Tuesday, 29 December 2009

(Underpants) Airline 'Bomber'

Just spent an hour on The Times website reading about 'umar farouk'. Really disturbing.

"...I am really disturbed. I would not want to say anything at the moment until I put myself together..."

(Source: Father of Umar Farouk quoted in one of the articles)

Worth taking some time out to read about this. Enter 'umar farouk' in the search engine of The Times or your news source of choice. The Times has good links with intelligence agencies.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/

FOSIS' Press Release is worth reading too. I can forward it to anyone who didn't get it or can't find it.

Monday, 28 December 2009

It's all breaking loose in Yemen...

.... fighting in the north, fighting in the south, air strikes, increased foreign media/political interest/pressure. ..

"An American-born radical Islamist, believed to have links to the Fort Hood gunman accused of killing 13 colleagues last month, may have been among 30 militant leaders killed when Yemeni aircraft bombed suspected al-Qaeda hideouts..."

Source of quote:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6968035.ece

The article is obviously littered with spin, so read knowing what you're reading.

Here's what Anwar al-Awlaki had to say a few days before the airstrike...
http://armiesofliberation.com/archives/2009/12/24/anwar-awlaki-new-interview-in-al-jazeera
I couldn't find a link to the interview on al-Jazeera's website.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

'Fight Club' - 10th anniversary

Author of 'Fight Club', Chuck Palahniuk, talking about an incident that he says inspired the story. He got into a fight whilst on vacation. He says...
"... And when I came back I looked terrible. 
For the weeks it took for all of my bruises to heal, no one I worked with would look me in the eye. People don't want to recognise those aspects of others' lives unless you're a victim. As a man who might've been engaged in a mutual beating I could not be acknowledged. And there was a fantastic power in that. I could stare at them and they could not look at me. I loved having that power." 
(Source: this morning's issue of Shortlist)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Perspective

"You think your phd is hard. Try looking after *him*."

(Source: My mum talking about my 1-year-old nephew Ismael. A month back he found himself alone with the computer and hit the on/off switch repeatedly. Maybe if it was Windows 7 it would have survived? Yesterday he found himself alone with the fish bowl and tipped it. The fishes spent some time out of water but survived, alhamduilllah.)

"... patta patta..."

(Source: My nephew saying as the freaks in the CBBC programme "In the Night Garden" say... and he still can't say "uncle"/"chachoo"! There is something freakishly not right about this programme but I can't quite put my finger on it.)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Comics Books / Superheroes

May Allah shower mercy on the man who shows me my errors.

"... Spider-man has been swinging strong for 40 years and counting... What other medium can boast a character that has been embraced by so many generations?

Why the love? Because comic books aren't really about superpowers; they're about individuals whose special abilities are always matched by problems that never, ever go away. The supervillains in their brightly coloured tights are ... potholes in the road of life. If the superhero represents anything, it's the resilience of the human spirit. It's not about what he can *do*, but what he can endure..."


(Source: Lonely Planet USA, section on Arts)

Heard of "The 99"? Check this (or 'google' it):
Part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICgJp7RsDLA
Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ved1J9yYL8
Note that it has faced with stern question marks.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment

"I've been a pro-footballer in Scotland...
... but I've never had a match more *nerve-wrecking*.

An Iraqi village known for *ambushes*.
And I'd arranged a *football match*
with them to help stabilize things!

11am, Saturday, Imam Amas.

We didn't know what would kick off...
Thankfully the only *shots*
were the ones I saved.

We won the match...
... and a few *new friends* too.

Now when me and the lads are on patrol
the locals still chuck stones at us.
But not as *hard*."


"The Royal Air Force values every individual's unique contribution, irrespective of race, ethnic origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or social background. However, for reasons of combat effectiveness, the RAF Regiment is open to men only."

(Source: Royal Air Force Regiment recruitment advertisement)

Who would respond to this advert except a muppet who wants stones thrown at him?! (first quote above)

Ladies, you can't respond even if you wanted to. (second quote above)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Sailing down Portsmouth

Went sailing last weekend down Portsmouth. Took an 11-berth boat to the Isle of Wight on Saturday and back again on Sunday. A painfully pleasant experience. Sunday was calm but it was quite windy on Saturday - pushing and tilting the boat in all kinds of strange directions. Three of the guys threw up (one continually) and a few more (including me) held on ... just about. Made lots and lots of Dhikr and Du'a! Motion sickness is not pleasant. I think I'll stick to mountains and forests except for the rare trip out to sea.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Fight. the Enemy

"I always felt like I'd fight anybody because everybody was the enemy... Now... I really took the time to find out, you know, who the enemy was. And it's not that it was the enemy. It was the inner me... Sometimes you realise the true you is the enemy."

"I'm a family man. Come on. I like, just like to fight. Know what I'm saying?"

