Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Daddy

Daddy and I.
Back in 2008, my father had a hernia repair surgery for the third time. When the doctors performed an Abdominal CT scan they also figured out he had a kidney stone in his left kidney. He went to a urologist who informed him not to worry until it bothers him.

In September of 2008, during the month of Ramadan, he started to experience severe pain. When they performed a second CT scan to relocate the stone, they discovered that he had a tumor on his kidney as well. Since he was already an asthma and heart patient, the surgeon decided to remove the stone with a catheter. Even though the surgery was successful, we were all worried about the tumor.

My Dad continued to seek advice from doctors, friends, and family members. Finally, on December 29th, 2008, he had a Partial Nephrectomy at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. My family was worried and we nervously waited for the biopsy results. Several days later, the doctor informed my dad that the tumor was indeed cancerous. The doctors told us that he needed to stay home in bed rest for at least three months before heading back to work.

As soon as he went back to work, he was laid off. The only reason we bought our new house was because he had this job (Multi-Unit Operational Manager for Dunkin' Donuts). We were disappointed but hoped for better luck, and two weeks later my Dad found another job as the same position but for a different franchise. We began to think our bad luck was over, but six and a half months later, on October 9th, 2009, he was laid off once again.

Just a couple of days later, my sister was coming home from college on the train with her friend. My Dad was on his way to pick her up from the station where he had a severe car accident. His car's brakes had failed, resulting in a collision with two cars and a tree that stopped the SUV. My mom suffered chest contusion and my dad injured his shoulder. His Honda Pilot was totaled.

After that day, he had to drive my mom's Toyota Camry. He would drop my mom off to work as a babysitter at 7am and then look for jobs all day. He had been in the restaurant management industry for 25 years. He would have so many interviews, but after two or three interviews with the same company, they would never contact him back. We couldn't understand.

We were living on my Dad's unemployment compensation, but his time period eventually came to an end. We were then stuck trying to afford our bills and mortgage. My two sisters who were attending college were having trouble getting loans and would cry and stress almost every day.

I remember being afraid that if we stayed on this path, we would lose our home.

He had steeped down to a level he never wanted to be in, borrowing money from friends and family to manage our financial problems. He bought a new car, another Camry from a local seller, and two weeks later the car skid in the rain and crashed into oncoming traffic. The car was totaled.

The cost for his health insurance was higher than ever and he owed a lump sum of money to friends and family - money which was being used to pay mortgage expenses, health/car/home insurance, my sister's college fees (as loans were being denied), and water/electric bills.

On top of that, his sister came from Pakistan on a visa that was applied for 12 years ago. She was supposed to stay at our house until she could live on her own in America, but sadly we had to send her back because we simply could not afford it.

My Dad coming home from his first day at his new job at Burger King.
He finally landed a job as a General Manager at Burger King in September of 2011. But this year, his back pain started to grow more severe, and doctors had found that his nerves were being damaged and choked in the lumbar area of his spinal cord.

A couple months ago he had a laminectomy, a surgical procedure that removed a portion of his vertebral bone called the lamina.
FaceTime with my Dad (in the hospital) a day after his laminectomy.
The surgery was successful, but less than a week later, his nerves were beginning to fail and appear as absent. His right leg began to grow weak. He was forced to file for short term disability, and his work hours were reduced to only four hours a day.

This month, however, his doctor had declared him to be disabled and advised him to file for long-term disability. He was forced to retire from his job.

All my Dad wants is to create a stable ground for his generations to come. He wants to help fulfill our dreams of becoming what we want to in life. He tells us, "Dream big, I will never tell you that you can not do it".

I never thought moving to another city would have caused this much change in the way I live. But quite honestly, I would not like to have it any other way.

I have learned more about my father than I knew about him when I lived in Philly. My Dad is a hard-working and competent man. He has never given up and to this day, he leads us by example - by being fortunate and humbled towards the struggles we have overcome together, and by being hopeful and brave towards the obstacles that continue to arise.

His endurance is second to none and our family finds ourselves more grateful today than ever before for what we have. My gratitude for him and my mother cannot be expressed adequately in words.

He is someone I hope my children will be able to look up to as I have.


Monday, October 29, 2012

President Obama vs. Mitt Romney: Final Debate, Foreign Policy, and Other Fun Stuff

October 22nd marked the final debate between incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney. The topic of this final debate was foreign policy. Questions ranged from broad interpretations as to what both candidates believe the role of America should be in the world to specifics such as the instance in Libya regarding the death of four Americans. The debate was moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News.

These three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate have impacted nationwide polls and predictions regarding this election. In addition, these debates offer ‘first-time’ opportunities for both candidates to sit/stand side by side and discuss topics that concern the state of America. It has been widely accepted that the intention of these debates is to target so-called “undecided voters”; therefore, these debates serve as chances for both President Obama and Governor Romney to explain their plans of government if elected.

The entire debate was filled with topics I could address and it is incredibly hard to choose, but I’ll try my best. First of all, let me just state that even though I’ve only been aware and knowledgeable of three elections (this one included) in my lifetime - I still believe this has been the most peculiar and anomalous. This is not because of the candidate’s stances, but because of the American reaction to them.

There were several issues that irritated me this past debate.

Let me begin with Governor Romney remark that President Obama began his presidency "with an apology tour." A review of Obama’s foreign travels and remarks during his early presidency shows no evidence to support such a disparaging claim. Obama made two formal apologies as President, but they were not at the start of his presidency and not part of a "tour". While Obama's speeches contain criticisms of past U.S. actions, he typically combines those passages with praise for the United States and its ideals, and he frequently mentions how other countries have erred as well. Calling those remarks "an apology tour" is a ridiculous charge.  Nonetheless, what makes an apology bad? My parents always taught me to apologize if I made a mistake. The notion that "Americans shouldn't apologize for their values" is misleading. Has anyone ever entertained the idea that perhaps "other countries dislike us" because we're always stuck up on the idea that "we're the greatest country on Earth"? Since when does being a patriot mean we can no longer be realistic in our judgments of our country?

The reason the notion of “America apologizing” bothers me is because I don’t know what is wrong with it. America, as a country, CAN apologize, and has apologized (though we may not have used the word itself). Candidate Mitt Romney has stated he will “never apologize for America” – and I don’t know why he never would. America is not a bratty child that, when she does something wrong and knows it, she doesn’t apologize. America is a democratic nation. America is a nation that has survived the test of time, but also made mistakes along the way that have had global effects. America is the child that is not afraid to look back at her own mistakes and criticize and learn from them. That is how our democracy has survived – through the courage of admitting our failures and moving on past them. Any argument against that is regressive.

That isn’t the only thing that irritated me about some of the responses during this debate. Governor Romney’s response to his foreign policy strategy was the following:
“Well, my strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture.”
Yet earlier in the debate, in his opening statement, he stated:
But we can't kill our way out of this mess. We're going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is — it's certainly not on the run.” 
Call it changing your viewpoints or “flip-flopping” – but the fact is those are two completely different strategies. And no, Governor Romney, none of them are “straightforward”.

