July 28, 2013

Isolated incidents vs. global suffering: when should we respond?

I had hoped that the return of my passion for blogging would be marked by a piece filled with positive energy and not by a piece expressing my extreme frustration over the chain of events that I’m about to inform you of. But incidents as of late have undermined those hopes.

Folks living in the Arabian Gulf region, specifically UAE, have most probably heard of the YouTube video showing a senior-level government employee humiliating, berating and physically abusing an Indian delivery-van worker following a minor car accident. To add insult to injury, the evidence, for now, has been declared inadmissible in court due to its illegal status, as filming without the subject’s permission is forbidden according to the UAE constitution. The man who assaulted the driver could face a fine of DHS 10,000. The man who filmed this video could face a fine of at least DHS 20,000. Twice the amount. For capturing a crime. Not for committing it. 

But the present blog post isn’t a memorial arguing the legalities of the case. Rather, I’m concerned about an entirely different angle of this entire incident.

I read a newspaper article citing a psychologist’s analysis of the victim’s likely state to be one of  humiliation, low self-worth and depression.  Since I’m neither qualified nor of the right social background to change the state of affairs in this country, I decided that the most I could do in my position was to try and make the victim understand that none of this is his fault, that his self-worth does not depend upon how others’ treat him, and to make him realize that he is worth as much as any other human being in the world regardless of his race, social status or occupation.

Thinking this, I called the victim’s company and asked his co-workers for his number/address I can deliver a care package to. Or even just a letter. I’m assuming the person I spoke to was the manager, because he was prompt in rudely dismissing me once he learnt that I was a private citizen and not from an organization. He was rude, dismissive and frankly not willing or able to understand why I wanted to send him a care package or a “present”. One of the biggest problems was that wasn't fluent in either Hindi/Urdu or English. So explaining to him the concept of moral support, human rights and care for strangers seemed entirely impossible.

That’s when I realized there’s a huge cultural gap here, among, of course, other reasons. In the sub-continent, I was told by someone born and brought up there their entire life, that the concept of care packages solely for moral support and lifting spirits was unheard of, because, “there are other real problems such as starving families and dying kids”.

To me, that didn’t sound like a justification. Isolated events such as these should be responded to with actions specific to that incident. In this case, my giving a care package to a humiliated worker would only lift his spirits. It doesn’t mean that I will stop trying to solve world hunger and global health issues.

Whether it was the cultural gap or the manager thinking such care packages would spoil his employee on top of the media attention he was already receiving, it was extremely frustrating for me to not even be able to help an individual out who was publicly humiliated in full view of all the cars on a street. On top of that, Mr. manager had the nerve to say that “We don’t have any problems. We don’t need you. Stop contacting me and my firm”. Clearly, you don’t. The victim on the other hand, does.

I’m not sure this blog post will help change anything, of course not. Still, this disregard for human emotions infuriates me. Are we expected to look at such mistreatment and turn a blind eye towards them? Utter a little tsk and go about our business? Should we not have more compassion and try to do whatever we can in our capacity to help those distressed? Yes, there are “real” problems in the world. Yes, there are more serious issues than moral uplifting that need our attention. But someone needs to take care of these smaller issues too. And again, responding to a one-time issue such as this will not shift our attention away from more pressing world problems.  

If we continue to disregard human emotions and human suffering in favour of working for a more large-scale global suffering, then we are conditioning ourselves to respond to suffering only when it’s in large numbers. We’ve become desensitized to pain. Instead of robotically turning a blind eye towards human suffering, we need to be more compassionate. 

Sometimes, it’s the smallest acts of kindness that make the biggest difference. 

February 15, 2012

Future Husband, Take Note.

Dear Future Husband,

Propose to me with these cards and we'll be married faster than you can say I do.

Your Future Wife.

November 27, 2011


I wrote this today. Words came to me early in the morning. Felt good to write after so long

Write me a love song,
Take me to strawberry fields.
Let's jump till we reach the sky,
Let's hang out among the stars tonight.

Blow me kisses,
Let my heart beat a little longer.
It's a race towards the sky,
Let heaven wait a little longer.

Wrap me in the palm of your hands,
I'll erase me till I fit.
Strawberry fields calling out to us,
Let's hang out among the clouds tonight.

