Sunday, November 12, 2006

My personal statement of hijab

I think I need a break to sit back and re-evaluate why I cover my hair and what it means to my Islamic identity. I think I did it too fast. I wanted acceptance by my fellow Muslims and by wearing hijab, you gain that acceptance. As an American, you face a lot of skepticism when you become Muslim. When I started covering my hair, I gained acceptance from the Muslim community. As of late, I have decided that wearing the scarf for this reason is unacceptable. The hijab is supposed to be a symbol of modesty and a mark that you are Muslim. You wear it because you want to, not because someone else wants you to. That is the freedom of hijab. You make the conscious choice to wear it, particularly when you are not raised in that tradition. Therefore, I don't think that I have been wearing hijab for the proper reasons. I find myself wanting to wear it when I hear that Muslims have been oppressed, or when countries such as France try to ban it. However, when you wear hijab, you can't be a fair weather fan, so to speak. When you make the decision to wear it, you wear it all the time (well, except when you are at home, which is a common misconception). Likewise, if you make the decision to not wear it, with the exception of prayer, it doesn't make a lot of sense to switch back and forth. Professionally speaking, I don't think the scarf is doing me a lot of favors. I think there are too many subconscious insinuations that come with the scarf. It's not an intentional act, but I think it is engrained in the subconscious of most Americans. I think I am more confident without it because I know people are looking at me, for me, not my scarf. Now, in Islamic countries, this would be quite the opposite case. However, the point of hijab is to blend in and not draw attention to yourself. In the United States and Western world, you do draw attention to yourself, something that I am not comfortable with. Hijab and the decision to wear the scarf is a very personal decision and no one else should dictate it for you. Muslim women everywhere have the absolute right to decide if hijab and even niqab are right for them, and no one has the right to tell them that they have to or cannot wear them. This is my choice and no one can tell me otherwise. Now, let's see how accepted I am, how supportive the Muslim community is, and how many rights Islam affords women. I should say, just because Islam does, doesn't necessarily mean that the Muslim community will. Just another chapter in my mid-twenty something jihad, I suppose.

Election Update

After the shock of last Tuesday, I am finally ready to sit down and gloat. I think I have been in a state of disbelief. I honestly didn't think that the Democrats would take control of the House and the Senate. I thought it would be one or the other. Even the Kansas results were pretty remarkable. They are as follows:

Paul Morrison (D) defeated Phill Kline for Attorney General
Kathleen Sebelius(D) defeated Jim Barnett for Governor
Nancy Boyda(D) defeated Jim Ryun for the 2nd congressional district rep.

In Missouri:

The stem cell initiative passed, despite the fact that it was losing when I went to bed. Yay!
Similarly, Claire McCaskill defeated Jim Talent. If you'll note in my last post, I had Jim Talent winning when I went to bed, but she came from behind and won!

Of course, there were others, but these were the big ones that I was concerned about. Now, that the Democrats will be taking control in January, I hope that they do not squander this fabulous opportunity and get bogged down in partisan squabbling and Republican blackmail. I think that this election was a call by voters for moderation. Voters don't want the rightwing or the leftwing, they want moderate, common-sense solutions to very serious problems facing this country. People are tired of the extreme divisions. I have always been more left leaning, but anymore, I just want moderation, and I think that is a sentiment that is mirrored by a great many Americans. If Democrats screw up, they will face the consequences in the 2008 presidential election, and I don't think this country will survive another Republican like Bush.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Viva la democratie!

After a long Ramadan hiatus, I'm back. Eid Mubarak to my fellow Muslims. I haven't written since the first day of Ramadan. Actually, it has been a Ramadan/Harry Potter book/photo album hiatus. I have been assembling my Egypt photo album, finishing the book I wrote for Noah, fasting, and I started reading the Harry Potter series (which I love, by the way). I'm finally reading them. Finally, with election returns coming in, I had to sit down and offer my opinion. I am so nervous that I have butterflies in my stomach. I have e-mailed friends that I haven't e-mailed in ages, I have went grocery shopping, and we took a walk down Mass St. Anything to keep our minds off the election. So far, as of 9:50 pm:

In the 2nd congressional district (which Jim Ryun helped to gerrymander so badly that I don't get to vote in it anymore) Nancy Boyda is maintaining a small but commanding lead. Oh, I desperately want Jim Ryun to lose. However, as long as Phill Kline loses to Paul Morrison in the AG race, I will be be happy.

As of 9:52, Paul Morrison leads Phill Kline 60% to 40%.

The other Kansas races were obviously important, but they aren't near as close as these. However, in Missouri, which matters to me because I have been tortured with the political ads on the Kansas City stations, Jim Talent is beating Claire McCaskill. I despise Jim Talent too. What a jerk! Something about the name Jim and being in Congress. His political ads are shameless.

