creating a rigid community that knows not a way of speaking love, only of forcing it?

After Mulan’s ridiculous failed attempt at finding a perfect match, her father sat by her and said these unforgettable words: “My my, what beautiful blossoms we have this year. But look, this one’s late, but I’ll bet that when it blooms it will be the most beautiful of all.”

Unfortunately, one can’t expect everyone in life to be as well-articulated as a Disney writer, eh?

-C-

Monday, June 21, 2010

Liberals, nothing more than those passionate in liberating others.

“In the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful.” More than just a sentence, it is an utterance of faith in one omnipotent God, declared by Muslims all around the world before committing even the simplest of deeds. An act so entrenched, it has been taken for granted by those caring only to wet their lips with these beautiful names of Allah, without thoroughly embracing their meanings by heart.

Allah is ar-Rahman, the most Beneficent, the most Gracious. Allah, God of all things living and not, does not discriminate according to blood, family-line, religion, and yes, including race, in awarding His bountiful wealth to a person deserving of what he had worked for.

A person not learned in the laws of God, I could not speak for the many interpretations of God’s kindness. Yet, one thing I do understand is that a number of ways could be used in attempts to explain fairness and equality in various economics terms.

Based on an idea suggested by one John Nash in his 1950 doctorate dissertation in Princeton, the best result achievable by a group of players is when all involved acted in the interest of the group, not of individual preferences. In other words, there is no harm, only goodness, that could come out of sharing, rather than fighting. John Nash may be the one who discovered the theory; the result, however, had been promised by God thousands of years back.

The embarrassing question we cannot avoid but to ask ourselves now is, why do more citizens of Malaysia – in fact, let’s call them the majority – believe so much in the pessimistic view of zero-sum game, that they are afraid to face even the most inevitable challenges of life?

Human beings are created by God from sounding clay, in an array of tones from dark to fair, not for us to shout our claims of which land belongs to who, but to appreciate the differences in us as the glue that has been keeping human relationship from falling apart as God prefers not for one group to feel above another by what granted to them, except only of humility.

With all due respect, I ask, what is a constitution except words written by mortal human beings who did not have the ability to foresee the coming future even if they had wanted to?

Malaysia may be a young country, but based on human time, it had been a while now since we last saw 1957, and the Malaysians that are currently living here are no different from their neighbors except for the limitations put in their way by those easily brought down from vulnerable seats of power.

We are a scared bunch of people. Regrettably, because of our unwarranted fear, not only are we restricting the gains of those we are afraid of facing in a game of strength and perseverance, but because of negative-sum game, indirectly we are putting a constraint to what we can fully achieve too. God is fair, and karma is mean.

I’m proud of 1Malaysia. In fact, why don’t we stretch it further to include 1World?

The challenge now is, to those who have been eating the cili padis, are you too arrogant to defy the law of God for those written by men? Is being Malay, a race, a color of the skin, that is only as pure as the Gombak river, more important to you than being a Muslim, a religion, unchanged by neither time nor weather?  

Wallahualam.

-C-

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Peace, an unrealistic term, used realistically

     terrorism [ˈtɛrəˌrɪzəm] n    shocking acts of violence in which the principal purpose is not destruction itself but the dramatic and psychological effects on populations and governments


The world we are currently living in is unknowingly divided into two, the one shared with others, and another that others choose to keep to themselves, an effect of our own subconscious mind. Physical reality is not made up of atoms and matters; instead, it is made up of our own definition on particular matters.

Before 9/11, the word 'terrorism' was simply defined as the practice of terror, with no hidden message, only truth that comes from adding the English suffix of –ism. Now, ten years after the scare of Y2K, the world has yet to agree upon a universal definition of a word that was once neither flashed nor stamped in the media every time a bomb explodes in some remote places in the world.

Yet, according to the world that we live in today, terrorism is what we choose to call the actions of those who do not abide by conventional laws of war and peace. The question is, “Who decides who gets into the list, and who to be left out?”

The act of terrorism is not exclusively a strategy of one tribe or, say, religion. Terrorist groups can be found in various locations on the map including the Far East in the form of Aleph in Japan, and to as far west in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. These very distinct groups use similarly harmful methods as a way to call attention to their causes, since there is very limited use to the human voice if no ear chooses to listen. Destruction is a small price to pay for what these groups deemed as the greater cause. Anybody with a right mind knows no such justification is justification enough.

In international politics, it must be understood that terrorism can be used by both state and non-state actors. Most commonly, though, more not-state actors choose to hide behind the smoking veil of terrorism because they are disproportionately weaker than the state, or any power, they are rebelling against. On the other hand, states do have an incentive to use terrorism too, especially during a losing battle, to scare their own people or other states, while at the same time avoiding the blame of starting a psychological battle by using surrogate non-state actors.

Unfortunately, there are also a handful of states, committing acts so horrendous they terrorize those dwarfed by their standard of prowess, with no political purpose, using no surrogate actors, except those employed by the states themselves. What do we make of them? Do we leave them alone in the name of self-autonomy? If so, where is the line between humanity and sovereignty? What are we willing to give up in order to maintain world order? If we choose to let blood be spilled to stand up for a belief in the Westphalian system of four hundred years ago, are we any different from those whom the word ‘terrorist’ rolled out of our tongues in spits when their names are mentioned?

Simply, justice does not exist. If such a thing has ever walked and breathed on this earth, where has it been all this while as we quietly watched states take mothers away from sons, nephews away from uncles, and friends away from each other? Where is this justice when cases of families torn apart by the power of the state are to be filed under the eyes of no observer? The balloons of arrogance and hypocrisy are only further blown into, taking more wind out of feeble states to keep them begging for mercy.

Reality does not exist, either. There is nothing real about having to dissect a seemingly objective affair in subjective terms. An influential state does not have to answer to any power above it once the finger (or gun barrel) has been point. But take a much weaker state which is asking for practically nothing, except that of the same rights enjoyed by its neighbors, only to be denied on the ground of unproven suspicion. What, thus, is left to be considered as real about international laws and conventions?

