Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sun in storm

As a Muslim student at the University of Pittsburgh, I am proud to be sitting in my History seminar class earlier. I was glowing inside, not in a conceited way, but with pride of the people of my religion. In our last class, we were to present orally the research paper that all of us had done in the last four or so months, and two of my classmates did topics that I would have not been particularly interested in if not for the comparative method they employed, contrasting experiences by different groups of people.

One of them did on social stratification. He was saying that because of centralization, wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of a few. There had always been “the poor” and “the rich” since the agriculture revolution 10 000 years ago when we humans became a settled species. He compared the Chinese civilization, the Islamic Caliphate, modern society, and the colonial period. Upon his research, he decided that the Islamic Caliphate was the best at reducing the gap between the less and the more well-to-do. This is based on his observation that Muslims have a responsibility over the welfare of their neighbors. He did not mention this, but that is essentially what zakat is all about. I do feel that charity should not be forced on the people by the government, but if we are able to educate Muslims on the spirit of charity that was taught by the Prophet, I believe that as a civilized people, we could definitely find our way back to the Golden Age. This of course depends on the leaders that we bring into office—those who sincerely care about others even when the cameras are away.

My other classmate talked about the 14th century Black Death. Since the plague spread from the east to Europe, she decided to compare the reaction that different religious groups had, and its impact on the plague’s aftermath. Even though she did not specifically spell out her preference for the Muslims' response, she did call theirs' better than the Europeans'. When the Black Death hit the Middle East, Muslim leaders and clerics call it a test of patience and mercy. God, as we believe in Him, is merciful. Unlike the view of European Christians at the time, Middle Eastern Muslims believed that God does not go about punishing humans; in fact, the plague was a blessing in disguise if they were able to pull through it. Furthermore, she mentioned that with Muslims not being afraid of death, they were able to stop short of going into full panic mode, as did the Europeans. As a result, the plague was contained much quicker in the Middle East than in Europe.

So, I came to my conclusion, that this is the kind of education we should support our students and scholars to undertake. This proves the point that I have been making for so long: if you truly believe in Islam and its truth, let it be questioned, researched, and pulled apart. If Islam is the best religion, it should be self-evident, with no one, no institution, and no government having to force people to believe in something that they don’t. The study of humanism should not be considered a worthless education. At the end of the day, that is what any employers are looking for—an employee that understands human nature, having values that are sought after. The catch is, this type of education should be truly liberal in the sense that universities should liberate the mind of our youths to think without barriers. That is called an education. I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity.

Hail to PITT!


Monday, April 9, 2012

The power of routine

Added on 4/13/2012: To those who think this is nothing, and that we are over-reacting, they have obviously never had to evacuate from a class, or a test, or worse, at 5 in the morning while they were sleeping; all of these with the alarm screeching into a panic mode in the background. Moreover, we became pawns to this prankster, while having to study for finals in two weeks. Once you've experienced that, then you can call this a joke.

I am reading all the news I can find on the recent bomb threats on my campus, and without realizing, a tear falls down my cheek. I am extremely sad, and I am definitely scared at this point.

Not unlike other students, when it first started in mid-February, we all joked that the perpetrator(s) were trying to get class cancelled because of the beautiful spring weather. Some even joked that they wish the police would find a bomb so that the school would close indefinitely. Oh, how I do not wish that to happen.

After the shooting at the Western Psychiatric Institute in March that resulted in two deaths, anxiety rose. Violence and terror on campus is real—we were fortunate that the incident happened on Spring Break. However, Rassyid and I were around when it happened; in fact, we were having lunch at a restaurant nearby when suddenly three or four police cars rushed by. Thank God for Pitt’s Emergency Notification System (ENS): we found out what happened immediately.

Since then, there have been FIFTY SEVEN bomb threats on campus. The person who is doing this is not only cruel, but he or she also lacks total empathy. People have been asked to evacuate buildings during classes, exams, even at night time when the Litchfield Tower dormitories received threats at 2 am. It is distressing.

My fear, and the fear of many, is that all these false alarms are going to culminate into something real. Personally, I am worried of our impending commencement ceremony on April 29th. Some colleagues of mine at the library have decided to not attend their own graduation ceremony because of these threats. After all, THOUSANDS of people will be at the Peterson Events Center, and God forbids, if tragedy strikes…

I am scared, I truly am… At first it was frustration, but now it is fear, especially when people kept talking about the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre coming up on April 16th. A lot of people, including myself, are worried that a gun might make its presence on campus.

Throughout all these, professors have been asked to be flexible and accommodate students. Students have moved to off-campus housing. Many have even left campus for good this semester. Even though I understand their anxiety, I am worried that this is precisely what the terrorist(s) want. Yes, I call them terrorists because they have successfully terrorized our beautiful community into hiding.

I salute Chancellor Nordenberg for his decision to keep the school running, albeit increased security measures. As a community, Pitt students, faculty members, and employees, should continue putting up a strong front. We will not allow these sick person(s) to ruin our semester, our education, our life. If there is one thing I learned from my excellent political science education at Pitt is that we should never negotiate with terrorists or succumb to their games. We do not want to empower them to create more havoc while having a white flag flying over our heads. No, we will not allow them to take over our campus.

I may be crying now, and I may be scared to go to work in an hour, but I will rise from my couch and do it. If anything happens, at least I want to be known as someone who does not cower to fear.

May the Secret Service, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, state police, Allegheny County police, sheriff's departments and Pittsburgh Police get their hands on this culprit soon so that Pitt can resume its title as one of the safest campuses in the nation.

Hail to Pitt!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Three legged hairy creature

In thirst we search for truth,
Through pain we find credence,
But gliding without a muse
worths touching, worths a glance.
The fear of felicity
is so serene,
Even ruins of dirt passed a wall
can decay even the most able queen.
Sights to wonder, oh, a-wandering,
Sweats to break, no silence called
for. In tarmac of blood grows a ring,
A bond was born; in years we shall
unearth clogged gold. Yet craters shine
with tears so severe,
Only a vestige can bind
a handshake and a laughter.
Flee! You unworthy enemy,
Drag your ego marred by marbles,
Our sequins continue to be
a separate reverie of marvels.