Somalia: Lost Faces

Posted in Canada, Muslims, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Uncategorized, USA | No Comments


 

I cannot express in words how horrifying and difficult it must be for the people of Somalia while they endure this famine. Today I am fasting, and I am really thirsty right now. Imagine how they feel.

People are walking to neighbouring countries in search of food and water, sometimes never meeting their destination. They are in dire need of our help.

We often times feel helpless in these situations. We think to ourselves there is nothing I can do to help them. But that is not true. You can play a part, by telling people what is going on in Somalia, and you can donate and encourage others to do so as well.

I have read many comments such as, “where are their fellow Muslims,” or “where are the oil rich Gulf nations now?”  Well this is for you; Saudi Arabia alone has donated $60 Million in aid to Somalia. The OIC (Organization of the Islamic Cooperation), has donated 3000 tons of humanitarian aid. Kuwait has donated $10 Million in aid to Somalia as well. Qatar has provided a make-shift relief camp that can feed up to 8000 people, as well a providing medical care. The UAE has sent aid twice in the last few months, consisting of food, tanker trucks for water, shelter and medical supplies.

This is just merely the list that I have quickly researched, I am sure there are many other “Muslim” countries sending aid as well.

Rasool Allah (saw) said, “If you save one life, it is as if you have saved all of humanity.”

So I plead, please do not let these people be forgotten and their faces lost forever. Play a part and make a contribution to save a life!

You can also check out:

Somalian Famine Refugees

Donate to Somalia (Islamic Relief)

Donate to Somalia (UNHCR: United Nations Refugee Agency)

OIC Aid to Somalia

 

Converts

Posted in Canada, Muslims, Saudi Arabia, USA | 3 Comments

Many people convert to Islam as a belief, but do not put it into practice. Why you may ask? Because most do not have good Muslims around them, to guide them through this difficult transition. Changing your whole way of life is not easy! It’s even more difficult when they are still living at home, or have family opposing them.

Luckily for me, alhumdulillah, I had a great group of people around me to help me. Truly, without them, I do not think I would be where I am now. My family was also somewhat accepting of it, which made a huge difference.

Many people see people giving their shahada (testimony of faith) at their local mosque, but how many of them reach out a helping hand? I remember the day I converted crystal clear, as if it were yesterday. It was Friday, August 1st, 2003 and I was 17 years old. I called the local mosque only to get a voice message and after the third attempt someone actually answered. I was told to come after the Friday prayer to meet the director of the mosque who would bring me to the imam to give my shahada. After the difficulty in finding the mosque I approached an old man to ask where to go, who brought me to his wife to show me the ladies section, she greeted me with a frown and a disgusted look, I assume because I was talking to her husband, even though they both were probably older than my grandparents. I then went to the ladies section on the second floor where I had many awkward stares. Then the most scary thing happened. Everyone stood up in unison to pray. So I just followed them, not knowing what the heck I was doing.

After the prayer and asking many people without success, I found the director of the mosque who brought me to the imam where I gave my shahada. I met the most wonderful lady there, Sister Omnia, who taught me how to pray. She followed up with me to see how I was, if I was managing well with the prayers and encouraged me to pray on time and to learn Islam more deeply. It was through her that I was introduced to the Shabab Centre (Canada), where I met some wonderful Saudi’s, and also a wonderful group of Egyptian ladies that taught me Quran, Hadith and Arabic privately and also introduced me to the halaqa that they lead at the local University. Without their help, I would not be where I am today. I like to call my decision to convert to Islam finding that missing puzzle piece in my life, and finally the puzzle was complete.

I know in my journey of finding Islam and also with many others, the journey is long and most often challenging, but with the right people supporting you, you can really prosper. Without a good group of people supporting you, most likely you will call yourself a Muslim, but in no way behave like one. Having belief in your heart is one thing, but when your actions do not resemble that belief, then you know there is something missing on your behalf. When I became Muslim I told myself, this is not a half-half thing, it is all or nothing.

So my point here is if you see a new Muslim, help them, direct them to halaqa’s and befriend them. Trust me it would be the greatest gift you could ever give them, because they need the moral support.

Dealing with Change

Posted in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Culture, Saudi Youth, Social Issues, Uncategorized, USA, Youth | 1 Comment

We all have to deal with change. Change is inevitable and is a natural part of life. It can be growing older, moving to a new home (city or country), being diagnosed with cancer, staying up-to-date with technological advancements, death in the family, birth of a child, marriage, divorce, starting a new job, being laid-off or even fired. Change comes both big and small, easy and hard, expected and unexpected!

