Sunday, June 12, 2005


It's the sense of any other city you walk ya know, you brush past people. People bump into you. In LA, no one touches you you're always behind some metal and glass...It's the touch I think we miss that sense of touch so much that we crash into each other so that we can feel something..."

Last weekend, I went to watch the movie
CRASH with two of my friends - it stars Don Cheadle (from Hotel Rwanda), Sandra Bullock, Will Ferrel & others. The film is by Paul Haggis who was nominated at the Oscars for best screenplay for Million Dollar Baby. I have to say that it's one of the best movies I have ever watched. The film beautifully weaves tales of people of different races (African American, Iranian, Hispanic, Asian, white) in LA & during a period of 36 hours, their worlds collide. What I loved about the movie is how everybody holds prejudices towards a person of another race but none of them are really bad people. It shows how when we create our own worlds & refuse to go beyond our comfort zones, we make judgements about people based on a lot of misinformation which then has the potential of creating racial hatred. It also brilliantly proves that racism in the US is very prevalent but many of us choose to turn a blind eye to it. My supervisor made an interesting point the other day saying there's a difference between prejudice & racism - while she sees the former as based on ignorance, she sees the latter as pure hatred. It took me a while to digest the movie & I recommend everyone to watch it.

Growing up on American TV in Dubai, I too held many prejudices against the black community. It was only after I befriended African Americans in the US, did I realize how unfairly they & other minorities are treated. In college, I read a book called
Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol which focuses on how badly inner cities schools are funded (some classes were held in restrooms due to lack of space!!) thus robbing many minorities of any opportunity to move up the social ladder. This book changed my life in many ways & allowed me to see why we need affirmative action policies in higher education & employment.

Muslims tend to proudly claim that Islam is a religion of equality & the example we use is of how Prophet Muhammad made Hazrat Bilal, a freed slave, the first person to give the call to the Muslim prayer (mu'azzin). The reality unfortunately is very different - in my experience, we can be very racist ESP towards the black community. What amazes me is after 9/11, as Muslims, we know how it feels to be branded as bad due to the actions of a few, yet we do the same to other communities, including Jews. I also remember growing up in a dominantly East African Khoja community in Dubai, how the Indian/Pakistani Khojas or non-Khojas were always referred to as "them" or "they" which automatically creates a mental barrier between groups & makes it easier for people to criticize & in worst cases, de-humanize members of a group. After creating so many divisions, it is no wonder Muslim communities haven't achieved much in the past few decades or even centuries! Ok I\'m done ranting!

On a brighter tone, I had a great Memorial weekend & the weather was gorgeous. It was so nice to see Hussein Uncle, Kaniz Aunty, Farzana, Naheeda & Sabina when they came to DC for the UMAA Shia conference. My mom also sent me tons of roti (Indian bread) & mandazi (East African bread) while Shamim Aunty sent me nan khatai (Indian cookies) - I was homesick for a while, but I'm ok now! Many of us also attended a gathering of Shia youth, many of them who are against UMAA & it was interesting to meet such a diverse group of Shias from different states. A bunch of my friends & I also rented a car one day & spent a day in Baltimore chilling by the harbor, which was a refreshing break from the city. Since we had the car, we also made a trip to Walmart, which I haven't done in 4 months since there's no metro access to one, and we were like a bunch of kids in a candy store. I know suburbs pretty much look alike, but this one looked so much like Maple Grove in Minnesota & the only thing that was missing was a Dairy Queen & the lane that leads to my best friend's house!! Driving around DC also made me realize how small the city really is & only seems large due to it's close proximity to Maryland & Virginia.

The weather has turned really hot & worst of all, humid. I've also heard the mosquitoes are bad here although I doubt they can beat the vicious mosquitoes of Minnesota! DC has a very suit culture, which can get really stuffy in the heat & women here wear high heels a lot...I find it amusing to see women who wear sneakers or flip-flops while they walk to work & then change to their dressy shoes once they get there! DC is also a very random place - a few months ago, I randomly met two of my friends from Jordan & today I met a guy who studied at my high school in Dubai!! Sometimes I feel like everybody knows everybody & the only way to get jobs in this city is through connections - they are u're lifeline...politics is definitely an insider's world!

Anyways, it's time for me to get my beauty sleep, so I will end here. I hope you all have had a great start to your summers. You'll definitely be hearing from me again! :o)

Take care & keep cool!