Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Awakening

Over the past few days, I feel like I have come into a new Spiritual Awakening, a complete and total understanding. To keep this locked up inside of me would not service me, or whoever might be reading this.

For too long, I have tried to find “understanding” within the walls of religion. Recently, I had a comment from someone that was very negative in its very words, but in comprehending, pondering, meditating, and then understanding, I find myself sitting here tonight with complete understanding.

The individual who wrote to me accused me of having an “identity crisis”, they told me that I should have “gotten over” my identity crisis years ago. While my initial reaction was one of complete shock and hurt at the words, I now am grateful for those words because it caused me to open my heart and my mind to complete and total opening up to my Self.

Over the years, I have traversed many spiritual paths, gone on spiritual journeys, and tried very hard to find my sense of “belonging” within the walls of organized religion.

This started in my mid-teens when I was in a foreign country attending school in a distant location from the town I was living in with my Grandparents. Alone, lonely, away from “home” (the home that I had grown up in with my parents), and without the friends I had known most of my life, I was friendless in this town. The only people I could consider as “friends” from school lived in the city, a distance from where I was.

In that loneliness, I was introduced to the Mormon Church via members of the church who embraced me and accepted me as one of their own. At 16-years-old, it was no wonder that their complete, total, unconditional acceptance appealed to me and drew me in. Whether I actually believed in the teachings of the church, I felt that I had found my place of belonging.

After I was baptized in to the Church, I found myself leaving within 9-months. I began my true “journey” through many different paths and religions, returning often to the Church, but never staying long.

For so many years I could not understand why I was not “satisfied” to just give up my life and any other beliefs that I might have and remain within the bonds of the church; at the same time, I wondered why I kept being drawn back to the church.

So when I was finally “out” of the church, my name removed from their records as if I was never even in existence; in essence, wiping me away from the mind and the cognition of God, I felt freed and relief. Now, I was finally released to truly explore my own truth.

After my father died, I delved in to the religion of my ancestors, my father and my birth; Islam.

Initial study taught me that Islam was more a way of life; it was a spirituality where Allah (God) was everything, not merely IN everything, but actually WAS everything.

Removed was the belief and teaching that God was a mortal man, an image that I simply could not comprehend since first learning about this “white-bearded Deity”. My mortal conceptualization of an omnipresent being contained within a body of flesh and bone seemed overtly limiting to me. The idea of a Holy Ghost and Son seemed even more foreign to me.

So, as I delved more into the study of Islam, things began to make sense. And that is why when I was first harassed by what are known as “haraam police” (haraam meaning “forbidden”), I was shocked. These individuals claiming that their “correcting” me was “sunnah” and that if I was to be a Muslim, I had “better get used to it”.

Often, I felt like I was a mere child being scolded continually by individuals whom I had never met and whom I did not know; strangers, that were labeled as “sisters” simply because we were both Muslim.

I became increasingly frustrated and angered at these people who were correcting my every thought, my every belief, my every action, and most often these individuals were much younger than me.

A couple of times, I came close to giving up the entire aspect of Islam because of the nastiness that was spouting out of these individuals, followed up by the prevalent “I say this because I love you for the sake of Allah”. What the hell did that sentiment mean? They only “loved” me to keep in the ‘good graces’ of Allah; and that “I”, the “you” they were correcting, had no matter, no meaning, no worth?

I began to withdraw from a lot of the social and religious activities within the community as the offense of more than one unnerved me. I was told by the select few I confided in to just “ignore them”; but in my doing that, I was continuing to give them permission to act in such an abusive manner.

An individual with my background does not accept abuse by simply rolling over and taking it. I have long-learned to open my mouth, stand out strong and tall, and shout out against abuse.

In my frustration, I tried to understand why I kept delving back in to different spiritual paths. Why was I not simply satisfied with “me”? What was I truly searching for, and would I ever really find it?

In a moment of complete and sheer frustration, I unloaded on a dear friend, and divulged a part of myself to her. I let down my barriers and opened up to a secret I kept long buried. In my doing so, in her amazing response, and in my thinking about her words, I finally saw clearly the whole picture. I finally understood myself, my frustrations, my “need” to hide behind organized religion.

This was a process that first began last year, but I could not let myself go enough to be honest and truthful with who I was and “why” I was.

In this openness that I finally began embracing, I began to SEE and see for the very first time.

I began addressing issues that I had seen crop up time and time in religion, and especially what I had recently learned within the confines of Islam “the religion”.

One of the biggest issues was the idea of covering in the hijab. When I first covered, I did it for myself. I did for my own reasons and it had nothing to do with the common misnomer held within Islam. And I had often questioned myself if my own reasons for covering were “in line” with what was common thought within the religion itself.

The verse in the Quran says; “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…” Qu’ran 24:31

And when I finally came to understanding, I realized that when God speaks, He speaks in the whole sense of the explanation and it is us mere mortals who understand in literal, and in so-doing, MIS-understanding.

“Guarding” one’s modesty is something that most of us do already. What is “modesty” in the true understanding of the word? In the online Princeton Wordnet definition it says that modesty is freedom from vanity or conceit. When we guard against this, we are removing EGO (Edging God Out) from our lives.

So covering the body in “modesty” as the literal translation has been interpreted, might not be what the original belief was.

When I meditated on “lowering their gaze”, I realized that this was not something that was also literal, but realize that this was the precursor to guarding modesty. Again, I finally understood it to mean that we need to be aware of our surroundings. When we lower our gazes as we walk, we are being cognitive of the path ahead of us. While this is indicated towards us as individuals, it has a much bigger meaning to it. A deeper, more spiritual meaning and not the literal translation that has kept so many women covered in cloth for so long.

I questioned why, if modesty was such an important thing, were we all born naked and emerging out of our mother’s naked vaginas. And then I understood the complete picture…

We are already “covering our modesty” as we emerge out of the womb, as we are forming IN the womb. Our “covering” is our physical bodies, and this covers that which “drives” our bodies, our soul.

In discussion with my husband, he asked “So does this mean that we’ll all be naked in heaven?”

No. We will not be naked; we will not have the bodies which we have now, because we are nothing but forms of energy.

We say Allah is everything, not just IN everything, but IS everything. How could that be? What is true omnipotence? The concept is difficult to comprehend on so many levels. But as we transcend in Spiritual awareness, it makes complete and total sense. Upon shedding of our mortal bodies, we too are omnipotent in that we can be in more than one place at one time because we are nothing more than energy forms.

Does this concept align us with Allah and “enjoin” us to him? Yes and no.

Yes we are aligned because if we truly believe that Allah is the creator of all things, therefore OUR creator, we hold a strand of His DNA within us. This is shown in the mere fact that we are alive, we are breathing and we are feeling. We have a soul, and in that soul, He holds a part of us. This is what is called Divine Connection. This is also what links each and every single person upon this earth to each other.

Does this mean that we are in essence “Gods”? No. However, we do hold a part of God in us through that Divine Connection, but we are NOT Gods, at least in my comprehension.

In answering my husband’s question, no we will not be “naked” because we will have no form to be naked with, but rather we are energy.

Someone asked tonight “how can God judge us, and why God would like some of us or dislike some of us when he doesn’t have a character and human emotions?”

I replied, “From what I have learned over my years (not IN religion), I have learned that this "judgment" is truly that Divine source in all of us (our soul connectedness) that will be responsible for judging us based on experience culminating with the intensity of Love on the Other Side, as well as complete and total understanding of the ages once removed from our physical form and limitations as well as human, earth-held, understanding. I have a very difficult time comprehending a "court" with the energy force that is Allah at the head handing down judgment and "sentencing".”

And I truly do believe this. It just makes complete and total sense to me. I suddenly “get it”, I understand and I feel completely freed in my understanding.

I no longer feel confined within the bounds of man-made religion. I finally can understand the concept of living and experiencing without the man-made rules and regulations.

Am I no longer “Muslim”? Yes I am, because I understand the meaning of Islam being “to submit” or “to surrender”, from the Arabic root word “Peace” (Salaam). Muslim means “one who submits”. But again, I do not believe that it means this in the literal sense, but rather in the limitless sense.

We all submit and surrender in so many aspects of the meaning, being “submissive” does not mean the same thing which many have come to understand the meaning.

As a tree bends in the wind, so to we bend with the winds of change. It is a natural process.

Life is as easy or difficult as we choose to make it. For me, I choose to make life easy, without all the confines of rules and regulations, rights and wrongs. I choose to simply Be.

The true purpose of life; is to experience, and in those experiences we learn, we expand our minds, and we live.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A letter from Japan... beauty amidst the chaos.

The letter that follows, was posted to Facebook. It is a testament that humanity truly is alive and well in the midst of devastation and destruction. The words described in the following letter, from a lady named "Anne" in Sendai (one of the worst hit by the tsunami), describe a true beauty amongst the chaos, destruction, and devastation.

Here, people are coming together as neighbours, as fellow human beings, and forging bonds like that of a family amidst disaster.

Please read on and share it everywhere. This woman is a survivor and, together with all the others who have lived through one of the worst earthquakes since records began to be kept, followed very soon after by the devastation of the tsunami that has literally wiped out entire villages and cities, they are heroes.

*** ***

May Allah's grace and blessings shower down upon all the people in Japan, and may we ALL do what we can to share in this love and this togetherness as one human race.

*** ***

Hello My Lovely Friends,

First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend's home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, "Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another."

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.

We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not. No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time.

Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains are Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently.

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others.  Last night my friend's husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don't. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

Thank you again for your care and Love of me,

With Love in return, to you all,

*** ***

I saw this last night while watching CNN continued coverage of the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan. the video grasped at my heart, especially since both my husband and I are dog lovers... indeed animal lovers. 

The loyalty and love that is being shown in this video is once again another testament to the beauty that was shared above, only this time, in the animal kingdom. 

If you have not seen this video, it is amazing and I encourage you to watch it.

"Emerging coverage from Japan offers a moving example of ultimate dog loyalty, and clearly illustrates the challenges faced by animal victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

The dogs were picked up after the video was shot, and are in the care of a local shelter. Stay tuned, we intend to bring you updates in the coming days:"

*** ***

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Nothing is normal in Tripoli."


"Nothing is normal in Tripoli." This was a statement that Anderson Cooper introduced a phone conversation with a woman who has been stuck in her home for five days, terrified to leave the safety of her home. Even then, reports are of Gaddafi's mercenary thugs going from home-to-home kidnapping anyone whom they feel is trying to get word out to the world about the events that are taking place. Kidnapping, and executing innocent people who just want the world to see what is happening and hoping, against all hope, that someone, anyone will see and know, and do something.

The other night, I viewed some horrific photos from a morgue in Libya, and my heart completely broke.

I have been Tweeting and updating like crazy in support of Libya as well as providing updates the moment I hear them. People have asked me "what good can this do for these people?" when I ask to please follow suit.

I will tell you what the "good" is, some of these people do not know if the world is watching, if the world knows, or if the world supports them. Some of them wonder if they are fighting alone.

But the truth is, so many around the world are not only watching, they are protesting in support of, and the entire world is watching closely and caring deeply.

Protesters in South Korea
Nothing happening in the Middle East and Northern Africa, has been about religion, it has been about the most basic of human needs, freedom and democracy. To live without fear, to walk down a street without concern about who is watching, who is hearing, and who is following.

Muammar Gaddafi has been ruling Libya for over 42 years, keeping the people completely oppressed and living in terror.

If anyone has watched his most latest, and bizarre, speeches, one will see that this man is not only deranged, but he presents as one who has severe mental illness. He is unable to keep his eyes focused and he speaks as if he in complete belief of the lies which spew out of his mouth.

Benghazi is under control of the people
The terrifying thing is that someone as deranged as this, is dangerous. He is a mass murderer who has amassed tens of thousands of murders under his belt over the years.

Benghazi has fallen to the people. ALHAMDULILLAH!

Most of Libya is falling inch-by-inch, and the people are raising up.

I can not express the amount of respect and honour I have for the people. To overcome their terror and put aside that fear, facing death with complete abandon in their plight for this most basic of human needs, it shows how this wave of people rising up and taking charge is most powerful and impacting.

Libyan protesters in Japan
I mentioned in a previous blog that a sleeping beast has awoken and it will not rest until it's end goal is reached, and we are seeing this more and more in countries like Libya and Bahrain. Iran and Yemen are also bubbling under the surface, they are activating, and they are watching closely. Once Libya completely topples and is freed from the grips of a complete lunatic and his family and cronies, it will only forge this tsunami wave of change stronger and more forceful.

