Friday, January 11, 2013

Melo and Cereal

By now, everyone has heard the story regarding Carmelo Anthony and his on-court (and after-court) NBA beef with Kevin Garnet and in the context of my own experience, I've been moved to jot on it.

In the Arab/Islamic culture there is a concept called "ghairah" that, among other meanings, translates to "dignity" or "righteous jealousy" - this masculine idea is attached generally to one's spouse(s).  Hence, a part of manhood is then defined via the facets of wives.  Not wholly an Arabic idea, this concept is seen in the Hebrew commandment prohibiting the coveting of another's wife.

KG referring to Melo's wife Lala as tasting like Honey Nut Cheerios is pretty much agreed upon as a real class-less and disrespectful jab. Not less than saying something about someone's mama - while they are actually present. 

There are things you don't do unless you want someone to fight you - what KG said was one of those things. I did find it a bit interesting that KG didn't seem to want to fight - so his comment also came of as cowardly.

Now, this is my blog and by now, it should look like it centers around me, so in keeping with this theme, this story relates.  Especially after it becomes public new in light of this incident that Melo and Lala are separated.  I really feel for Melo...I know the hardship of separation - harder on me because I don't want to be. Even harder because I have to witness my own wife cavorting with someone else. Hell, we aren't even divorced and she declares we are to god and country.

I can only imagine how KG's comment stung Melo - no wonder he went after him in the locker room and the team bus. I look at my own turmoil and it stings like a physical pain.

In Islam, there is a clear line that people are not permitted: someone else's marriage. No woman or man has license to overstep into a marriage, making disparaging comments, much less maraud it and run off with one of the participants in a wanton and reckless dalliance. At least not expecting, in the least, divine ire, and at best, sought-after retribution by the offending party.

Sounds like pie-in-the-sky stuff - reality is often darker, more shadowy - and sadly more accepted. But things happen in our lives that underscore some basic, common sense, just-plain-courtesy...

I wish Melo and Lala the best in terms of reconcilation - I hope they get their shit together and I wish he could have and may actually in the future, smack the hell out of KG

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Ever hesitate to give someone something, only to find they already took it?

If you haven't heard, I am mired in difficulties - mostly pertaining to my marriage. As I muck through, I have come across truths that have helped.  One, of course, is that Allah is real and tangible.

The other is an inconvenient one. It is that I still want my marriage. My recent fitnah came on the heels of a process of reconciliation and I am admittedly and embarrassingly thrown off balance.  The easy question is why not run for the heels. No one I know has told me different. When they hear the story, the one with facts, they say I am crazy. That she is crazy That I am Muslim she is not. What should I expect...and so on. Even the ex I conflicted with and ran off has again materialized - clearly informed by birdies on goings-on - to gloat and offer me a dish of revenge. A tempting dish, but one I earlier today declined.

I simply love H.E.R. - and I know why - it came from Allah. She is not perfect but she is. And I, in my know-bility, decided to caretake her - to be the last choice and her first good one. And she fulfilled me. Marriage is half the religion, and I see why that is the case with Islam.
Since the onset of winter's cold, I have stubbornly resisted the crumbling of my marriage which I invested everything and have lost. My possessions, my beloved Roberta - gone, stolen, discarded. My home is now not mine and hosts (and has hosted) only my ghost. My career, shredded. I have become a pariah, when I was at once a partner.

My love attempts to erase me/us - it is futile but still painful. I know my worth, I know the indelible mark I made on her. I know the songs, the poems, the declarations I have inspired. I know her faith has me has its sculptor, my name, erased off of cyberspace still permeates hers - it is her nickname, her company name.