No words or actions can change the reality in which a state chooses to live in. They are not what they say they are not, and we are what they say we are, which technically is what they are, too, except, we are labeled with an ironically undefined word.

-C-

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nur Kasih

Barely two days back in Malaysia and my mum was already eagerly promoting the new supposedly exciting Malaysian drama called Nur Kasih, which according to her had all Malaysians glued to the television for those at home, and laptops if they’re overseas. To be honest, I was reluctant to watch it at first because I am not a Malay drama fan. But I do like Kabir Bhatia, the director. And I do try to show appreciation to talented Malaysians where it is deserved. Plus, it’s not like my husband and I have other things to do at home. So we did – we watched. My brother wanted me to do a review on the show, but instead of doing a typical review, I’d like to comment on particular things about the show.

In general, I do like the plot. It’s interesting. I guess I can’t complain much about the ending as a Malay drama won’t be a Malay drama if it’s not predictable. Basically Nur Kasih is about two brothers, both on either end of the spectrum. Because of the wish of a dying father, the lives of both brothers were met with obstacles one after another.

Now, firstly I’d like to comment on the fact that they put the ‘good brother’ in Cairo, and the other one in Sydney. It’s a simplistic way to tell the story, I know. Not a bad one, but too old fashioned. "Those who go to more western countries to further their studies have a higher tendency to fall off the right path." I may be a bit too emotional in writing this, but I’m ashamed and embarrassed for those who think so. In my opinion, when one goes to a country where one is a minority, it reinforces one’s identity thus further pushes one to stay on the right track. It is when one is surrounded by his or her people that are doing wrong that one feels ‘comfortable’ in acting the same way. For example, I do have friends in our many local universities, including those Islamic universities and colleges. But I’ve frequently heard more stories about them drinking, doing drugs, and having pre-marital sex – yes including students of those universities. It’s because when they see their peers doing it, they’ll feel like outsiders if they don’t. But in a place where no one knows your name, you are under less pressure except to live your own life.

Secondly, the idea of early marriage. I support the drama in its attempt to prove that one does not automatically fail if one marries early, especially with little financial support. It is do-able with the right attitude. Maybe I was a bit frustrated when Nur, the title name, felt like she had to give up her dreams when she got married. She does not need to feel so if she really has the gut to face both responsibilities head-on. I hope the ‘right persons’ are reading what I’m about to write: being married while studying is difficult. Instead of just having to focus on getting good grades, one needs to focus on one’s spouse too. Furthermore, as Muslims it’s not just about cooking and cleaning, it’s much more. It’s about being partners. It’s about being leaders. It’s about being forgiving. It’s not easy living with another person for the first time. It’s not. It takes a lot of work and compromises. When they say one needs to be ready, it’s not financially, it’s mentally. That’s why one needs to be married with someone one loves. Someone you truly love. Someone who can change the way you view life. Someone who can make you a better person. It’s not about wiping stain off your spouse’s cheeks, it’s about holding the other’s hand firmer even after countless screams and tears. I believe that is the main idea behind Nur Kasih. Don’t underestimate the power of a marriage IF it is entered whole-heartedly.

Finally, Nur Kasih is special in its idea of change. People can change. No human is born evil, nor is there anyone born perfect. I do believe that the thing that molds a person into himself, more than anything else, is his experience whilst growing up. That is why the roles played by parents are very important. This takes us back to the idea of responsibility in a marriage. Please, don’t have kids if you’re not ready to answer to Allah if you die tomorrow. They are your biggest responsibility. That does not mean you could do anything to them; you need to respect and see them as persons, as equals. Talk to them and don’t easily reach for the cane as it is the last resort according to our Prophet (pbuh). They may be hard to understand. They may be different from you. But they’re yours. Allah is fair. Mischievous children are not bad children, just misunderstood. But of course, one should not expect to have angelic sons or daughters if one does not practice what’s asked of them too. Trust in God, and He’ll trust you.

So that’s my two cents’ worth on Nur Kasih. If you love a good story, beautiful cinematography, and is looking for food for the soul, I highly recommend Nur Kasih.

-C-

p/s: Rassyid and I did not watch the current repeats on TV3, my parents actually bought the collector's DVD box.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Walk Alone

The smell of freshly cut grass. Green, with yellow in between. Spring has finally sprung. Heat through leaves, wind through leaves. The sound of Spring. Porch with people rocking in chairs. One said Hi and Peace be Upon Me. Lovely day, lovely weather. Didn't notice it whilst escaping Winter. Not just the colors but also the feel. Of Spring rushing through my fingers. Drips of water on watered greens. Splashes of them on a smiling face. How else to explain this wonder. Of changing seasons, ever-changing times.

-C-

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

In one week we’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day. I haven’t made a big deal out of the day since I was about fourteen, probably. It was all caused by that crap people kept on telling at me about, “Oh, as Muslims we should not celebrate our mothers for just one day, but it should be a year-long event!” Well, I know that, but does it make me a sinner to love my momma extra special for another day besides on her birthday? Celebrating Mother's Day has never been about guilt of loving her less for the rest of the year, but I was young so I fell for that, and stopped buying my mum presents on this day after years of dragging my brother to our neighborhood Giant to buy something as simple as a mirror, or a make-up box (this was when my allowance was RM1 a day). But then I stopped.

But for this coming weekend, in honor of my mother, I’ve decided to give her something extra special. I’ve now come to a place where I can say I know myself and my momma better. I know now, without doubt, that I’m an ‘arguer’. Well, actually, my parents already knew that about me way before I joined the school’s debate team. I got that from my daddy. But my mum, my ibu, she’s not like us. She’s the opposite. She’s the sweetest human being who loves her kids so much that she’d lie to us so as to not hurt our feelings. Better yet, sometimes she doesn’t need to lie because somehow - magically - she knows exactly what to say to make things all better again. Since she’s such a loving person, she would always tell me, “Let others talk, they will never know the real you.” My mum would never waste her time arguing with others, even if they’re wrong. But me, I would.

