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The Sabah Crisis and the Filipino Muslims

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I wrote some articles on the History of Islam in Philippines while I was in Dubai.  It never occurred to me that I will have to write about the armed struggle normally associated with my Muslim compatriots in Mindanao.  I must admit I wanted to stay silent to respect the positions taken by those closest to my heart, yet doing so is like turning my back to the very people who helped me become who I am today.

Islam is a religion of peace, and the most peaceful way of life.  The judgement people passed to my religion because of what some minorities do continue to cripple us in spreading the message of peace and love embodied in the Koran.  I don’t blame the media though they contribute a lot in shaping the bad image of Islam, nor do I blame my brothers and sisters who were gone astray for lack of knowledge about the religion because they were just born into and never had the chance of realizing how beautiful and perfect it is.  I cannot blame them because it is the system of this imperfect world.  All I can do is pray for Allah to give me strength in fighting for what I believe in, and to do what Koran teaches me about compassion, love and social justice.  In this regard, I would like to state my position about the Sabah crisis in the most objective way I can, as a Filipino and a Muslim, and as a freedom fighter.

The Sultanates of early Muslim civilizations in Mindanao have property rights over Sabah and the large part of Borneo.  These rights were relegated to the government when the families agreed to and supported the Philippines’ assertion of its sovereign rights on these islands against other nations like Malaysia, Brunei and China. This territorial dispute has been around for a long time and is recently elevated to the UN/International Court of Justice, the resolution of which is heavily dependent on the will of the people actually living in that area.  I will never condone any aggressive violent course of action in the name of Islam, especially if the issue is not of faith but of worldly things, but I firmly believe that every Muslim should defend his property and honor.  The Kirams felt that the government is giving away what they had given to it.  They felt not only losing Sabah but the dignity of being its rightful owner because the government continues to turn a deaf ear to their pledges of dialogue.  Hence, I am disappointed how Malacanang is handling the crisis and I strongly detest the threats this government has posed against the Sultanate.  On the other hand, I wished that the Kirams had consulted their Muslim brothers and sisters on other possible ways of solving the problem.  I sincerely hoped that they considered the fact that Malaysia is a Muslim country and most of its inhabitants, filipinos or malaysians, are their very own brothers and sisters in Allah’s Ummah.  And my deepest prayer is that their recent and future actions will be driven by faith and not by want of more money from this Sabah property.

The greater part of resolving this crisis is in the hands of President Aquino, as the father of this nation and as someone posing to be pro-Muslim and leading the country to the Tuwid na Daan.  Instead of threatening the Kirams, I hope that he will show them good reasons to give up their arms because the government is not abandoning the fight for claiming Sabah.  Instead of bowing his head to the Malaysian authorities who are driven by their own country’s interest, I hope that he will dignify our country and  talk to our own Muslim leaders  and send Muslim emissaries to Malaysia and the Kirams to find a common ground for the resolution of this crisis.  Instead of talking on television and wasting his time selling the idea that the Kirams are funded/instigated by opposition forces, I hope that he will unite the country and stand ground on the issues of sovereignty and peace.  I hope that he will set aside the past and focus on finding out the truth about claims of abuse and oppression against filipinos in Sabah.  This crisis should have an immediate resolution.  Don’t let the Manila Hostage Crisis scenario happen again.  Act now.  Before it’s too late.

To my Muslim brothers and sisters, let us pray for Philippines and Malaysia.  Let us pray for the leaders of this world to be conscientious in handling their affairs.  But most importantly, let us take a strong and unified stand against any form of oppression and social injustice.

At the end of the day, a true Muslim never gives up.  Don’t be silenced.  Don’t stop believing this can be resolved through humane and just actions.  Don’t be afraid of what the world thinks about us.  We know who we are.  We know our faith and our God.  So let’s just be who we should be – Muslims.

Anything that happens and will happen is by Allah’s permission and greater design, so let’s be firm and strong in the belief that He will not desert us all.   Jazzak Allah Khair!

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Freedom and Faith

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Pardon my long absence on this blog, a failure on my promise last time that I will post more often 😦  

I got engaged in a personal legal battle that has dragged on for 4 years and had taken 7 years of my life away from my children and family.  Just as the Gaza issue heated up last year (November) I felt oblige to finish my problems so I can strongly voice out my opinions and convictions without fear.  And thanks to my brothers and sisters in Islam from Dubai who helped me surpass all hindrances thrown my way, I am now happily back home in Manila Philippines.  Nothing can be better than being free in your homeland.  I wish the same for the people of Gaza.

