My “Jewish Bubble”

Education, Politics, Religion

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You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a while. Or maybe you haven’t. One of the reasons I haven’t posted anything is because I’ve been uninspired. It’s difficult to find relevant topics that are both interesting and informative without being offensive. Most of my information is based on news, fact, and experience.

Experience, in my opinion, is irrefutable. However, many people don’t necessarily believe much of what is said out of experience to be true. They may think, “Well, just because that applies to you, doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.” Or even, “Well, she’s lying.”

Facts are also, in my opinion, irrefutable. Unless the other party believes everything is a conspiracy against them. In that case, I think maybe a psych eval is in order. But what do I know?

News. News isn’t irrefutable. It can be biased, it can be skewed, and it can be downright misleading. Which is why, generally, I will use sources that are as close to neutral as I can find, or even sources from both sides of a particular issue that support my findings. Those can be the hardest to find, because typically no two sources of opposing views will tell the same story. So then one must read between the lines, find the middle ground, and come to a reasonable, if modest, conclusion.

By the time you cross check references, recall past conversations, and weed out all the crap to get to the base truth, your coffee is cold, your toast is stale, and you missed lunch.

In short: it’s a pain in the ass. These posts usually take me several hours to write up. I will spend the better part of a day working on some posts, and I’ll have a couple people look them over to check for inaccuracies, or possibly offensive material. I also veer off topic on occasion and have to make an effort to stay focused. Today I’m going to touch on a rather interesting topic (for me anyway):

Community Bubbles.

This is a topic from which I usually steer clear. I have extremely strong feelings about this, but I will try to keep this civil and contained. If you’re not sure what a community bubble is, think about groups of people who isolate themselves from “evil outside influences” so as not to corrupt the pure, innocent minds of their children. Sound familiar? Moving on.

I’d like to focus on a tidbit of a conversation I had a few days ago. I was discussing various topics with a person dear to me. Naturally, religion and politics came up. I shared a few of my thoughts on the ISIS situation, and about terrorism in general.

I should note the person I spoke with is a Muslim. She expressed the thought that the word “terrorist” is a derogatory term, and that it should not be spoken lightly. I kind of agree…sometimes. It just depends.. I mean, if you’re seriously accusing someone of terrorism, it would be wise to watch what you’re saying. If you have non-Muslim friends who jokingly call you a terrorist because you’re Muslim or Arab, getting butthurt and blowing up at them [pun intended] isn’t going to help your case. But you know, whatever. That’s neither here nor there. So back to my story.

Well, after I expressed some thoughts on ISIS, she mentioned my blog, and how she disagrees with my opinion that Muslims need to speak out against ISIS. She does not believe that ISIS is Islam. She believes they are a conspiracy created by Western governments to lead Muslims away from Islam. Essentially, to created people like me who are like, “Whoa! Dude, chill out! This shit’s gettin’ a little crazy!” So in her opinion, and many Muslims’ opinions, ISIS is not their problem, and it is not their duty to condemn them, because ISIS does not represent Muslims because they’re really a bunch of Western non-Muslims purposely setting out to make Muslims look bad.

Yeah. But I’m not going to get into my opinion of that, because people will end up not reading the rest of my post. Which I think will hopefully get to some interesting stuff. But to get closer to the point I’m trying to make, I’m going to say that I was flabbergasted and tried to make a few more points to argue my case. At which point she said something along the lines of:

Amira, you’re in your little Jewish bubble. You’re not getting the whole picture.

If I could insert a little voice clip of brakes screeching to a halt, I would. But for now, just imagine every wheel in my head coming to a dead stop. Even the crickets stopped chirping. And I’m like, How the hell do I even respond to that?!

Here’s how:

In the beginning, I was born in Abu Dhabi. A moderate Muslim city. I went to an all-girl school, where I was taught the core subjects and Islamic Studies. When we moved to America in 2000, I went to the Islamic School of Kansas City (ISKC), where I associated with my Muslim friends, wasn’t allowed to use social media (this is a household thing, not a community thing), and lived within a little Muslim Community. I did not have any non-Muslim friends, was encouraged not to associate with non-Muslims in a manner other than a professional one, and any of the Muslim girls who did not follow Islam as suggested by the Community were talked about in such a way that made you think, “Man. Sucks to be her.”