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Today’s working mothers are not real mothers! Real mothers stay at home to cook and clean for their kids!” It’s kind of like a stigma for women to work, even though what these people don’t realize is, MOST women - wives and mothers - do work these days, and I’ve seen equally, if not more beautiful children coming from these families. My mum works…so what? These people who say mothers should not work because extra money is not that important, they are actually lying to themselves. Money is one of the main reasons families tear apart. Having extra is never wrong. Besides that, I believe that working women are more in touch with themselves thus in return, they are better at giving without feeling empty inside. This further leads to sincerity and maturity from the mums and also the kids.

My mum works, so does that mean she loves me and my brother less? No. Does that mean she doesn’t teach us valuable life lessons? No. As much as I would like to maintain a strong case, I won’t lie and say I haven’t wished more than once for them to have more time to spend with us. But like my mum always says, “It’s not the number of kids that counts, it is their quality.” Hence I’m going to repeat what she’s taught me and say, “It’s not the number of hours that count, it’s how those hours were spent.” And the hours that we did spend together, they were definitely priceless, making it bittersweet knowing life will never be the same now with new additions into our family.

When we were younger, and our parents were stronger, they would take us cycling, swimming, and playing badminton, after or before a round of arcade-game playing. My mum and dad taught me how to live healthily (even if now I’m the reason they have to stash their junk food away from sight). As a matter of fact, them taking us cycling when I was six, with me having to cross what-had-seemed-back-then as heavy traffic, was where I got my sense of 'trust' in the world. If I were afraid to even cross the road, how will I ever be able to do anything? After days of work and school, my parents try their best to spend the weekends with us, usually shopping. This was of course when I used to say to my mum, “I’ll never understand why you need to have these much clothes and shoes!” But it was because of those hours rummaging through clothes that I learned from her how to manage my money. She was the one who taught me cash is always better, even when my friends would raise an eyebrow when I refused to use the credit card I had since I was seventeen. My mum was also the one who taught me how to cook our famous chocolate cake, and nobody can argue that those hours spent baking was not real quality bonding time between mother and daughter. Most importantly, she was the one who taught me the value of education, both secular and spiritual. When I was eight, she dragged me to an MPH and told me to ‘choose a book, any book, as long as it’s in English'. Man, if it wasn’t for her, who knows where I’ll be now? My mother taught me how to pray, how to be a good girl, and how to live life right. She’s always gentle, always friendly to others, and she's always smiling. It doesn’t surprise me to see how much others adore her, not because she’s their friend or sister, but because of who she is inside.

It’d be a great blessing to grow up and be a tenth of who she is now. I love you ibu, I do.

-C-

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Values

I am so mad right now!

Two days ago it was announced that Belgium will be the first European country to ban the burqa, a garment that covered women from head to toe except for the eyes. And they're doing it in the name of "European values". If they simply had say they're banning the burqa in the name of public safety, I would totally understand and support them because it is important to show your face in public to maintain peace and order in an increasing hostile world. But values? I know that Europeans cherish three things: food, secularism, and their nude beach. But is that really the values that they want to portray to the world? What values, actually? The value of showing one's calves? I thought the best values any nation, parents, and teachers should teach the younger generations are integrity, honesty, and respect. How then does wearing the burqa hinder those values? I can go into a whole post on how wearing modestly raises the value of a woman, but these people will not even consider listening even if we put an amplifier next to their ears. They refuse to learn. The thing that I find funny is, these countries have no basis for their claims. Britain, a highly successful nation, even has an official headscarf for their police force. Police, a figure of authority! And their tube was bombed! Because unlike crazy-Sarkozy, the Brits have common sense in that to maintain public safety, you have to integrate everyone in the society. Not further discriminate them! Okay let's make this simpler. Think back of all the violent cases reported in schools and universities. Now think of the destructive ones, those who killed their fellow classmates before committing suicide. In their suicide notes, don't they usually mention something about being bullied that led them to destructive behavior?

Now let's talk about the burqa. The burqa is not an Islamic garment. Women in Islam were only asked to cover themselves from the head to the toes, with the exception of the face and the palms. The Burqa was actually an Arabic garment. 1400 years ago, when there was no air-conditioner, cars, and sunglasses, the Arabs had to protect their eyes from sandstorm when they were traveling. Men wore them, Christian and Jewish Arabs wore them. It's just that some of my Muslims sisters choose to take what's asked of them further and protect their beauty from the lusting gaze of others except for their eyes. Now I want to straighten another thing out. In Islam, one of the many beautiful purposes we are asked to cover up is because Islam stresses equality. No one should feel proud and brag of one's beauty. It should not matter if you have blond hair, if I have red hair, and if she has black hair; we cover them so that our crown won't make us unconsciously proud. BUT if a Muslim sister wears the burqa for the opposite reason - because she wants to appear different and 'more pious' than the rest - she is condemned. The burqa then defeats its own purpose, and she should instead go back to the basic of head scarf, long sleeve, long pants, covered shoes.

The other interesting fact about burqa in Belgium: only 500 people wear the burqa. That's right. Out of 10 million people, 500 out of them wear the Burqa. And somehow, ridiculously, they decide to ban it. Is it worthwhile?

To my fellow Muslims, I have this message: If the actions of 500 out of 10 million citizens could cause such a commotion, this is enough proof that we are a force in this world. If we gather our might and our brains, we could actually do something in this world because fact is, they're listening. One person at a time.

-C-

p/s: Sorry if my posts have been conquered by my 'confused-what-to-do-with-a-PS-degree' persona. I guess since its near finals, I've been reading and writing way too much political stuff.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Letter to Him

In the name of Allah Most Beneficent Most Merciful

Dear God,

I am writing today in realization that I should have written this letter to You a very long time ago. I write to You today because I’m finally ready to let go. And I write today because I know You, of all, would best understand my pain and struggle for I have prayed for a better day since I learned to prostate in humility to You.