(Source: Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson speaking ahead of his fight against Roy "Big Country" Nelson on The Ultimate Fighter, Season 10, Episode 3)

I hope it reads even a little as good as it sounded.

Enemy. Inner me. They rhyme!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

PhD

I implemented this algorithm. It's quite involved. It took me a few months to put together ... and taking even longer to prove (leaving no doubt) that it works (always and forever).

A typical meeting today's was with my supervisor (she's a nice lady, don't read me wrong)...

Supervisor: "You need to define *everything* formally." (i.e. rigidly using crazy mathematical symbols)

Me: "Sorry, I thought I'd do it in English first."

Supervisor: "Well, I'm glad it's not in French."

Excuse my increased nonsensicalness (yet to increase further) in the coming months...

[Potential Grad/PhD Student:]
"So bro, let me see if I got this right... you're saying grad school is a degrading, demoralizing experience that sucks all energy and creativity from your spirit..."

[Grad/PhD Student:]
"yeah, something like that"

(Source: Piled Higher and Deeper, by Jorge Cham, phdcomics.com)

Du'as (for me) are recommended. Have a nice day.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The good old US of A

"My name popped up on their computer. I was taken to a room for questioning. I was questioned for two hours," said [Bollywood superstar] Shah Rukh [Khan].

Source:
http://www.ndtv.com/news/world/shah_rukh_khan_detained_at_us_airport_for_2_hours.php

I wonder what algorithm they run on their computers, lol. But seriously, it's not funny. I came across this story ("Bollywood superstar detained because of Muslim name") and another similar one ("Muslim woman harassed at Dayton airport") in this month's issue of Muslim News. Very good newspaper btw.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

'The pope's visit to the Holy Land...' (May 2009)

"... In the event, he deeply upset his Israeli hosts, and to a much milder extent his Palestinian ones too, both mainly through sins of omission...

... The trouble came when... he spoke only of 'millions' of Jewish victims, not of 'six million'...

... The pope then made things worse for himself by speaking of the 'tragedy of the Shoah [Hebrew for the Holocaust]' without attributing blame...

... And yet another mistake: the pope used the word 'killed' rather than 'murdered'..."


(Source: The Ecomomist, May 16th 2009, Pope Benedict - A Chapter of Incidents)

I won't comment lest I be nitpicked!

Change of Gym

Changed gyms last week. Was training at London Shoot Fighters (West London) for a couple of years. Now training at Spartan Vale Tudo (East London). The change was spurred by LSF moving further West but alhamdulillah for the better. SVT is a smaller setup but I should now be able to train more often insha-Allah since it's closer to home.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Umrah

Got back from Umrah last Sunday afternoon. Went for a couple of weeks with my sister - 19th July til 2nd August - one week in Makkah and one week in Madinah. Fantastic. A rare place that gets better with each visit! Kept a log of positive encounters. Might be a while before I type it up.

Letter I sent to my MP Harry Cohen:
Dear Harry,

I hope you are well.

I flew back from Suadi Arabia last Sunday afternoon landing at Heathrow Terminal 5. As usual, just before baggage collection, all those arriving from the various flights pass through the same passport/immigration check place and behind each immigration/airport officer is a well dressed (suited/booted) CID (intelligence) officer "randomly" selecting people to question. I have always questioned the "randomness" of those selected for questioning and I can understood that all young brown/Muslim looking people are stopped for questioning and profiling regardless of the fact that they are UK passport holders, as has become the trend post-2001. However, what appalled me was that even elderly people and whole families were not exempted - every single brown/Muslim passing through a free CID officer, regardless of age, gender or the fact that they are with their families was being stopped. All of those stopped that I observed appeared to feel the need to be excessively polite, which I question, and I am ashamed that we as a community have come to accept such discrimination as normal.

I wanted you to be aware that such discrimination takes place but also wanted to know if you knew who I could direct this complaint to, if anyone?

Regards,
Adil Hussain

Is Obama waffling?

"... Indeed, on the ground, interviews with recently released Guantanamo detainees and investigations by organisations such as Human Rights First in Afghanistan are providing evidence that detainee abuse and lack of due process are continuing under the Obama administration, despite the shift in rhetoric..."

(Source: aljazeera.net, Bush's torture legacy haunts the US)

Article:
http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/07/20097298571341207.html

Interesting, American coverage of captured US soldier Bowe Bergdahl. Fox News showed him less love than the Taliban!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

22, Taxi to the Dark Side

My doctor advised me to get some rest the other day so I spent the day watching 'The Disappearance of Sister Aafia Siddiqui', 'Taxi to the Dark Side' (twice) and 'Torturing Democracy' with renewed appreciation of these verses...

"So let them worship (Allah) the Lord of this House (the Ka'bah in Makkah),

(He) Who has fed them against hunger, and has made them safe from fear."


