Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cats In Gaza And Cats In Islam

When I am not writing about Arabic music, I like to write about Gaza, Islam and Cats, in this order. I hope you guys are cat people, as dogs in Islam are not as cool as cats are

My latest and I hope you like it... for the entire article click here

In 2005, the municipalities of Gaza had a cat shortage. Cats are important to Gaza as they serve a great purpose, munching on rodents that gather by the local landfills. Apparently, the local governments used a strong kind of poison; so strong that it killed both the rodents and the cats. As the population of cats dwindled, the rodents ran amok. Those were tough times in Gaza, as little kids were traumatized by increasingly bold rabbit-sized rodents who were running around unchallenged.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Issue With The Religious And The Non-Religious

I see the many Muslim voices wining elections in the Arab world, and I cheer and worry at the time time. Many conservatives seek culture wars with those who are secularists or the non-religious among us . This is not exclusive to one country, I see and read about this struggle here in America between the right and the left.

However, I think neither have the absolute truth. Diversity of opinion and ideology is a good thing, it should be encouraged. I do not think it serves a great purpose if you try to convert someone from one school of thoughts into another. Otherwise, who will keep you in check? We cannot all think and see eye to eye on everything--God created us different for a reason.

Here's me two observations on this matter:

  1. The religious among us tend to view their faith as their own property. As one does with his or her property, they protect such valuable. So if someone who does not belong near that property, he or she can be shot because they are trespassing on private property. Yet no one owns an idea or owns a religion. No matter how the religious try to sell it...they do not own their religion, it's meant to be shared. There's no reason why Afghans should lose their life as they are upset with the burning of the Koran--a book that holds human life sacred. Likewise, the right in America should not put more value on their own life, then they put on an Afghan one.
  2. Leftists or secularists tell you it's a fair game to say whatever they want about any topic in the world. So religious people should accept that. While, I agree with that concept, I have yet to see secularist get fired from his or her job for badmouthing their boss. They are not naive to say stupid stuff about things they do not like in their lives. Thus, they pretend that they always talk about what troubles them with something. Yes, they never talk back to a police officer. Because if they have done that, they would become social pariahs, unemployed and might find themselves in jail.
I think everyone needs to step back a little bit and just chill.
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Cynical On Politics, Health Care, and Palestine

A lot has been happening lately, I have become more cynical about many things around me. Whether it's a revolution in Syria or the struggle for health care here, I am very cynical about the process. And the situation in Palestine does not give me much hope either. I wish I can escape politics, but I really cannot it abandon it for two reasons:

  1. I am a Palestinian, politics is the bread and butter for me growing up. Everything in my life can be explained in political jargon. Like millions others, politics have led me to be where I am. If I cannot find my family on Skype, it's because they are out of power! Why you ask? Israel, has bombed their only power generating planet in 2008. And politicians in Egypt, Hamas, Fatah cannot seem to make a deal.
  2. I freaking live in Washington, DC, this American city that breaths politics. Everyone with an ambition in this world comes to this city. Whether they are Americans of Internationals, DC is like the place to be that person. There's no other city in the world like this city at the moment. National, local and international roads all meet here in DC. Never mind the think thanks and lobbyists who even rent spaces on buses and metro seats to make political points. So the moment you open your eyes, you are into it.
In other news, my favorite quote form a Supreme Court justice in the debate about health care is this: It's not that the government making you buy something, it's that those who do not participate in the market make it more expensive for everyone else. In other words, those who do not have health insurance, also get sick...when they do most often than not people like you and me end up paying for it. I know people on the right might deny it, but they get sick too, and get help as much. I also understand the right's worries about encouraging bad behavior, as insured people might not be as careful about their health when they are getting free care.
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of Cats and Muslims: A Gaza Cat Story

In 2005, the municipalities of Gaza had a cat shortage. Cats are important to Gaza as they serve a great purpose, munching on rodents that gather by the local landfills. Apparently, the local governments used a strong kind of poison; so strong that it killed both the rodents and the cats. As the population of cats dwindled, the rodents ran amok. Those were tough times in Gaza, as little kids were traumatized by increasingly bold rabbit-sized rodents who were running around unchallenged.

The local governments within Gaza starting offering up to a $100 reward for anyone who could bring them cats, as cats were the answer to keep the rodents in check. So when I crossed the Rafah—Egypt border in August of 2005, and had to spend the night at the border holding area in the desert, cats were all over the place. When 4 other dudes and I wanted to eat our dinner, skinny yet adorable cats started gathering around us in the hopes they could eat, too. Luckily, we had enough shitty corned beef to keep them happy.

As the government put a value on cats, and as more people realized the key role played by those cuddly creatures, Gazans started to breed cats, and started to treat cats with more respect. Within a few years the cat population bloomed. But what’s more important is that people now see the value of cats. In the summer of 2009, I was amazed by how many cats were in the streets. What was more amazing is that many homes have a cat or two that shadow them and emerge at the time of supper. My mother-in-law would feed them, and she had one particular cat that could use a treadmill. Living in the US for such a long time, I came to really appreciate the love and attention the people of Gaza give to those cats. Considering Gaza was still under siege and they lost upward of 1,300 hundred Palestinians due to Israeli attacks on Gaza’s population only a few months prior, it was a breath of fresh air to see this relationship.

Muslims’ love for cats is well documented in history; in fact, one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions, the one that narrates many of his accounts with the prophet, is called “Abu Horayrah”, which translates to “the man with a kitten.” Abu Horaryrah used to have a cat on his shoulder all the time. His nickname took over his name so that till this day, few can tell with certainty what was his real name. While dogs are generally kept outside of Muslim homes, kittens are welcome inside it. Before you misunderstand me, there’s a story that in the time of the prophet, a lady who did all kind of wrongs in her life and lived a wicked life, was guaranteed a place in heaven. Why, you ask? She served a thirsty dog water! That sole act was deemed worthy of redeeming her from all her past transgressions.

It was narrated by Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘A woman entered Hell because of a cat which she tied up and did not feed, nor did she let it loose to feed upon the vermin of the earth.’ “ (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3140; Muslim, 2242).

Another interesting fact: Muslims do not believe that you should buy or sell cats and dogs; you can only give them as a gift. This is derived from a hadeeth of Abu’l-Zubayr who said “I asked Jaabir about the price of dogs and cats. He said, ‘The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade that.’ ” (Narrated by Muslim, 1569).

Back to a prank my brothers pulled on me in Gaza. Prior to my arrival in 2009, they found a cat who had just given birth to 3 cute kittens. My brothers asked me to take the kittens to the vet to get them their shots. I told them I’d gladly do it and took the kittens in a cab to the local vet, who mainly dealt with livestock. He looked at the three day-old kittens and said, “Bring them back in a few weeks. Those are too young for any shots and they could die from the effects.” I was disappointed, but I took the kittens back home and found my brothers laughing at me for being a grown man chasing after three kittens to put them in a box for a trip to the vet.

Here’s a video of my rascal nephew, Hani, whose nickname is Foxy. He is running around the cats to put them in the box so that we can transport them to the vet. The picture is of my other nephew Abdallah and his new best friend, a cat that shows up every morning at their apartment. I was told he feeds his cat with a spoon and his mother is enjoying this new friendship as her little boy is learning to take charge of something.

[Hat Tip Kellee Koenig]
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Monday, March 19, 2012

The Syrian DJ, the Saudi Dancers and the Revolution in Syria

Full Story

Indeed, in the larger context of the Arab Spring, no country’s internal struggle has more defined by division than that of Syria. Unfortunately, the mainstream media narrative has more or less ignored this important factor in favor of creating a loud anti-Assad din. The truth is the Syrian opposition is not united, does not enjoy the full support of the Syrian people, and is largely foreign-funded. We simply cannot ignore these facts.

Like most Arabs, when the Syrian revolution began, I was 100 percent behind it. But as time passed, the revolution transformed from a local movement into a far larger, multinational plot. All of a sudden, countries with dismal human rights records are backing the Syrian revolutionaries while preaching democracy to the Syrian regime.
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Jon Stewart And Palestine Reporting

Jon and his team know more about Palestine than any American decision maker in DC. Well, the decision makers know the truth, but they would not speak out becasue if they do, they will be adding a little title before their name "Former"! It's sad sad when someone who is meant to be funny can deliver the hard truth, which when it comes down to it, is pure simple logic.

So the US passed a law in 1990 telling the UN, it will cuts its funding or any agency that deals with Palestine directly. According to Robert Waxler from Florida--he is also Jewish. That this makes sure that the two parties negotiate together. Here's where the congressman reveals his a big goon:

  1. Israel does not want to negotiate anymore, they just want to grab more Palestinians land. What in the history of this particular Israeli government and the loons at its helm in charge makes you think they want to talk peace?
  2. Whoever wrote that 1990 law has received funds from the AIPAC--a Jewish lobby that works on behalf of Israel--look it up.
  3. The very idea of let the two parties negotiation without the UN meddling, is laughable. It's like telling the persons who has been raped that they cannot report to the police and instead they and the rapists need to make it work. Excuse me, this is how what he said registers in the Palestinian mind. He knows it, but he chooses to overlook it becasue he wants to be able to enjoy his dinner and call himself a "good guy"

    Watch the videos below...

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Waiting For Change At The Grocery Store

Since most items are priced something.99, it becomes hard to pay for something at the grocery store without having to deal with change from the cashier. take for example, a half gallon of milk at the Trader's Joe is 1.99--a bargain in DC. I give the cashier 2 dollars and I do not know what to do. I have two choices:
  1. Wait till the receipt print and be handed a one cent back from the cashier--waste time and look cheap.
  2. Walk away, the have the cashier panic, think you are rude.

What do you do? i often do not need a receipt for such transactions, if I pay cash, it means I am in a rush. But I do not want to insult the cashier and just bail. He might want to ask me to enter my email or bonus card or even give away my kidney for some charity.

I often find myself asking the cashier, I'm good?, can I go now? This seems to work out well for me as I do not waste time and the cashier knows I am jetting out of there. Luckily, most of my purchases are using plastic.
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