The Peaceful Fundamentalist

February 3, 2010, 3:52 am
Filed under: Nam

Sorry guys, we’re breaking for midterms. But we’ll be back before you know it, God willing!


The One With FoxTrot
January 29, 2010, 8:02 am
Filed under: Nam | Tags: , ,

I’m a big fan of comic strips. I’ve been reading the comics page cover to cover in the LA Times everyday since I was (I believe) 10 years old. Only in recent years has the comic page’s readership lost a consistent member in me, and I blame that on the system. You know. THAT system.

However, I still read them every chance I get (in the newspaper, because I refuse to read them online. It’s just not the same!), and I especially never miss out on the Sunday funnies, considering it is now the only time the newspaper publishes my favorite comic strip: FoxTrot.

FoxTrot revolves around the Fox family (thus, “FOXtrot.” get it? GET IT?), spotlighting on a brilliantly nerdy kid, his slothful older brother, and his irritatingly teenbopper of an older sister whom he loves to irritate. Supporting characters include a perpetually hungry iguana, a completely clueless dad, and the only sensible person in the strip: the mother (yes! another win for feminism!). But the alluring part of the whole shabang is that FoxTrot, in the words of the cartoonist Bill Amend, “tends toward the geeky, with occasional forays into the super geeky.”

So occasionally you’ll see me drop a couple of comics here and there that I find horrifyingly hilarious and astonishingly awesome, with the hopes that you, my comrades, shall also delight in the wonders of the comic strip and that together, with our collective love of the funnies, we shall single-handedly solve the entire crisis of the dying newspaper and pull back print journalism from the pits of death and demise.

Sound like a plan?


(Note: Two pretty funny but relatively unrepresentative examples of FoxTrot)

Sha la la la la la, my oh my!
January 28, 2010, 8:00 am
Filed under: Nam | Tags: , , , , ,

I have a great affinity for Disney.

What can I say, the franchise has been shoved up my nose ever since I was a toddler. I was Belle for Halloween in 2nd grade (complete with bright red rouge and exasperating smile), and then recycled a costume that was a cross between Jasmine and Esmeralda every year after that (or a genie, or a fortune teller….really, they’re all the same outfit).

I believe as I’ve grown older and out of the magical fairyland Walt Disney promised me I’d live in forever (that jerk…), I’ve transferred my love of the pesky but oh-so-lovable rodent into a fascination of the lore around Disney.

Scandals, racism, myths, deaths…I eat it all up. So don’t expect this to be my last word on the topic (after all, I have yet to discuss why it is Goofy can talk but Pluto can’t, and how I thought for my entire life that the “D” in the Disney logo was a “G.” And laugh at me all you want for the last part, I have a whole facebook group of proof that I’m not alone. BA-BAM)

Here’s a bit I found about the Disney princesses (in and of themselves subjects of great speculation regarding gender, race, etc. I mean, where the heck is Tiana?! Good job, Disney, you created a black Princess to throw into the spotlight for one glorious minute, you can now sit on your butts for the next 75 years until someone else exposes you for another social ill. Sigh. It’s the quad-million dollar international franchises based off of mice, dogs, and ducks you love the most that hurt you the most…)

The image just goes to show what you and I – and, well, 5.8 billion other people – have been taught to believe about women through our exposure and love for these “heroines.”

(grazi, buzzfeed!)

PS: If you ever come across ANYTHING related to Disney, kindly do send it my way.

“As is the gardener, so is the garden.”
January 28, 2010, 2:03 am
Filed under: Nam | Tags: , ,

(Note: This is a post from another blog I had that I think still rings true nearly two years later. Please excuse me for my less than stellar English here, I was but a wee child when this was written – in 2008.)

I recently made a very interesting and startling discovery that I would like to share.

Most of you who reside in Southern California (and I’m sure in other places as well) are all too familiar with those whom I will respectfully call “watchful gardeners.”

You know what I’m talking about.

