August 25, 2006

A Discussion over Chick Peas

I'm approximately 33,000 feet above Alberta or Saskatchewan right now. I should be sleeping, since I have a busy day of working, driving, and partying tomorrow, but 20 minutes of sleep early in the flight has made it very difficult to keep my eyes closed since. Hopefully, writing a few irrelevant anecdotes should help put me back to sleep, so here goes.

Once a week, I'll have dinner at an Indian restaurant situated between my office and hotel. It's a fairly nice place in the heart of downtown Vancouver, but going there alone every week was always tiresome. Because of the surprising unavailability of halal food in downtown, Subway is my usual dinner destination, and I often prefer it mainly because of the lack of awkwardness of eating without any company. But in the absence of home cooking and real spice, I would always get drawn back to the Indian place, where I would sheepishly walk in requesting a table for one, and sit alone awaiting my order.

After a few weeks of pestering my Jewish colleague, he finally agreed to join me at the Indian place for dinner on Wednesday night. As I was somewhat of a regular there, it was very refreshing for both myself and the staff that I entered the restaurant requesting a table for two. I advised my colleague on the best options for him which would satisfy his kosher constraints. Finally, he settled on shahi paneer, which he had served with mattar chawal and roti.

I sincerely hoped that my colleague would enjoy his meal, as I didn't want to continue coming to this restaurant alone. He didn't like the papadum that is always served as an appetizer, so I was banking entirely on the paneer. When the food arrived and I instructed him on how to eat it, I waited anxiously for his verdict.

"This is really good!" I sighed with relief. "And it isn't too spicy at all!" He requested the mild meal, while I was burning up with the extra-hot cholay. My meal, in spite of the overwhelming spiciness, was delicious as well. We both sat there enjoying our meals while discussing and comparing the concepts of sanad in hadith sciences and the laws governing rulings from the talmud.

At one point, he asked me, "This is the type of food your mom cooks every day?"

I nodded. "This is the stuff I grew up on." Cholay has always been one of my favourites, and is staple Ramadhan food in our household. "My mother makes this stuff really well."

He looked up, shook his head, and sighed.

'Isn't it sad that there aren't any girls out there anymore like our mothers?', he asked.

The question caught me off guard, but I agreed. My colleague, who is of Moroccan Jewish descent, understood the common lament of many young Muslim men like myself. I explained my personal situation to him, while acknowledging that I have three wonderful sister-in-laws that have helped keep my hopes up. "But they're not from here, are they?", he asked, sounding much like a mentor of mine who often seeks to convince me about the merits of importing. "Actually, only one of them was born in Canada... the other two are from back home."

"There you go." Though we heavily differed in background and religion, he clearly understood and shared concerns around the eroding principles of tradition. We discussed the issue further. I was surprised at how similar our feelings were on issues of marriage and family relationships. "Ce qui mari la fille, il se mari la famille," he said. We both acknowledged that the 'traditional' system worked, and how important it was for the family to be involved heavily in the whole process.

Many close friends of mine have tried doing things outside of the usual process. While I admired them for looking past cultural barriers, I worried about conflicts between the respective families. Though they were very religious people in each case, they neglected the importance of respecting their parents wishes. They intended to prove that they knew better than their parents by leaving aside nationality and culture, focusing purely on the Islamic character of their prospective spouses. As noble as their intentions may have been, in each of those cases, the engagements (and marriage, in one case) failed, and all of them suffered greatly. Hearts were broken, parents became bitter, and some very close friends fell into despair and misery. I was usually the first person these friends reached out to when things were going awry. I did my best to comfort them; however, I could clearly identify where things had gone wrong, and was incapable of reversing it. And even after years have gone by, some of them still have not fully recovered from the frustrations of those days. I continue to pray for them, but consistently hear bad news every time I give them a call.

This is not to say that we must restrict ourselves by culture. However, I do believe that such decisions must be made only with the consent and full approval of parents. If a young man ignores the wishes of the parents who raised him, sacrificed for him, and who understand him like no one else, he is doing a great disservice to himself. He is shunning the advice of those who have the deepest understanding of his needs, while embarking on a path devoid of the necessary guidance. I assume the same applies for young women as well; many would be incapable of making wise decisions without assistance from her parents. I have seen intercultural marriages work, but the parents on both sides were heavily involved in the process.

My colleague and I split the bill, and proceeded to our respective destinations. As I walked back to my hotel, I thought about all the decisions I've made in my life, and how often I strayed from the guidance of my own parents. Thankfully, none of those decisions have caused me much grief, but I often look back and recognize the deeper wisdom of parental advice I neglected. Alhamdolillah, I am where I want to be right now because I listened and followed them to a satisfactory extent; I may have been further if I listened and followed even more.

