Perspective: I Am Blessed While Many Suffer

Last night it snowed in St. Louis and in the wee hours of the morning the snow became mixed with ice. As I got ready to leave the house to take my wife to the OBGYN clinic the streets were real nasty and having narrowly escaped from a bad accident just a few weeks ago I was cautious.

While I was trying to keep control of the vehicle on the slick streets, avoid being hit by maniacs driving fast, and listening to my wife tell me it must be 80 degrees in Texas right now, my mind was a million other places thinking of potential moves and what not.

I hate hospitals and going to them for any reason. This dislike of hospitals is only compounded when I have to sit in a dingy waiting room for hours watching Jerry Springer while making sure restless toddlers do not burn the joint down.

Alhmamdudilah we only had to be there for two hours today and we left with good news. On the way back I had to stop at the post office to take care of some business.

Unlike a lot of people I happen to think the US Postal Service is a highly competent and professional organization and am amazed by what they do. However, whenever I have to go to the post office I am reminded that there are a lot of idiots in the world.

Two guys asking a seemingly unending barrage of dumb questions held the line up. Just when the last of these idiots was about to get done and make way for me a lady came in the post office sobbing.

There are a lot of homeless who prowl this neighborhood and I thought she might have been one of them. Then her cell phone rang, and I know from experience that homeless people do not have cell phones as a rule. She answered the phone crying and loudly said “they kilt my baby” and everyone in the post office just looked up as she repeated “my son is dead, they killed my son”.

Having seen so many mothers cry like this in my lifetime at the death of their sons I was not all that shocked. And, the unfortunately reality is, no matter how much some may try and clean it up, St. Louis is a poor, dirty, and dangerous city.  An older woman in line started tearing up, the lady behind the counter offered her tissue, and a fancily dressed Asian woman just kept sending text messages.

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Chance to Get Some Good Deeds and Cover Your Sins

Let us remember that we are all Muslims and the ultimate goal for all of us it to go to Paradise. In order to do this we will need good deeds on Judgment Day or Allah has promised that we will be consumed by fire.

One of the best things we can do as Muslims is to donate our wealth to those Muslims in need. There has been a lot of rhetoric back and forth over the last few days and if any of us has sinned lets try and make up for those sins by doing some good deeds. I am going to list three opportunities insha’Allah.

  1. There is a Muslim family with young children on the verge of home eviction during this cold winter and they are in the desperate need of at least $1,500. If you can help this Muslim family please contact me insha’Allah.
  2. There is a masjid in Washington, DC with no heat. This causes a hardship on the believers. If anyone can donate their money or work to get these brothers and sisters some heat please email you and I will put you in contact with the right people.
  3. There is a masjid in Newark, NJ that has not paid the rent and is facing eviction. I would like to see the Muslims at this masjid reconcile with another masjid near by; but if this cannot happen please email me and I will put you in contact with those who can accept donations.

Question on Welfare to a Scholar

1.  Is it permissible for a muslimah who is on welfare to keep her husband’s income secret from the welfare department, for fear that she would no longer be eligible for welfare?

As for the question placed above by the brother, I asked Sh. Abdullah al Ghudayan a question similar to this last month, the Sheikh responded that it is not permissible for the female to conceal her husbands salary in order to receive funds from the gov’t. The sheikh said that this is a form of deception and therefore not allowed.

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Mustaph George took the question to the Shaykh.

Note from Umar Lee: I would also like to see another question asked. A lot of Muslims sisters who are only married Islamically tell their case workers that they do not know who the father of the child is so that their husband does not get sued for child support. This is a practice that goes back to the 1970′s at least and has been practiced by Muslims of all persusasions.

How the Bush Years Began For Me and How The Obama Years Will Begin

Eight years ago on inauguration day I was not in the best of places. I woke up early and was kind of nervous. I got up, took a shower, prayed, and then went to a room where a TV was playing CNN.

I had no real idea of where I was going to go that today and sat alone with my thoughts. Sensing my dilemma three guys I knew came up to me to cheer me up; Lorenzo, a soldier in the Gambino crime family from Brooklyn, Johnny a Polish pimp out of the Irish neighborhood of South Boston, and Tommy a sometimes Muslim brother and heavy player in the black neighborhoods of Staten Island.

We talked for a while and they all gave me advice (Tommy seemed to encourage me to resume a life of crime). Then a corrections officer came and escorted me to another building where I changed clothes and received a paper bag full of my belongings. Another CO came and escorted me out of that building to a van and he drove me to a bus stop where a bus would take me from rural central Pennsylvania where we were at to another city where I could transfer.

I did not know where I wanted to go. I didn’t really have a home anywhere and did not have a solid plan for making any money. In my heart I wanted to go to DC to join the protesters who were gathered to challenge the inaugural of George W. Bush. Many, such as myself, believed that he had fraudulently won the election. I had lived in DC before and studied there; but from experience I knew it was a tough place to get a job.

I first went to Philly and decided not to go to DC as I sat a McDonalds and spilled a strawberry shake all over myself. Eventually I ended up in St. Louis and by that time W was the Prez. A few weeks later I was in NYC sleeping in subway cars and then at a masjid in Brooklyn with no heat I the cold winter until I found steady employment.

That is how the W years began for me, not so good. A lot has happened in those 8 years and the nation has been changed forever. I do not recognize the Muslim community of today that is how different it is. 9-11, the War on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and all of that has just totally changed what it means to be a Muslim in America and that for me is the biggest tragedy of the Bush years personally.

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Obama The New President, America Far From Post-Racial: A Drive Down MLK

This Tuesday, the day after the national observance of the Martin Luther King holiday, Barack Hussein Obama, an African-American, will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America making him the most powerful man in the world.

I am not someone who is overly pessimistic and believes that the election of Obama means nothing in terms of race-relations. The election of Obama is a sign of the progress in race relations that have been made in America and if you do not believe that just try and imagine an African-American 40 years ago, when half of America was segregated and the other half semi-segregated, even coming close to winning he office of the presidency no matter how qualified they were or how much they sold out.

However, I think that the talk of many in the media, the “netroots”, the young and idealists, conservatives, and liberal activists about the election of Obama making way for a post-racial America is absurd. It should come as no surprise that most of these people are making this argument are white ( or at least not black) and would like to absolve themselves from any racial introspection.

Obama will be inaugurated on Tuesday and hundreds of millions will be watching the event. In St. Louis there are going to be parties thrown all over town especially in the African-American community.

But, when we all wake up in Wednesday, we will still be waking up in a very segregated city. The vast majority of whites will not venture north of Delmar and there are many neighborhoods in St. Louis where African-Americans will still not feel safe after dark. Having a black man in the Oval Office will not change that.

Recently I had an older man in my cab that I guessed to be around 75. I was taking him from the trendy upscale urban neighborhood of the Central West End to the airport where he was catching a flight to Florida. I decided to take him straight up North Kingshighway to Highway 70 which at that time of the morning is the quickest way to the airport.

The man, who lives just blocks from the boundaries of North St. Louis, told me he had not driven through the North Side in at least 20 years and everything looked strange to him. There was a new streetscape, new stores, and new restaurants. The neighborhood we drove through is virtually 100% black and this was a white man.

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The Wrestler and Some Thoughts on Wrestling

I want to thank one of my favorite film directors, Darren Aronsky of Pi (the mathematical sign not what you eat or desire) fame, for making a serious film, The Wrestler,  about a very serious American cultural phenomena and that is pro wrestling.

In an interview with the BBC Aronsky stated that this was the first serious film ever made about wrestling. Contrast this to my favorite sport of boxing, which has had hundreds of serious films made about it including classics like Raging Bull, Rocky and Million Dollar Baby

The reason there have been no serious films about wrestling coming out of Hollywood I believe is because wrestling is seen as a fake and comical joke by many people. I remember Andy Rooney once saying on 60 Minutes that people who watch wrestling should not be able to vote. Well, that would be taking a lot of people out of the voter rolls since wrestling is the number watched programming for Latinos in America and has millions of other rabid fans from all races.

