Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Milad-un-Nabi Mubarak!

Milad-un-Nabi Mubarak!
Greetings on the occasion of the Holy Prophet's (sawaw) birthday.

Ya Shams ud Doha
Ya Badr ud Doja
Ya Muhammad

O the Sun of brightness
O the moon of darkness
O the Ever Praised

A tribute to the Prophet (sawaw) by Ibn Mashish:

I take refuge in Allah from the accursed
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

O Allah, blessings and peace in all matters, revealed and concealed on him from whom are split open the secrets hidden in his sublime essence and stream forth the lights of the full moons enfolded in the heavens of his sublime attributes.

Magnified is the Prophet whose blossoming beauty beflowers the gardens of Mulk and Malakut, and the pools of the Jabarut overflow with the dazzling light of his secret bursting forth and there is no thing that is not linked to him and by his effulgent secret all things encompassed.

Send a blessing worthy of You, from You to him, that is an unceasingly and constantly renewed creation abundantly pouring out upon him and unimpaired peace which is this blessing in its flowing and its grace as befits him and on his holy successors in spirit.

O Allah, truly he is Your Secret encompassing all secrets
and Your Light encompassing all lights,
and Your Guide who guides to You by You
and the Leader of Caravan who rides Your worlds to You.

O Allah, connect me to his spiritual lineage, and ascertain me by his soaring degree and cause me to know him with real knowledge so that by it I witness his eternal pre-existence and I become his mirror by his love and his consent and so by his realizations I am saved from the welling up of the spring of ignorance and I drink without stint from the overflowing spring of Muhammadan reality.

Carry me on the swift noble mounts of Your Most Tender Mercy on the carriers of Your Deep Love and Your Affection and bring me on his Way of the Upright which is the Straight Path to his presence that is the link to Your Most Holy Presence clearly manifested by the shining of his human virtues, carried surrounded by the warriors of Your Victory, accompanied by the worlds of Your Divine family.

Oh Allah, make my absorption in him laudable and praiseworthy before You.
Oh Allah, make his Spirit the Secret of my truth in taste and in state.

Oh Allah, blessings and peace from us on him the most gracious of blessings and the most perfect peace for truly we can not grasp his exalted degree nor do we comprehend that which befits him of respect and magnification.

Benedictions of Allah the Most High and His Peace and His Greetings and His Mercy and His Grace on our master Muhammad, Your bondsman and Your Prophet and Your Messenger, the unlettered Prophet and on his holy family and companions.

thanks to mysticsaint

Saturday, March 22, 2008


The sky wept for Al-Husayn for forty days, during which the sky appeared ruby red in the morning and the evening - Attributed to Imam Al-Baqir (AS)

The courtyard of Imam Al-Husayn (AS) is completely packed. And by the time of the afternoon prayers, there is not even a square inch, and instead of the usual coming and going of the momineen, everything comes to a stand still. Loud lamentations, and Labbaik Ya Hussain punctuate the afternoon air, until it is time for the adhan.

After the prayers, the crowds begin to thin out, replaced by huge processions, with some groups consisting of hundreds and thousands expressing their love and grief. Some are subdued, others more intense, and one cannot but help join in with the maatam, and sounds of Ya Hussein.

The courtyard gets packed once again at the time of maghrib, and there is barely any space of prostration --- but the sense of devotion and sincerity is so beautifully clear in the air. And this being a Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to recite Dua Kumayl inside the courtyard of our beloved Imam Al-Husayn (AS). May Allah accept our prayers.

But I was also reminded of a hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings on him and his family):

“If an oppressive ruler violates the Divne codes, breaches the path of Allah’s Messenger, and rules the people with evil and tyranny; the person who sees all this and does not act for reform and change, then Allah will justly herd the complacent along with such a tyrant on the Day of Judgement”

Because I found it almost surreal to see the US puppet “prime minister” of Iraq give a speech on TV talking about Imam Husayn ---- the same guy who instead of clearly calling for an end to the occupation, sits and smiles with the occupier. And he barely utters a peep when the US army kills Iraqi civilians. Perhaps the guy is ignorant, or his understanding of Imam Al-Husayn is that of those Shias who will cry and remember the specific event of Karbala, but blind themselves to the criminal acts of the Yazeedis of our times – a kind of dead end ritualization that Dr. Ali Shariati called “black shiism” – something that is the vestige of the “shahs” and “monarchs” who wanted to strip Shi’a Islam of its tradition of protest, and active resistance to injustices and oppression.

