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Remembering Rahma

Rahma Salie, her name means mercy. She was my first friend in college; she and her husband, Micky, and their unborn baby died on 9/11.

I met her during international students orientation. Although she has thousands of friends all over the world, when she spoke to you, it felt like you were the only person that meant something to her.

I asked our mutual friend, Naho Kamikawa, to share some memories of Rahma-

But one day stands out clearly, and it is the day and moment we all met – at the International Student’s Orientation at Slater. I remember how I ran into Rahma and I think she was already with you and Sabene when I greeted her at the brunch buffet.

A couple of days later, we visited you and Sabene at your dorm room at Bates, beautifully done in newly laid out carpet. We hung at in your room and we talked about our exciting days to come.

I also remember how she became very involved and in touch with her religion at Wellesley. I also knew her very briefly back in Tokyo too, but I think it was at Wellesley where she embraced Muslim [Islam].

Away from home for the first time during Ramadan, we would try to figure out ways to sneak food into our dorm room for Suhoor. The dining hall  had a huge freezer with 6 flavors of ice cream, we sneaking in laughing and tripping- Suhoor with mint chocolate chip icecream was delicious. Our friends, Heather volunteered to fast with us, it was the first time either one of us had to explain why we fasted to anyone, we had always just done it- We started searching for answers so we could give them to her, talking with Heather was my first step towards practicing my deen.  I remember Jum’ah with Rahma, in a small room in Chapel, getting jealous because the Hillel room was so large . Apprehensively, going to our first AlMuslimat meeting not sure if we would be accepted.

She met Micheal while she was still in college. Micky, as he was lovingly called,  was raised as a Greek Orthodox Christian accepted Islam prior to his marriage to Rahma.

The last time I saw her was on Newbury Street in Boston, where her parents now run a café. We introduced our fiancées’ to each other, giddy in each other’s happiness.  She must have been glowing and happy when she boarded that American Flight 11, she was going to attend a friend’s wedding in Los Angeles. Her baby would have now been my daughter’s age. The lesson I learned from 9/11: never take a day for granted, for life is very fragile and very short.

My pain in her loss in no less than anyone else’s in America, just because we are Muslim. Her friends still miss her and mourn her, many are gathering together this weekend at the college campus where Rahma spent 4 years of her life. 9/11 was personal to me then as it is now.

Sometimes you can not explain all the pain and suffering which man experiences as a result of evil but if you see it as preparation for the experience and attainment of joy and contentment of good.  ‘Evil is not created or valued for its own sake, rather it is created for the necessary manifestation, realization and accomplishment of good. Hence, at the cosmic plane, evil which is limited and relative in nature contributes to the realization of the total good.’

She would not want to be remembered as a victim for she was such a positive ruh (soul) . Her friends still gather from all around the world every year to celebrate her life. Family and friends add pictures to a virtual memorial. There are photos of uncles and aunts from Sri Lanka, and cousins, best friends from her childhood in Japan, roommates from college, wedding pictures, a life interrupted. Inna lil lahi wa inna ilay ho rajioon. To Allah she belonged and to Him is surely her return. Please say a dua (prayer) for my friend. She really was a genuinely amazing person. May Allah SWT grant her Jannah tul Firdaus and give sabr Kamilah (divine patience) to her parents and siblings. The constant reminder of how she died, forces them to relive her death over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your hope in my heart is the rarest treasure
Your Name on my tongue is the sweetest word
My choicest hours
Are the hours I spend with You –
O Allah, I can’t live in this world
Without remembering You–
How can I endure the next world
Without seeing Your face?
I am a stranger in Your country
And lonely among Your worshippers:
This is the substance of my complaint.

Rabia Basriya

My sister Umme Maryam translated and transcribed this lecture by Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmed (db) from Urdu- I have condensed it for readability.

