Sunday, July 27, 2014

Metrosexual Muslims Eid Morning

….The night consumes most of the sound. Somewhere down the road, an emasculated man ‘red-lines’ his VW city Golf. The tyres screech on the tar, scarring it, like a black crayon on a rain cloud. Somewhere in a small suburb in Durban, a cellular phone alarm rings. A cacophonmy of xylophones. Asif grumbles, as he blindly swats around to impeach the annoying sound, vowing to himself to replace Gotye's one-hit wonder as his alarm-tone.

The phone lies on his dressing table, nestled between the men’s health and his topi. It’s on charge – undoubtedly due to all the battery draining 'eid-mubaruk' whatsapp messages he got the night before (but mostly because it is an iPhone). He scrambles to turn it off- its three thirty in the morning – and the house is asleep. ‘Gosh’, he exclaimed- ‘only two hours to get ready for Fajr’. Asif runs to the bathroom. ‘So many choices, so many choices. Do I rinse once then condition or just use a two in one? The organics has a nice smell, but the head and shoulders give me volume, which is vital, but I’m wearing a topi, so I don’t need volume… decisions, decisions’.

Asif’s shower rack resembled his mothers spice rack, except that instead of an assortment of turmeric, jeera (whatever that is), and elachi,  he had cosmetics (which may or may not have had some of those spices in them - especially the yellow one which is supposed to make you fairer). He surveyed his nails proudly and thought to himself, ‘the guy reading Salaat next to me had the grossest nails. Half bitten, filthy. When he raised his finger for tashahud I felt like dying, like it was gonna jump out and attack me’. As he reached for his loofah, he realized that his shower gel had finished. Asif was horrified- he had read in Cosmo that normal soap dries out your skin- the sacrifices a young Muslim boy has to endure. Meanwhile, next door, Zakaria was sleeping, dreaming of watching some of the soccer matches he taped in Ramadan because his dad didn’t allow him to watch (actually it was his mum, his dad just seemed to agree with whatever his mum said). Asif emerged out of the shower half an hour later. He scanned the mirror instantly, looking for telltale signs of dried skin (he had watched a national discovery channel special on tortoises the week before) ‘Why didn’t I buy shower gel’ he bemoaned as he tilted his body to the left.

If his shower rack resembled a spice cupboard, surely his dressing table resembled a chemical warehouse in Iraq before the U.N inspectors popped in. Moisturizers, of all sizes and aromas. Cream to remove lines from the eyes. Sticky pieces of paper to eliminate blackheads. Asif had his routine down to the last scrub. ‘Half an hour to fajr- where is my toner? And I have to moisturize as well, some uncle is going to dab some foul smelling Attar on my hands, I just know it. I don’t mind the nice smelling ones, but the strong black stuff that stays on your hand for three days and smells like an old Kitaab is just so not cool. Next Door, Zakaria's father knocks on his door briskly, ‘Son, wake up, I need the Musallahs, we going for the Springfield Eid Gah and those mats are like sandpaper’.

A combination of hair mousse, salon gel and hair putty (that thing in a can that gives you the ‘just woke up look’) is applied mutinously to Asif’s scalp – These days it would seem that its harder to achieve a disheveled look as opposed to brushing neatly. Wardrobe choices stump poor Asif. He contemplates a black Kurtah with a white topi, or a White Kurtah with a gray Topi. ‘But I don’t have any shoes to match the white Kurtah, if I wear the grey topi, even though no one will see my shoes in the mosque, someones bound to notice when I’m outside. No No, Hmm – Eid Gah is gonna be outdoors, the white will look good with the sun rising, better put on a little more sunblock. But first, let me take a selfie...#nur4days. 

The End

Eid Mubaruk


(originally wrote this 8 years ago - made  a few small tweaks before posting). 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Concerning Gaza

I often write for validation. My desires (nafs) need to be fed. Tonight is different. Tonight I am writing so that I can start making sense of everything. I feel conflicted, despondent and unsure of the world. I don't have any answers.

What is happening  in Gaza is shocking. Such unbridled aggression by a military power over a largely civilian populace.