I started college in 2007, where I took a Creative Writing class, made some friends and met the man who would later become my husband. Alex and I became great friends, and in 2009 we got married. I remember thinking when I found out he was a Jew, “Seriously. I had to find the one Jew on campus!” Anyway. Alex considers himself Jewish. His mother is a Messianic Jew, and his father is a Methodist. My closest friends here are Catholic, Missionary Baptist, Methodist/Episcopalian, and whatever they call a person who goes to The Christian Church. Just Christian? I don’t know. Disciple of Christ? I’m feeling a little ignorant right now. But back to my point. I currently am hosting an awesome foreign exchange student from Pakistan who is Muslim. Every weekend, my mother-in-law’s exchange students hang out at my house. The Spanish one is Atheist, and the Chinese one is Buddhist. I have friends and acquaintances who call themselves Wiccan. Some who consider themselves Pagan. My grandfather-in-law is Southern Baptist. My husband’s uncle is also Missionary Baptist and goes to the same church as my friends. My son’s bus driver is an elder at the Baptist Church right next door to my house. He invited us to a candle lighting ceremony last Christmas, which I did attend. My local gas station is run by my Muslim Shi’a friend, we call him Sonny. His son won first place in the baby contest this year, and his wife is a sweetheart. Some of my friends include US Veterans of the Iraq War and the Gulf War. A close friend of our family is a Vietnam War Vet, and my father-in-law is a Korean War Vet. I have a friend in the army who just came home from Afghanistan.

I live in the Bible Belt. I don’t eat pork. I don’t eat shellfish. I follow Kosher laws (which are similar but not the same as Halal laws) out of respect for my husband. I read the news daily. I follow the goings-on in the Middle East. I follow the politics of our government. I follow the Israeli news sites, I read Arabic news sites. I have 10 religious apps on my phone, one of which is a Jewish Holidays app, another is a collection of the 40 Qudsi Hadith, and yet another is a Bible Study Toolbox.

Does this prove anything? I don’t know. Maybe not. I’m sure some people think it’s blasphemous that my Bible Study Toolbox app (which includes the Old and New Testaments) is right next to my Islamic Hub app. But you know, I can’t expect God to answer my prayers and enlighten me without putting my own effort into it. So yeah, I surround myself with people who have different views than my own. People who are Republicans, people who are Democrats, Independents, Communists, Libertarians, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, Wiccans, Pagans, and other assorted varieties.

My “bubble” may not be perfect. It may include Shabbat candles and Kiddush cups. But it also includes a Qur’an, a King James Bible, and a Tanakh. It even includes the Periodic Table of Elements. And a little bit of Netflix.

People assume that because my husband is Jewish he has managed to brainwash me. Pfft. Anyone who knows us can tell you there’s no “Jewish bubble.” Our family is one that thrives on debate and arguments and disagreements. That moment when you’ve been arguing for half and hour, and finally decide to look it up and prove them wrong! Only to find out you were actually the one who was wrong. Or you both were wrong. Or the occasional event in which you win the argument. It’s about learning, expanding your knowledge, and focusing on what the truth is, instead of being ignorant. The only way to learn is to surround yourself by things you know nothing about. To set aside your fear of whatever it is that keeps you from questioning anything. To realize that what comes out of a person’s mouth is said by man. It is not scripture. It is not infallible. Just because someone said so, doesn’t make it true.

If I’m in a bubble of any sort, it’s an American bubble. A bubble that doesn’t discriminate or discredit another person’s beliefs simply because I disagree. The amazing thing about American media is that they don’t censor outside news. I can find news from other countries just as easily as I can read CNN. Hell, we send our journalists overseas to get the inside scoop on what’s going on. It’s not America who’s beheading them, keeping them from bringing back their reports. Sometimes no amount of evidence will convince people that you’re really not out to get them. And that’s fine. But just because you’re afraid of the world, don’t assume that I’m brainwashed, uneducated, or isolated.

