Black Men and Public Spaces (Brent Staples)

Black Men and Public Places

With the majority of the racial strain encompassing the rehashed executions of Black men on account of law implementation, I got to pondering a paper I composed for my english class a year ago. It was a reaction to a piece that kept running in the NY Times titled, “Simply Walk on By: Brent Staples Black Men And Public Space.” In the article, writer Brent Staples gives an itemized record of how it feels to be the objective of racial profiling. What stood out for me at the time was his way to deal with managing the partiality and prejudice he experienced day by day. He concentrated less on depicting himself as the person in question and rather, generous enabled his culprits to be the unassuming casualties of their own obliviousness and dread. It made me wonder, is this is a fundamental initial phase in incapacitating somebody of their preferences? To enable them to comprehend the defects in what they accept is sane conduct, would it be advisable for you to think about their apprehensions or is that approving their predisposition without considering them responsible?

In the article, a self-depicted 6’4, dim cleaned Staples, shares a couple of strategies he utilizes to make his “exploited people” feel progressively good in his essence, less they assault him in a misinformed endeavor at pre-emptive self-protection (or shoot him during a standard traffic stop). An eager night jogger, he nearly wills himself undetectable, and if he experiences a non-Black individual or lady on his run, he will murmur a symphonic tune, to loan a feeling of albinism to his individual. In a lift he’ll put his head down. He generally gestures his head or welcomes individuals first. His objective, seem compliant and they won’t be apprehensive. The idea of incapacitating oneself to make others feel increasingly good made my stomach turn. However, it appeared to work for Staples (and a great many black men like him who fall in line).

Each non-white individual I know has experienced some type of bias in their lifetime. I used to be scared to shop in costly stores. My skin shading makes me a high chance for burglary, and I’m normally welcomed with worry, inconvenience, and wariness. Dread of a potential claim won’t enable them to voice their worries however they guarantee I’m mindful of their supposition by pursuing me around the store, posing a reiteration of repetitive inquiries until their fulfilled I’m leaving with hardly a penny. My non-Black companions gullibly propose this is only their method for giving magnificent client administration, however long stretches of dull encounters have left me fatigued. Like Staples, I likewise conceived a system, anyway mine was more forceful. As opposed to seem undetectable I request to be taken note. I ensure my hair, make-up and garments are constantly classy, offering little question that I could bear to shop or eat in any foundation. On the off chance that I feel even the smallest trace of qualification, I’ll trump it by holding my head considerably higher. The contrast among Staples and me? Dread. The world doesn’t fear me the manner in which they dread Black men.

Preference is inborn in each one of us, in any case, yet nobody needs to discuss it. From the time we’re youthful, these ideal models are encouraged to us with a similar familiarity as a glass of milk. Contingent upon your experience, you’ve likely been characterized by a generalization that is basically false. Every White individuals are bigot, Asians can’t drive, Black men are savage, Black ladies have a chip on their shoulder, Mexicans will work for anything, Jews are parsimonious; I could continue forever. As a grown-up, I realize that none of these attributes are explicit to a specific race/culture of individuals, yet there is an intuitive pattern of depending on what I’ve been customized to accept, that now and again goes around sound judgment. Change stops by method for acknowledgment and seeing so it appears the key is getting individuals to tune in. Is the way to deal with live discreetly sneaking past the indirect access or requesting passage at the front? I truly don’t have the appropriate response. I wish I did. The initial step is conceding that there is an issue.

Who is Imam Hussain and why he matters now more than ever

Imam Hussain Holding Dead Infant

In the current Middle-Eastern climate of popular “Arab Spring” revolutions, with the people rising up against unjust, despotic and tyrannical dictatorships, understanding who Imam Hussain (AS) is and what happened to him is more important than ever.

Just like he was nearly 1300 years ago – in this day and age, Imam Hussain could be the inspiration for more than just a typical popular uprising, the seeking of democratic rights, but far beyond that to the seeking of social, judicial, economic, human and personal justice. And not just and inspiration for Muslims, but for everyone. You may have never heard of Imam Hussain, or, if you are Muslim, you may have heard of him but know next to nothing about him – please allow me to fill in some gaps in your knowledge of Islamic history.