Islam without justice and acts of beauty (adl wa ihsan) becomes little more than sentimental emotion at best, and hypocrisy at its worst. There is a strong tradition in Iraq of those ulema who recognized the necessity of the Islamic leadership to take an active stand against oppressive behaviors. Allama Baqir al Sadr being one of the foremost in this regard, but there are also ulema who followed the notion of “live and let live” --- who seem not to realize that shaytan’s way is to hood wink people into thinking that they are living, while it subverts the very foundation of society and community.

For those Shi’as who claim to be followers of Imam Husayn (AS) and who remember the stand taken by Sayyeda Zainab, being "quiet" and false notions of "live and let live" has never been an option. Especially not in this day and age while the yazeedis are on a rampage - destroying not only communities of humans, but also the very earth we live on.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Labbaik Ya Hussein

Perhaps we might mute our criticism, for a moment, of the rush and pressure of the crowd, what we might interpret as disrespectful, what we call “pushing” and “shoving” of the momineen. Because it is not only a push, there is an immense pull also - that draws the momineen towards their Imam. And then, after all, love is about attraction - being drawn towards - an owerpowering magnetic pull. And here we speak about the love of and for our Imam - whose majestic beauty and purity is best left unexplained.

The answer to the call of the Imam: Labbaik Ya Hussein reverebets throughout the shrine, there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands who are in the courtyard, men, women, children --- if not saying those words aloud, then their tearful faces of devotion speak the story of their love for Imam Hussein.

Its not the mere political and historical personality - the Imams are immense, and one can only wonder at how low the killers of Imam Hussein and all of the other Imams, must have been - to have not felt that majesty. And it is no wonder then that the skies wept tears of blood on Ashura.

There are ten doors to the shrine area (courtyard) - with hundreds and thousands streaming towards their Imam - yet, even with this many people, there appears to be some organization. The security personnel carry a rainbow colored feathered stick (about as non-threatening as a stick can possibly get) directing people through the areas. At first one might find the push of the crowd distracting, but allowing one's self to go with the flow (literally) and not pushing back, with some patience, one gets the beautiful opportunity to be close. The devotional emotion is overpowering, and not a single person is left unmoved.

Time appears to slow down, and the moments are so potent, and packed. As if waiting for the right moment to be unpacked - that right moment is our own preparedness. The voices of Labbaik Ya Hussein contain both devotion, and a protest - once again this voice raised loud and clear… once again, because the petty tyrants of all stripes have repeatedly attempted to silence the people. Yet, time and again the people have risen - in the worst of times - the people have risen. The petty tyrants' only recourse have been to restrict, or disallow - but such a powerful call cannot remain without a response for long: Labbaik Ya Hussein.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Letters from Palestine (III)

February 23, 2008

The night I visited Mr. A. was one of the most unforgettable nights.

Mr. A. is the person who gave lectures in Japan last year (in Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka) on 'Dialogue among religious leaders on Palestinian/Israeli Conflict’. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University in Jerusalem and teaches Islamic Studies.

I caught a bus that runs on a highway to Jerusalem (Daria took me to the bus stop from nswas.) It was my first time to go outside of the village. I was a little bit nervous but excited. I got off the bus at the West Jerusalem bus center and went shopping to buy something for my friend who offered me to stay overnight at her place in Jerusalem. She has been working in Japanese Volunteer Center in Jerusalem for 5years, and goes back and forth between Israel and Japan. She was the translator for the lecture that Mr. A. gave in Japan.

I bought some presents and went to the bus station to go to East Jerusalem. When I was crossing the road, there was a policeman standing on the corner. When he saw me walking down the street, he came straight to me and asked me to show my passport. These things happen here frequently to people like me (i.e. Asians and Arabs). Fortunately, I was warned about this from some people and was prepared for this.

"Are you a Filipino?" I told him my nationality. Then he asked me to show my passport. I asked him where the bus station was to go to East Jerusalem, but he told me 'After you show your passport, I will tell you where it is.' Fair enough, Ha! I searched for my passport in my big backpack but there were many things in it, pajamas, books, a lamp (for a present), cookies, water, coin case etc. and it took me about 30 seconds to find it. During this time, he found another victim who wanted to pass by my side.

