Saturday, April 28, 2012

Understanding and Dealing With Homosexuality

Across America, gay marriage is becoming a legalized practice, leading to general societal acceptance of the practice. In many Muslim countries, homosexual relationships are practiced secretly, often by men with wife and children. In Kuwait, a judge reportedly ruled that two co-wives were obliged to sleep with their husband as a group if that is what their husband wanted. Apparently the women felt strongly enough about their desire not to see each other naked that they took this issue to court and lost! The issue is so complex that there are even western homosexual men who migrate to Muslim countries because they prefer the privacy to the politics, and because they do not actually wish to disturb the tranquility of the heterosexual family unit and the society that is built upon such stability. They recognize that their behavior is an aberration to the norm and thus threatening to the majority.

Most Muslims feel extremely squeamish about the topic of homosexuality and many have in the past voted Republican in order to support “family values.” However, Republican politicking against Muslims has led to the vast majority of Muslims supporting President Obama and becoming active in liberal circles where Muslims and homosexuals are lumped together as “oppressed people.” Yet Islam is one of the last American religions to uphold the law against homosexual practices.

In the context of “live and let live,” politically active Muslims could choose to push for an even wider acceptance of the concept of marriage to include polygamous marriages. Gay marriage laws could even be used to help co-wives migrate to the United States, perhaps. But ultimately, the debate over gay marriage could probably be ended immediately with universal or perhaps preferably, state-wide health insurance. There is no real practical reason that a person who wishes to engage in a monogamous sexual relationship with someone else would need to get a government-certified piece of paper requiring it, except in order to provide someone else with health insurance coverage.

While genetic theories abound regarding inborn homosexual urges, Islam views homosexuality as something you choose to do, not something you are. A human being is able to find release in various ways, but I've never heard of anyone called a “vegesexual” (for example). One can choose to lead a hedonistic lifestyle, or one can choose the route of procreation and lifelong responsibility. In cases where a person insists on living a homosexual lifestyle, the question is legitimate whether a person should be free to openly confess it – since it might prevent the sorrow of a wife whose husband is not interested in her but is just using her as a smokescreen against society while exposing her to diseases.

Hadith seem to require excluding homosexuals from Muslim society. However, basic politeness also forces us to wonder how to deal with homosexual co-workers, neighbors, and even beloved friends who have chosen to take that path. Many of these people have many positive qualities.

One way to approach the situation is empathy. Most male homosexuals I have been acquainted with have in their early years been molested by an older man. Most female homosexuals that I know have had some bad experience with men or marriage. From an economic standpoint, it makes sense not to procreate, at least in the short-term. This is why the Gay Lobby has become so powerful, because people have money to donate to political causes. There is also some evidence of the Jewish Lobby and mass media producers promoting homosexuality as a way to undermine Christianity.

Another approach is avoidance. Many Muslims will simply avoid dealing with homosexuals the same way as they avoid dealing with alcoholics, and that is a perfectly sane choice to make as well.

The main question remaining is what we are going to tell our children. In my experience when my children observe same sex couples holding hands, the best thing to do is to say nothing. The kids may not even notice. If the question of gay marriage comes up, I explain that this is something other people might do, but Muslims don't do that. So far they seem satisfied with that. Ultimately, it boils down to the concept of premarital chastity. Those young people who give themselves permission to experiment can be drawn down all kinds of paths, while those who choose to wait until the time is right will have time to think about the pros and cons of any given relationship.

Those of us who feel motivated to actively promote heterosexuality should probably focus on the predatory nature of many heterosexual relationships and why some might choose to avoid them.

In Western society, there is an intense need for an increase in same sex bonding. Since the 1970's, it is very difficult for someone to find themselves in a group composed entirely of their own gender. Other than converting to Islam, becoming a lesbian is one of the only ways for women to find themselves in an emotionally supportive group of other women. My friend's husband, who is non-Muslim, attended an evening prayer during Ramadan and exclaimed that he had never been so physically close to other men before.

