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Amal Albaz

Amal Albaz has written 13 posts for Amal Ahmed Albaz

MommyDiaries: The Power of Giving

A friend of mine asked me, “So how’s motherhood?” All I could think of besides it being oh so tiring and busy, was that it was just so genuinely giving. You just give, give and give. Then when you think you’re done giving, you give some more. You’re a well without an end…always ready to provide. Perhaps because he’s still a newborn, but you really do get nothing in return. Yes, you get the blessing of motherhood; but that’s from God– not from your child. He gives you nothing but cries and packages every two hours with nature’s call. (She calls him…a lot!). He doesn’t yet smile so you feel like you’re at least getting something, and he doesn’t yet talk to acknowledge you. But still, there’s something so beautiful about this new but ancient bond. There’s still something unexplainable when he rests his head on your chest, soothed to sleep by the very heart beat that brought him comfort for 9 months within your womb. There’s something extraordinary when he can’t calm down with anyone but you, as if he’s telling you, “I know who you are, mama. I can smell (not only your milk) but your unconditional love.”

It’s a different type of love. You enter a relationship so you could get something out of it. Whether it be happiness, companionship or love. If you find yourself endlessly giving without getting anything in return, you’re often disappointed and that relationship comes to an end. But this is the beauty of motherhood (and parenthood in general). It’s a relationship that often feels one sided. Because once they outgrow the newborn phase and join the toddler, teenager and then adult club, you’ll still find yourself giving. You’ll always find yourself giving. And the beauty of it all is that you want to keep giving. Even if there’s nothing left to give, you’ll dig in the treasure that is your heart and you’ll find something. Why? Because you’re a parent–a mother…a giver.

Social media on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

Jason Howie

Everyone’s a celebrity nowadays.

It seems as though half the people on Instagram have at least 15K followers. And what’s interesting to me is, they mostly happen to be “fashionistas.”

All it takes is one photo that goes viral for you to become this social media goddess. People start to idolize you. You start having meet and greets— and for what? For posing with a pretty dress. I’m sorry, but that’s really all it is. And what message does this send out?

It says that as long as you’re “pretty” you can be influential. As long as you’re good with makeup and have nice clothes, you’re powerful and people want to be like you. As long as you have all of these likes, you will be successful in anything you do.

I remember meeting a woman who apparently had over 150K followers on Instagram for her makeup videos. I didn’t know that. She looked at me as if I stabbed a knife through her gut.

“You don’t know who I am?” she said sharply.

“No, sorry.” I said, trying to think of a way to sound less offending. “You do look kind of familiar, though.” I lied.

“I’m Instafamous…I’m sure you follow me.”

But I didn’t follow her. I don’t follow certain profiles for many reasons (but that’s for another rant). Besides, they end up on my “explore” page, whether I like it or not. One of the reasons I do this is to make a statement that I’m not with this omg-I-have-to-follow-her-and-like-every-thing-she-posts-I-wish-I-can-be-like-her idolizing.

You want people to admire you for what you do; not for the way you look. Your “fans” (though I prefer the term “supporters”), shouldn’t start screaming crazily when they see you; they should run to thank you for helping make a difference in their life. When you meet someone you’ve always wanted to meet, do you tell them, “Wow. I love your makeup?” or do you tell them, “Wow. You changed me.”?

Have a following for your mind; not for your body. Let people admire YOU; your skills, your talents; not for your appearance.

“Top most beautiful women on Instagram” are titles of articles I start seeing. Really? I don’t mean to say that these women aren’t beautiful, but is that all they are? (Unfortunately a lot of times, they allow themselves to be just that). But is that what everyone aspires to be? First, it was magazines and commercials that brainwashed our society into thinking what beauty meant and how we should acquire it. Now, in addition to that, we have social media— and due to its sole reliance on photographs, it’s mostly Instagram.

So as I scroll on my Instagram feed, picture after picture, I often come to a stop.

What am I doing? 

Why do my fingers automatically tap the Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter app before I go to bed, as if it were some sort of holy ritual? We’ve come to a point where we literally enjoy watching other people live their lives more than we actually enjoy living it ourselves. We’ve become obsessed. We are creating this celebrity culture and then complain, “What’s wrong with our society? Why does everyone want to dress/be like him/her?” 

If I find myself robotically scrolling on my news feed, on either Instagram or Facebook, I have to remind myself to stop. I don’t want to be used to this. I don’t want to wait for someone to post something interesting about them for me to feel like I quenched my curiosity. I hate the idea of (unconsciously) obsessing over other people’s lives; it makes me feel so vulnerable.

So to organize my thought-storm, as usual, I ranted via the way I know best— through pen and paper (or rather, mouse and keyboard).

MOST OF THE TIME, YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME

Why is it that we need someone to stalk? Why do we care about watching a 45 minute vlog about someone’s honeymoon? (Besides, last I remember, that’s supposed to be a private, intimate time but that’s also for another rant). Why do we need to watch her husband do her makeup with a blindfold on? I’m sorry to say this, but we genuinely are wasting our time. (Besides, he’s got the eyeliner all wrong).

When we don’t want to use our brains, we often look for things that don’t require much brain-work. We just want to switch it off, so we look for anything to just kill time.

We look for endless ways to waste time and then wonder why we don’t have time for anything.

Us humans, we like to know things. We’re nosy about knowing personal information about other people. We care in an overly-obsessive kind of way, which quite frankly, I find a little sad. We want to know how this certain celebrity goes about spending their day. We want to know where she shops, what she buys and what she carries around in her purse. (Omg, I have to get the same brand of tissues she carries around)

Creeping into people’s lives and letting them know that you are, giving them more motivation to let you creep, honestly shows how much you don’t have a life– and that’s a little sad.

