Sep 11, 2019

Remembering September 11 After 18 Years

It is 18 years after the September 11 attacks happened. I was in Dubai working for a used car company as an accountant. It was getting dark and we were about to close the gates to the garage. I walked inside the office, as usual, looking around what needs to be done at the last minute. The TV was on and it was on Al Jazeera Arabic channel. Back then, that was the only widely watched channel in the entire Arab world. I saw a plane hit the facade of big tower and about 15 minutes later another plane hit the facade of another tower. I thought it was part of a movie. The clip was shown over and over and suddenly I saw from the upper part of the building smoke rises and later both towers collapse.

I switched channels to check what is going on. Up to this point I was befuddled. The Arabic channels and their commentators were speculating Japan has attacked the United States to take a revenge of 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some commentators were pointing fingers at Jews, saying Jews have attacked the United States. I then searched other channels and finally I found BBC. Back then, my English was not that good but I could get a sense of what was in the news. What eventually I got was that the United States is attacked but up that point, it wasn't clear who did it. I thought it is not a big deal and I went to bed.

The next day when I got up. It wasn't a normal day. The local Arabs and the workers gathered in the circle, just outside of our garage. They were happy and their utterances were "Subhanallah" (glory be to Allah) and Allahu Akbar (God is great).
It was rumored that some Muslim freedom fighters crashed the planes to the twin towers. Two days later, I heard from the news that al-Qaeda whose base is in Afghanistan is behind the attacks. Once again, everyone was happy because of the attacks. Arabs and other Muslims were celebrating and rejoicing over the death of nearly three thousand humans in the United States. To them all those who died in the attacks were infidels, but the perpetrators were called martyrs.

Among the cheers of jubilance, you could hear some Afghan voices too, however, they were not happy over the death of three thousand people, their elation was at regaining hope for survival, they were hoping that these attacks would trigger the United States to strike and destroy the Taliban and free the country. They were individuals who escaped the Taliban's systematic massacre of the Hazaras in Mazar-e Sharif and Bamiyan. They were the Hazaras who were hoping for their country to be liberated.

Aug 28, 2019

Now you can delete Facebook account permanently

Do you remember that nearly three weeks ago Facebook agreed to a sweeping settlement of notable allegations regarding how it mishandled user privacy and pay $5 billion civil penalty, and also agreed to implement robust new protections of user data?

Well, as part of the new privacy settings, Facebook has enabled the permanently deleting account option. Until recently, you could only deactivate your account, but now you can delete the entire account with one click. Remember that nothing will come back after you push the delete button. It is scary and I am hesitant to do that though I do want to stay away from Facebook. I created my Facebook account in 2007 through the help of a friend. Back then you couldn't create independently (especially if you were living in Afghanistan) you should have been invited by someone. I had a friend at Duke University who sent me an invitation.

Just as a reminder if you want to delete your account, make sure to take a backup of all your photos, videos, status and posts. You will still be able to see them not on Facebook platform though. If you delete your account, you may not be able to use certain services if you have signed up with your Facebook account.

One final thing for deleting your account permanently, obviously there is a 30-day window for you in case you change your mind.

Aug 25, 2019

Lots of postcards to be sent out

Sometimes, I think I live an old fashioned life. Yesterday, I went to a used bookstore in downtown Charlotte and bought tons of postcards. I thought I am not going to be a slave of convenience of texting, e-mailing, or calling, I want to write my messages on a postcard. Though calling and texting have immediate advantage, I think it can't be equated with the impression that a postcard makes. Postcard becomes a memory and you can come back to it later, but you can't do it with phone call or text message.

I haven't seen a lot of people in this generation writing postcards. Last time I received a postcard was from my German teacher from Germany. I still have his card as a piece of friendship and teachership. I have an affinity with this medium. It takes me back to my roots where writing letter was the only means of communication. I find values in such tradition since it has become a lost art.

