Walling Ourselves Off

“We should not confuse the accident of our birth on the richer or safer side of those walls with a moral right to exclusively enjoy that relative wealth or safety.” (h/t Daniel Solomon of Securing Rights for sharing this piece)

Dart-Throwing Chimp

In the past two weeks, more than a thousand people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe on often-overloaded boats. In 2014, more than three thousand perished on this crossing.

Each individual migrant’s motives are unique and unknowable, but this collective surge in deaths clearly stems, in part, from the disorder engulfing parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Civil war and state collapse have expanded the incentives and opportunities to flee, and the increased flow of migrants along dangerous routes has, predictably, led to a surge in accidental deaths.

Of course, those deaths also owe something to the policies of the countries toward which the overloaded boats sail. European governments—many of them presiding over anemic growth and unemployment crises of their own—do not have open borders, and they have responded ambivalently or coolly to this spate of arrivals. Italy, where many of these boats land, had run a widely praised search-and-rescue…

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(things I’m secretly thinking about the way some Muslims talk about Hillary Clinton)

If you want to hate on Hillary Clinton because of certain policy positions, that is great. Looking forward to this elevated conversation. But going “but mamaaaa! she’s a capitalist and a neoliberal imperialist” makes you sound like you should be eating chicken nuggets and ishe cweam in the babysitting area rather than being at the table.

When did we all sign the agreement that capitalism is bad? Does it just sound smart to say that?

Capitalism like every system has pros and cons. There was a free market during the time of “Islamic empires.” And Mecca. And Medina. The hopeless Muslim Brotherhood were capitalist business owners. Erdogan is a capitalist. Lupe Fiasco is a capitalist and makes money off a free market. Islam promoted a free market as well as a system that tried to level the playing field and give a hand up for those who were in poverty. Being a social justice-y Muslim that liked a Russell Brand status doesn’t mean you’re suddenly anti-capitalism. We live in a free market world. What on earth do you think a non-capitalistic candidate will look like? The reason why your local mosque reuses its Solo cups is not because it is socialist but because its money it wrapped up in a never-ending expansion product/the imam’s random Cayman Islands Masjid Fund…for dawa/they stretched the last imam’s contract when they waived him (see: Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons) and there’s still 3 years left to pay off/it doesn’t have any money lol.

The next blow at Hillary is that she supports the same old-school policies of old-school white men (plus the new-school but actually also old-school black president she served), and that she supports Israel and is hawkish. Find me the candidate that can get elected without even praising Israel on a token basis. And if you think wanting America to be engaged militarily in situations around the world (hawkishness) is bad, then you really have not been paying attention to the past 8 years under President Obama, where revisionist sideline leadership has only created a more dangerous world, with ISIS and Middle East chaos.

Intervention in Syria— something that Hillary Clinton supported— was a good thing on humanitarian and national security grounds. Curbing Iran’s terrorism and regional imperialistic aims is a good thing for the sake of Middle East stability. You can be against Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s style of government. You can love the Iranian people and also ask them to stop supporting Hezbollah and their murderous government. You can have a balanced approach to foreign policy (!). Is the alternative to just ditch foreign policy in its entirety? Every powerful nation has interests (haram!) and mobilizes its allies and resources to preserving those interests. It can be stability, it can be a healthy market, it can be oil, it can be promotion of liberal ideals, or the promotion of illiberal ideals (like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran).

Some forms of democracy promotion are good, starting with getting it right at home (you know, like with campaign finance reform). America is a superpower with historically unprecedented global reach with the ability to do good and bad things. We’ve done incredible things— built economic powerhouses, improved quality of life and health for many, and have maintained (broader) global peace since WWII; AAAAAND we’ve also supported occupation and dictators, abandoned some of our principles, allowed for unfettered profiteering and unsustainable practices that might actually kill our planet. *Of course* it’s going to be involved in arenas like the Middle East, especially since as a superpower (as Russia and China try to be), it is invested in global security, it’s own interests, and in places where it has invested so much resources and human lives.