At the national level, I am thrilled that Rick Santorum has lost. (In your face, you a-hole zealot). I haven't updated the other results at this point. To be honest, I don't know if the Democrats will pick up the majority. It would be a good message to the current leadership that they need to pull their heads out of their asses. However, the Democrats don't really have any solutions to the problems that the Republicans have created so I figure if they don't gain the majority, they will be in a better position in the 2008 presidential election. If it weren't for the fact that my brother is a Marine and going to Iraq in February, I would say, let the Republicans stew in their own juices. However, there are hundreds of thousands of lives at stake so policy shouldn't be made out of spite. We'll see...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Mubarak! To our surprise, Ramadan started last night. This is my first Ramadan in two years due to being pregnant and then nursing. It's going to be a tough one, but I think I can do it. Erik and I woke up this morning at 5:30 to eat suhur, or prefasting breakfast. He scavenged something and drank about a half gallon of water. I had no appetite, but I ate a banana and had green tea and water with an "Airborne" tablet in it. I am trying to ward off a cold, but I don't know if it will work. It's worth a shot though. We prayed fajr and went back to bed. Now I am trying to make sure that I have plenty to do today, even though Noah usually takes care of that. It will be interesting to see how it goes. I've never fasted this late in the evening and the time change has always overlapped. Not this year, and I'll also be fasting on my birthday, which I've never done before. I'll keep everyone updated.

Congratulations to my brother Lance Corporal Derek Brunin who was meritoriously promoted for being first in his LVS/Motor Transport class! He was so proud. We are all very proud of him. He is sending me his plaque for safe keeping so I will actually get to see it. Yeah, finally some really good news, for once.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Katie Couric, Steve Irwin, and other topics of nonconsequence

I just finished watching Katie Couric's first broadcast and despite my skepticism, she was actually pretty good. The new format reflects Couric's perky, upbeat personality. It is much more optimistic and youth friendly. It will be interesting to see how she carries on when tragedy strikes when the perkiness will be a hindrance, rather than an asset. Of course, while I appreciate the optimistic nature of the broadcast, Americans typically enjoy hype and disaster (provided it is not happening to them) so the optimism may not go over. Of course, maybe it won't last. It was only the first show. Who knows? Only time will tell. In reality, who cares? I don't know why I care. Oh well, I'm not deleting this part now. Apologies...

I awoke yesterday to read the news of Steve Irwin's tragic death. I was actually deeply saddened to hear of his death, although not terribly surprised till I found out that he died from a stingray barb. Of course, the cynical side of me tried to take over as I read that 4 U.S. servicepeople had died in Iraq. "Why should his life be more important than the lives of the young people who died?" I wondered. Their deaths barely made the news, even though their families are grieving just as much as the family of Steve Irwin. I guess it is because the war in Iraq is negative and not something we want to think about, whereas Steve Irwin was someone that pretty much always introduced happiness into our lives. It is as simple as that. People loved to watch him because he was passionate in his love for animals. I've never met the man and I don't know anything about him as a person. However, it is clear that his love for animals was genuine and not an act. People like Jeff Corwin are there to make a television show. I am convinced that Steve Irwin would have kept doing what he has always done regardless of whether the tv cameras were there or not. Anymore, so few people are passionate about anything except themselves. He actually made a difference in the world by allowing people to look at formerly undesirable creatures such as snakes, scorpions, crocodiles, and spiders (to name a few) and make people look at them with wonder and beauty, rather than fear and disgust. When people finally look at all organisms as invaluable and inseparable , instead of only caring about the cute, macroscopic, furry animals, we will truly be able to talk about serious conservation. This is truly Steve Irwin's gift to the world. Thank you Dr. Irwin, and may your memory be eternal.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Introducing our new family member...

As many of you may know, I have rats. I love them. They are like little dogs, but with a considerably shorter life span. Unfortunately, the last of my rat girls passed on to that big running wheel in the sky last week. Even though Noah is quite a beast, we decided it was pretty lonely around here. Thus, Erik, Noah, and I introduce to you our newest family member, Mr. Willingham, the guinea pig. The rats aren't completely out of the picture, I just don't want to get another one right now. A photo of Mr. Willingham will be posted shortly.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I really hate this time of year

I really hate this time of year. It is so busy, the students move back into town, and inevitably good friends move away in pursuit of higher goals. Once again, I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks because I have been so busy. Erik started fall classes so everything around here is busy. Last week, I co-hosted a party for my friend and co-worker John, who is moving away to attend the University of Chicago, and one of my best friends, Dusty, is moving to NYC to attend Teacher's College at Columbia University. I am stuck in Kansas for yet another year. I'm starting to think that I'll never escape. Don't get me wrong, life is good right now, but I am ready to do something towards pursuing my career. It is easy to go to work, come home and not have to study, and have family fairly close. However, if I am ever going to get my doctorate, I am going to have to give that up because I can't do what I want to do around here. It will be hard, but I think it will be okay. Also, having Derek in the military will make it easier for me to move because at least if I move away, it probably won't be to my peril. I seriously doubt I would get killed by an IED at Cornell (yeah, it's probably a pipe dream I know, going to Cornell that is) although in this day and age, I guess anything is possible. Sometimes, I really hate change.

Then, as if this time of year weren't bad enough, when the days get shorter, cloudier, and cooler, my seasonal affective disorder kicks in. Fortunately, this year I am on Zoloft so I hope that it will curtail any major effects of the season. I hate the fall, and I hate the winter. I really think I should move south. Too bad everywhere that I want to go is pretty much northeast and/or Canadian (aka University of Toronto, brrrr, likewise with Cornell).

Then, about a month from yesterday or the day before, Ramadan will start. Due to being pregnant or nursing, I haven't fasted in two years. It is going to be really hard to get into the swing of things. I really love fasting. It clears my head and makes me appreciate the little things like having food to eat and clean water. However, the days will be longer for this Ramadan than they have ever been since I have been fasting and the time change won't happen until after it is over. It is said that God locks up all of the Shatans (devils) when Ramadan is happening. It is a lovely sentiment and I am always at peace during Ramadan. Of course, that could be my brain digesting itself (har, har; sorry God, just a little Ramadan humor, please don't smite me).

I have always wondered though, if all of the Shatans are locked up, then why is it that Muslims do bad things during Ramadan, like blow innocent people up? Wouldn't it be evil that causes people to do that? I thought the Shatans were locked up? Does that mean that God wants them to blow people up? That would prove the insurgents theory that God is on their side. Maybe he is, I don't know, but I certainly don't think so (on the other hand, he's certainly not on the U.S. side). Or, is it because people are inherently evil and it has nothing to do with devils. Or, it could be that there simply is no God and I am just wasting my time covering my hair and starving myself one month a year. Sometimes that seems like the plausible explanation for all of the trouble in the world. For some reason I don't accept that theory though, even though I think it sometimes. I need a higher power in my life. Sometimes I just don't know in what form. Oh well, I guess that's all part of my ongoing jihad. I'll figure it out eventually whether I want to or not. I sure hope God has a good sense of humor...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Notes from an apparent Islamofascist

I have been apathetic lately. No, make that painfully objective. I haven't let my emotions get the best of me. Just in the last year, I feel like I've returned to my old self. Nearly five years after September 11th, and I just now feel like I'm getting back to normal. Before 9/11, I was a, well, there's no easy way to say this, I considered myself to be Republican. I was raised in a small town in Kansas where everyone is Republican, if in name only. I voted for Bush in 2000 and ascribed to the "Sore Losermann" slogan that young Republicans everywhere were throwing around. Then, when he took the presidency, I changed my mind. It was like I suddenly realized how stupid he was. I don't know why I didn't see it before. At the time, it wasn't a big deal. Everyone assumed he would go through his presidency as a lame duck, nothing would change. Of course, 9/11 changed everything. Suddenly, it was as if everything he did was an attack on the Muslim community. Sure, he didn't blame Muslims, but yet every speech that he gave the impression that it was the United States vs. Islam, not the terrorists. It completely polarized the Muslim world. When my husband, brother, and I traveled to Egypt, everyone told us that they loved Americans, just not the U.S. government, and they hated Bush because Bush hated Muslims. In the Islamic world and among people I know, this is a universal sentiment. I haven't met a single Muslim who supports Bush. Lately, he seemed to have toned down the U.S. vs. Islam comments. Well, until today.

With his now infamous "Islamofascist" remark, President Bush has managed to alienate nearly every Muslim who woke up horrified to hear about the alleged terrorist plot. I instantly felt myself go on the defensive. I thought, "He just called Muslims 'Islamofascists,' not the terrorists, but Muslims." Never mind the fact that if this plot had been carried out, it would have been devastating, catastrophic, I can't even really find the right word. Having flown American airlines to and from London Heathrow on the way to and from Egypt makes it a little more real and a little more terrifying. Yet, the fact that he used the term "Islamofascist" was on the forefront of my mind, and the fact is, if it is on the forefront of my mind, it is on the forefront of the minds of potentially billions of people around the world.

I feel completely polarized again. The moderation is gone. Now I am so busy defending myself and my fellow Muslims that I tend to lose sight of the fact that there is a bigger issue at hand.
The issue that extremists have hijacked this religion, and every time that Muslims go on the defensive trying to explain that Islam is ultimately a peaceful religion, they end up sounding as though they are defending the terrorists.

While the vast majority of Muslims condemn terrorism and the taking of innocent life, they don't necessarily disagree with the political views of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or Hizbollah. Most don't think Israel has the right to exist, they resent Western imperialism, and they think the Saudi government sucks, to name a few.* They may not condone terrorism, but they are definitely sympathetic towards the terrorists, particularly when Bush pits the West against Islam. Therefore, why speak out against the terrorists when they are the only force taking a stand against the "Zionists and Crusaders?" Governments such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, staunch U.S. allies, certainly aren't going to do it. They tend to repress innocent citizens under the guise of defeating suspected terrorists, while the terrorists fight against those same governments. After all, if your government was torturing you and you were innocent, and the terrorists came to your aid, who are you going to support? Probably not the government.

I guess my point is that until the U.S. and its Western allies make substantive changes to their foreign policies that at least give the appearance that they aren't waging an imperialist, Christian war against Muslims, Muslims aren't going to take substantive action to help quell terrorism, even though they know terrorism is wrong because in a way, they would be losing their voice, no matter how misguided that voice may be. In any case, this "Islamofascist" will sleep well tonight knowing that this alleged terrorist plot has been foiled. I just hope Bush's careless comments haven't overshadowed the fact that a great many lives, Muslim and otherwise, may have been saved because of these arrests. Your thoughts, anyone?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Evolution 1, Kansas Yokels 0

I have to say, this has been a good week, at least in Kansas. It looks like the Kansas State Board of Education is going to shift to the middle once again, possibly paving the way for a reversal of the ludicrous science standards that they passed last year. As an evolutionary biology major, I am always insulted when people who know nothing about evolution try to impose their anti-evolution beliefs on me and say I worship Charles Darwin. If they knew anything whatsoever about evolution (or enough to advocate for major changes to an educational curriculum), they would know that Darwin's theory of natural selection is one tiny aspect of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory is so much more encompassing and complex than they give it credit for. They always argue that they are simply trying to insert a different way of looking at science into classrooms. Science, by the very nature of the fact that it is science, always introduces alternative explanations and criticisms to its theories. If you read scientific papers on any given subject, there are always a variety of opinions as to what is correct. The best example I can think of is systematics. If you wanted to get KU ecology and evolutionary biology professors in an argument, ask them the best way to phylogenetically classify organisms, and let the fun begin.

My big problem with advocates of intelligent design on the KS School Board is that they
want to insert religion without bothering to really learn anything about evolution. The fact that they refuse to learn just indicates to me that they are doing it for religious reasons because if they dare to question the Bible, they think they will go to hell. Most people who objectively study evolutionary biology soon realize that it is not threatening to Christianity or any other belief system. They usually begin to understand why it is silly for the two to mix. Science is science, and religion is religion. The two should only be mixed in philosophy classes. If they want to advocate an objective philosophy class in every classroom in the state, I am all for it. However, with the educational funding problems that this state already has, I do not foresee that happening anytime in the next 500 or so years.

I sure hope that this moderation in Kansas is indicative of a trend at the national level. If so, the mid-term elections may be very interesting. I don't want liberal or conservative at this point in Bush's term, I just want moderation.

Speaking of Bush and Iraq, top military brass were testifying in front of Congress yesterday including Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command. They acknowledged that Iraq could be headed towards a civil war. Gee, do ya' think? My Politics of the Middle East class studied this topic a year before the Iraq War began and we knew that this scenario was more probable than any other under a U.S. led occupation of Iraq.

This excerpt is from CNN:

"Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, asked Pace and Abizaid if they had anticipated sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites a year ago. Pace said he hadn't expected it. Abizaid said it was clear tensions were rising, but he did not expect such a high level of sectarian violence."

My question is, "How can an undergraduate political science class anticipate a civil war in Iraq three years before it happens, but the top military leaders of this country couldn't see it a year ago?" I mean, for God's sake. If you don't understand a region (and Gen. Abizaid with his background doesn't have an excuse), then don't start a friggin' war there. Now, in their defense, they may have disagreed with the Bush administration, but due to their position, they felt powerless to do anything but go along with it. However, if Derek has taught me anything about the military chain of command, it is that you speak up if you are asked to do something that you feel is illegal or immoral by going up the chain of command. I guess since Bush is at the top they couldn't go very far. Therefore, they should have resigned. They didn't, and now young Americans are dying in the hornet's nest known as Iraq. I guess it was the same with Hurricane Katrina. Everyone who has watched a National Geographic special on hurricanes knew that New Orleans was a sitting duck, well everyone except the Bush administration. How many people died there? Anyone getting a theme here?

It's Friday. I won't even start on Lebanon and Israel. Have a good weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Master and Snoremander: The Most Boring Film You'll See, and other topics

It's been over a week since I last posted anything. I have been going to Dog Days three or four nights a week. It has been so hot lately that when I get home I don't have the energy to think of something to write about. I love the exercise though. I am going to be very sad when it ends in a couple of weeks.

Erik and I are celebrating our 6th Islamic wedding anniversary today. I say Islamic because we actually have two wedding anniversaries. There is the July 28th wedding date, which nobody really recognizes except us and the Islamic community, and our February 2nd wedding anniversary which is the legal date and the date that we started dating back in 1996, and the one that our families recognize. We just got back from Paisano's Italian Ristorante, which is always fabulous. I bought him tickets to a Royals game against the Twins next week, and he bought me a silver bracelet with green amber stones and a silver box with Chinese pottery on the lid. Both are very beautiful.

I am sitting here typing, Noah is destroying the house, and Erik is watching "Master and Commander...," that one film with Russell Crowe. If you want my opinion, it looks dreadfully boring, but I haven't actually watched it so maybe it is good. All of I have seen of it involves Russell Crowe and his crew eating and drinking and cheering, then they eat, drink, and cheer some more, then they see the iguanas of the Galapagos Islands, periodically there is tragic music, then they eat, drink, and cheer more. Like I said, yawn. It has been a very relaxing evening so far. I have many topics to discuss, but after thinking about it more, I think I will save that for the next post. Why spoil a good day!