(Source: Mohsin Khan's translation of (the meaning of!) Verses 106:3-4 of the Noble Qur'an)

Proper scary, like a horror movie, the way torture and disregard for human dignity became (has become) acceptable/legal in recent years. The reality of democracy I suppose - what is detestable today, made policy tomorrow, if those of "power" need (want!) it so... and the people allow their emotions to be played with.

Btw, I am heading out for Umrah today insha-Allah. If I have offended you any time (will be surprised if I haven't), please forgive me. I will make Du'a for you :)>

Friday, 10 July 2009

"Revolutionary conduct is a mirror of revolutionary faith"

A short quote and, for the more patient, a long quote...

"... We left Mexico in a leaky boat with 82 men on board. Of those 82, only 12 would survive to witness our victory."

"... Military science assumes that the bigger the army, the stronger it is. On the other hand, only vaguely do they recognise that during military combat, the final strength of an army is also its physical capacity multiplied by one unknown 'x'. This 'x' is none other than the spirit of the troops measured as their greater or lesser desire to fight and confront danger. Men with the desire to fight, who also understand why they are fighting, regardless of who they are fighting, whether under the command of military geniuses or those of normal intelligence, fighting with clubs or machine guns, ... these men will put themselves in the most advantageous positions while fighting and they will triumph."

(Source: First half-hour of the four-hour film 'Che')

I assume Mr Guevara said words to this effect, whilst acknowledging it may have been rendered for cinematic effect.

Disclaimer: This is *not* a call to arms!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Should men wear the face Burqa?

The number of young ladies choosing (!) to adopt full-scale Burqa/Niqab east side of London is on the up proper. They seem happy lol.

"... If you go the beach, for example... men are not covering their chest and women are covering their chests. Why? Because all of us admit that there are differences between the body of a man and the body of a woman..."

"... The face of a man is not attractive to a woman *as* the face of a woman is attractive to a man..."

(Source: Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, 'Debating the Burqa')

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=0B68C599EED95259Worth watching.

Watch this first though:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlkxlzTZc48
Funny guy.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Those Beautiful Butterflies

"Fighting successfully is not simply a matter of being so brave that you are unbothered by the fight. Everyone feels butterflies in their stomach. The key is to get the butterflies to fly in formation..."

"The will to win, compares little with the will to prepare to win."

(Source: Fighter's Notebook: A Manual of Mixed Martial Arts)

The path to that point moves through sweat and blood.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The Extremists of Pakistan

"They have no tolerance. They speak, abusively if necessary, and desire little debate in return. They order and demand to be obeyed. They care not of another's grievance or state of affairs, nor make any effort towards an understanding of such. They choose to remain ignorant of the world around and its realities that impact them. They wish their every whim to be met and every diktat to be followed by all. They are prepared to use violence - brutal, unrelenting and destructive violence – until they get their way..."

http://pakobserver.net/200906/09/Articles03.asp

Outstanding comment piece.

allahumma innaa naj3aluka fee nu7oorihim wa na3oodhu bika min shuroorihim.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The D Word

"... The British public, never keen to look too long at death, were not invited to go deeper. That mysterious place was illuminated only by The Sun and Mirror pieties, where the angels were calling and Jade would be 'the brightest star in the sky'..."

(Source: The Economist, March 28th 2009, Obituary in memory of Jade Goody)

Inevitable. Tough but inevitable.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Muslim Schools (or, rather, damn Muslims!)

"... these children spend a lot of time in a Muslim cocoon. They are drilled intensively in their faith outside school; what goes on inside school reflects both state policy and local social reality."

"... For all the time spent on instruction, many young Muslims have never heard much about how to apply their faith to daily life."

(Source: The Economist, March 28th 2009)

From an article aptly named 'A long, long lesson'. Worth reading. Touches upon a number of topics.

http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13375938

Saturday, 30 May 2009

21, Pride Decade

Title: Pride Decade
Language: English
Format: Documentary, Martial Arts
Running time: 2 hours
Release date: 2009

Compulsory viewing for mixed martial arts fans. Excellent presentation of Pride Fighting Championships' ten-year lifespan (1997-2007), from inception to sale. Good mixture of narrative, interviews and fight footage (not to forget the dramatic music!).

Monday, 25 May 2009

20, Into the Light

Title: Into the Light - A selection of personal accounts of modern converts to Islam
Paperback: 60 pages
Publisher: UK Islamic Mission
Language: English

Sometimes it seems that the ways to reject and distort the message of the Prophets (peace be upon them all) is as numerous as the people on this earth. I had a conversation with a non-Muslim recently stemming from him asking me directions (geographic direction, not spiritual!). His problem with "the Islamic faith" (as he called it) was (is) that we refer to "the Creator", "the Most Magnificent" (his choice of words) as "He". He said doing so, referring to Him (!) as a man, dishonoured "the Creator", "the Most High" (he didn't like the word God I think). Every time I would say "He", he would say "see, see, you said 'He'". Of course, when we, as Muslims, refer to God as "He", the corrupted thought of thinking God as man is far far from us.

An example: In Arabic, the word "huwa" can mean "it" or "he". When we refer to a pen as "huwa", we do not think of the pen as a man. Likewise, we make a fundamental clear distinction between the Creator and the created. Anyway, getting to the topic at hand...

Reading this booklet, 'Into the Light', was a good eye opener of how it really is the coherency and simple things of Islam that attract people to it. Well-written, short, touching, personal accounts, of people who have chosen to become Muslim. Definitely worth the read. Inspires one with renewed vigour and confidence to spread the message of Islam, and really reinforces the belief: Whomsoever God guides, none can misguide.

May God guide us all and may He keep us guided on the straight path.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Game of Choices

"Karate is in my blood. Since a very young age, fourteen/fifteen years old, we got up 5:00 in the morning. 5:30 in the morning was when our father started training us."

"You wake up early, so your first opponent is yourself. You must decide, do I go or not? Is it raining? Am I tired? Just getting out of bed is winning the first fight."

(Source: Lyoto Machida and his father (respectively), UFC 98 Countdown)

I really need to cut down on my sleeping. Averaging 9 hours at present. Unacceptable.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Letter to the Economist: "Islamist" overkill

Letter I wrote to The Economist:
Dear Economist,

I have been reading your magazine for a couple of years now and the ever increasing use (and abuse) of the word "Islamist" increasingly irritates me. Take for example this passage: "... Though many female undergraduates in Algiers wear the Islamist headscarf,..." (Match 7th 2009, 'Steady but stale') What is an "Islamist headscarf"? It is difficult (impossible maybe) these days to find a single article about Muslims or Islam in your magazine free of the word "Islamist". And, of course, you only ever seem to use the word "Islamist" with obvious negative connotations.

Regards,
Adil Hussain
London, England

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Remember Gaza - National Demonstration

I popped down to the beginning part of this demonstration today in central London. Good lively atmosphere but numbers nowhere near as high as the demonstrations back in January - in the hundreds rather than the thousands. We are indeed a people moved by mass media. Free Palestine.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Hit and be not hit

"My body is my sword. My mind is my blade."

(Source: Lyoto Machida, UFC 98 In Depth)

Of course, it is better to win a fight without fighting (war is deception) but circumstances don't always allow for that.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Britain and its Muslims

"... The sad fact, in a country that has come to live in fear of terrorism, is that many Britons are indeed more interested in assessing Muslims' potential for violence than in anything else about them."

(Source: The Economist, February 28th 2009, How the government lost the plot)

Old article but still a valid read.

Also, you might want to listen to 'Ungoverned Spaces' and 'Struggle on two fronts':
economist.com/audiovideo/britain

Monday, 4 May 2009

19, Muhammad The Last Prophet

Title: Muhammad The Last Prophet
Language: English, Arabic
Format: Animated, Colour
Running time: 95 minutes
Release date: 2004

Touching account of the Prophet's (SAWS) life and messengership. Well worth the watch.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

(Empathic) Communication

"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

"Diagnose before you prescribe."

"Empathic listening is also risky. It takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself up to be influenced. You become vulnerable. It's a paradox, in a sense, because in order to have influence, you have to be influenced. That means you have to really understand."

"It may take a little more time initially but it saves so much time downstream."

(Source: 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People')

Listen with the ears, the eyes and the heart,
for feeling, for meaning, for behaviour.
Sense. Intuit. Feel.
Afford "psychological air".
Understand. Affirm. Validate. Appreciate.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

18, Ghazali Beginning of Guidance

Title: Ghazali Beginning of Guidance
Speaker: Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf
Language: English
Running Time: 36 lessons (approx 30 mins each)

Finished listening to this audio series after many many months of slow attentive listening. A bit slow paced but the lectures cover many different day to day matters, including cleanliness, prayer, fasting, character, manners and friendship.

Audio series downloadable from getislam.net

Sex and Relationship Education

Attended this seminar yesterday entitled "Sex and Relationship Education - The Need for a Muslim Community Response" organised by the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques in association with SREIslamic. Very good, professional presentation. Quite scary how our society is corroding with the times. We definitely need to maintain our moral standards and values, and not lower our bar of acceptability, amidst the craziness.

Note to self: Become a school governer.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The slow, complicated road to adulthood

A good article that I stumbled upon whilst reading the one quoted in the previous post:

"... And a fifth of women and a third of men aged 20 to 34 are still living with their parents. So yet again we worry about what is happening to family life in Britain today...

... What was previously a normal rite of passage to adulthood has instead become like scaling a distant peak that can only be conquered after years of effort and preparation...

... The deodorant Lynx, for example, is marketed to young men on the proposition that it makes them sexy; but the advertisers have discovered that it is actually bought by mothers for their twentysomething sons who are still at home..."


(Source: The Times, 18 April 2009)

I can't remember the last time I bought deodorant. My stock seems to replenish itself.