So why accept that type of humiliation? Live your own life. Vlog if you want to. Don’t post it; just keep it to yourself. Treasure your own memories. At some point, you’ll find yourself sitting at dinner with a friend, talking about all the adventures you know happened to other people. So make your own adventures. Pick up a book. Learn something new. Write your own story. Yes, we should all get to know one another and read each other’s stories, but you cannot let dust collect on your empty-paged-book because you’re so busy reading about others; there needs to be a balance. Your story matters as much as anyone else’s.

YOU FELL FOR IT; YOU THINK THEIR LIFE IS COOLER

Yup, you fell for it. Don’t you feel a little silly? You think their life is perfect. How could it not be when they’ve got that many followers that adore them, right? Wrong.

Some people actually have hours-long photo shoots just so they have one nice picture to share on Instagram in hope of it going viral. A lot of times it’s such a fake portrayal. There was a video I recently watched of a model who decided to “quit social media” in which she confesses that she once posted a photo of going for a jog, and even after it rained and she cancelled the jog, she kept the post up so it looks like she did it anyway. Wow, she’s so fit and healthy, you’ll think.

I know of a couple who was actually preparing for a divorce after a major fight, yet the wife, still, shared constant pictures of their “happy family” with captions as if their life was flawless. Don’t be fooled. Don’t judge; just be critical. No one’s life is perfect— but no one is going to advertise that. They will let you know when things are going well; but they rarely let you know about the tough times, unless they’re asking for your prayers.

We assume this perfect profile, when in reality, it’s an imperfect portrayal.

People choose what to make you see on their social media. They’re their own gate-keeper. They censor each word– each post. It’s all superficial. They’re going to post smiles, not frowns. And most importantly, they’re often going to post successes, not failures.

YOU’RE GIVING YOUR UNCONSCIOUS SUPPORT

In a way, you are in control. And most of all, they’re going to post what they think YOU want to see/hear/read.  They’re not going to post something if it doesn’t get any likes. They’re not going to keep posting husband-sister-brother-mom-tags if no one watches them. You’re giving your unconscious support.

It’s a never-ending cycle. We cannot point fingers at those who are “Instafamous” or people who have a large following on social media and not look at the followers. We are the followers. We’re the reason it’s so successful.

Our support is the fuel that keeps this phenomenon going.

So is it wrong to follow someone? Absolutely not! We’re all in this together; we need to support each other. But we need to be sure we’re following them for a reason. Don’t just “like” them because everyone else does. Ask yourself why you’re following them. Am I following them because they have something meaningful to say? Do they make me want to become a better person? Do they remind me of what’s important? Or do I just follow them because I like their eye colour and shoes?

YOU’RE TEARING APART NOT ONLY YOUR’S, BUT OTHERS’ ESTEEM

It has such a profound impact on us. We are being affected without realizing. We, all of a sudden, want more things so we have everything they have, start to feel insecure about ourselves and start subconsciously judging everyone else . She’s not as pretty; her lips are too big; her eyes are too small; her nose is not centered. And that is not the way I want to think about anyone and I certainly don’t want anyone thinking that about me.

When you constantly look at these “made up” images , you’re not going to want to leave the house without at least a little bit of concealer; even if you don’t need it. You’re going to start asking people why they look “sick,” just because they don’t have the amount of makeup everyone on Instagram has.

Am I saying we should quit social media? No; social media has immense benefits and that’s not what this post is about. We should, however, quit obsessively stalking other people.

It’s obviously O.K. to have followers and to be followers. But it’s not O.K. to idolize someone just because they woke up one day and found their profile flooded with likes and comments.

FYI: If you had a lens that blurs out the background, your pictures would look that much cooler too. If you posed next to a tree with your outfit with some makeup and possibly a filter, and it gets picked up by an account with a large following, you could probably get that many likes too. But that’s not the point.

The issue is that we hand out fame based on beauty, and unfortunately, a lot of times it’s artificial. It’s the difficult truth no one likes to discuss. We cannot let social media define beauty. We cannot let Instagram decide who’s the fairest of them all.

 

How not to be a robot; balancing work and life

Wash, lather, rinse, repeat.

Wake up, go to work, go to sleep, repeat.

Sounds like a robot, doesn’t it? Anyone in the working life can attest to that. You do the same thing, every day. You can’t tell the days apart from how similar they’ve become.

You see, work has taken over our lives. You’re at the dinner table, and all of a sudden, the table starts shaking. No, it’s not an earthquake; it’s your phone. Or rather, it’s your boss. You thought the day was over, but here’s an email explaining that something urgent came up and that you must address it immediately. There goes the quality time with family you thought you were having tonight.

Then, the next day, you’re doing the night shift. You glance at your spouse for a mere, blurry second as they leave early for work (you’re in bed trying to get as much sleep as possible to stay awake at work) and you get home after midnight when they’re sound asleep. I’m not going to wake him, you think to yourself. Besides, he’s so— zzzand you crash.

For those of you in the beginning of your careers, know that you’re probably going to be working a part of your anatomy off for a while. But the fear is that it will never end.  A lot of people say, “Oh, it’s just the beginning.” But then why, 30 years down the road, do I still see people doing nothing but work?

For a lot of people, work is their way of contributing to society. It’s their way of making a difference. But for a lot of other people, work is just a way of paying the bills that results in no other time for 1). things they really want to do and 2). being human. As a result of our usually praised workaholic society, we are risking our relationships, health and overall happiness. So it’s not about “dreading” going to work or not wanting to; it’s about having that balance, as we should in every aspect of our lives.

One of the top 5 regrets of dying people was: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. So how do we not live life like robots?

I’m a complete rookie to the work life. But from what I’ve seen thus far, this is what I think will help me stay passionate about my work without sacrificing every other element in my life.