Allow me to just enjoy a bit more time with my kids, family and friends.  After this much-deserved vacation, expect a stronger, bolder Me 🙂

To Allah be the glory, always!

We are all Gaza!

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Gaza hit the headlines again and this time the violence escalated to new heights enough to fire up the hearts of freedom fighters all over the world, myself included. I am all for peace and would never trade diplomacy for anything. But my heart goes to the Palestinian people who had been systematically driven out of their homeland to establish the Jewish state that is called Israel, and until now are being deprived of their right to return home or at the very least settle peacefully to whatever is left of their original abode. The Gaza strip and the continuing violence that cripples it for decades now is a testament that imperialism still exists, in a more subtle package served in the same old blend of deception and religion. I won’t dwell on the history of how it all started as several references are now available, both written and in the internet, of why and how the Jews migrated and settled to the once Arab Palestinian nation to fulfill their “promised land” utopia. Not to mention how it also aimed to expand by attacking neighboring countries like Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. Let’s put it all aside for the meantime and focus on the fact that we are being lied to, AGAIN, on who started the latest bombings to debilitate us from taking an informed and united stand to support the struggle for freedom of the Palestinian people, or at the very least to decry the violence they suffer from a war with Israeli Occupation Forces – the world’s 4th largest army.

 

The media almost always report every attack on Gaza in this narrative – “Israel only responded to an unprovoked Palestinian rocket fire”. It is a simple equation of Violent Arabs versus Peaceful Jews to many. Very few would even ask Why and How it all started.

 

In this very same pattern, media headlines on Saturday reported that the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine shot an anti-tank missile at an Israeli Defense Forces vehicle near the Gaza Border and four (4) Israeli soldiers where wounded. They, the Israeli Forces, just retaliated in defense through a full military bombardment which has now killed 30 civilians in Gaza and justified a possible ground invasion of the whole Gaza strip.

 

Care to ask what prompted the firing of the anti-tank missile which the media says started all this? On November 5, Monday, a 23-year old mentally-challenged Palestinian Ahmed Nabhani was shot when he approached the Israeli Border fence. Then on November 8, Thursday, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) invaded Southern Gaza and fired shots at a football field in Abbassan Village where 13-year old Ahmed Younis Daqqa was shot and wounded in the abdomen while playing with his friends. He was rushed to the hospital and eventually died. These very sensitive and emotional events stirred anger and resentments to the already bullied Palestinian people. And the rest is history, yet.

 

True, the Ceasefire was broken by the Palestinians on the 14th. But the timeline of events prior to it will give us why and who really started all these. More importantly, an attack by Liberation Forces to the Israeli Military will never suffice to justify the ruthless attacks to the civilians of the whole Gaza strip. This is the simple truth I know and will always stand up against.

 

Lastly, let me say this – take away the words Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, take it all away and it will all come down to human beings killing human beings. This is it.

 

There’s a time to observe and ask. And there’s a time to act. That time is now.

 

Let us all stand against bullying and killing and freedom-hijacking. Let us all stand for human rights. We all deserve a humane and peaceful existence. We are all Gaza.

 

 

Heart of a Muslim

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If anyone knows the song “Heart of a Muslim”, its lyrics best describes what I am going through right now.  My faith is being tested, my Imaan is being challenged.  

If one has a dark past, it ain’t easy for people to believe she finds truth in Islam.  Her conviction to stay morally right (not necessarily legally right i must say) is challenged by people who have known her from another episode of her life and will do everything to prove her wrong.  Woe to these people who are quick to judge and abusive of trust.  I have known people like these my whole life in UAE. And I have not yet found a way to know them on first meeting.  They always find a way to get into my life and ruin whatever I am trying to build.

When you finally see the light, there is that longing inside you to share what you learned in life, and most often than not you do it by unveiling yourself and letting them see who you were and how you evolved.  But some people will use whatever they know about you to their advantage, to make your past an escape goat for their misgivings.  And when this happens, you have no one to blame but yourself for trusting too much, for hoping that the person you shared yourself with is a good person.  And there’s no use ranting or fighting back.  You can never deny your past.  You can only prove them wrong in the future.