Secondly, regarding that same quote, what irritates me is the diction of “the world of Islam”. The last thing the “world of Islam” needs is American help. I hate to say this because I feel I may sound redundant - but to me there is no “world of Islam”. Let’s assume Governor Romney is implying the Middle East. If the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khameini, says in a televised speech that the reason Iranians view America unfavorably is because of its intervention in their politics, then what message does it send when on American television a presidential candidate is stating that is exactly what his foreign policy initiative is?

In addition, it seems that when many Americans view foreign policy, they perceive the “Muslim world” as their primary focus. Mitt Romney said that his principle for foreign policy if elected President would be to "help the world of Islam reject radical violent extremism". Am I the only one that finds that incredibly sad? Is it only because I’m a Muslim that makes me inclined to feel that notion is erroneous?

Sure, there are things that should be criticized about President Obama’s foreign policy as well – I’m not singling out Governor Romney. On his campaign trail in 2008, President Obama promised an end to torture, extraordinary rendition and secret prisons. But since taking office he has in fact doubled-down on some of the more insidious policies he inherited from the George W. Bush administration. President Obama has surrounded himself with war hawks, relied on targeted killing, and acted unilaterally to defend US interests. The common misconception is that Obama is completely drawing down the two major ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet he has shifted combat to special operations units, prolonging US engagement. It is important to realize that, though in rhetoric (and, to the President's credit - in some forms of actions) the President has taken measures to decrease American presence in these countries; however, the war itself is still alive and has actually just entered another dynamic.

The fact of the matter is: President Obama’s foreign policy to me has at least followed pluralism and diplomacy, whereas Governor Romney’s strategy outlined in his debate came off as overtly interventionist. Even the fact that President Obama can pronounce "Pakistan" correctly just shows how even paying attention to a small facet of speech matters in the scheme of diplomatic discussion.

Back to the quoted comment earlier - to be completely honest - it's this exact politicization of Islam that creates and enforces an antagonism and distorted view of a purported "Muslim world". What frustrates me is when Pakistan, Iran, Palestine - all these Eastern countries - are fundamentally viewed as "threats". The solution isn't isolationism - but the problem IS the picture being painted of the United States of America as a world police. America as a country does have a responsibility to the world but it’s just as equal as any other nation's. To even discuss foreign policy with diction of "threat" or "adversary" contributes to the conflict we claim to be fighting against.

Oh, and contrary to popular belief, to most Middle Eastern countries dominated by a population of Muslims, America was viewed as a benevolent nation of opportunity and equality. It hasn't been until recent images, misnomers, and blemished interpretations regarding the faith of Islam and the beliefs of its followers that have led to the rise of both anti-American and anti-Islamic sentiment.

The fact is Islam is a religion, and those who have chosen to use it as a catalyst for political change in the modern world have both misinterpreted its religious purpose and misrepresented it to the public eye.

Look, there are 7 days left. I know I'm not a political analyst and my perceptions regarding government are limited to studies over my academic career and personal experiences over my 17 years of existence. In addition to the reasons my opinion may be unqualified or invalid is that I'm not even old enough to vote. But my intention by sharing my viewpoint regarding this election isn't an attempt to change or confirm other's political beliefs. My intention is to explain what I believe is right or wrong while challenging that exact ageist stereotype.

These past four debates should have served not as lectures of each candidate's policies, but as confirmations to which candidate voters are hoping to elect for the next four years. Gov. Mitt Romney said in this debate, "Look at my website", and in context, he was correct. It is up to a voter's initiative on whether he/she wants to be informed.

President Obama's presidency has not been perfect. His leadership has been validly criticized. His administration's policies haven't always worked. But between these two candidates, the choice for Americans should be clear. Americans should know which candidate they wish to elect as their representative and foreign diplomat. No voter should be undecided - and if someone is, then they probably should not be voting this election. And the voters that are decided - must. That is all I have to say.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Tale of a Lost Dream

As a preface to this tale I wrote, I just want to say a few things.

To me, to simply say 'writing is amazing' would be cutting its importance short. Not only can you express yourself to others through a permanency of words, but you can reveal something about your own self. What I think frightens people about writing is the false notion that they can't "do" it. Yet, writing isn't something that is supposed to be "done". It is a process, a celebration of words. Whether they are written by the most profound or strung together by the least. Each word written has meaning, though the writer or reader has yet to find or feel it.

I wrote the following poetic tale with no direction in my mind. Despite this, I have found that it reveals something about me, and by sharing it with all of you, I hope that it inspires you. It isn't my best written piece, but through writing this, I've come to respect the art even more. Reading your own writing, be it true or fiction, can serve a key to a door of valuable introspection. And that's why I encourage every single person reading this - whatever age or walk of life - to write.

A Tale of a Lost Dream
On his fourth Christmas, his mother bought him a wooden train set.
He would sit all day in his room, clicking, playing; he would forget
Everything because nothing mattered except the destination of his train.
Watching the repetitive cycle with such unique amusement, again and again.
His eyes were glued to the wheels on the tracks
And after his mom would call him downstairs, he would come right back.
One would expect him to get tired of playing, but it wasn’t until he was ten
That he decided he was too old and it was time to shelve Thomas & Friends.

As he grew older, he began to recognize what really mattered,
Myself before others, money before chatter.
He got his first job at fourteen riding his bike around
Delivering newspapers to everyone in his town.
He would ride as if he was conducting a train to the point that
His mother and father bought him a conductor’s hat.

One day, he came home sad after a hard day’s work
And his mother asked him what was wrong.
He said he wanted to be a conductor
Not a newspaper boy throwing bags at houses all day long.

His hands were thick red, blistered and he complained that they itched
And his mom promised him it was because one day he would be rich.

Years passed and the boy became a man.
Grew up to let a two-digit number dictate his determination,
Debilitate, deviate him from divine direction,
And destroy his dreams and desires.
Dead like his mother and father and
Lost like the news he would deliver to his neighbors as a kid.
Went to a university, became a mechanical engineer to afford life
And its innumerable expenses – not a dagger or a knife.
Money fell from trees, while Thomas is still shelved with his friends.
Be life long or short, its completeness depends
On what it was lived for.

Today you can find the old man at Grand Central Station
Built while he wanted to conduct the creation.

Invisible smile on his face, utters his life was “enriching”.
Under the fake conductor hat he holds, is a palm still itching.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Why Telling Others "Be Yourself" Never Works

Not a lot of people really know where I've come from.

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. I had an amazing time as a kid. For most of my years living in Philly, I lived right across the street from my best friends and cousins. We would always want to be over each other's houses. Always wanted to ride bikes with each other even when our parents wouldn't let us.

