The “Arab Spring”: Revolution or Awakening?

Last night (Day 4, 23 Shawwaal 1432 – Wednesday, 21 September 2011) I was a call-in guest on a show called Awakening.  The topic was “Islamic Awakening and the Arab Spring”.  It’s a program on a satellite channel called Sahar TV, a subsidiary of the IRIB network.  They sent me the questions a day earlier, and here are the responses I typed up in preparation for the show.  It’s just about what I ended up saying on the show.

——-

1 The World Bank and the G8 are already planning to sponsor the so-called Arab Spring. Less than a fortnight ago, G8 finance chiefs pledged $38-billion in financing to Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan over 2011-13, widening a deal agreed in May and offering Libya the chance to partake too. Analysts are now concerned over a possible Euro-US containment of the regional movement through this type of “cheque book diplomacy”. What’s your take on that?

Worth the paper it's printed on?

What is money anyway?  A bunch of pieces of cotton paper?  A readout on a bankslip?   It’s a promise to pay and I can tell you about the G8’s ability to pay.  The UK has been bankrupt since a hundred years ago, and it’s owed money to the U.S. since WWII.  The US, in turn, owes money to China and Russia.  So how can these bankrupt countries lend money?  All their doing is tricking Muslim countries into promising to pay them money that isn’t even real, that they don’t even have to lend in the first place.

When they lend this money, they lend it at interest.  Allah says in Surah Baqara 279 that He and His Messenger are at war with people who devour usury.  This is because it enslaves the borrower to the debtor.  These Islamic populations have just freed themselves of West-serving leaders.  By indebting themselves to them, they would be re-enslaving themselves, and this is the goal of cheque-book diplomacy, to create a situation by which they can continue to dictate over us.

2 A large number of scholars have constantly been warning against the risk of the revolutions being hijacked or contained in one way or another. How concerned should we really be about that?

One common colonial trick is to make the village thief the village chief.  There will always be someone without scruples, with no goal beyond his own selfish interests.  Colonial powers usually find that person, support him with every means, such as money, glorification in the media and so forth until he rises from vagabond to ruler, from thief to chief.  Then, because the colonizers, not the people, are his true power base, he does their bidding to ensure their continued support.

This is how I see things being hijacked.  In the end, a politician only cares about one thing.  He doesn’t have a religion.  He doesn’t believe in any idea or purpose.  His only goal is to get and keep power, and he will do whatever it takes to do that.  They let the parade get going and then run out in front of it like they’ve been leading it the whole time.  Colonial powers are only waiting for that man, woman or group to show themselves and start the politicking.
3 I think it’s fair to say that the reaction of the West towards the wave of Islamic awakening in the countries affected has been quite selective. Let’s talk about the most recent case, i.e. Libya, where we saw military intervention. Do you think that NATO may follow the Libyan model of intervention elsewhere in the Arab World?

The West’s selection process is based on what they think serves them best.  They use language clevery to disguise their self-serving intent in the language of freedom, democracy, human rights, etc.  For example, there has been brutal repression by certain regimes, even invasions and occupations, but this is either completely ignored.  For example, the Bahraini royal family, which hosts the US 5th Fleet, is immune to criticism no matter what it does.  As for Qathafi, whose friendship with the West was less easy, but a friendship just the same, they wanted him out, and made sure he got out.  What’s the difference?  Why do they support Syrian protesters, and even go so far as to reveal their arrogance by mentioning that al-Asad is “expendable”?  Why don’t Bahrain protesters get any support?  The only consistent factor has nothing to do with rights or freedom or legitimate aspirations.  It has only to do with who they want, and who they don’t.  I would say that Western powers are willing and waiting to intervene in other countries.  They are going through no end of rhetorical gymnastics, political treachery and covert operations in the meantime to justify an attack on Iran, as we all know.  I would also say that Syria is another target.  They’d be more than happy to make it look like their helping the people like in Libya rather than a full invasion like Iraq, because it’s easier to justify and probably cheaper.  In these cases, the revolutionaries run the risk of being nothing more than volunteer soldiers in a Western invasion.

4 A serious problem in the countries affected by the wave of Islamic awakening is- as a matter of fact- the problem of a strong leadership leading the opposition in those countries. In fact, in several cases those working under previous dictatorial regimes are still ruling the country. Is there any solution to this problem?

Well, in the case of Libya, to my understanding, the transitional government has been planning and plotting for years while in exile in England, and there’s only one reason why that government would support them while they were doing that.  If I’m correct.  Otherwise, the greatest threat to these movements is the lack of leadership.  The Islamic revolution in Iran is unique because there was already an established figurehead, Ruhullah Khomenei, even though there were groups of many different stripes. He united them. 

Shocking the world...

Islam united them.  But look at the movements today, there is no one leader.  There is no spiritual leader uniting them.  The most basic elements of history’s greatest revolution are two:  negation of falsehood, and affirmation of truth.  With the words “laa ilaaha” we negate every falsehood, every impure motive, all the weaknesses in ourselves and communities.  The revolutions of today have thrown out corrupt rulers, but does this mean the people have achieved self-purification?  The leaders were corrupt, but we have to remember that a leader is of his people, he reflects their characteristics too.  The people need to revolt internalyl-, the inner, greater jihaad– against their own corruption.  And they can only achieve this, the life that is lived by truth with the second half of our testimony of faith:  illAllaah.  They must make the Qur-aan their constitutional document, and the shari’a– which literally means “path to salvation”- as their new legal framework.  For that a leader must arise with the knowledge and integrity to rule by Islaam, and the people must recognize and pledge allegiance to him.

'Ilm & Taqwa (Knowledge and Piety)

5 The question that everybody’s now asking is whether the unexpected, amazing and unique wave of Islamic awakening will shape, influence or rather change the future of the Arab world in particular and the whole world in general. Now has Islamic Awakening got the potential to dramatically change global equations, do you think?


Muslims got to open their eyes to the ground beneath their feet.  We have every imaginable resource from A to Z- untapped human potential, water, oil & natural gas, agriculture, precious metals and stones, varieties of landscapes, geo-strategic position.  Pakistan’s soldiers are arguably the best in the world.  Egypt and Syria alone could have defeated the Zionists in Palestine and completely checked other Western powers in the Middle East more than 30 years ago.  Look at how much Iran changed the equation from 1979 until now.  What if we all did the same?  Pakistan and Sudan alone could feed the world.  WE DO NOT NEED THE WEST.  WE DO NOT NEED SYSTEMS THAT DON’T EVEN WORK FOR THEM.  

