Reflections From A Bus Ride

I sat down at the first empty seat I spotted near a window and took a moment to catch my breath after that sprint for the bus which included flailing arms and pleads to the bus driver to wait that extra second so that I wouldn't miss my meeting. As usual, I was running late but missing this bus would have meant bailing altogether; not an option for this meeting. I've always loved gazing out the window on long bus rides, watching the trees whizz past me in a blur, the cars race by and just people living their lives. I usually pop my earphones in and listen to the latest hip hop or R&B album I downloaded but today I forgot my earphones beside the door; it ended up being the best thing that happened to me. That slip up allowed me to do something I haven't done in a long time, reflect on my life.

Reflecting is always hard because we tend to pick at the things we're doing wrong and then get depressed that we may not be at the exact point we want to be, but for once this wasn't the case. I began thinking of my day and how it was going and all the things I got done, mental checkmark that I did everything on my to do list. Then, as I went further and further back into the past, my reflections became more and more interesting.

See, in the heat of the moment, we never know exactly why this particular thing is happening to us whatever it may be. We often react with exasperation and disappointment that we aren't getting the exact thing that we want and think that it's the end of the world. But as I put the pieces of the last year together, I realized the incredible plan that had taken place without my noticing. This was His plan for me. This is exactly where He wants me to be right at this very moment.

Several aha moments happened, but the particularity was that I realized exactly why certain people were placed in my life at the time that they were brought in. The saying goes that some people come in as lessons while others last a lifetime makes me feel like those with lessons aren't good but they are the essence of the guidance He gives us. If they lasted a lifetime maybe that lesson wouldn't have been as effective, or had ever been learnt. He works in amazing ways and it's only when I look back now that I see my path and understand why the events of the last year took place. It was so I could stand here now and be exactly where I am doing exactly what I'm doing.

Alhamdoulilah Rab el 3alameen.

Maybe readers will recognize their role and maybe they won't, maybe you're still another lesson that I will learn in the future and maybe you'll be in it for the long haul with me. But as I gaze out the window and watch the world flash right before my eyes, I know that His plan is perfect. His plan is the one I want and He knows exactly what He's doing.

Trust Him, take the leap, and watch the beautiful scenery as His plan is woven in the most perfect of manners and catered solely to you.

The Clash of Civilizations: Arab Idol and Politics

I recently started watching a show with mom called Arab Idol, the arabic version of American Idol, every week and I can tell you that the contestants are absolutely incredible. As the weeks went by and the songs continued to be sung, I noticed how many of them chose a very strange kind of music from the Middle East and North Africa. Seeing as these contestants are from my generation you would think that they would choose the more modern upbeat songs that we all love now but instead they went back to the classics our parents grew up on; and many of these classics were nationalistic and very slow and sad. To add to that, when it came time for the judges to comment on the performance, many of these comments were politically charged. It triggered a thought in my head and I began to wonder and look back on my upbringing and that of all the people from my generation, what did our parents teach us about who we are and where we came from? When my interest in politics blossomed back in my first year in university, I began frantically searching for books on history, I don't mean the pyramids and pharaohs I mean more modern history; Anwar and Gamal, the Balfour declaration, colonization and so on and so forth. I also took a liking to the music of that time; a kind unlike any other that discussed a nationalistic heartbreak. Even the instruments wept in these songs over war torn countries and displaced refugees. My parents noticed my peeked interest and encouraged it, hoping I would understand more and more where I came from and what it meant to be who I am. They were amazed at the sense of nationalistic pride their only canadian born child suddenly demonstrated and nurtured.

Back to Arab Idol. The arts always reflect the country it stems from and are always a great way to really understand the current state of affairs in any given area on the planet. Painters and musicians are left free reign to fully express what many of us are incapable of expressing and thus live through their work and hope that the message will get across. Arab Idol was more of a history lesson than a singing competition now. Each contestant came up to tell a story of a country and a people that have been left with nothing and have come out stronger every time. Even in a contest like this, politics and history and national pride find their way into the midst of lights and cameras.

With that in mind, arabs across the Middle East have known a great sense of loss and desperation both in the past and recently. From the tunes that the contestants belted out with as great power as the original singers, the pain of the people that these songs inspired could be felt instantaneously. Songs from one end of the region to the other speak of a sadness unlike any other, a sadness only felt when one is stripped of the place they once called their home. And somehow as the children and/or grandchildren of this sadness, we were brought up to understand it as well.

People say that the worst thing that can happen to a person is for him to have to leave his country of origin; let me rephrase that to say that the worst thing that can happen to a person is for him to completely forget where he came from and who he is. My search for my history will never end but in acquiring this much knowledge I've grown more and more proud of my people for displaying such resilience and strength time and time again throughout history.

In my particular case, the adage goes: You can take the egyptian out of Egypt, but you can never take Egypt out of the egyptian.

A Bad Case of Racial Profiling

Tall, dark and handsome... Light brown eyes, black hair, slim figure...

Note the very confused look on his face, this must mean he's trying to get away from the site quickly; he must be the man we're looking for!

These were the thoughts of many people when Abdulrahman Ali AlHarbi, one of the many victims of the Boston Bombings and a Saudi national all at the same time, was trying to get away from danger just like any other person that day. Except he ended up being a victim of racial profiling as well.

After the bombs were detonated, he along with everyone else in the area rushed to get to safety and try to assess the damage. He was confused and scared, still trying to put the pieces of the last few moments together all the while hoping that he was not in any immediate danger. A bystander helped him to an ambulance and he soon found himself surrounded by police officers, escorting him to the hospital. Why? Because whenever anything like this happens, people will automatically look to the outlier, in this case, the Saudi national. After extensive questioning in the hospital, his name was cleared but his life was changed until this day. Reports came out of police having caught the perpetrator and his name and picture were scattered all over the internet; the real story is that he was on his way to meet some friends at a nearby cafe to have lunch, that's it.

Now, it's with great bitterness that I admit this, but Islamic Public Relations isn't exactly very good these days and this is something that each one of us has to deal with on a daily basis, and so many responded to this thinking that it's normal that they would question the Arab in the pack. Remember September 11th right? But I have to disagree, it shouldn't be normal that all eyes automatically go to the Middle Easterner or the muslim when things like this happen because if anyone was to look deeper into the religion of Islam they would understand that we do not condone these attacks in any way.

It's sad that racial profiling has become justified in situations like this because of events that took place in the past and it's really disappointing that our news reports come out with descriptions such as Saudi, Muslim, Arab, or whatever else label they choose when it comes to describing the perpetrators. I understand that our track record isn't the best but if the world continues to generalize then we will never be given a chance to show just how beautiful Islam can be. Opinions change all the time and people can be proven wrong after having made a generalization, I just don't understand why everyone is so set on this one.

Link Abdulrahman Ali AlHarbi interview: