Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Message to Fellow Muslims: Realize the Importance of Ramadan


Last Ramadan is a distant, yet graceful memory.

I remember standing through long Tarawih prayers at the Masjid, breaking fast at Iftar dinners, and rejoicing with family and friends on Eid. Despite the summer heat, the Masjid was filled with adults and children alike. Some were immersed in prayer, some were overwhelmed with emotion, some were calling upon Allah for their needs. All these people were going through a process of purification, so rich in value that words can't even begin to describe.

That time has come again, and in fact, the time will leave us again.

Look at yourself right now and compare yourself to the person you were last Eid. Subhan'Allah, you fasted and Insha'Allah your sins were washed away. But these sins have accumulated over the interval of time, and you reverted back to how you were before Ramadan.

Why?

Muslims were focusing on rejuvenating their soul, strengthening their relationship with Allah, asking for forgiveness. But many have become lost in their puddle of sins once again. The month of Ramadan is a time for improvement and growth - spiritually, communally, and personally. These three growths are perfections to morality.

There is, I believe, a reason to the reversion, it being that we intensely focus much of our time on spiritual growth.

There needs to be a balance between our spiritual, communal, and personal lives, because during the month of Ramadan, many of us focus solely on spiritual growth. We find a way to improve our relationship with God, yet at the same time we must keep a spirit of building relationships with other people, which is especially essential in order to create a just and kind society.

Unfortunately, in our postmodern society we tend to be oblivious to the fact that everything we do has a direct effect on others. The independence we enjoy comes with responsibilities to the people surrounded by us.

Ramadan is not just a month of increasing relationship with Allah, but increasing relationships with friends, family, and even yourself. "Sawm", the Arabic word for fasting, literally means "restraint and self-control".

Fasting isn't only about abstinence. Its not only a ritualistic act. It is a combination of physical discipline, spiritual reflection, and communal growth. It is much deeper than simply "not eating", its an opportunity to let go of bad habits and foster good deeds. We learn to commit good deeds by instinct, just like we learn our times tables in school - through repetition.

During this Holy Month, we must improve our moral character, because Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that the best among humanity are those who have the best manners towards others.

Ramadan teaches us how to live morally. To perfect morality, we must understand that it is a two-step process. Individually, we can do this by striving to foster certain universal principles such as kindness, honesty, and compassion into our daily lives. In our communities, we must try to interact with others in a respectful manner.

Hours from now Insha'Allah, I will start the process of purification by praying Tarawih prayers at the Masjid. Listening to the Imam read verses from the Qu'ran will fill my heart with remembrance of my Lord.

But once this journey is over, I will not have only grown spiritually, but personally and communally.

This is the promise we must make to ourselves.

Realize the importance of Ramadan.

Grow.

Ramadan Mubarak, and May Allah grant us reward for our efforts, Ameen.

-That's the TFAT.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Letter to Philip Su, Software Engineer of Facebook: The Crappy New Chat

The social-networking juggernaut, Facebook, recently released a new update that intended to improve the site's chat feature.

However, instead of improving the feature, they pretty much eliminated it off the website.


So, I decided to write a letter to the person who was apparently in charge of the update, Mr. Philip Su.

Here is the letter I sent to Mr. Su.

Dear Mr. Philip Su,
Ever since this new and supposedly improved chat feature was released, I haven't heard yet one positive remark about it.

The problem is, Facebook hears user's complaints, but does absolutely nothing about it.


Of course, "improving" this feature probably took a bunch of long nights and hard work, however, the update effectively removes the feature from Facebook. Why don't I see a number of who is on anymore? Why do I care if someone I normally talk to is offline? Even if I did care, it was more ideal for me to see ALL my friends that ARE online, so in essence I could figure out who isn't.

Most of us used the chat feature to see which of our friends were online. We used it instead of using AIM or MSN. Instead of realizing this fact, it seems that you ignored it and simply made an update that is less user-friendly and in essence, making the feature no longer an instant messenger. Basically, "Facebook Chat" has been removed, and in its place is a quicklaunch bar for sending messages.