ALLAAH HAS GIVEN US EVERYTHING.  When we realize it, and when the people who realize it insist on leading and refuse to be misled, we’re gonna unleash peace all over this planet.  But, there is only one condition.  Allaah Doesn’t

Change the condition of a people until they change the condition of their selves.

6 What’s the most important challenge that the Islamic Awakening in the Middle East and North Africa will have to face?

The Awakening part.  The people who we let lead us are obviously corrupt and naïve, but so are the people.  We have no idea how eager the Zionists are to control Libya’s vast water reserves.  That’s their whole M.O. in the Golan Heights, for example.  We’ve forgotten- though the Western polities haven’t- what happens when we think for ourselves, such as the 1973 Oil Embargo, the Iranian revolution.  We’re unaware of the lengths these fading, illegitimate powers will go through to make sure we do NOT regain autonomy.  Here’s an example:  they bombed the bomb the Islamic Courts

Refusing to be misled...

Union out of Somalia, even though they restored order, justice and peace to the extent that Mogadishu’s airport was running again, just because they were not indebted to and controlled by anyone.  They were of, by and for the Muslim Somali people.  They would rather tempt a country into civil war that leads to famine than allow Muslims to decide what to do with their uranium, their geographical position, and their coastal waters.  We need to wake up to this level of awareness, which will lead us to believe in Allaah’s Promises, rather than the unsubstantiated promises of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

EXTRA

1 How do you think the momentous events of last few months or the so-called Arab Spring will help shape the future of American relationship with its allies in the region?

The best possible outcome is that it is the foundation of a model- the Islamic society- which will provide the alternative to the Western lifestyle the world is starving for.  We did that before- our societies have inspired and uplifted the world- but that was long ago.  Instead of always quoting anecdotes from our great past to defend Islam, we need to present Islam in a real way as the hope for the future.

2 How successful and effective has the US policy been in the Middle East since the Arab Spring started?

It has been effective in some instances.  So far the regime in Egypt has only changed in name.  Whereas Mubarak was its face, now it has no face and is in that sense all the more deceptive.  In North Africa in general, with the exception of Libya, it has made sure the people think they get what they wanted by allowing the dictators to leave on a golden parachute, without any fundamental or meaningful changes.  There not less but more American military bases and operations in North Africa, for example.

On the other hand, they have lost their complete stranglehold on Muslim’s imaginations.  We know we can stand up to their strongmen.  We’ve reminded ourselves of a lesson we learned in 1979, that Allaah Supports the believers when they unite, wa Huwa l-Wahidu l-Qahhaar.  Politically, there are some instances of greater unity between Muslim governments, such as Palestine’s confidence in pushing for full recognition by the UN, greater ties between Egypt and Iran.  And it’s efforts to isolate the powers it doesn’t support have not been very successful, though the double treatment of Syria and Libya compared to Bahrain is a glaring exception.

Overall, revolution is not really a solution.  Heads of state have been changed, but that has been the only result so far.  We have yet to see if the lives of the people will improve, and right now they are actually worse in most cases.  It is an awakening and revival of our Islam that we need, not a revolution.  Revolution is only one vehicle towards this- not necessarily the best one- and we only get to the point of dealing with the external after we’ve dealt with the internal.  A Muslim has the duty and right to rule if he excels the people in knowledge and piety.  At the very least, he should not block the people from Islaam.  After that, it doesn’t matter about a vote, or what they think of him, or how the West evaluates him.  They should follow and advise him.  Lastly, we have the duty and right to rule ourselves by Islaam individually, and accomplishing that is the true Awakening, Revolution and Spring.

Duties and rights go hand in hand.

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Growin’ up Oliver

When I was growin’ up, we used to put Vaseline on our faces to keep ‘em from lookin’ ashy.  Somedays us kids would do it ourselves and show up to school with so much grease on we looked plastic.  Good morning to you, good morning to you, We’re all in our places, with bright shining faces…

We was always late for school, man.  When you showed up late, you had to get a late pass from the office before you went to class.  We were late so much, our late passes would already be ready when we showed up.

We would be late for everything.  They got this saying, “fashionably late”.  Man, if being late is fashionable, we shoulda been on the runway in Paris.

I remember I had this wristwatch, and I liked to see when it was 11:11 11, the whole clock on the same number for only one second.  Well, church started at 11:00 00, but I usually caught all 11’s on the way.

My dad said in the car once, “From now on, we’re going to be on time.  We are the On-Time Olivers.”  We got a lotta laughs outta that.  We had this idea about making black satin jackets with ‘On-Time Olivers’ written on the back in yellow.  Anyway, we continued to be late, majorly, and every time we would say “The OTO’s are at it again…”

My dad is a funny cat, man, and the funniest thing is, he doesn’t try to be.  Everyone gets the joke but him.  He went through this phase where he was out of style on purpose.  It was just a few years.  I guess it was his mid-life crisis.  We had to force him not to leave the house with sandals and socks on, or a with a hip pack on years after they went outta style.

DAD?!

“What?!”

“Where are you goin’?”

“I’m goin’ to the store.”

“You can’t go out like that!”

“Like what?  I’m just goin’ to the store.”

“But you’re wearing sandals and socks.”

“So what’s wrong with that?”

“Dad, please, man…”

“What?  I don’t care what nobody thinks.”

“But we do, man.”

“Yall aint even goin’.”

“Dad, please.”

“Yall are crazy, I’m just tryin’ to go to the…”

He’d mumble under his breath on his way back to the room and re-emerge with the appropriate fashion correction, or occasionally with something even worse on, then we’d have to go through the whole thing again.

My dad was old school, militant, a big, black, 6’2, 250 type-of-cat.  He coulda went to the NFL, but it woulda been as a free agent and they didn’t get paid much back then.  So when my friends saw him, and heard his deep voice, they’d be scared.  But he was really a beautiful cat on the inside.  I mean he would play with us until we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe.  I remember he used to take us to church, and when it was over we’d be looking all over for him.  Where’s dad?  Excuse me, have you seen my dad?  Do you know where he’d be?  In the car passed out ‘sleep.  The cat just couldn’t stay awake and he didn’t wanna be disrespectful by sleepin’ in the middle of worship.  We used to laugh and tease him about it, but lookin’ back, I respect it.  I mean if you believe in somethin’ you should give it all you got, even when you know it ain’t enough…

But you know what’s the funniest thing he ever did?

