In a mirror, darkly

September 18th, 2013

Two of my uncles, my mom’s older brothers, have disappeared in the torture cells of the Afghan communists in the late 70′ies. We never found out what happened to them, they never showed up again and just vanished like they never existed. The only information we had on them were eye witnesses, that made it out of the torture cells, that told our family how they saw one of them lying in a cell, bloodied and badly tortured. That’s all we knew and from then on they were never heard of again.

The Dutch government has now obtained and released lists of some of those that were killed during the communist regime. I deliberately wrote “some of those” because in reality it wasn’t just the 4.785 victims from that list but hundreds of thousands more.

On the list my uncles show up as #202, Mohammad Yaqhub Arsala, and #4434, Abdul Samey.

Hopefully this will give my family some closure as to what has happened to them, although we always knew that we will never see them again in this life.

Now that communism is pretty much dead the only thing that is not dead are its followers. The only people that unfortunately were almost never punished are the perpetrators, living among us, boasting about how they tortured “Ikhwanis”, a derogatory term for “Ikhwan-Al-Muslimeen”, the Muslim Brotherhood, and how they were in positions of power back then. Many of them now live off of welfare in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and the U.S., clinging to the “good old times” under the communists, especially Dr. Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai, and romanticizing how he was “such a good leader”.

Yes, that Najibullah, the hero and idol of a whole generation of feeble-minded Afghans growing up in the West. Repeating the fairy tales that their mentally deficient communist parents keep telling them about how Kabul was prospering under him and how he predicted the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and how it was him predicting the destruction of Afghanistan should any of the Mujahedeen factions ever come into power. They might have missed the fact that many individuals and institutions predicted bad times for Afghanistan once the Russians were defeated, not only Najibullah. And they left out the fact that it was the communists that started the following three painful decades over Afghanistan.

To quote from a posting my cousin Khushal made:

“In January 1980 the KGB selected as head of KHAD the energetic, brutal thirty-two year-old Muhammad Najibullah, a man capable of intimidating opponents by his mere physical presence. Codenamed POTOMOK, he had probably previously been recruited as a KGB agent. Embarrassed by the reference to Allah in his surname, Najibullah asked to be known instead as ‘Comrade Najib’ […]” (408, Mitrokhin).

This is how the former high ranking KGB officer remembered of Dr. Najibullah the head of KHAD and later president, “Najibullah sometimes executed prisoners himself. His preferred method, according to survivors of his prisons, was to beat his victims to the ground, then kick them to death […]” (409, Andrew and Mitrokhin).

Afghans are easily deluded by eloquent speakers. We always were because many of us keep hanging on to the concept of our country having to be run by one powerful man and not that “complicated” concept of separation of legislative, judicial and executive powers. We’re looking for a leader from our past, someone that is remembered as a great statesman like Mirwais Khan or Khushal Khan and that simple thinking even shows in our songs.

All we need to know and always remember is that we’re our own biggest enemies. We love blaming the fault for our own shortcomings and misery on the West, the “non-believers” and neighboring countries when most of the atrocities were committed by our own people. It was Afghans that turned against Islam and became communists. It was Afghans that turned against their own beliefs and people and became murderers. It was Afghans spying on Afghans and arresting their neighbors all while believing in a delusion called communism.

Whenever we feel there’s something wrong about how things are going in our country and among us all we need to do is look in the mirror to realize that the darker side to it all lies within ourselves, parts of our culture, our illiteracy and our categorical condemnation of any renewal and anything stemming from the West. The only answer we need is to look at our actions and deeds and see how much they are compatible with Islam. Islam has an answer to every one of our questions but in a pathetic chase for modernization we’ve lost ourselves and our faith.

Nowadays Afghans love buying houses on non-Halal loans from non-Halal banks but keep complaining about how the world’s financial systems are all “controlled by Jews”. Afghans love running restaurants that sell alcohol and pork but will raise hell if their daughters decide for themselves to choose whom to marry. Afghans are driven by short-term financial gains while being married to a long-term dream of reputation and prestige. I see contradictions over contradictions in them and no clear vision.