Gandhi said very poignantly "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." We have seen this in country after country, to be true. Peaceful demonstrators have toppled tyrannical regimes, and it goes to the old adage that good will always out-win and outlast evil.

Funeral of a Libyan Protester
In Tahrir Square it was said "fear has been defeated, there's no turning back" which Anderson Cooper quoted over and over during the days in Egypt, and now we are seeing this in Libya.

The people no longer have that same fear. They simply don't care anymore for anything other than the end goal of ridding themselves of Gaddafi and enjoying a life of freedom and democracy.

If you are reading this post, please take a moment to reflect on your own feelings. If you are not quite aware of what is going on, turn on the news, Google, turn on to Al Jazeera (English) and watch a live stream online. And then, tweet, update on Facebook, change your Facebook, Twitter, My Space, etc profile photo to something reflecting your support of Libya and Libyans, speak about it among your peers, involve yourself, because it DOES make a difference. It IS impacting. Don't do this for Gaddafi to hear and hope that it will make a difference with him, because it won't do a thing if that is the reason. Do it for the people. Do it to educate because the more we ALL get involved and we EACH keep it alive, it WILL filter back over there. And it will empower the countries that a bubbling under the surface.

Now is the time in our lives where it is our moral duty as human beings to stand up and stand out to help create a difference, and yes, even in your small corner of the Universe, YOU WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!

We MUST stand together with our brothers and sisters who are out in the streets dying. I have posted a couple of the photos I viewed from the Libyan morgue here, not to glamorize them, but to impact you and reach you deep inside to turn to action. This is real and it is horrific that these dictators have no qualms about killing their own people. So now, we, citizens of the world and members of the entire human family, must act, stand up and do our part to help.

democracy, and regime change.

As'salaam alaikum / Peace be upon you.

* * *  * * * 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What YOU Can Do to Help Bahrain!

First, there was Tunisia, and the world listened but did not realise the impact; and then... The entire world stayed glued to their television sets as Egypt took the baton and created an amazing, and peaceful, revolution that lasted 18-days, and finally won.

Now; Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, and other Arab-nations have taken up the cause and are demonstrating peacefully and loudly to gain their own freedoms.


Governments who supported and praised the Egyptians, are now singing a different tune since the wave of revolution and change has hit their shores.

Instead of allowing the people to raise up and act in a God-given freedom, they have instead opened fire and spilled blood, and killed.

Shot in the head while raising arms up in surrender
calling out "Peaceful! Peaceful!" 
Last night, I turned on to watch Anderson Cooper (CNN) and saw my brothers in Bahrain being shot at and laying in the streets with bullet holes, one was shot in the head with blood pouring from his head, covering the street.

These men were not throwing rocks. They did not have any kind of weapons. They were simply marching in peace yelling "Peaceful! Peaceful!", arms up to show their "surrender", exercising a right that every man, woman, and child upon this earth was created to have, "freedom".

But instead of allowing these peaceful demonstrators to march in the ways of Gandhi and exercise a freedom in the act of peaceful uprising, they were viciously mowed down.

When I think of my brothers and sisters living in Bahrain going through what they are going through in the name of freedom, and doing so in a peaceful manner,

My heart aches and shatters.

While I can not do what I desire most... Swoop down and remove the perpetrators to these murders, the leaders who ordered them and have oppressed the people for so many years, the ONLY ACTION I can take, is this:

Tweet the Bahrain Ministry of Interior @moi_bahrain [Bahrain Ministry of Interior] and tell them that they MUST STOP THIS VIOLENCE ON PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS!!!

I tweeted them yesterday and I told them that the WHOLE WORLD WAS watching what was going on and what they were doing to the people and that they must stop.

I live in a country where I have the freedom to express myself, and because I am blessed to live in such a country, I exercise that right... my God-given right, to do so. I do not fear "secret police" coming and grabbing me in the night, or fear torture or even death, for exercising my right.

Do I take that liberty as it is given? Absolutely.

THIS is why it is important that you write... FLOOD the Ministry of Interior with Tweets and let them know that they can NOT shut down progress and human beings natural right to live free! That the world IS watching, and they are being seen for what they truly are. That any semblance of "explanation" or LIES that they are "acting in accordance with the situation at hand" is just that, LIES because we are all seeing them murdering innocent people. These people do not even hold a single rock in their hands, and they are being killed for raising their voices.