I can’t even tell you.  There are too many to choose from, and you had to be there anyway.

I can tell you ‘bout my mom, though.

Go look on TV at a nature channel when they show birds.  Or look at a picture of an eagle.  See it’s eye?  It’s like this emotionless piercing beam.  But you can only look an eagle in the eye one at a time.  I used to always be gettin’ in trouble and lyin’ about it, and my mom was always out for the truth.  So we would do this prosecutor-defendant thing, sometimes for hours.  Suddenly, outta the blue, my mom would put her eagle eye on me.  She would just stop cold, and beam me with her eyes wide open, mouth closed, nose flared.  Dead silence.  And she would just hold it, dead still, without even blinking.  It was her last tactic.  She was clever, but so was I;  I learned it from her.  I used to sit in the bed at night going over all my lies to make sure I had not only the story, but every story straight.  This was a game of poker.  If I win, I live to sin another day.  If she win, it’s fire and brimstone.  I could either confess, and tell the truth about everything, or I could plea bargain, and give up a little bit of stuff and not get in trouble for the rest, or I could keep bluffin’, but that risked a greater punishment if she actually did know somethin’.

Sometimes I would get bold and eyeball her right back.  Sometimes when I did that I couldn’t hold it as long and I would look down, which was like a confession, or smile.

“Why are you smiling?  Is something funny?”

And every now and then, rarely, I really hadn’t done nothin’.  But who could believe that?

I remember this one time when I was in 3rd grade, my mom walked in while we was in eatin’ and was like “I’m not washin’ yall’s clothes anymore,” and then just walked right out.  So I had to learn it all from scratch from that day.  All my white clothes turned pink, all my red clothes turned pink, and everything else shrank.  She was Austin’s top real estate agent, so I guess that’s one chore that had to do.  But she was and is the best cook in the world.  But she had this one thing:  she wouldn’t clean up the kitchen.

And she wouldn’t cook if the kitchen was dirty.  She would just walk into the room with this sweet voice and say, “Oh, I was just about to cook [favorite dish], but the kitchen wasn’t clean so…”

“No, mom,” we’d say all desperate.  “I’ll clean it right now.”

“No, it’s OK,.” she’d sing out, “by the time you finish I won’t have enough time.”

“No, we’ll clean it right now.  We can do it fast.”

“OK, well, call me when it’s done and if there’s still enough time, I’ll see what I can do.”

Mind games, she was a pro.  She had us on point.  We’d be watchin’ TV after school, and she would just walk in, turn it off, not say a word, and walk right out.  We would just look at each other, sniggling under our breath, and find whatever was wrong in the house.  And speakin’ of TV, we were four kids with one remote.  Sometimes we all wanted to watch the same thing, sometimes we didn’t.  So whoever had that remote, that was power.  And you better not sleep on it either.  Because the other ones would be watchin’ you and as soon as we could see the veins stop poppin’ outta your hand SNATCH!– there go the remote and your favorite channel.  One time my big sister had it, then my mom told her to go clean the dishes.  So you know what she did?  She took it right there with her in her back pocket.  She coulda at least put it on the channel we wanted to watch.  We tried to sneak up on her, but this was a big sister, she had eyes in the back of her head.  That dish rag came flying…

My mom’s the best mom in the world.  My friends wanted her to adopt them.  She used to take time off work and take us to nice hotels for Spring Break, and my dad would come when he finished work.  She would let us pick any recipe in her dessert cookbook and we would cook it together, and you know the best part was licking the spoon…

You know what she used to love for Mother’s Day?  Bath stuff.  She used to love taking a good, long bath.  And she deserved it…

Do you wanna know the worst thing that ever happened to my family?

A box of ice cream sandwiches.

We had ‘em in the freezer, but we had to ask permission to eat them.  One day, my mom checked and the last two were gone, but no one had asked to eat them.

Controversy ensued.  Interrogations went on for days, and suspects were re-called for further questioning.

“Don’t get in trouble tryin’ to protect Daniel.  If you know somethin’, tell me.”

That’s what they told my little brother.  I was far and away the most likely suspect, but wallahi, I didn’t do it.

Me and my brother were on the same Little League basketball team.  We had a championship game that Friday, but the situation hadn’t been resolved.  My mom promised that there would be no game and instead we were gonna all stay home and get our behinds beat.

We were all looking down, then up at each other, and then all at me, but really, I didn’t do it, and even if I did, as bad as I was, I was a team player.  I wouldn’t let anyone go down for me.

Finally, at the last minute, my mom called off her bluff, and we went and won the game.

No one has ever confessed to this crime, but I have a theory.  I had this final project my senior year of high school and I had to stay up late a few nights to work on it.  I noticed that sometimes my dad would come walkin’ in out of his bedroom in the middle of the night.  He’d go right to the fridge, eat somethin’ and go back to the room, without a word.  I would even say somethin’ to him but he wouldn’t say anything back.  He was taking his midnight snack sleepwalking.  I would even ask him about it the next morning and he didn’t remember.  So that’s my theory.  I think deep down in his inner psyche, he was harboring deep-seated longings for ice cream sandwiches, perhaps triggered by traumatic memories of missing  the ice cream truck as a child.  You know how it is, by the time you hear it and go ask for change, he’s gone.  So he subconsciously arose and devoured them, wrappers and all in a sleep-like state, then went back to bed with no recollection.  I’ve put this theory to him but he’s not convinced.

I wish I could tell you the ice cream story he does know about, but he made me promise to stop tellin’ it.