Rabbirham huma kamaa rabbayaani sagheera.

August 22, 2006

Maybe I won't

For nearly a week, I had lost access to a number of entries and could not log in to the Blogger service. This just happened to co-incide with recent misgivings I've had about the very idea of publishing my thoughts to a worldwide audience, and I thought that perhaps, it was time to say goodbye. It wasn't the Blogger technical issues that would have put me off; it's against my nature to give up on something because of a technical issue. But I often wondered whether Irrelevant Opinions was making me a better person in any way. It succeeded in reviving my passion for writing after my many years of engineering studies, but having met that goal, I wondered if there was anything else I wanted from it. I couldn't think of anything.

Strangely, however, I missed it during the brief absence. Even though I will often go over a week without writing anything, I felt like something was missing by the fact that I couldn't write anything here even if I wanted to. In a certain way, this site and the handful of readers had become quite important to me. As someone who only sees his home for only a day or two per month, this site and the loyal readers provided a much needed permanency that my mobile lifestyle lacked.

This site was still collecting statistics during the downtime, and brought up some very interesting results. I typically get around 40-50 unique visitors per day, mostly in Canada, but there are some regular overseas readers as well. My referrers log showed that some of them were actually digging through my site using Google cache and the Wayback machine, salvaging posts that would otherwise have been lost. That dedication amazed me. In addition, I heard a great deal of protest at the idea of closing this down from family, friends, and strangers who find all this irrelevance somewhat relevant.

All that being said, I wouldn't continue only because other people want me to; I would only continue if I want to myself. I haven't fully decided.

I am satisfied with the content I've been able to put out thus far. A lot of other blogs are full of copy/paste work, teenage angst, and general nonsense. I'd like to think that IO is a little different.

Thanks to all my loyal readers thus far. We'll see where things go from here.

August 16, 2006

Technical Difficulties

Obviously, something is seriously wrong, since I've lost the last six months of posts and comments.

Update 8.22.2006: The good people at Blogger, responding quite promptly to my support e-mails, have rescued all my irrelevant opinions thus far.

August 15, 2006

Muhammad, the Last Prophet: Animated Film

I saw this film when it played at the Canadian Museum of Civilization last year. If you have 90 minutes to spare for a simplified version of the seerah, (Prophetic history), this is very educational viewing, particularly for those completely unfamiliar with the history of Islam. It cautiously steers clear of any contentious issues to present an easily approachable rendition of one of the greatest stories of world history.

For those who wish to learn more, there are many books which describe the life and mission far better than any film can. That being said, it is unfortunate that we still have to refer to books to describe the life of the Prophet sallalho'alayhi wa salam. Each of the companions of the Prophet was usually example enough to pay tribute to the honour and nobility of the beloved Prophet Muhammad.

August 12, 2006

Musings in transit

The lineup through security at Vancouver airport was much longer than usual. I'm accustomed to passing through security in under five minutes, with a total entrance-to-gate time never exceeding ten minutes. Today, the lineup took at least fifteen minutes on it's own. As usual, I passed through the metal detector without triggering any alarm, and so no additional search was done. Security quickly checked my laptop, then let me proceed on my way.

I got off much better than most. I saw security agents searching the bags of hundreds of passengers, grabbing any toothpaste and deodorant they could find, tossing the "suspicious" toiletry in a trash can. I was encouraged by the fact that no special attention seemed to be given to the visibly South Asian or Arab passengers. Everyone was inconvenienced equally.

All things considered, I'm satisfied that the worst fallout of the alleged attacks was long lineups and wasted toothpaste.

There was a Chinese man in front of me in the line, while a Caucasian man chatted on his cell phone next to me, informing someone that he expected to miss his flight. The Chinese man informed the Caucasian that there was a delay, so he need not worry. I asked him which flight was delayed.

"All of them," he growled in his heavy Chinese accent. "They're all late."

I was a bit relieved, as I was cutting things short myself, and may have missed my flight if there were no delay. The Chinese man then turned to me, his voice dripping with anger.

"F**k the America," he said. "If there were no American, there would be no problem."

Touché. The thought crossed my mind that I should defend the average American against his hateful statement; something along the lines of, "there are still lots of good people in America. Don't blame the average American for their corrupt government." I opted instead to remain silent, and let the man believe whatever he wants. I recognized that anything I say could be misconstrued; the Chinese guy can say whatever he wants, but if those words were heard coming from my lips? I could very well be arrested.