I would still protect her as I have before. I have been no saint but I purified by soul for the sake of her in my future. My life, effectively ruined, still cries for her presence. She will rail and snarl at the audacity of it all - my calling it a marriage still or her my wife. She will take every exception to those who listen...but if you listen quietly, the truth is real and interesting and contradicts the protest.
I believe that Allah grants love to those with an unending responsibility. Failure is no option - they must fix it. No brushing of the hands, giving up, and moving on, thinking one moves to freedom, blah, blah,, Allah does not give us love to experiment and waste. When I look at her, I know/feel mine is not wasted...just not fully realized...yet. I cannot move to someone else when I would leave behind the one I love so hard, so deep...the one I am taught to get it right by - because I have not done it with those before.
Ha- I sound like a stalker - but my Love is not prey. She is no victim and cannot forgive hers though she tries. She assumes to move, not realizing she takes me with her. She does not know she owes Allah for what He gave her and she rails and snarls at the audacity of having a creditor. I don't know the future, I don't know what my healed scars will look like - or if they will actually heal, but I know, with fear and shame and guilt, H.E.R...and I still love her...
Now you know - and the judgments, I care less about, as I care less and less about this illusionary life. I used to care. Wonder if anyone saw my flaws, my hypocrisy, my struggles, my failures...Now I know Allah has seen them all - so I'ma share and hope to inspire.  I am in my spirit more and more these days - and it is not earthly, not finite. I am going to write it all down. The good, bad, the transparent. I think that is the essence of Islam I so want to share. We are not all bearded Imams, Scholars, or Saints...we live, love, laugh, hurt, cry, and wonder - at least I do - and we do not know how long we have to do so...

thanks for go pray for me - pray for her...pray for us...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


This is the second time this year wherein my shoulders have been weighted with planet-sized fitnah. The greatest type a man can bear.

It is related from Usama ibn Zayd that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I have not left after me a trial more harmful to men than women." 

My marriage is is on the rocks - as in a body that has fallen off a cliff, dashed below. And I deal with the seismic shocks of raw and recent tumultuous events that have turned my life, once again, upside down - alone and picking up pieces in a whirlwind and my private pain being the fodder for a sad and searing public and wanton demonstration by the one who has my heart...

I am supposed to be strong - an adopted castaway, a thug, gang member, stick up kid, who found God in the belly of the beast-and purpose- on a solo journey to redemption. But along the way, I gave myself away - unvoluntarily, mind you - and it seems that has exacted a price that I don't have the capital for. 

I am no saint, and I have learned that anger and evil must be etymologically linked. I have wanted to rip out a heart and bite it - but because I wanted to never lose it.  And this spiral - I have been there before too many times - has seem to finally hit bedrock.

I am too old for this - this sadness - this hopelessness - this feeling of being lost. I am too Muslim to want to go back in time. To regret the all to many impulsive and angry decisions. I have never had to answer to anyone, to ever second guess myself and have, since my conversion, always felt the safety net of divine intervention and guidance - til now.

And yet my depths keep having these lights shone all about...signs coming out of the word-works, beaming through the lattices. A long-time friend- unexpectantly stepped in as a lifeline...3 old friends, Eastside OG's at that, from my "wild' days pop up at an event - all 3 reformed and successful businessmen, insist on recruiting me...night before last, I have a phone convo with the last person in the world I expect to hear from and I hung up thinking there aren't any 2 people in the world who hate each other that cannot be reconciled based on the conversation I just had.

And last night, a totally unexpected message from an unimaginable quarter came to me like it was borne by Gabriel himself (as)...a declaration literally that "I swear God loves u" that made my eyes almost burst...a declaration that I don't see how I can deserve but that can not but garner absolute belief - and relief.

She, they, and so many others this year have been lights...shining through the lattices... 

Today, on Facebook, one of my most favorite people, Imam M. Abdul Lateef, posted:

"Relax. God is with you as long as you are with Him, and even when you aren't, He still is; calling you back. "

Okay, I am going to relax. I feel the knot in my stomach and the barbed wire in my chest loosen - if even just a bit...I am remembering a bit that I am pretty damn awesome. That there are those who testify to such in numbers greater than not - even despite my own skepticism.

I am remembering that I have never wasted love on anyone. That there is a truth to it that no one, even the one running from it, can ever escape.

I am remembering a greater life than this one, so this one has less (actually, no) real value.

I am remembering that you/I/she cannot run from Allah, and that He is the Truth - not me... and He (not me) sets everything right, right?

God really is in the wood-works...Right?

He has to be...