There’s one other story I gotta tell you, because if you meet my family they’re gonna tell you anyways.  We moved to North Austin, but we still got our hair cut in East Austin, at Green’s barber shop at 11th and Rosewood.   That could only happen on the weekend, and some weekends my parents were busy.  This one time in 4th grade, during Christmas break, I had had enough, so I went into their bathroom, took out the clippers and decided to do it myself.  I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that Mrs. Green used a guard on the clippers, so I just turned ‘em on and promptly cut a bald spot onto my head.  After that I just panicked.  I kept trying to fix it, but it was just cutting more bald spots.  It wasn’t working like it did in the barber shop.  So I came up with a plan.  I would put on a hat, go to bed early before my mom came home, then sleep late until she left for work in the morning.  It woulda worked if it wasn’t for my own big mouth.  We were sitting at the table and I started smarting off to my sister.  So she flipped the visor in my cap and everybody just froze.

“Oh my god!  Mom’s gonna kill you.  What did you do?”

“I was trying to cut it and I don’t know what happened.”

“But why did you try to cut it?”

“Because nobody will take me to Mrs. Green.”

So she took me back to the bathroom.  She tried the same thing I did, with no guard, but from the top.

 

Bzzzzz-GHHH!  “AAHH!!”

It wasn’t working.  So she took some scissors and cut my hair all the way to the bone by hand, then smoothed out the chilly bowl with the clippers.

But what would my mom do when she saw me with a haircut?  We decided I should stick to my original plan to go to bed early.  But… my mom came in to say good night anyway and noticed I had gone from Bone Thugz to Michael Jordan.  Admiring my sister’s craftsmanship, she decided to let it go.  Had my dad been the one to discover it, he probably woulda just been like, “That’s one less trip around town for me…”

And since my little sister would probably be the one to tell you this story, I’m gonna tell you one about her.  It’s the pre-emptive strike doctrine.

She ate dog food once.  She was probably only about 5 and we were all at home alone.  She just snuck and ate some and we caught her.  We freaked out.  I mean, it was for dogs, it’s probably fatal to humans.  So my big sister called 911.

“Hello, this is 911.  What’s your emergency?”

“Hello, ma’am, my little sister just ate some dog food.”

“I’m sorry, did you say she ate dog food?”

“Yes.”

“How much was it?”

“It was just one piece, ma’am.”

“Is she OK?”

“Cicely, are you OK?”

“Yes.”

“She said yes.”

“OK, well just give her a little milk and she’ll be fine.”

“OK.  Thank you, ma’am.

“Mm-hm.  Thank you for calling.”

That’s my family, growin’ up Oliver.  You had to be there…

Is Muslim violence a proof against Islam?

This is a comment to an article about the role of Zionism in the Norway massacre.

 

Name any nation that is not at war…  you can’t.  Nearly every country in this world is in some sort of conflict.  No matter what religion the majority of their citizens claim.  Read the news:  Buddhist Thailand vs. Buddhist Cambodia, over a temple.  Civil wars and rebels all over the Christian nations of Africa.  The secular and Christian nations of the West occupying, attacking or aiding conflict all over the world.  Zionist Jews in Palestine.  Hindus committing atrocities in Kashmir and against Muslims and Christians in India.  It’s everywhere.  EVERY religion has members that are fighting, that kill innocent people, that commit murder and rape, that embezzle, scandal, scam, scheme and plot, rob, plunder and steal, commit adultery, abandon children, can’t read or write, molest children, bribe their way out of justice, etc., etc., etc….  And secularists, atheists, agnostics, and humanists get in on it too, so don’t blame religion

 

As you can see, a religion’s texts are a proof for or against its members.  They are not a proof for or against it.  You measure a religion by its book, and you measure its members by its book, too.  They either live up to it or fall short of it.

 

Let us look at an example.  It is true that many Christians were at the forefront of abolishing slavery worldwide (many were also the leaders of enslavement).  Should we judge Christianity by that?  According to some places in the Old Testament and Romans 13.1, opposing the laws that allowed slavery were AGAINST what they consider to be the word of God.  In other words, they had to step OUTSIDE Christianity to free slaves.

 

Islam’s Qur-an and Hadeeth (Prophetic narration) literature support abolition and forbid enslavement outside of the context of war-captives when there is no exchange for prisoners.  So while many Muslims were involved in the slave trade, they were stepping OUTSIDE of Islam to keep slaves.

 

Judge them by the book.

 

The United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence, celebrated symbols of freedom, enslave Africans, dispossess Native Americans, deny the rights of non-landowning white males, and deny the rights of all women.  So freedom, justice and equality can only be achieved by stepping OUTSIDE of America’s founding principles.

 

This is why we Muslims argue from our book.  That, not the action of the next Muslim you walk past, is Islam for us.  We only know the Qur-an as Islam.  We don’t know what every Muslim in the world is doing and why, but we will argue as strongly against a (seemingly) good deed as we will against a bad one if it is inconsistent with our law and doctrine.

Oh my God!! They're eating ice cream...

The truth is that Muslims also do a lot of good things, for the sake of Allah, in the name of Islam, to get a reward in heaven, etc.  Find them and what they do.  See, do they outnumber the wrongdoers?  I leave that as an open question to any sincere seeker of accurate information, I won’t answer it for you.

 

Personally- and this is admittedly subjective- I’ve been around the world and read and heard viewpoints from many walks of life.  I was in NYC on 11 September 2001 and accepted Islam there 3 years later.  Islam is my free choice because after research and experimentation, I found it to be the best and most complete way of life.  I won’t lecture you that I’m right, but I assure you that I’m aware and sincere.  See for yourself:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/11/

 

So please, do justice to yourself and stop ignoring all the wrongdoing and conflicts involving non-Muslims, and all the good done by Muslims, to prop up an argument that is an offense to intelligence, reason, history and logic.   Islam is singular in its establishment of justice and right.  Why do some Muslims act to the contrary?

 

Ask them.

 

For more on the accusations of rape, sexism/masochism and slavery in Islam:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/category/stockholm-syndrome/

To see the deceptive and erroneous nature of Islamophobia and WikiIslam exposed:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/dealing-with-doubt/

To see whether Islam is incompatible with democracy:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/is-democracy-islamist/

To see if there is any difference between Arab culture and Islam:   https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/is-islam-arabian-part-i/

To read what Islam actually is:   https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/what-islam-is/

 

americism

If you’re American and you’re facebooking on the 4th of July; you’re a loser. 

vintage americism

...strive 'til we stride!

If you’re African-American and you’re celebrating the 4th of July; you’re ignorant, because your slavery and humanity was ignored on this day, in the country you broke your back to build.

