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Monthly Archives: November 2006

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Green Eggs, Citizen Journalism, and Ham.

I came across an article the other day that made reference to “citizen journalism,” a phenomenon so powerful that news conglomerates and spin doctors could no longer cover up unsavory events. Try as they may to keep things hidden, news gets out because somewhere, someone blogs about it. I find that both a little reassuring and a lotta scary- reassuring because however small, and however obscured by blogs about the dog and why I hate the girl at my office, the public still has a voice.

What’s a little scary though, is that the media is so unreliable and hopelessly twisted by political and private slants that we only know what they want us to know, and even when we find out, they distract us with pretty pictures and colored lights and we forget our indignation and buy iPods and move on. (Oooh, shiny!)

HF and I own a second-hand iPod btw, it’s fantastic for listening to ibooks in the car. Living in the UAE means living in traffic alot. Moving on-

So in the spirit of (hemhem) Citizen Journalism, I would like to pretend like my blog is a news forum and throw out a question- Would you carpool? I’ve started freelancing for papers here, and in the spirit of the recent focus on how very badly the traffic in Dubai stinks, I’m supposed to be writing up on how to fix the problem instead of just whining about it.

So, would you carpool?

Would you, could you, carpool?

Would you carpool from your house?
Would you carpool with a louse?

I would not carpool from my house.
I would not carpool with a louse.
I would not carpool from the docks.
I would not carpool in my socks.
I would not carpool here or there.
I would not carpool anywhere.
I would not carpool, Sam-I-Am
Not even in your new Grand Am.


Forbidden frut, thy name is Skittles

Back in the eighties, when leg warmers were hot and orange lipstick was cool, Abez was a wee little Muslim kid with a weird name that no one else had and dietary rules that none of her friends followed. She wished, above all things, that her name had been Diana, and that she could eat Skittles.

Skittles, you see, used to be made with that devious evil- Pork Gelatin, and no one but Infidels ate them. 😉

(Shout out to my favorite infidel- Hi Mom! :D)

It’s interesting to note that most Muslims, regardless of their level of practice, will not break the no-pork rule. I’ve met Muslims who drank at meals, danced till they dropped and ran amok on beaches in bikinis, but they still wouldn’t eat pork. But I digress. Skittles were forbidden fruit, and in my 9-year old eyes, they epitomized everything that being a Muslim unfairly held back from me. Couldn’t eat Oreos, couldn’t have McNuggets, Twinkies are still haraam… Life was unfair and I can very distinctly remember sitting in the park outside of our apartment in Chicago and staring dejectedly at an empty Skittles wrapper that some other, luckier kid left on the ground.

Then we moved to Pakistan for a few years and I had other things to worry about. Skittles were forgotten, for a while at least. Fast forward to 1994, and a 14 year old Abez in MCC, the Muslim Community Center, staring in shock at another kid eating Skittles. In the masjid. Man, it’s one thing to eat pork, but to eat it in the masjid? That was a double whammy. I asked what the heck was up. Didn’t you know Skittles have pork in them? No they don’t said another 14 year old. We read the wrapper. I was blown away. The ingredients in Skittles had been changed while we were out of the country. I tasted Skittles, finally.

Fast forward to this post, and a 26 year old Abez with feet up in the computer chair and a pack of Skittles on the desk. Believe it or not, I have only eaten Skittles a handful of times in my life. As I finish this bag I remember why- they taste fake and they get stuck in your teeth.

Not that that stops me from finishing the bag. Oh no. The mental association that I have of Skittles with All Things Wonderful That Muslims Can’t Have from when I was a child pushes me to finish the bag, to make up for past, lost opportunities. It’s bizarre, really, and sad that being raised as a dietarily practicing Muslim (if little else) in the US left me with emotional baggage that I wasn’t able to understand until I was much, much older.

As an adult I can say things like, “Of course I wouldn’t let my child go around eating pork. As Muslims, we should do our best to live by the rules that Allah has given us, and children may not understand why, but until they’re older, they can at least understand that they must.”

Yep, that’s the kind of thing that adult Abez sez. And then the kid inside (who insists that the Skittles were wonderful) says that no one should have to live in a world where they’re wrongly denied simple pleasures. And the adult in me rolls her eyes and sez see, this is why kids are not in charge.

Life is not about pleasures, simple or complex, and to say that no one should be denied their pleasure is the basis for a completely amoral society. As uptight as it sounds, this is the truth. As a child, it was Skittles. As a teenager, it was boyfriends. As a young adult, it was the sex and drugs that everyone else seemed to be having a great time with. There are pleasures, unfortunately, that have more detriment than benefit for society, and they are haraam for that reason- not because Islam has something against fun or enjoyment. You’re allowed to eat sweets, but pork isn’t clean. You’re allowed to have friends, but never let the people you hang out with push you towards wrong. You’re allowed to love, but do so cleanly, and with commitment, and within a marital contract that protects both parties and helps to ensure their rights.

This is what grown-up Abez sez, but the little kid in Abez nods, pretends to understand and then whispers thank God they made Oreos halal.

I wonder whether I will be able to explain this concept to Bebeface when he is older. Will he understand why, if he goes to a non-Muslim friend’s house, he won’t be able to eat the pork pies? The bacon bits? The ham sammiches? Will he be ok with that, or will he too resent his parents for imposing rules he doesn’t understand in the name of a religion that he is too young to make sense of yet? Every child must be taught that they can’t have everything they want. That’s life, that’s restraint, that’s normal. But will my children negatively connect that to Islam? Will Khalid wish his name was Diana too?

