Category Archives: Middle East

Events relevant to the Arab and Middle East region

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. Many see 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 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!

A Four Month Report

Happy Eid everyone! I pray you are all enjoying the blessed Eid AlAdha weekend.

As for me, right now, I’m spending the wee hours of the morning in Terminal 2 of the Dubai International Airport (DXB) for my bi-monthly visa turnaround, an attempt to renew my “visitor” visa, hopefully for the last time. Tomorrow marks four months since I’ve landed in Doha, Qatar. Four long, exhausting, fulfilling, exciting and at some point dangerous months. In the last four months, I’ve been caught up with work, trying to get settled into a  place I can call my own and develop some form of a social life.

They call me Doha, Ms. Doha.

As of a few weeks ago, I attempted to get back to my short work outs and walks just to keep my energy level up. Recently I was able to some how get back to reading Aleph by Paulo Coelho which was my first non-food purchase in Qatar. The other day, a cute little kitty followed me half way home and adopted me. With all the time I have on my hands right now before I check out the tiny duty free section, I shall rant away at some of the events that have taken place in my first four months in Qatar…

 

Cool British Accent — After calling a few landlords to inquire about available apartments for rent, I received a text message (or SMS as it’s called here) stating how one very nice man liked my “really cool British accent”. I had to respond because I thought this was a joke but it turns out, that wasn’t the case. I mentioned how I wasn’t British but thanks for the kind words. His exact response (misspellings and all), “I want us to get to know echother more and I promis you I get you discount in very nice apartment. ;-)” I didn’t even know how to respond without being rude so I left it at that. However, a few more call outs over a course of a few days garnered me 3 more similar SMS’ and 2 call backs asking about my marital status.

I did realize that with all of them, I had spoken straight English. To test out the theory that if I spoke in Arabic none of this would’ve happened, I called back some of these same people speaking in my great Egyptian dialect. Of course as always, I was right! Over the course of my search, I now speak only in Arabic unless English is necessary. Now my hurdle is having someone rent out to a single lady but that’s for post.

Right now, I’m not getting much compliments on my British accent.

 

I Swear They’re Real — Shopping and minding my own business one day, I caught a young lady looking me up and down. I flashed her a smile and we exchanged “salams”. No little chit chat, she just straight up asked me, “Where did you get your chest and lips done?”

“God, this is all done by God.”

“They’re real? No silicone? No surgery? Padded bra?” she whispers.

“Nope, just good wholesome fat!” I whispered back giggling with the gal. I showed her that all I’ve had “done” was my lip piercing. She’s still fascinated that I haven’t had any work done. She started telling me about how she’s debating getting her chest done before she gets married. I advised her against it and to work with what she’s got rather than agonize over it. Of course, the decision is hers and I had to remind her that no one gets the final say over her body but her.

Twenty minutes after our conversation, we crossed paths where she flashed me a smile and whispered to another lady walking with her. I’m sure she’s caught up on our little conversation. I couldn’t get my wholesome fat ass out of there fast enough.

 

Yes, I Can Be Both — In my recent dealings with people, I’ve noticed this odd form of racism and need for a nationalistic identity. I have friends that were born and raised in Qatar but they can never call themselves Qataris. They don’t even have a Qatari passport and every year must renew their legal status in the country. I know the government is working on changing these laws (for economical and sports reasons) but my question is, “when exactly?” The idea of keeping it as pure as possible is a bit far fetched to the point of silliness in my opinion. Remember, historically the people of Qatar came from either Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being proud of your nationality, your heritage and it being part of your identity. However, there’s a difference between being proud and being arrogant; enforcing your opinion of one’s identity.

In dealing with Arabs, particularly Egyptian expatriates here in Qatar, they make it seem as if I can only pick one identity, either I’m Egyptian or I’m American. I just look them straight in the face and say, “but I’m both, proudly so.” I’ve even had arguments with random strangers after it was noted that I shouldn’t identify myself as an American.

For the record, I was born in San Francisco, California, USA. My father immigrated from Egypt in the 70’s and my mother followed suit after they got married. To deny myself the right to identify as both an Egyptian American would not be doing myself justice nor my parents for the many dreams they had for their family in America.

Just because most of the world, including Americans believe it or not, don’t agree with some of the American foreign policies, doesn’t mean  that we simply drop our identity as Americans. We are a nation that prides itself in being a melting pot. We come from all over the world, united with ideals and dreams. It is those ideals and dreams that has made the heart and soul of what is good in America today.

So yes, I can be both. I AM Egyptian American.

Picture of the Day

Basim Elkarra at DNC 2012

“This picture was taken during Representative Wexler’s (pro) Israel, anti-Iran speech, I stood up & waived a peace sign & yelled we want peace now. Received lots of love from fellow Democrats” -My friend and community member, Basim Elkarra

Day of Unspoken Heroes

Today is my day of unspoken heroes.

From the likes of Martin Luther King, the Arab Spring revolutionaries and the Occupy Movement protesters to those only known to a few of us. Yes we think and pray for them everyday, but today I ask you to repeat their simple acts of kindness, their inspiration, their generosity, their continued struggle and their love for others! Today is a day of service and I ask that you do so in their honor, in their name.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In many ways these unspoken heroes had a part in who we are today and the least we can do is make today our day of unspoken heroes.

Thank you, Ms. Hala