Those wonderful workers who take it upon themselves to stop what they’re doing and ogle at you when they first set eyes on you, leer at you when you make eye contact, and then continue to eye you as you hastily walk away. Many times they’ll even throw a smirk or two in.

These encounters with such gardeners are usually physically harmless (from my experiences), although they can contribute to a sense of being violated or otherwise visually harassed, and can sometimes go too far.

I remember one instance when one of my friends (who wears a headscarf and at the time was pushing her younger sister’s stroller) and I stepped out of her house to walk to a store a few blocks away. As we stepped onto the sidewalk on the main road, a rickety gardener’s pickup truck (naturally) turned left out of the neighborhood opposite us and onto the main road and an old, tiny, hairy man in the driver’s seat pushed himself out of the window and yelled at us across the street something obscene in another language, wolf whistling and winking the whole time.

Another time, one of my friends told me she and her other friend were at the theaters and as they were walking down the sidewalk they were being followed by a gardener’s (surprise!) pickup truck. She decided to take action – by grabbing her friend’s hand, sidling up next to her, and smiling warmly while talking to her. Needless to say, that truck wasted no time in speeding away.

I always looked upon these people with utter disdain. Did they have no shame, no manners, staring at women this way? They didn’t seem to have any standards either; anyone and everyone could be a victim of their gaze. And they seemed to have no respect for females whatsoever. I tried not to stereotype against all gardeners; Lord knows I’ve been stereotyped myself one too many times. But every time I passed by any of them anywhere, there they were, stopping in their tracks to leer at me.

Whenever I would encounter such men, I would initially avoid making eye contact with them, all the while feeling their eyes boring into me as I passed. Then I tried glaring angrily back at them.

Neither of these methods particularly worked.

Then one day, as I was taking a walk around my neighborhood and passing by a middle-aged gardener who stopped working on my neighbor’s lawn to stare as I passed, I did something revolutionary.

I smiled at him.

I don’t know what prompted me to respond to his crude stare with a smile, I just kind of went with my natural instinct.

And do you know what this man did? This man who was part of a group of people whom I had given up as inhumane, a group who would never pass on an opportunity to make a girl feel uncomfortable?

He smiled back.

As in a true, genuine, hello-hope-you-have-a-nice-day smile.

And then he turned back to his lawn mower and continued on his way.

I was completely startled. I thought maybe it was just this one man, so when I smiled at the next group of gardeners I expected no return.

They smiled back as well. And went back to their work.

Maybe this is only the case with the gardeners in my neighborhood (although I sincerely hope and believe not), but ever since then I have not missed an opportunity to smile at them when I pass by, even throwing in a wave once in a while.

I truly find it an extraordinary revelation, and sincerely suggest trying it. It may just change the way you think about a certain group of people.

That’s so….interesting.
January 27, 2010, 4:51 am
Filed under: Nam | Tags:


Looong time, no post.

Quick update: Back from DC, back in school after a 6 1/2 month hiatus (what the what?!), and still ENTIRELY in vacation mode. However, interesting find – after all that time away from school, I am thirsting for some knowledge in my life (I mean textbook knowledge, which is intriguing since I always mourned my lack of ‘street smart-ness”). Weird.

Anyways, I assure you I have literally about 8 unfinished drafts of posts sitting under a neatly organized label in my Gmail account entitled “Crap to Make Slightly More Comprehensible So That the General Public Who Reads It On Your Blog Won’t Want to Blow Their Brains Out: Part IV.” I blame my lack of fully furnished posts to some sort of attention deficit disorder that my psychiatrist aunt is sure to diagnose me with the next time she sees me, and also because I wanted to make sure I wrote about something interesting.

At about this point of my thought process I got bored and digressed on the word “interesting.” What an interesting word the word “interesting” is, no? It appears to convey so much, yet conveys nothing at all. All of us use that term all the time (by the way, what does that say about us as a nation and the extent of our vocabulary?). What do YOU mean when you say “That’s really interesting”? I suppose it depends on the tone of your voice and the expression on your face whether or not you mean it in a positive way, or in a way that actually means you find something FASCINATING but are too lazy to sort through your mental file cabinet and extract a more descriptive word (and by “you” I mean me first and foremost because I’m as guilty as the next guy).

