Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Westernizing Islam: Bikini is the new Hijab

Westernizing Islam: Bikini is the new Hijab

I find it startling that we started linking the fact of being open-minded to having a western mentality. Who said that being open-minded means we should have a western mentality? It seems like it’s a trend now to show how open-minded we are by picking on Islam and attacking some Islamic aspects to sound cool and hip and open-minded, we thrive to measure up to the American standards of being open-minded. Its mind boggling to read, hear and meet people whether in Gaza, Palestine or the Arabic world talking about how much they are very proud of being “Western” and “open-minded” and how being religious is so “Two thousand and late” or so “1990s”. Really? Are you for real?

I was born and raised in Europe; I came to Gaza to a whole new culture. I knew I was Muslim but I didn’t learn more about my religion till I came here. I am proud of my blended culture and proud of being Muslim and liberal. I am too open-minded for my own sake which usually puts me in trouble; I am usually accused of either being too liberal or less religious. Both are untrue.

I find myself torn between defending liberal people who choose to be Muslim yet open minded (like girls who are good Muslims but choose not to wear Hijab yet) and in the same time defending religious people who are often accused of being narrow minded, too religious, terrorists ….etc. Women who wear Hijab in the western world are often harassed, slandered and sometimes dangerously attacked like Marwa Al Sherbini (Egyptian woman who was attacked by a German douchebag just because she was wearing Hijab and he later stabbed her to death when she decided to take him to court). Some European countries placed ban on Niqab which made many of Muslim women’s lives hellish and hard.

In the Arab world, women who decided not to wear Hijab yet are often attacked, slandered and harassed. People give themselves the right to judge them and call them many things including: “hookers, sluts and bitches” just because they aren’t covering their heads and they claim that they are doing it because they honor Islam. Well news flash: Islam never asked you to judge, attack and slander people for any reason even if its defending because its not really an “Islamic” act. Islam asks us to respect everyone and all religions. I don’t see people pressuring men for not praying or fasting yet they feel so powerful about pressuring women to wear Hijab.

The western media and governments got so worked up to blame, frame and put shame on Islam for every wrong thing in their countries to cover up their corruption. Islam, Muslims and Arabs became a target. This shows how powerful Islam is and how powerful Muslims are which pushed those directions to focus on deforming Islam’s image. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance whether you wanna believe it or not.

Ofcourse, some Arabs and Muslims contributed a great deal in deforming Islam’s image. Let me not talk about people elsewhere, let me talk about what I saw with my own eyes. I see some shameful Gazan youth who believe that its very cool and western to degrade Islam so they can get publicity or a trip to a foreign country or an invitation to a conference….. etc. How hideous is that? I see foreign organizations and INGOs in Gaza trying their best to focus on how Hamas is using Islam to oppress people and how some girls in Gaza are forced to wear Hijab and how frustrating is that? Seriously? You left all the bad things happening in Gaza and the suffocating siege imposed on us and suddenly you wanna do the community good by “liberating” Gazan girls from wearing Hijab?

I am not with Hamas nor am I defending it. Hamas has its bad and good sides just like Fatah and all other Palestinian factions. But if I say that our biggest problem in Gaza is Hijab then I would be the most disgusting guy on earth. I personally know some of the most powerful, independent, clever, educated, cultured, influential and inspiring girls in Gaza whom I was honored to know and meet. I never really cared whether they are veiled or not. Some are veiled and some are not but they are equally brilliant. Hijab doesn’t stand in the way for those who wear it or don’t.

What is really pathetic is seeing how some foreign organizations and journalists using Gaza just to attack Islam. I see them writing about religious oppression in Gaza (which doesn’t exist) and how they cant move without wearing Hijab. Come to Gaza and you will see foreign journalists moving freely even if they are wearing a jeans and a T-shirt, you will see veiled and non-veiled girls and you will see that not only do women have freedom but they are also a force to be reckoned with. Women actually wear Jeans and T-shirts in Gaza and I don’t find that so shocking. Let me just share how sick I got when I saw the Anti-Niqab protests in Europe, European women were degrading Hijab in every way possible including wearing Niqab over a bikini and even wearing nothing but Niqab. How disgusting and idiotic.

