Saturday, December 18, 2010

On Hiatus

This blog is on hiatus till January 15, 2011 - when I hope to be back after visiting some exotic locales, meeting some interesting people and spending some quality time with loved ones.

Season's greetings to everyone, and a Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends (and those who celebrate).

And to all a Happy New Year.

ps. If you want to check out the Islamic story of Christmas (yes, there is one!) visit this link.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Packing and Ashes

Wife: "So, you know we have to buy gifts for ALL your cousins and ALL of MY cousins ..."

Me: "Don't worry, I have the Excel spread sheet ready."

Wife [shocked]: "Excel .... spreadsheet?"

Me: "Yes, everyone's name is entered, along with number of kids, number of gifts required, with currency rate and value of gift in taka and dollars."

Wife: "You know, at some point you have to go and actually buy the gifts, right?"


Me: "I hate shopping."

Man, I hate shopping. Every Christmas, I tell myself I am so glad I am not a Christian so I don't have to go out into the malls and brave the crowds to buy something. And EVERY Christmas I have to go and buy some thing.

I would rather be doing this... which actually I was last week.

Yup, watching the Ashes, with Cricinfo running commentary on one screen and the video on the other. And yes, my comments (feedback) was actually printed by the Cricinfo people.

Yes, there was no point to this post ... except to remind me that I am YET to start packing, YET to confirm the hotels... YET to print the flight details ...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Quran for Kids (with Lego bricks) - A Reminder

If you haven't already, do subscribe to my website Teaching Kids The Holy Quran. It uses toys such as Lego bricks and others to depict scenes from the verses of the Quran. There's also an RSS feed for the site.

Surah Fil

Also, do subscribe to the Facebook page for the blog (you have to "Like" it and become a fan). I added a link to the blog on the right links bar on this site as well (under "I Also Blog At").

The new blog is visited by 50-100 people daily, and is showing a steady growth in readership stats alhamdulillah. I hope to have more fans on the Facebook page for further development of the blog.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas At the Mall

With December here already, the festive season is upon us and the malls are all abound with Christmas (or as they say in secular terms here, Holiday) decorations.

Holidays are a time to exchange gifts.

Gifts that come in a hot air balloon!

Balloons that drop into a busy mall! But who brought the gifts?

Why, it's Santa!

Santa is busy taking pictures with delighted kids ...

... right next to the giant Christmas tree ...

... which is right beside Santa's Toy Workshop! I wonder where the elves are hiding.

And how did Santa know to come to this mall? Why, he was invited via a letter, didn't you know!

All photos taken by iPhone 4.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

In Defence of Arranged Marriage (Re: Natasha Fatah's CBC Article)

Natasha Fatah recently posted an article on CBC titled "The Problem with Arranged Marriage".

For those who don't know, Natasha is the daughter of Tarek Fatah. Tarek Fatah is a resident of Toronto and someone who claims to be Muslim, yet seems to find Muslims to be the root cause of many of our ills and Muslim extremism a fatal threat to the West. In a recent debate with Naheed Nenshi (Mayor of Calgary - first Muslim mayor in Canada) on Al Jazeerah, Nenshi schools Fatah and totally destroys his arguments. The debate is a must watch, with most of the fun beginning at the 8 minute mark, and Tarek Fatah being so easily outclassed. My favourite quote:

"Mr Fatah has made a career out of making this (Muslim extremism) frankly a bigger deal than it is."

In recent times, Tarek Fatah has opposed the New York mosque, been quoted by Sarah Palin, has supported the Oklahoma vote against "Shariah law" and ridiculed a man trying to prepare his will according to his religious laws. In his recent Facebook post, he recommended Asra Nomani, another "Muslim" journalist who publicly supports racial profiling of Muslims.

Natasha Fatah, his daughter (and likewise, of Indo-Pakistani descent), recently married a Caucasian man, and the pictures were posted on Mr Fatah's publicly available Facebook profile.

In one of the pictures Tarek Fatah captioned "Usually the bride is supposed to be coy and shy and quiet, but this is Canada and Natasha shows no 'haya'".

His daughter replies with "I say Bye-byea to haya!".

All of this therefore proves that not only is the Fatah household not your average Muslim household in terms of their relgious views, but also is far removed from your average Pakistani/South Asian household when it comes to customs and rituals. So given all of this, it is not surprising that Natasha Fatah should now turn her guns to another of her own customs, criticizing it (just like her father who has yet to find a single mainstream mosque or Muslim organization he likes).