She had a bit of dark skin and thick black hair. The girl who was stopped by the police showed her ID card and explained something. The policeman seemed to be very mean to her. She was forced to sit on a stone by the pavement and looked up at him with fear in her eyes. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, but his attitude scared her. He didn't scare me as much because I am Japanese. What if I were a Filipino ? What if I came from Thailand?

I took a bus and left the bus station. It was almost 4:30pm when I reached the Yaffo Gate, the west side of the Old City. I ran into the Old City and went straight to the Damascus Gate. I couldn't find the shortest way, but I think I did well. But after I get out from the Old City, I wondered around on the streets for almost 20 minutes.

When I met Keiko at the Jerusalem Hotel, it was almost 5:00pm.

Keiko is really nice. She is something else. I have a kind of talent for recognizing nice people as soon as I meet. I had a kind of intuition, like 'I really like her' when I met her the last time.

Mr. A. is a handsome man who has 7 children and a beautiful wife. He lives on the edge of West Bank close to a refugee camp. We enjoyed ‘zahki’ dinner and conversation with his family.

He drove us to the bus stop where we could easily find the bus to East Jerusalem. When we went through a refugee camp, some Palestinian young boys around 12-15 years old were riding on the back of a pick up track. One boy got off the track and rushed to put a paper on the wall beside the pavement. "It is a poster of 'Mujahedeen' , isn't it?'" some one asked Mr. A., but he didn't answer. Probably, he was concentrating on driving on that narrow road where cars were coming straight to us with horrible speed. Or was he thinking about the police?

We safely reached the bus stop. We got on the bus and said good-bye to Mr. A..
After a few minutes, two young soldiers got on the bus at the check point. They asked us where we were from and we answered. They didn't ask us to show our passports and let us go with a smile. How is it possible for young men (they looked 23-27) like them to change into a person who could beat a little boy?

Traveling to Ramallah to visit Arafat’s grave and refugee camp was, again, postponed by the snow. I am not sure if I can visit there during the time of my stay. Instead, I asked my friend to reserve my seat of the tour around Hebron. She said I was on the waiting list, and she informed the agency of my leaving date.

I was told that I am quite lucky to be coming here around this time. "Some volunteers are good, but some of them are not. We've got the best members now," someone said. I admit that I am acting strange, probably as weird as I am in Japan or even more. But thanks to God, people are so nice and kind.

I will send you another story next time.


February 23, 2008

I got this from Henry. I asked him if it is ok to put it on the web. He said its ok, everything you want.

love and lotus,

Dear Kiriko,

I thought, when I began to read your journal, that it might be helpful to you if I would take some notes to correct any obvious errors, or comment on things that you might need to think about more. I found just a few items (less than I expected).

"Hebrew is also the official language in NS-WAS. Not many Jews can understand Arabic, especially people who are immigrants from different countries."

Well, if there is such a thing as "official language" in a village, we do try to keep both languages as official, despite many obstacles. In almost all written notices, for instance, both languages are used. Recently we passed a rule that all department heads must be fluent in both languages and, if they are not, they must learn Arabic within 2 years.

In the meetings, people can speak in either language, though when Arabic is spoken, there is the obstacle that some of the Jews won't understand. Protocols for general assembly meetings are kept in Hebrew, partly because these are records that must be available for review by state authorities. Israel itself has Hebrew and Arabic as official languages - but this is a rule which isn't properly implemented.

"Jewish people in NS-WAS study Arabic once a week, but it is not enough to communicate with Arabs. Actually, they don't need to speak Arabic because Arabs speak Hebrew perfectly. There is no need, but people in NS-WAS knew that it was not fair. That is why they try to learn Arabic."

Not all Jews here learn Arabic weekly. Daria is the only Jew from the village currently attending A.'s classes. Many Jews in the village do know Arabic at a level that permits them to understand, even if they can't speak it well.

Languages don't just communicate ideas. They also communicate feelings and various subtle things. Even when a person is fluent in another language, she might not be able to communicate well nuances of feeling, etc.

"Jewish people know what they are doing to Palestinians more or less. But some people are afraid of leaving Israel. Once they express or accept the things they are doing, they think they have to leave. .."