There is probably a true human need to socialize and be close to people who share our gender. People deprived of such human contact may develop intense emotional needs that could easily be misinterpreted as sexual in some contexts.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Increased Sun Intensity Requires Vigilance


Facial redness has always been a problem for me. When I was a kid my friends used to call me Rudolph because my nose would get so red in the Michigan winter cold. In summer, I was always freckled and pink-faced. It didn’t cause me any discomfort, just mild embarrassment. In fifth grade, I remember thinking I better marry a darker man because I wanted to protect my future descendants from ozone layer depletion. Probably a wise idea, since the sun is so much stronger now than when I was a kid. I have no idea what’s in those chemtrails either but I don’t think it’s good for my skin. Our skin is the only thing protecting us from this world.
I noticed a huge shift in skin health between youth and adulthood. Before age 20 I used to spend a lot of time in the sun outdoors and would attain a bronze color on my arms without any problem. As an adult, the combination of hijab and the housewife lifestyle made my skin extremely sensitive. At first I really liked the effect. No longer mousy brown, my hair went a shade darker while my skin became white like the moon. I looked like Snow White! But I also developed vitamin deficiency and became weak. If a family member forced me to enjoy a nature trail and a waterfall, I’d find myself covered with moles and would seriously regret it.
Around the time of the first Gulf War, it seemed like the sun got really bright. I remember being in college 20 years ago. I left my classroom and walked a couple blocks to the bus stop. By that time, my face was quite red and sunburned and stayed that way for a few days! The intensity of sunlight has continued to be much brighter than what I feel comfortable with. It is physically painful to me to go outside without sunglasses on a sunny day. My son, who has dark eyes, has similar complaints.
Now that I am a mother of four, we are still struggling over skin problems. When my son was a baby, he’d get a red face rash just from touching a soft polyester fleece blanket. Now at 13, he has some kind of acne rash caused by dry inflamed skin. The winter cold makes everybody’s cheeks red and sore, especially the baby. I suffer from rosacea in the nose and cheeks, which comes from my German side of the family. It can sometimes become quite painful and had kept me up at night feeling my capillaries exploding until I discovered a French ointment that costs $40 for 2 oz. I seem to have an allergy to the antibiotic cream that the doctor had prescribed.
Whether we blame genetics or the environment, facial redness is incurable. All you can do is regulate it, avoid triggers like extreme temperatures or caffeine and alcohol, and try to eat a good diet and drink lots of water. I am so thankful that there are so many choices of skin products out there. One of the most beautiful things about capitalism. My personal favorite is a Chamomile Primrose salve marketed online by Common Sense, a Christian hippie community-based business. I often meditate upon the suffering of women in Afghanistan or Native People anywhere, as their faces turn to leather in the wind, sun and rain. As I understand, the early Muslims used olive oil as a skin salve. There is even a commonly accepted religious ruling that applying olive oil to the skin does NOT break the Ramadan fast. That’s how important it is to moisturize!
Like prayer, the most important thing about any healthcare regime is that it needs to be applied regularly. No dermatologist in the world can help you if you don’t actually apply the prescribed lotion. Likewise, we know the importance of eating avocados and carrots, but the knowledge doesn’t help you. Eating in abundance the good food from Mother Earth helps you and your children to enjoy a better life!
Yet, I think we need to take the issue of moles caused by sunlight seriously. Hijabi women should find some way to privately expose their neck and shoulder area to sunlight on a regular basis. In my experience, this is the part of the body most sensitive, even more so than the face. I have read that people who are infrequently exposed to the sun, such as office workers, are more likely to experience skin cancer than construction workers who work in the sun without a shirt.
By the time I was thirty, I had developed a brown spot the size of a quarter on my left cheek. My mother had the same spot in the exact same place, although she was at least forty when it happened. The only thing I can think of is that it was caused by driving a car. Another argument against women driving cars LOL!!! But it’s true, that intense sunlight pouring in through one window will age your skin.
One of the blessings of living in an informed culture is that we can learn from our elders, and we can apply what we learned to future generations. I have learned from the mistakes of my youth the importance of sunscreen. We are so blessed to live in a country where sunscreen is available. Otherwise, all women would have to wear a burqa to preserve their beauty.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tarek Mehanna Gives Rousing Speech at Sentencing

On April 12, 2010 Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to over 17 years in prison. It was a sad moment for his supporters, who packed the Boston courthouse, but they were rewarded with an historical, moving speech, as Mehanna described how he came to view it as his duty to defend the oppressed.

“I couldn’t see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral... [T]his trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians,” stated Mehanna, who compared Muslim fighters overseas to American Revolutionary Minutemen fighting invading British occupation soldiers.
Mehanna's speech was on point and delivered very well. He gave a detailed analysis of his youthful intellectual processes, as he learned about American history and painful current events. One news report was particularly shocking to the young teenager: 

“I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses.”

I'm sure most of us have gone through a similar educational process when we were young, realizing at some point that the world can be a violent and unfair place. Last night, my five-year-old daughter saw a nature show on TV where whales were eating fish swimming under the sea. She was so horrified that she cried, “I'll never eat fish again!” Imagine how she will feel when she learns about Abeer al-Janabi. 
True leadership inspires people to transcend fear and to make sacrifices for the sake of others. This author recalls that when I was in fifth grade, a documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired me to pray to God right then and there at my school desk to make me among the martyrs. I asked Him to purify me, to fortify me, and to make me worthy.

