Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What 'Love, InshAllah' and other so-called progressive Muslim feminists don't get

Look at the rubbish that Shahla Khan Salter wrote on Huffington Post.

Titled "To Our Muslim Sisters: Don't Let Faith Stop You From Getting Married", the article makes the point that Muslim ladies should feel free to marry non-Muslim guys.

I first saw this article when Love InshAllah linked to it from their Facebook feed. Even before I read it, Ihad an inkling of what the article would say, and why the authors of Love InshAllah would promote it.

To all Muslim feminists: You want to solve issues in Muslim societies? Solve them. Don't create new ones. Especially when the solution is already given and you don't like it because it doesn't fit your Western "feminist" views.
This article, like many on the progressive left, relegates religion to "do what feels right". In essence, they elevate an individual and their own feelings/desires over what is revealed by God and understood as such for generations.

Islam, like almost any religion, has laws. If someone doesn't want to follow those laws, that's fine, but calling oneself Muslim and then saying those laws are not really laws is like saying I am vegetarian but it's OK to eat chicken. These laws are not a buffet that you choose what you want. Like any religion, Islam severely restricts marriages to outside the faith. Only in some exceptional circumstances is it tolerated.

This article is saying you are Muslim but don't need to follow the law, it's OK. Marry outside the faith, it's fine. Islam says it's OK (actually it clearly doesn't). 

The article, and the author, tries to fit Islamic law to some Western sensibilities. The author is saying a husband doesn't need to be Muslim, but only has to "love" his Muslim wife and her "Muslimness" (whatever that means). The article adds that a woman has the ultimate freedom to choose her husband, any one she wants (not really: if she's Muslim she has accepted to live under some moral laws defined by God). The author goes on to say that since we face other challenges we should be able to marry whoever we want (not true, those other 'challenges' can be dealt with other ways).

The final advice itself is dangerous: "Follow your heart".

The whole concept goes against Muslim ethos which is "do not give in to your base desires if it goes against God's desire".

The so-called "progressive" Muslim feminists who form the bulk of Love InshAllah's fan club do not understand one clear thing: no matter how many times they post rubbish like this under the guise of "furthering dialogue" or "promoting an interesting point of view", real Muslims will stick to their religion, no matter how tough. 

Islam hasn't come to create problems, but to provide solutions. Muslim Feminists don't like this solution, so their create problems of their own.

Other articles on Muslim Feminism:

Why Muslim Feminists Don't Win

Why (Many) Muslims Have a Problem With (Most) Feminists

Friday, March 10, 2017

Woodbine Mall Fantasy Fair

Amusement arcades and rides inside malls seemed to be common in big malls in UAE. Even when I visited Sharjah, one of the malls there had a little amusement park with rides and arcade games inside. It's not something that's common here.

There was a huge amusement park inside West Edmonton Mall which we visited, and it was huge, but that's an exception. In Toronto, we have the Woodbine Mall Fantasy Fair.

We had a Groupon deal that let 4 people ride unlimited for $30, so we went there last Saturday. The centre opens at 10 am and we were there at 11 am. It was great, there wasn't much of a line up at any of the rides, and we got to do everything at a relaxed pace, which is no mean feat with two toddlers.

The train ride is a popular one, and it goes all around the "amusement park", and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. I reflected that with the groupon deal, this was the first time I was actually riding the rides! Usually as father I am the one paying and taking pictures and not enjoying the rides.

Even though some of the rides had height restrictions, most of the rides were suitable for all kids (and adults).

If you were not into rides, they had some other activities like "rock climbing". What I liked most was that even the most "extreme" attractions were geared for being suitable for kids.

So even the ride usually known as 'drop zone' or 'freefall' was made sure it didn't go too high, and kids could ride in it, although this particular kid didn't seem to have enjoyed it a lot!

They also had dinosaurs all over the park, for some reason! Almost all types of dinosaurs, from the big to the small, herbivores to carnivores, were there on display, and these were moving and roaring! I don't really know why they were there; it didn't seem to fit under any theme and did nothing for the rides.

If you are visiting this place, I would suggest going early. It fills up very quickly and gets really busy on some days, especially long weekends.

There's no halal food food in the food court except a shawarma place. So if you are not a fan of that, and you can't eat anything else at the mall, you should either bring your own food.You can go in and out as many times as you like, there's no real "gate". They check you for tokens or tickets at every ride.