I laughed my heart out when I read about Aliaa Magdi, the Egyptian thing, who saw that she should share her naked photos to show her revolutionary side. She called it the new "Naked Revolution". She -somehow- decided to link revolution with naked art and claimed that freedom of speech must enable Arabs of sharing their naked photos. No thanks, I will pass. What the hell is wrong with her? What on earth is the link between revolution and nudity? I have no respect for her or her boyfriend who likes to always link sex to everything on earth. They are disgusting and lame and they will do anything for fame.

Oh yeah and lets talk about the honor killing. I don’t support honor killing in any way, shape or form. I am against violence and I do admit that we heard and still hear about some horrifying stories about honor killing in the Arab world. Some stories are not justified and others show how the girl was killed because of a misunderstanding. But lets not forget that crimes exist all around the world. So westerns don’t kill? A western man never murdered his wife\sister\mother\daughter\girlfriend\neighbor…etc for no apparent reason? America has the highest crime rates and yet I never saw it being attacked for “Western” honor killing. Some of the crimes there are much more awful than the Arab honor killing cases. I am not justifying the notorious phenomenon of honor killing in the Arab world; I am just saying lets condemn it internationally so we can be fair to the victims and to ourselves.

Women have been always taking a part in Gazan community. They are equally active, educated and employed if you compare them to men. They have the freedom of movement too. The phenomenon of early marriage has reduced greatly because Gazans are more aware now. Majority of young women are getting married due to love stories and freedom of choice. Women are seeking and occupying high positions in the employment field becoming even higher than men sometimes.

Its fascinating to see how Gaza is evolving and growing in every aspect yet we still see foreign and local attempts to keep us busy with dilemmas from the stone age. We moved on so its time for others to move on and embrace our growth. Its also shameful to see some young Gazans falling in this trap which is deforming the very productive image of Gaza’s bright youth.

So consider me boring for the saying the truth but I don’t wish to be invited to a European country or praised by an American journalist or supported by France just to attack Islam or Gaza. I would rather stay here and raise my voice and say: “We are way hip, cool and advanced than you think; believe or see”.

Why do Muslims and Arabs have to always try hard to fit in and be accepting? Why doesn’t the world embrace us like we embrace it? Why do they want us to become something else? Why do they want us to become like them? Why do they want us to degrade our culture and religion to gain their respect? Why are we always pressured to justify ourselves?

My last advice or message: Please let’s stop judging each other. Its 2011 for god’s sake. People are categorized by being good or bad not by wearing Hijab or not. Not all women wearing Hijab are angels and not all women not wearing Hijab are right. Live and let live. Give love to receive love and lets embrace each other with our differences, imperfections and different perspectives.

From Gaza with love, less judgment and a huge hug,


Follow me on Twitter: @Omar_Gaza

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gaza: Beautiful moon, Eid, Resilience, Gratitude

This pic was taken by my friend near his house.

By: Artist Khaled Jarra

Gaza, November 10, Last night, the moon in Gaza was like a beautiful portrait that you notice in a museum and you just cant stop checking it out. Its not the first time we witness such a spectacular moon but its something to watch each and every time that it happens. The moon was full, luscious and shiny rounded by a big shiny pearly Aura with a glowing star underneath it. Some took pictures of it while others thought its not unusual. For me, it was a spiritual and beautiful moment. I kept watching and smiling, thinking and reflecting, bathing in those pearly rays and stood in awe of what I was witnessing.

Tonight, at 12:00am, the date will change into 11.11.11. . Some of you might not see it as a big deal while others might be stressing way too much about it. For me, I will look at the moon again and celebrate the spiritual moment. Sometimes the universe goes through special moments and its nice to live them.

We just came out of four days of Al-Adha Eid in Gaza. This year was no different. The weather was cold and Israel ofcourse bombed us but that didn’t stop the people and the children from celebrating the joy of eid. Nothing stop Gazans. Living in Gaza for a number of good years now, I would say that only 1 word can describe Gaza and Gazans: RESILIENCE. Gaza and Gazans are phoenixes. They rise from the ashes even stronger than before. I cant be blessed enough to witness Gaza growing and see how more resilient it gets every year. Gaza, I salute you.