Ghost in the Terror Machine

I was just Googling and doing some reading regarding the anti-terror raids last week and came across this article which I thought worth archiving:

"... At any given time MI5 monitors about 2,000 people in Britain who form an estimated 230 networks suspected of links to violent extremism. Each individual is subject to a sliding scale of monitoring depending on the agency’s assessment of the threat they pose and how close they are thought to be to "attack planning".

Each week a committee of senior MI5 officials meet at the agency’s headquarters in Westminster to review the status of each operation, upgrading and downgrading different investigations as appropriate..."


(Source: The Sunday Times, April 12 2009)

Very good article worth reading and re-reading.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Fickle

"... During his campaign Mr Obama was, as he put it himself, 'a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project[ed] their own views'. He gave a lot of people the strong impression that their most urgent goals were also his..."

Betrayed by Obama, The Economist, Jan 22nd 2009

Old article I know. The world moves so fast. I wonder if Mr Obama still uses the words "hope" and "change" with such oomph?

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Youth Gathering

We held a lunch get-together yesterday (Bank Holiday Monday) for the youth of the area at the local community centre. The plan was simple - all welcome, come along, but bring some food. We prayed Dhuhr together, then let the youngsters play (pool, table tennis, dodgeball, handball, computer games, air hockey) whilst we set up. When ready, we got everyone together for a short interactive reminder (manners of eating in a group), munched and then the youngsters went back to playing whilst we cleaned up. It worked out nicely. A good variety of food (sweet and savoury) and plenty for all, alhamdulillah.

A funny moment: Whilst setting up before prayer, I needed to pass over a prayer mat. Thinking it easier to jump over rather than take my shoes off and walk, I jumped. My foot got caught on the underside of the mat. I tripped and tumbled. One of the kids responds instantaneously, "Whoah! Allah punished you for walking over the prayer mat with shoes on." A rare sign of God-fear. This kid will go far insha-Allah.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Cairngorm, Scotland

Spent a couple of days and nights in Cairngorm, Scotland. Beautiful. So much to be grateful for.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vJeBHSIz50

Something to do for my next trip: Get some tarpaulin and rope and make a shelter and windblock for the fire and prayer areas.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Participation and Development

Attended this 1-day course last Saturday entitled 'Participation and Development: If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right!' jointly organised by Engineers Without Borders UK and Architects Sans Frontieres UK.

We looked at some tools that can aid participation. In particular, techniques for social data gathering (Pie charts, Venn diagrams, Flow diagrams) and spatial mapping (of the human body and geographic areas).

I found the example of Westfield constructing a new shopping centre in Stratford quite interesting - residents are being asked "How do you want this shopping centre?" rather than "Do you want this shopping centre?" Leading questions!

The second half of the workshop involved a group exercise. Given a post-Tsunami scenario replicating a Southern Indian village, each person was given a character/role and in increasingly larger groups of increasingly conflicting interests we had to identify and prioritise the top "needs" of the village.

Lesson learnt: Think positively - begin by grouping commonalities rather than shooting down anomalies.

The Land of Opportunity

Pakistan.

"... It all seems quite feasible in a land where a once corrupt, polo playing landowner awaiting trial in a prison cell, has recently experienced a miraculous change of fortune and now rules the country as president-elect.

Many people here aren't as lucky..."


(Source: Article entitled 'Glimpses of the Punjab' by Tahseen Chaudhry found in the April 2009 issue of 'emel - the muslim lifestyle magazine')

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Win/Win

"Win/Win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way."

"Competition, not cooperation, lies at the core of the educational process. Cooperation, in fact, is usually associated with cheating."

"With 'No Deal' as an option, you can honestly say, 'I only want to go for Win/Win. I want to win, and I want you to win...'."

(Source: 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People')

The above advice is for settings of interdependency. Cooperate to create interdependency.

The alternatives: "Win/Lose" ("I get my way; you don't get yours"), "Lose/Win" ("Go ahead. Have your way with me"), "Lose/Lose" ("We both lose"), "Win" ("I secure my own ends - and leave it to you to secure yours").

Friday, 13 March 2009

Mental State

"Bolt's ability to stay relaxed is the key to his success..."

Taken from a feature entitled 'Anatomy of a Speed Demon' in today's issue of 'Sport' about Usain Bolt, the tall, muscular, long-legged guy who runs very fast even under extreme pressure.

That is what separates the good from the great in almost any sport or endeavour, the ability to stay relaxed. Fighting in particular.

Btw, Amir Khan takes on Marco Antonio Barrera tomorrow. I hope he doesn't get knocked out. Success lies not in this world and definitely not with one whose bottom gets planted on the earth.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Work with (understand) the community you are to serve

This was one of the key points drilled at the Shelter Training Course I attended last weekend. A quote I happened to stumble upon today to demonstrate the point:

"Jabe Blumenthal liked to ask program manager candidates [during interview] to design a house. Sometimes the candidate would go to the white board and draw a square.