Sure, you can keep the damn sidebar and I don't give a crap about the video calling or group chat either (big whoop). We want a whole list of our friends online and the number of people online back.

There was no reason to remove those features. Nobody likes the new chat box. This isn't an improvement at all.

You see, Mr. Su, at first - I thought the thing that was annoying me about the update was my inability to accept change. But I soon realized that it wasn't me at all, the update truly sucked. It sucks so much, that ever since it came out, I have seen at least 25 people this past week move to Twitter because they are frustrated with Facebook engineer's incapability to understand common demand.

What aggravates me isn't only the constant stupid updates, but the fact that nobody in the Facebook corporation listens. Last September, there was a page on Facebook that threatened to Burn Qu'rans on 9/11. The page hosted hatred and violent remarks. I reported the page at least 75 times, and sent over a dozen messages and emails to the Facebook crew. I received no reply, and no response to the reports. You failed to understand that you had the power to eradicate the hatred on that page by banning it. The page was deleted when it was too late. In effect, it became another big, unworthy story in the media. It didn't have to get that big.

Sure, I'm only 16 years old. But that doesn't mean I'm stupid. The truth is, in order for a corporation to be successful, they must listen to their clients and make the best choices based on the most common demands.

The only update Facebook needs right now is one that reinforces their communication with their users.

Capitalize on this mistake by fixing it and showing users that you actually listen to their feedback. For once, do something right.

-That's the TFAT.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

3 Steps on How to Manage Your Time Wisely

For us students and adults alike, summer vacation is a gift from God. Its a time to finally relax and well, not care about anything. It allows us to forget about our stressful workdays.

And when the time comes to get back to work, we fall apart. We utilize our skills of procrastination, and as a result - since we don't prepare, we fail at managing our time.

Story of my life.

But hey, its still summer, and most of us are enjoying it pretty well. I hate to break it to you - but the time to get back to work is creeping up on us. Heck, I have to go back to school in 29 days.

So why not prepare when you HAVE the time?

There are three key steps on how to manage your time wisely, and I'm not talking about those generic organizational skills (list your priorities, order of importance, etc). That stuff comes in handy, but these steps come before that.

In order to follow the three steps, we first need to answer this question:

Why?

Why do we need to manage our time? Time is limited, and we need to spend it wisely. Because one day, one hour, one second could be the last moment of our lives. We have to realize that our time is just as short as our elder's. Once that idea is ingrained into our brains, we will be able to understand that wasting our time isn't the way to enjoy our life, using it is.

Step One: Understanding the Concept of Time


I did a post called "Stop Wasting Your Time" back in January in which I described the importance of time. There is a quote by Dion Bucicault that states: "Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them." Time is a very big word. I could give you Webster's definition, but that would simply bore you. Understanding the concept of time is as colossal as understanding the meaning of life. I've done my share of research about the concept, one being something I do on Facebook called "365 Days". I have a photo album in which I upload a picture every day for a year. Today's picture will be the 217th. I use this album as a mnemonic device that teaches me the concept of memory and about the passage of time. I've realized that a clock is useless. To me, time is is the measurement of how long your memory extends. We, as humans, choose to define this measurement in units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years. But to truly take advantage of time, we must extend our memory by keeping our eyes open to our surroundings.

Step Two: Appreciate the Concept


Appreciation of the concept of time is a direct result of understanding it. Instead of dreading over a time limit, we should appreciate the limit given. This optimistic view will prevent procrastination and will allow us to finish  the task ahead quickly and effectively. The problem is, most of us don't appreciate what is given to us. For example, when a teacher gives you an assignment that requires you to complete 40 problems, and tells you its due tomorrow at the beginning of class, our natural instinct is to complain about the time limit. Don't complain. Appreciate the idea that the teacher gave you even that much time to complete the assignment. Don't doubt your ability to extend your mental clock.