Islam teaches me that Allah permits something to happen for my greater good.  I am in pain, again, but I won’t back down.  I will still love and trust.  I will still care and believe.  People may always fail me, but Allah will see me through.

 

 

 

Learn, Learn, Learn

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Life is a constant change. What may seem the perfect situation for you today can prove to be your biggest mistake in the future. And what you see as your biggest problem today may all the while be just the right opportunity you need to advance in life. So never be absolute about anything. Live it, try it, then learn something after it all ends. There is more to life than love and sadness, the world has bigger problems than your own.

Writer’s woes…

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I write books in my muslim name.  I write books for other people. I write books in my pen name.

Now that it has come to publish my first book carrying my true complete name, the worries are never ending…

I need to make this step, now or never.  I will defy the past and its demons.  Just moving on.

Allah Kareem.

 

detox it is!

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Has anyone tried those detox pads u see on TV? i just did… if I were to believe that how dark the pad turns out depend on how much toxins it rid off your body, then I surely am astonished finding it sssoooo dark! and foul smelling too! well, it’s my first time to detox for years so i guess that explains it 🙂

There’s a lot of ways to detoxify your body but there seems no way knowing if it really works.  So getting this dark stain on the pad somehow put my efforts in perspective.  I tried the fruit and vegetable diet few weeks back.  I didn’t only starved, I turned acidic for all the wrong fruits I picked and overly consumed.  Balance is the key.  Eat 3 small meals mostly fish and greens and avoid cooking in oil.  And sorry, but M & M’s is really a vice I can’t do without, so I nibble it once in a while.  The only evident result I can feel on this detox treatment is that I no longer feel shortness of breathing.  I get normal sleep too, no more nightmares and waking up to pee in the middle of the night.  I hope these are indications of a better me in the making.

So go guys, detox it is! 🙂

Only in Dubai

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Dubai is a beautiful place, and UAE is such a wonderful country.  There are a lot of things I can say about this part of the world, but let me just write in here my favorites, the things and experiences one can have ONLY IN DUBAI 🙂

(1) THE 24/7 GROCERY DELIVERIES – Whatever time of day and night that you need some stuff you can call the grocery store’s number and ask them to deliver whatever you need.  You will especially appreciate this if you worked late then come home hungry and decided to cook than have another fast food delivery, then realized you don’t have salt or onion or whatever.  Not a prob, you can call and have it delivered to you in minutes.  It is also such a relief when you’re just simply too tired or too lazy to go out shopping, just make your list call the grocery store and wham, all done.

(2) THE AIRCONDITIONED BUS STOPS – Though I have not yet used Dubai’s public buses and can’t share what it feels like, I definitely acknowledge that the Bus Stops in Dubai are truly awesome – it’s airconditioned, closed, well lighted and secured.  I pass by so many of them on the road and I feel great for those commuters who are having a good time reading their books or magazines while waiting for the bus.  All the bus stops has a schedule board so the commuter knows what time exactly his bus is coming.

(3) THE JUSTICE SYSTEM – In almost all countries, one can never have a fair trial without a lawyer.  But in Dubai, as they follow the Sharia Law, even a person who cannot afford a lawyer may defend himself, makes his pleadings and prove his case before the court.  And his fate is not decided by just one person but 3 judges, who strongly upholds the law but are also merciful to those who really repent.  The penal institution is also nothing like I’ve seen in any countries I’ve researched, especially the women’s jail.  The inmates are not required to work and they are fed well 3 times a day.  The library and recreation yard inside the jail compound also helped a lot of offenders to have their soul-searching and rehabilitation time.

(4) THE COSMOPOLITAN ENVIRONMENT –  From whatever part of the globe you came from you will never be a stranger in Dubai.  The foods available and the places to see cater to all races.  And by involuntary association you know exactly where to go or live to be with people from your country – the filipinos are in Satwa, the Indians are in Karama, the Pakistanis are in Deira, the Egyptians are in Qusais, the Europeans are in Jumeira, etc etc.  Whatever floats your boat and whoever you wanna be with, Dubai will give you that good feeling and belonging.

(5) THE PARKS – I guess only in Dubai, or UAE at large, can you see the biggest number of parks.  They are just absolutely everywhere and any kind – beach park, pond park, water park, diving park, creek park, golf park, racing park etc etc.. name it you have it here.  It is a great place for creative people as they can just sit and have the time of their life in the parks the whole day.  I’ve done that several times, and I finish a lot of my articles and books in those wonderful parks.