Mehanna spoke of the examples of true leadership that inspired him to commit the “crime” of translating online Arabic documents related to jihad:
“When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm - Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ethical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.”

Mehanna listed among his heroes Paul Revere, Tom Paine, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Ho Chi Minh, and Nelson Mandela. He said he still has all his notes from history class! Malcolm X in particular made him dig deeper into his Islamic roots, to read the Quran and to learn about the Prophet Mohammed (s).

Mehanna testified, “the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim...”

He continued: “I wasn't tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me - not because they needed to, but simply because they could...
“In your eyes, I'm a terrorist, and it's perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I'm the one going to prison for 'conspiring to kill and maim' in those countries - because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a 'terrorist,' yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the 'terrorists' are, she sure wouldn't be pointing at me,” Mehanna declared.
“It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to "kill Americans" at shopping malls or whatever the story was...

"The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with 'killing Americans.' But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.”
Mehanna's appeal process has already been set in motion. His defense will take this to appellate and Supreme Court if necessary.

You can read Mehanna's entire sentencing statement at

Friday, April 13, 2012

Shariah Could Improve Women’s Health

In the national debate regarding healthcare coverage, “folks are getting up in arms about the idea that the pill could set uninsured women back about $1000 a year, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing,” Tracie Egan Morrissey writes in Jezebel, an online feminist magazine, which estimates the total cost of personal feminine hygiene and health maintenance to amount to $2,667 to $4,232 a year for a non-pregnant woman.

This itemized list tabulates the regular expenses involved with being specifically a human female – birth control, menstrual pads and tampons, PMS remedies like Midol, increased toilet paper use compared to men, and regular hair removal, as well as over-the-counter and prescription remedies for yeast infections, feminine itching, urinary tract infections, and the doctor-recommended yearly Pap screening for cervical cancer. Not included in the list are the costs of pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, and abortion, which if not utilized would result in exponential additional costs related to pregnancy, childbirth and daycare.

I’ll leave it to the politicians to debate about which healthcare items should be covered by taxpayers, keeping in mind that most insurance companies prefer to provide free contraception rather than dish out tens of thousands for pregnancy, childbirth, and the cost of the future children’s medical care. 

Costs related to treating infections could be easily reduced

If both men and women followed Islamic norms, women’s general health maintenance costs would likely decrease. Let’s set aside the pre-marital chastity discussion and just focus on Islamically married women. The cost of birth control and preventative doctor exams would remain the same as would menstrual expenditures, unless she is one of those Earth Mamas who make their own pads out of worn out T-shirts or have a baby every year (which is great). Female camaraderie among Muslim sisters can save a lot on salon costs, I have heard. 

Male circumcision can also play a huge role in bettering future wives’ long-term health, reducing rates of sexually transmitted infections, cervical cancer, and even AIDS. Scientific trials have shown that male circumcision can reduce a man’s risk of becoming infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by up to 60 percent. These findings have led to the decision by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) to recommended circumcision as an important new element of disease prevention. Isn’t it amazing that modern medicine is catching up with the Muslims?

Yet the most notable Islamic contribution to women’s health is without question the increased use of water for personal hygiene. In Europe, washroom fountains for rinsing off one’s personal areas are associated with prostitution, while in America, such bathroom fixtures do not even exist. There is not even a word in the English language for something you use to wash yourself after using the toilet. 

It baffles me that, in this day and age, when people scientifically understand the close relationship between cleanliness and health, there is no concept in the modern Western world of rinsing off. A woman’s risk of urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and general personal discomforts are greatly reduced by the Islamically-recommended regular use of water by both herself and her husband.

Granted, in many Muslim countries where toilet paper is not readily available, the bathroom situation can still be quite alarming even when there is some kind of fixture providing water. But there is no reason that modern man and woman cannot combine the use of toilet paper, water, and occasional soap to provide the freshest feeling.

The persistent problem of yeast and urinary infections exists also in girl children who are not sexually active. Therefore I do not understand why every medical doctor does not at least suggest to his or her patients the importance of washing with water beyond hand-washing. Perhaps it is more profitable to keep humans in a constant state of low-level infection that requires regular medication.

It is my hope that as more Muslims enter society as fully participating members, we could spread our knowledge of personal hygiene among the general population. Even those Americans who have zero interest in religion or spirituality would benefit from the disease prevention aspects of Shariah. I too, like the feminists at Jezebel, used to consider yeast and urinary tract infections a normal part of life. Then I discovered water, thanks to a Muslim penpal who decided to school me on Islamic practices. 

For some reason, discussion of the advantages of improved hygiene is often censored. It is almost as if the medieval European Christian taboo against bathing with water remains; it is as if the mere mention that bacteria exist is in itself an obscenity. Women are kept in a state of shame about their “odor” while being exposed to the advertisements of chemical companies selling them products.

Yet there is no more beautiful smell than a clean woman, to which the Prophet’s (s) hadith can attest.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Afghanistan Dilemma Remains Unsolved

Dennis Weichel, a National Guardsman from Rhode Island recently sent to Afghanistan, was killed after only 12 days as he saved an Afghan girl from being crushed by a US military vehicle. He was killed by that same US military vehicle. The father of three has been posthumously promoted to sergeant and received the Bronze Star for his heroism. The evening news has seized upon this headline to counteract the bad publicity caused by the recent reports of the US military massacring a family with many children asleep in their home.
A recent poll showed that 69% of Americans want the US to get out of Afghanistan. Reports such as the above may point to why 31% of Americans still support the US occupation: they somehow still believe that Americans are there to help people. This may explain why well-meaning people continue to enlist.

The evening news showed Weichel’s sister repeatedly stating, “That girl is alive because of my brother.” Well, that girl might be the first Afghan female the US military has actually helped. The important thing is, that nameless female has a future, even if Weichel does not. Maybe she could become a symbol of hope in the American dream for Afghanistan.

In 2001, feminists led by Hillary Clinton proclaimed that the US invasion of Afghanistan was for the liberation of women. Cries that bombing villages and starving civilians would not improve the lives of women fell on deaf ears. Internet “jokes” continue to abound, implying that female US military personnel are “showing” Afghan men, stereotyped as women-abusers, what it feels like to be abused by women. Of course no one mentions that every Afghan man tortured or killed in war is some woman’s beloved son. The fact that patriarchy remains in force even in a country of widows and orphans points to the probability that mothers are still raising their children according to old-fashioned thinking.

Human rights reports show that as of 2012, problems such as forced marriage, physical abuse, and incarceration of rape victims have not gone away, yet new problems such as forced prostitution are on the rise. 

US-friendly President Karzai has pledged to increase educational opportunities for girls, but according to the Daily Beast, in March just two days before International Women’s Day of 2012, Karzai sent out a “code of conduct” issued by the government-supported Ulema Council on how women should act and behave. “Men are fundamental and women are secondary,” the statement posted on the website of the presidential palace read. 

No Muslim man, no matter how conservative, would normally ever say something so offensive out loud even if he might practice it in his daily behavior. Islam teaches us that “Paradise lies at the feet of the mothers.” 

The Taliban was originally formed by vigilantes seeking to make Afghanistan safe from rape. The entire reason for the Taliban taking over Afghanistan in previous decades was to uphold the honor of the mothers! Afghan militias allied with the Soviet Union had used rape as one of their weapons of war and that news made the teenagers decide to leave their studies to become Afghanistan’s barefoot soldiers – to defend the women and girls from the abuse of the godless warlords! Despite their many flaws, the Taliban laid down their lives for women, and they are still respected as the only militia that does not rape. 

There has been a lot of ongoing talk about Karzai fluctuating between trying to work with the US and talking with the Taliban, who apparently have not actually been toppled. They seem to be more like a ragtag group of armed farmers, who are not going to go away. 

I have no idea what Afghan women are going to do about their general situation, and it looks like they are on their own with that decision. According to my Women’s Studies classes in college, the status of women improves with economic stability. Men without a stable income are more likely to abuse their wives, while women with a stable income are less likely to be abused by their husbands. It’s a pretty simple mathematical/psychological formula really. But the majority of US efforts seem geared at taking any kind of financial freedom away from the Afghan people, including laws forcing farmers to buy genetically modified seeds from the Monsanto Corporation, which do not reproduce – forcing Afghan farmers to buy seeds on a yearly basis from the US. 

Americans that want to help Afghan girls and women are going to have to do more than “support the troops.” They will have to organize to defend their own gardening and farming communities against government control of seeds and other outrageous abuses.

Since the US set up heroine processing plants in Afghanistan, it has become completely impossible for Americans to access the flower sap Afghan housewives reportedly use to quiet their children. This is the exact opposite of capitalism! Heroine will kill you dead and spread AIDS through needles. Opium is less harmful than cigarets, even if it’s just as addictive. Legalizing drugs might go a long way towards ending the CIA involvement and violence associated with growing opium, and would provide safer and more natural forms of the drug to consumers of painkillers. 

Ultimately, cessation of war would provide Afghan farmers some respite to explore other crops to make a living.