Step Three: Use Your Time


This is the step most of us stop at for some odd reason. Sure, we accept the fact that we must understand and appreciate time, but then we don't know how to use it. This is the part where all the organizational skills come in handy. Listing your priorities, organizing them by importance, will all aid in allowing you to effectively use your time. Don't be afraid to spend your time. We are so hesitant to spend time, just like we are hesitant to spend money. But just like money, if you don't spend time, you don't make time.

Now quit wasting your time, and actually follow these steps to time management!

-That's the TFAT.
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's New? TFAT v. 5.0 Pickle

Today marks the day of the release of v. 5.0 Pickle.


This new layout features:
  • Easier-to-read text: much more pleasing to the eyes.
  • A new title.
  • Changed the Poetry Corner button
  • Added a post divider (check it out under this post!)
  • Changed the layout
  • New, refreshing background
  • and many more minor edits...
Share your opinions and thoughts in the comments section of the post!
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How has the politicization of Islam blemished its religious purpose?


Humans are quick to connote words to their most recent memory or experience, often resulting in stereotypes. Therefore, when faced with the words (or relating to) Islam- society's perception is based on recent events- such as the attacks on 9/11. Islam is quick to be deemed as a threat to the Western world, and one of the causes for this is due to past events involving the Muslim society being militant.

In the article, "Dominant Western Perceptions of Islam and the Muslims", Dr. Chandra Muzaffer states, "Today, the mainstream Western media portrays Islam or what it describes as 'militant Islam' or 'fundamentalist Islam' as a threat to the west". The article further presents the idea that Islam is "news of a particularly unpleasant sort". This is true, but not many people find it easy to present the idea why it is unpleasant news. It seems as if in today's society, media has continued to pinpoint the Islamic world as a representation of religious politics. One of the most infamous reasons is the attacks on September 11th. Airplane hijackings by Islamic terrorists led to crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City.


The definition of terrorism according to The American Heritage College Dictionary is: the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence to intimidate or coerce societies or governments, often for political or ideological reasons. I find the term "militant" Islam or a Muslim terrorist, not only contradictory- but, in essence, unworthy to be said. How are we to trust someone who doesn't even know the correct pronunciation of the word "Muslim", to define "Islam" for us? This is one of the biggest problems we face with religion- authority. Now, being a Muslim American (there's a difference if I'm an American Muslim), I struggle to define my own religion. This problem exists due to the fact that the title I give myself contains so many controversial aspects, but it truly defines which definition/point of view reigns supreme. As a Muslim, who is faithful and defensive of his religion, I define Islam as what I believe it truly is- a monotheistic faith with the sole purpose of it's "Shahadah"- to serve Allah (God) by following the five pillars of faith and the three categories of Tawhid (doctrine of Oneness). However, as an American, Islam is simply a major religion that has been a part of a violent history. When combined together, I am a Muslim American, someone who knows both sides of the argument, but is a Muslim first- American second.


I never heard of the term terrorism until it was associated with my religion and the region my family is from- the Middle East. My experience in Pakistan reflects around one memory- when I went to the bazaar (market) with my family. Imagine walking amidst thousands of people in a market made of confusing roadways, almost seeming to lead you nowhere - in the country where well over 50% of the world's terrorists reside, and 97% of the population is Muslim. One could imagine the stereotypical, statistic-based fear I faced, especially after the attacks of 9/11. Walking among this crowd of people, I was carrying a glass bottle of Coke. The glass bottle slipped out of my hand, crashed on the bare pavement, and the shards of glass sliced my toes. I screamed. In the blink of an eye, a crowd of at least 30 to 40 people surrounded me. You would imagine they would react violently, especially after hearing a loud shriek. But no, instead, they asked me how I was and if I was okay. Some began to run to the local shop for first aid, others began to ask my Dad if they should call for medical help. Soon, one man came with bandages and fixed me all up. Shocked at the reactions of the people, I was unable to even say thank you. After these experiences, I am forced to believe that the people of Pakistan are just like anyone else- down-to-earth.