If you’re Native American and you’re celebrating; you’re a fool, because all that happened for you was other people’s fight for the right to steal your land.

If you’re a European American and you’re celebrating; you’ve likely been bamboozled, for only landowning white men were made full citizens by the war that was to follow this day.

If you’re a woman and you’re celebrating; you’ve disgraced yourself, for after all your contributions, you wouldn’t have an equal say until centuries after this day.

If you’re new here and you’re celebrating today; you are welcome, but perhaps you should have fought and died in your country for what we have here.

As for me, my nationality is a matter of circumstance.  i am free, and so i celebrate, on this day and every other, for i am free from slavery to those who are themselves enslaved, to slavery to the Lord of slaves, who Has Forbidden His Self from oppression, whose Mercy has overcome His Wrath…

An Open Letter to David Cameron

Open Letter to Mr. Cameron

To The Rt. Hon. David Cameron

Prime Minister 10 Downing Street

 

Dear Mr. Cameron

 

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

 

“For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” ( The saying of Abraham, Quran 6:79)

We are deeply dismayed by your statements made in the Munich Security Conference on the 5th February 2011. Your speech was misleading, ill-timed, counter-productive. You have insulted the Muslims you are meant to serve and have demonstrated a failure to understand the Muslims and their faith.

 

A Muslim, literally, means one who has submitted his will to God. We bow our head in prayer to Allah, five times a day, in submission to Him and Him alone. We only have one Master, and we are Muslims first. Our beliefs in our values, and in what we hold to be right and wrong is dictated not from an elected parliament, but from Allah (God) as revealed in the Quran and the teaching of last Messenger, Muhammed (Peace be upon him) and consensus of the Muslims. Furthermore, we believe that this life is a test, that after our death we are accountable before Allah on a Day of Judgement, and we will all be given recompense according to our deeds. This, above all, is what motivates us:

Every human being is bound to taste death: but only on the Day of Resurrection will you be requited in full [for whatever you have done] – whereupon he that shall be drawn away from the fire and brought into paradise will indeed have gained a triumph: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion. 3:185

 

We readily accept and work to strengthen the meritorious institutions of British society, especially those that exist because of the common origin of the Muslim and Judaeo-Christian tradition that British values were derived from: of honesty and moral integrity; of altruism and neighbourliness; of social, political, and economic justice. We encourage Muslims to do whatever they can, even while being a minority, to assist in increasing the general good and minimising harm in society, even if it be by an act as small as removing something harmful from a walker’s path. We seek to work towards a peaceful society in Britain.

 

We encourage Muslims to work for the benefit of the people of Britain, for no one’s sake but Allah’s. We will go further to say that we endeavour to work with greater sincerity for the betterment of Britain and its people than any Prime Minister or an elected parliament does, for we seek no worldly gain. We would be insincere citizens if we failed to share with Britons what we believe will bring them peace and tranquility in this life and in the hereafter. Our role models are the Prophets of God, among them Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed (peace be upon them all). As one Prophet said:

“I wish not, in opposition to you, to do that which I forbid you to do. I only desire your betterment to the best of my power; and my success can only come from Allah. In Him I trust, and unto Him I look.”

 

But Muslims will not be bullied by ‘muscular liberalism’ into compromising on their teachings and the principles of their faith as Christiandom and others may have done, nor will we be forced to embrace values that oppose the faith of millions of Muslims in Britain, Europe and the world over. Interpretations of British values change as governments do, and what may be in keeping with liberal values may be completely unacceptable to our belief, whether it be mocking God and His Prophets, the alcohol culture with all its ills, and any cohabiting out of wedlock between man and woman, this being the only relationship Islam recognises. Are we still to be forced to embrace such liberal values and promote them? What values allow the fighting of illegal wars that kills thousands to spread democracy by the gun or of staunchly supporting nations that deprive a people of a land their rights and oppresses them? Are these British values?

 

What we believe to be wrong and unjust, we will exercise our right to speak out against. You cannot speak of a belief in the freedom of speech and religion while in the same breath denying the Muslims the right to proclaim and preach their belief. You thus make ‘freedom of speech’ an empty slogan. You either accept that people – British Muslims included – have a right to believe in the values that their religion teaches, or that the state regulates our beliefs and our values as in a ‘thought police’ that incriminates and sanctions citizens for what they may believe even if they break no law. This, in essence, is what you propose. If so, then how different is that from communist dictatorships that repress those voices that oppose the state’s ‘values’? You are travelling down a road that will end with sanctions being placed on Muslims for simply believing in Islam and the Quran.

 

The Islamic faith does not teach extremism. But the Prime Minister, MPs and non-representative think-tanks with their own prejudices will not dictate to Muslims what constitutes a correct Islamic understanding and what does not. You would be ill-advised to be directed by any biased coterie of individuals with neo-conservative leanings or those who seek to undermine Muslims to forward the cause of other interest groups. The government has already, on the basis of such misinformation, branded mainstream Muslim individuals, events and organisations as extremist, reinforcing the perception that your government is unable to make an impartial judgement about its Muslim citizens. This reality makes your speech a cause for even greater concern among British Muslims.

 

In your speech you stated regarding terrorism that the “threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam”. This is not true. The 2008 TE-SAT report of European terrorism confirmed that in 2007, only 4 out of 583 (0.007%) attacks were ‘Islamist’ in nature. In 2006 it was 1 in 498. The main threat comes from separatists and left-wing groups. Why do you seek to exaggerate the threat from Islamists when the facts state otherwise? It is irresponsible for you to further sour the relationship between a minority and the community at large, where there is already evidence of much anti-Muslim feeling. Statistics demonstrate that by sheer numbers alone there are more non-Muslims who feel hostility to Muslims (more than 20% in UK) or than vice versa. While singling out Muslims in the attack on multiculturalism, you made no mention of some Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs who have been united for a common cause of hatred against Muslims in various guises under the banner of the EDL who were marching on the same day that you spoke. Rather than countering this unhealthy Islamophobia that is sweeping across Europe, you contributed to it. That you were on German soil should have reminded you of the consequences of contributing to hatred against minorities.