Stars dancing in your eyes,
Innocent dreams set in mine.
Let's take a walk among the planets tonight,
Let's do a waltz; their orbit, our floor.

Let's take a walk to the cosmos tonight,
Constellations shining bright.
Let the galaxy be our witness, the meteors our celebrations.
Tonight, let's enter in union.

November 14, 2011

This video is part of a project titled "The Hijabi Monologues." Performed by Linda Sarsour (follow her on Twitter), it's titled, "I'm tired".

Powerful stuff. Beyond powerful.

[I've typed out the whole thing to make it easier for people to quote. Check it out. It's beyond brilliant.]

"Do you know what it’s like to represent the billion human beings everyday you walk out of your house? To be looked at as the representative of an entire world religion. A world religion! Do you know what that’s like? It’s exhausting. And it feels so heavy. Sometimes, it makes me angry. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of not crossing some unknown rule of gender interaction to prevent folks from having to see them saying see, “Those religious girls? They’re freaks!”

I’m tired of not going to class because I didn’t do my assignment. And if I don’t say something incredibly brilliant, my silence will be attributed to me being inherently oppressed by my religion, men, clothing rather than the fact then I didn’t do my homework because I was screwing around on Facebook the previous night like 90% of my class.

I’m tired of carefully picking outfits. Colours, accessories, silks everyday for public relations purposes to ensure that I look approachable yet modest, rather than withdrawn and oppressed when really, some days, let me tell you, it’s so much easier for me to throw on my linen shawl and black abaya over my pyjamas.

I’m tired of putting on my patient understanding face every time some idiot asks me, “What do ya’ll speak over there?” and “Why do you people hate us?” and “Is Islam and the West at war?” instead of saying hello. Do you not see me? Do you not happen to see that im standing right here in front of you and I’m not holding a sword?

I’m tired of wanting to curse but don’t when some guy cuts me off on the highway and laughs through his window or asks my friends while waiting for ice-cream “Where ya’ll from?” And after my friend responds Brooklyn he says, “Listen, don’t fuck with me! When I ask you where you’re from don’t fucking tell me ‘Brooklyn’! You tell me where you’re from!”

I don’t respond because I’m scared..’cause everyone is watching. I don’t want people to think there goes another angry Muslim cant control their temper, so emotional. ‘Cause its not like that at all. I’m not another angry Muslim. I m not a bad example, hell I’m not a good example.

I’m just not representation. I’m a human being and my name is Linda.But when I do break and say, “You know what? Fuck you! What the fuck is your problem asshole? Where the fuck are you from?” - It’s has nothin' to do with my religion."

-- Linda Sarsour

September 4, 2011


I'm absolutely thrilled, not to mention honoured, when a sensible Pakistani movie comes out. Call it biased, but I love the movie even if I disagree with all of it. Because let's face it, we come from a place where the film industry thrives on women shimmying and writhing in brightly-coloured, blindingly-shiny neon lachahs that are 5 sizes too small for them. So when I see our talent emerging and sensible movies the like of Khuda Kai Liye, Azadi, etc. emerging, I will go out and support them 100%, and so should you.

That being said, I went to watch Bol on the second day of Eid. All the movie-review business aside, I liked the movie. I loved the technicalities, the filmography, acting, editing, blah di dum. I understand and agree with what it preaches about bigotry and hypocrisy. But the specifics of the film ticked me off, and these btw, are what your average audiences take home from the movie; your average audience that is passive and is not a very analytical/critical thinker. Your average audience that isn't too in-touch with Islam.

You see, Shoaib Mansoor has this very clever way of 'liberalizing' our society. Of making things that are wrong appear right. He did it in Khuda Kai Liye, and he did it in Bol again.


When they show Zainub addressing her mother and sisters in the jail, she screams out,"APNE BURKE UTAARO AUR APNI ZINDAGI KHOD BANAO!" (or somehwere along those lines anyway). Loosely translated, it means take off yor burkas and do something with your life.
Seriously? My burka does not inhibit me in anyway, from doing anything that I please. If anything inhibits me, it's me, myself and I. Your clothes do NOT make or break your life, nor do they make or break you. Your clothes do nothign for you. YOU make your own life. Your clothes do not oppress you, YOU oppress yourself.