Oh yeah, if you live in Kansas, get out there and vote (August 1st) the State Board of Education wackos out of office, and any of the other social conservatives who want to dictate our lives. Viva la democratie!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Freedom Fighter...

The last several weeks I have had nothing of importance to write about. Now there is so much to write about that I don't know where to begin. I said in my last post that I would write about North Korea and Somalia. However, the escalating war between Lebanon and Israel has suddenly and unexpectedly taken precedent over everything, including the so-called "low-level" civil war in Iraq. I think the thing that is most disturbing to everyone about this escalation is that nobody knows what is going to happen next. This is threatening to break into a devastating regional war and I'm not sure that the American public grasps the seriousness of the situation. In the past, whenever Israel has delved into Lebanese or Syrian territory, they have retreated relatively quickly. However, due to the continued attacks by Hizballah (arabic: hizb=political party; allah=god; party of God) and the subsequent retaliations are about two feet from spilling into Syria. According to Al-Jazeera (Arabic version), Iran has threatened Israel not to attack Syria or face severe reprisals. Inevitably, if Israel strikes Syria, the U.S. will become involved in some capacity, which will provoke Iran and the scores of foreign fighters who are just waiting to get involved. This is such an unbelievably serious situation that I can't even believe it.

Oddly enough, I just got off the phone with my brother Derek (the Marine) and he had no idea that anything was even going on in Israel or Lebanon. He is relatively sheltered these days, living at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, training for his MOS, which is motor transport. His biggest worry is being deployed to Iraq. For a while, he just talked about being deployed, but he never said where he would be deployed. Now, with only four weeks left in his training, I think he is trying to prepare us, as well as himself, for the very real possibility of being sent to Iraq. Maybe this is worst case scenario, but as this point, it seems to be the most realistic scenario. He will be in motor transport, as our neighbor said, "IED bait." I really don't know what I'm going to do with myself. How will I live everyday, just waiting for someone to call and tell me that something has happened to him? I will be holding my breath his whole tour. It seems like torture for military families. War changes people and I love him the way he is. If he changes for the worse, it will be like a death. There is no way that we will not be changed in some way or another by this. I guess we can only hope to come out of it as unscathed as possible. Of course, I worry about Iraq. If everything keeps escalating, God only knows where he will end up. Hopefully, not Iran or North Korea.

It makes me so mad sometimes. I don't know why he had to join the military. I know to some degree why he did, but I don't understand why it seemed like the right answer. I blame his right wing old boss, and I blame Fox News for propagandaizing (my new word) the War on Terror, and of course, I blame American society for glorifying war and violence, but it's not really fair because he made the choice. Derek wanted more for himself and his family and he didn't see any other way.

This brought me to a realization the other day. I abhor violence and the killing of innocents in any shape or form, of course, but I got to thinking about the reasons why Derek did join the Marine Corp and came to a disturbing thought. Derek joined because he wanted to be part of something bigger and better than what he had. He is dedicated to his belief in American democracy and that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the right course of action. Although he believed in these ideals before, the military has further instilled these beliefs in him throughout his training. My disturbing thought was, "Is he any different than a suicide bomber?" Think about it. Suicide bombers are recruited through their absolute belief in good and evil. They are usually vulnerable and ultimately want something better for themselves and their families. They believe they will achieve paradise (although not 72 virgins, I don't know where this bullshit came from) and their families may receive what is tantamount to a blood price for their mission, much like what military families in the U.S. receive if their loved one dies.

Don't mistake me, I don't think my brother is a terrorist and I'm not justifying suicide bombings, particularly of innocents. I know he would never hurt anyone if he could help it, but we're all human and we all have a dark side that I think, when placed under the worst of circumstances, will inevitably come out. However, I guess it all depends on the side that you are on. I'm sure that for all the people that think he is a freedom fighter, there are many more who consider him, by virtue of the fact that he is in the U.S. military, to be a terrorist. It's like they say, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." It all depends on your perspective I suppose. From my ideological perspective, all killing is wrong because there is never a good enough reason to do so. However, from my perspective as a sister, I would vaporize the entire damn country of Iraq if I knew that doing so would bring him back safe to us. Suddenly, the life of others becomes so cheap. Maybe I found my dark side after all.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

I need a Paris!

Well, it has been over a week since my last post. I indicated last Friday that I knew the holiday week was going to be extremely busy, but I had no idea what kind of week I was in for.

Saturday--Erik and I woke up to the phone ringing at 6 am Saturday morning. It was Erik's dad Jim calling to tell us that Sue's (Erik's stepmother) mother Betty had passed away. It was completely unexpected. Jim and Sue had been with her and her husband just a few hours before. She had been in a lot of pain due to a surgery for arthritis, but she had checked into a pain management center and was doing really well. It was very sad. Sue's family is fairly large and so Erik and I spent much of Saturday cooking food for them. Sue is always there for us so it was the least we could do.

Monday--I went to work on Monday. Peter, one of my managing editors, was on vacation so I backed him up. However, it was a totally unproductive day otherwise. It doesn't seem very smart to make people work the day before a holiday that is on a Tuesday. Oh well, what can you do?

