Friday, September 28, 2007

My Fan Club

Can you believe this? I have a fan club.
Well, there's a group of people who like to insult me behind my back... if you can call that a fan club. Maybe it's not even behind my back since it's on the internet and I can see it too.. oh yes I can see it. And laugh.

I embraced Islam after some private correspondence with a Muslim from the WI forum, and spent several months adjusting or not adjusting to my new faith. I took out a lot of anger on the forum, vigorously debated some of my "issues." My thought was never to return to Christianity--my problems with Islam were because of tiny faith but there was no way I could go back to being a Christian, not knowing what I knew.

But I did rebel, sort of, as much as one really can in a virtual environment. I had to learn, and it was a dynamic period for me.

Now, I consider myself to in general be a pretty tolerant person. I have a few things I can't tolerate--direct personal insults, and when people lie about the Qur'an it strikes a nerve in my core. I also consider myself to be relatively open-minded, and on some issues well-informed. My approach to a new idea is neither immediate acceptance or rejection--I will consider it, ask questions, and make a decision. My journey into Islam was like that, and I still do that with any issue, anything I am trying to learn.

But a brother I know commented to me almost a year ago, or more, about certain people who, although previously hailing my intelligence and argumentation, actually began to insult my intelligence after I had decided to fully embrace Islam (and all it entails, including praying 5 times a day, hijab, etc). As long as I was non-Muslim, or as long as I was fighting Islam, I was heralded as a high-minded free thinker. But then, once I'd made up my mind... hehehe... then, according to them, I turned into a mindless drone who is really just accepting anything I'm given.

Maybe it seems that way, that I no longer object or consider what is before me because I have relegated such conflict to a more private sphere that is less intense and brutal, but more conducive to mutual understanding as well. That is to say, when I have questions I ask people instead of berating them publicly. So I have been compared to the borg. "Assimilation is almost complete."

The real hilarity, though, is this. That as long as I objected to Islam I was intelligent and open-minded, but as soon as I embraced Islam I was considered a gullible fool without any ability to reason or think independently. That I arrived at a conclusion independently with which this particular group disagrees, that they cannot reconcile intelligence or reason with the choice I made shows, I think, who is closed-minded.

Making a decision in my mind shows depth of thought, coming to a conclusion based on study, and reflection, and not just hiding safely in the box of familiarity. So for someone who refuses to make the mental leaps required for exploration of dissimilar ideas and behaviors, and because he or she simply doesn't like my own conclusions, to compare me to the Borg, and insult me... well let me say I think that really shows who isn't thinking outside of the box.

But what can I say? Allah knows best... He guides whom He wills. And alhamdulillah.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A reading list

I've been toying with the idea of trying to add a little reading list to the side of my blog to show what books I've recently read or am currently reading.

I've heard scholars really frown on the idea of reading more than one book at a time. I consider myself to be in the middle of reading at least a couple of non-school books, and then a growing number of books for school. I don't like to think of it as not finishing one task before moving on to another, but utilizing different parts of my brain and gathering the information more slowly so it "sticks" better. That's my excuse anyway.

Books I've now begun reading which I may never finish:

The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations, James A. Bill.
Crisis and Crossfire: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945, Peter L. Hahn.

Check out that cover art for the Hahn book... fascinating photograph.

To be brutally honest, I don't like the "style" of either writer. The first is much easier to read probably, things are simplified and reiterated to really make clear points about Iranian history, but it might be useful to have a map of Iran handy when reading since he is constantly referring to geographic locations.

The second has many awkward phrases, it reads like it was published in a rush. It seems like some things need to be explained more explicitly.

But they are both very informative books if nothing else, for people like myself who have little to no grasp of Middle Eastern affairs in the last 50+ years.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Muddied Blackwater

Have you guys heard about this on the news? One thing that really bothers me about the war in Iraq is the "private security firms." I really don't think these guys are much better than mercenaries. Technically they are supposed to keep American diplomats safe in Iraq but this company, Blackwater, has made the news a second time. The first big time would be when some of its guys were "attacked" in Fallujah, killed, cut up, hung over the river... etc. That was big news. 2004.

