Friday, September 23, 2011

For a child, a hug is a magic circle

Another year of school has begun! Life goes on in this curious American tradition based on the past. Children always got summers off school so they could help till the soil on the family farm —school began again after the harvest.

At this point in history not only does this make no sense, since hardly anyone even lives on a family farm anymore, but it inconveniences working families, who are stuck paying for day care all summer long for their children. The government would save so much money if children got three months in winter off instead of summers. The cost of plowing the streets for the school buses and keeping the buses running under winter conditions not to mention heating all those buildings must be enormous. Yet, few Americans would willingly give up their summer break.

As a mother of four I am exhausted. Why am I the one who is exhausted when it’s my children who are setting forth out of my home? I couldn’t sleep because I was so nervous for my children, even while they slept like little angels. Well, besides all the stress of buying school supplies and school clothes, I worry about them because I know what it was like for me when the school year began. I recall that I did not sleep a wink the night before my first day of kindergarten, afraid of the unknown. It was most of the way through the year before I made my first friend, I was so shy. My daughter just started kindergarten on Monday and already made a friend on the first day, thank goodness. She was blessed with a certain radiance and the assumption that everyone loves her in advance. Her main complaint, and she was really mad, was that the teacher didn’t give her any homework!

My son just started 7th grade and I feel so nervous for him because 7th grade was probably the most stressful year of my school-life. I developed headaches then, which I had never experienced before, chest pains, and stomach aches suddenly dealing with huge numbers of students that I didn’t know. Because I was not secure in my inner self, the outer image became very important as a way of connecting with a group, although it took me until 8th grade to even get that far. For the most part I was an invisible, book-carrying, glasses-wearing part of the machine going from class to locker to class. I felt like my life was a prison.

Knowing that the school year with its time consuming routines can turn life into a mundane blur hardly worthy of remembering, it is important to help our children create happy memories and help them ease into social interactions in an emotionally safe environment because school-life is not all fun and games. School is where we learn about the nasty, competitive side of human nature sometimes. Young people are starving for guidance, we just need to make it easy for them to do in a relaxed setting.

With my older ones in school I have my own struggles with my toddler, who is not used to having to entertain herself. The sheer inability to get anything accomplished with her destroying the house as fast as I can clean up will eventually steer me out of doors and bring me to interact with the community more. Once people start recognising your face, they are more likely to greet you and smile at you. But even smiling at a stranger can change the entire mood of a day.

Nobody needs your smile more than your child when he or she comes home from school. Some children go overboard in the attempt to make friends by doing things that are superficial or even harmful in order to gain attention like smoking or idolising a music genre. This is especially the case when kids don’t feel much approval at home. So make sure you give your child a hug every day and tell them something nice. Knowing you care, that you are nervous when they are nervous, and that you are proud of how they are growing up, makes all the difference in the world.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based 
freelance writer

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ode to Mass Murder

Originally, I was not planning on writing a 9/11 article. Why not treat 9/11 the way Americans treat Hiroshima Day? Nobody cares that the US incinerated an entire city in Japan, it was not just one building. Let's be fair. On 9/11, between 2,000 and 3,000 people perished according to varying reports. Only God knows if they were innocent or not. Some of them probably beat their wives or bought lottery tickets. Anyway they were non-combatants, who are protected in war by moral standards. I knew someone who was working in the banking industry in the World Trade Center. He was a Muslim. But I never understood why he would work at a bank, let alone at America's Ribaa Center. I feel horribly for his family. No matter who bombed the World Trade Center in New York, Allah willed it though. He willed all of those people killed, the same way He willed you to lose your wallet one day. Maybe you underestimated your Zakat. Maybe your reaction of alhamdulillah will protect your future losses and gains.

Nobody who ever met Osama bin Laden ever said a bad word about him. Therefore I am inclined to disbelieve ongoing news reports that he was connected to 9/11. Just before the Americans started bombing Afghanistan, the US told the Taliban to hand over bin Laden. The Taliban said if he had committed such a crime, they would be happy to hand him over since according to Islam, the targeting of non-combatants is illegal. What was the evidence that bin Laden had committed the crime, they asked? The US refused to answer. We just mass murdered thousands of starving people for no apparent reason. Same as Iraq. The US just decided that certain people shouldn't have food.

I'm sorry my fellow travelers, but that's just Satanic. An illiterate could see this. The Salafis held the American flag high totally clueless while Shias blamed the Salafis for 9/11, also waving the American flag. Hello? Can we just get something straight? Muslims don't fight like 9/11. The WTC attack was a made-for-TV event. It was seized by all the networks to promote an agenda. They said they knew who did it within 30 seconds of the first report and yet ten years later, they have not produced a shred of evidence. Muslims don't do one-time, glamorous, perfectly photographed at every angle events!

9/11 cannot be considered as part of any jihad right or wrong, for the simple reason that it was clearly a symbolic show of smoke and flames and not an act of an ongoing war. When Muslims fight a war, they don't mess around with one-time events. If there was an Islamic Jihad in America, people would be dying every day. If there was such thing as al-Qaeda declaring war on the US the way the Taliban declared war on the Soviet Union, five to six policemen would die a day. Civilians would rarely be targeted. But the death toll would be steady, small, and relentless. Not a week would go by when the Muslims didn't hurt you so deep by targeting your men in uniform on your own soil. Muslims fight to win.