Or take the example of the character portrayals. The religious Hakim Sahab was obviously the bad guy. He was a bigot, he was angry, he was sexist, he was condescending. He was a bad father, a bad husband. He hooked up with a prostitute. He didn't keep his word. He was two-faced. But the pimp was a man of his words! He kept his word and OH! The cherry on top of the cake. The pimp who was so desperate for a girl child to flourish his business, let 4 beautiful young girls escape even when his deal with the Hakim Sahib went sour. Would a pimp really let these girls leave unscathed in a situation such as that? Watch the movie and then give me an answer.
How many hardliner mullahs have we seen in real life? How many of our brothers, sisters, doctors, teachers, etc. are like that? A true Muslim would never be hateful. A true Muslim would never be inhumane. A true Muslim would never be a bad father, a bad husband and he would definitely not be a murderer. Why, then, are Mullahs considered to be such a threat to us, eh? Why are religious people such a threat to our society when they don't even exist! This whole religious-man-bad-guy act is becoming a little too stale for my taste. If their only purpose was to highlight the wrongdoings of a CULTURE, then why bring religion in between? Islam is not the only religion that has hypocrites, so why show a practising Muslim to be a bigot? ALL THE TIME?!

Frolicking away on a motorbike with your boyfriend and going on dates is perfectly okay, but "Duaon ko pata nahi kya samajh liya hai humne".

Good going, Mansoor bro, good going *applauds*.

Or how about the time when they show the mother and sisters at the end doing well with their lives, but taking off their dupattas once they're well off. What is that about? Does not wear a dupatta liberate you in any way? You could be traditional or hold on to your morals but still be really successful.

Look, I'm not trying to be hateful here. But yes, I am knit-picking, if that's what you wanna call it, because the specifics are what the audiences generally remember, and what they take home. What is the general view of the pimp that we had? Even though his character was a bad man, the audience had a positive perception of him because he was a man of his word, he wasn't a hypocrite, he helped out the Hakim Sahib in his time of need when the Hakim was previously demeaning and disrespectful of the pimp. But with the Hakim, we had a bad image of him from the start. He was quick to get angry, he was abusive of his women, he was self-righteous and a bigot. Most of all, he was a murderer, and a maniac who's blood boiled at the sight of anything that was not acceptable to him. What image of the pimp and the Hakim do the following descriptions leave on your mind? Who's the good guy, who's the bad?

There were positive aspects of the movie as well, but the reason I'm concerning myself with the negatives is not because I'm a bitter old woman who likes to troll on good effort. NO. It's because I want to open people's eyes to how we are subtly manipulated by the media. We tend to question Hadiths and Qur'an more and find loopholes in it as compared to the media, which we accept without questioning.

The fact is that many people will take home what the movie is portraying, thinking it to be the correct thing Islamically as well. I've seen it happen. Not with one, but several people. Moreover, I'm a media student and I'm actually in the process of studying the effects of mass media as we speak, so it's not likely I'm completely clueless about these things.What I just want people to do is to watch the movie with an open mind. Be critical. If something seems doubtful, question it and seek the right answers.

In the end though, I would once again like to applaud the movie for truly matching up to the professional standards of thriving movie industries, and for addressing issues that need serious addressing in our society. Despite its shortcomings, Bol undoubtedly forces its audiences to think, which is the first and the most important step towards a positive change that we need in our society. It is important though, that while we think and learn from this movie, we mustn't abandon all our principles and morals that we hold on to, but seek the right answers and strengthen our characters to be the catalysts for a positive reaction in our society.


August 22, 2011

Arab Spring or...?

Although I'm glad that Libya's free from a bloodthirsty regime and a power-hungry dictator, I'm very VERY skeptical about the aftermath of this revolution. Were all the lives lost worth it? Did martyrs bleed in vain? Was this a Western-imperialist conspiracy to achieve ulterior motives while side-tracking the Arabs? Only time will tell...for now, let's pray for the protection of innocent human lives around the world in Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc.

June 11, 2011

Lessons Learned This Semester

I had my last exam today. Actually, it was a make-up exam because I had three exams on one day and so the exam that was common would be postponed. Now I was doing ace in my stats course. I could have easily gotten an A-, or so says the Professor. But because of this exam, my grade went down to a B-. And NOW, I find out that make-up exams are supposedly always harder than the regular exams.

