July 29, 2006

After strenuous weeks of tight deadlines followed by long, uncomfortable flights, it is getting increasingly frustrating to return to an empty home more uninviting and devoid of life than any of the foreign hotel rooms.

July 26, 2006

“O ye who believe! Seek help in steadfastness and prayer. Lo! Allah is with the steadfast. And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah "dead." Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not. And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the steadfast, who say, when a misfortune striketh them: ‘Lo! we are Allah's and lo! unto Him we are returning.’ Such are they on whom are blessings from their Lord, and mercy. Such are the rightly guided.” (2.153 - 2.157)
5 dead in Dempster Highway accident | CBC News

I knew some of them. May Allah grant them the highest ranks in Paradise, and grant comfort and peace to their grieving families.

Update 7.28.2006: Yukon crash ends faith mission | Toronto Star

July 24, 2006

The Struggle

With all the difficulties going on in the world today, I thought it was time to be a bit nostalgic.

In October 2001, with tensions still high after the attacks in New York and Washington a month earlier, I was riding on Bus 97 towards Bayshore with one of my closest friends. We were both wearing Saudi "thobes" on the bus, and were likely under suspicion already. Regardless, I was in a good mood, and things were soon to become brighter.

While still in downtown, a familiar face walked on to the bus. At first, I didn't recognize him, but then I recalled him as one of my close friends in my CEGEP days; I hadn't seen him in at least two years, and seeing him in Ottawa after knowing him only in Montreal was quite a strange coincidence. His name was Jihad, he was of Lebanese origin. Jihad is a common name meaning "struggle", but is often misinterpreted as an evil word in the traditional Western lexicon.

So when I realized who it was, I burst with enthusiasm, jumped out of my seat, and yelled out on the crowded bus, “JIHAD!!!

It wasn't until the next day that I realized that I must have freaked out dozens of terrified passengers with an open declaration of holy war.

July 17, 2006


Nobody knows exactly what happened.

There are a few questions that nobody has really asked yet. Since when has playing paintball been a terrorist activity? In the months following the March 2004 anti-terrorism arrest in Ottawa, much was said about the local youth going out for jihad training at nearby paintball sites. Nobody raised the point that paintball is a fairly innocuous activity, enjoyed by thousands of people who haven't the slightest desire to harm anyone.

If paintball was the incriminating factor, then why not shut down the paintball sites? After all, they breed terrorists. It's a ridiculous claim, but one that has not been questioned at all during these last few weeks. It is a sad reality that such paranoia exists only as it applies to Muslims. While Al, John, and Joe can play paintball with no repercussions, suspicion will always follow Ali, Yahya and Yusuf if they engage in such activities.

Did Mubin Shaikh really encourage the suspects? Were they really "time bomb[s] waiting to go off," as Mubin stated, or were they pushed towards that direction by Mubin himself? Or were they not inclined towards that direction at all, and have been incarcerated unjustly? At this point, no one really knows.

The reaction to this story has been predictably polarizing. Mainstream reaction amongst Canadians to his work has been particularly effusive, with readers of CBC.ca calling him a hero, and deserving of the Order of Canada. He has been called a "a wonderful example of a true believer in Islam", and one wrote that "[his] hope is that your story will shed some light on the fact that most Muslim people are peace loving." Another wrote, "[we] as Canadians are very fortunate indeed to have the true spirit of Islam come forward in Mubin Shaikh." This is easily the best press Islam has gotten in the Canadian media that I can remember.

On the other hand, many Muslims, frustrated by our perpetual misrepresentation in the media, have attacked him. While eager to defeat stereotypical representations of Muslims as violent zealots, the verbal assault laid upon Mubin Shaikh has been frightening. The milder ones have called him a munafiq, or hypocrite, a very harsh term in terms of Islamic jurisprudence. Others have called him a "kafir", and desired that he be "tortured in this life and his next life, and that he [be] ripped from his family so that his daughter would be fatherless." Many wish that he be thrown into hell, something the Prophet Muhammad (saw) did not desire even for his worst enemies. And to label someone a "kafir", or infidel, in Islam is perhaps one of the riskiest allegations one can make. If you label someone a "kafir", it is said, the kafir is either him or you. That is, if you incorrectly assert that someone else is a disbeliever, it is akin to disbelief in itself.

Clearly, emotion has suffocated the rationality of many Muslims, as it often has. The ironic part is that the criticism is coming from both the secular camps as well as the religious ones. The secular side falls victim to the ad hominem fallacy; they attack Mubin because of his earlier support for Shariah. That is, they are attacking the person, not the idea he presented. The religious side tends to get lost in what is apparently known as the straw man fallacy. They have set up Mubin as someone who encouraged the youth to terrorist leanings, and then had them arrested. That is a position easy to refute, but it is most likely a misrepresentation of Mubin's actual position. In either case, there are significant gaps in logic with the way Muslims are reacting to all this.