The word “Imam” is a respectable title given to spiritual leaders and/or religious scholars. Imam Hussain was the second boy born to Fatima (AS), the Prophet Muhammed’s daughter, and Imam Ali (AS), the Prophet’s cousin. In many cultures, people are known by their first name and their father’s name, so Imam Hussain is known as Hussain Ibn Ali (Hussain son of Ali). This makes Hussain the grandson of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and the Prophet used to call Hussain and his older brother Hassen “my sons” and he loved them dearly. In fact, the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) taught of their special status, a status given by God, calling them Masters of the Youth of Heaven – Sayyeda Shabab ahl-al Jannah – and he enjoined obedience and love for them and the rest of his family as an ordinance of Islam. Who would have thought that not 50 years after his death, people who identified themselves as “Muslims” would murder the Prophet’s grandsons and in the most horrific of ways.

Following the death of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW), four khalifs or successors, came to become leaders of the Muslims and were later referred to as Al-Khulafa’ al-Rashidoon – “The Rightly-Guided Successors”. During their khalifates spanning some 40 years, three of the four khalifs were assassinated by their citizens, the third of them by a violent mob that accused him of corruption. And there were political murders and civil wars during their khalifates too. One of the governors, Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, installed by the third khalif (who was his relative), decided he didn’t want to leave his position and began to wage war against the fourth rightly guided khalif, Ali, the father of Hussain. Basically, a whole political, social and religious mess occurred after the death of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and this laid down the tracks for what was to follow.

Following the assassination of Imam Ali (AS), his son Imam Hassen (AS), became the next khalif but his leadership was short lived as the war-weary and corrupted citizens failed to support him and he was left with no choice but to make a truce with Mu’awiyah, his father’s arch-enemy in order to keep the peace and make sure the citizens of both parties were not harmed. Part of the agreement was that after the death of Mu’awiyah, his offspring could not rule. The contract was agreed upon and signed, but Mu’awiyah failed to honour his promise. Not long after the signing of the truce Imam Hassen (AS) was assassinated, though it was not clear by whom, by being poisoned and he died a slow and agonizing death. Mu’awiyah ruled for many years and with an iron fist. He attacked and imprisoned the supporters of Imam Ali and he established a culture of hatred in the people for Ali and his family, so much so that the preachers in the mosques would send curses upon them, notwithstanding the fact that they were members of the family of the Prophet and had been given lofty titles by God! Such is the power of propaganda in a dictatorship that even religion cannot bring sense to the people and corruption and ignorance is rife even amongst religious leaders. The seeds of sectarianism in Islam were also planted in this time leading to many fractures in Islamic unity which last to this day. 

Following the death of Mu’awiyah, his son Yazid, by his father’s wishes, declared himself the next leader. Yazid was something altogether different – he was a shameless drunkard, gambler, adulterer and did not respect or keep any of the Islamic laws nor public sensibilities that the leader of an Islamic government should observe. Furthermore, he began to hunt down any potential enemies. Thousands of people including women and children were systematically imprisoned, tortured and a large number of those were murdered. He sent assassins after his enemies including Imam Hussain (AS). Imam Hussain was in the middle of the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage, when he was informed that his life was in danger and he would even be murdered in the vicinity of Islam’s holiest place of worship, the Kaaba. Imam Hussain’s followers began to send him letters to come and help them and there was an overflow of requests for him to come so he vowed to initiate a popular uprising to demand the illegitimate khalif Yazid to stand down and grant the people their rights and freedoms and set off northwards with his family and companions to Kufa, Iraq.