They complain about U.S. involvement (read: help) in the Afghan-Russian war of the 80′ies but keep forgetting that it was for American stingers that prevented more atrocities committed by Russians and Afghan communists against the Afghan people. Yes, it was a proxy war and yes, the U.S. didn’t get involved for altruistic motives but for their own geopolitical strategy but explain that to the widow of an innocent soul that disappeared in an Afghan communist torture chamber.

At least we have some closure but the chapter about justice stays unwritten until all of those responsible have been punished.

Because I’m lazy: halal, haram and fasting

September 13th, 2013

A couple of my non-Muslim friends and colleagues at work – you know who you are -, even after all those years, keep asking me how this “Halal”-thing and this “Fasting”-thing works. I’m tired of answering the same questions every year so from now on I will refer you to this article.

So here we go, just for you…

Halal

Something is considered Halal when it’s permitted. This doesn’t only refer to what we’re allowed to do or say but also to what we’re allowed to eat.
The opposite of Halal is called Haram, forbidden.
So Muslims are permitted to eat what is considered “Halal” and what is Haram may not be eaten.

Anything made from pork (besides blood, carrion, alcohol etc.) is per se considered Haram. We’re not allowed to eat it and pretty much every Muslims that I know will be disgusted by only the thought of eating it.

Beef, chicken and other meat is considered Halal, if – and only if – it was slaughtered according to Islamic principles.

To cite Wikipedia here:
[...] the animal must be slaughtered with a sharp knife by cutting the throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in the neck (while the animal is conscious), causing the animal’s death without cutting the spinal cord. Lastly, the blood from the veins must be drained [...]

Basically animals have to be slaughtered in the name of ALLAH(swt) and solely for eating them. Killing an animal for sports, for fun or for any other reason than eating it is not permitted. When slaughering an animal ALLAH(swt)’s name has to be invoked.

Fish doesn’t need to be slaughtered. We can eat fish anytime with no special preparations.

So all of the above implies that going to McDonalds for a burger doesn’t work for us. Some of their burgers don’t contain any pork but beef or chicken… but that beef or chicken is not slaughtered according to Islamic principles, so it’s Haram for us. Besides that you know that nowadays it’s not uncommon to buy beef and secretly the producer has mixed pork into it because it’s cheaper and “stretches” the mass and therefore increases his profits.

Alcohol is also Haram to us, so when I go to a restaurant I specifically ask the waiter if the pasta or whatever I’m about to order is being cooked with any alcoholic ingredient (wine poured over the sauce etc.).

And then there’s sweets that contain Gelatine, a mass that is produced from pork and beef. Even if it’s just a tiny percentage it’s Haram to us.

One more thing that many Muslims don’t know is that certain clear apple and orange juices are cleared with Gelatine. They juice is filtered through it to remove the little bits and particles of pulp and that makes them so clear with a uniform color, just like water.

Medicine and alcohol is the most complicated case. There are exemptions and rules but I avoid any medicine that contains alcohol and try to find an alternative that doesn’t contain any alcohol.

All of the above is very simplified and I have not mentioned all exemptions and special cases but it should give you a pretty good idea about the concept of Halal and Haram when it comes to food.

Fasting

I’ll make this quick and simple, so here are my answers to the (same) questions that I get asked and comments that I hear every single year:

“You can’t even drink water?”
No.

“Isn’t that hard, especially in the summer?”
No. If you know the night ahead that you will be fasting tomorrow then your body will adjust to and prepare for it. I only know of a few people that actually get thirsty.

“Not drinking any water is not healthy.”
Nobody has died from not drinking any water for 8-16 hours (depending on where on earth you live). Two billion Muslims fast ~30 days a year and they’ve all survived it. Besides that fasting is considered a good cleansing method even by non-Muslim scientists.

“Come on, eat this. God is not looking ;-)”
He does see it. And besides that fasting is also about disciplining ourselves.