But now in 2007 the Blackwater boys apparently were in a little skirmish, I'll call it, in Baghdad. Blackwater says they were attacked, and they were shooting "armed insurgents." Iraqi witnesses say that the Blackwater boys were shooting at the crowd and that eight innocent civilians were killed. The Iraqi prime minister said they were killed "in cold blood." He actually said that this was the 7th such incident with Blackwater.

This issue brings up what I think are a number of problems with the perspective of the war. What is the difference in an "insurgent" and a "civilian?" Well an insurgent is whoever they have to shoot at, I think. That would be, as we say, a practical definition, wouldn't it? They (B-boys) were shooting at a crowd... oh wait, here comes sarcasm... they couldn't have been shooting at civilians could they?? Oh no... they must have been insurgents!! Why? Just because they were shooting at them and they're, what, on our side? (Our "American" side.) That's what Americans would say. But they don't know these boys, I think. So anyway, problem one, ambiguity about who these boys, any of these boys in Iraq even in the military but especially in the security firms, may actually legitimately target.

Another problem, I think, is who these boys actually are. And yes I keep calling them boys as a sort of off-hand insult. I think they want to play a video game in real life. They sign up because they aren't interested in a commitment to the military. Despite the heroism which tends to be associated with the military, it doesn't pay so well, and requires a commitment of at least a few years. But they do want to "kill ragheads." That's it, they want to get those Mozzzlems, those terrorists, blah blah blah. I used to know (I say I "used" to know because he's not someone I would talk to again) a "boy" who thought he'd join up. They money, for them, is great. Assuming they live anyway, the money is great. Money most of these guys couldn't make any other way, not having high prospects for a high-paying job, and the lure of money in this society is strong. I kinda hate to say it, but I really think they are the bottom of the barrel. How terrible of me to say, but who would kill for money?

Another problem, and this is an issue to deal with immediately, and it's why this will make news now and why I think it might continue to make news, is the law for the firm. What law do they follow. This is a problem, to whom are they accountable? When Nouri al-Maliki says that civilians were killed in cold blood... don't you think that there should be some kind of investigation, prosecution, somebody punished if that's what actually happened? I mean, killing innocent people is wrong, yes? Well in 2004, private security firms like Blackwater were granted immunity from Iraqi law!! Um... hello!?

So these boys (who are not in the US Military and being held to its code) can shoot Iraqis and they aren't going to be held responsible by the government charged (or which should be charged) with protecting those civilians!? They can't be held responsible by the Iraqi government? Okay, that's a problem.

But it gets worse. Blackwater and firms like it are in Iraq (and other countries too, by the way) because of contracts it has made with the State Department. Yup! That's where they are getting their money, from American taxpayers more or less, and paying these tremendous salaries. War is a big business!! And who profits? Blackwater, to start with. So can the American government hold them accountable if they start causing trouble? Well, in previous cases there has been no attempt to do so... and there have been previous cases.

A NC Representative to Congress, who I'd like to add has made a point in the past to attend the MAPAC (Muslim American Public Affairs Council) annual fundraiser dinner to speak to members of the Muslim community in part of his district, has written a note to US Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice) asking her whether these boys can even be prosecuted. He's asking if she even plans to investigate the issue!! Ultimately he's asking for support for legislation allowing that such security contractors may be prosecuted under American law, since it's doubtful (thanks to the UN) they can be prosecuted by Iraqi law (which is really unfair) and perhaps not even legitimate they be prosecuted under American law (which is an outrage).

The last thing these types of people need is free license to shoot people. I did not comment on Blackwater as being a firm held by radical Christian right-wing types, but if you're interested in that side of the story, here is a nice article by Chris Hedges, called America's Holy Warriors.