In the back, Amara is wearing a blue shirt, next to her is Arslan. In the front row from left to right is me, Faisal , Amina, and Aisha. All the way on the left holding some kind of toy is Ahsan. 
We as cousins were "evenly distributed", six of us including me and excluding Ahsan and Khadijah who were born when we were a bit older. And we were teamed up in pairs: my sister Amara was always with Arslan (they were the oldest), my sister Amina was always with Aisha (they were the middle kids), and I was always with Faisal (we were the youngest). Amara and Arslan were sort of the leaders, they would be revered as the wise ones. Amina and Aisha were the quiet, sneaky, tattle-tales. They would always be the first ones to tell the parents if we did something we shouldn't have done. And Faisal and I were the quietest. We kind of just did our own thing.

We would each be teamed up and would have bike races, and Arslan and Amara would dare us to do the craziest things that seem so childish now. I remember once they dared me and Faisal to ride our bikes all the way out of our neighborhood to the main street, alone. A place that our parents forbade us to go. And we went - we were terrified of all the noise and the honking of the cars and we thought we were going to get run over. Of course, we got caught, and we ALL got in trouble.

Those were great days. The days nobody was worrying about who they were, what they stood for. "Fitting in" at that time meant following through on childish dares like throwing a rock into the neighborhood pool.

Stephen Decatur School - my elementary school in Philly.
I went to a public school called Stephen Decatur Elementary. All my cousins went as well, but none of us had classes together because we were all different ages. Our parents would walk us to school, we didn't take the bus. The school was about a mile away. We would get dismissed on the roof of the building, our moms would pick us up and walk us home.

Elementary school was tough. I was in first grade on September 11th, 2001. It wasn't until about a week later that I began to realize things were a bit different. Normally, only my mom or my aunt would walk us to school, but our Dad's began to drive us and pick us up from school in cars. It wasn't only us because we were Muslims, but every kid's parents began to take extra measures to make sure their kids reached school safely. Immediately after the tragic attacks, news agencies began to reveal who was responsible. Who the terrorists were. What they stood for. Why they did what they did.

And I probably still didn't realize it just then, but I did soon enough. In first grade, it wasn't that bad - people just stopped talking to me. I moved from my normal lunch table and sat with another Muslim kid who then became my best friend, and only real friend, Tarek. Other kids would stare, and we would stare at other kids. Wondering what happened.

As I grew up and moved on to middle school at a charter school in Philly, things became much clearer. I was a pretty quiet shy guy, which shocks people who know me today - but its true. Even though I was quiet and made honor roll, I always unexpectedly found myself in trouble. People began to say stuff and call me a "terrorist". I even began to joke myself, saying stuff like "Yeah, Osama is my uncle."

And the jokes at the time were actually funny. It was fun to feel accepted. And once I was accepted, it was great. Everything was fine. I didn't really need to joke anymore. I developed who I thought I was, became friends with people who I'm still friends with today. Those days of trying to fit in were gone, because I had become someone who people liked. The jokes were in the past.

Then, it was time to leave Philly and move to the suburbs. It was in the middle of 7th grade that I started back at a public school at South Brandywine Middle School. I fit in well at South actually. The first year was tough only because of the transition from charter to public, but the second year (and my last year until high school) was amazing.

It was the start of high school, back at a charter school, that I really began to figure out who I was and how to be myself. At this point, living in the suburbs was becoming normal. I missed my cousins like crazy, but I began to become more independent, and okay with it.

Until it came back. I thought it was all over, I thought it was all past me, but they came back. The Osama jokes, the terrorist jokes, the camel jokes. It was tough to accept that after all these years, the jokes would come back in high school.

But this time, I was done laughing.

I knew I was living two different lives. I was a completely different person at home and around my cousins than I was at school. I wasn't being myself.

It took a lot of guts to stand in front of the classroom that day, a new kid, only about two or three months at a completely new school with complete strangers and proclaim, "Islam is a victim of bullying".

And not only was I speaking to those who had bullied me throughout my past, but I was speaking to myself. It was really me who had bullied myself and my religion. I always had the opportunity to stop. To not continue the jokes. To not try to fit in. To just have the guts to be myself.

It took me almost nine years to feel the pain. The pain of wasting nine years and not having the courage to be myself. How did I go from the kid who was able to enjoy being himself, playing with his cousins, having the best time as a kid - to becoming someone who I wasn't supposed to be, some loser who said and did stuff just to fit in?

I needed to change. I needed to become myself. And I stood behind the podium in front of the entire student body at the end of my first year of high school, running for the position of Student Body President, and I asked: "Who is Aadil Malik?"

I answered. I am Aadil Malik. And I won the elections.

It wasn't as simple as "being bullied" that kept me back. To be completely honest, I wasn't bullied, my religion was. I bullied my religion and therefore, myself.

Today, I stand firm as someone I would have never imagined I could become. There were those people who told me continuously to not be afraid to be myself. Even my Dad would tell me to be myself, but I never listened.

Because it never would have worked that way.

It is easy to tell somebody to do something. "Be humble. Be confident. Believe in yourself. Be yourself."

Don't get me wrong, positive messages like these are necessary. But we each have emerged too far and gone through too much with our own selves to take this advice from anyone else BUT ourselves.

You can have the deepest conversation with the most important person in your life and have them give you the advice of being yourself - but at the end of the day, its up to you to decide whether you are willing to convert that inspiration into action.

Throughout my 17 years of existence, I have met many people, been through so many unique experiences of my own, and gone through so many personality changes to stand where I am and not be afraid to be myself. I wish I could have learned earlier. I wish I had the courage to stand up for myself and forge my path starting from the first time someone called me a "terrorist" or told me who to be or what to do.

But it was never too late. And I'm not wasting my time regretting that many years have passed. Instead, I remind myself how fortunate I am to be able to look towards the future and know I have the guts to be myself.

People will always tell each other what to BE, even if they are reminding each other that its okay to be themselves.

But truly, it will never work that way. You have to tell yourself.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

Truth can be either objective or subjective. Objective truth, or that which is true no matter what anyone says, always triumphs subjective truth, which is derived through opinion and perception.

People have always criticized the first word in the title of my blog as "claiming too much", and I would agree. But I am not claiming that everything I say is true, I'm simply claiming that everything I say is my true opinion - meaning, I won't say anything I don't truly believe.

People have also always criticized the last word in the title of my blog. And I've struggled to define why I decided to follow that path as well.

The day my teacher, Mr. Schneider, gave his students the assignment to create a blog changed my life, but I didn't know it just then. It took me a long time to realize why I chose this path, why I created "Truth from a Teen".

I started TFAT when I was 14 years old, with a mission to have my voice heard. But back when I was 14, my voice was different - and not only literally. The meaning of my voice being expressed was completely different. I was willing to express the voice of one demographic oppressed by stereotypes - the teenage voice.