Some have asked me "What can I do? I am not there and can not take to the streets." So here is my answer, this is what you can do! Tweet and Facebook and pass the word out, let the blessings of social media work for us and work for our brothers and sisters who are trying so hard to gain the freedoms so many of us take for granted.

While I have been focused mainly on Bahrain in this post, please remember that our brothers and sisters in Libya, Yemin, Algeria, and other areas are also rising up and creating a stir. Libya is creating a media "blitz" in their favour, showing Moamer Kadhafi flanked by supporters as he parades himself down a street. But, look closely and you will see how many children the crowd makes up, and how many of the adults are paid by his government because they work for him. It is a farce, a joke, and his 40 + year rule must end.

Kadhafi's government are trying to stop any real stories and truth from getting out. But, like Egypt, its not working. The marvels of the modern world can't stop it from leaking out. It may trickle, but the trickle has the impact of a tsunami wave.

Our world is changing, social media has created something where we can all take part in this change. So, in this post, I encourage all of you reading, to make a difference, help our brothers and sisters in the Middle East create the change that they need to make and live in the freedom that they all so desire, and that we take for granted.

NOTE: I would suggest any sisters and brothers IN Bahrain DO NOT TWEET the Ministry, for your own safety, but those of us outside, we can write and tell them without fear for our own safety! Let US help our brothers and sisters in Bahrain have the SAME freedoms that we have in simply being able to write to our government and express ourselves without fear of consequence or retribution!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Families celebrating victory in Tahrir Square

Today marked a moment in history which many, around the world, have been holding their breath for. Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and in so doing, the Egyptian people were liberated from 30 years of tyrannical and dictatorial rule.

The Egyptian Revolution was such an amazing moment in our history. Through it all, the people remained peaceful in their determination, only defending themselves when hit upon. The past 18-days showed the world exactly how a revolution should be played out, with peace, persevering, and determination.

As I watched TV and internet reports for the past 18-days, I felt that this was almost reminiscent of Gandhi's plight for independence from Britain for India. It was done with peace and long-standing. While this did not take as long, the message was an equally strong one.

Sharing determination
The entire Egyptian Revolution showed that people can make a difference without raising a sword or a gun, and without mindless violence. This revolution was intelligent and it was diligent, it was organized and it showed the entire world just how ready the Egyptian people are for change.

We are entering a new era, and what we have witnessed has shown this and will pave a way. This is not only a new era in life for Egypt, but a powerful and strong message to the rest of the world that resolve can truly be met with by peace.

While we will all be watching over the next few weeks and months with what will happen in Egypt, from what I have already read in comments and updates on Facebook and Twitter, the entire world is in complete awe of this momentous occasion and accomplishment.

The Egyptian Revolution started 18-days ago. It took a mere 18-days to oust a dictator who has ruled for 30-years. We saw Tunisia accomplish their goal in 30-days, and now we will watch and see who will be the next country to rise up and create positive change, using the greatest weapons ever created; determination, perseverance, and above all, peace.

Tahrir Square on Day 18, numbers swelled in response to Hosni Mubarak's
speech saying he was stepping aside  but not down. Millions flocked to the
square in continued defiance and in peaceful demonstration calling for Mubarak
to step down and leave. And then, finally, the message sank in and VP Suleiman read a statement that Mubarak had stepped down. The Egyptian Revolution was won.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tahrir Square, A First Person Experience

A couple of weeks before the uprising in Egypt, I became friends with a young lady who lives in Cairo. We formed a very fast bond in the messages we sent back and forth to each other, getting to know each other, and a feeling of sisterly love and comradry formed between us.

During the government induced communications black-out during the first few days of the uprising, my heart was in my throat constantly as images filtered in over breaking news via CNN and Al Jazeera online.

Where was my friend? Was she in the square being pummeled by rocks, shot at by government thugs? Was she alive? Was she dead?

My mind whirred as the days grew in to nights into days and still no word. And then finally, I received an email from her. She was safe, she was at home, and she was feeling useless while her brothers were dying in the streets during the government ordered violence that arose.

With tears streaming down my face in relief and in complete and total sorrow at the images that were flashing before my eyes, I wrote to her and asked her to "please continue to be 'useless'" as my concern for my new friend grew.