(For Samir/Aja, Meraj/Mike, Khalil, Zee, Aas, Teema, Prof Allison, Pops, Kenny, Umar/Cos, Faa, Igi, Najwah, OG Butchie, Big Sis 1&2, Glo, Cornelius, Law, Yanes, A-Dogg, Suge, Brandon, Mums, Chad, Skip, Lamont, Sayeed, Stero, Ali, Jules, Pete, Lee/Tee, J-punkin/Mike, Jeff, Mara-para, Monir, Mariam, Dilsher, Riyaad, Saint Lou, Nathan McCall, Ms Tedee)

(And, the Nyarloka)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Medusa and Mirrors

Medusa is often mis-archetyped - especially in the feminist sense. She is cast as a misappropriated symbol of feminine power, because of the story that she became "ugly" as a consequence of being a rape victim - her punishment unjust at the hands of a jealous Athena. And so it goes, she is the vengeance against men.

The problem is, the rape story is apocryphal - told by Ovid, while her actual story predates him. And then there is the irony that she - the symbol of woman-defeating-man - was unjustly created/ another woman.

Why am I writing this? I can relate. I see women revelling in the Medusa myth - the misappropriated one.  Casting men as stony things, monsters, to be moved through and destroyed, only to then point the finger of blame at them for their victimization.

It is further ironic that the original story has it that Medusa turned anyone who looked at her to stone - not merely men. It is too ironic that women who fix Medusa to their personage like Athena fixed her to her shield, are guilty of victimizing people indiscriminate of sex - and often times those victims are their sisters.

No, Medusa-redux, you are not a god. No one wants to possess you or recreate you. Sometimes people just want to love you and be loved by you. And if they mishandle you, theirs is not to be a fate of stone and iron. The trail of bodies, including women - the stolen things, the weaved lies, spewed like venom of snakes are a trail of culpability that leads to your own footsteps.

There are some people who have the ability of Perseus - to confront Medusa and not turn to stone. Their greatest weapon? A mirror. I think they can see through the ugliness and find something to love. Immune to the glares and snakebites. But Perseus is also her antithesis - and the one who ended the reign of terror. Both, the lover and the killer were one thing: the hero.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Muslim Luminaries You Don’t Know…But Should

As a Muslim speaker and lecturer, I constantly engage in or observe conversations that inevitably center around contributions of Muslims to societies at large. As a weird hobby I flit through various social media forums that have islamophobic leanings and invariably they are rife with criticisms of Islam and Muslims that note the absence of any scientific or influential contributions by Muslims – a claim supported by the notion that Muslims world-wide are too busy with trying to convert or kill their non-Muslim counterparts to be bothered with education or any interest in making the world a better place.
It goes without saying (or does it?) that nothing could be further from the truth. 

There are innumerable Muslim scientists, thinkers, artists, educators, and activists who are overlooked by the general perspective of non-Muslims (and, sadly, Muslims) whose attention is drawn more to sensationalism and controversy.  The criticism and fear-mongering aimed at Muslims is easier and more convenient when Muslims can be portrayed as backward, Third-World inhabitants who trade education for terroristic anger, who are all secretly envious of the deluge of iPads and SUVs that floods the West.

In many talks, especially addressing islamophobia, I often advise that Muslims need to take greater responsibility and make greater efforts to share their own narratives, their (our) own stories, as a way to educate others (read: “non-Muslims) about our faith and about the those of us worldwide who comprise the community that adheres to it. One does not have to refer only to bygone Golden Age of Islam to nostalgically cite scientist and philosophers or tell stories about brewed coffee’s invention or the development of optics in medieval laboratories  - there are plenty of contemporary personalities who have an continue to exemplify the progressive, scientific, and intellectual nature of Islam (because, after all, Muslims are people – many who are progressive, scientific , and intellectual), and who are busy trying to make life easier, convenient, relevant…and better.

So, what follows is my personal and incomplete list of contemporary Muslims, across various disciplines/perspectives/segments of society that are notable, should be shared – and even celebrated:

Maryam Mirzakhani – (b. 1977) An Iranian mathematician and professor, Maryam is simply a genius. While a teenager, she placed 1st at the International Mathematics Olympiad, getting a gold medal for a perfect score. She gold medaled the year prior, dropping only one point. In 2009, Maryam received the Blumenthal award for her doctoral thesis which covered diverse math topics such as hyperbolic and algebraic geometry. She was a professor at Princeton and is currently a full professor at Stanford University.