Seriously. Everyone was like the stats exam was so easy, blah di dah. My paper was utter grade-rape. I could've gotten an A- and my GPA would be so much better. But man oh man. I ddn't. If only I could've given the normal exam ... *sigh*

I feel so bad. There was a chance I could've gotten an A, and I wasn't able to. Meh. I guess there's no point mulling over it now. You win some, you lose some. So maybe my GPA wasn't ace this semester. But I've learned from this semester, like I did from the last, and I will make sure that I don't repeat these same mistakes again.

Lessons learned this semester:

  1. Make up exams are a total no no
  2. Not more than 3 courses on one day to avoid taking make-up exams.
  3. Work smart in exams- write down whatever you know about an exam, even if there's no time. NEVER leave anything blank
  4. Work hard consistently.
  5. Revise every single day whatever you learn, don't leave it for one day.
  6. Never skip classes.
  7. Have the confidence to drop a course if you feel the Professor isn't right
  8. Draft essays and outlines are a grade's best friend. Leave ample time to make drafts and get feedback on each version before submitting final version.
  9. Professors matter a lot. But at the same time, don't choose them at the risk of burdening yourself with courses all on one day
  10. Make sure to do the readings for every class to stay up-to-date.

That's all that I remember off the top of my head. I shall add more once I remember.

SUMMER HOLZ ARE HERE! Atleast for a week :P

June 9, 2011

Ranger Shoots Unarmed Boy

Click here to read the full story.

Video of this incident is repeatedly being aired on various news channels. Warning: it is extremely graphic. Four people reportedy had a heart attack after watching it. I would post the link just to prove how horrific it was, but links have been blocked here in the UAE.

I have absolutely no words. How can anyone be so heartless? It's not just a life one takes, it's taking away everything from that person. His past, his future, his memories. No one has that right! Only Allah has that right! Even if it was a suspect or a robber, he was unarmed! He was begging for mercy, to not be killed. And he was shot dead. How anyone's conscience allows murder is beyond me. Missing five daily prayers is a major sin. But this? This is not even that. This is murder.

To the rangers who killed and who just stood there and watched:
I hope you're feeling better now, after releasing your frustration and lack of self-control on a young boy. I hope Allah has mercy on your soul, because if I were the judge, God knows I would never find it in me to forgive you. I hope you're satisfied with yourself for taking away someone's son, someone's brother, someone's husband. I hope nothing like this ever strikes you because your weak character would not be able to handle it. Fear Allah. Fear Him. You're not doing your job if you're shooting suspects. You've taken someone's life and I hope you're prepared to account for your sins on the Day of Judgement when you stand before your Lord who commanded you to be merciful, to be kind, to be just, to be forgiving. You ought to know that you've failed your job of protecting your countrymen. That you don't deserve this position. You're mentally unfit for that.

May God have mercy on you. May He protect you from the wrath that thousands of Pakistans all over the world would incur over you if they had that power.

As for the Government, I won't even bother commenting about them. Every single one of those corrupted 'leaders' of our nation find that it suffices to make appropriate remarks and condolences about a civilians death, call for immediate action and be done with. So forget it. I have no hope in you, no inkling of it whatsoever. For all the lawlessness in this country, I hope you have to account for it on the Day of Judgement. Because whoever sets out to do good, gets killed in the process. So really, I hope you're prepared for your grave.

To the boy who died: Brother, I wish we were powerful enough to do something. I wish we had the courage. I wish our nation as a whole was strong enough to bring about a change. We're being tested with troubles, I guess. That's all I can say. I hope you achieve martyrdom for dying as an innocent. And if you were guilty, may Allah swt forgive you and give your family the Sabr to bear through this pain. May your soul rest in peace, may your sins be forgiven in exchange for your pain and may you be prevented from Adhab-e-Qabr.

Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Elayhi Rajioun

May 7, 2011


I have been extremely busy ever since I started university, but even more so when I decided to participate in the annual American University of Sharjah Model United Nations. AUSMUN is a 3 day even with 4 committee sessions that aim to pass a resolution that will pose as a solution to some of the problems that our world faces today. Needless to say, I keenly joined to be the The Chair of the HRC (Human Rights Committee).