The experience of 9/11 that every American faced had an equal first impression on America as Pakistan had on me. Many Americans, including Muslims themselves, began to view Islam as a cruel religion, and all terrorists- as Muslims. With that in mind, I believe that first impressions lead people to connote specific words to their experiences. The attacks on 9/11 were devastating, and the U.S. government claimed to have proof that the attacks were taken by Islamic terrorists. This first impression influenced some people that Islam is a religion that promotes violence.

A stereotype is a common generalization of a person, thing, etc. In today's society, Muslims are the pinpoint of stereotypical beliefs- often resulting from misnomers. The misnomer of calling a Muslim a "Muhammadan", which is offensive to a Muslim; the misnomer of calling a Muslim an "Islamist", which is generally the shortened term for Muslim terrorist- all lead people to wrong perceptions of the religion. These perceptions are caused by Islam always being in association with terroristic acts like suicide bombing, etc.

Though many terms have been corrupted by connotations, there is one in particular that connotes to suicide bombers- and that word is Muslim. The meaning of Muslim is “one who submits to God”. In truth, that literally means a believer of Islam. However, when many are asked about the first thing that comes to their mind when they are given the word 'Muslim', they reply with answers such as 9/11, London bombings, Madrid train bombings, Al Qaeda, terrorism, suicide bombers, anti-tolerance, Sharia law, oppressed women- coincidentally most of the topics that the media covers about the religion of Islam. This is because the mainstream media only covers what makes news interesting, because it seems nobody wants to hear about the Muslim father who went to the mosque and prayed for his daughter who was told to remove her hijab (scarf) because of a "national security policy.” Nobody is interested in listening about this girl and her father who at the DMV were yelled at to “go back to Afghanistan”. This innocent 16-year-old driver, who was of Arab-American heritage, was so traumatized that she broke down in tears. 

When was the last time the news covered a story about a Muslim being hurt? The media makes it seem like these things don’t happen, but Muslims everyday are hurt because of the connotations that have left their religion in shame.

To eliminate stereotypical connotations, one must understand the denotation of the term Islam. Now, if ONE Muslim is a terrorist, this shouldn't imply that Islam is a violent religion. The fact that the media too frequently labels terrorists as Muslims is what caused a bad perception of the whole. It's like saying Microsoft is a bad company just because a couple computers that were sold turned out to be defective. There is no logical argument in that statement. According to the Qu'ran, Islam literally means submission, referring to submitting to Allah (God). Allah is the Arabic translation of God. Lack of promoting denotations of Arabic terms like Allah and Islam are the reason so many people create misnomers regarding the religion.

When limited to only certain amount of perceptions that the media portrays, one is quick to connote terms like Muslim and Jihad to recent events. Unfortunately, the media often forgets, or in conspiracy - intentionally leaves out the other side of the story, especially evident with the case of Islam. This leads to a blemished observation of what the religion really is, and what political movements have led it to become.

-That's the TFAT.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Halal/Kosher Meat Ban: Dutch Parliament Votes to Ban Religious Slaughter of Animals: What's the Reason?


A recent bill has been passed by the Dutch Parliament that bans the religious slaughtering of animals, including the process of kosher and halal meat.

The Dutch parliament’s initial approval of this bill has caused a united movement by Muslims and Jews, who take up a minority of the population, to condemn what they believe is an attack on their religious freedoms.

Those who support the ban are insistent that the ban's sole purpose is to minimize "unnecessary pain and suffering by animals."

However, the process of slaughtering animals to make them kosher or halal is far less painful than the way factory farms do it.