We had a stroller with us, but we could leave it beside the ride while we went on it. A stroller was also useful as the youngest one decided to sleep in the afternoon while one of us accompanied the older kid on the rides. It's also a great place to dump your jackets, caps and mittens!

Over all it was a fun morning and afternoon. Although the mall itself is nothing to write home about, you can have a good time at the Fantasy Fair, provided it doesn't get too crowded. Come early, and enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Toronto Light Festival

It's hard to get people to get out of their houses in our cold Canadian winter, even if the area to head out to is as fashionable as the Distillery District. So when I learned of the Toronto Light Festival, happening over there, I just waited for the right evening to head down there. Tonight the temperature was a balmy 12 C in the evening (very unlike our usual February weather!) so we decided to check it out.

The Distillery District is often the choice for bridal photo shoots and couple engagement pictures. It has an old work charm, with brick buildings and trendy shops and cafes.

The light festival has on their website one simple statement.

Winter sucks, and we simply want to make winter not suck so much. And oh, we really like pretty lights.

And I have to say, they got it right. The exhibits were bright, spirited and fun. And it was crowded (it was a nice evening) and everyone was taking pictures (and selfies) with all the cool exhibits.

My favourite was the ring of lights. It took some positioning (and practicing my crowd navigating skills I picked up in India) to get myself into the right spot to take the pictures I wanted.

Another crowd favourite were the tiger exhibits. I couldn't take every shot here that I wanted as it was simply too busy and our children decided they had enough and wanted to go home.

There were just white lights hidden underneath paper sheets (of different colours) held on a wire-frame structure. I know these were paper sheets as one girl accidentally managed to damage one of them!

There was no name to this next exhibit, but it was a series of images of an athlete doing some running and jumping.

Overall the Light Festival was fun (and free). Parking nearby was $2/hour. We spent nearly two hours here and while we finished seeing most of the exhibits, we didn't manage to check out some of the exhibits there were housed indoors. It's a great spot to spend some of the now not-so-sucky winter nights. On a crowded night, budget easily 3 hours here, especially if you are into photography.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ducks in the Park On a Cold Day

It was the day after the snow storm. A few friends and I were taking a photography workshop, and after the class decided to venture to a nearby park for some practice shooting.

While our aim was to get some portrait shots in outdoor conditions, the park we went to had a (semi-frozen) pond with lots of ducks (loons) in it. Now there are beautiful creatures, and you don't often see them this time in the winter as many of them head south.

So it was to our surprise that we saw a huge bunch of them. Flying, swimming and people were feeding them bread, even though a sign asked them not to!

It was something to see these ducks walk so sure-footedly on the frozen part of the pond. Even the banks of the small brook were completely covered with ice (we had freezing rain as well), so it was tough for us to walk on, but these ducks were racing each other.

It was really the first time I had ventured out to a park in the winter, and I guess I should do it more often, if only for the photography. Winter (and the dead trees and the desolate landscape) can often make for some really dynamic pictures, full of drama and mood.

Girl on a Bridge
This picture above - "Girl on a Bridge" - remains one of my favourite shots from the day. Everything about it, from the bridge framed in the lower one third of the picture, to the girl and her stare across at something, and the barren yet tree laden landscape behind her tells a story.

Finally, our enthusiasm for pictures and photography could not compensate for the fact that it was getting colder (and it was evening too, so high ISO settings), so in the end we decided to call it a day. But I won't forget the Ducks in the Park.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Snow Day in Toronto

You know you are a Canadian who lives in Toronto when you take pictures of the white snow covered landscape after a snowstorm in the city. After all, it's Canada, it's winter ... snow is therefore expected. But we live in Toronto, so we are a little spoiled when it comes to weather..

We got 10 cm of snow today, starting early in the morning. A snow day is not bad if it happens on a Sunday. I mean, you don't have to go to work, so there's no traffic to beat.

However, there's lots and lots of shovelling to do. Driveways are covered in snow and you have to clear it soon after it stops snowing (or there's an accumulation of a certain amount). I am not exactly sure of the law, but you DO have to clear your own driveway and sidewalk.

And then as soon as you get it all clean (and you are really proud of yourself, as it's hard work!), it starts snowing again!

You really have to marvel at the evergreens. Snow, hail, sleet - these little trees shrug it off as if it's no big deal. These coniferous trees never loose their green hue and are common across Canada.

Meanwhile, if you HAVE to go somewhere, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. We had to head to the airport during one snow storm, and our flight was one of the few that wasn't cancelled. We took double the usual time to reach the airport. And not to mention, have a car that has winter tires installed, especially if you are going away up north.