It is written in the Maktoobat of Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alf Thani that the night of 15th Shabaan is the budget night of the Islamic calendar year.  A simple example is that every nation prepares a budget for the upcoming year, a sort of “to-do list” which determines what tasks need to be undertaken.  Once prepared, the (national) organizations work according to the outlined policies.

Allah’s system is similar, a to-do list is prepared in which all  the tasks to be undertaken in the upcoming year are finalized.  The children to be born, the individuals written to die, the sustenance (rizq) one gets, the accidents, the diseases, the honors bestowed, the humiliations destined.  All the activities of the next year are drawn up.

That is why the Holy Prophet said, “I prefer to be in a state of fasting the day the next year’s list of dead is drawn. “ We do not know whose name will be in that list. No one knows when one will die.

If we ponder, all the problems facing human beings are related to this (list of) sustenance in one way or the other.  A woman is unable to bear children, a man cannot get married (his attaining a wife is also related to rizq), a person is unsuccessful in getting a job, getting a job is included in rizq.  So if you look closely, the majority of our problems are sustenance-related. i.e. somewhere, a daughter does not get a proposal, a wife does not get her husband’s love, a husband does not get his wife’s loyalty.  Someone’s business fails, another is crushed under debt, one works tough hours but cannot pay for his children’s education.

Since the majority of our problems are related to rizq, and this is the special time the list of rizq allocation is being prepared, then it makes sense that this is the time one should beseech Allah the most.

15th Shabaan to 27th Ramadan- Time to Ask

When this list starts being prepared, Allah grants a special mercy to the people, He gives the people a true chance and a lengthy time to ask.   This time extends from 15th Shabaan to 27th Ramadan.  The decisions are finalized on the 27th of Ramadan and then the list is forwarded to the angels for execution.  In other words, had the Lord wanted, then the decision would have been made in one night alone and the deed would be done. But no, the slaves are granted a chance to ask for a longer time.  Ask for shifa for diseases, protection from difficulties; ask whatever you may, the doors of Allah’s treasures are open.

That is why Ramadan is such an important month.  It is a month of blessings and mercy.  Allah says,

‘O My slaves, remain hungry and thirsty, you will get reward, you heart will attain Nur, divert your attention to Me, ask Me, and I will give you.’

Because Allah wants to forgive his slaves, He gives us more than a month to ask. So instead of being pushed around by and spreading our hands in front of the created, why not ask the Creator?  He wants to Give, then why not ask the One who loves to Give. Ajeeb, Allah is happy when He gives and man is happy when he gets.  Ask Allah.

That is why the days and nights of Ramadan are very important. We should not pass them in negligence.  We should ask. We have time until Ramadan 27. The more we ask, the better Allah will destine for us. This is the time to ask, to be Mutawajih illallah (attentive towards Allah).

Another Ajeeb bounty of Allah is that He has informed us; the faster’s dua is accepted by Allah at Iftar time. So, present your needs haajah in front of Allah and ask for Allah’s mercy.

Kullu yaumin wa laylatin daawatun mustajaabah.
Ramzan sharif ke har din aur har raat mein usski dua qubul hoti hai.
A person’s dua is accepted in every night and day of Ramadan.

Preview Of the Coming Year

How one spends Ramadan, that is how the coming year will be spent.  For example, if one is not regular in praying tahajjud, and he strives to pray Tahajjud all of Ramadan, then you will witness that it will become easy for him to pray tahajjud in the upcoming year.  If a man who cannot protect his gaze (from looking at non-mahram women),  strives to protect it completely during Ramadan, then the next year he will be cured of this disease. So those individuals who say we cannot do muraqabah, dhikr or tasbeehat regularly should try to do it in Ramadan

Be particular for one month, and you will see the rest of the 11 months you will receive help from Allah.  Therefore, we have to create the specimen, and Allah will give us the ability, the tawfiq (to do that particular kind of ibadah) for the rest of the 11 months according to that specimen.  We never asked the tawfiq for tahajjud, we never asked protection from falsehood, takabbur (arrogance), hasad (jealousy), and keenah (malice). Swhy complain?  That is why we should spend Ramadan the way we want to spend the rest of our lives.  Make a schedule.