Here are 5 ways to live and and work efficiently ever after:

1). When you’re at work, be at work

If you treat your however many hours you’re required to work with perfection, you will get your work done and will have less “homework” to do at home. The key is to try to be efficient and to eliminate distractions. If you have a lunch break, don’t go beyond the time allocated for it. Don’t waste time at work. You want to excel at your job. Do the best you can and once you’ve done that, try even harder. Some days you’re going to have work more than others, and that’s O.K. as long as you’re aware when and how often it’s happening. (Not so you can be paid overtime but for your own assessment)

2). Schedule everything in

I  mean it— everything. That doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous, but that means you’ve prioritized what’s important to you and you’ve actually allocated time for it. Make use of every minute of every day. According to a TIME article, research shows that the happiest people are busy — but don’t feel rushed.

Use a weekly schedule and decide what you want to do daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. That can include -but is obviously not limited to- yoga, visiting family, catching up with friends, volunteering, spiritual gatherings— anything you want to do or any hobby you want to continue taking part in. You may not get to do everything every week, but you’re going to try. And if you miss it, a small part of you will feel guilty so you’ll try not to miss it twice in a row. Efficient people have planned schedules but aren’t afraid to break away from them when necessary (remember that).

3). Where’s that bucket list?

Remember the list of things you’ve always wanted to do before you turned 30? (And now that you’ve turned 30, it’s now up to 40…) Get to it! Going skydiving or starting on that novel you’ve always wanted to write (or whatever it is you really want to do)— do it now. It’ll make you less resentful. Even though you’re working long hours, you’ll feel satisfied knowing that you’re accomplishing the things you’ve always wanted to accomplish. It’ll make you feel less like a robot…more free-spirited. You’ll feel like you’re in control. You’ll feel excited and if anything, you’ll be excited to go to work and brag about what you’ve done over the weekend.

4). Me, me, me

(I know, if you’re a mother reading this, you probably want to shoot me right now. ME TIME? IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!) But really. Have some time for your own sanity. Turn off your phone and write in a journal; go for a jog; sit under a tree; read a book; or just sit and do nothing. Reflect. Assess how you feel. Don’t ignore that little voice in your head that asks you every day, “are you happy?” “are you becoming a better person?” They’re trivial questions that may need some time to be answered.

5). Urgent vs. important

Simply put, decide what you need to do now and what can wait until later. Often times, you’ll realize it’s not really the end of the world and time is on your side— for once.

The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking

At the end of the day, you really should love what you do. But it’s important to realize that work isn’t the only identifier that speaks to who you are. You work so you can have a life, you don’t have a life just so you can work. We’re not machines, but without the proper balance, we can eventually breakdown.

It’s not about the wedding; it’s about the marriage

Funny FYI: this photo, although in our wedding outfits was not taken on our wedding day...it was taken on the 11th day of our marriage.

Funny FYI: this photo, although in our wedding outfits was not taken on our wedding day; it was taken over a week later.

I was obsessed.

The flowers have to be champaign pink with a hint of cherry, the bridesmaids have to be wearing flowy lilac gowns and my dress has to be the only one ever created— even if it costs me the car I could’ve bought.

The idea of a perfect wedding was a hazy picture that slowly came to focus as I started to open this new chapter of my life. Now that I was actually with the man I’m about to spend my entire life with, the 200mm wedding zoom lens instantly switched to a 10mm marriage wide lens. All I saw before was an extremely zoomed image of a wedding. Then, as I switched lenses and saw the bigger picture, there was so much more to see in my viewfinder. So much, much more.

I saw us holding the key to our new house after finally being able to save up for a down payment. I saw a home filled with children and weekend family gatherings. I saw being there for him when times got hard. I saw him picking me right up when I came tumbling down. I saw both good times and bad times. I saw life; I saw marriage.

At that moment, I realized that way too often, we confuse marriages with weddings. A marriage isn’t about flowers and matching dresses. It’s not about extravagant favors, limos or fireworks as you dance. Marriage is work— very hard work. But that feeling of peace and tranquility you get as you lay your head on the pillow each night, knowing you both are giving it all that you can, makes it all worth it. Is it the easiest thing to do? Absolutely not. But is it doable? Absolutely, yes. It’s not going to be rainbows and sunshine everyday; but it doesn’t have to be a thunderstorm either.

I’m not going to say I stopped caring about our wedding. I still wanted a beautiful celebration with my friends and family to celebrate what’s supposed to be the most magical day of my life. And did I get that? By the grace of God, yes. I had a BLAST at our wedding. Though I always imagined my wedding and my dress to be the most extravagant (as I pinned all that I’d like to see at my wedding on Pinterest like we all do…ehem…), I don’t regret not spending our entire life savings on a 5 hour party (that is what it is, right?). And besides, I’ve seen much humbler weddings. I’ve seen no weddings at all, actually.

It’s sad that some people think that the amount of money you spend on your wedding directly correlates with the amount of love you have for each other. (Or even worse, correlates with how successful your marriage will be).

When I got a compliment about our wedding, I was obviously ecstatic to hear it, but I had nothing to do with it. It was everyone’s presence that made it so memorable. It had nothing to do with my bouquet, the lighting or the half chocolate, half vanilla cake (okay, maybe the cake had something to do with it…). The details you spend weeks and months finalizing often go unnoticed. People are not there to see how much you spent; they’re there to join you in celebration.

If we spend the same amount of time perfecting and exploring the details of our relationships as we do for our weddings, imagine how low we can drag the divorce rate.

Instead of worrying about the perfect centrepiece, perfect the central piece of your marriage— love and respect. 

A lot of us want to be married, but we just don’t seem to think beyond the ring. We need to open our eyes and see beyond the weddingdespite that shiny diamond getting in the way, often blinding our judgment.

Slowly, I came to a realization that a wedding is about being a princess for one night, but a marriage is about being a queen forever— and I’ d much rather the latter.

Weddings are given this holy sense of perfection. You must look the best you’ve ever looked (even if you look nothing like yourself); and it must be the most magical day of your life (even if you won a nobel prize). Like we all do, by God’s will, I hope to live a great life. I plan on having adventures and accomplishing great things. So was it the “most special and magical day of my life?” I certainly hope not.

Help! I Can’t Taste Salah.

I received the following message from a sister who wishes to remain anonymous. She has agreed to share her question, since it may be something others may be struggling with.

“Sister, I have a problem. I cannot enjoy salah. I try to but I can’t. Every time I have to get up and pray, I feel like it’s such a burden and I’m doing it only because I have to, not because I want to. I want to feel like I want to pray. I’m jealous of people who look like they’re enjoying it. Can you tell me what I can do to solve this problem? I feel like my heart is no longer pure.”

First of all, don’t say that your heart is not pure. The mere fact that you are trying to solve this “problem,” means that there is good in your heart. You should begin to worry when you no longer care. We are at times overshadowed by our busy lives and forget to self-reflect and self-assess. You’re on the right track. You assessed  yourself and have concluded that there’s something in your life that you are lacking. Now the question is, why do you feel like this? Why do we all, at one point, feel like this?

 

For Some, Salah is an Acquired Taste 

 

Every time you come this close to tasting the so-called “sweet” taste of salah, you burn your tongue with distractions, it becomes numb and you lose sensation.

You know how they say coffee is an acquired taste? (I don’t like coffee but that’s what I hear!) It’s extremely strong for most in the beginning and need to take it with sugar and milk until they can take it black (and some never reach that stage). Coffee is bitter; it’s not naturally sweet. For some, salah is only a parallel. It’s too bitter and takes too much effort to start liking.

Most people don’t start drinking coffee because they thought it was “Oh so delicious” the first time they tried it. Usually people are attracted to it for its smell, its caffeine, or perhaps for the ritual of drinking it during breakfast or after dinner. Essentially, for a lot of people, they start drinking it for the idea of coffee rather than the taste of coffee itself.

Similarly for salah, you have to constantly try it to start truly enjoying its taste.

Unlike coffee, salah is not naturally bitter; it’s naturally sweet, but because of our laziness and our low state of iman, we consider it to be too heavy.

The same way the idea of coffee getting you through the day gave you the push to start drinking, think of salah under the same light. Salah is your daily cup of iman to help get you through not just the day, but through life (this one and the next).

It may seem hard in the beginning, but if you take it gradually, step by step, you won’t be able to go a day without it. The same way your body becomes addicted to coffee’s daily dose of caffeine, you’ll need your daily dose of salah— five times a day. (Luckily, unlike caffeine, you can’t overdose with salah).

 

Realize it’s Your Loss, Not His

 

We need to make something very clear:

We don’t pray because Allah “needs” us to; we pray because we need Him.

Only when we truly understand this fundamental statement, can we then take the next step forward. Not only does God not need us, he does not “need”– period. The reason we don’t feel the spark everyone talks about is because we don’t feel like we need Him. We know it in our minds, but we don’t know it in our hearts. We attribute our success to our selves. “I did it.” “I studied hard and aced that test.” “I worked hard and that’s why I’m rich.” We can’t expect to wholeheartedly pray to Allah if we feel like we don’t need Allah.

Salah is your umbilical cord that keeps you connected to Allah SWT. It’s where you are spiritually nourished and fed– your source of survival. Without it, you are starving your soul.

Once you realize you need Allah SWT, like a child needs their caregiver, you will only want more care– more love.

 

The Power of Remembrance 

 

We are humans. We are wired to seek reward and yield punishment. Naturally, we should reap the benefits of salah and avoid the consequences. But because we don’t see the reward and punishment instantly, we become oblivious to it. We know we’ll be held accountable on the day of judgement, but because it seems so far away, we forget. That’s why we must keep our tongues moist with the remembrance of Allah– to remember.To remember that each salah you pray may very well be your last. That in itself is a scary thought. (May Allah SWT make our final act an act of prayer and worship- ameen.)

So essentially, zhikr is the cure. It reminds you of your vulnerability and it softens your heart. Ibn al-Qayyim once said, “In the heart there is hardness which can only be softened by remembrance of Allah SWT. So the slave must treat the hardness of his heart with the remembrance of Allah.”

Once your heart becomes soft, only then can you begin to enjoy salah. Expose yourself to Allah SWT. Show Him your desperation. Show Him your scars so that He may cure you.

 

Be Greedy for Allah’s Mercy

 

Be selfish. Yes, selfish. Think about your soul. Think of the good things salah offers you and envy its reward. The most motivating of all rewards is the fact that salah acts as an eraser to our bad deeds. Erase the sins before the pencil even strikes the page.

The prophet PBUH said, “If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?” The people said, “No filth would remain on him whatsoever.” The Prophet PBUH then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: Allah SWT wipes away the sins by them.”

Your eyes see things they shouldn’t see; your mouth says things it shouldn’t say; your feet take you places they’re not supposed to go; and your hands do things they’re not supposed to do. Cleanse yourself. Why choose to be dirty?

Imagine you fail a test. Your professor announces that if you do this extra assignment, the failed mark will be annulled and it won’t reflect on your GPA. You’d be foolish not to take the opportunity. No one is perfect; we all sin. We are given an opportunity to literally erase our mistakes five times a day (not including non-compulsory prayers). So be greedy. Take advantage of this.

 

 Realize it’s a Conversation 

 

Surat Al-Fatiha is literally a conversation between you and your creator. That alone should give you chills. But because you’ve become a robotic machine, with programmed movements to just “check off” the daily prayer, you miss the beauty of this conversation. Allah SWT responds to everything you say. 

When you say, “Guide us to the straight path,” Allah SWT says, “This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.”

You ask Allah SWT in every salah to guide you to the straight path and He promises you for what you ask for. Some of us may think, “Well, I say that all the time but I always find myself stuck where I am…unguided.” First of all, we must say it from the heart and mean it. You have to say it without being distracted by what you’re going to cook after salah, or by thinking about if the commercial break is over. Secondly, after asking Allah SWT to guide you to the straight path, you can’t just stand there, you have to start walking! He will then come to you running, but you have to take the first step.