Maybe it is the "mother" in me that I have grown in to as age is creeping up in me, but as I said this, as I sat and I watched, the photojournalist and activist in me was wishing that I was right there, capturing images, and lending my voice and my support to my brothers and sisters in Egypt.

On February 4th, my friend wrote to me again. This time she relayed an experience she had in Tahrir Square. It was so moving and so touching, I asked her permission to please share it here. She gave me full access to do so. The following is in her words. I will only call her "Maha".

"I just got back a while ago from Tahrir Square again. While I've been hesitant before to write about my experiences, today I have come back overfilled with emotions that I just can't not share it. I pray Allah accepts it from me and I remind myself that this is solely for Him.

It was beyond words can describe. Getting there took us some good 20 minutes walk because all the entrances except that one were closed. Every 10 meters or so you are stopped for a security check, and my sisters always say, "We apologize." Such good people. In the square, there was these big speakers and everyone in the square could hear, it felt ever so united. It was so different from Tuesday because on that day, there were different groups composed of hundreds of people together each saying their different chant against Mubarak. There was one group that had speakers but it wasn't large enough for everyone to hear. Only a few thousand people who are nearest to the speaker. But today, everyone was chanting in the same breath, praying at the same time, and making dua together. It made me reminisce on Hajj.

A short while after we arrived, the men were running in the opposite direction like something had happened and the person with the mic said that they need 30 guys to go to the Talat Harb entrance because the thugs are trying to get in. At that moment, my heart skipped a beat but I also felt very safe at the same time. He then added that our numbers are much more than them and that we are those who are right and all those inspirational words that we won't leave until he leaves and that no one should be afraid of anything.

I cannot even begin to explain how crowded it was, we were MUCH more than Tuesday! I am guessing like 3 million or more. I couldn't move!

It was time to pray, and as all the millions were praying hand in hand I could hear the thugs' voices and chanting really near and I thought it was really low of them to try to do anything while we are praying. Really low! But many guys passed in front of me (the square couldn't accommodate everyone praying at the same time, so we were split into rounds), going in that direction I guess, and I know they had the situation under control right from the start because there were many people already at the entrance. How wonderful my fellow Egyptians are. Everything was organized. There was only one entrance you could enter from, all the others were closed so that the thugs won't be able to shoot from the top of the bridge as they had done before.

Shortly afterward, there was this huge cloth that they had put up on one of the buildings and they were airing Al Jazeera news channel on it as kind of a projector. Everyone sat down on the floor to watch. I got up to take a better picture of how many we were since everyone was sitting, and I was amazed! We are SO many! And I had already gone there quite late, at Maghrib, so I can't believe what it must have been in the morning.

After a while, I needed to get water, so I exited the square and headed to the nearby streets. While I was passing, I saw that people had made first aid corners in the streets and were helping injured people (I think the government is not allowing ambulances to enter). I thought those must be the brave men that fought off the thugs. But there were many injured people, and I couldn't help feel more hatred for the government. I got water, and I remembered the people who were distributing free water and gave me one last Tuesday, so I got an extra one to try and pay it forward. I walked for a few meters and sure enough, someone asks me if he could drink so I gave it to him. It was really cool how it was okay to ask a stranger for food or water, I loved how warm that was. And how everyone was giving. The guy sitting next to me was eating this Egyptian dish, and he had finished eating but there were some leftovers, so he was offering it to people. Another guy I sat next to, gave my dad I from the candy he had. And I saw a girl passing biscuits.

While I was leaving to go home because my dad got tired, I couldn't help but wish that I'd be in Tahrir with everyone the time they announce he'll leave, so as much as I hope for it actually happening, as much I want to be there when it does. Inshaa Allah! I'm so proud to be Egyptian!"

Maha wrote to me again on February 6th:

"Today was a really emotional day. It was named the "Day of the Martyrs and Coptic Sunday". It was in memory of those who lost their lives, most of whom all died on Friday the 28th and who the government sill won't even make a decent memorial and say sorry for their deaths. So the memorial was done in Tahrir square, and by the non-national TV channels. Such young and innocent people. We saw their photos hung all over the square, and aired by the decent! TV channels, and their relatives came to talk on TV of what happened to them exactly, all of whom killed by the police. Heck, even one person from the ARMY was killed by the police, so it would look like the citizens are the ones who killed him so that there would be a fight between the citizens and the army! And a ten year old child.. I don't know how I expect the police to protect me in the future. I think if I see one I don't know what I'd do.

