My Time In Malaysia: No Smiles In Penang

penang

I got married, became a father overnight, and moved to a completely alien (to me) country. And then I stopped writing. I think we can all agree that that was really dumb.

So with the next few posts I hope to catch everyone (including myself) up to speed.

Living in Penang was not what I was expecting. As an American Muslim of South Asian descent, I had no cultural or linguistic framework for what I came across in Penang. I expected (naively) Arab-style hospitality– you know, where they see a foreign person on the street and then invite them for tea or dinner. That happened to me all the time in the Arab world (especially Egypt). Instead, about a month into my stay in Penang I noticed that nobody was smiling at me on the street, post office, grocery store, anywhere. In fact most looked away, and seemed to go out of their way to be unhelpful… especially the Malay Muslims.

I’m not that ugly, am I?

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Sometimes They’d Rather Argue About When Eid Is

A couple days ago, the advertisement (an article by design) shown above appeared in countless college newspapers across America. It was put together by an organization called F.L.A.M.E. or “Facts And Logic About The Middle East”– only they specialize in demonizing Islam and Muslims.

In order to counteract the effects of hate speech and misinformation regarding our communities, I personally believe that Muslims should be proactive when it comes to engaging their neighbors. In addition to being proactive, I also believe it is important to respond simply and swiftly to articles and ads such as the one above.
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Relying On The Kindness Of Strangers

“So, as I flew towards the Middle East, my mind was full of the usual 10pm buzz­words: radical extremists, fanatics, forced marriages, suicide bombers and jihad. Not much of a travel brochure.

My very first experience, though, could hardly have been more positive. I had arrived on the West Bank without a coat, as the Israeli airport authorities had kept my suitcase.

Walking around the centre of Ramallah, I was shivering, whereupon an old lady grabbed my hand.

Talking rapidly in Arabic, she took me into a house on a side street. Was I being kidnapped by a rather elderly terrorist? For several confusing minutes I watched her going through her daughter’s wardrobe until she pulled out a coat, a hat and a scarf.

I was then taken back to the street where I had been walking, given a kiss and sent warmly on my way. There had been not a single comprehensible word exchanged between us.” – Tony Blair’s Sister In Law

Yesterday I had an “uh-oh” moment. But a serious, “What am I doing?!” uh-oh moment.
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Language Software Review: Rosetta Stone in Arabic

(Image: Wikipedia)

I finished Rosetta Stone Arabic. I didn’t speak Arabic when I started, and I don’t speak Arabic now.

Before you go “well, duh, no software program could –” let me interrupt you and say no, this is in fact the claim made by the company and by many, many reviewers. When you finish Rosetta Stone, you’re told, you’ll have – if not fluency – then at least two solid years of college-level foreign language learning under your belt. It’s not advertised as a _companion_ to a course or a book or an immersion language experience; it’s advertised as the new and best way to learn a foreign language, period. I didn’t go through it with that expectation, but I’m going to review it on those terms because that’s what people who pay for it think they’re getting.
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Activism: Call Your Senator Right Now. Urge Them To Pass The Dream Act

Note: This is a guest post by Ahlam Said

Dear Family and Friends

I can’t sleep.

In just a couple of hours, congress will make a choice that will affect the lives of 2.1 million young undocumented residents, who till this moment, are stifled by a broken immigration system. I pray that you will join me in challenging our leaders to live up to promise of this nation by calling the senators listed here and asking them to vote yes on the DREAM Act this morning. For those of you unfamiliar, the DREAM Act is a bipartisan proposal, which would create a pathway to citizenship for thousands of young students who were brought to the United States years ago as children.

I will spare you my tongue-tied explanation by introducing my hero: Alaa Mukahhal. I had the privilege of working alongside Alaa when she interned at IMAN’s communication department. Alaa has agreed to share her story [below] with the rest of the world. Her story teaches us many lessons, the most important being courage and justice. I pray that we can step up during these last critical hours, not only for Immigrant Rights, but HUMAN rights.

After you read her story, I hope you will join me by taking a few mins to call the senators listed here and urge them to pass the DREAM Act. PLEASE DO THIS FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: http://action.dreamactivist.org/movedream/

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Sexual Harassment, Egypt, and the Hijab

Two Men Stand On A Bridge Over The Nile River, Cairo, 2006 (Photo: Javed Memon)

This is a really interesting post for a number of reasons, by Jack Shenker in the Guardian:

Women in Egypt get hi-tech aid to beat sexual harassment

A hi-tech weapon has been unveiled in the battle against sexual harassment in Egypt, where almost half the female population face unwanted attention from men every day.

HarassMap, a private venture that is set to launch later this year, allows women to instantly report incidents of sexual harassment by sending a text message to a centralised computer. Victims will immediately receive a reply offering support and practical advice, and the reports will be used to build up a detailed and publicly available map of harassment hotspots.

The project utilises an open-source mapping technology more commonly associated with humanitarian relief operations, and the activists behind it hope to transform social attitudes to the harassment of women and shame authorities into taking greater action to combat the problem.

I think this initiative is awesome.
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ACTIVISM: Thank Those Who Stand Up Against Bigotry

Via American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC): www.adc.org

In light of the recent attacks on the Arab and Muslim American communities, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urges you to call and thank those who have stood up for tolerance and understanding, and against bigotry. The below-listed individuals have recently stood for and reinforced American values by supporting the development of the Park51 Community Center in New York City.

Click here to see the original Action Alert along with links to the statements made by the individuals listed below.
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