This is about the worst possible thing to do, in Blumenthal's estimation. A house can be anything. You never build a house without asking who's paying for it and how much money, space, and time are available...

... One of Blumenthal's collegues, Joel Spolsky, took to interrupting the square-drawers. 'Actually, you fogot to ask this,' he'd say, as they were putting the finishing touches on their floor plan, 'but this is a house for a family of forty-eight-foot-tall blind giraffes'."


(Source: How Would You Move Mount Fuji?, Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle, How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Shelter Training Course

Attended this 2-day course the previous weekend organised by Engineers Without Borders UK. Found it very beneficial. Left me with a greater appreciation of how complex disaster relief and development (and people!) can be. A good mix of theory and hands-on workshops.

Sessions included:

  • The right things to the right people: an insight into the difficulty of identifying aid recipients and distributing aid. The session included role play. Participants were split into two groups; the distributors and recipients of aid. Recipients were of varying need depending on who they were (head of household, elderly person etc), how many people depended on them (number of children etc) and the extent to which their house had been damaged (not at all, partially or completely). Distributors had to prioritize recipients and distribute aid without it all descending into chaos.
  • Transitional Shelter Construction: constructed shelter given a few planks of wood, a hammer, nails, a plastic sheet and some rope.
  • Tents: put up a few different kinds of tents commonly used in relief camps.
  • Camp Planning: planned a camp site given a map and a disaster scenario.
  • Reconstruction roleplay: participants were assigned the role of differing NGO consultants (construction management, infrastructure, environment & sustainability etc) in small groups and had to work together with local representatives and government to agree on a reconstruction solution following a natural disaster.

Some thoughts/quotes:

  • When sending clothes as aid or re-building houses, the intention may be good, but is it culturally/environmentally appropriate? Is it what the people want?
  • At what point is the disaster over? How/when to ask "squatters" to leave houses/properties that they do not own?
  • Individuals are affected. Important to bear this in mind when making grand decisions (as an an engineer) as to what to do.
  • Self-help: People don't sit around waiting for you (the aid agency) to arrive.
  • Whatever you do should be driven by the community, so you know it's what they want.
  • Don't underestimate the traditional modes of construction, refined over generations. Don't think you're the only expert going in.
  • Getting people (those affected) to understand (and agree) why a certain approach is best is always a challenge.
  • Most (alot of) people go and stay with a friend or relative or in any empty building they can find, not in a refugee camp necessarily. These people also need help, maybe more so, and should not be ignored. Got to work out the total number of people affected and in need of aid.
  • You can't throw something off the back of a truck and think you've done international aid.
  • People get cranky (dangerous even) if they think they are getting something sub-standard to what others are getting. Got to keep it fair/equitable.
  • You (the aid agency) are not a parallel government. You're not here to take over. You are supporting. Where you are working they will also have laws, building guidelines etc.
  • Self-settled camps: Cities evolve over time, hundreds of years, not over days/weeks. Rushing it and leaving it completely to people could leave the "town plan" in quite a mess.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Another Friday Another Problem?

Every Friday I help set up for the congregational prayer at college. Something unexpected occurs every week. It is something we have come to expect. Today was no different. So, as I am walking in, I say to one of the managers, "Another Friday Another Problem". He responds,

"Another Friday Another Opportunity".

Indeed, in problem is opportunity. And all praise is due to Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

"Life is about survival and reproduction"...

... or, rather, overcoming greed, envy and the desires of this world?

"... When researchers ask people whether they would rather be relatively richer than their peers even if that means they are absolutely worse off, the answer is yes.

(Would you rather earn $100,000 when all your friends earn $50,000, or $150,000 when everybody else earns $300,000?)..."


(Source: The Economist, December 20th 2008, from an article entitled "Why we are, as we are" about Darwinism)

If feminism were a woman...

If feminism were a woman, she would be as ugly as a man.

"I see many parents, particularly mothers with small children, often frustrated in their desire to accomplish a lot because all they seem to do is meet the needs of little children all day. Remember, frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror rather than our own values and priorities."

(Source: 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People')

Importance, purpose and belonging. That is what each and every person seems to crave. Some find it in a gang. Others find it in an ideology. Few even settle for an imaginary friend.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

17, Ashraf's Blessings of Marriage

Title: Ashraf's Blessings of Marriage
Editor: Haafiz Aslam Patel
Hardback: 396 pages
Publisher: Amaanah Studio (Fourth Edition, 2008)
Language: English

A must-have book for all... whether married or not. A comprehensive guide for every step of the way - from first thinking about getting married through to raising children. Beautiful collection of advices.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

16, Saviours of Islamic Spirit

Title: Saviours of Islamic Spirit
Speaker: Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf
Language: English
Running Time: 10 hours (10 CDs)
Producer: White Thread Press

Really impressive series picking out and drawing upon the lives of key figures that came to pass after the passing of the Companions of the Final Messenger Muhammad (SAWS). The series progresses in choronological order and plays on the Hadith that in every century a reviver will be sent to restore the religion. The series identifies the challenges that faced the Muslim world with the passage of time and sheds light on how these selected individuals were influential in overcoming their respective challenges.