As my friend Noreen said (undoubtedly from countless personal experiences =P), it’s the perfect non-word: the safest word in an awkward situation or when you don’t really know what the other person is talking about and need to have some kind of opinion.

Interesting, right? Here’s a very interesting article I found on this interesting term, and for those interested in learning more about the term “interesting,” I think you will find this exceptionally interesting…(ok, I’m done, I’m done.)

(PS: I was going to remove the links on the word “interesting” that are scattered throughout the article, but turns out they link to a website for “interesting facts,” and who am I to deprive all y’all of more procrastinating fodder?)


However dazzlingly original people try to be with language, much of the time they fall back on set phrases that are not so much clichés as expressions of the universals of the human experience: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, I love you, I’m so sorry to hear….

And thus most chefs, I imagine, don’t mind if their cuisine is pronounced “delicious” by those who have just enjoyed it. Many of those in other artistic fields – painting, music, landscape design – are pleased to hear their fans call their work “beautiful.”

For those of us who toil in the world of news and public affairs, the word we most want to hear, day in and day out, is “interesting.”

Interesting? It’s not exactly on a par with the philosopher’s ideal of the good, the true, and the beautiful, is it?

A reader has reminded me of this particular deficit in the language: “The word that I use so much and find so boring and can’t seem to find better choices [for] is ‘interesting,’ ” she writes. “I could use help with this.”

Hey, you and me both, sister!

Journalists are people who live in constant fear that readers/listeners/viewers/ visitors are always on the verge of turning the page, changing the channel, or clicking away to something else. To be “interesting” – to hold the reader’s attention to the end – is about as good as it gets in this world.

Interesting” is sometimes a bit of diplomatic lingo to cover an unsuccessful experiment, notably in the kitchen. “This sauce, dear, is really quite interesting.” Note that this comment is rarely followed by, “May I have a second helping?”

The etymological roots of interesting and of interest, whence it comes, are far from clear. “There is much that is obscure in the history of this word,” says the Oxford English Dictionary of “interest.”

As a Latin word, interest is a verb that means “[it] is of importance, makes a difference” – words that are music to a journalist’s ears, truly.

Early examples of interest were financial and legal. Interest in the sense of curiosity goes back to 1771: “That sparked my interest,” that is, my attention.

The financial/legal and the intellectual senses of interested have gotten a little muddled at times.

I remember reading a biography of a 19th-century financier referred to as being “interested” in a particular company. What was meant, I realized after a moment of confusion, was that he owned a share of the firm. It had captured not only his attention but a share of his wallet.

The knock on interesting is that it’s a lazy word. It’s often used to signal, “My wheels are turning, but I don’t yet really know what to think.”

What synonyms could we press into service? There’s engaging. But engaging doesn’t keep its distance quite the way interesting does. If I find a movie “engaging,” I’m not thinking about it; I’m caught up in it. That’s why engaging is an appealing concept, but also why it’s not an ideal synonym for interesting.

Interesting is a “think”; engaging is a “feel.” And engaging doesn’t do diplomatic service the way interesting sometimes does, as in the “interesting sauce.”

Back in the days when it was easier for audiences to think of a guy in a Wehrmacht uniform as a comic figure, Arte Johnson used to do a shtick as a German soldier on the old “Laugh-In” television show. He managed to make a national catch phrase out of his cryptic utterance, “ver-r-r-r-ry interesting.” Often followed with an abrupt addendum, delivered in a similar comic accent – “but shtupit!” – it was his comment on whatever silliness his fellow troupers had just presented.

It provided some (much-needed) breathing room in the fast-paced show. And it maybe was about as “interesting” as interesting ever gets.