The first day, which was basically the general meeting and welcome session went pretty amazingly well. The Chair of HRC said something witty that had the entire auditoriam in fits of laughter, followed by whistles and clapping. I think it goes without saying that The Chair of HRC had a much-needed ego boost.

The second day was scheduled to hold the first and second committee sessions. I wanted to start off with the session, but the Director General decided that the more experienced Chair (Co-Chair 1) would start. So yours truly moderated 20 minutes of the first session. Let me tell you, it was hard. Other committees had one person moderating, another keeping track of the time and typing, and two people paigeing. Our committee was disorganized, and I was disappointed. I had to time, type, moderate, count votes, and it was frantic. I didn't do a very good job, which was only natural considering it's too much multi-tasking for one person. I won't make any excuses, the other experienced chair was able to manage fine, and the second co-chair who was inexperienced like me was also fine. I had a problem because, well, I wasn't prepared perfectly well, and because I'm not that good at multi-tasking, not to this extent anyway.

So then after this session, I was committed to give it my best. So the Chair of HRC got up extremely early, prepared full-on for the third session and was all set to go. Now the 2nd day, (3rd session) was the one where I was supposed to be moderating. At this point, it's important to note that the DG and the experienced co-chair did not show up for a SINGLE training session. But because they had the authority, they kept on changing the rules, expecting me to catch up without explaining it to me. The problem occured when once we decided on a rule, the DG changed it as per her own will without informing me about it. Now point to be noted here is: the Chair exercises full control over the House. So when the Chair speaks, no one has the right to interrupt. But I was pissed. Very pissed. Because both the DG and the Chair kept speaking, because obviously when they change the rules without informing me or explaining it to me properly, I'm going to make mistakes. They should have let me manage on my own as all moderators, experienced or inexperienced made mistakes (as I found out earlier), but they kept interrupting, answering my questions for me, which gave off the image that I wasn't prepared, that I didn't know, and basically undermined my authoritative position.

It should also be noted that when I was asking them questions because they are more experienced, every single one of them, including the advising professor, kept giving me the vibe that I wasn't prepared, or kept asking me to calm down. Calm down? CALM DOWN!? Just because I want to be prepared and I'm focusing my energy and being passionate does NOT mean that I'm freaking out. It means I'm serious and passionate and responsible about my duties.

But then there was a breakdown. You see, the experienced co-chair kept gesturing me to cut it out, which I thought he meant postponing the speaker's list until the coffee break. Turns out, he was asking me to stop the speaker from speaking. Whatever the case, it was not his prerogative. The step I took, it turns out, was a huge mistake because session could not have been adjourned without DG's permission.
It was fucking annoying, because we were trained for something else, whereas our directors were following something else. I broke down at this point because every 'mentor' (i.e. DG, professor and the co-chair) came up to me acting like it's all my fault, that I'm not listening to them when all along, I'm sending them notes asking for pointers, looking at them and getting no responses what so ever.

So after I snapped, they started to warm up and gave me all kinds of sym-pathetic bullcrap. I told them that they keep interfering, I look like a fool up there, no one's following the rules, I'm trained for something else and you change it completely so wth am I supposed to do? And they go all like oooh noooo you were so not looking like a fool it's your first time, don't worry we were all messing up on our first time you were not even that bad! And then the professor goes, look it's all a learning process, you have to think on your feet that's the whole part of it. We're changing rules only 'cause we want to pass resolutions and there are time constraints.

And I get that, I get their point. But then communicate better. Talk to me before hand. When I'm working hard, showing up on time and doing all that I can, you should too. Don't make me look like a fool up there. And don't give me shit for asking you questions.

Also, yes the moderators were supportive and the experienced co-chair give me a pep talk to make me feel better. He told me he saw the look in my eyes and that he saw that I really wanted to prove myself and he gets that, but that mishaps happen. Well, I get that too. He even apologized to me saying it was his fault to gesture me to do something when the DG has the final say, but he said that to me by taking me to a side, not in front of the Professor or the DG, which meant that a.) I still look bad in front of a Professor b.) An image may have been formed about me that I'm an emotional wreck. Yes I do appreciate their kind words, but at the same time, they should have thought of this before. Let's just communicate better next time.