The postcards I bought yesterday were all old and whimsical. Interestingly, I found several Russian postcards capturing famous landmarks in Russia. They are from the Soviet era, between 1970-1990. I wonder who kept them all this time and why? I also found postcards from Germany. Again, they are old from the 1970s and 80s. I found a postcard of Marilyn Monroe wearing white swimsuit, probably from early 1950s. I immediately sent it to my American host dad.

If you like to receive a postcard from me, e-mail me your mailing address and I will send you one with a Rumi or Bedil poem, or simple greetings. This should be only in the US. Please indicate what language you prefer, I can write it in English, Farsi, Arabic, Russian, German, Pashto, and Urdu.

Aug 24, 2019

Fieldwork revitalized my native language

For the first time in nearly a decade, this summer, I had a chance to speak in my native language Farsi more than I did before. It was during my fieldwork that forced me to speak Farsi, though it have been comfortable and beneficial had I been able to speak English for the most part. That is what I also preferred, but not all participants were fluent in English. At any rate, I'm content with what have happened.

In my four years of college, I almost forgot Farsi. In college, I barely spoke my native language because there was no other Farsi speakers around. There was a benign retired US diplomat who lived nearby and we hang out a lot. He often called me or I went over to his place, we chatted in Farsi while cooking and drinking.

I have to admit that for the last ten years, I have never read a book in Farsi though I read the news regularly. That is a shame! (I tell myself). I did not have access to Farsi resources either, and honestly, I had no interest. I am a little bit biased towards Farsi and for that reason, I don't read scientific books other than in English. Farsi is good enough for poetry, storytelling and perhaps, Sufism, but not a language that you can use for critical thinking, logical reasoning, especially in the field of philosophy, technology, and science. I know this statement has ideological values, but what can you say when you compare two things. Well, one might say, languages are not things, they are culture and history. I agree, but what could you do in a short blog post than doing a gross simplification.

But getting back to the main point, living in DC with a community of Hazara immigrants this summer was gracefully beneficial to me. I noticed yesterday that my speech has become more smooth and I have become more confident to control myself from code-switching.

Aug 23, 2019

Sexual harassment during Hajj

I saw this image circulating on social media, which has become a subject of both ridicule and embarrassment. The text alongside the image said:

“Turkish brothers protect their sisters and wives during Hajj. The power of a society is reflected in how much the men value, protect and care for their women.”

Most of Muslim men and women reacted to the photo emphatically sympathetic towards the women who are surrounded by men, but they also mentioned that creating such a wall may result to trample other women or men.
Non-Muslims have reacted with contempt and scorn. Some said that Muslims have no moral and have no respect towards women even at the most sacred site like the great mosque of Mecca.

Sexual harassment during Hajj has been rampant but it has recently came to light. Here I found a couple of personal narratives of those women who have been sexually harassed during Hajj at Mecca.

1. 'I never told anyone': 5 women's stories of sexual abuse at the Hajj
2. Sexual Assault During Hajj: Will #MosqueMeToo Lead to Reforms in Mecca
3. 100 Women: Muslim women rally round #MosqueMeToo

Aug 14, 2019

The depiction of ideal masculinity

I saw this sculpture at a restaurant called Laughing Horse Lodge at Swan Lake in Montana. I took a picture of it and I thought this is a beautiful piece of art. One can see how art is capable of depicting the ideal male body in its best. It seems that masculinity has been commodified, selling not only an idea, but the quality, maybe more than the value of money. This sculpture is a perfect example besides its symbolic and allegorical meanings. 

It is interesting how muscle has replaced other features of manliness. I often hear people saying things like "he goes to the gym, he looks good." On the other hand a kind and gentle man might be looked as weak due to not having muscles.

Update: After showing this image to a friend of mine, today, I have to redact what I earlier said in this text. Initially I thought the person at the bottom is a woman, but I realized it is a lion. What a thoughtless observation! I am slightly embarrassed. I don't know how many people have read this post and did not bring it to my attention.