Call it imperialism if it makes you feel good. In the short term, you work with what you have. In the long term, you work towards a higher standard– and these standards are inherent in our faith and our Constitution. I don’t really care much for the whole “political dynasty” claim because that’s what we have today. If you criticize her for being cold/closed off, then you haven’t been paying attention to how insulated President Obama is.

If she’s the best candidate (it might be a big problem that there’s like no real Democratic primary with her in the race), then I will vote for her. If she is not the best candidate, then I will vote for Bill Clinton.

American Muslims, College, Random

The Right Conversations About Marriage

Here’s my piece that went up the Townhall Dialogue Series website. The Townhall Dialogue was founded by a few of my friends in the Muslim community on the East coast, and I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing firsthand the phenomenal space that they’ve created. They’ve covered topics such as relationships and mental health, and this time around they’re talking about taboo and secrets in the Muslim community. The Washington, D.C. Townhall is taking place on November 15th— if you’re in town, you should check it out.

It’s ironic how much Muslims make countering LGBT rights such a headlining position— and spicy MSA Wallah Bros hangout conversation starter— above the myriad of other concerns that pertain to us. Understandably, I do see why a group of single, theoretically celibate 18-23 year old males would sit around a hookah pipe on a Saturday night and talk about marriage of any sort. True story-based humor aside, marriage is a big deal. It is supposed to be “half of our faith”! But we don’t seem to realize that the marriage situation in our community is to us what global climate change is to the world (like basically minus the death and so on). As in, in not having the right conversations about marriage, we’re setting ourselves up for disaster. Why do we get so militant about issues like gay marriage when we aren’t even doing that well incentivizing, facilitating, preserving and adapting, supporting, and preparing young American Muslims for ‘straight’ marriage?

There is an enormous, ISNA bazaar hall-sized gap between the demand for a loving marriage and the supply of practical answers, innovative solutions, and open-mindedness for the process and journey to an emotionally responsible relationship. From a very young age, our American culture promotes and contributes to the mixed messages we receive about love. From television and the internet to college campuses, the idea of a long-term, fulfilling partnership has become less and less prioritized for adolescents and young professionals. Campus hookup culture, twerking, pumpkin spice–these are the trends among all American millennials (I know what you’re thinking with me dropping the word ‘millennial’. This author is so pretentious. Oh yeah? Watch me cite a study in the next sentence, haters). According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), which surveyed the North American Muslim community regarding marital issues and causes for divorce, our community’s divorce-rate pattern is pretty much on par with the national trends. The American Muslim divorce rate is upwards of 35% (the national divorce rate is about 50%), a sharp spike over the past couple of decades, with one of the largest culprits being differing opinions on gender roles and the challenge of incorporating gender equality and work-life balance at home— a burden that has traditionally been slammed on the shoulders of women across the country, regardless of religious background. Our imams, however, are content with blaming most marital issues on porn and Lucifer TheThirdWheelWhenYouAndLiterallyNotBaeJustACoworkerOrFriendAreAloneTogetherButLikeNotActuallyAloneWeWereAtACrowdedStarbucks Satan. And LinkedIn.


And already we’re starting to see what that gap— our “deer-in-the-headlights” approach to marriage— is producing. There’s that overused (but true) example of young professional Muslim women who “Leaned In” to their studies and careers, who kick ass in real life but struggle or choose not to fit into the community’s mold for marriage and femininity. There are also the insecure manchildren that can’t keep up with these women and won’t even try due to the privilege of having many more options, with the ability to walk away from a relationship far more easily, and with pressures and the incentive to get married young (before even establishing oneself as an emotional mature/available adult) due to the cultural emphasis on having children and the religious ban on premarital sex. Given these incentives, why would Wallah Moe (not to be confused with Mo Breezy… best fades and haircuts for $15, I guarantee it) or Mashallah Subhanallah Zubair wait for you to finish grad school and get that job at the World Bank?