Article in Canadian Press
Article in BBC News

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Three dozen eggs

Suhoor is nice.

For any reader who doesn't know, suhoor is the meal Muslims try to eat before beginning the day of fasting. The fast starts at "dawn," an hour and a half or so before the sun comes up in the morning, so Muslim try to eat something before then.

My roommate and I are partial to eggs.

I won't go into a tirade about why I love eggs, just suffice to say that they are very "nutrient dense" (meaning that relative to the number of calories, they have lots of nutritious) and especially a lot of protein. And if you're thinking "cholesterol?" then you've probably missed the more updated view that dietary cholesterol (that is cholesterol you eat) has hardly any effect on the amount of cholesterol in your body that your doctor keeps measuring.

So they're very nutritious. And when you're fasting, eating less food than normal, it's extra important to get all the nutrition, right? And Allah swt takes care of us. In addition to being nutritious, eggs taste good, they're cheap, and they're easy to cook. You can cook them several different ways, all in just a few minutes (so you don't have to get up super early for suhoor too cook a lot). We like boiled eggs, scrambled eggs (sometimes with cheese), fried eggs (ok, so my roommie doesn't like fried eggs) and omelets. Then you can get really adventurous (takes a bit more time) and go for egg salad and deviled eggs.

Anyway, last year we ate eggs pretty regularly and it's the same this year. It turns out though that I just ran out of eggs as Ramadan started. I mooched off roommie for one day (we share things often even though we typically buy stuff for ourselves) and before going to taraweeh that night I stopped by the grocery store and bought two dozen eggs to make sure we'd have enough to last a while without running out or having to worry about it again any time soon. Well, after taraweeh my roommate decided to stop by the grocery store (she didn't know, at the time, that I'd already bought some) and get some too!! So now, lol, we have three dozen eggs in the fridge.

InshaaAllah we'll get around to eating them soon. Now eggs aren't the only thing we eat. I alternate it with toast, oatmeal, grits (oh come on, I do live in the south after all, but they take longer to cook), cereal (raisin+ bran... extra raisins and granola!) and usually have either an orange or orange(+mix) juice. Dee-lish.

Yeah, just like Amy to talk about food in Ramadan.

Although this is worth saying... last year I lost about 10 pounds in Ramadan. I had 10 pounds to lose easily sure, but that's considerable for just 1 month. Most people I know gain weight in Ramadan, they eat a lot after breaking the fast, I think. I can't figure that one out, after a day of fasting, yeah I wanna eat... well mostly I want to drink water. But stuffing my face with rice and pasta really just makes me feel sick. But especially if I'm going to go to taraweeh... I remember last year my stomach seemed to "shrink" throughout the month so by the end... a small plate was enough, honestly. And alhamdulillah, the hunger is useful. Being full makes it harder to stay awake, harder to concentrate... and hey check out Br. Naeem's advice for Ramadan: don't overeat!

The other night I was eating at someone's house and (ok I should know better by now!) she fixed my plate for me. Partially. She spooned onto my plate from a few dishes... and that was tough. I hate to leave food on the plate, I feel like it's kind of an insult or something, but soo much food (much of it pasta).

I started this post though to talk about how nice suhoor is. I'm not talking about eating at 5am, but I'm getting to spend some quality time with my roommate. We don't eat together that often honestly, but being up at this time, it's not like there's anything much else to do, and it's not like we can go out somewhere to be distracted. So just me and her time, and it's really nice.