Most of us are uncomfortable with what we don’t know or haven’t experienced. So we are naturally uncomfortable with change and most often resist it, at least at first.

Sometimes the solution to a problem is to change how we see it. We should look at life changes as opportunities and really take the chance to learn about ourselves and broaden our horizons.

I know many people, including myself who were reluctant to join Facebook at first, way back when it was a baby. At first I was like, “Do I really want my information available online and how secure is it?” But after a while and looking in to it, I discovered that I could control who sees what, and that I can accept, ignore or decline friend requests. After realizing that I am the one who is in control and weighed the pros and the cons, I went ahead and opened an account.

Moving is another life change that we all have to deal with. Moving is stressful even if its a few blocks away, let alone half way across the world. As an expat living in Saudi Arabia, I can tell you that everyone goes through stages when moving abroad. At first its exciting, almost vacation like. Then when you realize that you’re not on 2 week vacation you become uneasy, missing what you have left behind, and often times noticing and complaining of anything and everything that is different. This phase is the most difficult, many people can get stuck in it, and others decide to move back home. After overcoming this phase you come to truly appreciate all of the wonderful things your new home has to offer, and realize that you will never find that perfect place, because it does not exist!

For me, living in Saudi Arabia has taught me to be more tolerant and patient. The greatest lesson I have learnt is that we all behave according to how we see things, and the way we see things is just our own perception of it and it does not mean that there is not another way to look at it. When we close our eye’s to new or different  places, things, or experiences, we really are closing doors of opportunities to enrich ourselves.

So when things are thrown your way, accept it and make the best out of it. You never know where it will bring you and how much you can learn from it!

You can also check out:

Tips for Dealing with Change

Under the Veil

Posted in Canada, Muslims, Social Issues, Uncategorized, USA | No Comments

People often do not see the person under the veil, all they can see is the cloth that covers you.

Ever since veiling since my conversion to Islam I have noticed the difference in the way people deal with me. People assume that I am what many people call a “foreigner” or “FOB” (Fresh Off the Boat). When I speak many people say, “Your English is very good, you have no accent at all.” Ah well of course I don’t, I am a Canadian with an Irish and Scottish background and my family has been in Canada for many generations. I understand that stereotypes come into play, but just because I am Muslim and dress in Islamic attire, it does not mean I am an Arab, a Middle Easterner, from Pakistan or Iran.

I just wish that people would see me for who I am. Do you remember the old school playground saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Well isn’t that far from the truth. I do not know how many times that I have been called a terrorist, ninja, foreigner, been told to get out of the country because of my choice of dress and religion, even been told that it is not Halloween. I have even had an egg thrown at me once, actually just days of  me donning the hijab and becoming Muslim, the egg splattered all over my new coat. In the West, there is rarely a day that passes by without having a negative or racist comment, a rude or eye rolling look, or starring, just because of my choice of dress. I have cried numerous times because of some people’s behaviour. The funny thing is that if I chose to be atheist, no one would care, if I chose to wear all black Gothic-style clothing, no one would care, or if I chose to dye my hair bright pink or blue, no one would care, but if I dress in the Islamic attire, all of a sudden people care.

I know and acknowledge all of the very kind and sweet people in the West, who tell me to be brave and to ignore all of the haters. Truly, there is so much more love in this world than hate. It just depends on how you wish to see it. But there are way too many people who willingly chose to hate and judge you by your looks, your gender, your sexual orientation, your ethnicity, the colour of your skin, or your socio-economic status, rather than who you are as a person.

So why do people just look at you, judge you, make crude remarks or looks, make assumptions of your character and beliefs, without ever speaking to you or dealing with you? How fair is that? Don’t they realize that under my veil is a woman with a heart, with feelings, who cries just as they do, who hurts just as they hurt, who bleeds red just as they do.

Life is way too short to spend it in hating someone or something. Treat others as you wish to be treated, its a very simple principle but if practiced it would certainly make this world a much better place for you and me.

As Mother Theresa once said, “If you spend all your time judging others, you will have no time to love them.”

 

Perfection

Posted in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Youth, Social Issues, USA, Youth | 5 Comments

 

We are constantly bombarded with images from the media to tell us what is beautiful, what is popular, what to buy, and it shapes how we see ourselves and our surroundings. You might think to yourself when looking in the mirror, only if my nose was a little smaller, only if my jaw line was more defined, only if I could have a better shaped mid-section, only if my behind was more like Kim Kardashian, then I would look good. If you let it get the better of you, you may even find yourself extremely self conscious and with low self esteem.