This film, staring Mickey Rourke, a guy I like a lot (hey he is an ex-boxer with an IRA tattoo), is a must see. It is more about life than wrestling as the character played by Rourke is broke and struggles to make ends meet living in a New Jersey trailer park and working at a supermarket while still wrestling on the indie circuit. His body is failing from all the punishment it has taken over the years, he is estranged from his grown daughter, and his only friend is an aging and lonely stripper. There are no Hollywood twists and turns and there is no happy ending. Real indie wrestlers and fans are used and this is a film based in New Jersey where you hear real working-class Jersey accents and see immigrants unlike in a lot of Hollywood films.

Now, I very seldom watch wrestling myself anymore. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I am not happy with the direction the industry has taken. Old school wrestling was based on a territorial system. Most of North America (and other parts of the world including Japan and New Zealand) was regulated by the territorial promotions of the National Wrestling Alliance.

Some of the legendary territories of the NWA were the St. Louis Wrestling Club of promoters Sam Muchnik and later Pat O’Connor. The Mid-Atlantic territory of Jim Crocket Promotions in Carolinas, Virginia, DC Area and Georgia. The Graham brother’s promotion in Florida, Carlos Colon in Puerto Rico, Calgary Stampede Wrestling and many others.

The other major organizations were the American Wrestling Association based in Minnesota and covering the upper Midwest and parts of Canada. This promotion was mostly run by the legendary trainer Verne Gagne. Then you had what would later become the WWF and then the WWE based in New York and ran by Vince McMahon, Sr. and later by Jr.

It is McMahon that made the working man’s opera, the violent theater to the masses, the ultimate good versus evil show, into a cartoon. Not only did McMahon turn his promotion into one heavy on steroid using muscle bound greased down guys and half-naked women in goofy story lines and short matches; but he attacked and ultimately destroyed the territorial system and thus ruined wrestling.

How else did he ruin wrestling?

No Blood, No More Hardcore. In order to go more mainstream and be friendly to TV moms he took hardcore out of wrestling. So, in his operation, wrestlers and matches like this would have no place.

Abdullah the Butcher V. Chief Wahoo McDaniel

No More Local Legends. As the local system was broke down local legends, who in many cases were the most popular celebrities in their local markets, like Jerry “the King” Lawler in Memphis and the Von Erich Brothers in Texas, no longer had a place in a national operation. Many smaller towns, that were huge wrestling towns, like Greensboro, NC and Norfolk, VA very seldom even have wrestling shows any more because of the nationalized system.

Jerry the King Lawler. He OWNED Memphis and Andy Kauffman.

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American Exceptionalism

I had the chance to listen to Godfrey Hodgson; author of The Myth of American Exceptionalism, be interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR. The British author reminded me of a lot of the mythical ideas that most provincial Americans have. The vast majorities of people I grew up with, and my family members, have either never left America, or have only left to serve in the armed forces. They believe that America exists on some other higher plane than the rest of the world, and that the rules of the world do not apply to America. Most Americans simply believe that no one in the world lives as good as we do, and even if you are poor here you are still better off than people in other countries. However, as the author points out, these beliefs have no basis in facts. Personally I could easily see myself living at a standard of living as high as I live here, or higher  in places such as England, Ireland, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or any number of places.

Slumdog Millionaire: Jamal, Take That Girl to the Clinic Please

I saw a bootleg version of Slumdog Millionaire. I definitely give it a thumbs up. The cinematography was great, it was well-written, and brilliantly acted. If viewers are inclined to learn via film Slumdog also can be educational because it touches on a lot of areas of modern Indian life that Americans may not be aware of (classism, crime, development, poverty, anti-Muslim violence, police abuse, etc.)  . Also, as an added bonus, we got to see an Indian film without any corny singing and dancing (at least till the credits come up).