Shaykhul Hadith Maulana Zakariyya Kandhalvi did not speak to anyone unnecessarily during Ramadan.  Once his friend said to him, Ramadan comes to us as well but it does not come like a fever like it has come upon you. In reality, Ramadan should come upon one like a fever so you are gripped in the fever.

If we do not protect ourselves from lying, backbiting, unnecessary gazing in the month of Ramadan, then how do we expect to protect ourselves during the rest of the year?

Can’t Blame The Devil

We find proof in hadith that before Ramadan, Jibrail (AS) comes down and handcuffs the (major) devils (shayateen,) so that they may not ruin the fasts of the ummah of the Holy Prophet .

Now if the big devils are chained, then why does one still commit sins in Ramadan?  There are two answers to this:  Either the little devils are enough to entice a person to sin, to seduce, to cause him to slip, so the person doesn’t need the big devils to commit sins as the small ones are enough.

Or, other ulema say, that just like a piece of iron is still hot when taken out of the furnace (it remains severely hot you cannot touch it for a good half hour), similarly, the nafs (self/ego/soul) which was soldering in the furnace of sins all year long, even when removed from the furnace of sins in the month of Ramadan, will still emanate the heat of the sins it committed.  The ones who are drowned in sins all year long will feel the evil of the nafs in Ramadan.

The sins committed in the month of Ramadan are not due to major shayateen, but due to the human nafs itself.  Thus, (Ramadan) is a ‘litmus test’ of our spiritual diseases.  Whoever wants to check his spirituality, then do this easy test in Ramadan.  If your spirituality is sound, you will remain protected from sins in Ramadan. And if your spirituality is unsound, then you will commit sins in Ramadan just like you used to commit outside of Ramadan.  This is because the soul is weak.  The sins of Ramadan are very harmful, because they are due to the mischief and evil of the nafs. You can’t blame the devil.

There are so many blessings of Ramadan that if one pays even a little bit of attention, the Lord forgives.  Nabi mentioned a tribe at the outskirts of Madina, Bani Kalb, which was renowned for their possession of sheep.  Each family of the tribe had hundreds of sheep, so much that when the sheep came out for grazing they used to fill a huge valley between two mountains.   Nabi said that during each night of Ramadan, the amount of dwellers of Hell, equivalent to the hair on the sheep of Bani Kalb, are freed from the hellfire. Now if the sheep used to fill a whole valley, imagine how much hair (wool) would the sheep have?

When the River of Mercy is flowing, then isn’t the one who does not reap its benefits (by seeking forgiveness) the most unfortunate?  See, the love a mother has for her child is so deep that if someone curses her child, she leaps like a lioness to defend him.  ‘Who are you to curse him?’ she will exclaim unable to stand the abuse.  Thus, love does not allow one to say even one word.  But when a mother’s heart is hopeless, pained, broken by her own child, then even if someone curses him she says Ameen.  The same situation is described in the following hadith.

Jibrail (AS) came and made dua. “May the one who finds the month of Ramadan and does not get himself forgiven be destroyed.”  And when the Holy Prophet heard this, he said Ameen.  So this means the one who does not spend the time of Ramadan in worship pains the heart of the Holy Prophet .  How can one be heedless in this month of mercy?

Ramadan to Hajj- An award ceremony

Allah’s slaves worship and pray during this time.  The tradition is every worker gets compensated for the work he performs.  And when someone does some unique work, he gets recognized by special honors.  Some get awarded medals, some get Presidential honors etc.  Allah’s tradition is that he rewards his slaves for their ibadah in Ramadan by calling him to His house after Ramadan.  Hajj is, in essence, a convocation, an award ceremony of sorts for the work performed in Ramadan. Worldwide, whoever spends Ramadan enjoyably, Allah calls him to His house to distribute rewards.

Our Shuyookh say, Ramadan is the month of work and Zulhijja is the month of reward.  Allah gives a period of two months in between (the work and reward).  This is because if Hajj was on 1st of Shawwal how would people be able to reach His house from the world over?  They are humans. Preparations have to be made; some travel by air, car, some by boat, and some by foot.

Ya’teena min kulli fajjin ameeq.They will come to Us from deep and distant highways.

His slaves needed time, so Allah gave them time to travel in Shawwal and Zulqaddah to reach His house.  From the 1st Zulhajj, Layalin ashr (the ten Holy Nights) start. These nights are so wondrous that Allah has sworn by them in the Holy Quran,

Wal Fajr. Wa Layaalin Ashr.By the dawn. And by the 10 nights.

Allah is so happy that all His admirers of the world are sitting in His house just like the hosts of a wedding function are so happy when all the guests arrive.    That is why He swears by those ten days.

Just think, Hajj is not about praying salah.  You do not go to Hajj and pray two rakat salah to complete Hajj, because the main purpose of Hajj is not performing salah. Hajj is whoever reaches the grounds of Arafat on the 9th Zilhajj between Zuhr (noon prayer) until Maghrib (sunset).   This is rukn e azam (the greatest obligation) of Hajj.  If salah was a requisite for Hajj, then everyone would be in need of wudhu; and weak people like us would be running to do ablution.  And the many women who traveled from so far would come and be unable to pray salah (due to menstruation).  Allah is so merciful.  Even if a sick or unconscious person reaches Arafah, then his wuquf (stay) is complete.

Hence Nabi mentioned, I never saw shaytan so humiliated as I did on the Day of Arafah.  The only other day he was as humiliated was on the Day of Badr.  He screams, shouts, and pours dust over his head, “My effort of years has been wasted!”

And Allah forgives His slaves.  Not only the ones who reach Hajj are forgiven., look at how Nabi favored his ummah in this amazing dua.  

‘Oh Allah, forgive the pilgrim (Haaji), and forgive the one the haaji prays for.’

This dua shades the duas of pilgrims until Qiyamah.  Allah forgives the pilgrims as well as the one the pilgrim prays for.   If we were to depend on our duas alone, our false tongues would take us nowhere. But now, our duas are shaded by this great dua of the Holy Prophet himself.  Our duas get accepted.

When Allah’s guests arrive at Arafah, Allah bestows them with an unusual honor.  He says, ‘Ask whatever you want, I will give according to your wish! ‘  He gives the choice to His slaves.

After Arafah, our Lord calls us to Mina for a few days.  He wants us to express freedom from our two enemies: Nafs and Shaytan.  First, we sacrifice an animal (Qurbani) and symbolically pass a knife over our ego.  Second, we throw stones at Shaytan to express our hatred towards him (Rami).  The reward for throwing stones at Shaytan yields great rewards.  The jurists write, a pilgrim throws a total of 70 stones at shaytan during his Hajj.  Every stone expiates such a major sin that if that sin were not forgiven, it most definitely would have dragged that person into hellfire.  So 70 kabirah (major) sins are forgiven after Rami.  Subhanallah!

Then the slave says, ‘Oh, Allah we have expressed freedom from shaytan, and have sacrificed an animal – we have slit our desires with a knife’. Now Allah says, “You are mine! Now come to My House!”  Now is the time of meeting and visitation (deedar and mulaqat).  Because of this reason, this tawaf is also named Tawaf e Ziarah (The Circumambulation of Visit).

So, this Tawaf e Ziayarah is reward of Ramadan.  Then after Tawaf e Ziyarah, live there as many days you wish, do Tawaf e Wida (Farewell Circumambulation) and return to your homes.  Subhanallah!  Ramadan is the month of effort and Zulhijjah is the month of reward.

Don’t Waste Ramadan

This was the reason that Allah’s Habeeb used to wait for Ramadan and make dua two months before it came.