I'm not sure what you mean here. As a straight statement about Israeli Jews in general, I'm not sure that it is true. Many Israeli Jews know very well what they are doing, and can offer many arguments for continuing. Other Israeli Jews reject what their government is doing and decide to stay and struggle against government policy.

"...However, people that I met here became angry at seeing what the settlers and soldiers were doing to the people in Palestine. Every Friday, women gather and demonstrate against the settlers in front of the old city…"

I don't think the people you heard about in the Women in Black demonstration are simply targeting the settlers as "the bad guys".

The situation regarding settlers is complex. First of all, there are at least two kinds of settlers: those with ideological or religious motivations, and those with practical or economic motivations.

Historically, the first settlers had a religious and ideological motivation. But later, the government came with its own motivations, and offered cheap housing plans to settle Jews on land occupied since 1967 (Gaza, the West Bank, parts of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai (though the latter was later returned). So many Jews went to settle in these places simply because it was an attractive option. The majority of the settlers are therefore just ordinary Israelis. Those who live in the parts of occupied Jerusalem don't even see themselves as settlers, since these parts were annexed. Some of those who live in the Golan Heights say that they would be willing to give up their homes in the case that peace is established with Syria.

The point I am making is that settlers are not necessarily villains, and that it is the Israeli government that allowed them to be there, or put them there, which must be held responsible. I think that this would be the position of most of those who attend demonstrations against the occupation.

There are comparable situations regarding deliberate settlement of occupied territories in other places in the world, such as Tibet, Northern Cyprus and the Kuril Islands (northern islands of Japan).

For an interesting sidenote on the legal aspects of Israel's settlement policies, there is an article that discusses Road 443 - the road you traveled on when visiting Wissam in Beit Sira.

"Tyranny in Tar" (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/948033.html)

Denise is a secretary of the mayor(?)

"Denise", like me, is working in the Communications and Development Office, mainly as a writer. Usually, she writes proposals, applications and reports for foundations and friends associations that support the village.

Best wishes,

February 24, 2008

I visited two Arab families. They treat their family and relatives so nice. Keiko in JVC explained that. They support each other because of the conflict. Sometimes they have lost a family member who used to support their family. A big family is good as they can support each other, even though they don't have enough people to provide support the family. They are helping each other.


February 25, 2008

I will go on this tour in march!
My friend, Shelly from the US (she is great!) booked a seat for me.

Tours to Hebron

For the past two years, Breaking the Silence has been giving guided tours to Hebron- a place where many of us have served as soldiers.

The purpose of the tour is to introduce our audiences to the complexities of the Occupation.

Route of the tour: Baruch Goldstein's burial site in Kiryat Arba, The Tomb of Patriarchs, a walk through Shuhada st. (including the five settlement areas and the wholesale market), and a visit to a Palestinian family in Tel Rumeida neighborhood.

The tours are in cooperation with the organization, "Bnei Avraham".

For further information, please contact :


The next tour will be on: 22.02, 07.03, 28.03 It is possible to organize a private tour for groups. All tours are coordinated with the Israeli Police in Hebron

February 26, 2008

I saw this (Gaza protest) on the web with Howard. There were almost 50,000 people to protest the siege.

I also got an email from a Japanese girl who is interested in this area. She sounds young and had a lot of anger inside of her. I don’t think I can handle it. I just want to leave it.

It sometimes happens. People are speaking about 'peace’ but spread their anger into the world. We have to protest against injustice, unfairness and everything like what the Israeli government is doing now. But I don’t think it is a nice way to throw the anger at people who have different opinions.

She didn’t even check the meaning of what I really said. I am tired of it.

By the way, I got a nice email from Mr. A.. He is so nice. Did I write about that?


March 2, 2008

I am back from Bethlehem and Jerusalem now.

I went to a refugee camp last Friday. JVC(Japanese Volunteer Center) helps Palestinian women to have jobs and teaches them how to make things like bags, coin case, cushion cover, etc. They have extremely professional techniques in embroidery, so if they teach the women how to make a bag or something using a sewing machine, they can sell all of those things easily. It is very difficult to find a job for the people in refugee camps. Sometimes young girls work very hard to make money to go to university.

I will tell you all the stories of this place later. It was really nice to meet a family there.