In her article, Natasha Fatah goes all over the place. First, she associates South Asian culture with arranged marriages.

Arranged marriage has had roots in every corner of this planet but still holds on strongly in South Asia and even among the South Asian diaspora living in the West.

It is a fact that arranged marriages are quite common in all of Asia and Africa. My real estate agent (who is Korean) got married via arranged marriage. Many of my Arab friends found their wives via families using this custom. My Chinese team partner during my MBA studies was a product of an arranged marriage. It's not just a South Asian thing.

Ms. Fatah continues: "But that doesn't mean we still have to accept a tradition that is still not right for its times."

So, I am waiting for her to say WHY it is not right. After all, the title of her column was "The Problem with Arranged Marriage"!

She uses her cousin as an example.

He and his-now-wife had only met a handful of times before they were to marry. In many ways, they were strangers.

But I have to admit that once they did marry I could see them falling in love before my eyes.

Confused? I am too. It sounds like any marriage. There can be love. Or there can't be. You take your chances.

She then goes on to describe problems, general problems of South Asia (such as poverty and fathers saving their whole lives for their daughters' marriages) and equates them to problems with arranged marriages (which are yet to be defined).

The primary reason for arranged marriage still remains that many families want to secure wealth, property and social status for their children.

I don't know about Ms. Fatah's neck of the woods but most people I know who got married via arranged marriages did so because they felt comfortable with someone their parents and families selected. In many ways our families not only know what's best for us, but also knows what type of spouse can go with the family, their culture and their habits etc. Most children are not treated as "objects", counter to Ms. Fatah's claim. She also curiously says it's a "14th century custom". Arranged Marriages came long before the 14th century (which coincidentally is the century when Islam came forth!).

An arranged marriage avoids many pitfalls of traditional courtships. The parents have already approved the match. The family status and religion etc. already match, reducing the chances of conflict and tension. And everyone feels a part of the process, hence they try to make things amicable when there is a fight between the couple.

This is not to put down "love" marriage or other routes of marriages - all have their pluses and minuses and everyone can choose which one works for them and their life style. But I am yet to read on what exactly is the PROBLEM with arranged marriage that Ms Fatah thinks we in the West should completely abolish it!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Non-Arab Arabs

So while Katrina Kaif looks much better saying it, I also have to say it.

"What's my name?"

It's not Misbah, Misba, or *horror* Al Misbah.


I hate it when people come to me and say "Why do you spell your name as Mezba, it should be pronounced as Misbah."

"Why," I will ask, knowing the reply.

"Well, it's really 'mis' in Arabic, not 'mez', so you name should be-"

IN CASE YOU ARE TOO DUMB TO NOTICE OR SEE BEYOND YOUR BEARD this is the English language and I am spelling my name in English and I will spell it the Way I Want It.

Imagine a guy name Paul having this conversation.

"Sorry, it's actually 'Ball' in Arabic and not 'Paul' as we don't have a 'P' sound so you should spell your name as 'Ball' really."

Last time I checked, you spell people's names the way they want it to be spelt and pronounce it the way they want it to be pronounced.

Muslims from the subcontinent (India-Pakistan-Bangladesh) all suffer from an inferiority complex where they want to be very Arab. I don't know why, an Arab isn't much better than a non-Arab (I didn't say it, the Prophet did). Yet, in their zeal to be "more Muslim" they will give every kid an Arabic name. This 'zeal' is most evident in Pakistan.

In Bangladesh, surprisingly, we still have few stalwarts who will give their children Bengali names. They are not Hindu, nor Muslim, but Bengali names. Names that have some good meaning, or is cultural.

And then the problem starts when they meet these non-Arab Arabs.

"Why is your name Mala? That's such a Hindu name."

"Why is your name Moushumee? OMG that is SUCH a Hindu name."

The last from a guy called Sameer who puts "Sam" on his resume.

No, it's not a Hindu name. Broaden your horizons a bit. Sheesh.

One should carry a placard.

"Hi, My name is Moushumee and I am NOT a Hindu."


Friday, November 26, 2010

Careful what you say ...!

So I am there at the office with my brother to pick up some papers and a package. it was 4.30 pm. At exactly 6 pm I had the badminton court booked.

I stared at my ticket stub. It said 560.

I looked up at the LCD display above. It said "now serving applicant 540".

Twenty people more, I thought, how bad could it be?

It was bad. It was so slow.

"What's the time?" My brother, and badminton partner, asked me.

"4:45 pm." I glanced at my watch and replied.

"Uh oh." He quickly calculated. "It will take us 40 minutes to go home in rush hour. We will be cutting it close."