You being the Creator of all things perfect, You know that a person is judged based not on what he does but on his niat, his intention. One of my favorite hadiths growing up is about a prostitute who was walking home one night when she saw a sick dog by the road. She took off her shoes, poured water into it, and handed it to the dog. Based on this one compassionate deed, despite all the others, she was admitted into Heaven by You, Dear Lord. Thus I am praying today for you to forgive me, and also the others who contributed in making me the broken child that I was for their intention was never a bad one.

I’ve grown up feeling nothing in my heart but to please others. At the end of my journey as a teenager, I no longer have the capacity to feel guilt or care; I’ve worn out everything I had in me to please by the time I turned nine. Before then, nothing I did was good enough. I was criticized for everything. Even for the tiniest thing. I understand, Dear Lord for it was done to make me stronger. To make me smarter. But what is the use of being smart if the only reason I strive to do so is to prove myself. Even then, I’d eventually find out that what I did, my opinion, my reasoning, my thoughts, are never good enough for I was just a child.

I’m not writing today a hate letter. I don’t want those who made me who I am be punished. What I do want today is to break the cycle. When a person is hurt, he or she would more often than not cause the same hurt to the next person (isn’t that true, my fellow psychology majors?). And I did it. I hurt my husband. It is hard for me to say this – and I am not airing my dirty laundry – but I have to say it in order to make it real so that I could stop. I’ve been hurting my husband real bad. Nothing he does is good enough. There’s always room to improve. I know that’s not on its own a really bad thing to say, but for a person who was in his shoes couple of years ago, I should be more aware of the pain I was causing. Of the confusion I was causing. Sayang, I’m sorry. Dear God, please forgive me for being unforgivably insensitive.

Some say I am not good at accepting criticism gracefully. And I agree. How could I when for as long as I’ve lived, everything that I did was to disprove those critics. All I wanted was to disprove those critics. Lord, You know best when I said I’ve been telling lies to my husband. I told him those criticisms are meant to make him better. That is not possible when he is better than me. Oh God, I’m embarrassed to admit this but sometimes I feel like failing on purpose just to prove that all the negative vibes thrown my way are actually pulling me down the deepest end. But it is seldom that people see that because I am always pulling them up.

I want to break the cycle. That’s my only prayer today. I want to break the cycle. I don’t want to hurt my husband anymore. And when I have my own kids, I definitely don’t wish for them to experience what I did. Whenever I feel like criticizing them, I’ll think of this post and start with, “That’s great honey! You make me so proud as a mother! But you know this can still be worked on…”

Amin.

-C-

Saturday, April 10, 2010

High School Stories

In my free time, I like to look at the collection of “Photos of You” on Facebook, even though I’ve quite memorized every pose and every caption. Because I know, one of the things old acquaintances would do before deciding to add me, would be to check out my pictures. Thus, I want those pictures to not be deceiving of who I am, and was.
And if anyone ever went through all my pictures, clicking next after next of my Party-In-The-USA pictures, they would surely stop at pictures of me in a blue uniform and compare that to who I am today. That was me in school. That is the me I want to be every day. Yet I could not, because to be that Syaza, I need the right place, time, and most importantly, the right people with me.

Sometimes I think of those kids who go to school just to go to school and wonder what they think of those years now. Of course it’d be wrong of me to judge them because I bet if I asked them now, they’ll definitely have lists and lists of things they did in school that are memorable to them. Even the nerdiest of them all surely did something. Every school is a drama in the making, and no student is left out from the storyline. But even in those high school dramas we watch, there will always be those teacher’s pets that want to be on the good side of authority. Nothing wrong with that, of course! Except…it’s just five years, loosen up a bit!

Five years. That’s all we have as students in Malaysia to be in secondary school. Five years is sure not that long. Five years is just a blink in time. I’m glad I realized that early on. Well, not really. I was actually the boring kid that sat at the back of class the first two years of high school. But after I’ve lost a decade and a half to past memories, I purposely decided to make the next three years a time to remember.

My favorite act in school? Bringing a broken frame of a three-seater to class. I remember the day clearly in my mind. I was doing my thing – taking advantage of my power as a prefect and dragging my best friend around the school compound even after the bell had rang – when I found a rattan frame at the back of the ‘Kemahiran Hidup’ lab. I said to Shila we could use this in class. Oh she wasn’t up to it at first. I said listen, even if you don’t approve, you know I’ll just get the guys to help me. So finally she agreed and we laughed all the way as I called the guys to help me bring the frame from the back of school all the way to the other end of the third floor - to our class. When my mum came for the parent-teacher meeting, she was shocked to find my dad’s blanket at the back of my class. Well I have to take care of it, don’t I? Shila on the other hand, I remember, begged a teacher to give us one of the school’s HUGE plants for our class. It was massive! But then, the two of us always got what we wanted back then and thus, the back of our class – with the plant and the ‘couch’ – became one of the reasons we won ‘Best Class Decoration’ for months in a row. We did something different. As a class, we came together.

Besides that, I remember a cat giving birth in our teacher’s desk. Oh yes, a cat and her babies. As a class we agreed to keep them a secret…until a teacher found out and we had to throw them out. If there’s a cat in class, my name would be written in bold green above it. What else…oh, the list of name I wrote on the wall! I don’t even remember doing it, but with my unmistakable handwriting as proof in Adilah’s camera, what else can I say? I actually wrote down the name of all my classmates, based on the seating arrangement, on a wall, hidden from plain sight. Something that no prefect would be caught doing. That was of course a huge risk, but guess what, now after four years even our deputy head prefect laughed over it. Isn’t that amazing? Seriously, I bet if many more were a bit laid-back back then – though the school may turn into a huge canvas – there would be less drama, and everyone would enjoy school more.

Syafiqa and I also once took the time to sit down with a group of juniors attempting to skip school, and talked to them while they smoked behind the surau. I know it sounds very irresponsible of us as prefects to let them smoke on school ground, but they would still do so when no one’s around. After we talked, and asked them why they wanted to skip, we actually convinced them to stay. I think we did the right thing by not passing their names to a teacher but instead to understand these kids. Troubled kids are troubled for a reason. Since then, every time they saw me they would smile and actually show some respect, compared to how they treated other prefects. Ain’t that something to think about?