By: Walker, Ruth, Christian Science Monitor

Rodney King
November 27, 2009, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Yaz | Tags:

People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?…It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice….Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.


I don’t know why, but these words really stood out to me in these times…khayr, khayr insha’Allah.

I’m Muslim, and I happen to be American too
November 22, 2009, 12:41 am
Filed under: Yaz | Tags: ,

“I think Muslims need to start looking at themselves as Americans. We need to start seeing ourselves as Americans, and we also just happen to be Muslim.”

So I ask myself, as a Muslim and an American: what does this accomplish? The man who stated the above argued that when various minority communities living in America hold on to their identity via a label — Muslim American, African American or Asian American — it creates divisions. So maybe it erases these lines that we create once we all just call ourselves Americans.

Does it though? I asked him. “Well, why can’t we just call ourselves Muslims? I don’t believe in nationalism. I think the very fact that we call ourselves American creates divisions.” He didn’t agree.

I guess the labels of race, class and gender will never leave our vocabulary. So now we’ve enjoined this mentality of being American. Now what? Is it a problem that people have different definitions of what being an American is?  How often do our struggles, as Muslim Americans, cross over with African Americans, Latino Americans and Asian Americans. Is being a Muslim American the same as being an (insert ethnicity/race here)-American? In essence, no.

But religion doesn’t cross over with race or nationality. There are many different types of Muslims all over the world. The only thing that has ever divided us as Muslims, or any community for that matter, is nationalism and race, both of which are artificial concepts, manmade.

God creates us into different nations and tribes so that we may know one another. It is natural for each one of us to love where we came from. I love America because, ultimately, I have freedoms here that I couldn’t enjoy in other countries. Oftentimes, I hear those who subscribe to right-wing, neo-conservative ideology who say, “Oh they hate us because they are jealous of OUR rights.” Well, to that I say, the right to freedom of speech is not exclusively American. It is an inalienable human right. It just so happens that many governments (some of which the U.S. currently supports) don’t give that right to their people. I am blessed to live in a country that allows me to exercise my unconditional freedoms as a human being, but this doesn’t mean that I must inevitably be proud of being an American. America has its good and bad. I love America because I have family, friends and memories here. And the government should let me have the freedoms that the constitution sets forth.

The Constitution espouses many Islamic ideals and we, the people, reap the benefits of those ideals. The government serves us. We should not have to bow down to the government, thanking them for “giving” us “our” rights. Now, I believe that Allah gave us these human rights in the form of Islam, and that is why I am Muslim. The nature of the Qur’an is one of valuing justice above all and spreading peace. God tells us in the Qur’an to “speak out against injustice, even if it may be against yourselves and your kin.” God mandates it upon us to speak out, thereby implying that humans should have the freedom of speech.


Once we define ourselves only by the label of “American”, we prioritize culture over religion, artificiality over reality and nationalistic sentiment over humanitarian goals. We all come from different places and have different origins, but that doesn’t mean that these places single-handedly define who we are and what we stand for.

Of course, growing up in America has shaped me into who I am today, but many other things did, as well. But these are origins, things we look back to, and if we keep looking back to where we came from, we’ll never move forward and progress to who we can be. We have the freedom as human beings to change.

A wise person once defined Islam as “the communication with the one unique God and the defense of human rights”. Because the elements of social justice and preservation of freedoms are of utmost priority in Islam, I am a Muslim first and I am not afraid to call myself a Muslim first. This doesn’t mean that I am less patriotic than my neighbor. I live in a country that espouses American, and essentially Islamic ideals. That doesn’t mean I can’t criticize my country. A government and its people serve each other. They give to one another. The government shouldn’t take from its people and vice versa. And we are thankful to God that He has put us in a place where our freedoms have been preserved by our government. I am blessed to live here, but I will not forget that others across the world have their rights taken away. And I will not view others from the perspective of an American, but from that of a human being, a Muslim.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m Muslim and I just happen to be American, too.

Yours truly,