"If by 5 we are ready to pick it up ..." I left the sentence unfinished. We would just reach home in time. Perhaps.

"Now serving customer 559." The LCD said.

"It's 5 o'clock." My brother announced, quite loudly.

"Yeah," I replied. And then I added, not realizing, in a VERY loud voice, "The countdown has begun."

Quite the wrong choice of words when you are at an embassy to pick up your visa ...

Monday, November 08, 2010


I recently read of the plight of a house owner in Markham who cannot sell his house because it is no. 4, which is "death" in Cantonese [source].
“Tetraphobia,” fear of 4, entered their vocabulary.

Having a 4 in the address can lower a home's value — "Agents estimate anywhere between $25,000 and $35,000," Graham Canning says.
The article mentions that the area was predominantly Anglo when the owners first moved in, but now is mostly Chinese (Hong Kong immigrants) - many of whom won't buy if there is the number 4 in the house address.

Now to me, this is quite silly. It's like the old joke where "so-and-so heard that 80% of accidents happen near one's home, so he moved". I then read some of the comments left by readers. Here's one:

Canada has been accommodating immigrants so long, that accommodating Canadians somehow fell off the map.

So says someone poking fun of an immigrant superstition, when you will not find a floor number 13 on most Canadian buildings! In fact, there is one condo in Scarborough where there are no floors that are numbered 4, 13 or 23!

In Bangladesh, most superstitions I grew up with tended to be fears of the dark. So for example you don't cut your nails after evening, you don't look at your shadows at night or if someone is lying on the floor, don't step over them. Some are pretty common sense but others are quite ridiculous - for example if your right hand itches you will have some money coming in!

So perhaps one should give the house owner some itching powder and get him to sell the house to a non-Chinese person.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Why Muslims Should (Not) Vote (Democrat)

Today, all the Facebook statuses of my politically active American friends are encouraging everyone to go out and vote. "Make your voice count!" They say. And most of them are recommending the Democrats.

It's not hard to see why someone would prefer the Democrats. The alternate (Republican/Tea Party) are vehemently anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-racist by their acts, views and opinions. America today is a sad country, and a terrible place to be a Muslim. But, and this is a strong reason, are you really making your voice count if you are voting a Democrat, just to stop the Republicans?

In Nevada, for example, you have to vote for Harry Reid, the Democrat leader, who said publicly he does not want the mosque in New York to be built. And I ask, what is the difference between him and a Republican?

In fact, the very pathetic condition of the US political system is that you really have only two choices, Democrat and Republican, who are not really very different. And for Muslims, the outlook is worse. The Republicans hate you and will never benefit you, while the Democrats know you will vote for them regardless, and therefore doesn't court you for support.

So, if you really want to make your voice count, make an honest vote. If your Democrat candidate has truly spoken out supporting Muslims and supporting issues you care about, then vote for him (or her). However, if your Democrat has also joined the Republicans in opposing Muslim interests, or not taken any action on issues you care about, don't vote for that candidate. Make the candidate feel (write a letter or email) as to why you did not vote for that person. The candidates should know that your vote has to be earned. There's a bunch of other candidates running (who may not have a chance of winning) but would appreciate your support (and if there's no one, don't vote).

You as a Muslim are not responsible for changing the world for the better, you as a Muslim are only responsible for making an effort to do so. Success (and failure) comes from Allah.

Don't fear the Republicans. They can do what they want, they can plan what they will, Allah is the Best of planners. Muslims have been there long before them and Muslims will be there long after they are burning in Hell.

And, in case they really take America down the drain, you can always move to Canada. We have a real political system. And health care.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Read With Meaning

This year three of my close friends depart for Hajj, inshAllah. I hope Allah accepts their Hajj and grants them (and all the Hajjis) a safe return home and a Hajj Mabroor (a pilgrimage free from vice). Two years ago, another close friend had also performed the pilgrimage. I plan to go on the pilgrimage in 2012 inshAllah, and I invite you all to join me if you can.

I would also like to announce the launch of a new blog.

Teaching Kids the Holy Quran

Why kids? Well, it will be self-evident when you visit the site!

What I have noticed is a lot of kids (and even adults) read the Quran without understanding a single word of the text. Allah Himself has agreed to protect the Quran - so the Book does not need the efforts of people like me, but I hope the interesting visual representation of the translated words will help in raising the interest of some kids (and even adults who may not normally have the inclination) to read (and understand) the Quran. In other words - I hope they read with meaning.