But as I evolved, as I matured, I began to recognize and implement a different voice. A voice that was oppressed by innumerable stereotypes. The American voice. The Muslim voice. The Muslim American voice. The middle class voice.

But it was still, and always was, and always will be - my voice.

I started Truth from a Teen thinking I was representing the teenage voice, but as I've grown and matured I've realized that is not my purpose. I AIM to represent the teenage voice, the Muslim voice, etc. - but I cannot claim that I DO. I cannot claim that everything I say is reflective of a demographic's views toward a topic. I can only speak my own opinion based on fact and fiction with the hope that it resonates with other's.

By creating this website, I found a new avenue for my opinions through the internet - through TFAT, through Facebook. It isn't only my life I'm sharing, I'm sharing something we all have but are afraid to express - perspective. I truly believe we are all equal and are all capable of things of equal caliber, and my goal is to inspire those who aren't capitalizing on their perspective.

We are all amazing people. Each one of us, whether we have the ability to see and hear or are blind or deaf, are all social animals who drive on our perception and the doubt of other's.

I do what I do not only because I love to do it, but because I am able to connect with people of all different backgrounds, able to express my opinions, able to hear other's, able to perceive, and express my perception.

This is what I want to do and I'll keep on doing it even after TFAT ends.

And that's the truth.

Speech: "3 Is Not Just A Number"; Aadil Malik - Student Council President

Well, its certainly been a long time since I last posted on Truth from a Teen, and the reason is not that I took an intentional break, but that I needed a break that I didn't think I would take (wow, that's a tongue twister). It has truly been a weird couple of months. It may have seemed like I've lost sight of my blog, forgot about things - but honestly, as weird or as unpredictable as these months were, I wouldn't change a thing. I turned 17 last week. Whenever I think about my website, just the title of it, I think - is this what I want to do? Truth from a Teen? Because if the title remains true, I only have two years left. Two more years of writing on this website. But this drought of posts on my website, this neglect, its all taught me something. Its taught me to take a step back and appreciate what I have. Be grateful. To make sure everybody I love in my life knows it. Over two months, I've reshaped my attitude on what my future holds. I've met incredible people, been granted amazing opportunities, and now with deepest conviction I can say that wherever I'm headed, whichever road I take - I'm ready. Because I know that I have the overwhelming support of people who deserve my eternal gratitude. And last and most, I know I have my faith.

This past August, at the end of my school year as a Junior, I ran once again to be re-elected as President of my school's student body for the third time, the last time.

Here is the speech I gave that allowed me to win one last time. Unfortunately, I had about 4 or 5 people recording the speech, and every single person has some sort of technical mishap. Therefore, I don't have a video. But I do have the words. It was a long speech, but here it is for those who want to re-read it.

"3 Is Not Just A Number"
Raise your hand if you know who I am.
Raise your hand if you know I'm going to win these elections.
Raise your hand if you know I'm not going to win.

You want to know what's funny?

Most of you raised your hand to at least one of those three questions – questions even I do not have the answer to. Questions I have asked myself every single year and every year, I have struggled to answer. I've finally figured out why. The answer does not lie in my hands. It never has and never will. The answer lies in your hands.

I've had a lot of time to think about this moment. I've been thinking about it since 9th grade - imagining myself standing here in this very position. For the past 1,031 days, I've walked the halls of 535, making sure every step mattered. Making sure every step was a step forward. There's something about these halls that make me feel like this is where I belong. In tenth grade, I used to sit at the fish pond during lunch, now known as the Cougar Den, just so I could hear the sound of students opening and closing their lockers, taking those steps of purpose, climbing up the stairs, I would hear the entire school roar, the entire building sharing one thing, one beautiful thing – cougar pride. The school would come alive. People would ask me why I sat at the fish pond for lunch, many times alone, on days 1/3/5 on the six day schedule-- and I would tell them because I just needed some time to myself. Because I needed some quiet.

But honestly, all I needed was noise. The noise that encompassed Collegium Charter School. The noise that epitomized the opportunities this school has to offer, the possibilities, and the pride that I hoped to ensure lives on.

For 2 years, TWO YEARS, I have been fortunate enough to serve you. You are the reason I have kept on doing this. The hands I have shaken. The opponents I have faced. The students and teachers and staff who I’ve spoken to. The mistakes I have made. The victories we have accomplished. It has been a long journey.

And for that – the simple two words do not accurately express the magnitude of my gratitude, but I will say them because better words escape me.

Thank you.
I need your help with this. When I put my hand in the air I need you to say “Say What”. Alright?

(Say What!) Louder than that. (SAY WHAT!) Louder than that. (SAY WHAT!!)

3 is not just a number But Aadil Malik is just a name (Say What!)

3 is not just a number But Aadil Malik is just a name (Say What!)

A name I exclaimed and aimed to bring acclaim to
A name that became a fame I framed the same cliché saying to.
Who is Aadil Malik? (RH – say what)

And now the answer to that question that perplexed me for two years is vivid clear
And it is not as simple as I am or as complex that it might require a lifetime of searching
The answer is clear in my presence in the present as I present the presumption that I procrastinated from realizing in the past
I said it every time I went on the morning announcements; it is my signature, slogan, soul

Who is Aadil Malik?

Your Student Body President.

But Aadil Malik is just a name, 3 is not just a number (Say What!)

You see, as I silently stepped onto this stage this sense of urgency escaped me and transformed into something so significantly special
As I see you all staring at my shy, scared, skinny presence with support, my nervousness submerged into serenity and I somehow suddenly recognize why this is what I am supposed to do.

Serve you.

I’ve received compliments and criticism. Maintained confidence and rejected skepticism Believed in this school and the students and teachers in our possibility to grow And to sum it up all I can say is – YOLO.

But I’m not invulnerable. I’m not invincible. I’m not superior. I’m not larger than anyone nor do I believe that.

In this colossal world filled with miniature hearts Egos demanding nutrition, minds deficient Desolate souls, eyes imploring recognition Stagnant stenches, tongues soaking in pride Sin and cyanide, who am I?

Just like you, I’m human.

I’m not the best, better than the rest Trying to impress, more or less But let’s let the truth be known

I am not alone. No.

Just because I do does not mean my ego needs to be fed Just because I receive does not mean I demand respect Just because I write does not mean I have to be read

Or be listened to. Or be heard.

I am not perfect. I am not alone.

To be honest, what I am, is in love. I've never truly been able to say it before, but I'm saying it - and I'm not scared to say the word. LOVE. I am in love with THIS. Every aspect of it, every breath taken, every word uttered, every complaint heard, every criticism given, every feeling felt, every emotion shown, every pound of our hearts, every beautiful moment, every lie, every truth, every sin, every sight, every intricate movement, every dance, every status posted on Collegium Charter School Student Government’s Facebook page, every pep rally, every Homecoming game, every morning announcement, every interaction, every decision, every mistake, every relationship, every shape, every number, every letter, every photo captured, every championship won, every teardrop, every laugh, every smile, every thought, every beginning, every end, everything. Everything.