There are some activities at the masjid after fajr now, daily, but I'm not sure if I want to start going again. It tends to be stuffy in the masjid for fajr prayers (like they turn of the a/c once people leave) which would be almost tolerable except for the partition which limits any real circulation of air from the main portion of the musallah, compounded by extra sisters showing up to pray. I'm trying hard now to get on a better and more solid schedule, starting with worship in the morning and ending with worship at night, instead of lots of extra sleeping and then homework. I do have a lot of homework, and when I look at the stack of books I need to read by Monday, and I look at the Qur'an... I just feel really sad, and wish I were reading more Qur'an. This is Ramadan! I have better things to do than read 200 pages about the Korean War. :-(

So scheduling is important. Later today inshaaAllah I'm hoping to go to the imam's class on fiqh and tafseer. (It's 8am Sunday right now.) Maybe not the fiqh portion... don't get me wrong, I think fiqh is interesting, but in comparison to Qur'an.......... everything else pales.

Well anyway. Ramadan Mubarak everyone...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I Like History

I like that it's possible to read original documents, primary sources, whatever you want to call them.

I like that I can see what Truman read about Palestine... and what he said about it. That I can observe various commission reports on possible solutions to the Arab-Israeli problem prior to 1948. That I can see how the State Department, the CIA, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all opposed a partition while Truman supported it. Then how Truman changed his mind and faced domestic backlash. I mean, it's a more fair way I think to observe history, and the history is important for an issue that is so polarized thanks to misleading propaganda.

Want to read? Here are some sources online:

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Blood is Thicker than Water

Blood is thicker than water... or is it?

We use the expression the describe the superiority of familial relations over mere friendship. I've also heard a quite opposite but similar expression, the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb, implying that a covenant bond (you cut your hands and mix the blood), in particular the religious covenant (in Christianity, maybe Judaism) is stronger than even familial ties. I prefer that meaning, rather than the more common understanding... especially on days like this.

I was hoping, earnestly trying to resume somewhat normal relationships with my family--my sisters, in particular. I visit my parents semi-regularly although it's not frequent (every week or so) or for very long, at least I see them. I talk to my brother every now and again on the phone and just visited him recently for a few days, and he lives the furthest away. But I almost never talk to my sisters.

So I invited them and my nieces, and my mom to dinner. My mom was okay with it, the sister to whom I am closer rejected it providing a laundry list of excuses from timing, to blaming her husband, the selective invitation (only the girls) and ultimately blaming it all on me for being Muslim, and I don't have the heart after that to call my other sister again to see what she thought.

It pains me to no end how my own sister could say such things as she did, when I'm clearly being pushed away, out of my own family. Am I the one cutting ties when every attempt at reconciliation is met with such a reply? Is it fair for them to demand I capitulate in faith when I never have asked them to do so? I'm not asking them to agree with me, or even listen to me, just see me!

So blood is not thicker, not the blood in my family. Or is it the water of the womb which binds us? I understand that cutting ties with our families is wrong, I do, and we should obey our parents in everything except that which opposes Islam. And I'm coming around with my parents. Some of my Muslimah friends, converts who are much older than I am, suggest that maybe after a while my family will come around to accepting this decision of mine. How long? It's hard to believe that right, now, while things are just getting worse, and worse. How can I keep from cutting ties if I'm treated this way? And I'm not even talking of pride or arrogance here, but how is it possible to prevent such ties from dissolving when I can't even get them to talk to me, to see me?

I really don't think I can. And that just kills me.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The New Face of MSA

So, alhamdulillah, another school year... another MSA. I actually attended MSA meetings regularly last year, found it an opportunity to at least start to recognize other Muslims on campus and socialize with them, looking for ways to improve the Muslim "presence" on campus. I opted to not be on shura, but I did want to participate with the da'wah activities--primarily da'wah table, but also I got to give a short talk about Islam at an OEO class (Office for Equal Opportunity?).

I have an incredibly busy load now, but I still want to keep up with MSA. They meet once a week, iftars in Ramadan. I'm not sure what all else is going on; some lectures from community members probably, community service, da'wah... You know, being a senior I also have the opportunity to (inshaaAllah) provide a good influence for younger students. I hope it's a good influence anyway.