That blog will be updated about twice a month - so I encourage you to subscribe to the RSS feed. I am also playing around with the size of the images - so the first set is probably too large but the next posts should have smaller sized images.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Questions about "Islamic" Financing

I recently wrote a 2-page article with some questions I have on "Islamic" financing. Next month I have a meeting with a senior cleric at an Islamic institution and perhaps he can give me some answers. I am reproducing the article here so that if you are attending any course etc. on "Islamic" financing, please see if your instructor can answer these points. I recently found out my alma mater Rotman is going to offer a course in "Islamic" financing (via Muslim Girl on Twitter).

1. It seems like a Recent Addition

Islam has been revealed over 1400 years ago, yet interest-free banking seems to be of recent origin. The earliest references to the reorganization of banking on the basis of profit sharing rather than interest are found in Anwar Qureshi (1946), Naiem Siddiqi (1948) and Mahmud Ahmad (1952), followed by a more elaborate exposition by Mawdudi (1950). Much work followed later from the works of these pioneers. The first private Islamic bank was Dubai Islamic Bank in 1975.

My question is: what was the Muslim world doing before 1940? We had a huge empire, in particular the Ottoman Empire; one would assume there would be a need for large financial transactions over the 1400 years of Islam’s history. Yet, all the so-called organized Islamic financing mechanisms such as Mudaraba, Mufawada, Suqooq, Ijarah etc. all seemed to be recent developments. What did a Muslim man who wanted to borrow a huge amount of money, much more than his current capital leverage would allow, do before 1940?

2. Compatibility with local law

Islamic financing in many instances seem to ignore local laws. For example’s sake, let’s take a simple lease-to-own mortgage mechanism used by entities such as ISNA.

How it works (my understanding of it)

The homebuyer wants to buy a house for some amount, say $250,000, and can afford a down payment of $50,000. He borrows $200,000 from the Islamic bank, for 30 years. Every month, he pays a certain amount of money to the bank, and at the end of 30 years, the bank gets their $200,000 back. So, how does the bank make a profit without charging interest?

Answer: they charge the homebuyer “rent” because as they say, they put up $200,000 out of the $250,000 so they own 80% of the house. The homebuyer will pay rent on 80% of the house as “determined by market” – this is their profit. Every year the rent should theoretically go down because less and less is owned by the bank.

My Questions:

1. So who owns the house? Bank, homebuyer or both? If the bank owns a part then should they not share in the cost of utilities, insurance, property taxes etc.? Yet these costs are all borne out by the homebuyer. So why is the homebuyer paying “rent”? According to law these should be borne out by owners only in proportion to their ownership.

2. If every year, more of the title goes to the homebuyer, then should not the Islamic bank pay the City of Toronto a Land Transfer Tax every year because every year the title is changing in composition?

3. If a fire destroys the house after first year who collects the insurance money? (Again goes back to the first question: who is the owner).

4. So what transaction is this? Is it a lease, a loan, a purchase? I thought uncertainties were NOT allowed in an Islamic transaction?

5. Why does the Islamic bank re-evaluate the market price of the house every year to determine the rent? According to Ontario Law, rent can only grow by a fixed percentage every year. Yet suspiciously most Islamic financier’s reevaluation of the market price of the house to determine the “rent” is surprisingly close to Bank of Canada’s financing rates or the international LIBOR rate.

3. General Questions

Student Loans and other non-profit loans

Many so-called Islamic financing schemes require profit sharing which theoretically also implies loss sharing. Yet what about necessities where there is no profit – such as student loans?

I wanted to do an MBA which would cost $60,000. Who would lend me $60,000 interest free for 10 years? It would mean the lender would lose the use of $60,000 for the duration of 10 years, with no profit at the end of term (in fact actually a loss due to inflation and future time value of money) and with the risk of default. Why would ANY one lend me that amount of money interest free?

Similarly, in any country, the government accounts for a major component of the demand for credit – both short-term and long-term. Unlike business loans these borrowings are not always for investment purposes, nor for investment in productive enterprises. Even when invested in productive enterprises they are generally of a longer-term type and of low yield. General profit-loss-sharing ideas do not apply for loans to government for many such projects and therefore Islamic banking becomes impractical.