This is beautiful. Representing Collegium has been the best two years of my life. And I’m perpetually grateful that you allow me to experience it.

So what is it about 3? Is it a triangle, a hat-trick, or as Mr. Sterious likes to say: a ripoff of Pat Riley Is it a mere number, is it a representation of my legacy? Does 3 just represent my plea for a third term?

Honestly, it could be any of those things – but it isn’t.

3 is a date. February 3rd, 2012.

The day I received three text messages while in school – one from my Dad, and two from my cousin each carrying the same message:

I stood in front of my locker staring at my phone and read my Dad’s text. “Muzammil has passed away. He was only 19, Aadil.”

I walked towards my cafeteria and Mr. Williams saw me, and I guess he saw that my face was filled with shock and worry so he asked me if I was okay.

That's when the emotions finally hit me, that is when the empathy filled my heart. I began to cry.
After I had calmed down, he let me go into the cafeteria and I sat down at my table and started to eat my lunch, but as soon as I put one piece of food in my mouth, my stomach felt a deep disgust. Thoughts were racing in my brain of the time back when we were kids when my cousins and I would make fun of him and not talk to him because we thought he was weird.

I was in such shock that I couldn't even talk to anybody for the rest of that school day because these pessimistic introverted thoughts rushed in my brain of how hypocritical I was and how my morals contradicted my actions and the way I treated people and treat myself. I felt condescending, egotistical.

I felt egotistical because I remembered when my Dad had told me about him two weeks before his death and after only 10 minutes I had totally forgotten what he had even said. I felt egotistical because I went on with my day and didn't even have the decency to ask my Dad how he was - or even call him or his father myself.

And I felt hypocritical because I didn’t even begin to care until he died.

Everyone who figured out began to tell me "Sorry for the loss of your friend", but in reality, I didn't LOSE a FRIEND. I honestly wish a FRIEND was what I lost, but instead, I lost the opportunity of becoming one. I lost the opportunity of becoming a better person. I lost the opportunity of treating him with the respect he deserved.

The reason I bring up the story of Muzammil is because it was probably one of the most unexpectedly impactful moments in my life so far. The doctor initially thought he had pneumonia. However, after doing multiple tests and scans, they had discovered a significantly large-sized tumor on his heart. He was only 19, three years older than me.

I couldn’t begin to imagine how he took the news, the emotions he felt when he was told, the rush of thoughts he had about his dreams and goals in life coming to a sudden end.

We too often take life and the opportunities bestowed upon us for granted. Muzammil had everything going for him, and his opportunities flashed before his eyes.

Not for one second do I want any of you guys to believe that I am not taking this seriously or that I am doing this only for myself. And not for one second do I want you to believe that I am ungrateful, because without all of you, I wouldn’t be here today. We wouldn’t be here today.

I barely knew him, but Muzammil’s legacy has allowed me to reconsider my appreciation.

3 represents a lot of things. From that day on, I learned to never let my appreciation for something go unheard, to never let the magnitude of my gratitude be disguised by false pride, and to always be grateful for what I have because it could all go away in an instant. 3 represents Muzammil’s legacy, and now it represents ours.

I’ve learned over the years I’ve served you as President that there is no strategy, no campaign. There is simply me and you and the school we harbor. A center of education. A center of Cougar Pride. I believe the seniors can attest to this feeling of not wanting to let go of this school. Wanting to stay one more day just to remain a high school student.

Cougar Pride is not something small. We spend most of our days, most of our lives here at school. Cougar Pride is not merely a saying – it truly is something big. It is what won us championships. It is what will make this school continue to grow. It is something that, as we leave this school, we are proud to say we spent our time here.

Our Cougar Pride is what I hope to ensure lives on. Our Cougar Pride is not defined by the color of shirts we wear but by determination of the person wearing it.

My goal here isn’t to be able to write Student Council President on my resume I’m not here to play games, I’m not here to claim fame, I’m not here to entertain I’m here to expand my brain, obtain knowledge, and retain it. Represent you to best of my ability, sustain Cougar Pride, and maintain it.

It doesn’t matter if I win or lose because the fact will remain the same - I love this school.

And as I move on through my journey here, become a senior, and embark on my final year, I promise that nothing will ever change that.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

TFAT v. 7.5 Rejuvenation Released

What do you think? Summer is coming soon - that means more blog posts!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where Have I Been?

In the past few weeks, I have had the time to reconsider my goals, my priorities, and my future.

Through deep introspection and retrospection, I have been able to evaluate who I truly am and what I truly want to be.

Opportunities have arisen of which due to circumstances, I am unable to reveal. But these opportunities have the possibility of being life-changing. And I am grateful to those who have made them possible.

I also recently took my SAT exam, and have had the time to decide which college or university, if any, I would theoretically attend for undergraduate studies. A couple days ago I was able to see my eldest sister graduate from college. It allowed me to really think about college education, what a degree would do for me, and what degree I would pursue.

Overall, in the past few weeks, I have been missing in action. Action being the key word.

I am in the process of writing new poems. I am in the process of writing new blog posts. But I haven't done anything on TFAT in weeks.

I've always updated my blog to new versions. I guess now you will all get to see me update myself.

Aadil Malik version 2.0 - coming soon.


Friday, April 6, 2012

House Bill 2029: "American Laws for American Courts": What's Wrong?

Pennsylvania Representative RoseMarie Swanger of the 102nd District (R-Lebanon) is urging the passage of the“American Law for American Courts”, or ALAC, bill by the House Judiciary Committee. According to Swanger,
“there seems to be a growing sense of disregard for the American concept of law and the United States Constitution in general... It’s time for Pennsylvania to take a stand on how the law will be applied in our courts.” 
House Bill 2029, Swanger’s legislation, is meant to prevent judges in the Commonwealth from considering foreign law when rendering their verdicts.

However, HB 2029 isn't Swanger's bill. In fact, it is the product of a movement that began six years ago in the law office of David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a record of controversial statements about race, immigration, Islam, and Shariah Law. Even on his law office website's "About Us" section, he indulges himself as an "expert on Islamic law":
"David Yerushalmi is today considered an expert on Islamic law and its intersection with Islamic terrorism and national security. In this capacity, he has published widely on the subject including the principle critical scholarship on sharia-compliant finance published in the Utah Law Review (2008, Issue 3). Mr. Yerushalmi also designed and co-authored a ground-breaking peer-reviewed empirical investigation on sharia-adherence and the promotion of violent, jihadist literature in U.S. mosques published initially in the Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2011) and then republished in a more detailed format in Perspectives on Terrorism, the journal of the prestigious Terrorism Research Initiative. This research and scholarship on sharia was earlier the focus of a 2008 monograph published by the McCormick Foundation and the Center for Security Policy entitled, “Shariah, Law and ‘Financial Jihad’: How Should America Respond?”"