Umar Saif – Umar is a computer scientist (read: “super-duper geek”) and award winning innovator who invented technologies such as BitMate to help low-bandwidth users in developing countries. His innovations helped civil activist communicate and relief efforts during disasters such as Pakistan floods in 2010.

Muqtedar Khan – India born Muqtedar resides in Delaware and is a leading educator, social scientist and intellectual, known for criticism of radicalism and extremist perspectives within Islam. A frequent commentator in the media, Khan is a proponent of critical thought and balancing classic Islamic scholarship with contemporary American societal issues/politics.

Kerim Kerimov – (d 2003) Kerimov, a Muslim from Azerbaijan, was one of the founders of the Soviet space program. He was the secret general of the program in its race against the US to walk the moon – his identity purposely kept hidden until 1987. While his tenure saw several tragedies and ultimately a loss in the space race to the US, Kerimov contributed to the development of the successful Mir space station.

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (b 1972) – Shukor is the first Malaysian (and the 9th Muslim) in space, visiting the International  Space Station in 2007. In space Shukor performed experiments involving cancer cells and lipase protein synthesis. His space flight had great religious impact in that it occurred during Ramadan, thus motivating the development of a guidebook for Islamic practice in space, including ritual prayers and fasting.
Muhammad Yunus – (b. 1940) –Yunus, voted as the #2 most intellectual person in the world by Prospect Magazine (UK) in 2008 is also the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his pioneering work in economics. Inspired by the amazing effects of giving a $27 loan to a group of bamboo workers in his native Bangladesh, he founded a pilot program to provide micro loans to poor workers. The program grew to bank and supporting financial services and businesses that uplifted countless out of poverty, proving to be an amazingly successful model that Yunus was able to repeat internationally .

Suhaib Webb – (b 1972) – Webb, born in Oklahoma, grew up as a typical trouble-making teenager, flirting with gangs and eventually settling into being a hip hop DJ. He converted to Islam at the age of 20 and after college and classical Islamic tutoring, he attended and graduated from Egypt’s Al Azhar University.  With a keen grasp of American culture and of Islam, Webb is a sought after leader and lecturer, now based in Boston

Now, Dear Reader – time to do some homework – take a look into a couple more notable Muslims for yourself:

  • Ingrid Mattson – advocate and first woman president of major Islamic organization
  • Jerald Dirks – horse breeder, Harvard grad, comparative religion scholar
  • Megawati Sukarnoputri – major Muslim politician and pioneer
  • Andre Carson – major Muslim politician and pioneer

Monday, October 25, 2010

Park51 “Ground Zero Mosque” - In Context

Written By Taj Ashaheed

Much of what characterizes the issue of the “Park51” community center or the commonly referred "Ground Zero Mosque" is misunderstood or unexamined context. From the start of the controversy, it was clear as the community center was generalized in the media as a mosque and touted as being built at Ground Zero (as opposed to its actual location) that opponents of the center and the media itself were complicit in crafting a position that was both narrow in mind and critical thought.

Indeed the current controversy of Park51 is an excellent study of where we as a national community can find some true insight and even understanding if looked at it from a wider scope.
Opponents of the community center rally around the presumption that Park51 and its attached mosque is an affront to the victims of September 11th; however, this generalization is troublesome as it ignores the fact that among the families of the victims are those who are Muslim. Indeed, it is estimated that several hundred of the victims at the World Trade Center were Muslim, with nearly 100 of them being identified as such. It is clear that opinions about Park51 vary among the Muslim family members, but to generalize them as among those who are insulted by its proposal is irresponsible.

Opponents of the community center would have you think that the sanctity of Ground Zero demands it be purified of Islam's presence or influences. This position, too, fails when examining more context. For example, Minoru Yamasaki, the lead architect for the World Trade Center, was deliberate in designing the Towers and complex using Islamic architectural design elements, from the face of the tower's repeated arch design to the garden courtyard which was copied from designs of the holy city of Mecca, to the actual design of the towers themselves representing minarets.