But most of my thoughts about MSA circle around the wish that the people in it cared more. I can't help but think that the brothers and sisters I see at these meetings are immature, dunya-oriented, and off-handedly shallow about their faith. I was disappointed to see how few people signed up for da'wah, and disappointed that nobody made an effort to even try to recruit people for da'wah. I think it's a critical activity honestly that needs lots of volunteers, and it's also one of the most rewarding I think... calling to Islam? I mean Allah swt rewards for that so it is the best of rewards.

When I arrived at the last meeting, all I really noticed was a large number of mostly Arabs and a few Desis sitting on tables, talking loudly. It probably (unfortunately) goes without saying that most of the sisters weren't wearing hijab. Unless hair-gel and gaudy make-up is hijab (it's not.) Maybe I'm wrong for being so cruel, and I don't think I would ever berate an individual sister on the issue of hijab, and indeed that was hardly the problem at the meeting. There was, in my mind, a complete disregard for propriety, and worse, a lackadaisical approach to Islam!! The only thing which unites the people in the room, what should be the most important part of the meeting and the reason for being there in the first place! I hate to see MSA being a social group. Yes, this is coming from ex-sorority president, but I mean it; there are places to socialize but MSA should be more than that!!

There was a talk by one brother about Ramadan: reminding people what broke the fast, what fasting meant, why we fast and so on. A similar talk was given by another brother last year (who wasn't a student... and you know, the talk was better, much more respect given to the topic.) This brother was laughing and the group laughing along with him. Not that laughing is bad just... Ramadan isn't a joke. I won't elaborate on some of the answers given to the question "What invalidates the fast?"

But all is not, was not bad. I should mention that even though the event was more social than anything else, for the most part boys stayed on one side and girls on the other. Violations were usually crossing the room to get to the door, or brothers straying into the sisters' section to get more food.

The real highlight for me, though, and I think some others, was the salaat. Since a lot of the girls don't cover, and didn't bother to bring a cover with them, they didn't pray. But for everyone else who did pray... they were treated to a very nice recitation by a brother who (I think) someone said was a hafidh. But the real treat, right after the salaam at the end, was when he turned around and taught the entire jam'at what they should do after every salaat. Taught, being the operative word. Meaning he explained it, we translated the du'as into English to understand them, and repeated them to memorize. Mashallah... May Allah reward the brother for that.

Here's what he taught:

  • Istighfar 3 times: (Astaghfirullah, astaghfirullah, astaghfirullah)
  • Du'a: Allahumma Anta as-Salaam, wa minka as-Salaam, tabaarakta yaa dhal-Jalaali wa al-Ikraam.
  • Ayat-ul-Kursi
  • Du'a: Rabbi a3inee 3ala dhikrika, wa shukrika, wa 7usni 3ibaadatika. (x3)
  • Tasbeeh: Subhanallah (x33), wa Alhamdulillah (x33), wa Allahu Akbar (x34.)
  • Du'a: Laa ilaha illa Allah, wa7dahu laa sharika lah, lahul mulk wa lahul 7amd, wa huwa 3ala kulli shay'in Qadeer.
Uh, sorry for the progressively worsening transliteration, it's not my forte. But as the brother said, with Ramadan approaching we should hasten to do more good acts, and this is part of improving the prayer.

I mentioned this to another sister Friday night, and she said she wished someone had taught her that. She's a convert like me, and said she never learned that stuff until she went to Jordan. So may Allah reward all those brothers and sisters who make an effort to share knowledge, even when it seems some people don't want to hear it (I know some of those brothers were eager to get up and go eat, since eating was after the salaat).

But that salaat was a reflection of what I would like for MSA meetings to be more like, what I would like MSA to be like, rather than what preceded and followed it.

Oh Allah, help us to remember you, thank you, and perfectly worship you.