 I don't think it is as reductionist as we sometimes frame it. I often wonder what the value of Hamas shooting rockets into Israel is - it does little more than 'justify' further attacks, and hands media outlets a 'balance' to contextualise the bombings. I'm actually against the rockets altogether, as their trajectory is indiscriminate. There is no military solution. Yes, the IDF has killed scores of Palestinians, but firing rockets into civilian areas - this is not the way. I don't have the answers, but I know this is not it. I wonder if a two-state solution will work. Something similar was proposed for South Africa - can you imagine how that would have worked out? Who gets Jerusalem? How do you pick up the pieces and rebuild? 

I remember the battle of Gaza that took place in 2007. Over a 100 people were killed (39 were civilians) as Fatah and Hamas fought. I remember Fatah militants killing the Imam of the Great Mosque (Omari Mosque in the old city). I remember Muslims throwing Muslims off rooftops (yes, saying people throwing people off should have the same gravitas, but I hold my people to higher account). Hospitals weren't safe back then either. The Beit Hanoun hospital had to be closed after a man was shot dead while doctors were operating on him. If Israel recedes to the 1967 borders and hand back land to the Palestinians, who will rule? I believe in the self-determination of Palestinians. I must, but I know what power does to people. I have lived through it in South Africa (during the Boipatong massacre). There is nothing civil about civil war. 

You can never justify killing a civilian. Why is my Islam so different to the thugs in Iraq who force Christians out of their homes in Mosul. What a bunch of dicks. Not in my name.

 I wonder why we as South African Muslims have not been as vociferous in our condemnation for what is happening in Syria - where civilian deaths far outnumber 100 000 (according to more than 4 Human Rights groups - the United Nations pegs it as slightly lower). Over 1700 people have been killed in the last seven days. They were also fasting. So were the 255 prisoners that Iraqi security forces killed 2 weeks ago. Is it because the aggressors are Muslim, and not Jewish? It is so much easier to make the boogeyman the 'other'.

Perhaps this is why we are so emotional when it comes to Israel and Palestine, because we make it a religious issue. I see it in the BDS campaigns and the boycott lists. Even these are sometimes framed for Muslims. Where are the alcohol brands that need to be boycotted. Golan Heights Wineries is listed as an Israeli export, but it isn't included in the forwarded messages I get - little indicators that we can't let go of faith-based action. I don't have any answers.

There are calls to boycott brands that do business in Israel - how far does that go? I'm being told to boycott brands on Facebook, yet Facebook has operations in Israel, and has invested in Israeli apps like Snaptu. Do we boycott Facebook? What about Google? I do not buy Israeli products, but I don't feel the need to pressure a retailer into not stocking any. I have a right not to purchase Israeli products, and I am allowed to make an informed decision when it comes to my consumption habits, why can I not extend this right to my fellow South Africans? 

Death is the great leveller, the lowest common denominator as some pundits would claim. I think its the highest common denominator. The finality of it all. What else matters after death. All injustices pail in comparison. 

I am proud that the ANC has spoken out so vociferously against what Israel is doing, but we have local problems we need to sort out. It's so much more than this condemnation. This is why I don't think its as simple as we paint it out to be. It doesn't wipe out the crime, corruption, poverty, inequity, Nkandla and a myriad of middle-class problems that start with 'e- and end with 'tolls'. Conspiracy theorists say that an Algerian and Malaysian plane were brought down to distract the world from what is happening in Gaza. Would they not think it was plausible that our government condemns what is happening in Gaza to shift focus from our internal issues? I put little stock into most conspiracy theories. 1350 South Africans are murdered every month. We aren't even occupied by a superior military nation. 

I wonder why some of us praise Hitler, the Third Reich and the Holocaust, when that, like this, remains a shame and a blight on humanity. 

Over the next few days I will write more. For now, all I can try to do is articulate my inadequacy in dealing with whats happening. In Gaza and other conflict areas. I pray for the people of Gaza and for the people of Israel - may they know peace with each other, and within themselves. Allahu Alam.

I yearn for a time outlined below, when Muslims were just, fair and compassionate. This is the Islam I want to believe in. 

"Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power" - Oliverus Scholasticus, praising the Islamic laws of war, commenting on Sultan Kamil feeding the defeated Frankish army (during the Crusades).

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَاءَ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا ۚ اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
"O you who believe, stand up as witnesses for God in all fairness, and do not let the hatred of a people deviate you from justice. Be just: This is closest to piety; and be mindful of God. Surely God is aware of all you do" - Surah Ma'ida (Chapter 5, verse 8 in the Holy Quran).