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“This Is Not Islam” — Why Do We Say That?

Politics, Religion, Self Reflection

After 9/11, I found myself saying that a lot — “This is not Islam.” Islam is a religion of peace, I insisted. We’re not supposed to kill people, or hurt others, or raise a “sword” against another human being unless it is in self defense.

I said this not only because I was taught this, but because I knew killing was wrong. We all know killing is wrong. We feel it in our hearts, through our blood, and deep down in our bones. We don’t like death. No one wants to die, to kill, or to hurt another human being (unless you’re a sociopath). We are born with a conscience.

Yet people are dying all over the place, all in the name of God, in the names of prophets, dying for their mosques, their temples, their shrines, or their whatever.

People are dying in Darfur, in Nigeria, in Iraq, Syria, Dagestan, Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the West Bank, America, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and so on and so forth. It would take me all day to list all the places people are dying and getting killed in the name of religion or the name of God (which ever name you choose).

Terrorist was a new word for me in 2001. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I knew there were bad people in the world, I knew people fought wars, I knew what death was. But until those towers came down, I had no idea what terrorism was. So when people talked about Muslims being the people behind the attacks, I couldn’t understand what was going on, or why we would do that.

I would occasionally hear people say that those radical Muslims were a small number, and that they were poor representations of the religion of peace. We’re a peaceful religion, we insisted. Before that day, I had never had to defend my beliefs. And for me, defending my beliefs meant trying to put together what happened with what I’d always been taught, and come to the conclusion that we didn’t do stuff like that.

It never occurred to me that this incident may not be as isolated as we were claiming.

And now here I am again, 13 years later, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with Muslims. People I know telling me that ISIS is just following the Sunnah. People insisting that Hamas is a resistance movement, and that they are just trying to free the Palestinians.

So I listen for a while.

Then I start hearing things. Things that I want to deny and run away from.

ISIS has over 40,000 people stranded and starving on a mountain in Iraq? They’re killing Sunnis, Shi’a, Christians, Palestinians, Yazidis, and anyone who disagrees with them?

Hamas is using Palestinian children to build tunnels, killing over 160 kids? Their own kids that they claim they’re trying to free?

Boko Haram is kidnapping, raping, selling, and killing young women? Forcing them to convert to Islam and marry disgusting, old pedophiles? Killing them if they resist?

Muslims in France are burning down the places frequented by the Jews? Their stores, synagogues, etc.?

British Muslims are marching down the streets telling people to follow Sharia Law?

No matter how you spin it, Muslims are acting crazy.  And that list is only a fraction of what Muslims are doing around the world.

I realize there are moderate Muslims out there. Although I’m starting to doubt just how many are moderate. There seems to be a thirst for blood that is just insatiable among them. And those who are moderate and fairly sane are considered hypocrites. These terrorist organizations believe they are following the Qur’an and the Sunnah. And all Muslims who speak out against them… are hypocrites. What does this say about the true nature of Islam?

If you want to be a hypocrite in Islam, dare to question all the killing going on. If you’re a true Muslim, you must support all these radicals.

No matter what you do, you can’t win. Moderate Islam is useless if these “moderates” won’t say anything, won’t do anything. A religion is the sum of its people. If Muslims keep denying what Islam is, they will never change it for the better. You can’t make changes if you never acknowledge the problem.

If you, as a Muslim, want better representation — if you want to be represented as a peaceful people — then you need to stand up to the evils that are operating in the name of Allah.

Because right now, Islam is not a religion of peace. When I discuss Israel and Gaza with Muslims, they think I am cruel and heartless because I will not side with Hamas. They tell me that they know where my loyalties lie, and when I ask where that is, it’s “not with humanity.”

