Category Archives: Middle East

Events relevant to the Arab and Middle East region

How to Support the Beirut Relief Efforts

As you many all be aware, on August 4th, at 6pm local time, a massive explosion took place at the Seaport of Beirut in Lebanon. It appears the cause of the explosion was due to the accidental ignition of over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely for many years at the ports.

This very preventable explosion has taken over 125 lives, injured over 3,000 people and destroyed the homes of more than half the city’s residents. There is a dire need for blood donations, volunteers, and funds to help with an already strained healthcare system due to COVID-19.

If you are in Lebanon, you can safely go to any local hospital or clinic to donate blood and see if there is a need for volunteers. There are many groups gathering to help with the cleaning and rebuilding efforts as well. Every little bit counts.

For the rest of us outside of Lebanon that can donate, the best resources I’ve found so far are the Lebanese Red Cross and the Impact Lebanon crowdsourcing initiative through Just Giving. You can search for your local NGOs that may be offering assistance but I’ve listed a few I’ve come across below.

Kindly note that when making a donation to Lebanese NGOs, do not make it in the country’s currency (Lebanese Lyra/Pound), as it sadly has been collapsing over the past year. Your best bet will be to do so in either US dollars or the Euro.

Baytna Baytak has been helping house healthcare workers and first responders across Lebanon during the pandemic response. Now they are working to help the more than 300,000 displaced residents of Beirut find temporary shelter.

International Medical Corps is helping survivors get life-saving care, deploying medical units and mental health care efforts in support of the damaged facilities and overwhelmed healthcare.

Islamic Relief has an office in Beirut and thankfully their staff is safe. Now they are working to bring much-needed aid and relief support to Beirut.

World Food Program of the UN is helping bring food to the area after the major food sources, like the grain silos, were destroyed at the Beirut port.

If you know of any other organizations providing relief support and assistance that can use our donations, please share them in the comments or tag me on any social media platform, my handle for most is @mshalaco.

May God have mercy on the beautiful people of Lebanon, ameen.

The Birthday of the Orphan Who Adopted the World

This is truly a holiday week for more than just Thanksgiving! This also happens to be the month of Rabi’ AlAwal in the Hijri calendar, which is considered the birth month of Prophet Muhammed* (pbuh). It is perceived that his birth date is on or between the 12th and the 17th of Rabi’ AlAwal, and thus throughout this week many Muslims across the globe acknowledge and celebrate the blessing that is the birth of Prophet Mahmad (pbuh).

Countries like Egypt, Indonesia, Sudan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Tunisia, Iraq and Fiji will celebrate with the distribution of charity, food, host street carnivals, perform hymns and conduct lectures. These types of festivities are seen as a celebration, respect, admiration and love for Prophet Muhamad (pbuh). Don’t forget that the prophet is revered not only as the last prophet in Islam, but one that cared for his people, fought to defend their right to worship and taught through his practices on the best mannerisms of a Muslim. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is almost always revered as “the orphan who adopted the world“.

I’m sure many of my readers are asking, “but why is the date conflicted?” The date is conflicted because the Hijri calendar was not established until Prophet Mehmet (pbuh) was in his early fifties, about a decade or so before his death. It’s believed he was born in the year 570 AD and passed in the year 632 AD, at the age of 62. Even then there are some historical evidences of many celebrating the prophet’s birthday.

However, as more scholars studied the teachings of Islam, and mapped out the lunar events -on which the Hijri calendar is based on- differing schools of thought have determined it in the month of Rabi’ AlAwal. Sunni scholars believe it to be the 12th day of the month whilst Shia scholars believe it’s the 17th of Rabi’ AlAwal. True the exact date various but with the few Islamic holidays almost always celebrated for three to five days, rather than one and done, the entire week is used to celebrate.

Other schools of thought don’t believe it is appropriate to celebrate the prophet’s birthday. Countries with majority following the Wahhabi schools of thought do not observe it as a national holiday or host any particular festivities. However during my time in Qatar, I remember during the Friday of the birth week, sermons highlighting the prophet’s migration and struggles as a way of remembering why we as Muslims are to ask God to bring peace and blessings upon the prophet.

Personally, I love celebrating and learning more about the orphan who adopted the world. If he taught anything, it was always be kind, respectful and to be the best version of yourself. With that, I ask you all during this holiday week to do a kind thing for someone out there. Many this week have lost their homes in the California wildfires. I’ve listed ways you can help here.

Here’s to a blessed and joyous celebration of the birth of Prophet Mohamed, peace and blessings be upon him.

*There are many variations of the English/Latin lettered spelling of the prophet’s name and I wanted to showcase that in this post.

My Public Letter to Mayor Bryan Cadogan

Good Day Mr. Cadogan,

I hope this letter finds you doing well.

 

I’ve read the SF Gate article from this past summer on your efforts to recruit people to move and build a home in the town of Kaitangata (Clutha District, New Zealand). After researching a bit about the beautiful town and seeing the the need for a stronger population and the unemployment rate of two people, I just had to sit down and write this letter to you.

Has your town considered taking in some of the many highly educated and experienced individuals whom have found themselves in refugee camps in many parts of the Middle East and Europe?

I’m by no means middling in New Zealand’s immigration system nor do I understand how it works in such a situation. My country’s immigration system has failed the refugees with ignorant, discriminatory and Islamophobic politics.

I’m not asking you to solve the refugee crisis nor am I shaming you into taking refugees into your town. I’m just curious that a town in need of people has not pushed to take in people in need of a town.

I’m a product of immigrants, like many of my generation in America. My grandparents and parents immigrated from Egypt since the 1960s to California, New Jersey, North Carolina and New York. I have watched them work hard, pay their taxes, vote, speak out and volunteer to support the local communities. This is the same scenario with almost any other immigrant family from any part of the world.

No one takes welcoming, humane open arms for granted.

I’m sure this is what Kai is looking for. Amazing, hard working families going above and beyond because Kai welcomed them in with open arms after the suffering they have endured in the last several years.

Thank you for your time and God Bless.

Signed, Ms. Hala

AlJazeera Staff Sentenced in Egypt

On June 23, 2014, Sisi’s vision of “Egyptian democracy” were made obvious when AlJazeera journalists Peter Grest, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Ghorab and several other journalists (some in absentia) were sentenced from 7 to 10 years for doing their journalistic duties.

Media preview
c/o @mohamed via Twitter

This sentencing comes despite complete lack of evidence of any threat to Egypt’s national security. This also comes after US Secretary of State, John Kerry visited Egypt’s President on the matter and of course, the issuance of military aid from the US, a total of half a billion US tax dollars.

Family, friends, supporters and journalists were forcefully removed from the courts after the hearing. Several images on Twitter have shown police angrily placing hands on camera lenses and chasing people out of the entrances. After going a few steps forward on January 25, 2011, Egypt has now gone several hundreds steps back on June 23, 2014.

I still have hope and know deep down that this not the end of the revolution. The struggle remains, the voices louder, the revolution continues.

Random Thought on Egypt…

Today, October 6th, in Egypt is the widely celebrated national holiday known as Armed Forces Day. The holiday is particularly the celebration for when we reclaimed the Suez Canal in 1973.

Today, I was just curious… Will my fellow Egyptians be celebrating the greatness that is Mubarak Tantawi Sisi this year as they’ve done so every year for the last 29 years 1 year 5 months?

Egyptian Forces crossing the Suez Canal October 6/7, 1973. Image source unknown.

Praying that my fellow Egyptians celebrate the real heroes of that day and not the phonies. Happy October 6th!