Arguably, the most important asset of a dictator is their intelligence apparatus and Yazid’s was very powerful. Yazid managed to find out the plans of Imam Hussain and closed down Kufa before the Imam arrived and he also assimilated the weak-willed amongst them into his army by threatening them. The tens-of-thousands-strong army of Yazid marched south and soon caught up with Imam Hussain’s family in a desert plain called Karbala and surrounded them. For three days they denied the men, women and children including babies access to food or water in the searing hot desert and they attacked them day and night until 72 of the companions, relatives both male and female and even children, including Imam Hussain’s 6 month old baby, were slaughtered brutally one after the other. Finally, after having fought his hardest, on the 10th day of the holy Islamic month of Muharram, which is known as Ashura’, Imam Hussain was martyred. The soldiers then began to desecrate the bodies with such brutality that it would make any normal person sick to their stomach. They cut off the heads of the corpses and stuck them on the ends of spears, then they slashed the bodies with their swords and rode their horses over them. And they did this in front of the womenfolk and children who had managed to survive. They beat and bound the women and children and marched them through the hot desert, parading the prisoners and the heads through towns and villages, all the way back to Yazid’s palace with the head of Imam Hussain and the other companions swinging above them on spears. It was truly a horrible and gruesome end to the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed and his companions.

What is mind-blowing about this whole ordeal is that the people who murdered Hussain called themselves Muslims. They believed in God and his messenger, they prayed, fasted, paid alms and went on pilgrimage, but yet they saw fit to murder the grandson of the Prophet and kill women and children, to attack his followers during their prayers and to desecrate their bodies after murdering them. Before the massacre, when Imam Hussain called for support in his uprising the people of the Muslim community did not rise up against the injustices of Yazid and they left him to face Yazid alone and let him die in such a horrible way. It took the killing of Imam Hussain and an attack by Yazid’s army on the holiest shrine in Islam, the Kaaba, for the people to wake up and begin resisting. While Imam Hussain had been martyred, his message and legacy lived on and inspired people to rise up and seek justice. 

Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah ruled for three years and died of illness before anyone managed to assassinate him for his crimes and his son became the next khalif and continued his dynasty for a short while. But after that, the Ummayad dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasid dynasty who were inspired by the plight of Imam Hussain to bring back justice and order to the Muslim empire. Peace and justice prevailed thereafter… well, until it started going sour again as history informs us.

In this day and age, the story of Imam Hussain, though very briefly mentioned in this article (and I assure you it is worthwhile to research it in depth), resonates in what is happening in the Middle-East. People are rising up against tyrants and lest we forget the meaning of Imam Hussain’s struggle, history will be doomed to repeat itself. The people in countries that have been blessed with new governments must make sure it doesn’t go down the same pathway again otherwise when the brave rise up it will be too late and no-one will stand up to support them.

Imam Hussain may have been martyred on the plains of Karbala but in the end he won because the Umayyad dynasty was overthrown and numerous dictators have found the inspiration that Imam Hussain brings to the people to be a big thorn in their side and some have even seen their own downfall because of him. Many lessons can be learnt from Imam Hussain – we learn to be brave and resilient just as Imam Hussain and his companions never backed down, and that it is better to die with dignity than to live in humiliation, and from him we also learn never to give up our rights even in the face of death, and also to keep faith in the hardest of adversities, and that sacrificing your life for a better cause is a worthwhile trade. One of the most influential peace makers in recent history, Mahatma Ghandi, said this about Imam Hussain:

“I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed”

And India’s first democratic Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, once said:

“Imam Hussain’s sacrifice is for all groups and communities, an example of the path of righteousness”

In inspiring prominent non-Muslims, you can see that Imam Hussain’s message transcends religion and culture. His movement was an enlightened one – one that we all yearn for when we seek our most basic and important of rights – human rights. And, if you learn more about the man, you will find his teachings span well beyond the essentials.

Ashura

Ashura (عاشوراء)

The tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram. On this day the memorial of Moses’ (AS) salvation from the hands of Pharaoh, and the slaying of the Grandson of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW), Hussain (AS) and his companions, and his children are remembered.

Muharram

Muharram (محرم)

(1) Muharram is the first month of the Islamic Calendar. This month is considered a month of mourning by the Shia (and many Sunni) Muslims due to the murder of the Grandson of Prophet Muhammed (SAW), Imam Hussain (AS).
(2) Muharram can mean ‘made forbidden’.