Moderates are irrelevant in this mess. All the “moderates” want to do is protest Gaza and deny that Islam has any part in anything else going on. You want to talk about genocide? Let’s talk about genocide. Where were your Darfur protests? Where are your protests against ISIS? Against Boko Haram? Why don’t you protest what Muslims are doing in France? In Britain? Why are you always crying over Gaza, but don’t care about what Muslims are doing to anyone else?

You think I don’t care about humanity? Since when is humanity defined as “Muslim people”? You see, I believe humanity includes everyone. Not just Arabs and Muslims. Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, and all the other religions I can’t think of off the top of my head. They’re human too.

I don’t believe that a Jewish life is any less valuable than a Palestinian life. And I will not side with the terrorists, even if they pray to the same God I do.

This is Islam, and it needs to change!

My Political Opinion Determines My Religious Beliefs

Politics, Religion

I had a conversation today with someone very dear to me. I wanted this person’s perspective on some political issues. Specifically, Hamas and the situation in Gaza.

I asked if she thought it was okay that 160 Palestinian children died digging tunnels for Hamas.

She knew nothing about this.

I asked her if she thought it was right that the leader of Hamas is in Qatar instead of fighting in Gaza.

She knew nothing about that.

I asked if she thought Hamas was a terrorist organization.

She said she had no idea what their agenda was, and so she couldn’t say yes or no. She did say that she thought the Israeli army were terrorists.

I quoted straight out of the Hamas charter that “Jihad is our methodology, and death is our most coveted desire.”

She told me that Jihad is in Islam, and that it’s not haram (forbidden).

You know, I was taught that “Jihad fi sabilillah” is to “struggle for the sake or cause of Allah.” I really wish Webster would have sent out a memo when they changed the meaning of “struggle” to suicide bombing and murder.

How can you wholeheartedly believe that one side are terrorists simply because you think you’re supposed to?

She then told me to look at the ratio of death on either side. Somehow that must mean that the Israelis are terrorists. Would it actually change anyone’s mind if more Israelis died? That is some baffling “evidence.”

During this conversation, my religious beliefs came into question. I personally don’t see that as being relevant, but she obviously did. So I addressed her concerns.

She informed me that a Muslim would NEVER justify anything Christians or Jews are doing against Muslims. She feared facing Allah on the Day of Judgement and explaining to him why she defended people who were killing Muslims.

Me? I fear facing Allah and not being able to explain to him why I blindly listened to what people told me without verifying it for myself. Islam warns against ignorance. If you can’t answer questions when asked, you’re ignorant. If you don’t bother to find out after you have admitted that you don’t know, you’re willfully ignorant.

I asked her why Muslims won’t speak out against Hamas.

She told me, “I’m not there. I don’t have secret spies in their little army.”

But she’s so quick to judge the IDF, not knowing a single thing about what’s going on. And according to her, it’s because she’s Muslim, and she’s never going to support a Jew. Duh.

“Only Allah truly knows what Hamas is up to and if they are truly doing anything bad, but that doesn’t mean that I can support the Jews that are trying to get rid of them.”

I gotta ask. What Jews are trying to get rid of Muslims? Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt that there are a few Jews out there who wouldn’t mind. And there are in fact secular terrorist organizations in Israel. But collectively. When you talk about a large group of people wanting to kill someone…

Take a look at this. I typed “Do jews want to get rid of Muslims” in a Google search engine. Guess what I found:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit CFinally I explained to her that my questions concerning politics have nothing to do with my religious beliefs. This is an issue of politics, not religion. I was told that it is in fact about religion, and not to buy into “it’s politics” garbage.

Nothing I have said goes against God or Islam. I am questioning man’s actions. I am questioning the way in which people who call themselves Muslim are behaving. I have always been told that even if my parents told me to do something that I knew was wrong, I could disobey them. And now, I am questioning the actions of the Muslims around the world. Those who want to kills Jews and Christians, and those who kill each other. Because someone has to say something.

On the Day of Judgement, when God questions my actions and beliefs, I can tell him that I made decisions and came to conclusions based on my research using all the information I could get my hands on. I did not blindly do what people told me to, and I stood up and spoke out when I felt like people were doing wrong. Will you be able to say the same?