The series is narrated in a very invigorating yet controlled manner, maa sha Allah. One of those rare lecture series' where every word seems to count, walhamdulillah.

Listening to this makes you realise, you know what, our situation ain't that bad! In a sudden unforeseeable, unimaginable switch all can turn on its head. Hearts are like that, our days are like that and that is not difficult for Allah, the Most Glorified and Exalted.

Deep. Like 6 foot deep.

"Dust is my bed
embracing me,
and is my cover.

The sands are around me,
engulfing me from all directions.

And the tomb recounts [the story of]
the darkness of my calamity.

And the light has destined that my pleasure is
in meeting [Allah]..."


(Source: Farsy at-Turab, by Mishari al-Arada)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfJJMwO5B6o

I had been listening to this Nasheed (song) for years. Never knew what it meant. Just thought it sounded deep (and soothing). The subtitles here confirm. The video ain't too bad either. Watch it. All of it. Be patient.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Life is Education, Pupil is Teacher

"All of life is education and everybody is a teacher and everybody is forever a pupil."

(Source: Abraham Maslow, quote found on back cover of 'Great Minds, Education's most influential philosophers, A TES Essential Guide')

An observed good: inculcate, appreciate. An observed bad: shed, correct. Whatever the source.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Balance

No-one needs this more than me...

"Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in other areas of life. But can it really? Perhaps it can for a limited time in some areas. But can success in your profession compensate for a broken marriage, ruined health, or weakness in personal character? True effectiveness requires balance..."

(Source: 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People', Stephen Covey)

Need to balance priorities. Put first those who will pray for you when the dust has settled. Not your work. Not your friends.

Shutdown

I don't know if it was the cold weather, injuries needing to heal, absence from exercise, years of overworking myself catching up with me or dissatisfaction with the commitments I find myself in, but every day of this week I slept ten hours at least (with a slight interruption each day for Fajr prayer).

Truth be told though, as a result (I think), these past few days I have looked and felt better than I have for a long time.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Southpaws

Got kicked in the jaw yesterday. Felt a bit funny over breakfast. Fine now, alhamdulillah.

Lesson learnt:

With south paws, those who stand right foot forward, keep your left hand up (defending) more (higher) than your right hand allowing your right (hand and leg) more freedom to attack and pester. This is because his more frequents attacks will come from his (jabbing) right side (your left side) and his power shots will come from farther (his left side, your right side) allowing you a bit more time on that side for reaction.

All that whilst reiterating: keep outside his lead (right) foot and you own him.

Who would have thought fighting could involve so much thinking?! "Human chess" as they say. ;)>

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Challenges of Parenting in the 21st Century

Some notes (below) from a workshop I attended today. The 2-hour workshop was organised by Al-Risalah Trust and Turath Publishing, and presented by Edris Khamissa (an international educationalist and trainer, website: www.ehk.co.za).
  • Parenting is not your relationship with your children, it is your relationship with your spouse. Invest emotionally in your children. Speak softly. Children mimic behaviour.
  • One of the most cited reasons for divorce: parents differ in how to raise children.
  • Stages of child development and the parents' role: 0-7 years - bond with them; 7-14 years - instruction, learning; 14+ years - become their friend and confidant.
  • What is self-esteem? Part of it is recognising that you are a unique creation of Allah (SWT). Tips for developing self-esteem in children: praise them, encourage them, listen to them, highlight positives. An example of the latter, say: "Son, you will be a leader of this Ummah."
  • Communication: The non-verbal (facial expression, tone of voice, body language) is more important than the verbal (words). The Prophet (SAWS) would face a person when communicating with them, to make them feel important, and he (SAWS) would be the last to withdraw his hand from a handshake.
  • It is far worse to break the heart of a believer than to break the Ka'bah. The Ka'bah can be rebuilt.
  • Mothers! A question: Are you a "housekeeper" or a "housemaker"?
  • Exercise to try: Ask children at my youth club, "If I gave you a million pounds, which you had to spend within a month, what would you do with it?" Also, "What good deed have you done today?" The latter in the spirit of the Hadith involving Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq (RA).
  • Teach your children how to express love. Show/tell them you love them.
  • Those of you who have never hugged your wife in front of your children, please do so today.
  • Task to do: Find my old high school English teacher and thank her for instilling in me self-belief.
  • Make Du'a for each of your children by name, every day.
  • Children must be taught consequences of positive and negative behaviour. Punishments and rewards!
  • Question: Can a woman realistically work and successfully "make a home" (raise children)? Answer: It depends, particularly on the extent/availability of support in the form of extended family (grandparents etc). The father's role in comparison with the mother's is "a guide on the side".
  • About TV: Inculcate in your children reading habits. Every child should be walking, talking and thinking. When watching TV they neither walk, nor talk, nor think. Also, why invite nudity and obscenity into your house?
  • About computer consoles: They are addictive, asocial and breed individualism.
  • Build/utilise the concept of Shura (consulation) in the home. Communicate with one another. Set goals together: family goals and individual goals. Evaluate your goals regularly, together.
  • There is no good in him who neither befriends nor is befriended.
  • Before you introduce yourself to your children introduce them to Allah.
  • Show your children more love when they do something wrong. Start (the "disciplining") with hugging them. Affirm: "I do not like what you have done but I love you." Whatever wrong they have done question whether it is your (the parents') fault. For example, if your son/daughter has been caught cheating on school exams, is it because you have pressured them too much? Adopt role play: Ask the child what he/she would do if their child did that misdeed.
  • If, after doing a wrong, your child responds, "sorry for disappointing you dad (mum)". That is the wrong answer. If your child responds instead, "I am sorry and I ask Allah to forgive me". That is the right answer. Taqwa is the goal.