It is Heracles who fought the Nemean lion, the vicious creature in Greek mythology. I am not sure who is the other person, but the crushed one beneath him is a lion. 

Aug 13, 2019

Getting ready for another semester

So it is again the beginning of another beginning, another semester, I'm as happy as I was before - well, maybe, I think I was happy for the past two semester and well before that. And I'm now back at this stage, beginning, which is so exciting.
Today, I deactivated my Facebook account, I was offered lots of incentives like you will miss so and so, and I reasoned that I hate Facebook, it told me, maybe I don't have enough friends, it gave me an option to look up for some. I didn't Facebook, I thought, would be a distraction, and honestly, it is.

I sent a few messages to friends with whom I have been in touch regularly and with people with whom I worked this summer in Washington DC, telling them I'm leaving Facebook and here is my contact details in case you would like to reach out to me.
I'm feeling gloriously fine, leaving a distraction behind. I am pretty much flexible at this point to leave social media if I don't find it worthy.

I will continue blogging because this is where I can express myself without distraction and not even being worried if anyone would come by and read it because at the end of the day, I'm writing for myself and it is a cathartic experience that I have been doing for a while. Back in Afghanistan, I did blogging professionally, where I labored from dawn to dusk to create content both informative and useful for all. But not anymore. From now on, this platform for my random thoughts and I like the functionality of it.

Aug 11, 2019

At the Natural History Museum

May 16, 2019

Pakistani Girls Sold into Marriage

I just read this sad story on BBC website about young girls as brides belonging to minority Christian and in some cases Muslim groups trafficked to China. This tragic story could be the tip of the ice berg. Who knows how many innocent and naive girls are being sold by their parents who have gone unnoticed.

In early 2000s, there were some rumors about Afghan refugees in Pakistan who were sold into marriages in the Gulf countries. A few of them were smuggled into Dubai and kept in the houses of wealthy local Arabs. At one point one of the brides was drowned and some were seen working in brothels in Dubai. It is unfortunate and yes, poverty takes the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people who always happen to be women and children.

Mar 16, 2019

Christchurch Shootings and Muslim Hypocrisy About Terror Attacks

India: Muslims ulama (religious scholars) hold placards during a condolence meeting and protest in Mumbai. Credit: AP
The Christchurch shootings were act of evil and must be condemned universally, but honestly, do Muslims condemn the attacks carried out by Muslims on other Muslims? The answer is simply no. In the aftermath of mosque shootings in New Zealand, Muslims around the world decried the shootings. This was an attack from a non-Muslim on Muslims. The Taliban and ISIS have been targeting Hazaras in Afghanistan for years, no one has come out carrying a placard condemning their acts. For the past few years over hundreds of attacks have been carried out in Hazara communities in Kabul and have killed over a thousand.

Just one example, last year in August 2018, a suicide attacker entered a classroom in Kabul which killed 48 teenagers and wounded hundreds of others. What is the difference between this kind of attack and that of Christchurch shootings? No one condemned such attack, neither Muslims inside Afghanistan, nor Muslims in other countries. Instead, they convened a meeting in Kabul to investigate whether suicide bombing is mentioned in the Qur'an or not.

There are dozens of other examples of incidents where Muslim terrorists killed innocent people all over the world. No one has forgotten the Yazidi genocide in which over 5,000 men and women were killed and thousands of young women and children abducted and put into slavery. Where were these Muslims back then to come out and condemn the evil acts of their ilk?

In the past few years, Muslim terrorists have ran their vehicles over pedestrians in European cities several times. Were they condemned by Muslims? How about Orlando nightclub shooting and Manchester Arena bombing? Did Muslims condemn those attacks? No. They rejoiced over the death of non-Muslims and especially gay people and they praised the attackers. The fact is that hypocrisy and contradictions are rooted in Muslim's faith that makes it almost impossible for them to see if their own act of evil is really evil, rather than seeing it as a gift to please and glorify their God.