This year, Eid witnessed a new event in Gaza. Gaza’s first ever Tent-shopping festival. It was new and unprecedented. I wrote a feature about for the media line. Check this link if you wanna know more:
I wanna share a special story and experience I went through and ended up learning allot from. Recently, I went through a number of accidents in one night. I should have been more injured but thankfully it wasnt that bad. I ended up depending on only 1 leg for those past couple of days. I realized how hard it is to rely on one leg. Seeing or Hearing or watching about people with a broken leg or people who lost a leg makes you sympathize with them but you never feel what they go through until I experienced it myself. It gives you tremendous strength & patience! Then you realize how blessed you are & how blessed they are each in his own way! I wanna send a special salute to people with 1 leg or a broken leg, You have my respect & love! ♥I would likes to also Thank all my Facebook friends, blog followers, twitter followers and all my local, national and international friends and fans for trusting me and supporting me. You are all amazing and I am so blessed to have you in my life. You make my heart glow and beam.

I always get overwhelmed when I see the Pro-Palestinian supporters supporting Palestine in so many ways. They endanger their lives, work, reputation, losing friends and sometimes even losing family’s support just because they stand by us. Here is a video by a Canadian student who chose to show her support for Palestine in her graduation ceremony. Bless her heart.

I also shared a picture of a Palestinian passport stamp that I hope we use and see very soon. This was made by Artist Khaled Jarra and shared by my friend Laurent Schuman. It made my day. I pray, hope and wish that Palestine becomes free in my lifetime and I get to celebrate it with my awesome friends everywhere.
Finally, I wanna wish you all the best. May spread love, justice, freedom and kindness and may your hearts glow with happiness and joy. Lets not give up on ourselves and loved ones. Lets always keep hoping.
Gaza and Gazans rock.

Follow me on Twitter if you like: @Omar_Gaza

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New international boats set sail to break Gaza's siege

■Irish and Canadian boats in international waters on their way to challenge illegal siege policy

■Palestinian activists call for end to international complicity in Israel’s crimes

■Support actions taking place throughout the West Bank and inside Israel

Gaza, November 2, Two civilian boats, the Canadian Tahrir (Liberation), and the Irish Saoirse (Freedom), carrying 27 people from nine countries (including journalists and crew), are currently in international waters making their way to the beleaguered Gaza Strip to challenge Israel’s ongoing criminal blockade of the territory. A Palestinian youth activist from Haifa has joined this renewed international mission to challenge Israel’s unrelenting stranglehold on Gaza via the sea. The message they carry is one of unity, defiance, and hope, in spite of Israel’s policies that have physically separated Palestinians from each other. The “Freedom Waves to Gaza” organizers chose not to publicize the effort in advance given Israel’s efforts to block and sabotage Freedom Flotilla II last July. The boats, which set sail from Fethiye, Turkey, are expected to arrive in Gaza on Friday afternoon, sailing from international waters straight into Gaza’s territorial waters without entering Israel’s waters. The boats carry symbolic cargo - $30,000 in medicines, along with a diverse group of passengers, all committed to nonviolent defense of the flotilla and Palestinian human rights.

“Israel has caged Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, prohibiting physical contact between us. We want to break the siege Israel has imposed on our people,” said Majd Kayyal, a Palestinian philosophy student from Haifa on board the Tahrir. Kayyal added, “The fact that we’re in international waters is already a victory for the movement. Israel’s siege of Gaza is untenable and it’s a moral responsibility to put an end to this injustice.”

Turkish news also reported that a number of Turkish boats have "secretly" started moving from Turkish ports heading to Gaza to break the siege.

Meanwhile, a statement signed by Palestinian youth urged the international community and the U.N. in particular “to take urgent action to protect this mission as well as to end its compliance with Israel’s criminal blockade of Gaza.” They condemned the U.N. Secretary General’s previous declarations calling for aid to Gaza to go through "legitimate crossings and established channels," despite the U.N.’s own admission that Israel’s failure to own up to its responsibilities has created an unprecedented crisis of human dignity.

Throughout the week Palestinian activists in the West Bank and inside Israel are organizing solidarity actions with the Freedom Waves mission, including a presence outside the UN compound (Tokyo Street, Ramallah) and rallies across West Bank towns.

This is the 11th attempt to break the siege of Gaza via the sea, with five missions arriving safely in Gaza between August and December 2008 and the remaining violently intercepted by Israel. On May 2010, Israel attacked passengers of the Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine civilians and injuring over 50. Israel’s actions were widely condemned and led to protests around the world. Efforts to bring a second flotilla to Gaza were foiled by the government of Greece last July following pressure by Israel and Western governments, as well as by acts of Israeli sabotage.

Israel has intensified in the past days its aerial bombardments on Gaza, underlining the need for international initiatives of deterrence similar to this one.