March 3, 2008
(blog diary)

My thought on peace-making

…From my experience, sometimes we have to face the difficulties of dealing with our feelings and emotions. Working with people in conflict zone requires many things like remaining calm, hearing their opinions, trying not to judge, having compassion, treating people with respect, sharing their stories, staying centered, finding exact meaning of a word, and so on. Probably, you will find some contradictions in these statements: It becomes very difficult if you have your opinion, but it would be much more difficult if you don't have one.

Also it was good for me to learn that I have to be careful in using words that "group individuals in one category" such as "Israelis do..." "Japanese are ..", "people here are like.." etc. I met many unnecessary emotional resistances from people by this kind of stereotyping comments. We need to be very careful when we say something if we really want to bring "peace" into the land. Some people are quite sensitive in this area, so we can easily hurt people not by guns, but by our words (by accident.) We must know what kind of language we are speaking, I don't mean "Hebrew" or "Arabic," but whether we are speaking "the language of the people in power" or those of the oppressed and without power. If we use the language of the people in power, it would not work very well even when we talk about peace. I think "violence" can take different forms. The violence that goes on here is not only physical violence, but cultural, economical and political violence. It is easy for me not to use the military weapons, but I can use the power of words and pens. It is still very difficult for me to find a peaceful, non-violent way (to express myself). Unfortunately, the people in power sometimes don't exactly know what kind of power they have and/or use, or they don't even realize they have power. I met a Japanese woman who has spent 5 years here (back and forth between Japan and here). She perfectly knows who she is. She knows what kind of "energy" she creates and how to bring it here. It is a bit complicated, I have no idea how to explain it, but probably someone else does.

Besides, there are hundreds ways to deal with the conflict and thousands of opinions as to how to make peace between the Jews and Arabs. We can't protest each method or choice even if it looks totally different from ours. Likewise, there are many ways to contribute to bring peace in this area, for example, one works as a volunteer in refugee camp, the other becomes a journalist or photographer while his/her friend is trying to be a mediator. Their approaches are very different. The mediator is expected to be centered, but the journalist can take one side. We usually don't judge or even decide which is better for the people here.

In order to overcome any shortcomings in finding out the best way for them, I am trying to look back to our history and find out who I am. This is my approach as a Japanese in studying conflict reconciliation or conflict transformation. This is only my point of view, but before I say something to the people and the soldiers in Israel, I have to see what we, the Japanese, did to the Asians during the WWII In contrast to Germany, we, our government, still refuse to apologize to China and Korea and other countries, as you know. In Israel, the textbook of Israeli history is not the same as what we are told. It sounds similar to what the Japanese government did as it erased the facts, like what happened in China and Korea, from our history. In my memories of school years, I couldn't find much about Nang King Genocide, 731 troops, Nakano School for Generals in my history textbook.

It is easy to put our issues aside and be here as a peace maker between Israel/Palestine. But how is it possible to make others try to reconcile with their enemies, when we can't make good friendship with neighbors because of our past?

That is why I thought it was 'not enough to blame the Israelis.' I really have to face these Japanese problems if I want to continue this challenge; it is kind of changing the world from the inside out. I know this is not your concern/problem, but is mine that I have to deal with.

Thank you for reading.

peace be upon you all,

March 5, 2008


It is so hard to accept things happening here. I hear the sounds of jets every 2 minutes, probably going to Gaza.

On the contrary, we don't have any bombing here, as you know. I went to Haifa (northern part of Israel) yesterday to attend a funeral. I met a nice woman who came from the U.S., who also spent several years in Mexico. She is a resident of nswas (Daria’s good friend), and her mother passed away a few days ago.

Daria and Rucy, another friend of Daria and who now become my friend, took me to the city of Haifa. It is an old city and has history. We enjoyed walking down in an Arab town. It was beautiful and people were so nice.

I had a very bad experience in Jerusalem from a tour guide. It is also my fault, but I don't think he was a good man. I almost wanted to stay away from all Arab people because of him. But I tried to use the bad memory in a good way. It took a couple of weeks. Now I am OK with everyone.

Anyway, it was nice to visit Haifa.
However, it is still hard to enjoy anything during a time like this.

My friend had a hard time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is related to the things that are happening here. Some of the volunteers tried to extend their visa, but was denied. It took a few more days to get the 'volunteer visa.'

I think I'd better go and write every experience in Japanese as well.


March 5, 2008

…I just want to tell you something about the activities here. I asked if it was OK or not to attend some demonstrations.