(6) ABSENCE OF SQUATTERS AND BEGGARS – Coming from a country where lots of underprivileged abound, Dubai is a breathe of fresh air.  You won’t see a single beggar in the streets of Dubai.  And you won’t see a single squatter too.  I am not saying there are no poor people in this country.  Maybe there are, but they live in dignity.  The worst living quarter is a bedspace in Satwa or Karama and the people you can closely associate with beggars are those knocking in your doors during the ramadan month.  For the most part, beggars and squatters are non-existent.

(7) THE POLICE FORCE –  Believe this, you will not see a patrol policeman in Dubai with bulging stomach.  They are all well-built, old and young alike.  And they are authoritative but friendly, you can reason out with them and they will listen.  If you transgress a law, they will not spare you but will not make you  feel like inhuman.  They go by their job humanely.  And yes, they are very helpful.  About 3 years back, out of haste I went out of my car without turning off the engine and aircon, grabbed my bag and closed the door manually.  Seconds later,  I realized the car’s engine is running and there’s no way I can open it up since I don’t have spare key too.  I called the police hotline, 2 policeman came and patiently opened the door of my car with a small wire slipped through the window.  I have lots of good experiences with the police forces in Dubai but that one really stands out in my memory, as I feel that if they were there for me for such a small problem then surely they will be there when I’m in big trouble.  And that came true.  But that’s another story 🙂

(8) THE FREE PRACTICE OF RELIGION – I think this is the only muslim country where you can freely practice your religion without fear.  There are christian churches and congregation houses everywhere.  Some christians wear their crucifix and hang it in their cars too.  And surprisingly, amidst this freedom, so many are still converting to Islam.  Just another proof that democracy has its many forms.

Think  this is all I got on top of my head right now.  So many great things and people can be experienced in Dubai.  And I just so00 love this country!

Happy National Day UAE!

A Muslima’s journey

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Retiring to bed last night, I remembered I should have written something in this blog as I promised to.  But I felt quite exhausted after finishing two chapters of the current book I am writing so I shrug the urge off.  Then today, I woke up earlier than I wanted for my morning prayer, so I grabbed to read “Why women are accepting Islam” and few pages after, I knew what I wanted to write.

My journey to Islam was not an easy one, though looking back at all of it now I believe I am destined to be where I am.  It was always a spiritual journey for me.  And all the experiences I had just add up to how much I appreciate my life now as a Muslim.  Being a spiritual person in my younger years – I was president of Legion of Mary in Grade School and president of the Pious Union for Evangelical Rogation in High School – I was always comfortable in church matters.  There was even a point in time after I finished High School that I asked my mom to allow me to enter the convent and be a nun.  She declined, reasoning that there are so many ways you can serve God.  So there I went, entered College and took Political Science and Law, the career path chosen for me by my grandfather.  The political awakening led to more questions.  Islam knocked in my door a few times.  First, when I was in college and questioned openly the rational of trinity as it just really didn’t make sense to me.  My search was halted by a sarcastic comment from my brother that I should deepen my catholic faith before I question any part of it.  I wanted to answer and let him know I studied that’s why the questions arose but I guess I was frightened that time to be alienated from my family. So I stopped talking about religion but hopped from one sect of christianity to another – I joined Jehovah’s Witness then Iglesia ni Kristo then Bread of Life (born again)  until I got worn out for not finding the answers and just stopped my religious activities altogether.  It was in Dubai that I regained my spiritual thirst.  My former immediate boss is a good muslim, praying 5 times daily and living a man’s life unfamiliar to me – no smoking, no drinking, quiet, modest and a true family man.  He intrigued and amazed me but when I came to know he attributes all of his approach in life to faith I got scared he was trying to brainwash me.  So I surrounded myself with christian friends and once again joined a congregation – the Singles for Christ.  The odd of it is, while we studied the bible and talked about a righteous life, we were there in discos getting drunk afterwards.  Then there was my time in Awir as I already blogged about here earlier.  It was during this time that I kept repeating to my friends that I will never sell my religion for freedom.  A lot of filipinas converted in Awir for convenience and easy way out.  Rebel as I am, I refused to take the same route.  I fought my case hard, and I fought for my christian faith harder.  Though there were moments of questioning my own beliefs, my ego prevailed, wanting to prove to those Arabs that a filipina christian like me can win them out in their own country.  I may have proven my point and won my cause, but my spiritual journey took a different turn.  As my earlier blog revealed, when I got out and reentered the mainstream of Dubai life, there was something inside me that radically changed, spiritually.