Muharram is so-called because it was the main month designated by the pre-Islam Arabs as a month where war was forbidden. They didn’t usually follow their own rules and they even made an agreement where they would observe the law on year and the next year they could fight. They also broke this agreement too.

Eid Al-Adha Mubarak… What is Eid Al-Adha?

Eid Mubarak to all the Muslims! And congratulations to the pilgrims who travelled to Makkah this year.

I expect the Muslims to know what Eid al-Adha is but not anyone else really, so I thought I’d write a little about this celebration to introduce it. The word “eid” means celebration or feast, so Muslims celebrate this day by dressing smartly, going to the mosque and praying the eid prayer, visiting friends and family, exchanging gifts and feasting together. Al-Adha roughly means “The sacrifice/slaughter”. So all together it means the “Celebration of the Sacrifice”. Muslims worldwide celebrate two eids annually, the other being Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month fasting, Ramadhan. Eid Al-Fitr and is the larger eid of the two.

“The Celebration of the Sacrifice”, or Eid Al-Fitr, refers to the slaughtering of a ram (sheep). The backstory goes something like this: Prophet Abraham (PBUH), having lived a long life and being married to Sarah (RA)for a long while, was without any children because his wife was barren. The family wanted to have a child so Sarah asked her servant Hagar if she would like to marry Abraham and she agreed and sure enough she became pregnant. Soon enough the little baby boy was born and they called him Ismaeel (Ishmael). After a few years, Prophet Abraham started having dreams where he was commanded to take his only son to a certain place outside the city and slaughter him with a sharp knife. Now you can probably imagine how overjoyed they were, having been childless for so long, and then they were blessed with a child – now they became especially distressed that they would lose their only child. But Abraham, being a Prophet, knew it was a command from God and went to his son and told him what he planned to do. Rather than screaming, running-away or rebelling, the young Ishmael accepted this command from God and accepted his presumed fate. So the next morning, the Prophet took a sharp knife, some rope to bind the child’s limbs together and awoke Ismaeel to guide him to an alter where he would soon carry out the slaughter. They walked a while before they got there and ishmael willingly presented his hands and legs to be bound, and they were, and he was positioned, ready for slaughter. Then Abraham raised the razor-sharp knife and uttered the name of God and was about to strike Ismaeel when God commanded an angel to stop him from killing his son and replace the child with a ram (sheep) to be slaughtered instead. Thus, both Ishmael and Abraham were tested by their Lord and succeeded and their spiritual stations were raised.

This story and many others related to the stories of Abraham, considered the grandfather of the Prophets, are commemorated by the Muslims during the pilgrimage rites. One of the rituals of the pilgrimage is the slaughter of an animal like a sheep, cow, camel or goat, and they cook and eat some of it and give the rest to friends, family and the poor. Eid al-Adha is also know as Eid al-Hujjaj – Eid of the Pilgrims – and Eid al-Adha marks the completion of the pilgrimage event. The day of completion is on the 10th day of the last month of the Muslim Calender, the month of Dhul-Hijjah. To read more about the pilgrimage, or hajj, please check out the About Islam section of the website – The Five pillars of Islam: Hajj (Pilgrimage).

(RA)

(ra) (رضي الله عنهم)

This acronym stands for Rathiallah Anh (singular) or Rathiallah Anhum (plural) – May Allah be pleased with him or them.

The Arabic true form is shown in plural

Eid Al Fitr

Eid Al Fitr (عيد الفطر)

Eid al-Fitr roughly translates to ‘the celebration of the end of fasting’. Muslims fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan and they conclude this month with a three day celebratory holiday, an Eid, known as Eid al-Fitr.

Eid Al Adhha

Eid Al Adhha (عيد الاضحى)

Eid Al-Adhha translates to ‘The Celebration of the Sacrifice’. The word Eid means celebration or festival. The word Adhha comes from the word dhahiyyah (noun) which means slaughter or sacrifice (or victim). 
Eid Al-Adhha is one of the two Eids (days of celebration in the Islamic calendar). The other Eid is Eid al-Fitr and happens at the end of the holy month of fasting, Ramadhan. Eid al-Adhha occurs on the tenth day of the last month of the Islamic calendar (Dhul-Hijjah).