Its one thing to get the latest in beauty products and clothes, but what we should not do, is to go to the extremes of plastic surgery to achieve what we think is beautiful, or to become anorexic or bulimic to attain a certain weight or body image.

Plastic surgery is an ever increasing trend worldwide. The demand for plastic surgery in Saudi Arabia has increased ten fold in recent years. The majority of the work is done on women, however, many men are increasingly going under the knife as well. The most popular procedures are liposuction, rhinoplasty (nose jobs), and breast enlargements. People are even going to the extent of applying for loans to pay for procedures that are not necessary, such as procedures to make you have similar features to famous actors, actresses and musicians.

Why is plastic surgery an increasing trend? Are there deeper issues and emotions behind the reasons to go under the knife? Have we become so obsessed with perfection?

The images of celebrities we see on T.V, online and in the magazines are almost always photoshopped, with the help of additional lighting and the result of  personal trainers, stylists, make-up artists and hair stylists. These images that we see seem perfect, but most of these people in the images do not actually look like that in real life and especially so when they wake up in the mornings.

We need to remember that we are beautiful as is. No one is perfect! Each one of us is unique, our beauty and value is derived from who we are as people, not how we look, what language we speak, whether we are carrying a “Guess” or “Prada” purse, or if we are rich or poor. Our beauty and value comes from the content of our characters.

So always remember that you are beautiful, you have great value and if you could be anyone is this world, you should be you!

You can also check out:

Plastic Surgery on The Rise in Saudi Arabia

Under The Knife for a Better Life

Escapism

Posted in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, USA | 1 Comment

 

Do you ever feel frustrated or depressed from the stress of work, or school, with your parents, spouse, or kids? Sometimes escaping or stepping outside of your reality, even if for a moment can really relieve that tension or sadness that you feel.

Escaping reality for a while can be a good thing, but when the means of escapism is drugs, alcohol and/or illicit relationships (being promiscuous, or having affairs), well that’s a recipe for disaster!

You might just want to zone out for a while and listen to music, pray, daydream, relax by the water or just be alone, and that is just fine and actually good for your overall well being. But when you use destructive or excessive means to escape whatever it is that your facing, you are actually making things worse!

Many people turn to drugs, alcohol, and sex to escape their realities and cover up their problems and what they are really feeling inside. It makes you feel good and for a moment you forget the world around you. But that high or moment of bliss lasts only a moment, and then you are left with the consequence of your choices and the same reality you were facing before.

Substance abuse and addictions are an increasing trend worldwide. Some people drink alcohol, smoke weed (marijuana), sniff glue or the fumes of gasoline, or snort cocaine. Once you make the choice and abuse drugs you can easily become addicted. Sometimes it just takes one time and you become addicted, this is especially the case with heavy narcotics.

The Ministry of Health, here in Saudi Arabia has committed to building 16 more insitutions nation-wide to battle the increase in substance abuse, addictions and mental health. It really makes you wonder why is substance abuse, addictions and depression increasing worldwide and Saudi Arabia specifically? What can be done to fight it?

Most importantly if you are or you know someone who is abusing drugs, seek help! Talk to someone you trust and seek medical help. There is no shame in having a drug or alcohol problem, the shame is knowing that you have it or knowing of someone who needs help and yet do nothing about it!

You can also check out:

Addicted to Glue

Drug Addiction in Saudi Arabia

Dealing with Addictions and Substance Abuse

Always Girls

Posted in Canada, Muslims, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, USA | 3 Comments

Have you ever noticed that Muslim families tend to focus their efforts on the girls of the family, rather the boys? From my experience and observations, many Muslim families living in the West, as well as here in Saudi Arabia, ensure that their daughters wear the Islamic attire and are “proper,” while leaving their sons to manage themselves.

I know many families in the USA and Canada, whose daughters wear the hijab or niqab and behave according to Islamic etiquette, while their brothers have girlfriends and are more “open” (I will leave that definition for you).

Guys need just as much mentoring as the girls, actually I think they need even more, with all that they are bombarded with on T.V, Internet and the peer pressure they face at school. Why does society leave the guys to fend for themselves, while sheltering and nurturing the girls? People just assume that the male youth can take care of themselves and will grow into men. But unfortunately that is not always the case.

Both genders need equal efforts from their parents and society. Parents and society need to instill values, ethics and a sense of responsibility in both the male and female youth. If you leave out half of the population while sheltering the rest, what do expect? So if you see guys in their cars chasing around girls, or abusing drugs and/or alcohol, realize where the finger of fault should be pointed towards.

So I plead, please do not forget your sons, they need your guidance and wisdom just as much as your daughters. You do not want to see your daughters flourish, while your sons are lost. I have witnessed this too many times and cannot stand to see it again.