Sponsored Silence for Palestine

We got the kids to do a half-hour sponsored silence today (playing allowed but no talking) during the youth club and to raise money over the previous week for the Gaza Emergency Appeal. The kids really shocked me. We told them about it last Sunday and I thought they would forget. Instead, subhaana-Allah, they impressed. One kid and his sister raised £580 and £168 respectively, alhamdulillah. In total, we have £1900 in cash with lots more yet to come in, insha-Allah.

Protest for Palestine II

I attended yesterday's demonstration calling for an end to the ongoing barbaric holocaust of Gaza. The rally this time round was from Hyde Park Speakers Corner to the Israeli embassy. Subhaana-Allah, even more people turned up than the previous Saturday. Don't believe what you hear in the news!

A letter of condemnation I wrote to the BBC today:
I am absolutely disgusted with the BBC's coverage of the London Gaza demonstrations. I am glad I attended the previous two Saturdays so that I didn't have to rely on the clearly fictitous (to put it politely) numbers ("ten thousand") reported by the likes of BBC, Sky News and other UK media outlets. I would put the numbers at fifty thousand on Saturday 3 January 2008 and one hundred thousand on Saturday 10 January 2008 easy. Police officers at the event, who I asked for a second opinion, seemed to agree. Sky News I can understand reporting with a slanted agenda. But BBC? What am I paying my TV licence fee for? To be told fibs? And why did the BBC not show clear long-range or aerial footage/photos of the massive stretch of people who came out despite the extreme cold. Would that be revealing too much?

By the way, organisers put the number of people at the demonstration on Saturday 10 January as 100,000 not "75,000" as you report on your website (link below).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7809656.stm

A letter of commendation I wrote to the Guardian today:
I would like to commend the Guardian for its coverage of yesterday's demonstrations (link below). Particularly, for not doing as other sites/channels (including the BBC shockingly) have done and misinforming readers/viewers about the number of attendees as being only ten thousand. Despite opening the article with a very vague "tens of thousands", your reporters were kind enough to tell us the figure as reported by the organisers, i.e. "100,000 people". Thanks.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/10/gaza-london-protest-march


Awaiting their responses.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

In embarkment is empowerment

Stand stagnant,
weighed down by the earth beneath,
or traverse in stead,
clearing horizons.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Protest for Palestine

I attended the demonstration in London on Saturday, marching from Embankment to Trafalgar Square. If I wasn't angered by the lies and biased reporting beforehand, coming home to see the number of protestors reported as 10000 on BBC (and a vague "thousands" on the few other media outlets that bothered mention it) really did it. Any effect the march could potentially have had is nullified with a single lie, as simple as that. I would put the number at 50000 easy, if not more. Shame only those present will know. There were some helicopters in the sky, obviously taking pictures. Why not show some aerial shots? Funny that press coverage in the UK was restricted to close-ups.

I have complained to the BBC. In the meanwhile, the little I do watch, I am now watching on al-Jazeera and Press TV (the latter an Iranian channel). Forget the words; ugly heart rendering footage there you will not see on BBC or Sky News.

As for the protest and protestors, the (multitudes of) young men and women coming out in militant attire shouting aggressive "Takbeer"s (and "Ya Ali"s in the case of the large Hizbullah contingent), that really (always) baffles and saddens me. Some people just miss the point.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

(Muslim) Women

Women are hard to understand.
Muslim women even harder.
Word of
greater freedom, modesty, sense
Exemplified by
awfully excessive makeup
showcasingly tight clothes.
Calling out, "Look at me"
brighter than a rainbow.
Tying it all up in a headscarf
the question begs:
Contradiction of the woman, or
Confusion of man?