Allahumma baarik lana fi Rajaba wa Sha’baan wa ballighna Ramadan.
Oh Allah bless us in Rajab and Shaban  and make us reach Ramadan.

He knew the importance of this month that is why he made dua two months before it came.  We need to strive in Ramadan.  It is one month.  How hard is it to leave sins for one month?  When our salaf (pious predecessors) wanted to extoll the virtue of a person, they used to coin it this way, ‘He has passed 45 Ramadans of his life.’  The witnessing of a Ramadan was considered a standard of nobility and savance i.e He has passed 45 Ramadans therefore he has had so much time for worship.

That is why for six months our elders made dua for Ramadan to come.  And after Ramadan, for six months they made dua for their Ramadan to be accepted.  All year round, duas for Ramadan were made.

There are no words to describe the blessings of Ramadan. Hazrat Ali (RA) used to say, “Allah does not want to punish the ummah of His Habib Rasoolullah ”.  When someone asked, what is the daleel? He answered, “Had Allah wanted to punish the ummah of Rasoolullah , He would not have gifted Ramadan to them.”

The purpose of gifting Ramadan is that no one remains unforgiven, everybody may be forgiven.

Ulema write that Yusuf (AS) had 11 brothers .

Ahada ashara kawkabaEleven stars…

.. and the 12th was Yusuf (AS).  So they were 12 in total.  Eleven committed a mistake but were forgiven due to the twelfth one.  So Ramadan is like Yusuf (AS).  If the ones who commit sins for 11 months, spend Ramadan the correct way, then Allah will forgive the sins of those 11 months due to this holy month of Ramadan.

May Allah grant us the tawfiq to value this time. Let’s prepare now.  Preparing for Ramadan is not merely buying grocery and foodstuffs and arranging for delicious meals and drinks.  This is a need. Need is separate from purpose.  True preparation is to leave sins now, do taubah now, and get busy in ibadat (worship), nafl (involuntary prayers), zikr (remembrance), tasbeeh, tilawat (recitation), start this routine now!  We still have a few days left.

Imam Mujaddid Alf Thani gives an example, that when day breaks, then 11/2 to 2 hours before sunrise is called subah sadiq (true morning).  The day breaks in the black darkness of the night.  And the morning light starts emanating and increasing until 15 minutes before sunrise it is as bright as it is after the sun rises.  Experience tells us that if a person wakes up late for Fajr, he looks up at the sky 15 min before sunrise and assumes that his salah has become qaza.  But when he looks at the chart, he realizes he still has ten minutes to pray Fajr.  However the light is so bright it seems the sun has risen.

What this means is that the subh sadiq of barakah starts on the the 15th of Shabaan and each day the nur increases until the 29th of Ramadan the anwarat are as much as they would be in Ramadan.  That is why in these days, even a layman wishes to do more good deeds.  And the sahib e batin (those bestowed with the inner eye) see mercies being showered from the sky like rain.

Value this ni’mah. Ask Allah. Our Rabb has given us the chance to be forgiven.

May Allah forgive us and include us in those people.  Ameen

The revolutions in the Middle East are on my mind. Some ask if Pakistan too will rise up in a wave? Who do we rise up against? Ourselves- the tyranny of our own corrupt souls. If our hearts are oppressive and no one is safe from our tongues, hands, who will we overthrow?

I want to do something for the our brothers and sisters in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Kashmir, Algeria, all those who are protesting so I translated Faiz’s poem into English. There are similar translations on-line esp here (by Sister Ghazala, it is great), but when they took the name of Allah out of it, the poem was empty of the depth that Faiz put into his words.

Change comes from inside and out- from top to bottom- pray for change blessed by the Divine- and while you are praying for your people pray for Pakistanis, too.