The connection to Islam goes deeper... literally: Ground Zero, and it's surrounding areas, sits atop the graves of 20,000 African slaves --- approximately 5,000 of whom were Muslim. Historically, slaves were not permitted to be buried in New York City itself, thus the outlying areas, present-day site of Ground Zero and beyond, were used as slave cemeteries. Recent excavations, just one block away from Ground Zero, yielded the remains of slaves who lived and toiled in 17th-century New Amsterdam, which later became New York City. This fact alone, makes the touted "sacred ground" adjective of Ground Zero ironic indeed.

Then, there is the question of Park51's vicinity. Why, opponents ask, can't organizers be sensitive and choose a more distant site? This question, and its implied discrimination, is rendered moot by the fact that there are already mosques in the vicinity of Ground Zero. Masjid Manhattan ... built 40 years ago before the World Trade Center broke ground ... is situated just four blocks away and has Muslim congregants who are federal and city employees and who work in the financial arena, including the WTC prior to 9/11. Masjid Al Farah, a Sufi mosque, sits about 10 blocks away. Al Farah, built 25 years ago, can be found on West Broadway.

Looked at from a broader perspective, it is easy to see how opposition to Park51 is thinly veiled in hate and anger; and just how much of a role these emotions play in how our nation gives consideration to Islam and to Muslims. As the debate over Park51 rages on, and as anti-Muslim sentiment grows alarmingly in the United States, the encouragement to take a second and/or deeper look at the root of Muslim-American issues and even more importantly, to the peripheral, will become more and more key in creating opportunities for healing, bridge building, and mutual respect for all involved.

Peace and controversy during Ramadan (Denver Post)

Posted: 09/02/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT

As Muslims near the end of Ramadan, I among many find this annual practice of fasting a refuge.
Since last Ramadan, the Colorado community has been marked with media notoriety linked to terrorist activity. In February, Denver resident Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty in a suicide bomb plot. In March, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, from Leadville, was arrested in connection with a plot to murder an anti-Muhammad cartoonist in Sweden. Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, brought a spotlight to Colorado in May because his wife had been living in Aurora. And then there is Anwar al-Awlaki, put on the U.S. government hit list in May, who also spent time in Colorado.

Local controversies are coupled with newer national issues, such as the emotional debate swirling around the proposed Muslim community center near ground zero and the proposed Koran-burning event planned for Gainesville, Fla., headed up by a church group there.
Despite these media storms, Muslims find solace in turning our focus to fasting, which some 20,000 of us in Colorado are engaged in from Aug. 11 to Sept. 9 or 10. In this period, we forgo food and drink and marital relations — not taking so much as a sip of water, and instead focus ourselves on gratitude, peace and discipline. While hunger pains abound, Muslims take time to volunteer in places such as the Ansar Food Pantry in Aurora or with Muslims Against Hunger in Fort Collins to feed needy families.

While the nation debates the very charged issue of the ground zero mosque, at sunset, mosques throughout the metro area fill with worshipers who stand solemnly in ranks to perform ritual prayer, reflecting on the plight of those less fortunate and in gratitude for the everyday things provided to us that we take for granted.
In these lines will be Muslims who have fasted year after year, along with new converts who are experiencing their first fast.

As Ramadan draws to an end, I will look forward to the celebration of Eid al Fitra (Festival of Fast-break) but like many Muslims, I will be keenly aware of how close it occurs to the anniversary of Sept. 11. I must admit some anxiety in hearing about the planned Koran-burning, but I suspect that protests coming from the Muslim quarter will not rise to violent levels.
For millions of Muslims who memorize the Koran, pages and ink lose their relevance compared to the heart, where the Koran as God's word is really revealed.
Indeed, for myself and fellow Muslims, there is a lesson this month that true peace can be found when turning to your faith — and the rest falls into its place, peacefully around you.

Taj Ashaheed is the public relations director of the Colorado Muslim Council and committee member of The Abrahamic Initiative. E-mail him at He was a Colorado Voices columnist in 2006.Read more: Peace and controversy during Ramadan - The Denver Post