My partner in crime, Iqa. This picture was taken when we 'crashed' our tuition class the year after SPM. When our History teacher realized who those two kids at the back were, he was so excited and introduced us to the class.

I understand why there are rules at school. The reasons are the same as why a country needs a set of law and why God has His own law that we must abide by on Earth. And teachers, they are just doing their jobs. But high school in Malaysia is just five years, and unless we continue on to STPM, that's all the years we have in making lasting memories with our friends. Just think about that.

-C-

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Civil War on Rights

Paradoxically, as more resources are put into the study of politics as a science, more wars – both conventional and unconventional – are waged upon the many entities in the international system. Ain’t it just funny how people refuse to listen to something they deem as "so simple"?

Fine, politics won't have that much input in the struggle to find the cure to cancer, or even be able to join the race to build more modern structures in other inhospitable regions, but it is just as important as the basis of state governance. So now I have two questions to ask: 1) why are there still a lot of political crisis in this world when countless research has been done and recorded in books and journals? 2) Why do people still raise an eyebrow when they found out there are students interested in studying politics, as if it is a waste of time to find the cure to the wound deeply embedded in a specific country?

The first question is the most interesting to me. Not unlike the science of chemistry, we do have our own sets of formulas and chemicals to be added to create a strong working state. But then, why aren’t there many listening? Yes political science is not part of pure science. It is made complicated by the presence of human beings in the compound of a state. Different individuals, different ethnic groups, different religious sects, different historical backgrounds, and different government composition. A solution in one country may not hold in another. Thus, I do believe that is where the role of a genius and charismatic leader comes in. It is true that in order to be a politician one does not need to hold a degree in the humanities or the social science; one simply needs to be a presence to be reckoned with during times of bad weather by listening to the advices from one’s team of advisers.

I was reading my textbook today and was flabbergasted by how simple and straightforward the answers to many questions are. A + B both cause C, and to eradicate C a government needs to tackle the root of A, which is Z, and for Z to come through X has to be present. Simple, agree?

For me, the beauty of studying political science is that there is definitely no wrong answer. There are better answers, but no bad ones. Unless you’re God, nobody knows exactly the best way to govern a group of people, and yet a leader should not stop trying his best. And in this attempt of figuring out the best mode of action, it should not depend on a person’s gut feeling, but that of many. Please don’t read that as me saying the voice of the people in a democracy should always be the main indicator of a leader’s next move on the chessboard. I, myself, still don’t buy that democracy is the best form of government, but it is not wrong to imitate those who are successful, yes?

Basically, I don’t know why I wrote this post. I guess I’m just frustrated. Life is so simple, why complicate matters?

Oh I know why, because greed for wealth and power is part of politics and that makes it worse, indefinitely.

-C-

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Inspiration

Today I stumbled upon Queen Rania of Jordan's Youtube channel. I've already forgotten how I came to arrive at her channel, but that's not the important issue. The important issues are the debates and discussions that she uploaded. If some of you have already seen her videos, yes, I am one year too late. Again, that's beside the point. The point is, I fell in love today. I fell in love in her attempts and desire to change the world, "One video at a time." I was inspired at how dedicated she is in trying to change people's perspectives on Islam. Although there are some people that I know of that are against a good, solid debate, as the Royal Highness herself said, "Debate is part of the dialogue."

It is no accident that on the day I discovered Queen Rania's channel, I reached a page in the non-fictional novel, Three Cups of Tea, where Syed Abbas, the most important Shia cleric in Pakistan, gave an emotional speech to an audience that included Greg Mortenson - the American who has been building schools for the less fortunate in Pakistan's high region since the 90s - two days after 9/11:

"We share in the sorrow as people weep and suffer in America today...as we inaugurate this school. Those who have committed this evil act against the innocent, the women and children, to create thousands of widows and orphans do not do so in the name of Islam. By the grace of Allah Almighty, may justice be served upon them.

"For this tragedy, I humbly ask Mr. George and Dr. Greg Sahib for their forgiveness. All of you, my brethren: Protect and embrace these two American brothers in our midst. Let no harm come to them. Share all you have to make the mission successful.

"These two Christian men have come halfway across the world to show our Muslim children the light of education...Why have we not be able to bring education to our children on our own? Fathers and parents, I implore you to dedicate your full effort and commitment to see that all your children are educated. Otherwise, they will merely graze like sheep in the field, at the mercy of nature and the world changing so terrifyingly around us.

"I request America to look into our hearts...and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people. Our land is stricken with poverty because we are without education. But today, another candle of knowledge has been lit. In the name of Allah Almighty, may it light our way out of darkness we find ourselves in." [Mortenson, G. and Relin, D. O. Three Cups of Tea. Page 257.]

What else can I comment except that that speech speaks for itself?

Although discrimination has been on the rise since 9/11, being the optimist that I am, I see it only as the beginning of good things to come. A lot - A LOT - more people are interested in Islam. 9/11 actually opened their eyes to this second largest religion in the world. I am not saying that 9/11 was right to happen, but the tragedy is there for us to learn from. Since the day I decided to expand my knowledge in the realm of Politics three years ago, questions continue to linger in my mind especially on what I'm going to do with a BA in Political Science. And no, I've yet to get an answer. I am not interested in getting my hands dirty with the Politics of Malaysia, and I don't have the persona of a teacher. So here I am, in the lost regarding my future career. But the one thing I am truly sure of is my dedication to my faith. Maybe that will be the path I'm going to pursue?

The question now is, who am I? I am not a perfect Muslim and it might be problematic if others start listening to me. But then again, who is a perfect Muslim? Not to mention the fact that I am just one in an ocean of 1.6 billion others; what impact could I make with such a small voice? But while we are on the topic of ocean, I'd like to quote Mother Teresa: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

Thus, I am very excited for tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be involved in a workshop called Women In Islam. It will be an opportunity for Pitt students to come and learn more about Islam from us Muslims that are living in America. It is my first time, so I'm hoping to be part of the success this year.