Hum Dekhain Gay, Faiz Ahmed Faiz


We will see
It is certain that we too,will see
that day which is promised

written on His Tablet of Eternity

yes, we will see that day
When the heavy mountains of tyranny
like wisps of cotton will float in the air.
Under our feet- the feet of the oppressed-
the heart of the earth will throb with our passion
and on the heads of our oppressors
lightning will strike and strike and strike.

yes, we will see that day
when from the house of Allah, the Kaaba
all false idols will be removed,
we- the family of Safa’- the believers -

forbidden from Sacred places
will be asked to sit on seats of honor

all crowns thrown away,
all thrones  broken down.

Only The  name of Allah will survive
He who is unseen but present, both
Who is the Seeing  and the Scene, both

the chant will rise, I am the Truth-
Which is me, and You too

rule will then the Creator’s creation
Which is me, and You too
It is certain we will see that day

hum dekhainge
lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhainge
hum dekhainge
woh din ke jis ka wada hai…hum dekhainge
jo loh-e-azal pe likha hai…hum dekhiange

jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-giran,
rooyi ki tarah u\’dh jayenge
hum mehkoomon ke paoon tale,
yeh dharti gha\’dh gha\’dh gha\’dhke gi
aur ahl-e-hakam ke saron per,
jab bijli ka\’dh ka\’dh ka\’dhke gi

hum dekhainge
lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhainge
hum dekhainge

jab arz-e-khuda ke kaabe se,
sab butt uthwaye jayenge
hum ahl-e-safa mardood-e-haram,
masnad pe bithaaye jayenge
sab taaj uchhaale jayenge,
sab takht gira ey jayenge

hum dekhainge
lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhainge
hum dekhainge

bas naam rahe ga Allah ka
jo gayab bhi hai hazir bhi
jo manzar bhi hai nazir bhi
uthe ga anal haq ka na\’ra
jo main bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho
aur raaj kare gi khalq-e-khuda
jo main bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho

hum dekhainge
lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhainge
hum dekhainge
woh din ke jis ka wada hai…hum dekhainge
jo loh-e-azal pe likha hai…hum dekhiange

This was my project- we need a push to turn off the screens, too.

Muslimatters.org is proud to endorse the Commercial-free childhood Screen-Free week.

Screen-Free Week is almost here! On April 18-24, children, families, schools, and communities around the country will turn off entertainment screen media (TV, video games, computer games, apps, etc.) and turn on life. It’s a chance to unplug and read, play, daydream, create, explore nature, and spend more time with family and friends.

Since 1996, millions of children and their families have participated in Screen-Free Week (formerly TV-Turnoff). Each year, thousands of parents, teachers, PTA members, librarians, scoutmasters, and clergy organize Screen-Free Weeks in their communities. This year, Screen-Free celebrations are being planned around the country, including Long Island, NY, where the Early Years Institute is working with local merchants and community organizations to provide wonderful screen-free activities for children and families for free or at discounted prices.

Read rest here and join us in limiting screen time next week in screenfree week. Tell me what you are planning to do.

My kids and I plan to visit an elder in our community instead of watching after school cartoons, go to the park more often and make cards for their grandparents and by the end of the week we will decide on pulling the plug.

Dear Principal and teachers,

Every March 17th, my children and I dread school. I don’t know what the basis of the custom is but every year, I have my children complain that they were pinched and humiliated because they were not wearing green to school.  This sort of behavior would never be tolerated on a day to day basis but it seems like on this particular day- it is a free for all. I am addressing this issue ahead of time, in hopes that last year will not be repeated.

I  bring this up with you as last year was particularly hard. All three of them complained of people pinching them, at times very painfully. The simple answer would be to send my children to school wearing green but why should I have to? Is it a school sanctioned affair? I know the school will ask on certain days to send them in wearing a particular color because they are learning about that color but this particular custom is not educational in any way.

Why is this behavior tolerated in school? Please make it a point to ensure that my children are safe.  If a student is hurt, annoyed, or embarrassed because of their belief and choice in NOT participating in this “custom” it is the school’s duty to ensure that the child’s sense of safety and security is PROTECTED, by not permitting such behavior to continue both in the classroom and in the playground.  As in every multi-cultural environment, we must have education and awareness in the classroom, that not everyone follows the traditions/ customs being perpetuated and that teachers, yard duties and other students need to respect that.