Accounting / Knowledge of Economics

Those who argue the word “riba” in the Quran means all interest and not just usury (which is excessive interest) also do not study accounting / finance / economics because doing so (and perhaps working as an accountant / banker / economist) would imply they will have to calculate interest as part of their day-to-day jobs. For them, even calculating interest is haram. Thus, if everyone adopted their approach the whole Muslim world would be bereft of accountants, economists etc. Clearly this is not practical. Even the Islamic Foundation of Toronto has an accountant.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How To Have A Perfectly Sane Brown Wedding - Part 1

I attended a lot of weddings this summer, mostly desi weddings. If you don't know how desi weddings work, here's a primer. Now, in the interests of preserving sane-ness amongst desis, I give you (for free) my 5 tips on How To Have A Perfectly Sane Brown Wedding.


Rule Number 1
If you invite 600 people, make sure the hall can, oh-I-don't-know, HOLD 600 people.

This is your wedding. If you can afford to invite 600 people, then PLEASE get a big hall. Don't think "half won't show up" and "we don't need air conditioning in Canada".

Here's a rule: 600 people = 600 chairs (minimum).

Rule Number 2
You know, you don't REALLY need to invite 600 people.

It's wedding, not a Facebook invite to a teenager's party. Brown people invite EVERY body, lest someone get offended. Sure, you may not have seen me for 10 years, but you will be offended if I don't invite you to an event where you will be ignored for the whole 3 hours because there's 599 other people who want to take a photo with me.

And here's some information for desi parents: "Mr & Mrs." is good enough. You don't NEED to add "and family" to John in the cubicle down the corridor whom you have never known but feel obliged to invite anyways.

Rule Number 3
Please Vet All Wedding Speakers, including the imam/priest.

So here's the situation. I attend this wedding where the food has NOT been served and there's a whole bunch of white people also in attendance (and being fussed over by the host) while the brown guys run riot and throw seating arrangement plans out the window (including PHYSICALLY lifting chairs and taking it to another table AND picking out the 'reserved' tag on some tables and chucking it) - when the long bearded imam stands up to speak.

"Greetings and peace be upon you," He starts. "So here is my tip to the newly wed couple. You have certain rights over each other."

And then he goes to entail how the wife should seek the permission of the husband before leaving his house and how she should always submit to him and the husband should break the news gently to his wife if he ever takes a second wife.

By the end of the speech I had learnt that homosexuals should be stoned to death and a couple can enjoy marital relations in any position (minus the exceptions) and how in this society every woman in a short skirt is a temptress and every man has to fend for himself.

All spoken with a very bad accent.

The food then arrived. I had lost my appetite.

Please pay close attention: VET ALL SPEAKERS. VET THEIR SPEECHES. If possible introduce tape delay.

And do NOT stone homsexuals to death.

Rule Number 4
Women Need To Pray Too.

This is more for Muslims but I have seen many weddings where the hosts go to great lengths to make prayer arrangements - for the men. The women? I guess you can pray in your chairs. I get it that some women may not want to pray given their state of ablution and the heavy make up but for those that wish to pray you SHOULD make the arrangements. If you can get a prayer space, the women can just pray BEHIND the women.

But that would make sense.

And while you are about it, can you get an imam who will NOT decide to read Surah Baqarah while leading that prayer? Seriously, Allah revealed short surahs for a reason.

Rule Number 5
Calling For Food By Table Numbers - a primer.

Please, please DON'T DO THIS. It makes sense when there's only 5-10 tables (see Rule number 2 and refer to white weddings as example). It makes NO SENSE when there's 60 tables. And it makes absolutely ZERO sense when you are reading table numbers in some random order of prime factorial and forget to continue after '39'.

Either have a buffet with at least 4 lines (2 tables with people on either side) so it moves fast, or have food brought to the table. If you want some priviledged people to eat first (i.e in-laws or white people at the office you want to impress), AGAIN, bring the food TO THEIR TABLE.

Otherwise, have a free-for-all buffet.

Again, see rule 1 and 2.


Extended in Part 2 ...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Boston Pizza Now Halal

This weekend the Wife and I decided to check out a Boston Pizza (a Canadian-based restaurant chain) near our residence. There was an added attraction this time around - the Boston Pizza locations in and around the Greater Toronto Area now offer Halal options!

Usually when we want a halal pizza, we go to Pizza Pizza's (some of whose locations carry halal options). With Boston Pizza being a more upscale place, we decided to give it a try.

While I am not really a big fan of Boston Pizza, I think it's great we can now go and order from the same menu as everyone else and not be restricted to seafood/veggie entries (although I must confess I really love their Cajun Shrimp pizza even more than the meat ones!).

When I asked about the halal options, I was told I can order any of the chicken items, except ones that are breaded. We ended up getting chicken wings and a Tuscan pizza which had grilled chicken in addition to other stuff.