Our backyward is now a far cry from the oasis it was during summer. And it's amazing to think that such weather could only be 3 months away. How soon things change in a 100 days!

This slipper is the only remnant of summer still out in the yard. It's patiently waiting for sunny weather and long days. Soon, sandal, soon!

Winter is synonymous with short days and long nights. Great for fasting, or for khichudi. Which is what we had.

And there's one more way to enjoy the winter at home.

How do you enjoy your snow days? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

7 Tips for Handlings Kids on Long Flights

Having recently travelled between Canada and India, with two toddlers, here's seven my tips to keep your kids entertained (and yourselves sane) during long haul flights.

1. Travel as light as possible

This is a general advice, but particularly suitable for travelling with kids. Just because you get two suitcases per person, doesn't mean you need to take two suitcases per person.

Remember, one parent will be taking care of the kids. The other parent will be taking care of the luggage. If you have ten suitcases, good luck. Our rule for four people was that we would take two suitcases full of our clothes etc. to India, and also carry two additional suitcases (empty) to bring stuff back. Everything (and that includes hand luggage, strollers etc.) should fit on two trolleys. We basically took half our quota and it made life so much easier.

2. Check everything in

When you have a screaming baby upset at something or the other, with the older brother angry because the younger one has taken his toy, and you are trying to go through security and taking your belt and shoes off, you don't want to deal with three carry-ons and two backpacks. Whatever you can, check it in. Obviously this is easier if you have less luggage over all to begin with (see #1).

3. Make sure to have extra set of clothes on you in the cabin

This would be in the backpack or carryon you took on board. There should be one extra set of clothes for everyone. For kids and for yourself as kids can pee on you (don't ask).

4. Dollar store sticker books are your friend

We took lots of activity books such as sticker books and colouring books that we bought from the dollar store. Kept the kids engaged for hours and you can throw way the book when done. We also took a few of their favourite toys, as well as loaded up the tablet with their favourite movies and TV shows. Bottom line: you have to keep your kids busy.

5. Bassinet seats are great

Try to get the bassinet seats (I called up Emirates to book seats on phone) even if you don't need the bassinet, as you still get the extra leg space. This is particularly useful if one of your children is under the age of two and doesn't have a seat of their own.

6. Snacks and Biscuits are meals too

Children usually don't like plane food (heck some adults don't either, and I don't blame them if it's Air Canada). So even if you ordered the special child meal, don't be upset if your child takes a bite or two and then proclaims "I'm done". Have lots of snacks, crackers, chocolates, Kinder Surprise etc. whatever junk foods the kids love. A Kinder Surprise (or called Kinder Joy in India) has the additional bonus of also being a toy. #keepthembusy

7. Relax

Remember, despite all of your best efforts, there will be a time they will cry and shout. Don't worry about it and don't worry about what anyone else things. Just try and tell yourselves "five more hours" and relax.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Emirates Continues To Beat Air Canada Hands Down

I recently had the opportunity to fly both Air Canada and Emirates. As some one whose work took him all over North America a few years ago I have experienced almost all of the North American airlines. I was also familiar with Etihad and Emirates, flying both regularly to UAE some time back. This time my journey gave me the opportunity to compare both Air Canada's current international experience, and Emirates' world famous hospitality first hand.

Verdict: Emirates by an overwhelming margin. It's not even close.

The Experience

As soon as you walk into the Emirates A380 you feel it. It's a more refined, high end, customer service oriented experience. The colours are brighter, the atmosphere more welcoming and the attention is on your comfort. And I am talking about Economy. Air Canada's first class is not even in the same class as Emirates' first class.

Compare this interior to Air Canada's dark and gloomy design.

 Air Canada's colours seemed to be picked with an eye on functionality. Which is the easiest to clean, and will hide stains the best, and so on. Emirates colours are bright and lively.

Another big difference, and perhaps the most important one, between Air Canada and Emirates is the flight crew. Emirates has a much younger group, and therefore more energetic and eager to go the extra mile. They are fit, pretty to look at and even smile at you when you ask for an extra glass of water. Air Canada has an older group of flight crew who do their job mechanically. They don't seem to take any pleasure in doing their work. Anything extra results in a grumpy frown.

And it's the little touches on Emirates that makes it a winner. As soon as the aircraft took off, one stewardess went around giving toys to all the little children on board. My son had the whole collection of the flight animals once our journey was over. Not only that, when he told them he already had one of the toys, they actually took the time to search and bring back the one missing toy that completed his collection.