Sincerely ,

This is the letter that I send to my children’s principal. I am sure Patrick was a gracious Christian soul, who would not want his memory to be associated with this obnoxious custom.

Game Over- we win?

By Zaid Shakir

The current uprising in Egypt, coming in the aftermath of the popular revolution in Tunisia, is a monumental event that is altering all of the political calculations currently governing how we think about Middle Eastern politics. The emerging popular movements in the region have led to a swift reshuffling of the mental furniture governing the way Tunisians, Egyptians, and likely other people in the region see themselves and their relationship to those who have been ruling them with repression, fear and intimidation. The new thinking shows that the people are no longer afraid of their rulers and their dreaded security apparatuses. Now that that reshuffling has occurred, as one of the most popular Tunisian protest posters declared, “Game Over.” No matter what happens in Egypt going forward, the old game is indeed over.

Middle Easterners are not the only ones whose mental furniture needs reshuffling. Here in the United States, we need to begin to critically assess our silence in the face of the atrocities we support, or knowingly turn a blind eye to. Our officials know that the money we have been pumping into the Mubarak regime for the past 30 years has done nothing to improve the lot of the average Egyptian. Rather, it was being used to strengthen the Egyptian military and the internal “security” forces, which is a euphemism for the forces of torture and political repression. For example, the State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report for Egypt mentions:

Police and the SSIS reportedly employed torture methods such as stripping and blindfolding victims; suspending victims by the wrists and ankles in contorted positions or from a ceiling or door-frame with feet just touching the floor; beating victims with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; using electric shocks; dousing victims with cold water; and sexual abuse, including sodomy. Victims reported that security officials threatened them and forced them to sign statements for use against themselves or their families should they in the future lodge complaints about the torture. Some victims, including women and children, reported that security officials sexually assaulted or threatened to rape them or their family members. Human rights groups reported that the lack of legally required written police records often effectively blocked investigations.

What is mentioned in this report is the tip of the iceberg concerning the abuses that every Egyptian knows of. The dehumanizing horrors occurring in the “Zinzana” are not well-kept secrets. However, what did the United States do about these atrocities after documenting them? We did the same thing we did about the rigged elections that kept falsely affirming Mubarak and his gerontocracy in power. We did the same thing we did in the face of the grinding poverty of the country, only accentuated by the regime’s enthusiasm to accept neoliberal economic policies that only funneled money from the impoverished masses and into the clutches of the wealthy elite managing their society on behalf of their western sponsors. Namely, nothing. In the name of our war against terror, in the name of our security interests, in the name of our economic interests we did nothing.

It is time for Americans to acknowledge that when we prioritize our interests in foreign lands over the interests of the citizens of those lands, in many instances, those citizens are starved, politically disenfranchised, tortured and sometimes killed. We have to realize that this is not only true in the Middle East, it is just as true in the Congo, Haiti and elsewhere.

Tunisians and now Egyptians have bravely stood up and challenged the hypocrisy, brutality and illegitimacy of their rulers. It is blatant hypocrisy for America to pontificate about the need for peaceful political reform in the Middle East and then support the violent repression of peaceful reformers or circumvent internal reform all together by imposing political change through the gun-barrel of an M1 Abrams tank. It is time that the people of this country stand up and challenge that hypocrisy. The masses in Tunisia and Egypt should be a source of courage and inspiration for us in this regard.

The popular movements emerging in the Middle East are giving birth to watershed events that may well redefine the political map of the region for the next century. We should work to make sure that the vision and hope they embody are not confined to the Middle East. Now is the time for us to express our solidarity with the people of Egypt and elsewhere as they struggle to carve out a dignified existence for themselves and their progeny. If we do so with courage, conviction, vision and principle we may all live to see a day when the old game will be over everywhere. If that happens, we will all be the winners.

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