(edited to add: I fixed the error in the du'a above, the very important, missing "laa"!! Jazakallah khair to the one who noticed and brought it to my attention!)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


So, two weeks into the semester, and I'm already bored of going to class. My four (and a half) engineering classes, anyway. My history class is really fascinating though, American Foreign Policy. I'm supposed to write a paper on the creation of the state of Israel, and I have to read all those documents like the Balfour Declaration and what have you, things people quote in bits and pieces for disturbing films on the current state of Palestine

But in only two lectures, and one paper so far on the origins of the Cold War, I've decided that America is actually pretty imperialist if you think about it. A premature opinion? It seems to me our government does exactly what it berates historical empires for, exactly what it fears other nations will do. I won't say it started with WW2, I know it's way more complicated, but I'm increasingly disillusioned with political rhetoric. Anyway, that is an interesting class. Despite not finishing the first paper entirely (ran out of time) I got a good grade on it and the professor recommended it for the rest of the class to read. Why does that matter? Because we're supposed to read each other's papers, that's why, and over half the class are graduate history students. That I'm able to keep up even, not having taken a single history class in 6 or 7 years (ok, it was AP US History in 11th grade!!) is impressive to me. I hope things stay that way.

I'm afraid my studies in general of Islam and Arabic in particular are falling behind and might stay behind for the time being. I'm overwhelmed academically, finding it difficult to fit in my current obligations. Although, one kid lamented to me before class how he has to read 50 pages for one class. Paltry in comparison to my assigned 200 pages/wk, I felt a little bit happier about what I had accomplished up to that point. A-l-h-a-m-d-u-l-i-l-l-a-h.

I am on the da'wah committee for presenting Islam publically, so doing those presentations should keep me on my toes, so to speak, as far as both public speaking and basic methods of giving da'wah. Moreover, I give a weekly khaatera after isha on Fridays on the book I've been reading, Purification of the Heart. So every week I have to read at least a chapter and summarize into notes to present. So far, after one introduction on the science and relevance of purification, I have done two diseases, miserliness and wantonness. This week inshaaAllah is hatred. During Ramadan I'll stop though, and resume afterwarsd inshaaAllah. The other way I'm keeping up my Islam is reading Qur'an. Reading it every day. I'm really glad I didn't wait until Ramadan to start this practice, so I would only leave it at the end. I'm hoping to finish it before Ramadan starts (making the 2nd time I've read it entirely) and read it again in Ramadan. I'm disadvantaged in taraweeh because I can't understand enough Arabic to really follow anything, but I swear reading Qur'an every day is probably one of the most spiritually invigorating things I've been able to practice regularly. It's a practice I really want to keep up for the rest of my life, to know the Qur'an backwards and forwards and be able to live it. I've realized that people who understand Qur'an at that level behave differently than other Muslims, and they seem much stronger in their faith as well... so I ask Allah to increase me in faith and make me someone who understands Qur'an and implements it.

So being busy like I am, without as much time on my hands in the lab like I've had in the past, I'll try to keep my blog up, posting a couple times a week, but the frequency is bound to die down from what it was over the summer. I'll try to make more meaningful posts though, and fewer trivialities. I hope people keep reading, and more people start reading. Happy September!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Everyone's a Regular Somewhere

My brother manages a small restaurant in a small town. By far, most of his customers are regulars. It is a beach town, so people pass through from other places too, but this is a popular chain in the small towns of eastern North Carolina. It works because the (apparent) commitment to service. In a small town with few places to eat, so long as you keep the store clean and make everyone happy, you get people coming back on a regular basis. Where else would they go anyway, though?

Either way, the last couple times I've visited him, I get to hear all these neat stories about his regulars. Actually, his fiancée does most of the talking at that point, because she has an outstanding memory. A good quality for a waitress to have, but I think she excels at memorizing things (so long as numbers aren't involved.) She knows the names of the customers, their orders, what businesses they run, the names of their kids, other tidbits from their last conversations... really extraordinary, because of the number of people who she does this for. Thing is, some of her "regulars" don't know who all the other "regulars" are. So while one is teasing her in a non-offensive (because of familiarity) way, another might take off attempting to defend his special waitress... can be amusing.