The monograph published by the McCormick Foundation features a photo of a Trojan horse, which throughout the article is used as a moniker for Islamic law and finance. In fact, the concept of the Trojan horse should be used to describe Yerushalmi's criticisms on Islamic law: as an instrument for legitimizing and propagating the ban of the entire religion of Islam. Even ACT! for America, a leading organization promoting the banning of Islam, has promoted Yerushalmi's model legislation, which can be found on the American Public Policy Association's (APPA) website. On ACT! for America's website, they label one of their recent successes as:
"Winning the passage of “American Laws for American Courts” in Tennessee and Arizona. This law prohibits state courts from applying foreign law, and by implication sharia law, in certain areas of law, such as family law."
What is troubling here isn't the promotion of American law and constitutionality - in fact, everyone should support that. What is troubling is the fact that there is a blatant target against Islam.

In an interview with Comcast Newscasters, when asked if House Bill 2029 targets Shariah law, Rep. Swanger answers:
"Well, it doesn't target Shariah law... Shariah law is an example of some of the law that has infiltrated into our court system but I'm not targeting Shariah law because... there are all sorts of foreign laws that could infiltrate so you know it is not meant to be an attack on just Shariah law - certainly not."
However, contrary to Swanger's response, Shariah law and Islam are the primary targets of this bill. It may not be Rep. Swanger's intention to simply impose restrictions on Islamic law in American courts, but it is the intention of the writer of the model, David Yerushalmi. Amara S. Chaudhry, the Civil Rights Director for the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), comments on why the bill isn't simply expressing concern with American laws in American courts:
"The history of HB 2029 demonstrates an intent to effectuate an official governmental disapproval of the Islamic faith. The strongest evidence that HB 2029 targets the Islamic faith is a June 14, 2011, co-sponsorship memorandum titled "American and Pennsylvania Laws for Pennsylvania Courts — Shariah Law." The mere title of this memorandum reveals the bill's primary purpose of targeting "Shariah law" — not all foreign laws."
In response to those being offended by House Bill 2029, Robert Spencer of "" writes:
"Being offended is default mode for Islamic supremacists, and here it is the same old story: Americans want to outlaw the elements of Sharia that interfere with Constitutionally protected freedoms, not Islam as an individual religious practice, but in response, Islamic supremacists claim that Muslim religious freedom will be infringed upon."
Robert Spencer brings up a valid point that Americans want to outlaw the elements of Sharia that interfere with constitutionally protected freedoms and not Islam as a faith- and though he may be right in that it is the general American sentiment to protect American freedoms and liberty first, he is wrong in assuming House Bill 2029 intends to do that. If HB 2029 was intended to simply outlaw elements of Sharia that interfere, then perhaps such controversy wouldn't exist. However, HB 2029, targets Sharia Law, moreover - the Islamic faith.

An interesting comment left by a reader "AynRandGirl" on Spencer's blog states:
I'm confused. Muslims keep telling me that they don't want to bring Sharia law to the US. So why are they complaining when we want to outlaw something they have no intention of bringing here?
Shariah law is obviously not a simple concept, and interpreted in hundreds of different ways. It's multifaceted views differing between sects of Islam, furthermore between scholars, furthermore between individuals and so on - exemplifies why there has been a lack of definition of what it is, what it entails, and how it is meant to be interpreted. Shariah left the Islamic religious sphere and entered the American political realm which rightfully questioned it. The problem is, Shariah isn't a "Constitution". It is not written by Founding Fathers - it is derived from the religious text, the Qur'an. Shariah isn't a law. It isn't a bill drafted by a representative. It is a facet of a religion. Countries that claim to have adopted "Sharia law" in their government have converted Sharia into a facet of politics. The comment above on Spencer's blog shares a common sentiment among many - the apparent contradiction of Muslims who oppose foreign interpretation of Shariah law, but at the same time oppose outlawing Shariah in the U.S. However, there is no contradiction. HB 2029 legislates against Shariah at both the political realm and religious sphere. Muslims do not want to bring politically-adapted Shariah into the U.S., but they also do not want to ban Shariah as an Islamic practice. Shariah as an  Islamic practice entails how a Muslim should be buried, how his/her will should be written - banning its religious existence in American courts would be banning a facet of the faith of Islam.

Yerushalmi has influenced recent public attacks on Shariah. His financed reports, lawsuits against the government, and "ALAC" model legislation have swept the country with the effect of propagating Shariah as a threat to American liberty. Yerushalmi’s views have been echoed by Republicans Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, who signed a pledge to reject Islamic law, relating it to totalitarianism.

Representative RoseMarie Swanger may genuinely be attempting to promote American constitutionality, but her intent has been plagued by Yerushalmi's initial intent of targeting Shariah. If indeed the American Laws for American Courts legislation actually, as the APPA states, "seeks to ensure that American Muslim families have the same constitutional protections and liberties as other Americans", the law should not simply restrict the consideration of religious beliefs, but instead ensure that Constitutional rights are adhered to first.

Yes: American constitutional rights must be preserved in order to ensure American values of liberty and freedom, and state legislatures have a crucial role to play in preserving those constitutional rights. However, House Bill 2029 implies a underlying target against religious beliefs that cannot be claimed as an attempt to preserve the Constitution.

The problem is not the intention of promoting Constitutional rights, the problem is the discriminating target of religion. Whether the religion being targeted is Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity - it is simply not the role of Pennsylvania legislature to marginalize religious beliefs and traditions. The United States welcomes all religious heritages, and Americans should have full confidence in the U.S. Constitution - written by the people, of the people, for the people - and the laws of the state of Pennsylvania.

We should not have to entertain the concern that foreign or religious law offers a threat to the law of the Land, as we are confident that our Constitutional rights come first.

And with all due consideration, injustices within the American court system do exist, be it through the consideration of foreign law or be it through any other judicial error. However, HB 2029 is not eliminating any of these injustices, but instead, harboring the creation of more.

Essentially, not allowing House Bill 2029: "American Laws for American Courts" to be passed will establish neither an accomplishment nor defeat, it will simply serve as an example that Pennsylvania has, in its wisdom, decided to respect freedoms, respect religions, and continue to trust the Constitution.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

TFAT v.7.0 Dad Released

Woah! I know, I know - it hasn't even been a month since the last update, but in recognition of TFAT's upcoming 3rd anniversary, I decided to listen to my Dad and give the whole website a makeover!

Ever since I started my blog, my Dad never liked any of the templates I chose. I went through so many trying to please him, but he always thought they were either too distracting or sometimes too ugly.

So today, I went on my website, and I put myself in my Dad's perspective. I began to notice how distracting my backgrounds could be. The major focus of my blog is what I WRITE, the text. The disadvantage of having a complex or colorful background is that it can make a reader focus more on the color or the texture than what is written or what is important.

I decided to delete my entire template and start fresh. New background, new layout, new color scheme, new fonts, new pictures, new everything.

And now you have it, TFAT v.7.0 Dad.

This one is for you, Daddy :)


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Negative Experiences, Positive Influences

Imagine sitting in the passenger seat of a car with no airbags, stopped in the middle of a busy road in Lahore, Pakistan. Imagine the feeling of impending doom foreshadowed by every honk and holler of the cars surrounding you. Imagine sitting in this car with a drunk, accused embezzler as your driver. Imagine trying to comprehend all of this at the age of 9.

It was scary to say the least. This driver wasn't just an accused criminal, he was my uncle, Aga Matloob Khan.

The first time I met my uncle was when he had recently been bailed out of prison. I didn't have any idea what his personality would be like, but when he came to pick my mother and I from the airport, I do remember being afraid to even shake his hand - not only because he was a stranger, but because he had just gotten out of jail. He, along with 20 other bank officials, were accused of having misappropriated Rs. 280 million of Emirates Bank - approximately 3 million US Dollars. As alleged by the prosecution, Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau, they forged the signatures of another bank official on a draft and cashed it in another bank account subsequently. Among the co-accused was his brother, my other uncle, Mansoob Khan. He had been jailed while fighting for his brother's case, but was soon bailed.

On April 30th, 2004, my uncle, Aga Matloob, was bailed after adhering to the direction to depositing two bail bonds of Rs 500,000 each.

In 2005, there I was. In the middle of the night in Lahore, Pakistan, probably one of the busiest cities in the entire world. At a halt because I was upset that he had been drinking that night. Sitting in the passenger seat of a car with my uncle, recently bailed, drunk - as the driver.

But that was 2005.

My uncle was someone who had faced a ton of challenges to be where he was at that moment. At that age, I was unable to fathom his adversities.

As I look back, I realize his attitude was what allowed him to persevere and learn from his mistakes. Despite  all the obstacles - his own brother being jailed fighting for his case, his father passing away and him not being able to go to the funeral -- my uncle remained hopeful for a better day in which he could learn from his mistakes and move on.

He even realized that his past might make life hard for his family, so he separated from his wife hoping for a better future for their baby daughter. He was forced to make these sacrifices for the rehabilitation and recovery of his life and the lives of those he loved.

His optimistic outlook structured his life, and inspired mine. But with optimism, comes courage. The prison system in Pakistan has many flaws, including using methods of torture to gather intelligence. It is hard to imagine what my uncle and his family had to go through during his years in prison.

When I was younger, my mother always showed me a picture of him sitting in the cafeteria area of the prison. I remember the smile on his face even though he was sitting in the middle of an institution of torture. I remember the stories I was told about my grandmother, God bless her soul, sending him home-made food that never reached him because the prison guards ate it instead. It was a horrifying vision that sounded like something out of a movie, but it was reality. My uncle never refuted to the demands of his inmates and prison guards alike. His courage to face the brutality of the Pakistani prison system has taught me to put my problems into perspective.

The first week or two of my trip in 2005 to Pakistan, I absolutely disregarded my uncle's presence. I realize now that I was quick to assume his personality only by his negative traits. I didn't consider his ability to overcome adversity, or his courage to face tough times. I was biased by the one opinion that I was taught to carry throughout my childhood - that anyone and everyone who is jailed is "bad". Recognizing the importance of my uncle's journey allowed me to realize the importance of being objective. Living in a society where everybody carries their own set of stereotypes, it is necessary that we as humans learn to dismiss bias and enforce open-mindedness.

It takes a lot of courage to face the truth and benefit from it. Whether or not he did actually embezzle is not the point, but it is still something that I, or he can't look over. Although my uncle went through many negative experiences, of which many consequences he knows he deserved, he has left a positive mark on my life permanently.

The fear I felt in that car when I was sitting with him halted in the middle of the street is indescribable - but that moment in time has left an unbelievably positive mark on me. That night, we got home safely, and my uncle took me into his room. Despite my age at that time, I was able to infiltrate his mind into realizing his mistakes. He broke into tears and apologized.

There is a quote from Khaled Hosseini's novel, The Kite Runner, that says: "There is a way to be good again". My uncle, having more faults than a map of earthquakes, was able to overcome adversity and now, help another child be raised the right way after the loss of his own daughter. Today, he lives his life with his new family, with one goal - to make sure his following generation doesn't make the mistakes he made in his past.

Little does he know, thousands of miles away, I am living proof that his goal has already been achieved.


Monday, February 20, 2012

TFAT v.6.0 Transcendentalist Released

- Added a contact me box
- Updated "Poetry Corner"
- New Template 
- New Header
- Changed Fonts

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Letter #2: A Letter to Muzammil, Rest In Peace

The only photo I could find of Muzammil. This was his profile picture on Facebook. He is on the left. I was not added to him on Facebook so I cannot enlarge this photo or make it less blurry.
Dear Muzammil,

Two weeks ago, I had received the news that you were hospitalized seeking diagnosis for a sudden illness.

When I heard this news, my initial reaction was a sudden "Who?" to my Dad.

For a slight moment, your name had slipped my mind and I almost felt like I never knew you at all, and then I interrupted my Dad again before he could begin to elaborate who you were.

At first, I was almost going to tell him that I didn't know who he was talking about - it had been so long since you and I had spoken with each other - but then once I remembered you - I couldn't believe he was talking about YOU.

"Muzammil...? The one we used to live near in Philly...? The one who used to come to our Eid parties at Faisal's house...? The one whose mom works with Faisal's mom?" I began to reminisce.

"Muzammil... is in the hospital?"

To be honest, 10 minutes after my Dad had told me that you were in the hospital, I had forgotten he had even spoken to me about it. I just went on with my day and didn't even consider searching for more information.

That week my Dad continued to call your father to ask about your condition, about what was happening, whether he needed help, assistance, or guidance.

Out of general curiosity, I kept thinking of asking my Dad what was wrong, but, again, after just a moment of time, I would forget my thought of you and continue to go on with my own day.

Perhaps it was because our relationship wasn't that close that I initially didn't feel a need to worry. Maybe it was because it had been almost five years since we last saw each other, and my memory of you was fading.

On Friday, February 3rd, at around noon, I received three text messages in school - one from my Dad and two from my cousin, Arslan (who was much closer to you than I was). They all carried the same message.

"Muzammil has passed away..."

I stood there in front of my locker, in absolute shock. I felt a tingling sensation in my heart and I got goosebumps.

"He was only 19, Aadil." read the text message my Dad sent me.

I walked towards my cafeteria and one of my teachers saw me, and I guess he saw that my face was filled with shock and worry so he asked me if I was okay.