Other than that, I quote the news: the Christians pray Sunday mass under the watch of the Muslims, Christians wake up Muslims for Fajr prayer. So beautiful. The Egypt they have for so long tried to hide.

At the square, our numbers were less than before and the streets were starting to get busy like everyone was going back to their lives, but for sure the ones in Tahrir Sqaure were not moving. I am staying steadfast until I smell the freedom with my two lungs that have probably gone black now by the pollution Mubarak has made with his own hands. Smell the freedom, and continue what the martyrs have started. Half an hour after we arrived at the square, we hear gunshots. Live gunshots from a distance, loud and clear! It lasted for like 30 seconds. And I could hear my heart beating so loudly. For a few minutes, there was clear panic. I shrugged off any thought for my faith in my brothers securing the entrances. Sure enough, they had everything under control and the guy in the mic asked for a big number of people to go there so nothing happened."

I was so moved by Maha's experiences and the peace she felt and the raw emotion that is reverberating through Tahrir Square, this was told in the first person, her own experience. It is a different side to the stories that are shown on the news and online, it is a story of peace, of love, of pride, and of the dignity that each Egyptian is fighting for.

I am not Egyptian, but I am proud of my sisters and brothers over there for what they are doing. May their fight continue until the last tyrant is gone, and may they enjoy the freedom and democracy that they are all striving for.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Standing Strong with Egypt - After Friday Prayer Rally in Tempe, Arizona

Arizona is STILL standing strong with the Egyptian people
and we will continue to do so until Mubarak and his 
dictatorship is gone!

On a beautiful afternoon after (Jummah) prayers on Friday, a group of Egyptian / Middle East supporters walked from ICC Tempe (Masjid) to Mill Avenue and University shouting slogans, waving flags and holding up signs. Once again, car horns blared in support as it fueled our fire to shout louder and stand taller.

Our demonstrations will continue until Mubarak steps down, and then I can believe we will take to the streets in celebration and jubilation. 

Until then, we keep praying, we keep speaking up, and we keep supporting.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Solidarity and Freedom for Egypt

For the past several days, I have been glued almost 24/7 to CNN and Al Jazeera (English) online with continual breaking news from Egypt.

The situation in Egypt is something that has my interests peeked, not just because I have several friends who are currently living in Egypt, and a handful of Egyptian friends; but for me, Egypt brings back memories of Anwar Sadat and his assassination.

Granted, I was only young, 8 years old to be exact, but I was at a stage in my life when the events that flashed before my eyes on the nightly news, actually had meaning to me.

I remember the news reports about the Camp David Peace Accords between Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, and Anwar Sadat. The warmth in the handshake between Begin and Sadat, the prospect of peace and change.

Then, I remember the horrible day when the radio announced that Anwar Sadat had been assassinated. At school, I excitedly told my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Richards and was telling her how terribly sad it was. I remember even asking her what this would mean to the Camp David Accords and the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel? She was obviously baffled and taken completely aback; but that was how I was brought up, listening (and paying attention) to the news and current events. It has long been a part of my life, a part of who I am, ingrained in me.

So this new wave, the "revolution" as some are calling it, has once again peeked my interest. But its more than that, especially now. Now, I have friends there, I have Egyptian friends here, I am Muslim, I have a vested interest in what is going on over there.

Hosni Mubarak has created a monster in the people with his oppressions and lack of freedom. Most of my friends have never known anyone as ruler but him, and grew up under his rule, and his rules. But this experience goes to show that after a period of time in oppression, poverty, lack of food, the beast will tear off the shackles and fight back. Enough is enough, and the people are rising up.

The light of the future
As I watch this, I have memories of scenes from Tienanmen Square. When the army rolled in to Cairo and Alexandria (and other areas) on Friday, I held my breath. Was this going to be another massacre like China? And of course, news came out that this weekend, China shut down any social media and banned any posts with the word "Egypt" in it; I guess they don't want the beast to rear its ugly head in their capital again, 22 years later. Many of my more recent friends, were either infants when this occurred or they were not born yet. But most don't remember this as experiencing history in the making as I did, for them, it is a blurb in a text book. For them, this, Egypt, the uprising, the beast being unleashed, this is their Tienanmen, this is their history in the making. In 20 years, they will be remembering it as clear as day, while the youth of the moment will be coming to experience their own "history" being created before their eyes.