If Muslims had declared war on the US and they had truly committed 9/11, don't you think they would have capitalized on that event? They would have followed that explosion with another explosion and another one after that, if they had that much money and power. Not. How come there are no car bombs going off every few days in America like in most Muslim countries? How come I got some pizza at Sbarro's no problem? Why is Boston's World Trade Center still standing?

9/11 was not committed by any extremist Muslims on an anti-American Crusade. If they were, we'd have heard about follow up explosions on 9/12, 9/13, and every week including this week just like Palestine or Pakistan just between political parties. Look at every war involving Muslims. It just goes on and on and on with agonizing detail. One person at a time is targeted and the person who shot him may or may not get away unharmed. To say that 9/11 bears any characteristics of Islamic warfare is a JOKE. At no time in history have Muslims ever created one single successful attack staged for television that ruined a nation. They never ever got all TV stations to agree who did it within 30 seconds of their grandiose measure. This is absurdity! If the Muslims could do this, why are they not doing it every week? They would have their own station just for terrorizing skittish Americans with 9/11 footage around the clock. They don't.

9/11 was a mass murder for which no perpetrator has ever been convicted. No one has ever had a fair trial and answered our questions. It has never happened. There are people on Wall Street who know why.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Eternal Jihad is Doable

Modern psychology seems to agree with Islam that there are two kinds of people in this world, ultimately: Power Over and Power Within people. Marriages and nations have been destroyed because of the conflict between these two human philosophies. It seems completely impossible that they could ever live in peace, because one viewpoint says that in order for me to win, you must lose. This is the viewpoint of Jahiliyyah (ignorance). The other viewpoint says, “I can never win unless you win also.” In Islam we have learned that if even just a small part of your body hurts, the entire body cannot sleep. It is the classic domination vs. cooperation framework conflict. It is as old as time. It would take a philosopher to really delve into it, but basically, the Prophet (s) told us this struggle will go on until the end of time! This is the eternal jihad.

When the medieval Christian world came into contact with the Arabian and African Muslim world, they did not have a complete code of honor. Because Christ’s teachings involved turning the other cheek, there was no actual Christian law to govern war. Therefore, there were no boundaries. It is very similar to India’s meat industry today. Because eating meat according to Hinduism is a sin, there are no laws or ethics governing the treatment of cows in India. They treat it like an all or nothing situation.

As a result of Europe’s dance with the Muslims during the Anglo-Saxon period, Christians absorbed what they learned from their Islamic enemies and interpreted things in their peculiar ways. Europeans had never before seen women on or near the battlefield. The Muslim women who accompanied their husband “Saracens” on long journeys were described as promiscuous witches in traditional English literature. Yet curiously, indirectly, the Islamic hadith got indirectly written into the tales of King Arthur, who is the fictional equivalent in literature of our Imam Ali.

Ali (sa) is best known for refusing to kill the pagan enemy simply because he didn’t want to kill out of anger or ego, he would only kill for the sake of Allah. The man had spit on Ali’s face. Ali just let him go! Ali is the ultimate historical character across all nations that defined righteous behavior on the battlefield. The Anglo-Saxons after their experience with the Muslim world adopted the creed that war was supposed to be about freeing prisoners, feeding widows and orphans and helping the needy and oppressed, and this wisdom was spread throughout Europe through the tales of King Arthur. Before Christians came into contact with Islam, they thought war was just about killing people for power and commercial products. They didn’t accept Islam directly but they rewrote their own teachings to include the Islamic wisdom indirectly.

There are even earlier teachings in Islam that involve this basic human conflict between ignorance and reason. The Prophet Sulayman (as) when approaching the Queen of Sheba in marriage made it clear that the pagan system of her empire was going to have to submit to Islam if she wanted peace with her neighbors. There truly cannot be any compromise between hedonistic materialism and the prophetic way. They are like night and day.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D writes in an article about Good Self Esteem, “Our society often confuses personal power – “power within” – with “power over,” which is about controlling others. There is a vast difference between personal power and control. Personal power comes from an inner sense of security, from knowing who you are in your soul, from having defined your own intrinsic worth. It is the power that flows through you when you are connected to and feel your oneness with a spiritual source of guidance. It is the power that is the eventual result of doing deep inner emotional and spiritual work to heal the fears and false beliefs acquired in childhood.”

All people on earth are obligated by the promise that they made before time with Adam (as) in front of God to do this work of inner searching towards guidance and ultimate truth, including banishing the false teachings of our childhoods. There are no excuses. According to Islam, nobody has the right to say they didn’t realize they were supposed to do this in their lifetime. We made that promise to God before birth.

Dr. M. Paul continues: “Even if you do manage to have some control through anger, criticism, judgment, or money, this will never give you personal power – When the soul has dominion over the body, you have the power to manifest your dreams, to stay centered in the face of attack, to remain loving in the face of fear. When the soul has dominion over the body, you have tremendous personal power.”

Every person who is serious about their role on this earth is going to have to learn how to control their animalistic impulses especially when feeling wronged. We cannot make rational decisions about how to deal with a situation until we let go of our attachment to knowing we were wronged.

The animal instincts of fight or flight – the instincts of the body – often have dominion over our choices, but these reactions are largely caused by adrenaline. After prolonged periods of adrenaline stimulation without any change in the situation, the immune system begins to shut down. It is a huge journey to learn how to stand up to injustice without losing your center of control within.