I used to really hate the idea of being a regular. If I'd gone to one restaurant enough times that I was recognized, I figured it was too many times and I'd stop going! I got over that not long ago, since I'm pretty much recognized very easily nowadays. My "regular" dinnerspot for a while now (in fact, only one because I don't eat out that often anymore, I and my roommate have both been cooking every week which leaves and needs less time for eating out) is a place called Greek Fiesta. (No, I'm not on their mailing list or anything... and I better not find out someone put me on it, either...) It's the Greek salad with feta cheese that keeps me coming back. In fact, although my "order" changes once in a while, seldom do I not get a salad... because for me the salad is the best part.

It's also a nice bonus that they have free wireless internet, so I can blog or whatever (usually whatever). I would've written this nice post there tonight, but their internet was down unfortunately... or fortunately. I read a few pages for my history class out of The Specter of Communism. I had to read about half of it by this weekend so I can write a paper. If you can't read the little print in red, it says: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War 1917-1953. And it started in 1917, Woodrow Wilson, key US-Russian relations from that point on, with Lenin, then with Stalin.

This class is US Foreign Policy, but it's a history not political science class. It's also a piggyback graduate (I'm a senior, btw) class, with 10 different books on the course reading list (which yes, I had to buy.) This is the first, the second I can start on now I've read the first 85 pages of this one. My big question for this class right now is why do Americans feel justified in waging ideological wars, but view it as injustice for anyone else to do the same? If you look at what was going on the Soviet Union, and what was going on in the USA... and ever present in my mind are the current foreign policy decisions. Politics is seeming to me to be nothing more than a stupid game, with different players rising to power and trying to win that game. Not much has changed in 90 years. By post-WW2 it's really obvious... anti-Communism in the late 40's was a political tool used all politicians, no matter what their goal or standpoint (racial segregation, racial integration, pro-union, anti-union, lower taxes, bigger military.) If somehow you (the politician) weren't voted for, or your issue, it was a sign communism was taking over. What a load, huh? Anyway, it's so easy to just put "Islam" in place of "communism."

Next on my list? America, Russia, and the Cold War: 1945-2006. The edition I hold (pictured left) is the 10th. On the back cover, which briefly describes the new edition, I read "Chapters covering the post-1991 era describe what some expert observers see as a new Cold War emerging." (emphasis mine) It then gives a brief list of new additions in the new edition, mentioning the Pope, the Beatles, and one I'd like to mention here: "The Reagan administration's support for Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq, including tolerating Saddam's use of chemical and biological weapons against Iranians."

When I tell people about this class, like the 10 books, weekly paper, graduate students making up the majority, they want to know why I'd put myself through it. (So I'm responding here in case any of you wonder the same.) For one thing, I think the material is interesting. For another, I think it is incredibly relevant, and I know I for one am horribly informed on the topic, and while I'm eager to debate anyone with what I know already (over eager, probably), I would rather be informed, and I should be. I should be anyway if I want to even open my mouth, and I should be because I am an American and am supposed to participate in this "democracy" we allegedly have going on once a year.

And after just one class (we meet weekly) I understand why it's so relevant, even if we only talk about the Cold War... because what dominates foreign policy for 5 decades (and, I think, beyond) is just this: ideological fear. History has never been my strong point, I do much better in math, but I'm hoping that since I am at least interested in the material that I can keep up and excel in the class, but more importantly gain a better understanding of global affairs, via historical perspective. InshaaAllah. With that in mind, I think everyone should be more informed. And I think the aforementioned books are a great way to start. I would heartily recommend the one which I've read, the Leffler Specter of Communism (even the title hints the ideological basis of the Cold War.)

Someone recently left a comment on my blog about Russian converts to Islam. So I'm going to admit I don't know anything about Russian converts, or Islam in Russia at all today. But I would be interested in learning.