Tuesday--Erik went and visited his dad on Tuesday. Jim had been very sick since Sunday, but since there has been a lot of stuff going around, we didn't think much about it. The 4th just didn't feel right this year. We did the usual barbeque at Grandma Bonnie's house. I found out that my dear friend from elementary through high school, Jenny Ward's mother Helen died of cancer last Monday. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend her service because I had already missed work. Helen was a great lady who always treated me so well. I will always remember her for her sense of humor. I remember one time when Jenny and I decided that it would be a good idea to put down pillows and blankets on the floor and launch ourselves off the top of her bunk bed. We were on the second level and directly over Helen, who was watching t.v. I remember her running up the stairs after about the fifth loud "booom!" and saying, "What in God's name do you think you are doing?" We couldn't really hide what we were doing so in the most nonchalant way we could, we explained that we were jumping off the bunk beds. "Well, you're going to come through the floor so stop it." Then, she went downstairs, but I think she was laughing. She was always like that. Helen will truly be missed.

Wednesday--We got home from work and had planned on going to Betty's visitation. However, there was a message from Sue asking us to call her. As it turned out, Jim had appendicitis and they thought his appendix had burst so he had to have an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday night. He came through the surgery unbelievably well and his appendix had not ruptured. As bad as our week was, Sue's week was much worse.

Thursday--We went to Betty's funeral on Thursday at the First Southern Baptist Church in Topeka. I have never been to a Southern Baptist funeral (or anything for that matter), but I can honestly say it is not an experience that I want to repeat. The preacher was like a used car salesman and it seemed that his whole agenda was getting money for their missionaries to convert hethens. I despise missionaries, regardless of the faith, and to be subjected to this crap at someone's funeral seems wrong. Oh well, as it says in "Al-Kafiroon" in the Qur'an, "To you your religion to me my religion. (In Arabic, "A deen kum aletheen adeen"). The service felt like it went on forever, especially with a 17-month old who burst out into a rendition of "Ba ba black sheep" during the first prayer. Finally, we left and visited Jim for a while. I was so exhausted that I didn't go back to work. I went to Dog Days on Thursday night and felt much better. I love working out! It is so hard, but so worth it, especially when you are only doing it for yourself. In high school and junior high, I despised sports. I've come to realize it is because I got tired of people screaming, yelling, and pressuring me to be good at sports that I genuinely sucked at. No wonder I ended up with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. Now that there is no pressure I really enjoy them.

Saturday--Finally, on a good note, Erik and I had a date last night. For Father's Day, I took him to a Royals game. They played the Toronto Blue Jays. It was Buck night so hotdogs, small sodas, and peanuts were a dollar. Since it was a gift, I splurged and bought him good seats and had Mom and Grandma Genny watch Noah. I had never been to a Royals game before. In fact, the only professional sport that I had ever seen was the Blackhawks vs. the Bruins when I lived in Chicago. I saw K-State play football a number of times when I was in junior high. I went with my junior high boyfriend Jarod and his family. If it wasn't for them, I never could have went because there is no way in hell my parents would have taken five kids to any sports event. It was then that I realized that I really enjoyed this sort of thing. Anyways, once again I digress. I really had a wonderful time. The Royals lost and we didn't get any donuts because they only got 8 hits, but it was fun. It was the perfect way to end a really crappy week.

This was a really boring post, but it was incredibly therapeutic for me. Thanks for listening! Next time, Somalia and North Korea...

Friday, June 30, 2006

Independence Day, Indeed!

What a week! I am so glad it is Friday. However, this weekend and the 4th of July holiday promise to be busy. Independence Day will have new meaning this year since Derek joined the Marine Corp, and since he won't be there with us, it will be one more very stressful holiday. More than ever, I am sure that I will struggle with not making snide comments when the patriotic music roars and the mortars and fireworks go off. At the same time, I'm sure I will tear up when I hear the Star Spangled Banner. Before we had Noah, Erik and I would sit on a blanket behind all of the relatives on the Brunin side of the family and give political commentary on what was wrong with American foreign policy. We thought it was hysterical. Some of my relatives, namely Aunt Debbie, made it very clear that they did not appreciate our political wit. So we stopped. I figured that it wasn't worth ruining their holiday. I wish I could revel in mindless patriotism. I don't mean that badly. I wish I could just enjoy it like I used to, but with everything going on, I just can't.

The funny thing is, I love the 4th of July. It is one holiday where I don't have to try and figure out whether it is compatible with my Islamic beliefs. I'm American, so I celebrate Independence Day. I love the traditional BBQ at the Brunins and I love fighting off the enormous mosquitoes at the park, seeing people I haven't seen in years, and oohing and aahing over the fireworks. For being a small town, St. Marys has an excellent display. This year I am particularly excited to show Noah the fireworks. I don't know what his reaction will be, but it will be fun, I think.