 

The most insulting and disdainful of your remarks directed to the Muslims was the threats of withholding funding from whom you think are extreme. Do you think that the strength of our conviction in our values is measured against paltry handouts or opportunities for photoshoots with MPs? Muslims do not need such money nor do they have any need to share platform with such ministers, and certainly not if these are meant to bribe them away from their principles. Reliance and trust upon Allah are the bedrock of our faith. What is the entitlement of any citizen – regardless of religion –should be granted to them. If the government decides to wrongfully withhold this from a Muslim individual or group because of ill-informed reservations about their beliefs, then it is the government that should be held accountable. It is time Britain comes to terms with the reality of Muslims as part of Britain with the differences that we have between us. If this is what you want to confront, and this is how you want to browbeat Muslims with ‘muscular liberalism’ then do, for we will, with God’s help, will be even harder-nosed in standing up for our faith, for we are responsible for this before God. We will always turn to Him and His guidance and we will, Insha’Allah (God willing) have the mettle to remain patiently steadfast on our faith and speak what we believe to be right:

Say: “O my people! Do whatever ye can: I will do (my part): soon will ye know who it is whose end will be (best) in the Hereafter: certain it is that the oppressors will not prosper.” 6:135

 

Your speech has led to much upset in the Muslim community. While you may win over many right-wing and possibly racist voters, you will lose Muslim voters who will not forget your remarks in four years’ time. But it is not votes, but a sense of justice and perspective that should guide you. We hope you reconsider your statements and reassess the direction this government is taking with regards to the rights of Muslim citizens of Britain, and not join Europe’s growing far-right.

– from Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad

Strange Marriage, Part 4

Patience is the most pain…

My brother forwarded me an email once.  Some school in Saudi Arabia was looking for an English teacher.  I read it and deleted it.

Meanwhile, things continued as before.  I knew that to get my life together I needed a regular schedule and salary.  So I signed up for a temp job at Dell.  It paid less than driving a limo could, but, at least I knew where I was going to be at a given time of day.

Now when I told my wife that I was going to work in a factory, I made a mistake, and she made a mistake.  I told her I was going to work from 4 pm to 1230 am.  She started imagining the sweatshop her brother worked in with me in it.

So she was expecting a call at 1230 my time, but I had made a huge mistake.  I was working until 230 am.  We could not use phones at any time or place in the factory, so I just kept working.  When I finally did call, her only words were tears.

“Do they have AC?” she kept asking.

I said, “Yes, they have AC, they give us breaks, everything’s fine.”

She didn’t believe me.  She thought I was covering it up just so she wouldn’t worry.  Her brother worked long hours at a sewing machine with no ventilation and dim lights, and that was actually pretty good, considering what goes on in other factories.

“Don’t worry.  America only allows that outside of our country,” I assured her.

I wasn’t the only over-qualified guy in the factory.  I used to meet up for coffee before work with a Tunisian guy who was very intellectual, and working on a Master’s degree.  I should say coffees.  The guy picked me up for work at 2.15 and we didn’t start until four o’clock.  And my house was only 15 minutes away!  When he called I was barely awake, which was not a problem because we spent the next hour and 15 minutes exploring the outer reaches of free refills.  Once we spent 3 hours at a Starbucks on a night work finished early, which means I kept having to tell my wife I’d call her back.  Needless to say, she didn’t approve of this friend.  She doesn’t seem to approve of any of the friends I have coffee with, now that I think about it…

Somehow, I started to think about that email my brother had sent me.  My first trip abroad ever involved backpacking Europe in a Mercedes, if you can imagine that, and I’d had the “travel bug”- this desire, this need to be other places- ever since.  Maybe it started a little before that, but ever since I felt like a fish in a fishbowl that was floating in the ocean.  I had to get out.  My teaching license petition wasn’t going anywhere either, so maybe that was it, too.  I asked my brother to resend it, and alhamdulillah he still had it.

My interview with the school changed my life.

They told me about the job, blah, blah, blah, but when I started asking them about bringing family, they said I would be able to have my wife there within 2 months.  Getting that job in Saudi Arabia became my mission in life.  Saudi or bust..

I did everything.  They told me to get any teaching certificate, so I found the only one that was immediately available, a 20-hour weekend certificate in New Jersey.  I missed a flight to New York, got on another one to D.C. and took a train to New York, slept out in Jersey.  I needed some, any teaching qualification to be eligible for a visa.  I straggled my way back to my D.C., where my brother was working.  Then I called them to let them know everything was ready.  And you know what they told me?

Nothing.

They played me.  They were all off on summer vacation. 

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and this only hardened my resolve.  I looked up an old friend, the same one who had invited me to Islam in fact, who I’d heard was teaching in Saudi Arabia.  He directed me to some English language teaching websites where job ads were posted.  I literally applied for every single job in the Middle East.  Unless they said they wanted a Ph.D, they got an application from me that summer.

Saudi Arabia has its particulars.  Their work visa requires a medical screening that should be the newest Olympic sport.  I took the form from the consulate to ProMed, and they kept looking at it, scratching their heads, going to ask someone in the back, looking at me, and scratching their heads again.

“What’s this for?”

“It’s for a visa to Saudi Arabia.”

“But why do they want all these tests?”

“I guess they don’t want any diseases in their country.”

“Yeah, they probably have enough problems already…”

I had to give a blood test, drug test, urine test, AIDS test, chest x-ray.  There was even a stool sample.  I didn’t know what a stool sample was, but, now that I do, I can tell you that you do NOT want to know how to “collect” and store one.

Whatever, I was on my plane to Saudi.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but when I saw Jeddah for the first time on the highway from the airport, I was shocked.  It was just. like. America.  The billboards, the cars, the clothes.  Everything.  OK, well there were about 100 times more people wearing black or white robes, but still.  Somewhere, apparently, and without my permission, they’d figured out that AC is much more effective than the shade of a palm tree, and traded in horses for horsepower…  It was just- I guess I’d read so much about the first generations of Muslims that I hadn’t imagined what else could have happened in the land they once lived in.  It’s not that I expected to go back in time or to be in some kind of holy land.  But I was expecting the difference to be greater.

The Bollywood music started and the crowd parted.  My wife walked out of the terminal, saw me, started gushing, and in a near run interrupted by bounds of joy, she fell into my outstretched arms and bouquet of roses.  

Then I woke up to the fight of my life.