 


 

I can quote dozens of sayings from the prophet PBUH and verses from the Quran, but that won’t necessarily make you change. It all starts with whether or not you truly want to start praying/enjoying salah. If you want it to happen, you will make it happen.

Get to know Who you’re praying to. You cannot love someone you do not know. Reflect. A lot. Wake up when everyone is asleep. Start tonight. He waits for you to call to Him. When silence is the only sound, you will hear the words of God. When darkness fills the night, His light will fill your heart.

 

 

 

 

Chapel Hill Shooting: #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter

Every time I read the news, I wonder if humanity is moving forward or backward.

Hash tags like #BlackLivesMatter only reiterate this. We seriously need a hash tag to remind us that African American lives matter?! We need protests and demonstrations just to hold people accountable for acts they’ve irresponsibly committed? I thought we were past that…I guess democracy is just an illusion that is only clear to a particular skin pigment (or lack thereof).

It seems like the more pigmented your skin, the more trouble you’re in.

Lately, it seems like #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter. Subconsciously, we’ve come to think that if you’re white, you’re automatically “excused.” If you’re a caucasian and you commit a crime, you have the luxury of due diligence— you’re innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. You have the luxury of being accused of mental instability, instead of being accused of being a terrorist. In a nutshell, you have the luxury of not worrying that your entire ethnicity, race or religion will take the fall with you.

After the recent shooting at Chapel Hill, the world was once again reminded by the continued injustice to minorities around the globe.

Interestingly (or not really), the terrorist label wasn’t mentioned once. It wasn’t a “terrorist attack,” because, duh, the killer wasn’t Muslim. Muslims die and they are covered for about a day or two, but when so-called Muslims kill, they are the heart of media for weeks. They are portrayed as a homogeneous mixture of backward, violent extremists. Muslims are rarely portrayed under positive light— and if they are, they are the exception to the rule.

Okay, but let’s be fair: media outlets did report the horrific incident, but let’s take a look at the headlines.

“Three young Muslims shot,” we read everywhere.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 11.18.38 AM

Aljazeera similarly says:

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No where do we see the religion of the shooter (due to its “irrelevance,” it’s argued). There needs to be consistency when reporting about religion. Otherwise, its constant usage will lead to misrepresentation. Religion shouldn’t be the identifying factor for victims or for criminals— simply the same way someone’s weight doesn’t matter. It really should be irrelevant, unless it’s vital to understand the context of the story.

Let’s contrast this to events that have recently occurred, all involving shooting as the method of violence. Their portrayal and the association with the word “terror” is one to note. One can only wonder…if the criminals weren’t Muslim, would have the word “terrorist” been used?

Here’s the NY Times during the attack on Charlie Hebdo:

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Likewise, when the Ottawa shootings happened last year, not just the media, but the government called it a “terrorist” attack. Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 2.04.05 PM

Throughout the NY Times article, words like “Islamic radicalism” and “Islamic terror” are common.

The constant association of words like Islamic and Muslim with terror and radical has brainwashed nations into generalizing more than 1.6 billion Muslims as extremists— for horrid acts a fraction of that number commit.

Muslims constantly feel the need to apologize for acts they did not commit, due to all the pressure from the media. Without the need to explain, this is extremely unnecessary. You don’t see Muslims asking all whites and atheists to apologize for the shooter’s actions…because it is completely unfair to judge a group of people by one person’s actions. You can’t say all Germans were Nazis, can you? So why is it so easy to say all Muslims are terrorists?

One can argue that in the Chapel Hill case, it’s relevant to mention religion because it was about religion, and essentially I agree for the following reason:

CNN found a Facebook post by Craig Stephen Hick, the accused shooter who turned himself in, saying :

“When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I.”

But here is where I differ. When Muslims kill, they are automatically labeled by their religion. They are called “Islamic terrorists,” directly linking Islam, not just Muslims, to the criminal act. But when Muslims are killed by non-Muslims, suddenly, the criminal’s religion is completely ignored. If this isn’t terrorism, I’m not really sure what is.

In this case, it’s the Muslims being labelled again. This time as the victims as opposed to the criminals, but this does two things: 1). It creates sympathy for the shooter (labelled as a U.S. gunman) because he was “saving” America from the “radicals”; and 2). It creates an inconsistency in reporting. Why aren’t the headlines: “THREE YOUNG ADULTS SHOT BY ANGRY ATHEIST”? (Or by “angry Christian” if he was). Journalists need to be held accountable for their reporting, because it’s causing a lot of either unnoticed, or noticed (and intended) harm. Hopefully it’s the former.

But here’s some food for thought:

Have you ever stopped and wondered if we are responsible for this, as an ummah?

We are mad and heartbroken, I get it. But let’s direct that energy to a more positive outlook and start looking in the mirror. Should it not be our responsibility to clear these sorts of misconceptions to prevent acts like this from happening? If we are doing more da’wa, people wouldn’t have this twisted idea of Islam. People don’t hate Muslims or Islam…they hate what they hear about Muslims and Islam. We can make a difference.

It has shattered the hearts of people around the world to know that the victims were newlyweds, and that the three died at such young age. Vigils were flooded by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They weren’t very known before their death, but subhanAllah…think of all the prayers they’ve received worldwide. Think of the many people that are seeing Islam in a good light because of what they’ve left behind. God is all knowing, and we must understand that everything happens for a reason. May Allah have mercy on their souls and may He shower their families with strength and patience.

‘.قدر الله، وما شاء فعل’

‘Allah so determined and did as He willed.’

I am truly hopeful. I genuinely believe that our world can get better. I don’t think we should just get upset, blame everything on everyone else and do nothing. I know we’re facing a powerful media, but there’s one thing that’s certain: actions speak louder than words. If your actions contradict what the media is saying, people will start to question the media; because at the end of the day, seeing is believing.