"Say not I have found the truth, but rather I have found a truth." - Khalil Gibran, the third most widely read poet behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

-C-

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Khan

After watching My Name Is Khan, I was inspired not to write, but to simply post this essay that helped me get an A in composition. To my dad, this is not the essay, as can be figured out from the absence of your work of art.

To some this may surprised you, but to those who really know me, they won't be too shocked to find out that I actually cried the whole time I was in the movie theater. I'm that sensitive. But it all started with the first few scenes of Rizvan Khan (SRK) being called away by airport security. I was reminded of when I first arrived here. I don't think I told my parents this, but I was put into a tiny little cubicle at Dulles. We were passing through security and an officer asked me if I'm willing to pull off my scarf. Of course I said, "NO." So I was put into this small cubicle to wait for a female officer to 'pat' my head. Whatever. My concern then was just for the whole thing to be quick cause our flight was about to take off (Seriously, we had to run after that and not surprisingly, we were the last to board. At least we did not miss our plane as did Rizvan). But what I remember till today was the other lady that was stuck in that cubicle with me. She's an old Arab lady whom I think could barely speak English. She was so scared, and kept on repeating the Lord's name. I think she was telling me to recite an Ayat but I could not make out which Ayat specifically so I just nodded. Plus, this cubicle was so small, we can barely move with both of us in it. She was so scared! I know I had nothing to hide, but this lady, whom I guess had just arrived to see her family or something in the States looked like she was about to cry. That kind of discrimination made me cry during the entire film. Alhamdulillah it had been much better since that one and only incident. More Americans are also interested in learning about the Islamic faith. But there's no denying that discrimination still lingers in the air. I remember my dad told me on the day of 9/11 that my dream of going to the States will unfortunately not come true. Of course he was wrong, but to say it is easy now is an ignorant mistake to make.

Enjoy this honest-from-the-heart essay. By the way, the pictures here were also included in the essay I turned in.

-C-

Liberation in a Modern World

Oppressed and subjugated, that is absurd
Uneducated, it’s a rumor of us
Misunderstood, that’s what we really are
the veil keeps me safe from wandering eye-s.
I am not dominated, simply liberated
I ask to be seen not for my body but for my head
the one that is constantly covered in a scarf
those who call me backward, they just make me laugh.

A newborn that just came into the world is naked. Not a single strand of clothing comes out together with her from the mother’s womb. The pink baby cries and the motherly instinct to do – which ironically is the nurse’s job – is to wrap the baby in a clean white cloth to keep her safe and warm. The baby calms down and starts to fall asleep with the mother’s heartbeat as her lullaby. Life for her is complete for the moment.

My life however is far from complete. With more to do and definitely more to achieve than a simple baby’s need, do not expect me to easily be contented with current situations. I strive to be the best in everything that I do. Both worldly and spiritual. Perfection may be impossible but in the words of my dear mother, “If you aim for the stars, the least you’ll get is the moon.” I was a baby once too but no longer am now. If I stood stark naked in the road not a single person would coo at me the way that they do at babies. Instead, they would stare oddly at this stranger. Funny enough, the same goes if I am covered from head to toe. It is true that not every person judge me this certain way. Many today understand my situation. Wait…situation? That sounds wrong. That word sounds as if I am forced to be the way I am, which I am not. This is a choice and has always been so. The way that I dress is a personal preference. Yes, now that sounds better. I prefer to be this way.


“And asked Abraham's servant, ‘Who is that man walking in the field toward us?’ ‘That is my master,’ the servant replied. So she took her veil and covered herself.” (Genesis 24:64)

Not all of her acquaintances view life the same way that she does. Therefore friends and family – mostly friends – have always applauded her for not preaching. Yet she feels something is not right. Something is missing; her heart is torn. She feels selfish. She wears the veil, or hijab, because she knows how good it feels like to not be doomed to follow every single fashion off the catwalks of New York from miniskirts to see-through shirts. Nevertheless, she keeps the feeling all to herself. Although guilty of such offence of the autumn boot, that was it for her. If only others could understand the way she feels. It is not so that they would imitate the way she dresses but so that they would just understand her. That is why she chooses not to preach. She does not believe in coercion. She believes in acceptance. Why ask someone to do something they refuse just to hear them complain about it later? It is not worthwhile. Especially if the complaints attack not just the identity of a person, but also the belief of million others around the world.

In today’s society where her religion is such a hot topic, she dares not say more than necessary. Lucky for her that she is currently in a country that supports personal liberty: everyone has a right. However, she does not want her choice of clothes to be called an expression, as many have thought it is. This is not a matter of freedom of expression. At the same time it is also not to be seen as a lack of expression; it is neutral. She does not want strangers to group her with such and such people simply based on the way she dresses but obviously by wearing the veil she is saying that she is proud to be a Muslim. Her hope is that someday others would stop scrutinizing and start accepting. Accept her for her. Not letting how she looks and dresses affect their opinion on her. That is irrelevant. As long as she does not smell, there is no need to back off.

But there are two sides to this story, unfortunately. One side is of her relationship with others of another beliefs and the other is of her relationship with persons who confess to have the same belief as she does. Interestingly, those who are supposed to belong to the same faith as her criticize the tradition of veiling, which she holds dearly, more harshly than the rest. “Where did they go wrong?” she often asks herself. ‘They’ means the community of her religion. ‘Go wrong’ refers to the absence of respect among them. It is entirely fine if they do not see eye to eye but to ban the headscarf in universities? That is unnecessary. The reason being in the name of modernization is not good enough. What about the United States of America? Isn’t it modern? American universities allow her and her friends who dress modestly to go to classes and receive the education they eagerly seek. What is the explanation to that? If those countries really want to emulate the West, then the “land of the free and home of the brave” is certainly the best example.