As one of my mentors would often say to me, in classical Arabic prose, “Adham, where are dealing wizard shet-ton of issues.” To paraphrase, as English doesn’t do the Arabic language any justice, “Adham, we are dealing with a sh*t ton of issues.” As a community we’ve done a superb job in saddling young Muslims with unnecessary mental baggage. For example, there is lack of willingness to marry across racial, ethnic, or sectarian lines. Another one: there are far more women than there are men in some pockets of the community. Here’s a big one: in many of those pockets we have created a culture of gender segregation and awkwardness which spurs unnatural, unnecessary dynamics that promote the leading of a de facto double life. This double life is a spectrum, with one end not saying ‘salaam’ to a hijabi on campus yet being entirely and respectfully social (read: normal) with a female who isn’t Muslim. The other end is being Admiral General MSA Shura Council Bro by day and being the Wolf of [insert main campus bar street] Street/OkCupid by night. Like Batman, just using Islam as his mask. Also, a million times more lame. He’s not the hero that this city wants. He’s also the hero that no one ****ing needs.


This is about love, satisfying our souls’ desires, and embracing God’s blessing; it’s also a story of coming of age and developing into an emotional available adult. Why are we making a naturally complex (and sometimes confusing) human learning process that much more difficult for ourselves? Do we not understand that by continuing to carry this baggage (treating love like it’s taboo), we are setting ourselves up for more heartbreaks, one-way tickets to thirsty singlehood islands, or bulging portfolios of toxic relationships? We deserve better. Many young Muslims deal with the claustrophobic pressure and gossip culture of their families and peers, especially if they live close to their families or home community where everyone basically knows each other. It becomes nearly impossible to “date” someone, to get to know the other person’s likes and dislikes, character virtues and flaws, quirks and kinks, pressure points, sense of humor, sensibilities and perhaps even level of sensuality. You want that person’s full story, right? Do you really want to ask a friend who knows a cousin of a friend of the potential girl’s roommate about her “history”? Or do we want to give that person a chance to be a real person and open up and see who they really are?

It takes a while to find the strength to be vulnerable and honest with someone you might spend the rest of your life with. That’s not an easy process. It takes real courage (just ask Mary from Downton Abbey), and that’s a real human process and moment(s) of growth that we aren’t given the chance to experience. Oftentimes we grow up in a community that doesn’t allow for such vulnerability, where we treat anything that makes us uncomfortable like “dirty laundry” and so on. How will we be prepared to be functional, emotionally-aware adults and true lovers, if the incentive is always to hide and lie? How will you know that you’re actually compatible with someone? At what point can you decide to put it all on the table and share the stories that defined who you are today— even if those stories are uncomfortable ones that would jeopardize your communally defined marriage chances (i.e. past relationships, sexual history), or accept someone else’s full story and fall in love with the version of that person you’re getting to know today?

It goes without saying— people need to get the chance to meet and get to know one another, one on one, long before the tea is poured and the engagement party is thrown. I don’t know the statistics for the amount of people who had pregnancies after a simple cup of coffee or dinner or group date, so for now I’m going to go completely on a hunch: very few pregnancies. If we wish for each person to find the soulmate that God has promised for them, people should be put in the best position to do so. If we want that amazing partner, we should be given the chance to become and be the most amazing version of ourselves. Or, we can continue to act like “good character” means the subjective presence of a certain membrane (I took AP Biology so I know what I’m talking about), or that modesty equals a headscarf and copious “mashallahs/inshallahs” in our sentences and not adding the opposite sex on Facebook or acting holier than thou, or that a good partner equals the presence of a medical degree, or that a good future is something you can “settle” for at the expense of happiness and spiritual fulfillment. Parents will almost always have our best interests at heart, but at the end of the day, this is your heart. We need to have courage when it comes to fulfilling half of our faith and intertwining our lives and souls with another person.