But anyway, I can't change what anyone thinks about me. And this is not even gonna matter in 5 years. Infact, people are going to forget it over the summer. What matters is that I was responsible, I was passionate about my stuff and I took my things seriously. I was professional, in a world of people that are unprofessional and rely so much on wasta, on manipulation and on selfish motives.

The whole experience was good. I learned some valuable lessons:

1. Be confident. Even if you have doubts, act like you know your shit. Be the boss when you are the boss. Basically, exercise authority when you are in the position to do so.

2. Don't be afraid to criticize when necessary

3. Don't be afraid to bend rules.

4. Don't lose focus of the goal. At the end of the day, it matters that I have AUSMUN on my CV, and I've learned from my time at it. It won't matter whether I messed up or not. I got this.

5. Take matters in your own hand and own your shit.

6. Find out the answers on your own, or ask them from someone you trust. People have forgotten the meaning of 'mentors'.

I do not hold anything personal against the people I've mentioned here. I was just extremely angry with the attitude, the lack of organization and communication. And also at the way that they tried to put me in a position where I was the emotional wreck and they are the poised, responsible leaders. No. I refuse to accept it.

Lastly, the reason that initiated this post was that I'm very OCD about my work. When I do something, I want to make sure it works out well through to the end, otherwise, it really gets to me. That said, of course, this was tough to digest. I was being too hard on myself initially, however now I know that it's okay, that these things happen, these are all conflicts that come with being part of a group.
Of course, I wasn't angry at making a mistake- I was angry at the lack of communication and group-work that ultimately led to this problem. However, at the end of the day, we made it through, and it's over. At the end of the day, what matters is that I took a job, saw it through to the end, faced my fears with courage, fulfilled a duty I felt I owed to myself, and pushed my limits.

So I'm proud of myself, because only I know what I went through in this entire process of the conference, the preps, the beginning, the process and the end.

March 15, 2011

Hijab is for Allah, not for society

Salams everyone, hope you're all doing great.

I am terribly sorry for the lack of updates. Lately, it seems like all my posts start with the same line, lol. I haven't been updating on ODW after day 1, and although it went on pretty well for the first week, I got so busy this semester that I couldn't keep up with it. But the good thing is, I'm still working with a postive mental attitude towards my weight-loss goals. So suppose I eat unhealthy one day, or if I'm craving junkfood, then I cut out my meals, as in proper carbs and proteins to compensate for the sugary calories. It's not the healthiest thing to do but it's better than loading up on extra calories.

Anyway, the real reason I wanted to update this blog is because of something I noticed last night. I was watching My Name is Khan, and Rizwan's brother- Zakir- tells his wife Haseena to remove her hijab after 9/11 due to all the problems she's going through because 'Allah would understand, but the world wouldn't.'

Now, I know that it's an Indian movie, made by a Hindu so you can't really expect authenticity of Islamic principles and whatnot, but it still bothered me enough to write out a post for it. Or atleast, gave me a reason to update my blog.

You see, the path to Jannah is not easy. It's either in the Qur'an or a Hadith that Allah has covered Jannah with troubles, with obstacles, whereas Hell is covered with comforts. How can you expect to attain Jannah when you don't work for it? Just like you can't get in an Ivy League university without going through hardwork, you can't attain Jannah until you go through all the troubles. You can't get the fruits of labour before actually doing the labour.

Likewise, to give up the hijab because society doesn't accept it? It's ridiculous. If you're going to wear the hijab, do it for Allah and not for anyone else. Ofcourse it's not easy wearing the hijab in some parts of the world. Yes you most likely will get tested on your faith, but that doesn't mean you should give up wearing it completely. Allah doesn't need you to wear the hijab. But if you want Jannah, you should work for it. It's simple, and it's fair. Besides, the real moral question is this: Is Allah more important to you, or is society's opinion? Is it better dying (if it comes to something as extreme as that) for Allah's cause (and I do NOT mean jihad, for the love of God! -.-) or to live a life of cowardice and go against what you believe in the core of your heart?

Also, FYI my blogging skills are slightly rusty so I'm not exactly good with words as of late :)

Hope ya'll have been well <3