The most common criticism of Mubin was his role as a CSIS spy. Many argue that it would have been more appropriate that he report the individuals to the local mosque, or that he himself try to discourage the youth from hateful tendencies. This is all fine and good, but perhaps it would not have been enough. If the alleged plot was indeed true, then discouragement alone wouldn't have changed the minds of those people. I have dealt with such people personally, and they do not answer to reason in most cases. And then perhaps instead of writing about this "foiled terrorist attempt" right now, I would be writing about the destruction of the Peace Tower in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill. Or perhaps I would have been amongst the rubble, as Parliament is only a couple blocks away from my office. And that would have decimated all hope any of us might have for a relatively peaceful future in this country.

It is perhaps more likely that the suspects were simply angry in talk only, and were unlikely to actually do anything. Often, it is difficult to distinguish violent tendencies from occasional violent thoughts. Everyone, at some point or another, has said something like, "man, I wanna kill that guy." This does not mean, of course, that one actually intends on murder. In the same way, perhaps someone did mutter, "man, I wanna cut that damn Harper's head off." But is that enough to prosecute a person? And if so, was Mubin responsible for this critical misunderstanding? At least one of the suspects has been released on bail, so it is likely that the jury is beginning to realize that these youth did not have the capacity for such evil acts. Details will hopefully begin to emerge as to how feasible the entire operation was, and how far from action the suspects actually were.

Ultimately, justice will be served by Allah. My opinions on the matter truly are irrelevant, as are the opinions I've been reading. Personally, I am not prepared to take any position, nor do I see a need to. I am responsible for my actions, you are responsible for yours. None of us have enough information to pass judgement on anyone else, and the most crucial information will always lay within the hearts of those involved. We don't have access to that, nor do even the Angels. Protect yourself from hatred, and pray for justice. Do not let your emotions cloud your better judgement and bring you to vilify others. Vilification will only worsen the situation, and shatter whatever efforts we have made towards unity.

Pray for me.


July 15, 2006

Whistler while you work

I was thinking of writing about the train bombings last week, or the Lebanon war, but things are just getting way too depressing. I'm getting frustrated just thinking about all this, so I'll leave all that aside.

I spent the day in Whistler, British Columbia: future site of many events of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and one of North America's most popular ski destinations. I always expected that the natural beauty of Canada would likely exceed anything else I had seen during my world travels, and here's the confirmation:

I just bought this digital camera a few days ago; I'm not too happy with it, unfortunately. More photos here.

Update 7.20.2006: I was able to return the camera, even after taking over a hundred pictures and exhausting the included batteries. Yay for free rentals!


July 14, 2006

First suspect granted bail

Teenage Canada terror suspect granted bail - lawyer | Reuters

He won't be the last. Some of the suspects, I'm sure, were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's interesting that this happened so soon after this "mole" stuff became public.

On a somewhat related note, the Canadian media must really find some new Muslims to interview. I'm really tired of reading what Tarek Fatah has to say on every single issue. Perhaps it's only our own silence that allows people like him to have a forum to express such opinions; the wiser opinions, meanwhile, remain relegated to the depths of the vast wasteland that is the internet. Irrelevant opinions, indeed.

July 13, 2006

Of Mole and Men

'Devout Muslim' informer helped in Toronto terrorism-related arrests | CBC News

Mounties had mole in alleged terror cell | Toronto Star

Not sure what to think about this just yet. It's not my job to judge the intentions of others, nor is it yours.

Update 7.14.2006: This ayah kept popping up in my head.
O you who believe! avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin, and do not spy nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? But you abhor it; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, surely Allah is Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful. (49:12)

Update 7.15.2006: Prison steels Amara's faith, letters show
This is all so very confusing.

July 11, 2006

On heroes and headbutts

When I was in France earlier this year, talk had already begun about the World Cup. It was still over a month away, but the passion the French had for the game far exceeded even the passion Canadians have for their hockey. And the millions of immigrants in France beamed with pride that their national hero was of Algerian descent.

For the disenfranchised North Africans in France, Zinedine Zidane was not just a soccer football star; he represented so much more. He was a fighter who got past the prevailing French nationalism, and excelled in his field against seemingly all odds. He grew up in Marseilles, but not the romantic, wine-country Marseilles we might read about. He grew up in the squalid Marseilles slums, among thousands of other second-generation immigrants of North African descent. If the slums in Lyon were any indication (and I'm told that they are), these were not friendly places. From what I saw in Lyon, these housing projects were rife with drugdealers and other shady personalities. The religious ones among them were doing an excellent job to counter the efforts of the social underworld, but they were too few to reach out to everyone.

Unemployment is extremely high in these housing projects. In Lyon, I met hundreds of young people of about my age struggling tremendously just to make ends meet. Their fathers, who had entire families to provide for, were perpetually depressed. Often, they would look at me cynically, knowing I came from a country where it was not considered uncommon to have a complete university education. I stopped introducing myself as a computer engineer or computer analyst early on when I realized that doing so might be considered arrogant.