Eid al-Adhha is celebrated to mark a significant historical event relating to Prophet Abraham (PBUH) when he was tested by his Lord who commanded him to slaughter his only son Ismaeel (Ishmael) (PBUH) and when he was just about to make the cut, God sent down a ram for him to slaughter instead. Abraham’s faith had been tested and he had passed the test. This Eid is celebrated remembering this event and as part of the rites of pilgrimage (the Hajj), the people who do the pilgrimage must slaughter/pay-to-slaughter an animal likewise and distribute the meat amongst their family, other pilgrims, relatives, friends and the poor.

Makkah

Makkah (مكه)

The holy city of Makkah is situated in Saudi Arabia and is the birth place of Prophet Muhammed (SAW). Prophet Ibraheem (PBUH) built the Kaaba there and Muslims go to do Hajj (pilgramage) there.

Aim for the skies and keep your feet on the ground

In my life I have been exposed to amazing opportunities and moments which most people rarely get to see. But with the good, you must allow yourself to witness moments which will conversely not be as enjoyable. Last week whilst volunteering for a local MP, I was able to come face to face with situations which were foreign to me. What I didn’t know was that it was this next two weeks would have a profound effect on me as a person. Throughout the placement, I dealt which serious health issues, human rights issues, to simple squabbles between neighbours. Towards the end of my time at the office, I was able to shadow some home visits of local constituents in my area. As I entered the first house in an Asian estate, there was a sombre atmosphere where a young Asian man led us into a small little room. In that room, I met a frail middle-aged woman lying on a broken bed moaning from her pain.

We were told she had suffered a stroke 6 months ago, and she was unable to move, and subsequently she was living in what would be her dining room/kitchen area. Honestly, the scene itself brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was her physical state or the living conditions they were in. There was Quran playing in the background, and religious symbols draping the walls around the home. It was humbling to see a family which had been hit with such a personal tragedy, yet their closeness with God was unaffected. As we went on from house to house, the circumstances were similar if not worse. However, it was the patience and the friendliness of the people that shone through. Being an Asian neighbourhood, they were pleased to see a local young Muslim woman partaking in local politics, and so I felt this instantaneous connection which put us on a shared level of understanding regardless of the language barrier. When I finished the visits, I sat in the car feeling upset and remained quiet. I was shocked that this level of local poverty existed in such close proximity to my own home. Coming from a comfortable upbringing, I was always told I was sheltered and unaware of the “real world”. It hit me right then that this was the real world. I looked at my problems, and I felt ashamed to call them problems in comparison to those which others were experiencing.

I felt a sense of disgust at Politicians at the top of the hierarchy who were unaware of the disastrous effect on the people they were supposed to be looking out for. What was more aggravating was that it is the same elite, who come from a specific section of society, who have never come into contact with people such as these in order to truly see the effect of their own political decisions from the roots. There are politicians who work in their field in order to create their own personal brand of superiority and power. On the other hand there are real politicians who carry their people’s interests in their heart, and give a voice to the neglected. They strive to make life better for every section of society. It is so easy for people to become unheard and meaningless. At the same time, it is so easy for those in better standards of living to put our fingers in our ears and brush away the harsh realities those below us are experiencing. I left my work experience coming out with more than just a career benefit. Those two weeks gave me a feeling of thankfulness for everything I had, and a sense of urgency to pursue my career in the political arena in order to do what I can to help people just like the ones I had come across.

What attracts me to politics? Is it the power, the corruption, the salary or the other appealing benefits? No, I grew up believing politics is the where decisions were made to improve people, your area, your nation, and the world. In order to improve in life, you need to aim for the top, yet keep an eye on the bottom. Whether you’re interested in politics, science, or the arts, take yourself out of your comfort zone and take as much out of life as you can, be it good or bad. It is moments like these which will shape who you become as a person.