“You Should know Better!”

Politics

Those are the words that inspired — yes, inspired — me to begin this journey of what I like to call “a journey of enlightenment.” You should know better! In other words, I should be ashamed that I’m even considering a point of view different than the one I have been taught. I decided something wasn’t clicking, and it just wasn’t making sense. I shared this idea with others, and immediately earned much criticism.

The specific situation that sparked this criticism is the situation in Gaza. I had a friend who shared a video of the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claiming that he didn’t care how many innocent civilians were killed, and that he didn’t have to explain himself to the Americans. It was a poorly spliced video, and yet I noticed that people actually believed he said that. So I made the comment that the video was spliced, and linked them to the original video.

The comments that followed are as follows (these will only be snippets, as the conversation became heated and lengthy):

It’s edited HOWEVER…this is the reality.No, it isn’t, but I guess that’s a matter of opinion.

I think your facts are a bit skewed Amira.” They wouldn’t be facts then, would they?

Also, I’m a bit disappointed by your defense. I mean really?” Is that a fact?

“Get your facts straight before opening your mouth Amira, you should know better!Know better? Are we on the same page? Because the one I’m on has a spliced video that you’re defending.

I agree with A****, your statements sound like American propaganda and maybe you should look at other sources.Need I point to the video in the original post… again?

I thought you knew better….Well, I didn’t. I never have. I just believed anything I was told.

Wow…really sad. Amira you wouldn’t leave your house, if you had no where else to go.” There’s always somewhere to go if the attack target is small enough. I would rather be unsure that I will live, than know that I will die.

“And yep, you are as blind and as ignorant as they come. A joke really a joke.” Show me your sources!

“Do you have to lie to yourself to make yourself feel good or something?” I try, but the scales just won’t take off those ten pounds!

Get real and quit lying.I’m not actually sure what she thought I was lying about. Possibly my claim that Hamas is telling its citizens not to leave their homes. Or that Hamas refused to honor the cease-fire that Israel honored… twice.

I can’t believe you are spewing this…….of course we check our facts! But you sound like you are not…you sound like propaganda.Again… are we on the same page? Do you know what “propaganda” means?

Got it. Thanks for your point of view. We know where your loyalties lie.I guess because I knew her in high school for a few years she knows EVERYTHING about me.

I’m done with this conversation Amira. You offer no real intellectual debate & you continually ignore my points.Just so you all know, the conversation didn’t end there. And this statement was followed by like, a novel.

And you are the pot calling the kettle black. You say of course you sound like propaganda because you don’t agree with shady information? But you won’t even acknowledge you were wrong about the call notification thing.I wasn’t wrong, by the way, and I shared a few of my sources with her.

These comments were made by a total of three people, only one of whom I actually know. It was amazing really to see how quickly people were ready to judge me as soon as I disagreed with them. The statements I made that they disagreed with were that Hamas needs to let up, that it’s good for the Israelis that they have the Iron Dome, and that Israel was in fact warning the citizens of Gaza before an attack. They asked for evidence of my claims. I provided them. One of the girls seemed convinced that I said they were sending out texts to the Palestinians. I didn’t say that, but she misread, which she did eventually admit.

The only time I ever issued anything remotely close to an insult was when one of them was absolutely convinced she knew me enough to say that I wouldn’t leave my home if I was under threat. I called her insane. And I stand by my statement.

These were not the only people who tried to shame me into agreeing with them. There were two others. But I love them dearly, and though we disagree on this, I respect them and their opinions. Because unlike the above commentators, they actually do know me.

I would like to conclude this post by sincerely thanking the ladies above, and all who have inspired me to go forth on my little journey. I don’t know where it will take me, but I think the credit should be given especially to the women I quoted above. I can’t say that I respect them, because I feel they are rather insulting and condescending (and their idea of proof is that I should know better. Like the information somehow made its way into my head without me knowing). But their effort to shame me into agreeing with them has helped me open my eyes to the sort of pressure put on people to see things a certain way.

So again, thank you. You are truly an inspiration.