Food and Entertainment

First of all, Emirates served all Halal meals. That itself makes it a winner. Second, their food is actually tasty. Air Canada serves rubber. And even their presentation of the said rubber is typical Air Canada. Functional. Mechanical. It Works So Shut Up And Eat It.

I mean they are also flying direct to Dubai, and they cannot serve a Halal meal? Or even a decent meal? Their Muslim meal is a potato.

Now let's talk movies. It's a long flight. You want to watch a lot of movies or TV shows. Air Canada has a huge section on ... wait for it ... Air Canada. Their Bollywood selection is, wait for it, TWO movies. That's it. And one of them is a Salman Khan movie so that doesn't count.

And I am not even getting into other things such as check in experience, boarding experience (a scrum on Air Canada, orderly on Emirates) and others.

Seriously Air Canada needs to up its game big time if it wants to compete on the Dubai sector. I actually don't mind paying a premium just for the better service on Emirates. And to think they are the best airlines in North America!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Should Kids Be Banned From First Class?

As a dad who just flew halfway across the world with two young boys, I can tell you that flying with kids isn't easy. While the older one kept himself busy with movies and games and toys (thank you Emirates!), the younger one couldn't understand why he was cooped in that small place without any seat (that's why we flew when you are less than two, kid, coz it's cheaper!).

I think 8 hours was our longest flight (Toronto to London) and it was the maximum we could really handle. We broke up our flight to India into pit stops. Couple of days in London, some days in Dubai, and then to India, and same on the way back. And I think this kept us sane; we wouldn't have been able to handle a 15 hour direct flight back with a screaming infant. And then a screaming toddler because the screaming infant bit him. Fun!

So when I read on the news about a bunch of passengers miffed about a crying baby in first class (and Delta's awful reaction to that), I could understand. You paid $10,000 to ride first class, and you want to ride in comfort. Screaming baby, especially someone else's screaming baby, does not equal comfort. Though if you paid that much for a Delta seat of all airlines I really have to question your logic, I mean Delta?!!

But you know what, deal with it. You paid for your seat, not someone else's. An aircraft is a shared place and there's all types of people. Just like the uncle who keeps burping in the mosque (and who I really want to take out ban, but can't), you have to tolerate noises from other folks that are discomforting to you.

One flight I spent next to someone who wouldn't take the hint and kept trying to make conversation with me (in case you can't tell, I am an introvert kind of person on a flight, and also not on a flight). Another time this lady behind me did nothing to control her wild toddler who kept kicking my seat. That's what goes on in a public space - you have to deal with inconveniences.

I have noticed this same trend go to other discussions, such as the insane proposal to ban strollers on public transit. Now, granted, some strollers look like SUVs, and some inconsiderate moms really just "park" their stroller at the entrance while blocking the pathway on the bus for others, but most are simply ordinary folks trying to use the public transit just like you and me.

I am often trying to sleep on the subway ride home, but sometimes there's two chatterboxes who sit adjacent to me and talk in a loud voice all the way. I mean, like, you know, it's like ... what the hell .. you spend the entire Islington to Kennedy talking about nothing. But you can't really start implementing "quiet zones" on the TTC subways.

So if a parent wants to pay and take their screaming kid on first class, why not. Deal with it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Western Canada Diaries - The Complete List

Here's a total complete list of all my posts regarding my great Western Canada road trip of 2016. If you are thinking of visiting the Rockies, or travelling to BC, you may find these links useful. 

This was a rough map of our travels.

- General Introduction
- Olympic Plaza
- Nose Hill Park, Chestermere and Peace Bridge

Banff & Jasper
- General Planning for Banff & Jasper
- Banff Gondola (Sulphur Mountain)
- Lake Minnewanka Cruise
- Bow Falls & Vermilion Lakes
- Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
- Icefields Parkway
- Lake Peyto and Bow Summit Lookout
- The Crossing Resort
- Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure and Skywalk

A visit to the capital of Alberta, and the West Edmonton Mall (once the largest mall in the world) and City Hall.

Around an hour and half drive north east of Calgary lies the town of Drumheller, also known as the Dinosaur Capital of the World, or Dinosaur Valley.

Recalling our journey through Canada's deadliest highway, Route 99's Duffey Lake Road, and a pit stop at Whistler.

- The Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Stanley Park
- Other highlights of Vancouver

A trip to this beautiful, historical city on Vancouver Island, and nearby attractions such as the Butchart Gardens.