Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Universality of Music

I have been feeling very blue lately.

I don't believe in coincidence. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, fate, destiny, whatever you wish to call it. I also believe that life travels in a full circle.

As I opened the laptop today I saw an article on Yahoo's homepage: NPR's weekend edition and The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen. I have been a long, long-time Bruce Springsteen fan. In the mid to late 1980's one of my sister's and I slept in line - yes, a line of people waiting for Bruce Springsteen tickets to go on sale. I can't remember what number I was in line, but I remember I was in the first five in line. And of course being the person I am, I kept the line organized by taking names and assigning numbers for people so everyone would be treated fairly. This was long before the internet. As it turned out the wait was worth it and my sister and I were on the floor of his concert within the 1st couple of was one of the best experiences of my life.

The world has changed a lot since 1988 and I have changed a lot as well. I am no longer that irresponsible 20-something year-old who thought I was immortal and nothing bad could ever happen to me.

Somehow Bruce Springsteen's music has this ability to show the listener that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and there is always a chance to become a better person.

I have my complete collection of Bruce Springsteen CD's at home in Cairo, just waiting for me to pop in my car stereo and drive through Cairo singing my heart out, remembering the days when I thought I was immortal, and knowing now how mortal I am and how important it is to enjoy everyday. Bruce Springsteen's lyrics don't change but the meaning can change - metaphors can change, and hearts can change too.

Please visit the following link to listen to NPR



Thursday, August 07, 2008

Islamaphobia is alive and well in the United States

I am posting an article I just received from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), a non-profit organization in the United States that promotes Islam in a positive light. Unfortunately, thanks to the right-wing Republicans in this country, they are making endless attempts to emphasize Barack Obama's Islamic heritage in a negative light. I am really trying to keep my composure here, but honestly I think its about time a lot of Americans get their heads out of their asses. There is an undercurrent and sometimes a strong overt in your face current when people hear my name and see me - Arabic, Muslim, hijab . . . the strange looks, the whispers. What hurts most is that sometimes these comments and looks come from people I know very well. I will be honest and say that I have had my moments this summer where I seriously thought about moving back to the U.S., and then I realize how ignorant people can be when it comes to Islam, Arabs, and the spreading of democracy in the Middle East. Moreover I have dear friends in Egypt that I just cannot live without.



CAIR: Muslim’s Resignation Part of Marginalization Campaign
Posted 8/6/2008 4:49:00 PM

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 8/6/2008) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said today that the resignation of a recently-appointed Muslim community liaison for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is symptomatic of a nationwide effort by Islamophobes who seek to deny Muslims access to the political process.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it is “ironic” that Chicago attorney Mazen Asbahi resigned following Internet attacks on his ties to the mainstream Muslim community, an attribute that would seem to be a requirement for his position.
SEE: Obama Muslim Coordinator Resigns (Washington Post)
“Muslim-bashers play a ‘six degrees of separation’ game of guilt by association with any Muslim who dares to engage in positive social or political activism,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR’s Chicago chapter. “As Americans, we should not allow intolerant and agenda-driven extremists to succeed in their tactics of exclusion based on smears and mischaracterizations of leaders or institutions at the forefront of civic engagement.”
He said CAIR chapters nationwide promote Muslim voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns. Rehab added that CAIR maintains a website devoted entirely to encourage American Muslim political participation.
The CAIR election site offers the latest news and opinions relating to Muslims and elections nationwide. It also outlines positions of the presidential candidates, provides examples of anti-Muslim rhetoric from candidates for all levels of public office and links to the websites of Muslims running for public office.
SEE: CAIR 2008 Elections Website
Rehab also noted Muslims’ concern over recent congressional hearings at which Islamophobic speakers, including the controversial self-described “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson, urged government officials to avoid dealing with mainstream American Muslim groups, but failed to name any credible alternatives.
For background on Emerson’s history of anti-Muslim bias, see: “Steven Emerson's Crusade” (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)He suggested that the rise in rhetorical attacks on Islamic leaders and institutions may be the result of increasing Muslim political activism and involvement.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
- END -
CONTACT: CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857; CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, 202-870-0166; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail:

Tying up loose ends - finally!!

We went to Bush Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia last week. Mira is in her rollercoaster phase - and not the rollercoasters I grew up with but the nauseating corkscrew coasters. The rollercoasters are really a lot of fun especially when they race through the track turning upside down with your feet dangling below you, but going through the corkscrew turns are something else. Oh, and as Mira told me they're not rollercoasters they're "hyper-coasters." Ok, I thought, whatever that means. Well I found out as I rode my first one. They are much smoother, much faster and much more nauseating than what I was used to riding when I was oh so much younger. But the one that scared the hell out of me was Apollo's Chariot. If you get a chance you can check out the ride at I only rode it once and remembered why I was riding it -- with a special someone in mind. On the ride all I could think about was getting through the ride alive. I didn't scream, didn't yell, didn't say anything. That's how I knew the ride was too much for me. Yes, I was speechless.

Prior to Busch Gardens, Mira and I spent one week in western Pennsylvania with my youngest sister and her family. We had a wonderful time. It was so nice we hope to return in the next few days. It was great spending time with my sister. We managed to have a Polish Christmas dinner in July -- I walked her through the steps of making holupki (stuffed cabbage). Hopefully on this visit we will make pierogi ... mmm. My brother-in-law Jeff is the winner because he gets to eat our cooking. I really miss the essence of the Polish food. It was very bittersweet to show my sister how to make the holupki. When my mother was sick already, and after she died, Lainie and I would split the Christmas Eve meal, we would take turns making the soup, and we would usually make the pierogi together. But the Christmas day centerpiece was all mine. I guess I remember my Grandma Bezilla making the holupki and how it would smell when I would walk in her house, and in later years how our mouths would water when we would smell the holupki -- somehow Mom always had volunteers to test the food. In my family, the women didn't use measuring cups too much in cooking, but they went more by the fragrance of the food. Aside from the food, and shopping, we went to the Pittsburgh Childrens Museum which is a completely hands-on museum. I think Lainie and I had more fun than Mira and Maggie.

Mira on "Trolley" at the Pittsburgh Childrens Museum's
exhibit of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. We had a blast.

Mira and her cousin Maggie.

I am a planner by nature and even have a book I used for my trip, what to bring, what to buy, what to do, etc. to prepare for the trip and things to do when I'm here. So today Mira and I spent the day going over our lists and getting our suitcases together to return to Egypt; figuring out what we still want to buy and how to go about finishing our shopping -- the essentials -- jeans, sunglasses, books and quiltig fabric. I thought shopping this summer would be very expensive, but honestly, overall the prices have been quite low and I have been able to find amazing bargains. Of course living next to Marshall's and Burlington Coat Factory helps, not to mention Gabriel Brothers in Pennsylvania. Gabe's has the absolute best bargains I have ever found and terrific quality - not to mention limitless amounts of my favorite - 1928 Earrings. We even managed to get our Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirts.

It has been an interesting summer in the US. It was great to see Mira have so much fun. At the same time, Mira and I miss our dear friends too much and cannot wait to return home just in time for Ramadan.

Hassan and Mira in Hassan's office.

Yes it's me in Hassan's office pretending to be a rocket scientist.
Actually I'll leave that work to the engineers. I was probably on
Facebook or chatting with my friends in Egypt, but don't I
look smart with all those computers around me?

Mira was putting on a fashion show with her new clothes.
Notice the cowboy hat. My current "thing" is for Egyptian men
in cowboy hats. Go figure.

Alhamdulillah for everything, especially my dear friends in Egypt who are in my heart.