As I was saying, with everything going on, I just can't feel the swelling of pride in my chest that I used to. I think it was 9/11 that everything changed. Before 9/11, it was American Independence Day. Now it just feels like one more reason people have to tell you to shut your mouth. Instead of playing "America the Beautiful," radio stations play Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue", reminding everyone why it is necessary to kick the rest of the world's ass if they look at us wrong, or Lee Greenwood, reminding us that no matter how bad things are, we should be grateful that we are in America because being an American makes everything okay. Sure, you don't have any food for your children, but at least you are American!

Then, there was the flag-burning amendment that failed this week (thank God), put through exactly a week before the holiday. I don't know if the resolution that passed today condemning the U.S. media was supposed to coincide with the holiday, but it seemed about as unpatriotic as it could get. I know we are at war and civil liberties die during times of war. They always have in American history. I guess I thought that we had progressed beyond that point. Maybe I am imagining it, but before 9/11, both the liberals and conservatives would have stood up and protested against loss of freedom of the press, or being wiretapped, or having their financial transactions viewed without their knowledge. They knew what was acceptable and what was not. Loss of civil liberties was not acceptable. Now it is as if no one cares, or if they do care, they feel powerless to do anything about it. It's like someone zapped this country with a 25-megaton apathy bomb.

Honestly, I am no exception. I heard about the database of phone records and I was like, "Well, if they want to listen to me discuss the skin problem that my rat suffers from, or how I just purchased new drapes, go ahead." Then I thought, "You know, that is unacceptable. It is none of their damn business that my rat has mites. They are invading my privacy, pure and simple. Why should they get to know about the intimate details of my life when they are unwilling to share information that by all rights, should be public record? You tell me why you need the records and give a good answer, not a generic 'the terrorists will win if you don't' answer, and maybe I will consider allowing them to spy on me on a limited basis (unlikely, but maybe it really is a good reason)."

As American taxpayers, we are entitled to some answers, damn it. I guess that is what is so ludicrous about the resolution passed today. News organizations, whether they be Fox News or the New York Times, provide us with information that we might not otherwise have. They are an unofficial check on the government and they are vitally important. If these news organizations do whatever the government tells them to do, we might as well not have the media. What would be the point? After all this rant, I really don't have an answer. I just know that we should not allow ourselves to become desensitized to these gradual erosions of our civil liberties. When something outrages us, we should tell someone about it. You might end up in an argument or a fight, but at least we're talking about it. We are still exercising our freedom of speech, whether we're conservative, liberal, moderate, Smurf, or whatever.

This 4th of July, I think I will resurrect the political commentary that Erik and I used to engage in. Sure, it will piss people off, but at least we will be capturing the real meaning of Independence Day and everything that it represents. We will truly be celebrating the 4th of July. God Bless America and Happy 4th of July. Let's go raise some hell, American-style!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hijab vs. Exercise: Round 1

Alright, I have a confession to make to the world. When I exercise or play sports, I don't wear my hijab. I used to. Honestly I did. When I first starting wearing hijab it was wintertime and in the wintertime, I tend to hibernate, doing very little physical activity except yoga, and consuming mass quantities of food. Mainly my hijab kept me warm. However, spring came and although it was a bit warm, I could handle it. Then came summer in eastern Kansas. For anyone who has spent anytime in eastern Kansas from about mid-April until early October, you know how humid it is. Then the heat sets in.

The first summer that I wore my hijab I was pregnant and on very light bed rest for the first trimester. I only went from my office to home so the heat didn't seem that oppressive. Then, most of the next summer I was working from noon to nine and staying home with Noah in the morning so no real exercise regimen last summer and thus, no problems. However, this year I wanted to get really active. Clearly, age and pregnancy have affected my metabolism because I weigh more now than I ever have (I am fortunate because my BMI is still very good, but I don't want to take that for granted).

When my co-workers formed a softball team, I was happy to sign up. However, I didn't know what to do about wearing my hijab because I didn't want to be a heat-stroke victim. So I wore a bandana. I was still covered, right? However, about 10 minutes into practice, the bandana fell off. I tried to put it back on, but as soon as I went up to hit, it fell off again. "Screw it," I grumbled and threw it to the side. I haven't worn it to a softball game since. I keep waiting for a big bus of Muslims that I know to drive up and say, "Danielle, I thought you wore hijab; I guess you're going to burn in hell. (Not too mention that I play in a coed league and my husband doesn't go to the games, double hell). The funny thing is, that no one knows the difference. I am tall, pale, an adopted blonde,and I have blue eyes. Nobody knows the difference. Even though it is essentially a beer league, I absolutely do not drink any alcohol, an occasional root beer maybe, but not anything else.

I had essentially the same thing happen at Dog Days. For non-Lawrencians, Dog Days is an intense conditioning led by a retired police officer who was tired of high school athletes getting injured because they didn't condition properly during the summer. It meets two to three times a day twice a week depending on the month and has two runs on Saturday. There are approximately consistently 400-500 crazy people ranging in age from infant to elderly, fat people, skinny people, old, young, KU track stars, and people like me, etc. who meet at these times at Memorial Stadium to be tortured by Red Dog. The only real rules are that you do as much as you are capable, no less, no more, and you absolutely cannot laugh at anyone else. I am totally addicted. However, the workouts are very intense and if I were to wear a hijab I am convinced that I would drop dead. Once again, nobody knows the difference and everybody who is there is there to workout, not gawk at the opposite sex.