You really do reap what you sow!

 

Reach for The Stars

Posted in Social Issues | 1 Comment

 
You only have one chance in this world, so cease every moment of opportunity! Sometimes we let life get in the way of things, we get boggled down with school, work and our daily schedules. Often leaving ourselves at the bottom of the “to do list.”

We need to live each day as its our last, while also dreaming and preparing for our futures as if we’d live forever. Savour life and the precious moments we have with our friends and families. 24 hours in a day is more than enough to do the things you want to do, only if you arrange your time properly. You can create a healthy balance in your life: for hobbies, work, school, friends, family, worship and still get a good nights sleep.

So if you like something, pursue it! If you do not know enough about it, learn it! Do not let anything stand in your way! Make your dreams come true.

For me it was creating this website, learning Arabic (still am) and pursuing my love for the arts, in particular photography. You have to push yourself to take that first step. It’s difficult, yes, but not impossible. The only thing that is impossible is what you think is impossible.

Live your dreams…do not let them fade away, this will be a great injustice to yourself. There is really nothing more fulfilling than living your dream. So go for it! Yallah!

Don’t say that there is not enough time; you cannot do it; its too hard, its impossible. Give all your excuses a black eye and hit the ground running forward.

Photography: Interview with Aya Salamah

Posted in Photography, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Youth | 2 Comments

 

The following interview is to show the world the talent that exists in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia really is a land of opportunities and potential, and I hope that you can see that through her interview. So without further ado, I give you Aya Salamah :) 

1. Please introduce yourself.

My name is Aya Ehssan Salamah, and I’m 16 years old. I’m a Saudi from Madinah Al Munarawah, but I am living in Jeddah.

2. What are your hobbies, dreams, passions?

I want to study in the field of media and would like to become a director. My hobbies are photography and to direct short films that have meaning and purpose.

3. How and when did you become interested in photography?

I became interested in photography three years ago. There was a photographer who made me love photography through his camera. I like photography because it captures beautiful shots of our lives.

4. What is your favourite things to photography and why?

I like the Drop Splash shots and portraits. I love Nikon cameras, they are made perfectly and brilliantly, which allows the photographer to show their creations.

5. Are you a self taught photographer or have you taken any courses?

I learnt by myself, but I did take some Internet lessons.

6. Do you believe that there is an increase of interest in photography and the arts in general in Saudi Arabia amongst the youth? If yes, then why?

Yes, there is a very large interest in photography. Young men and women have opened exhibitions to show their work and to show others their views through their creative photographs.

7. Are there many places for the youth to share and express their artistic abilities in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, as I mentioned before, there are groups, exhibitions, and photography sessions and there are many participants. There are also contests through educational institutions and the Media Ministry to motivate talented photographers.

8. What advice would you give to people who are interested in photography and just starting to get to know the camera?

I advise them that they should have a love for photography or a passion for it. They should join the educational sessions and learn how to use the camera and develop talent.

9. Is there anything else you would like to add or share about yourself or Saudi Arabia?

I want to learn more about photography and especially media. I also would really like to meet directors of movies and top photographers.

Advice: I would say that if anyone wants to learn more, they should learn more about what they like or hobbies they like.

10. Would you like to provide your email address, Twitter, Facebook or Flickr URL for people to reach you?

Yes I would like to :D

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/AyaSalamah/

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yooyoocom/

Weekend in Riyadh

Posted in Festivals, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Culture | 2 Comments


My trip to Riyadh was great, despite having to make two trips over the past two weekends. Janadriyah was amazing! Crowded this past Thursday, but a great opportunity to truly experience Saudi culture.

 

If you ever find yourself in Saudi Arabia, you must make the trip to see Riyadh. There are 3 places that you must go to if you are ever in Riyadh: the National Museum, Faisaliyah Tower and Kingdom Centre. I must say, the museum and surrounding area is amazing, you will not be disappointed. You will leave the museum with a better understanding of the Saudi culture, tradtions and history, and of course some great pictures, thats if you bring you camera.

 

If you are up for traditional Saudi food, you should visit Najd Village, the saleeq there is amazing! It is a great place to eat traditional Saudi food in a traditional environment.

 

I recommend visiting:
For those who wish to attend the last week of Janadriyah, but not quite sure how to get there, it is about 30 km outside of Riyadh’s city centre, in the direction of King Fahd Airport and Thumama. You will see some road signs along the way. I will post the exact coordinates. Family times start at 4 pm, and during the day is only for men.

 

You can also check out:

 

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