It was Ramadan, which in the Arabian Gulf means shortened work hours, which means that the application for my residency permit, essential to my wife’s visa application, was going nowhere slow.  If you ask anybody for anything, they’ll tell you “After Eed.”  It’s not a holy month, it’s the perfect excuse…

I had to work on site till about 12 at the outskirts of Jeddah, hop on the first thing smoking back to my office, and start hounding this guy or that guy, whoever the buck was being passed to, about the application.  It turned out my boss was giving me the run-around.  He kept telling me to have someone else sign something that only he had the authority to sign, and by the way, he always takes Ramadan (and most other months) off, so the only way to get him to sign something was to give it to the guy who drove to his house from the office once a night.  I had to figure this all out bit-by-bit while getting over jet lag, fasting, going through a heat wave that makes Texas seem like Switzerland, and some mysterious headaches, probably brought on from the aforementioned three.

I had to get violent on those cats.  I went through all this trouble to get the driver guy to get a signature, then get that paper to the stamp guy, who doesn’t give a stamp without a signature, and then give the paper to the PR guy, whose job was to take things to government offices.  Do you know what this PR fool did when I finally tracked him down to give him the paper?  He picked it up like it was a towel and practically crumpled the whole thing.  After all I’d done.  I punched him in the chest.  I wasn’t angry (that’s what every guy says when he’s angry)-  I was just the new guy takin’ the shortcut to a little respect.  I hope that didn’t break my fast.  astaghfirullah

Finally it was all done.  Me and my wife’s paperwork were ready.  According to one veteran ex-pat, it was the Saudi record for getting the family’s paperwork done.

There was just one more thing, to bring her.  Normally, people just buy their wife a ticket and meet her at the airport.  I, however, was unwilling to break the Prophetic order forbidding a woman to travel long distances without a close relative.

“Brother, honestly, you’re wasting a lot of money.”

She’s not going to be traveling alone.  Her family will bring her there, then she’s on the plane with lots of people, and then you’ll meet her at the airport.  Someone will be there the whole time.”

This is what people were telling me, including my boss, who’s money I was borrowing to buy all the tickets, and whose travel agency was booking the ticket, and who’s language center I was going to be absent from for a day.  It’s a miracle this even happened now that I think about it.  alhamdulillah

I didn’t care.  I was willing to pay for a $100 visa to Pakistan, and a roundtrip ticket, only to stay for a day, on top of her one-way ticket, to follow my religion.

Besides, I wasn’t gonna take no chances wit’ my baby…

Her dad and brother met me at the airport.  When I walked into the house, she was helping her mother in the kitchen.  The first thing she did was look away, shy…

We didn’t hug- they don’t do that in front of other people in Pakistan.  We didn’t even smile.  There was too much worry, relief, gladness, and nervousness to know what face to make.  We’d been longing for so long we didn’t know how to feel anything else right away…

“as-Salamu álaykum”

“wa álaykum as-Salam”

Those simple words had so many thousand shades of meaning at that moment, and we meant every single one of them.

People had a certain smell when they are sick.  She had it.   Her skin was sallow, her voluminous hair thinned.  They say patience is a virtue.  I say that of all verbs, ‘wait’ is the most painful.  I don’t know what’s worse, being burned by the fire of the urge of what you think you can do, or the torment of knowing you can do nothing.  I’d had a lot of both.

As if on cue, our flight from Abu Dhabi was delayed.  Overnight.

You’re a young sheltered Pakistani girl, who’s only seen planes in the sky.  Now you’re in the middle of of one of the world’s busiest hubs with all kinds of people flying past- a line of 50 Malaysians with mini-visors sticking out of their hijabs making a beeline at you, a towering, Sudani family wearing miles of cloth taking your breath away, some squawky Brits brushing you aside.  Announcements blare in languages you can’t understand.  You’re alone and you don’t know where to go, who to ask, or even what to ask.

What would I have done if her flight had been delayed overnight and I was sitting in Jeddah not knowing where she was or how to reach her?  What would I have told her family that night at the time they were waiting to hear from her?  What would my friends and their advice do for me me then?

I felt vindicated.

As a reward, al-Ittihad Airways sponsored our second honeymoon:  a one-night stay with a free breakfast buffet in an Abu Dhabi hotel.

I had rented our apartment the day before I left.  I hadn’t even slept there myself, nevermind furnished it.  But it was home, our home, at last.  Only then could we finally take a breath and get a real look at each other again.

She was still beautiful…

To be concluded…

Strange Marriage: The Beginning…

By all normal expectations, we shouldn’t have been married. 

In Pakistan and South Asia, there is the issue of caste.  If anyone from there tells you any different, they’re covering it up to fit in.  It is not as all-encompassing in Pakistan as it is in India, but it is very much a part of marriage decisions.  I can prove it.  Go to any Muslim magazine.  Flip to the back.  You’ll see matrimonials.  Read the ads.  You might see, for example, the word “Rajput”.  That’s a caste.  They want to marry someone from their caste.  They only want to marry someone from their caste. 

On top of not being in her caste, or any that I know of, I’m a kalloo, a black.  Anti-dark skin and anti-African racism has the potential to unite the world.  It is one thing that most cultures seem to agree on, including, sickly, dark-skinned people and Africans themselves.  If anyone from anywhere tells you this isn’t true, just go to where they’re from and ask any dark-skinned people or Africans about that.  Or, when you visit a country, compare how many dark-skinned people you see on the street compared to how many you see on TV.  The only ones you’ll see are in the “before” portion of the skin-lightening cream commercials.

And Pakistan is a controversial country to be connected to, to say the least.  A lot of people fear it, or outright hate it.  I remember driving a newly-wed couple from their wedding to a hotel for their honeymoon.

“Are you married, too?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, really?  Where’d you get married?”

“Pakistan.”

Silence…

We really do make an odd-couple.  We’re over a foot apart in height.  I’m black, she’s white.  I’m the far-flung rebel, she’s the goody-goody homebody.  I’m extroverted, she’s introverted.  And our cultures and languages are vastly different.

“Why did you say yes when they asked if you wanted to marry me?”

“I don’t know.”

That’s the answer I always get when I ask, and I believe it.  When she asks me, I can’t come up with anything different.

Life is like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.  Remember those?  You read through a situation and it ends with the character facing two choices: 

Choose A and turn to page X. 

Choose B and turn to page Y. 

Your choice, in turn, leads to two more choices.  But you didn’t know what they’d be until you’d already turned the page to them.

Except in life, you can’t turn back the page.  That choice is never available to you.  You don’t come to the options of consequences of your choice, and decide to go back and pick others.  You can only continue to choose.  And that’s it.  There’s no other way to describe it.

It doesn’t matter why I did what I did, because it’s already done;  but I’ll still try to tell you.  For one, the taste of adventure intrigued me.  I’ve always wanted something different.  There’s always been something about where I am- wherever I am- and who I am- though the most part I love- that I’ve hated.  I’ve always wanted to be different, to do different.  Whenever I look at the road that’s paved for me, I step off it and walk on the grass.  It’s softer on my feet. 

I used to be so filled with rage, and I still am, but no longer consumed by it.  I wanted revenge against the society I was born in.  You know what I hated the most?  Humiliation.  I hated the fact that I was in America because my every second there was a reminder that my ancestors had been dominated, ripped from their lands and history, my history, raped and enslaved.  I hated my own- the European trophy on the grave of my African and Native American ancestors.  I looked around and all I saw was people being abused, and taking it.  It was unfathomable.  Talk about my mama, and I woulda beat you up, but you know what the real insult was?  Telling me what to do.  Who did you think you were that I would obey you?  Who did you think I was?  I will not do what you say, even if it’s what I want to do, for the exact reason that you told me to do it.  I will correct you.  Further, I will humiliate you for your arrogance against me.  I will make you wallow, publicly, in the humiliation you dared to believe I would accept.

I remember once, in 2nd grade, there was an assembly.  So the teacher told us to line up and get ready to go.  I can’t tell you why, but I refused.  She made every threat, but I would not get in line with the rest of the class.  Finally, she turned off the lights and led the class out.  I called her bluff and stayed right there, until the assembly finished and they came back.  Her blunder was that I had no bluff.  There was nothing anyone could do to me, no threat that I could even imagine, that was worse than living with humiliation.  I could endure anything except shame.  Living with the memory of oppression was a worse fate than death.

You know what really used to trip me out?  Watching everybody tripping out on me.  I’d be looking at them taking orders and conforming and I couldn’t believe it.  Couldn’t they see they didn’t have to?  How could they ever want to?  I mean I was there setting the example, fighting for all of us, right in front of their faces.  It hurt me to watch them endure what in my eyes could only be suffering, and I was fundamentally, absolutely bewildered that they couldn’t see the point.  I was really popular, these were my friends.  I was the class clown, class rebel and honor roll student, all at the same time.  Everybody liked me and was probably a little leery of me at the same time.

So everything and everyone feels familiar and utterly foreign to me at the same time.  There’s no crowd I don’t feel lonely in, no people I can consider wholly mine, none who consider me wholly theirs.

That’s probably why I travel, why I’m free.  I have nothing to gain or lose.  I feel like I can do anything.  There’s nothing to hold me back.  I’m always on the outside looking in, and the inside looking out.  It’s not so much that I transcend, it’s that everywhere is the same.  There are just the obligatory adjustments of language, currency, time zone, etc.  Hard times ain’t a hurdle for me.

So that’s why I said yes to the marriage.

Sometimes people say, “I wish I could’ve done that.”  Not about this “strange marriage” but other things I’ve done, like transferring to another university, or studying abroad.  I’m like “Why couldn’t you have?  You could’ve applied as easily as me…”  But it wasn’t the practicalities they were talking about.  It is only now, and I mean at this exact moment as I am writing to you, that I realize what it was really all about.

You can’t dream.

In Sociology, I learned that institutionalization means taking the present reality for granted to the extent that you can’t imagine anything else, even if you don’t like it, even if it feels wrong.

You can’t even picture yourself even trying.

This isn’t what you want, you’re not who you want, but at least you know what’s on the next page.  If you start choosing your own way, you won’t know, and that’s why you don’t choose it.  I don’t blame you, because I’m as scared as you.  But what I’m scared of is what’s on this page, and what I know is on the next one.  What I’m scared of is the way we feel right now.  The reason I take the risk isn’t because I’m stronger than you.  I have no idea what’s gonna happen next and I swear to God that I’m afraid.  But I know it’s our only chance, and that’s why I take it.  I’m not brave-  I’m just less afraid of change than the misery of things staying the same.

And that’s all this story is really about when you think about:  a choice.  One simple choice, and all the choices that were opened or closed to me after it.  Marry the girl or not.  At the same time, so much of that choice was beyond my choosing.  Her father chose Islam over culture and that gave his daughter the choice.  She, in turn, chose yes, which gave me the choice.  There is a verse in the Qur-an which is translated as “and you do not choose except as Allah Chooses”.  Before we choose anything, so much has been chosen before it for us to even be able to.

___

Now I’m gonna ask you a question, the answer to which is a question, that only I can answer.

Ready?

Do you know what my friend just texted me, tonight, right before I started writing this chapter?

“Based on the story i’m reading on the net. have you been back home with your wife yet?”

The answer’s no and yes:  no, I have not taken her to the land of my upbringing;  yes, for we are home wherever we are.  Wherever we arrive, we project an aura, the same aura, from our hearts, and its beams meet itself right at the top of wherever we are, then we bring it down, then it fills the entire space that we are in.  Then we are home, in our love, in our special culture.

Our dream is the only home we have, and by Islam we realize them:  that every person was made to live in peace- wholeness within, unity without.  Every person has the right to inherit that peace, the duty to uphold it, and the responsibility to pass it .  It is only that, truly, that unites my wife and I, across the chasms of culture, background, and personality:  we share the same dream.

Don’t underestimate them:  dreams are the most powerful things in this world. And the most dangerous.  Name anything, and we have more than enough of it.  Maybe they’re being squandered or hoarded, but there’s more than enough water, food, land, oil, everything.  The one thing there isn’t enough of is room for everyone’s dream to come true.  It is for this alone that wars are fought.  This, not money, is the root of all evil, for money is only a means to achieve.  This is the source of every lie- for at all times, every effort is being made to create your dream for you, because your dreams determine your choices.  Everyone wants you to choose as they have chosen, because in life, really, there are only 2 choices:  wake up to your dream one day, or somebody else’s.

Choose wisely.