It does seem that this happens in cycles, every couple of decades... Tienanmen, Vietnam, Korea, WWII...

And of course, since I have a vested interest, I am not content to sit at home and simply view history happening on my TV screen before me. Maybe it is my innate desire to be a journalist, to be in the "thick of the action", to get the word out and inform others; or maybe it is the "activist" in me, but when this began, I felt pumped up, motivated, I felt a strong need to be a part of it, to be in the thick of it.

Barring getting on the next plane to Cairo, and join my "heroes" in the journalism field, I could do the next best thing, join in the local protests that were occurring here in Tempe.

One of my friends was one of the organizers of today's rally to support Egypt, Tunisia, and egging on for the rest of the Middle East to rise up and create a "revolution", creating a positive change; so of course I had to go, and lend my voice.

The email said to arrive "on time", as most in the Muslim world know, there is in actual fact "two sets of time"; regular time that most of the world sets their clocks by, and then there is "Muslim time", which tends about 30 [plus] minutes late.

Protester getting riled up
I guess I must have been Muslim for my entire life, because I have been living on "Muslim time" for eons!

Because we were not sure how extensive parking was going to be, and being disabled without the ability to walk too far, we needed to arrive on time, if not early to ensure we had parking.

As we arrived, there were about 20 people already there, holding up signs and others choosing which sign they were going to hold up. While the turnout began a little disappointing, it was not long before more and more people turned up.

As I stood on the street corner with my sign proudly posted towards the cars at the intersection, a young American lady walked up to me and greeted me in the Islamic way "As'salaam alaikum" she said. I was taken aback slightly as this was the first time I have been greeted as such by a non-Muslim.

"Wa'alaikum as'salaam", I responded. She looked a little confused by my answer, I think she might have wondered if I spoke English, with my sun glasses on and hijab, maybe I don't quite look like I do. I mean I do look to be an anomaly anyway, and people are always baffled, but with large sunglasses, it must double confusion.

Lady in pink shirt asked me if anyone could join in
"Is this an organized event... I mean, is this an organization?" She asked.

"Well, it's an organized event by word of mouth and social media, but not an organization only." I responded.

"Oh, so can anyone join in?" She asked.

"OH SURE!" I answered really eagerly. I was thinking "How cool is this? Just some random person coming off the street wanting to join in."

"Go ahead and grab a sign over there and join us."

She smiled sweetly and disappeared into the crowd of people. I caught sight of her later with her file folder, standing just a little away from the crowd, observing.

Today was an awesome day. It was amazing to stand together with brothers and sisters (of the human race), Muslims and non-Muslims, people who just joined in off the street, shouting out loud our support for "Freedom in Egypt" and "Down with Mubarak".
We were one human race, with one agenda; solidarity.

To stand there as one people, and to hear the amount of support from those in cars driving by. And then; a fire truck rounded the corner, and the next thing a loud, blaring "honk" from the fire truck, in support and solidarity of us, of Egypt, and of freedom.

We are currently in a spectacular time. The outcome in unknown, but the solidarity and the beast is rising stronger and louder. When will it end? Where will it end? No one but Allah knows. But what will forever be remembered is that the beast was unleashed, and once unleashed, it may quiet, but it will never sleep again.


Photo Montage 

Jamie Steele, of San Carlos Apache Reservation

Muslim young ladies taking the advantage of the rally to
protest against Israel's bombing of Palestine

Mothers and their children came out to rally

Usama Abdallah, of Chandler, along with his 5-year-old son Adam, wave a flag during the protest at a rally on the corner  of Mill Avenue and University Drive in Tempe.

Ayah Ahmed (left), 19, and Amanda Elgamal, 15,
protest during the rally .

Mike Watkiss from KTVK 3 in Phoenix covered
the event live. KTVK 3 was one of five news
stations that covered the rally in Tempe this

Omar Hassan, 12, makes a definite statement
as he protests during the  rally.