After declaring my faith or shahadah to that Imam brother in Saudi Arabia in 2009, there’s no more stopping my thirst of knowledge.  I started reading all the books and articles about Islam that I can get hold of,  hoping that one day I am equipped and knowledgeable enough to spread the good news to my loved ones in Philippines.  And to my amazement, the Glorious Quran answers all the questions I could ever have.

I have lost friends along the way.  Some just can’t accept the changed me – the one who can’t go with them to discos and nightclubs anymore – and how easy it had been for them to label me as a stranger who lost her mind.  I understand it though.  The life I shared with those so called friends was a superficial existence. I never really cared whether I was doing right, I just went with the flow for their acceptance and happiness.  So when they saw me changed, no amount of explanation would suffice to make them understand that I found a better life, that I am a better me and I want them to experience the same.  The hard part is they just didn’t change their attitude towards me, they even became partners of my enemies.  They wanted me to crush and beg my way back to my old life with them.  Alhamdullillah, I grew stronger each day I was apart from them.  And I found new friends who not only understood me and my past but also helped me become a better Muslimah.  These new friends beam with positivity and modesty.  They live their life in peace and the strong bond of friendship I share with them now is something I never experienced prior to my conversion.  Indeed, Alhamdulillah, these new friendships bring me greater joy and spiritual growth.

I lost some of my comrades too.  The very people who fought with me on the streets during my college life and counted on me for many years to continue the struggle for world liberation has stopped believing in me.  They simply regarded my conversion to Islam as a step backward.  They have all these misconceptions about the women in Islam – that we are oppressed, pessimists and broken.  What they don’t know is that this religion is at the very core of feminist and social justice struggles all over the world throughout mankind’s history.  Not the terrorist ones, but the muslim people who believe everybody has equal rights to justice and economic growth and peacefully fight for that cause, the likes of Malcolm X, and many others. Though my comrades cannot tell it to my face, rather because they care or they don’t want me hurt, I was altogether dropped off the wagon of an activist’s life.  I’m no longer part of any plan nor would they want to interact with me in matters of political importance.  It was hurting but I didn’t let it sip into my soul.  In my own way, through the person that I still am, I live my life according to my faith and principles which in truth never contradicts each other.  The teachings of Islam is practically the same things I stood for as an activist.  The things and traits my former comrades attributed to Muslims are cultural, not the tenets of Islam declared in the Holy Quran.  So if I am to insure that Islam is understood by all peoples, that include liberating my former comrades from their cultural misconceptions. One step at a time, Inshallah,  I will be able to make them understand.

Alhamdulillah I never lost my family with this conversion.  I was afraid back then knowing that my mom is a devout catholic and all my family are servers of the catholic church in my place.  Out of respect or love for me, I never heard anything negative from them though not any positive or encouraging words were offered either.   That was enough for me as I am aware that so many sisters and brothers who converted to Islam had family struggles, some were even disowned by their parents and thrown out of the house.  My family accepted and respected my decision to embrace Islam and wear my hijab.  My mother and siblings may have thought it was just a phase for me, but seeing my dedication to study and practice this religion convinced them otherwise.  My dad who is a hardcore liberal surprised me that he still believed in God because he openly discusses Islam and its great contribution to history with my son.  He said he never doubted my intention as he knew I was stubborn but never a coward.  I am now in a phase where not only am I able to practice my faith openly, but also my family is giving me all the opportunity to teach and instill Islamic belief to my children.  Inshallah, someday, we will all be a part of this great Ummah.

I am still young in this faith.  I know there is still so much struggle ahead but I will not bend.  This journey is always complemented by joy of knowing that I am on the right path.  I still sometimes get emotional in prayer for all the mistakes I made in the past but Allah always comfort me with his love and forgiveness.  All that happened has happened for a reason, only Allah knows my fate.  I am fortunate enough to have a career in writing now because it is through my books that I share what good Islam can bring to one’s life.  I am happy and my heart had seen the contentment and peace it yearned for so many years.  Inshallah, when I finally reach my final destination, I hope I am able to do what I was meant to do in this world.

To Allah be the greater glory, forever.