Overall, it was good and different, although a bit pricey. I wouldn't go there all the time but once in a while it's fine. I found the pizza a bit too oily for my taste, although the Wife liked the dough and feta cheese combo on our pizza. If you are in the GTA, you should give it a try (and do ask for the halal options). If you are used to usual halal pizza joints (which despite cleanliness being considered half of the Islamic faith are hardly the epitome of hygiene), Boston Pizza was a refreshing change.

Hopefully more mainstream restaurants will now start offering similar options.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why India Is Not Going Anywhere Fast

This article is penned not to bash India, but to remind Indians that glossing over their country's problems is not going to help India in any fashion, but would hinder their progress.

Last year a work colleague of mine was quite happy about an upcoming trip. He was scheduled to go to Goa, India. For the life of me, I could not understand why he was so excited about a business trip to India.

"It's quite exotic and they are the new world power and think of the business opportunities and ..."

To the majority of people in the West, India was suddenly their new darling. Obama invited the Indians as his first State Dinner guests. Everyone does business with the Chinese, but no one likes them. India is "democratic" and so they are our new best friend. As for me, I had always maintained the impression that while India may, in some distant future, perhaps be a world power, right now they are a third world country.

Why? If you really boil down to specifics, Indians are no different breed of people than Bangladeshis, and Bangladesh is going nowhere fast. The problems of Bangladesh are the same problems Indians face.

Consider the latest Commonwealth Games (2010) fiasco. The Games may be doomed, writes Biswas. The athlete village that the organizing committee chief touted as being better than Beijing Olympics is "unfit for human habitation", according to team delegates. Construction delays, corruption, dangue fever, toilets backed up all do not point to a first world powerful country. At first, I thought it was just Western elites complaining about a pan system toilet but on second reading, their concerns seem justified. If you are holding a world class event your facilities should be world class. Apparently, the definition of "world class" in India is not the same as elsewhere, not to mention their shoddy construction standards which has seen a bridge collapse days before the event.

Why am I bringing up the Commonwealth Games? It's because it's a symptom of what ails India in general. Corruption. The same vice that is the reason for Bangladesh's backwardness is the reason for India's lag. India cannot even considering moving towards being a world power until its corruption bug is nipped out.

Consider the Indian Premier League (IPL) of cricket. When it was announced with such dizzy heights and the ridiculous sums of money, I was amazed. Can India, with 42% of population below poverty line cope with IPL? In three years, the IPL was exposed as a den of corruption with few individuals alleged to own shares in every team, laws being re-written so that conflicts of interest were overlooked (with the secretary of BCCI which makes rules also owning a team in the IPL) and so on. It only came to a head last year when the IPL fell foul of a government minister. And anyone who follows cricket knows that in the current, as well as past match fixing controversies, the trail of bookies ultimately end up in India.

Does corruption exist in the West? In the so-called "first world"? Sure it does. It may even involve very large sums of money. However the institutions in those countries, the laws, the court system etc. are remarkably powerful and free from this vice. When caught, you can expect all hell to break loose. In India, the BJP led rallies to destroy the Babri mosque resulting in riots that killed thousands of people and their leader became the Prime Minister and was never charged. In Gujarat, Muslims were slaughtered just a few years ago while the governing party and police stood by. After the murder of Indira Gandhi, thousands of Sikhs were butchered in the streets of India. Till now, the culprits are yet to face justice.

One does not have to go far to see India is far from being a perfect democracy with perfect freedom of speech. Last year, Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood superstar, expressed a view on Pakistani cricketers. Such was the ire of one political leader, Bal Thakaray, that his followers ransacked cinema houses, set fire to posters, vandalized stores with the police unable to do much. In the past, Thakaray has threatened cricket superstar Tendulkar and Bollywood supremo Amitabh Bachchan. Meekly, these people had to recant and make their peace while Thakaray goes unpunished. In a Western system, such a person would have been arrested as a goon, or charged as a terrorist.

Therefore, to any person who thinks India is now a world power, they are dreaming. I say this as someone who wants India and the surrounding countries to succeed, as they have a lot to offer the world. However, India has lots of problems, starting with corruption, female infanticide, a blind hatred of Pakistan etc. to name a few. India is no where close to being a world power. It is just like Bangladesh, except with a bigger army.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lego Bollywood

So, following on from a busy Eid, I had a little bit of time on my hands this weekend.

Movie: 3 Idiots

A promotional poster for the movie.

Film: Baazigar

The scene that defined the movie.