Admittedly, I am a bit biased. But then again, who is not? One’s choice of friends and clothes and college major is already a show of bias over one and not the other. Thus, as much as I try to be fair, there is a constant voice inside my head that cannot see the true flip side of uncovering the head for a woman. If I can, there is no need for me to go ‘out of my way’ in an already alien place to appear more different in addition to everything else – skin color and accent. Why call for more attention to myself? However, it is acknowledged that there are problems in today’s world that could cause a Muslim woman, or Muslimah, to be better off letting her hair down. Firstly, with terrorism on the rise, there is a generalization among those who are not familiar with Islam that all Muslims are directly or indirectly terrorists. By wearing the hijab, a woman faces the possibility of threats and would, as a consequence, live in constant fear. The smart move then is to conform to society in the name of safety. To add insult to injury – literally – fanatic feminist movements might one day extremely oppose this tradition and try to make legislations against women being veiled. This could take away Muslims’ legal freedom to cover up as what is currently happening in certain Middle Eastern and European countries. Again, to get that perfect balance it appears that taking the veil off is the right path in today’s modern world rather than facing the risk of defying those feminists.

Feminism as a movement is not a new order. It has been around for decades and one famous account of feminism in women’s history is the bra-burning incident during the 1968 Miss America beauty pageant. Although many have claimed that story as false, the idea behind it stays the same. Yes, they do not actually burn their brassieres but instead throw them, together with nylon stockings, girdles and whatnots, into a “freedom trash can”. They wanted to make a statement and more importantly for that statement to last. In my opinion, they accomplished only one of their objectives: to make a lasting statement. And the most famous one is that coming from an Illinois legislator from the 1970s calling them “braless, brainless broads.” The point that I am trying to make is that nobody really gets what they were fighting against. In fact, they were ridiculed by the masses for such juvenile act. These feminists do not understand the true meaning of women’s rights - or equal rights for that matter. They wanted women to have all the same rights that a man has and an equal opportunity to rise in a male-dominated world. That is a praise-worthy cause. But how do they suggest we achieve that when our nature calls for us to be the nurturing women, wife, and mother, on top of all the other responsibilities of a man? I could easily go into another debate over this but will not. Not today, not in this paper. Women are not men and vice versa. I believe the saying goes, “If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, then it is definitely a duck.” Unlike those of the feminists’, the statement made by veiled Muslim women is clear in that they want to be respected simply as the other gender – not as the weaker one. The only thing though that I could relate to those bra-burners is their courage to go against societal norm, which I do every single day in my life.



The aim that modern women need to have in their lives is not one of equal rights, but that of women’s rights. In other words, the right to be a woman - proudly. Women have a wonderful feat that not one man can experience his entire lifetime: the ability to give birth. There is no need in wanting to be equal to a man when nature proves that men and women are “equally different”. In my personal opinion, wearing the headscarf promotes dignity, self-worth and respect; something that no bra-throwing activity could offer. Our expectation of men thus changes for them to treat women as more than an equal but also as a lady. However, it is needed to be stressed here that those are only my opinions and of a limited few.

If only those in high-ranking positions, such as those in politics, would entertain the idea of continuously wearing modestly, it would bring a halt to the world of politics as being a beauty competition (example: the 2008 presidential campaign involving Sarah Palin) to being a real competition of intellectual abilities. Subsequently, their call for women’s rights would truly be respected for its substance. As a female still growing into my own self, I desperately need a role model besides those found in history and religious text books. Hence, I am glad that I found one recently in Dalia Mogahed – President Obama’s veiled Muslim adviser currently part of the White House team. Why is she an inspiration to me? Because I am a political science major. Suddenly there is this living proof that anything is possible if one just believes.



“And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is just as though her head were shaved.” (1 Corinthians 11:5)

I have a lot of friends back home, a wide variety of them in fact. Malaysia, like most colonized nations, retains its after-effect of being multi-racial for it has three major races, four major religions, and certainly many other distinguishable aspects among the residents. Some of my closest friends are Christian-Chinese, some are atheists, and most are Muslim-Malays. This emphasize on religion may sound weird to Americans since there is the famous separation of church and state in the country. But where I came from, a person’s religion is important as it is clearly stated in his or her national identity card. Not just that but the country’s “National Principles” also make us pledge our belief first and foremost in God before the King, the country, the constitution, and the rule of law. In other words, we respect each other’s belief because it is so much entrenched in us. The catch is that this respect exists only among different believers. Among Muslims themselves, the pressure is on. Certain times one or two would try to ‘prove me wrong’ by pointing out that even though they do not comply with Islamic teachings, they are still considered by most as successful in life. I agree. But the thing that they seem unable to grasp is that everyone is different. Every person has a different goal in life and no two persons see everything entirely the same way. I never once forced my friends to wear modestly yet there are those who are calling me to show off my skin even if they know I am not comfortable with that. Why do these people think there is only one way to survive in today’s supposed modern world?

I have to admit that it is especially hard when you see your fellow girlfriends wear cute baby tees with short – REAL SHORT – skirts. As a girl, especially one that is part of a group, of course I do not want to feel left out in appearing cute. So how do I handle this stressful situation? In countless ways over the years, I have to admit. Embarrassingly, in spite of my plea for others to stop judging me, I did the same thing years ago to fellow schoolmates. When I was much younger I would choose my friends based on the criterion of their clothing. If she covers up then she is my friend, if she does not then we have to go our separate ways. But later on I learned that what I was doing was not right. Who am I to judge a person simply based on the way she dresses? It is certainly not the only measure to a person. Adding to that, I got a nice long lecture from my parents. I remember my dad said, “I don’t care if you befriend a person who takes drugs. As long as you know what’s right and what’s wrong, I trust you.” I bring that with me everywhere I go nowadays.

Slowly, I started to open up. I accepted not just those who do not wear the headscarf, but also those sexy ones. My dad was right. My sexy girlfriends are both respectful and absolutely fun to be around with.


But during those years of searching for friends from different backgrounds, I stumbled upon one who is of the opposite kind. She comes from a family that does not observe the headscarf religiously. Her mother may wear a flimsy cloth around her head but with her neck showing, nonetheless. And then she met me when we were in secondary school. “I’ve always wanted to wear the headscarf but no one else is wearing it!” confided her in me. It is testament to the amount of pressure we face even in a Muslim-majority country. Therefore she was so excited to finally meet someone who does have the same desire. At first her family was not supportive of her change but she fought off all the back talks and weird looks by wearing the hijab proudly. How so? By pairing a purple headscarf with a funky purple t-shirt from Forever 21 and a pair of jeans from Guess. She knows how to dress up and she does it well. For some reason I feel happy not just for her, but also with myself. I did not force her to change but instead I played a significant role in boosting her self-confidence to be comfortable in her own skin. Nothing can beat that.