It is not safe to take part in some activities here even when there are many Jewish people within the group. A few years ago, a policemen shot at the people who were peacefully walking down the street and killed 13 people there. Also, last month, a Japanese tourist attended a demonstration and got attacked in his eyes and he is in danger of becoming blind.

It is not only about the risk to me, but about bringing the risks to Palestinians. JVC member (Keiko-san) in Jerusalem said there are many different ways if we want to bring peace to the land. It is OK to demonstrate in my country, but not here.

Things are not easy here...

Well, we will see....

March 6, 2008

…about Kiriko’s ‘bad experience’ in Jerusalem…

I don't think it is uninteresting, but it is not just his fault. He was not a good man, but I learned about my weakness from him. He was a guide of Old City in Jerusalem. I didn't ask him to guide, but he followed me and started to guide. After few minutes, I realized he was a guide but I didn't stop him. Then, he asked for 6600 yen ($66) for providing 20minutes of tour guide around the area. The place he asked for money was in a dark basement. I was so scared and wanted to go out because there was no one except us. I paid the fee and asked him if he was a Christian because the place he guided me through was a place where Jesus was taken. He wasn't a Christian, but a Muslim. I was disappointed when I found out about it. That's all.

I am OK with Arab people except for this memory. I know this is my weakness. That is why it is so painful for me. I am trying to accept my weakness but it is still difficult. It wasn't his fault even though he wasn't a good man.

bless him.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Iraq (part two)

Twenty four hours a day, during the commemoration of Arbaeen, the streets of Karbela are packed with hundreds of thousands of people going to and from the roza of Imam Hussein and Hazrat Abbas, and to the other sites of ziarat in and around the city. The side streets, and those leading directly to the roza are filled with small makeshift stores, selling all kinds of religious and other items --- turbahs, tasbeeh, books, attar, scarves, chadors, and artistic renditions of Imam Hussein and his companions.

And there are huge huge steaming pots, with the locals cooking huge amounts of food provided daily to the pilgrims. And stalls offering fresh clean water, and excellent sugar filled tea.

No cars, except for ambulances, security officials, and garbage disposal trucks are allowed within the city limits. And one can only enter Karbala after passing through several security check points - with body searches required of each and every individual man, woman and child to ender the vicinity of the shrine itself, and again before entering the actual shrine area. The security officials, while firm and efficient, were never rude, not to obviously foreign looking Pakistanis, Iranians, other Arabs, nor towards the local millions of Iraqis.

The officials often asked where I was from - once, I let slip: "Amreeka" and got a frown --- and I quickly learnt that I have to say Pakistan to get the welcoming smile, or say "na'am" when asked (usually with a smile) if I was "Hindi" ---- And sometimes clarify that I was Pakistani not Iranian and would be paying in Iraqi dinar, not Irani.

The pavements, along with shops, are also full of tents, small and some very large - and then there are people
sleeping just out in the open - blankets provided courtesy of the locals - And it rained a few times, clearing the air, but making things not so comfortable for those sleeping outside. But there were few if any tensions that I could see. And even with the pressures of the crowd, the huge numbers who gave in their shoes and cameras and cell phones to be guarded before entering the shrine, those behind the stalls were almost always courteous.

Hundreds and hundreds lined up at the tea stalls in the morning afternoon and night ---- but those providing the tea almost always had time to, if only briefly, to personalize the service, and express that they were "Khadim" (servers) to anyone who asked for an extra cup.

The sounds around the shrine is filled with recorded latmiya - the lamentation songs accompanied to a "beat" of maatam ---- at times small groups of people joining in and expressing their own love for Imam Hussein and his companions (AS). And small processions are the norm, with their own reciter of noah --- in Urdu, Arabic, Farsi... but almost always joined by onlookers who sometimes walked with the procession, or stayed on the outside - listening and doing their own silent maatam.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Inshallah, I'll be writing about some my experiences in Iraq over the next few weeks. Having just returned, I was curious about the US press coverage of Arbaeen - and going through some of my e-mails I came across this recent article by the otherwise highly respected independent journalist Dahr Jamail. The article discusses women's concerns in present day US occupied Iraq - his opening statement raised some red flags for me that I'll address:

WASHINGTON, Mar 6 (IPS) - Iraq, where women once had more rights and freedom than most others in the Arab world, has turned deadly for women who dream of education and a professional career.