Film: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

The best song from the best movie of all time.

Film: Hum Tum

The characters from the comic strip in the movie.

Film: Mr India

"Mogambo Khush Hua"

"Main hoon Mr India!"

"Mr India laal rang pe dekha dete hain!"

Film: Om Shanti Om

From the song Dard-e-Disco (4 minutes into the song)

Film: Silsila

Song: Dekha Ek Khwab

"Fool bhi ho darmiyon to faasle huyain"

Movie: Slumdog Millionaire

The climatic scene from the movie, when Anil Kapoor goes "Chaiwala Jamaal from Aamchi Mumbai!" [images]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lego Collectible Minifigures Series 2 Fun!

When the staff only half turned into a snake, Rameses the 75th decided this was the last time he bought something from Walmart.


Tonight we dine in Hell!!!

The Prince of Persia crashes the Collectible Minifigures Series 2 party ...

... to be followed by his arch nemesis, the Skeleton Prince.

Always a pleasant distraction back to the 1990s, when she actually looked good!

Do gentlemen always prefer blondes?

Back to reality for Canadians, we are a winter country. Well, all those medals can't be wrong!


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

How To Spot The Eid Grinch

Are you an Eid Grinch? Do you not have fun on Eid? How do you tell someone if they are the Eid humbug? Here are three signs.

1. Working on Eid when they don't have to


2. Not giving Eidi or gifts to children/family


3. Staying home and watching TV all Eid day


Eid is meant to have fun. It is meant as a celebration, BY GOD, for all you have done in Ramadan. It may be a challenge to celebrate Eid in a non-Muslim country but it's not hard, nor is it particularly tough. Really, is it that hard to just have a good time?

Have a party. Arrange some games (here's some Eid game suggestions!). Visit your friends. Give your mom a call (and dad too). Forgive your enemies. Switch off the TV and go outside. Don't be a $$$$ miser, give some gifts!

Here's in advance a very happy Eid Mubarak to all my readers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

5 Tips for the Night Prayers

Now that the last 10 days of Ramadan are here (wow!), I thought I should rehash some of tips on how to attend the night prayers at the mosque during this holy time.

Tip 1: It is not a hurdles competition.

I know that there is a reward for being in front of the mosque. The closer you are to the front, the greater the reward, so the saying goes. Having said that, if you want to go to the front of the mosque, COME EARLY!

I am sick of people in overflowing robes coming late to the mosque and the bumping my head off as they try to leapfrog into a more 'rewarding' position. Must be a 'calculating muslim syndrome'.

Tip 2: You are not having dinner

I remember getting a chain email long time ago that if you want to show you appreciation to an Arab host, you burp to signal that you have enjoyed your meal. I have no idea if this is true or not. However, the mosque is not a dinner table nor have you been invited to a meal. I am speaking of course of the famous 'biryani burp'.

Yesterday I moved up (see tip 1) after 8 rakats to get closer to God. And then stood next to an uncle who kept 'burping the Ameen' for the next 12 rakats. As for my salaat, alas I spent less time contemplating on the meaning of the Quran and more time on fantasizing if I can order a hit on this guy.

Seriously, if you are going to stand for long time, control what you have for your iftar. An iftar is not another word for a 12-course meal.

Tip 3: Allah loves cleanliness.

And for muslims, cleanliness is half of faith, as told by the Prophet.

And besides, nowadays we all have Tide. Heck, even the Dollar Store has a cheap detergent you can use.

I know you are very worried someone will steal your precious "Timmi Hilfigur" socks (or else it's playoff hockey time and you haven't taken your socks off as you are winning - remember superstition is alien to Islam), but please, stop trying to kill other people when they are doing sujood, even though it is a blessing to die in sujood it is a greater blessing to have a long and virtuous life.

Tip 4: Stop scaring little kids

Children are a blessing, said the Prophet. When he used to pray, his grandkids would climb on his back and otherwise 'bother' him during his prayers, yet he never scolded them. Yesterday I saw an old uncle morph into a godzilla and scare the crap out of this little kid who had the misfortune of running in front of the dude while he was praying. I am sure that kid will have fond memories of the mosque in the future. Later on, when you are lamenting as to why the youth of today do not come to the mosque, it's because you have scarred them when they were the baby of yesterday.

Tip 5: Sleep first.

It's the NIGHT prayers. Most people SLEEP at night. That's why those who pray are doing something special. Note: pray. NOT SLEEP. If you have to sleep, please remain on your bed, not on my shoulder. There is actually a saying that you should not pray when you are sleepy. So either sleep before and then come to the mosque, or please stay in your bed.