"O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their bodies (when abroad) so that they should be known and not molested" (Quran 33:59)

My mum did not cover her head when she was my age. Both my paternal and maternal grandmothers did not cover their heads when they were my age. But I do. It has nothing to do with force or subjugation. It is a personal conviction. I choose this way of life not because of you, them, him or her. I choose to wear the veil for two people: myself and He, my Lord. It has nothing to do with my political stance or rebellious nature. It is simpler than anyone could ever imagine. The veil neither restricts my movements nor my dreams; it no more than liberates me to act accordingly. Though others may say that even without it they could still do the same, this is not about them, remember, this is about me.


Syaza Farhana Mohamad Shukri
Seminar in Composition, 2009

Bibliography:

Greenfieldboyce, Nell. "Pageant Protest Sparked Bra-Burning Myth : NPR." NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 25 Oct. 2009. .
 

Lewis, Jone J. "Bra Burning Feminists of the Sixties - NOT." Women's History - Comprehensive Women's History Research Guide. 25 Oct. 2009 .

Saturday, February 27, 2010

10 days past 21

Yesterday was interesting. Tiring, sure.

Woke up early, didn't sleep in the afternoon - imagine that and you'll have a pretty clear picture of what's going on in my head.

Had to wake up early to catch those peeps in Nilai. Yup, they've been having a lot of activities since I've been gone :( Oh wells, what a girl to do? Gotta enjoy my own time here, I guess :) Even though it's...weird, me missing all the BBQs, weddings, and vacations to Bagan Lalang, can't stop no one. So anyway, woke up at 6, caught Kak Yong on her BB, continued on the big screen, and stayed till 8.30am, Pitt time, to go to school.


The snow was crazy. Period. Hoping for school to close, but not every little girl's dream come true, does it?

Went for last minute shopping at the Giant, and went back to find a sweet surprise in our mail.

As mentioned, did not have time to rest, had to do what a hostess should do - especially one who is hosting a 'makan-makan' for the first time as a wife. By 3, arms up, feet in the kitchen, cooking - for the first time - nasi tomato (or shall I call it a mere attempt?). Not bad I got to say :D Of course had plenty of splendid assistance from beautiful husband of mine :) Everything did come out as planned, just had to wait for comments from the guests!


Good food, good movies, and amazing company. So what if I didn't sleep for a day? ;)


-C-

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just a me-booster

Behavior: Napping Can Prime the Brain for Learning 

Published: February 22, 2010

It turns out that toddlers are not the only ones who do better after an afternoon nap. New research has found that young adults who slept for 90 minutes after lunch raised their learning power, their memory apparently primed to absorb new facts.

Other studies have indicated that sleep helps consolidate memories after cramming, but the new study suggests that sleep can actually restore the ability to learn.

The findings, which have not yet been published, were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.

“You need to sleep before learning, to prepare your brain, like a dry sponge, to absorb new information,” said the lead investigator, Matthew P. Walker, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study recruited 39 healthy young adults and divided them into two groups. All 39 were asked to learn 100 names and faces at noon, and then to learn a different set of names and faces at 6 p.m. But 20 of the volunteers who slept for 90 minutes between the two learning sessions improved their scores by 10 percent on average after sleeping; the scores of those who didn’t nap actually dropped by 10 percent.

-C-

p/s:  Well, well... ;)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another Again

Happy Birthday to me!

For my annual birthday post, I decided to write on something that had molded me for the past 21 years to be as I am: family.

Yes, family. Weird isn’t it that I always think of my family when I’m away from them. But then, when you think about it, I do have my own family with me. I now have three families! One in Nilai, one in Kluang, and one in Pittsburgh. Maybe Rassyid and I have been treating Lailee way too much like a daughter than we’re supposed to; but then again, who will love her as much as we do if not us?

Today we took Lailee to the vet. Last Thursday she had a seizure. Yup, a seizure. It was scary. We were in the living room – all three of us – me watching a movie, Rassyid was online, and Lailee was sleeping next to him. Suddenly she rose, walked a few steps, and fell on her side. At first I didn’t make much of it because she is gedik and likes to fall on her back to get her belly rubbed. But this time, her hind left leg twisted in a way you don’t wish for other cats to experience. I wanted to help her up but she seemed paralyzed and unable to pull herself. She succeeded in walking a few steps towards us but then dropped again, and this time her whole body contracted. I could not explain what it felt like to feel helpless as I watched my ‘child’ in pain.

And then I understood, that’s what parents feel every second of every day for as long as they live. Worry, helplessness, knowing that not everything is under their control. They try (the same way Rassyid and I did in bringing Lailee to see the vet) but then, there’s nothing more they can do except praying for the best.

I’m not perfect. I was certainly not the best daughter to my parents. I know there were moments that I wish I could erase from memory, but can’t. I'm definitely no 'trouble-free' daughter. But I’m here because of them, and no one can make me think so differently. I don’t think I screamed to be let go before, but I definitely prayed to be understood more. My parents are just that – human parents. They made mistakes too. But I’m a firm believer that without mistakes, there won’t be change, and without change, everyone’s a slave to circumstances – and that’s not a pretty place to be in.

People say I’m lucky. Lucky that my parents are willing to give up so much, to do so much, for me. One thing they don’t know is, I’m not a fan of luck. We make our own ‘luck’. When they say I’m lucky that my parents understood my situation to get married, they don’t know the fight I had to put up. The fight WE – my family and I – had to put. But we did it. So on my 21st birthday, I’m done wishing for myself. Now, I want pray for others. Others that are not as ‘lucky’ as me.

I may be 21, and I may be married. But before I was a wife, remember, I was a daughter.

-C-