The problem with every article you read regarding this issue is that the author doesn't articulate the difference between halal/kosher slaughter and factory slaughter. To make meat kosher or halal – according to Jewish and Muslim customs – an animal must be killed by swiftly cutting its neck arteries and veins using a razor-sharp knife. If the bill is enacted, it would ban this procedure and enforce the idea that animals must be stunned before slaughtered.

It is impossible for humans to state a truthful statement about which process hurts the animal more, unless we compare it to our own bodies. The rate of how long it takes you to die is equivalent to how much pain you are in before death.

I understand it's a gruesome comparison, but it's the only way to support the fact. The quicker your death, the less pain you feel. Imagine getting shot and remaining conscious until someone finally killed you. How much pain would you feel? This is similar to the process of stunning, which the Dutch parliament seems to find less painful than a quick slice to the veins in the neck (causing immediate death).

Stunning of animals is cruel and causes unjustifiable suffering to the animals which is strongly prohibited in both  Islam and Judaism.

The problem I have with this bill that bans halal/kosher meat is that there is no reason for it. It doesn't minimize the pain the animal has to suffer, because the non-religious way of doing it is actually more painful clearly - so that isn't a reason.

All it does is unwelcome Muslims and Jews in Europe. Practicing Muslims and Jews won't be able to eat meat once the bill is enacted. In order to eat meat, they would have to leave Netherlands.

Obviously, this is a discriminating law.

It is a disturbing attack on religious freedom.

The legislation was proposed by a small party of animal rights activists and anti-Muslim politicians who carry views of Islam and Judaism that are prejudice and unrealistic. The bill won support from several other parties, and was passed - however, it still must be passed by the upper house of Parliament.

Netherlands is a country where traditional religion, especially Islam, has been accused of being opposed with liberal Dutch values.

I find it extremely hard to believe that this bill is to minimize suffering by animals. The bill is to minimize the number of Muslims and Jews in that country. The bill is another attack on religious freedom in Europe.


From the banning of the burqa, to the banning of the headscarf, to the firing of an Abercombie and Fitch employee in France for wearing a headscarf, to the banning of Islamic slaughter - these are all evidently attempts to kick out Islam and other minority religions out of Europe. The religious slaughter of livestock has so far been banned in Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

What disturbs me is a comment made by the lawmaker, Marianne Thieme, leader of the Party of the Animals. She said, "In our country, animal welfare is such a big issue that we think freedom of religion ends where human or animal suffering begins. If freedom of religion causes harm to anybody, human, or animal, then freedom of religion must be restricted.”


There are many flaws in that statement, first being that ANY and ALL freedoms cause harm! Freedom of speech causes harm, freedom of religion can cause harm, freedom of information can cause harm. What Thieme says is that once someone is at harm because of your religion, you cannot practice that religion anymore. This absurdity is what has caused Islamophobia, the fear of Islam. Just because one person has a corrupted view of their own religion, doesn't mean the majority carry the same view. Laws that restrict freedom are unlawful. Restriction of freedom is what caused the Holocaust.

The point is - animals are being harmed either way, whether they are stunned or simply slaughtered.

Bruce Mayall, head of the Mission Viejo chapter of the anti-Muslim organization ACT! for America sent out an email to his friends claiming he had a video depicting how "brutal and horrifying" halal slaughtering is as opposed to factory farming, which Mayall claimed was "humane and instantaneous". "I want these videos to get into the hands of animal rights people who, I hope, will make every effort to expose and get halal slaughter banned," Mayall wrote.

Mayall obviously has never seen the movie Food, Inc, which depicts the truth of factory farms. I remember one scene in the movie which showed how pigs are slaughtered - a steel plate weighing probably more than a ton slammed down into a tiny hole of thousands of pigs, some on top of eachother, repeatedly being smashed until the last oink. Oh yeah, definitely humane and instantaneous.

It all comes down to this fact:

This bill isn't about animal welfare at all, it's just another attempt to restrict freedom of religion.

And I will do my best to end this religious intolerance. I'll keep you posted.

-That's the TFAT.