Those who refused to pacify themselves with drugs resorted to the soccer field. And when the soccer fields were all occupied, as they often were, then the parking lots and basketball courts were good enough. I don't think I ever saw people actually playing basketball on the courts; it was always soccer.

I'd be lying if I said I cared about the World Cup. I only watched one match during the entire tournament, and that was only in a waiting room while I was getting work done on my car. That one match was a somewhat entertaining affair - Portugal vs. The Netherlands - but I didn't know any of the players on either side, and always found soccer to be boring on TV to begin with. But in spite of my apathy, I made it public early on that I was rooting for France, if only because their star was Algerian when I had personally observed the struggles of minorities there.

And France performed admirably, losing only in the World Cup final against Italy in a game I still didn't care enough about to watch.

But the real story, of course, is the headbutt.

The word is that the Zizou headbutt was in response to racist comments. There has been lots of speculation and lip-reading done; while there isn't a definite agreement, it's clear that it was something very nasty. During my time in France, much was said about Zidane's character off the field, that he was calm and humble. The headbutt is perhaps one of the most primitive (and hilarious) forms of attacking someone else, far removed from the persona of someone known for his humbleness.

I'm sure writers and the irrelevantly opinionated will try to derive some deep philosophical parallels from this incident. I've read someone trying to link the incident to European history in World War II. Sports analysts will condemn the man for thinking of his own revenge before the good of the team. Others will applaud him for standing up for a country that has frequently been ridiculed for being weak. And I've already read others ignorantly hanging off the "France sucks" bandwagon, labelling the incident as yet another demonstration of perpetual French failure.

Ultimately, it's about a man, his head, and another man's chest. And when the Italian fell, whatever racist or hateful rhetoric he spewed he said fell with him. And to me, that's worth celebrating.

Update 7.28.2006: A Much Needed Head-Butt | Islamica Magazine

This is a much better article on the non-athletic connotations of the Zidane headbutt. It's actually remarkably similar to what I wrote above, but is clearly written by someone with more interest in the game and the players than myself.

July 10, 2006

Wise words from Seeker's Digest

"Beware of knocking out your soul with a backbite (or a head-butt)."

More here.

July 06, 2006

Dahyer sichuayshun

Several months ago, I wrote how technology is corrupting the English language.

Things are getting worse: Push for simpler spelling persists.

Update 8.2.2006: And apparently, technology isn't a problem after all.
Texting helps teens' grammar | Toronto Star

The ironic part is the "verbing" of the word "text" in the title of the article. Either way, I'm not convinced by the results of the study.

Fly away

So I'm in Vancouver these days.

It turns out that the hotel I'm staying in was the site of a mutant research facility in X-Men 3. So if I come back a little weird, you'll know why.

July 04, 2006

I won't apologize

I read another article today about how Muslims need to do more to root out extremism. This time it was Tony Blair who said that there is only so much his government can do; it is up to Muslims themselves to identify the fringe elements in their community, and work against them.

This rhetoric is common, and I essentially agree with it; we have a lot of work to do amongst ourselves. But I will not apologize for the actions of others, especially if requested to do so by hypocrites who are running an illegal war. In fact, calling it a war is perhaps even too generous; it is an invasion, and should be recorded as one of the greatest disgraces of modern history.

The rape of a young Iraqi girl, and the subsequent murder of herself and her family, has surfaced. The girl was fifteen fourteen; her parents and little sister (no more than seven years old) were the other victims. Is there anyone who really believes that this is the only such case? This one happened to surface publicly; there must be hundreds of such incidents that remain hidden. Considering the humiliations that surfaced at Abu Ghraib against Iraqi men, it would be foolish to assume that Iraqi women were not abused as well. The list of atrocities keeps getting longer; were such a list ever published, future generations would categorize this army - and the government that controls them - along with the most oppressive forces of the twentieth century.

I suspect that the government is less worried about the rape/murder itself, and more worried about how it leaked.

No one is asking for the Americans to apologize for the acts of their soldiers. No one is asking the Americans to "root out" the extremist elements within their ranks. We refrain from this because we believe that the actions of a few does not reflect the entire organization. Unfortunately, that logic is applied selectively: don't blame America for the action of its citizens, but blame the Muslims for the actions of its adherents. That no one questions this hypocrisy is frightening. And anyone bearing a bumper sticker requesting that we "Support Our Troops" is asking us to support an organization that has caused more violence, death, and instability than any other group existing today. And yet, such behaviour is applauded, while speaking out against these criminals is considered to be a challenge against liberty, democracy, and justice.

We live in strange times, when the ones dropping bombs from fighter planes to kill individual men are considered to be the ones fighting terrorism. Things are completely backwards when you are considered to be a threat to national security when you don't support the invading army in an illegal conflict. But that's the world of today, and we all must live within our circumstances.

I will do for my community what I must do as a Muslim, but I will not apologize for them. Unless the average American takes responsibility for the atrocities committed by their fellow citizens, I see no need to take responsibility for those atrocities committed in the name of Islam.