Former dictator Saddam Hussein maintained a relatively secular society, where it was common for women to take up jobs as professors, doctors and government officials. In today's Iraq, women are being killed by militia groups for not conforming to strict Islamist ways.

A couple of things I've learnt over the past few years is to critically read left-progressive-liberal sources of news, that more than often promote a particular ideological slant. In this case, as is the case of most other left-liberal sources, the slant is towards making it appear that secularism is superior to Islam - and, even if unintended, a glossing over of the crimes of Saddam - because he was a secularist.

This, however, should not be taken to mean that US occupied Iraq is any better, it is not, but this fact also should not make anyone romanticise Saddam's hated rule.

La la Amreeka, la la Saddam

1. It is utterly bogus to make statements about women's rights and "freedoms" under Saddam, when he had a large majority of the country (primarily Shi'a) living in utter and dire poverty. And then to not even mention the fact that so many tens of thousands of Shi'a men and women, and scholars who chose to even barely speak up, were either killed off or shipped off to torture chambers. The higher "education" that was available, was only for a select elite group who were willing to shed their religious and cultural identity and take on Saddamism. Infact, if we look at some stats, only 25% of females got to even attend secondary school (37% male).

2. Estimates about those who attended the Arbaeen commemoration in Karbala vary between 6-8 million. Whatever the number, this year was the biggest gathering - and I can safely say that 90% of those who attended were Iraqis themselves. And I can also safely say that a significant majority of those millions who walked for miles, slept outdoors, in tents, or inside the compound of the shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) were Iraqi women.

I find it very difficult to assume that all of these millions of Iraqi women are now being forced to wear the chador/hijaab etc. I think what took place is that as much as Saddam wanted to erase Islam - and specifically Shi'a Islam from the character of Iraqis - the traditions just went underground, and that too not very far from the surface. In this respect, Iraq's former US puppet Saddam has a lot in common with another former US puppet, the so-called "shah" of Iran.

If indeed Iraq had been successfully secularized, then perhaps one might have seen an outpouring of emotion the first year of post-Sadaam Arabaeen, but now for the fifth year - and with ever increasing numbers of millions of Iraqi women, men, and children --- that would not have been the case. Fact is, a very large segment of Iraqi society places a very deep value on Islam, and this is obviously true in the large Shi'a areas of southern Iraq, and large sections of Baghdad.

The issue for large majority areas of Iraq is not about "secularism" vs. Islam --- that is a useless debate to get trapped into, and that one finds all too often in the liberal-left-progressive sections of Americans. The issue in Iraq, that should concern all Muslims, is how will this majority of Iraqis implement Islamic principles in their society and in their lives. The question is about if this is going to be just full of sectarianism and tribalism albeit with an Islamic face, or will Iraqis be able to overcome their numerous divisions - as they seem to do (at least on the surface) during Arbaeen and Ashura. A divided Iraq will remain America's booty, a more or less united federated Islamic Iraq will have far more beneficial consequences both for Iraq, and for the people of the region...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Ya Husayn Ya Husayn

Ya Husayn Ya Husayn - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party

Shaheed-E-Karbala ki mominoN jab yaad aati hai
taRap jati hai dunya khoon ke aaNnso bahati hai
Ya Husayn! Ya Husayn!

shah ast Husayn baadshah ast Husayn
deen ast Husayn deen pana ast Husayn
sar dad na dad dast dar dast-e-Yazeed
Haq-a ke binae La Ila ast Husayn

deed ki agar talaash hai sir ko jhuka namaaz meiN
dil se khudi ko door ker khud ko miTTa namaaz meiN
aaye ga tujh ko tab nazar Ruh-e-Khuda namaaz meiN
pehle Husayn ki tarah sir ko kaTa namaaz meiN
aur keh Ya Husayn! Ya Husayn!

O Believers, when we remember the martyrs Of Karbala
The world yearns and sheds tears of blood
O Husayn! O Husayn!

Husayn is the master, Husayn is the king,
Husayn is faith, Husayn is refuge for the faith,
He gave his head but not his hand in Yazeed's hand,
Verily Husayn is the foundation of La'illah

If you truly seek vision, lower your head in prayer
Remove the self from your heart by erasing your self in prayer
Then you will see the spirit of God in prayer
First be like Husayn and sacrifice your head in prayer
And then say: O Husayn! O Husayn!