It's funny; the powers that be want us to believe that the "terrorists" hate the West, and seek to destroy the Western values of freedom and democracy. I wish people would wake up. Nobody "hates your freedom". But many do hate your government. They hate the government that has lied to the world, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to get oil. They hate the government that pumps billions of dollars into the defense of a Zionist, fascist government while overlooking problems on it's own soil. They hate the government that is run by inept, arrogant, and spoiled brats, pushed into power by wealth and greed.

"But we can't forgot 9/11," they say. "Remember what happened on 7/7?" This quickly becomes the catch-all justification for any military action, no matter how ineffective and atrocious. But on the other side of the fence, there are people who are asking themselves, remember 9/19? Remember 3/12? Remember 7/16? Remember 7/30? The list goes on and on, and that's only within the last year. And people still wonder why such hatred exists.

And it's not just "angry Moslems" who hate that government. It's the Chinese guy at Vancouver airport. It's the Canadian guy in the cubicle next to you. It's the black man in the sewage water flooding New Orleans. And it's the child who lost his parents, their lives destroyed under the artillery paid for by that government. Say all you want, that child doesn't hate your freedom. He hates that bomb that you dropped on his home. And nothing you say will change his mind.

August 09, 2006

Silently helpless, at my keyboard

Things have been very busy in the last few weeks for me, leaving updates infrequent, untitled, and uninteresting. All the while, the war in Lebanon has been raging and many other conflicts continue unabated, leaving a Muslim world that is on the verge of collapse. My heart aches thinking about all the suffering people, while I go to bed every night with my greatest worry being getting up late. I float between gratitude and guilt for the luxuries I continue to enjoy, as I type away comfortably in an expensive hotel room in the heart of a thriving city.

There are people I know who typically have very restrained political views, but they have recently changed their tone considerably. Many are frustrated and ashamed of the decidedly arrogant position taken by the Canadian government. Never before would they share their feelings on the sordid political climate; now, they rejoice at Israeli and American military casualties, while grieving for the Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi civilian losses. With no end to the aggression on the horizon, I find myself feeling the same way.

I sit in a coffee shop trying to relax after the long hours of work, when I overhear a couple debating the issue. I await a meal at a nearby restaurant, when an argument breaks out over the terms of a ceasefire. I wait at the train station, while a man to my right curses as he reads of the news of the Middle East. On my left, a lady looks at me suspiciously. While the true victims are those who continue to suffer tragic losses for the political gains of others, the conflict is truly global. Everyone, be they in Beirut or my backyard, has taken a side.

I get frustrated writing about all this, so I will leave it to others to express their views much better than I ever could.

World War III? | Manila Standard Today
An interesting article detailing how we may already be in the midst of a global conflict approaching the scale of the first two World Wars. The individual conflicts began somewhat isolated, but are now merging and are quickly forcing the rest of the world to take action. May Allah Subhana wa ta'Ala protect us all.

The Galloway Interview | Sky News
This interview has become quite popular; take a look if you haven't seen it already. It was refreshing to see someone so frustrated with media ignorance get a chance to unleash himself on national television, and in front of a worldwide audience thanks to the internet. If I were stupider, I'd say the poor anchorwoman got "owned", but thankfully, I'm not.

The most critical point he makes, I think, is acknowledging that the conflict did not begin with the capture of the Israeli soldiers. "It's really very simple, except if you think only in a clock that goes back four weeks."

Qana Massacre | Riverbend
When someone living in Baghdad, where every day is a nightmare, can still be horrified by the terror unleashed upon the Lebanese people, it forces us to forget all of our petty inconveniences and acknowledge how lucky we truly are for whatever peace and comforts we enjoy.

"Hail Haifa" ... and all things Israel or you're dead! | Ethereal Melodies
A comprehensive piece outlining the hypocrisy of the Zionist establishment in a biting, satirical tone.

Frontline blogs | CBC News
CBC News has listed a number of Lebanese and Israeli blogs for the first-hand account of the crisis. I haven't read through most of these, but some of them appear to be interesting.

Mideast Dispatches | CBC News
The excellent Adrienne Arsenault is documenting her experience in the crisis region. Of course, I don't always agree with her, but she has generally been among the better foreign correspondents working in the region. The reader comments are an interesting reflection of the Canadian populace. Increasingly, there are "if you don't like it, go back to your home country"-type remarks which are quite frightening.

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May Allah Subhana wa ta'Ala grant comfort to the grieving families, and grant victory to those fighting oppression wherever they may be.