That's when the emotions finally hit me, that's when the empathy filled my heart. I mean, call me sensitive or whatever you want to call me, even though we barely knew each other, the fact that you were in risk of death had never reached my mind, and when your news of death came, I was in complete and total confusion.

I looked at my teacher and I began to tear up, and I told him that you had passed away.

After I had calmed down, he let me go into the cafeteria and I sat down at my table and started to eat my lunch, but as soon as I put one piece of food in my mouth, my stomach felt a deep disgust. Thoughts were racing in my brain of the time back when we were kids when my cousins and I would make fun of you and not talk to you because we thought you were weird. I remember at my cousin's Eid party when you told us you were 15 years old and we laughed at you because you looked like you were at least 21. We never really wanted to talk to you, we always secluded you from our conversations.

Maybe it was because we were immature and young, but as I was sitting in my cafeteria trying to eat my lunch after I received the news of your death, I just couldn't restrain from feeling guilt for being so immoral and so hypocritical.

I was in such shock that I couldn't even talk to anybody for the rest of the day because these pessimistic introverted thoughts rushed in my brain of how hypocritical I am and how my preaching of morality contradicted my actions and the way I treat people and treat myself. I felt condescending, egotistical. I felt a deep sense of sadness in knowing that I treated you with disrespect only because at the time when I was younger, I felt I was much more "cooler" than you.

I felt egotistical because I remembered when my Dad had told me about you two weeks ago and after only 10 minutes I had totally forgotten what he had even said. I felt egotistical because I went on with my day and didn't even have the decency to ask my Dad how you were - or even call you or your father myself.

When I came home after that long day, I had finally asked my Dad what had happened.

A couple of weeks ago, you caught a fever and a rash, and went to the nurse on your college campus. She didn't know what was causing this and recommended you go to the doctor, so you did. The doctor initially thought you had pneumonia. However, after doing multiple tests and scans, they had discovered a significantly large-sized tumor on your heart. You were only 19 man. I can't begin to imagine how you took the news, the emotions you felt when you were told, the rush of thoughts you had about your dreams and goals in life. When my Dad had called your father a couple days before your death, your father said you were in a coma, and that he had put earphones on you and attached them to an MP3 player that played the recitation of the Holy Qur'an.

I'm not going to sit here and lie by saying "If only I knew earlier", because truly I deserved the emotion rushes and thoughts that plagued my brain. I needed a reality check... but I knew I wasn't the only one. Everyone needs a reality check.

Everyone who figured out began to say "Sorry for the loss of your friend", but in reality, I didn't LOSE a FRIEND. I honestly wish a FRIEND was what I lost, but instead, I lost the opportunity of becoming one. I lost the opportunity of becoming a better person. I lost the opportunity of treating you with the respect you deserved.

I didn't lose a FRIEND. I lost someone who I should have respected, because everyone deserves RESPECT.

I won't use my age as an excuse for my immaturity - I never will. Just because I was 11 years old last time we spoke to each other doesn't give me the right to have judged you and treated you with disrespect. Those were certainly not the morals my parents were teaching me. But because of the way I treated you when you were younger, as a young adult I didn't have the decency and dignity to show even the least bit of empathy.

This is not the letter I expected to write in my wildest dreams. You have impacted me to take deeper consideration of the way I treat people and also to remind all the people reading this letter on my blog to also treat others the way they treat themselves.

I want to preach this following message and be content with the way I am practicing it:

It doesn't matter what the color of your skin is, the religion you practice, the way you dress, the way you speak, the country you are from, or the illness you suffer from - EVERYONE needs to follow the universal moral compass that has been ingrained beneath our hearts.

Muzammil, even though we didn't know each other that well - and I want you to know how deeply I grieve that fact - I want to thank you for teaching me the lessons I needed to learn, the lesson everyone needs to learn about morality and ethics.

Reciprocate manners of respect. Do not judge others without judging yourself.

My prayers are with Muzammil's family and friends, 
"Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'oon - Surely, we belong to Him, and to Him is our return."


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Letter #1: A Letter to an Islamic Terrorist

Dear Islamic Terrorist,

I do not question your motives, I question your actions.

I do not question your faith, I question your medium of practice.

I do not question your intelligence, I question your ignorance.

I see that you may, with true conviction, believe you are acting in the name of justice, in the name of of God, in the name of Allah. I see that you, with true conviction, believe you are doing the right thing. You believe that there are people who intend to demolish your religion, your way of life. You believe, therefore, that your acts are not attacks, but are acts of defense. You believe that you are defending against the evil, the enemies of Allah, and you are certain of your entry in paradise for your apparent valiant acts.

I am not questioning your faith in God, for it may be even stronger than mine. I am merely pointing out your ignorance of other's faiths.

I realize your faith is the most important aspect in your life. I realize that you feel worthless, insecure, helpless, frustrated, ignored.

I realize that you believe you are superior.

You aren't.

And I'm not saying this intending to compile an existentialist manifest of bull crap, it's true. You are just as human as I am, just as human as anyone else on this world.

Just because you are Muslim, does not in any shape or form make you superior or inferior to any other being on this Earth. And just because you believe to be fighting for the good, doesn't mean you are. No one ever truly knows whether or not they are doing something for the better -  there are two sides to every story. And it doesn't matter if you are Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, Catholic - whether your deity is God or whether you are simply inferior to the world as an existing mass - you can never judge your own actions with true, sound, and correct conviction. Especially YOU as a fellow Muslim. You can not say with true conviction that you are guaranteed entry into paradise.

And that may frustrate you. As it should, because you are not alone. Everyone is as confused as you are in this world. Nobody knows for sure that God exists. Many of us only BELIEVE it.

It all comes down to this fact:

We all have our own differences. If I traveled across my own country, my political ideology would meet hostile opposition. Our beliefs are unique, and that is a beautiful thing once we are willing to accept that fact, and not abolish it.

What troubles you the most is that others view you as a terrorist, whereas you view others as terrorists against your religion.

The answer to your dilemma is simple: there are other mediums of expressing your belief system. Suicide bombing and mass killing isn't the answer - whether you are Muslim, Christian, black or white.

Because to tell you the truth, I personally believe your motive is genuinely pure. Your motive is to protect Islam from evil perception. But the harsh truth behind your motive is the way you are committing your actions. You are furthering the evil perception.

Finally, I will not ask you to reconsider your motives, for they are pure, but I will ask you to reconsider your actions.

I leave you to simply choose one. Which do you want? Which does every person truly want?


One choice. Your choice. Our choice.

Peace and Prosperity,

5 Letters, 5 Weeks

5 Letters. 5 Weeks.

Starting tonight, February 1st, I will begin a new challenge on Truth from a Teen.

For the next five weeks in the month (every Wednesday), I will write a letter to a random person/thing. I have done this before, for example: A Letter to My Son, A Letter to a Substitute Teacher, etc.

However, this time, I am challenging myself to write a unique letter each week of February. 

Stay tuned for tonight's post!