To desi FOB uncles: If you follow the above tips, I am sure you can make your experience and the experience of the rest around you a lot better.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's that time of the year again

It's that time of the year again.

A flier outside a major grocery store in Toronto

It's that time of the year when a sip of Rooh Afza is the most pleasant moment of the day.

It's that time of the year when the Quran gets dusted and date sellers (the fruit kind!) go into profit.

It's that time of the year when more people visit the mosque in one night than the entire last month.

It's that time of the year people have been waiting the last 11 months for.

It's that time of the year that the sport of 'moonfighting' enjoys a revival.

It's that time of the year when blood banks get a major rise in donations.

It's that time of the year food banks do great business.

It's that time of the year the 'biriyani burp' is made into an art fashion.

A very blessed Ramadan Kareem to all my readers, family and friends. May the Almighty Allah accept all our fasts and worship and good deeds and shower all of us with His blessings.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


It was long weekend in Ontario, and we drove to Chicago with another friend and his wife for a "short short vacation", which is how we described our trip to the border officer. It was all last minute, and sometimes those are the best.

The first sight of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) on the way to Chicago downtown

Chicago is not a very vibrant city. In fact, it is the ultimate version of what a cold-hearted, materialistic, gritty, ugly American city could be. It seemed to be a city without a soul. At any one moment, you could imagine Al Capone and his gang bursting out of the shadows in a gang encounter.

Driving downtown, Chicago was Manhattan, New York minus the glamour

Chicago is famous for its architecture, which was evident throughout the diverse designs of the buildings downtown. Each building was different from the next. It is not the cookie-cutter glass box design you see downtown Toronto, for example.

Check out the cars being parked at the base of this building!

We only had one full day (Sunday) to spend in the city, having reached there Saturday night and returning Monday morning. So on Saturday night, after relaxing for a bit at our hotel, we drove to Devon Avenue. This is a big street that has a lot of desi shops. It's a bit like Toronto's Gerrard Street but only bigger. Much bigger.

The next day, after an early breakfast, we drove to the Shedd Aquarium. The main purpose was not to see the aquarium and the fishes, but to capture the magnificent skyline of Chicago from the lake shore.

Then, it was on to the Willis Tower (although everyone still keeps referring to it as the Sears Tower).
Driving downtown Chicago, again it seemed to be a post-apocalyptic city with everyone going to work like bees and concrete everywhere one could see

The Willis Tower was tall, very tall - it didn't seem to be that big from the distance!

Inside the tower, as you buy your ticket and make your way to the elevator that takes you to the top, there's a comparison wall with various other structures.

A comparison of the Willis Tower and Burj Khalifa

You can imagine just how big (gigantic) the Burj Khalifa is! It leaves everyone gasping for breath. The views of Chicago from the viewing deck is similar to views from up any other tall building.

Chicago is on the shore of Lake Michigan and the lake was a brilliant blue

On a clear day you can see up to four states and up to 50 miles away - when we went it was hot, very hot and so a bit smoggy

Concrete, concrete and more concrete

The Willis Tower had something rather new. It was a glass box, placed outside the building! It's like the glass floor on the CN tower, but this is a whole area, a whole section, placed in the air! It's merged with the viewing deck.

Do you dare?

You look straight down 600 metres!

Surprisingly it wasn't that scary - I wonder if that's because it felt like part of the viewing deck, only with a glass floor!

Ever heard of Fazlur Khan? He is the chief architect behind the Willis Tower as well as various other skyscrapers. And he is a Bangladeshi!

After all this, it was time for lunch. And what better way to spend lunch than to try Chicago's famous deep dish pizza. We went to Giordano's - one of the pioneers of stuffed pizza and tried their veg-spinach pizza. It was delicious! You get filled after one slice - each slice is like having two pizzas!

One last item was left on our agenda. Millennium Park, featuring the Cloud Gate. This is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, and is the centerpiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park.

(Sidenote: so, the two famous Chicago landmarks are desi-designed?)

We had a lot of fun at Cloud Gate, where we took various pictures in all types of poses (and everyone was doing the same). I wish, ever since visiting Europe and New York, we had more famous public squares and parks and famous huge sculptures in Toronto. Instead, we have Yonge-Dundas Square.

So, all things combined, it was a fun trip, and one day was more than enough for Chicago. We had a great time and it was a nice trip. However, it's not a city that holds any special attraction and one you can easily skip from your US itinerary without missing a thing. Except, perhaps, the pizza.