Note: When I say #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter, I do not mean to generalize because that is the root of most problems. Simply, I’m acknowledging that there is indeed something called white privilege, and that it’s rooted deeply within our societal norms. 

Oh you shouldn’t have! But now that you did…’tweet!’

We get it. He loves you very much. He buys you flowers every week and leaves you a love note next to your coffee every morning. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Really. It’s cute, genuine love.

But what can ruin that love is your constant marketing of it. We live in a time where social media is intertwined in every little aspect of our lives. People post “Just sneezed,” so someone can comment “Bless you.” We can’t eat a meal before snapping a picture of it (and adding a nice filter to make it look better than it actually is), and we can’t sit as a family watching a movie without someone posting “Feeling blessed; with family.”

So, as a result, you feel compelled to share every little detail of your life with the world.

When your husband does something sweet for you, and your automatic reaction is “Instagram!” there’s something wrong. It’s human nature to want to share our love. In a Philosophy of Love course I took in first year, we learned that a couple becomes one unit to the public eye. We can’t think of X without thinking of Y. And they’re proud of that. So it’s very natural to want to stand on top of a mountain, and proudly shout, “I HAVE THE BEST HUSBAND IN THE WORLD!” And there may even be a small bit inside of you that’s giggling and teasing, “nananabooboo.”

This constant need to share your spouse’s acts of kindness could originate from a little insecurity. You want to let the world know you’re happy. You want to prove it with evidence. You care to that extent. Maybe you want to make someone a little jealous. Maybe you’re subconsciously bragging about how awesome your love life is. Or maybe you’re just genuinely in love with your spouse and want to share the happiness he bestows upon you. But think about this: if you have something precious, preserve it. Cherish it. Don’t keep sharing it with the world. And by time, you’ll notice a bond even stronger between both of you, because you’ll learn to feel emotionally satisfied with just the performer— not the audience.

But beware; there could be danger. By time, you’re going to enjoy the “likes” and the “oh-that’s-so-sweet-you’re-so-lucky” comments, more than the act of love itself. You’ll look past it, and only feel true enjoyment when it’s publicized. You’ll realize that if you don’t tweet about it or Instagram it, you’re not feeling satisfied, because you used his love to create a sort of love and acceptance for yourself from others.

And you may not be the only person in danger.

When you post every tiny detail of how “awesome” your love life is, that’s the only message you send out. You’re obviously not going to post about the time he hurt you, or made you cry. Maybe he doesn’t, and that’s great. But you’re not going to post your fights/arguments either, which we know are quite inevitable. You only select what seems “perfect.” And here’s the problem with that:

If your friend A, sees all the amazingly cute stuff your husband does for you, but doesn’t see what’s behind the scenes, she’s going to assume that’s the “normal” or the “ideal.” So she’s going to raise her expectations towards her spouse, who may be showering her with love in a different, yet still completely loving, way. She’s going to naively assume that you never get into any fights. Deep down, she knows you do. But her instant thought is, “how could they ever get into an argument when he does all this ‘cute’ stuff?”

So the idea is just to preserve that genuine love. Am I proposing that we keep our love lives undercover? No. But the idea is to not make publicizing it your default setting when he does something “oh-so-sweet.”

Inside Egypt

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*First published in the Eyeopener*

– Ryerson journalism student Amal Ahmed Albaz flew home to Egypt this summer expecting a quiet vacation with her family. What she got was anything but. –

When his pockets were emptied, a white paper stained with red blood was found. It was a note from his 10-year-old daughter: “Dad, please come back home safely. I’m waiting for you.” But her wait will be fruitless because her father is never coming back. Khaled Nassar was dead.

Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s history, following the dramatic rallies of the 2011 Arab Spring, had been in office just over five months when opposition rallies sprung up in November 2012. On the anniversary of Morsi’s election, June 30, larger-scale demonstrations broke out in Tahrir Square, in Cairo.

By July 3, Commander of Egypt’s Armed Forces, Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi removed Morsi from office after a 48-hour warning of intervention.

The army also suspended the constitution that had been drafted under Morsi’s rule, appointed Supreme Court Justice Adly Mansour as acting president and promised prompt elections.

And I was there bright and early.I arrived in Egypt at 6 a.m. on that same day. I thought I was going on vacation – not to war.

I was hoping to have the summer of my life. And I did. Just not the one I had imagined. Instead of tanning at the beach, I was protesting in Rab’a Square. Yes, the square that’s been notably recognized by Egyptian media as the “terrorist hub.” I’m an 18-year-old who cuddles in bed with a tissue box watching romantic chick flicks. I like hot chocolate and I like the smell of grass after a rainy day. I am not a terrorist.

Rab’a Square was your home away from home if you were anti coup. It’s where thousands, and on some days millions, would protest.

You would see couples backpacking through the square as if it were some honeymoon destination. You would see the richest of the rich, and the poorest of the poor. You would see Christians and you would see Muslims. You would see a street that was once filled with cars now covered in tents. Each city, group, or organization had its recognized area, but you were more than welcome to stay wherever you wished.

I remember the latest invention being a two-storey-high tent made of wood. You would see black plastic bags hung inside the tents as shoe shelves. You would see people sweeping the streets of Rab’a – which in Egypt is a miracle. You were in a Utopia.

I wish I could’ve captured the spirit of Rab’a in a bubble and sprinkled it all over the world.

Imagine children spraying you with water so you could survive the day under the blazing Egyptian sun. Women handed out sandwiches because they saw the look of hunger in your eyes.Thousands, and on some days millions, clapped their hands in unison, chanting against oppression. Proud flags danced to songs in the breeze. Imagine the peace. Imagine the unity.

But as soon as you stepped out of the boundaries of Rab’a, you were in a whole new world.