The only thing I did not like about the film was the love story. My man Jamal was running after this girl like she was the only fish in the sea. There are 1 billion people in India. If you loose track of a woman another one should not be hard to find. And, as he finally got his girl in the end, I think it would be most-wise for Jamal to have her get a full HIV and STD test before he consummates the marriage because after being the “gangsters B” there is no telling what kind of disease this woman was carrying.

If Obama is Serious About Justice He Will Do More Than Close Gitmo

Good,  Obama is ordering the gulag at Gitmo to be closed. My next question is will he order the Justice Department to take a fresh look at the political prosecutions of Muslims in America? There are two facilities in America known as the American Gitmo’s (Florence ADX in Colorado and USP Terre Haute in Indiana). Will Obama order that the brothers in these prisons be given new trials or there cases be at least looked at? If he is serious about cleaning up the image of America will he pardon Sheikh Ali al-Timimi or at least launch an investigation into his unjust prosecution by the government? Will he commute the sentences of brothers such as Seifullah Chapman and Abdur-Rahman al-Amudy who are serving draconian sentences? Will he have the Justice Department investigate the circumstances around the arrest and conviction of Imam Jamil al-Amin? Will he order the Justice Department to free the money they stole from Muslim charities and allow Muslims in America to raise money for the aid of our suffering brothers and sisters around the world?  If he is really interested in justice, and not just window dressing, these are things that he will do.

Umar Lee Challenges Joe The Plumber to a Fight

Joe the Plumber is now headed to Gaza as a war correspondent for the conservative, anti-Muslim, pro-Israeli website Pajamas TV.

I challenge Joe to a fight, we can either do boxing or MMA. If I win the proceeds go to the children of Gaza, if he wins the proceeds go to Israel. I encourage my readers to email Pajamas TV in support of this event.

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Barack Obama and the Message of Gaza

Studies have shown that more than 80% of American-Muslims (including myself) voted for Barack Obama in the presidential election. It is also known that the Palestinian issue is one of the most important issues to a lot of Muslim voters in America. For this reason I have said for months that the Muslim honeymoon with Obama will end once the Palestinian crisis flare up and Muslims find out he is more on the lines of another Bill Clinton than someone who can bring a just resolution to the conflict.

Personally I have no faith in the Obama Administration with regards to Palestine. He is first and foremost a politician who cut his teeth on the ethnic and neighborhood politics of Chicago. Politically, whether it be right or wrong, he will see no benefit in taking a more Pro-Palestinian stance while one-fifth of Democratic donors are Jewish and a pro-Israeli mainstream media would attack him if he took a more just stance. This is compounded by the fact that Hillary Clinton will be the Secretary of State and Dennis Ross will be her advisor.

We are getting a sneak preview now as Obama remains silent as Israel mercilessly attacks the people of Gaza militarily after systematically starving the people for months. This is contrasted by his forceful condemnation of the Mumbai attacks. Combine these two things with the fact that Obama has promised a fool-hearted increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency (which itself is fueled by the occupation). All of this together means that as I am looking at it today Obama will be bad for most Muslims in most places in the world unless he can bring peace with Iran, Syria, and really leave Iraq.

So, why would I vote for someone who I think will be bad for most Muslims? Well, Obama may be bad for most Muslims but he is by a number of degrees better than a unilateralist and neo-conservative Republican Administration with Evangelical leanings would be.

But, even though I think Obama will be better, that is not why I voted for him. I knew that Obama would be no treat for Palestinians and Muslims worldwide. However, as I live in America and my family lives in America I had to vote for who would improve the condition for me, my family and the Muslims in America first and foremost.  This means I had to focus on issues like healthcare, the economy education and other matters first. Just as the people in Gaza vote for who will do the best for them in their lives first I did the same thing here in America.

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