The point of hijab is to be modest. I can assure you that I am at my most modest when I am working out. Greasy hair, beads of sweat dripping down my eggplant purple face, and big, sweaty stains under my arms and on my back. Most Muslims argue that the point of hijab, other than being symbolic, is to not draw attention to oneself and blend in as best you can. Therefore, it begs the question: If a hijab makes you conspicuous in various situations, should you wear it? Passing out from heat would definitely make me stand out in a crowd. I think working out is a very good thing and I feel so much better after I do it. As a Muslim (as in most other religions), you are supposed to take very good care of your body. I think working out would fall into that category. However, does wearing hijab trump taking care of your body? Is hijab taking care of your body?

In all fairness, I should point out that if I were in an Islamic country, I would abide by and participate in exercise activities that were deemed appropriate by the local population. It is very much a cultural issue. For that matter, is hijab a cultural issue? I suppose I could delve into the Samuel Huntington "clash of civilizations" theory in terms of hijab and women's exercise, but I have already wrote a much longer post than I intended. In closing, is not wearing hijab while exercising my Western cultural baggage and an insult to the Islamic faith, or a pragmatic approach to a religion that is, Qu'ranically speaking, supposed to be practical?

I don't mean to run the hijab issue into the ground, but it was in the forefront of my mind since I went to Dog Days tonight. Also, it has been a slow couple of days news-wise. Well, except for Americans still having freedom of speech since the flag burning amendment didn't pass. Yeah! However, that is another post. Cheers!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The meaning of jihad and a tribute to Dr. Deborah "Misty" Gerner

Hi! My name is Danielle Brunin and I became a Muslim approximately three years ago. My life as an American Muslim can be a little complicated at times. I am American in every since of the word, yet I have adopted a belief system that can be very foreign to the average American. For example, I don't drink and I don't eat pork. Being originally from a small town in the Midwest, to not drink or eat pork (among other things) is to essentially be from another planet. I was actually raised Catholic and attended Loyola University until I was a sophomore in college when I transferred to KU. It was here that I began to study Africa and the Middle East and became interested in Islam.

I decided to call this site "My mid-twenty-something jihad" because my life as an American Muslim can be rather complicated at times. Jihad, contrary to popular belief, doesn't just mean "holy war." Although it has about 150 different meanings in Arabic, the one that is most relevant to me means "personal struggle", a very deep personal struggle. I feel as though I carry on a jihad in my heart every day, trying to discover who I am and what I should be.

The most relevant example I can think of right now is that my brother Derek who is a proud U.S. Marine (and who I am unbelievably proud of), faces the very real possibility of being deployed to Iraq in the next few months. I cry as I write this because the job that he could be doing entails some very serious danger. I struggle every day to deal with the fact that he may be fighting in a war that I have vehemently opposed since the very beginning, and could kill or be killed by the very people that claim to be my brothers and sisters in Islam. I love Islam dearly, but I don't think my faith in any religion could survive if something, God forbid, happened to him. That is part of my jihad and I don't have an answer as to what is right or wrong because it all seems wrong to me. I believe in peace and social justice in a world where it just doesn't exist. That is my jihad everyday.

Similarly, I want to pay tribute to a dear professor of mine at the University of Kansas, Dr. Deborah "Misty" Gerner who died on June 19, 2006 of metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Gerner had such a profound impact on what I want to do with my life. She was an internationally renowned expert on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the peace process. Since I have decided that I want to eventually pursue graduate studies in this area, she was an incredible influence on me. I took her "Politics of the Middle East" class in the spring of 2002 and she taught it brilliantly. She was so objective, I honestly wouldn't have known her opinions on many subjects, except that she attended many of the rallies and protests that I attended. I loved the class where she made the "pro-Israeli" students role play the Palestinians and vice versa with the "pro-Palestinian" students. I loved the fact that she would call on me when I didn't volunteer the answer to a question because somehow she knew that I knew it, and that gave me so much confidence in my ability. I remember that she was so happy that I was studying Arabic and was thrilled that I was going to study abroad in Morocco for the summer. I remember how proudly she wore her black checkered kaffiyeh at a Palestinian protest that I attended, yet she was admired by the counterprotesting pro-Israeli students. I always knew that if I was attending a rally or protest and she was there, that I was undoubtedly doing the right thing. Her commitment to peace and social justice will live on forever.

I sobbed yesterday when I was told that she had stated that she desperately didn't want to die. In fact, I am told she taught her classes even after the cancer had spread to her brain. I am comforted by the fact that she died at home because I can't imagine a free spirit like her being confined to a hospital. I mourn the good that she could have done in another 20, 10, or even 5 years, but the good that she has done will affect the world forevermore. Her death has made me realize my own mortality because even though I know on a conscious level that we will all die, I realized this week that if someone as good and a strong as her can die so young, none of the rest of us have a chance. Dr. Gerner, thank you, and may your memory be eternal.