Progress does not mean we need to discredit more traditional cultural practices, the things that worked beautifully and fruitfully for people like my parents. Even though this is a very different time, it still works and is preferred to some, and I respect that. But for many, it’s not enough to sit on a girl’s couch with your moms in the other room and try to make small talk like “so, how about that local sports team, do you think Derrick Rose has got it in him this year” or “Okay. This will tell me a lot about you. Favorite food that you will cook for me. Actually no. Favorite FouseyTube video. Actually no. Jennifer Lawrence. Cop or drop? 1,2,3 go!” Furthermore, a lot of people don’t want to buy into problematic rituals such as treating our weddings, fundraising events, political rallies, and ‘activist’ conferences like the meat markets that they’ve become. Even the new ideas aren’t cutting it for many— do you really want to stare at a dating profile and read stuff like “I’m an INFJ and a Gryffindor tee hee I’m basic”?

I think this problem above all else poses a challenge to the fundamental nature of our community. And a community problem requires a community answer. How we sacrifice and make decisions to establish a culture of inclusivity and promote the Prophetic tradition— which upheld equality between genders and emphasized accountability and responsibility of commitment— will define what our children will face (especially if this trend runs parallel to other factors that create an assimilated American community of “cultural Muslims”/Muslims-by-name-only). Right now, however, it starts with more people taking ownership of their happiness and being more mindful of what really matters— and by that I most definitely mean caring less about what everyone else thinks, falling in love with one’s self and nurturing from within the type of person you would be bold enough to ask out for coffee (and not “coffee” à la George from Seinfeld).

American Muslims, College, Random

Emotional Plank

Check out my piece for the budding Muslim matchmaking site Ishqr (formerly known as Hipster Shaadi):

“This past Ramadan I attended a weekend-long Muslim social bonanza in New York City. I was away from my family for the summer, so it was wonderful to find a spirit of community in such a big city. But by the time the weekend was over, I felt like I had a major hangover. Being around Muslims for such a concentrated time can be both contagiously exciting and claustrophobic all at once— it was like another ISNA convention (and yes, that is the real reason why Tariq Ramadan boycotted #ClubISNA). I was not alone on this sentiment. Running on fumes from a sleepless night and an undigested suhoor/sehri pancake baby growing in our bellies, my friend— the one driving us all home— shut off the old Kanye West Graduation album blasting from her stereo, looked out at the road, and asked, “Why is it that all Muslims know how to do is b*tch about marriage and relationships… ALL THE TIME?”

But really though— why?

As Muslims we are conditioned to understand the fulfillment of marriage as encompassing of half of our faith. And if the analogy of the car works here, with regard to issues of love and companionship, it often feels like both as individuals in the car and as a collective community— the vehicle itself (much like this sentence)— we don’t really know where we’re going. Or, rather, we might have an idea of the promised destination, but no clue as to how or when we’ll get there.

We end up taking various detours and U-turns; we sometimes run into potholes and dead- ends; some of us take the highway/freeway/fast-lane for the conventional A-Z engagement and marriage, while others drive slow or prefer local roads, taking the time to figure it all out. You might spend too much time driving down one road and then realize, “Sh*t I should have taken the left turn on that fork instead of right, screw you Apple Maps!” Others are on Tinder while driving, swiping left like they are God’s gift to womankind. Yeah. You. You piece of sh*t. You should watch where you’re driving. Someone could get hurt.”

Click here for the full article.


Poem: Priestess


If Truth married Law
then his exiled bastard is Blasphemy.
Leave my scales and soul to God,
for I speak to the family of Truth.

Forgive me Lord, for your angels seem mortal, against her saintly glow
Heaven’s gates appear to rust in contrast.
If the birds of paradise harp the afterworld’s sweetest ballad
Her sugarcane laughter is Your devilish attempt at a spoiler.

Like sweet before savory, or a bad conversation, she spoils my appetite
In the most welcome of ways.
For how could I await another life
when the Promised Land is there, in her chocolate eyes?

Her smile is my compass
for she is Love, and that is Your path.
Bring me to her, shower me in her light
Bring me to You, bathe me in the nectar of Your mercy.

Bring me to life, kiss me in the rain of His heaven.