Imagine airplanes deafening your ears, flying over your head day and night. Armed, Hulk-like bulldozers blocked roads. In a taxi, you were unable to utter a word about your political views, because if you did, you might never be seen again. Your own army turned against you, with checkpoints every couple of kilometres. Imagine a nation divided.

After the Rab’a Square massacre on Aug. 14, Khaled was one of more than 2,000 dead and 10,000 wounded in the span of 10 hours.

He was shot in the heart with a 7.2 cm bullet- a bullet the size of a human finger. Bullets of this size are intended for war zones.

It was the first time in Egyptian history that its army and police force attacked its own people on this scale in such a short period of time. Since the coup, Egypt has devolved into a state of war. Had Nassar not been eager to lend a hand, his heart would’ve still been beating, and I would have still had a family member. Khaled was my mother’s cousin. “We had just finished praying when Khaled insisted on heading to the 6th of October Bridge to help carry dead bodies,” said his brother, Ahmad Nassar.

“He wanted to see what was going on. All we could hear was shooting.” This was the first time Ahmad attended the protests with Khaled.

“I was here for a reason,” he said. ”It’s like God sent me with him today to make sure someone’s with my brother after he dies. Otherwise, his body would’ve been lost and maybe even burned by the forces. They burn the bodies. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

On the day of the Rab’a massacre, Egyptian military forces burned down the hospital with injured, dead and live people inside. Rab’a mosque, which was also burned, contained the rest of the bodies and their mourning families.

Before knowing that his brother met his fate, Nassar received a phone call from his sister, Hanaa, asking if they were okay. She had received a phone call from a person who had called the last dialed number from Khaled’s phone. The caller told her Khaled was dead.

After searching the bridge piece by piece without any luck, Ahmad headed to the field hospital where he found Khaled’s body. The hospital was overpopulated and they had run out of medical supplies.

Thinking his brother was alive, he hopped on his motorcycle carrying his brother’s blood-soaked corpse on his shoulder and headed to the nearest hospital. “I’ve never seen so many dead bodies,” he said.

“There was no room for anyone to stand. Blood was everywhere and sorrow filled the air.”

“I waited there for hours and hours,” said Ahmad. The following day, the coroner didn’t show up. To get things “finished quickly,” they had two options: just take the body and leave, with no record of him being dead, or sign off on a waiver that said he committed suicide. Both options would help the forces to decrease the death count.

“We ended up going to the coroner ourselves with a lawyer to try to get things done legally,” said Ahmad. They were finally able to bring Khaled’s body back home for a proper funeral. Many of the victims were not as fortunate.

Khaled was 39 years old. “My brother didn’t just die; he was murdered,” said Ahmad. “Khaled was killed because he expressed his mind, because he wanted a safe haven for his children and because he wouldn’t allow the Jan. 25 revolution to be stolen.” Khaled’s wife is pregnant with their second child.

Although millions of Egyptians are against the coup, there are also millions who are in its favour. Tamarod (which translates to “rebel yourself” in Arabic) was part of the movement that encouraged the coup and all its supporting demonstrations. They were in part responsible for the opposition rallies on June 30.

Since the coup, President Morsi has been held at an unknown location, alongside his staff and assistants.

“He deserves to be captured,” said Mohammed El-Helal, a member of Tamarod. “Morsi didn’t do anything for the country. His people are ruining Egypt.”

“What did the coup do?” asked Khaled Hanafy, federal secretary of the capital sector of the Freedom and Justice Party (the political party affiliated with Morsi’s political group – the Muslim Brotherhood).

“It’s been a month, and everything we have experienced is nothing but unlawful detainment, jails, media censorship, rumors, curfews and total control over the nation.” After the coup, pensions decreased from 15 per cent to 10 per cent, along with the constitution’s cancellation.

“As soon a Sisi seized control, the Suez Canal Project [a project to open immense doors to employment and trade], was terminated,” said Rab’a protester, Manal Khedr.

“Everything that Morsi’s government was doing to better Egypt has ended.” The law, passed by Morsi, which would aid and give salaries to widows and unemployed women, was also cancelled. “And that’s why we’re here in Rab’a. We are here for the return of our freedom. We feel humiliated,” said Khedr.

I remember the crowd shouting, ”Death is more bearable than a life without dignity. We want to live! We’re not here to die. We want to live.”

The persistence of anti-coup protestors was a question to many. “We can’t go home knowing that our votes were literally thrown in the garbage,” said Al-Azhar University student Yasmin Fahmy, another Rab’a enthusiast.

During the first Egyptian election in 2012, people would stand in lines several kilometres long, under the hot Egyptian sun, just to place their voice in that little voting box for the first time in history. The votes for the constitutional poll reached 64 per cent in approval, though the opposition alleges this number is fabricated.

Sixty-four per cent is larger than the renowned French constitution, which reached 63 per cent, and is one of the highest in the world. I remember on July 19, my mom and I were on a march with thousands of people from Rab’a to Salah Salem Street.

During our peaceful march, I saw three cars, with my own eyes, speeding through the crowd, waving knives from the window, hitting and smacking whoever was in the way. Some died and some were injured. Were they paid thugs? Opposing citizens? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, they weren’t the so-called “terrorists” in Rab’a.

The following week, I performed a spoken word piece in front of the millions in Rab’a Square, which was broadcast live on several stations. As you stand on that stage, you can feel the beams of empowerment heading your way. While one person would send you love, the other would send you courage.

About a month later, the army cleared Rab’a and other sit-ins (like Nahda Square, also in Cairo), by burning down tents and randomly shooting automatic live ammunition on peaceful protestors, which included children, women and elderly citizens.

Children who were literally born in Rab’a died in Rab’a.

After nine consecutive hours of constant smoke, gas, bulldozers, snipers, blood and cries, the army cleared Rab’a and gave a fiveminute warning. Anyone left in the square would be killed on the spot. Everyone came out with their hands up. The army declared a lock down. There was a 7 p.m. curfew, and anyone seen on the streets of Egypt would be either killed or detained.