I hope not. I suppose that’s one reason why I always want to live in a Muslim country. Note: I don’t say Islamic country for a very big reason;

No community is “Islamic,” per se. People are people, human beings are all a mix of good and bad practices, and no one is completely virtuous or completely evil. A man who prays five times a day may still be a jerk to his friends and a complete jerk may pray five times a day, you know what I’m saying? (Think about it) If you go into a Muslim community expecting it to be completely moral and perfect, you will become disappointed and bitter. Boys will still sneak girly mags to school and smoke in the bathroom. Girls will still sneak out and maybe take their hijabs off when they get to the mall.

So now you say, “If there’s no difference between an “Islamic” community and everywhere else, then why bother? Well, the difference between a Muslim community (a community that is predominantly Muslim) and everywhere else is that morality is, a least, the expected norm. Of course, there will be people who drink and people who have sex but they will be people who do so in secret or do so to the disappointment of the community. Compare this to 16 year olds who do this with their parents’ consent and make a big huge deal of it, so much so that the Muslim kids get jealous and wonder why they couldn’t go to Prom, too.

I lost my train of thought. Believe it or not, I was thinking about Oreos. Then I was wondering whether it would be proper to make a reference to pedophilia or homosexuality or drug abuse or any other ‘pleasures’ that certain pedophiles, homosexuals, or drug abusers feel they are wrongly denied by society. I’m not sure yet. I was going to draw a parallel, but it seemed wrong to taint Skittles with an association to marijuana.

New Paragraph: Bebeface is still young, and fortunately, still asleep. Without his dedicated snoozing, this blog would not be possible. I suppose I will have to cross the bridge of forbidden fruit when we get there, and I pray I can do so without making my son feel deprived and resentful of the religion that sets him apart and the funny name that prevents him from being just like everyone else.

May it set him apart as a good man.
May he never, ever be just like everyone else.


BebeFiles: Some Firsts

Alhamdulillah, Bebeface is seven and a half months old now, and the rate at which he’s developing dangerous and cunning new skills is amazing. This week alone has seen several developmental firsts- several key skills he has obtained and now uses to threaten all of humanity with.

So Eye See…
Glasses are not part of a person’s face, and can be removed with one quick yank of the gooey, wet fingers and then dropped on the floor. Khalid now knows that glasses are both removable and edible, and there seems to be no turning back, regardless of how we threaten to withdraw damages from his college fund.

Take that, HA!
Khalid now has the ability to, but not necessarily the proper licensing to, drive his walker all over the kitchen, into my ankles, against the dining chairs, etc. Up until just two days ago, he just sat in the walker and if he moved his feet it was out of excitement or frustration, but not with any direction or purpose. At some point though, he seems to have had an epiphany, and one morning surprised me by very purposefully steering himself towards the garbage can and then proceeding to worry said garbage can from one of the kitchen to the other, and then back. This kid can drive.

Take That, CHOMP! Teef. Alhamdulillah, Bebeface has two little bottom-teeth about half-way out now and the two on either side of them are just starting to appear beneath his gums. So now what used to be a cute little gnaw on peoples’ fingers is now a life-threatening, needle-sharp brush with dismemberment. Khalid likes to chew, and he likes to chew HARD.

Hello there, Handsome. Khalid has long, meaningful conversations with the handsome baby in our bedroom mirror, and spends tens of minutes (which is hours in baby-time) cooing, squealing, and wiggling his eyebrows at the baby on the other side. And, he does this all sitting up. Khalid started sitting up about a month ago, but only now is he getting really stable enough to stay upright for long periods of time, and without toppling over.

Mine, all mine! Khalid is no longer my computer buddy. It used to be that I could sit him in my lap and operate the lappy easily. Now, I sit Khalid in my lap, turn towards the computer and then frantically push everything away that he’s trying to grab and cram in his mouth- mouse, headphone wire, tea cup, hair clips, pen, cell phone, digicam… anything on the table is fair game and very likely to be scooped towards Khalid with both of his outstretched little arms and then slobbered on. Even when I have moved everything out of his reach, he still cranes forward to slap at the power-indicator and wireless modem switch (those pretty blue and yellow lights) on the front of the laptop and gives them a good beating.

You gonna eat that? Cuz if not, Khalid will try. It doesn’t matter that Khalid has never had soup before in his entire like, he still wants it, and yesterday he managed to grab a spoonful of it as it was headed towards my mouth, splattering chikken noodle in my lap and down his arm. On top of that, he wouldn’t let go of the spoon. He saw me drinking a cup of tea earlier today, and zoomed towards me in his walker, came to a crashing halt against my knees and then started smacking his lips and looking deprived. I’m sorry kid, you are years away from caffeine.

Hey, whose feet are these? Khalid has discovered his feet, and day by day he is learning that they can go closer and closer to his mouth. He holds one foot in each hand, and in a gesture that would be rude if it weren’t so impossibly cute, he grins at you over the full-moon he’s pointing in your direction. (When he does that without a diaper on, I get scared.)

So yeah, MashaAllah. SubhanAllah. Bebeface gets more and more beautiful and unpredictable and alive every day. He has wants and needs and even a sense of humor, and has a beautiful little laugh that lights up everything- his face, the room, the people around him. I laugh at him sometimes and he looks at me and just laughs back, my crazy beautiful little kid.