Security forces even went as far as to enter houses, and even bedrooms, to arrest political opponents. Not only were influential leaders detained, but also average citizens that were against the regime. I have three friends from Ireland (all sisters), who came to Egypt for vacation like I did, who are still illegally detained.

Though the interim, military-backed government is moving forward, for many Egyptians the fight is far from over.

“We must be patient,” Khedr said. “Freedom isn’t cheap and we shall do everything we can to restore our rights. Long live Egypt. Long live justice.”

One Man of Many Dead

Had Khaled Nassar not been eager to lend a hand, his heart would’ve still been beating.

“We had just finished praying when Khaled insisted on heading to the 6th of October bridge to help carry dead bodies,” said his brother Ahmad Nassar.  “He wanted to see what was going on. The army and police force were shooting live ammunition at peaceful protestors.”

This was the first time Khaled’s brother attends the protests with him. “I was here for a reason,” he said. “It’s like God sent me with him today to make sure someone’s with my brother when he dies.” Otherwise, his body would’ve been lost and maybe even burned by the forces. “They burn the bodies,” he said. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

On the day of the Raba massacre on Wed, Aug. 14, the forces burned down the hospital with its injured, with its dead, and with live people inside. They continued to go further and burn Raba mosque, which contained the rest of the bodies with their mourning families.

Before knowing that his brother met his fate, Nassar received a phone call from his sister, Hanaa Nassar, asking if they were okay. “We’re fine,” he replied. “Where’s Khaled?” “He’s fine.” “No, Ahmad. Your brother is dead.”

She had received a phone call from the person who carried him to the hospital. They had called the last dialled number from Khaled’s phone.

After searching the bridge piece by piece without any luck, Nassar headed to the field hospital where he found Khaled’s body.  The hospital was over populated and they had run out of medical supplies. He carried his brother’s blood-dripping corpse on his shoulder and headed to the nearest Hospital— Sayyed Galal Hospital.  “I’ve never seen so many dead bodies,” he said. “There was no room for anyone to stand. Blood was everywhere and sorrow filled the air.”

“I waited there for hours and hours,” said Nassar. The following day, the prosecutor didn’t show up, even though he knows there are thousands dead. To get things “finished quickly,” they had two options: just take the body and leave, with no record of him being dead; or sign off a waiver that says he commit suicide. Both options help the forces to decrease the death count. “I can’t believe they still wanted to cover up,” said Nassar. “We ended up going to the prosecutor ourselves with a lawyer to try to get things done legally.” They were finally able to bring Khaled’s body back home for a proper funeral; a blessing many martyrs did not have.

Khaled was shot in the heart, with an extreme bullet force that moved across his entire chest. He was shot with a 7.2 cm bullet— a bullet the size of a human finger.

“Khaled wasn’t a terrorist,” said Nassar. “He was the kindest, bravest man I knew.” Khaled’s funeral was attended by thousands in his hometown –one of the biggest the town has ever seen.

Khaled was 39 years old, and he didn’t just die; he was murdered.  He was killed because he didn’t want to live a slave in his country; because he expressed his mind; because he wouldn’t allow the January 25 revolution to be stolen. He simply wanted a safe haven for his children. His wife is pregnant with their second child. A child that will only hear about the bravery of his father, but never actually get to meet him.

When Khaled’s pockets were emptied, a white paper splashed with ruby red blood was found. It was a note from his 10-year-old daughter that read, “Dad, please come back home safely. I’m waiting for you. We all are.”

Just Do It.

You know what the problem is? Sometimes you try so hard, too hard, to be perfect in all that you do, that you actually don’t get anything done. You’re so worried about taking the first step of a six-mile marathon. You forget that it’s one of many. You’re occupying yourself with thoughts that are quite unnecessary. Should I start with my right foot, or my left foot? Should I tie my laces in a bunny or a butterfly? What if I get tired half way? It looks like it’s going to rain. Should I bring an umbrella? Should I even run the marathon?—JUST START ALREADY. Stop worrying. Take the step. Take a leap of faith. Have trust in yourself…and go.

Lately, I’ve been putting off a lot of things. I’ve been so afraid of starting something and not being able to finish it. Or that it may not come out the way I want it to. So I kept postponing my “to do” list. Not my studies, because that stuff has a deadline. Keyword: DEADLINE. You see? The problem is setting deadlines for yourself, by yourself. We think we have a long time to do whatever we want. We literally think we have forever. We say “Oh, if not today, then tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then the day after…and so on.” And then all of a sudden, two months have passed and looking back, you’ve done nothing. Where did time go?

Those two hours you spent re-watching Titanic or The Proposal, you could’ve spent actually doing something. Not to say you shouldn’t have a break and watch a movie! By all means, go ahead. But the issue is, we’re now always on a break. If the day had 10 hours (aside from sleeping), we’d spend 8 hours on a break and 2 hours actually working. Our break has become our “normal”. We now normally watch two movies a day. We’ve become professional time wasters- unintentionally. We go on Facebook simply to check our notifications, and we somehow end up on our friend’s cousin’s fiancé’s aunt’s daughter’s birthday pictures when she was five. How did we get there?! Beats me.

Good news is, it’s never too late to get back on track :). Set a schedule for yourself. Make a calendar; it helps. Actually write down what you want to do. Whether it’s by hand, on your laptop or on your phone, it’ll keep you on track. Have long-term goals, but don’t let those stop you from achieving the short term ones. Don’t be afraid of something not being perfect. Having something done is better than not having anything at all. And remember, being too much of a perfectionist is an imperfection in itself. Yes, Allah loves those who perfect their actions, but keyword: ACTION. Actually do something so you can perfect it.

Stop worrying about the “what-ifs”, think about “what-now”, and just do it. (No NIKE plagiarism intended)

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