“And what if you accidentally eat something?”
Then I won’t get in trouble. The only thing that breaks my fast is eating deliberately.

“I know this one Muslim guy and he’s not fasting because he has to work.”
Yes, there are lots of such Muslims out there and unless he’s sick, she’s pregnant or exempted from fasting for any other reason then that’s his choice and between him and his creator. There are soccer players and millions of construction workers that are fasting so your argument is invalid.

“What if you miss a day?”
Then we’re obligated to make up for it shortly after Ramadan ends.

“Ramadan is at the same time every year?”
No, due to the different calendars Muslims and Christians are following Ramadan moves “up” the calendar by ~10 days every year. In 2014 it will be in the middle of summer, with the longest fasting period since more than 30 years.

“Why are you fasting anyway?”
In no particular order and with no claim that all of this applies to me here are the reasons Muslims will cite when you ask this question:
Because my religion tells me to, because it makes me feel with those that don’t have enough to eat, because it cleanses my body, because it cleanses my mind, because it disciplines me, because it strengthens my will, because it helps me lose weight, because it makes me patient, because it humbles me, because my sins will be forgiven, because I will be nearer to my creator, because it increases my faith and because it focuses me.
You will never understand all of this until you went through a month of fasting.

“What about those that live in places where there’s literally not dawn and sunset, e.g. Scandinavian countries?”
They have the option of either following the schedule of the closest country with a Muslim majority or following that of the city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia.

“Can’t you just sleep longer during Ramadan?”
We could and many do, especially because we have to get up for a few minutes in the middle of the night for prayer. For some of us falling back asleep takes time and we have to make up for the missed sleep as otherwise it’ll be a really hard day. Your body can bear only so much. But sleeping half the day, as many twenty-somethings nowadays do, invalidates the purpose of fasting and is not permitted.

“So when sunset has come you’re stuffing your stomachs, right?”
No, it doesn’t work like that. Many do and enough people get admitted to the hospital every year but nowadays pretty much everybody has understood that it’s not healthy, doesn’t help you get through the following day more easily and defeats the purposes of fasting.

The anger, the anger

March 24th, 2012

The title is an allusion to a widely noticed piece by Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar on the massacre conducted by an American terrorist in the district of Panjwayi in Kandahar. I chose this title because after the killings and its subsequent events, and how the situation was handled by the media and the American military, it became evident that certain behaviour patterns have established themselves and all you can feel as an Afghan is anger.

Details of the, and just this one time I’ll be neutral, “incident” have emerged and we now know that the killer went from house to house, rounded up the inhabitants and shot them one by one, regardless of age or gender.
What I have described so lethargically in one simple sentence has in fact been one of the most horrendous war crimes ever perpetrated by a service member of the United States Army. In order not to spare you all the gory details you may picture a soldier kicking in the doors of mudhouses in two villages in Afghanistan, waking up the people who live there, stuffing his rifle in the mouths of 2-year old toddlers, pulling the trigger and enjoying to see their brains splatter onto the walls.

Given the more or less fake outcry this war crime sparked in the Western media it strikes me that it had to be an Afghan journalist, Qais Azimy, that drew our attention back from the perpetrator to the victims of this heinous crime by making us aware of the fact that, once again, no one asked the victim’s names. The fact that this focus-shifting piece was, as usual, published on Al Jazeera is just a footnote in the order of events of a farce that to most of us Afghans seems like a broken record that keeps repeating itself throughout the last 11 years of Afghanistan’s history.

Before we get into that let’s rewind for a bit and remind ourselves of who we are talking about.
We are talking about Mohammad Dawood, the first victim of the rampage. His brother had to scrape his brain and pieces of his skull from the floor. We’re talking about Shah Tarina, a 60-year old grandmother. Then there’s Bibi Zohra and her daughters Nabiya (4), Farida (6) and Masooma (9) and their brothers Faizullah (12) and Ismatullah (13) as well as their nephew Essa Mohammad (15). We’re also talking about their newly-wed uncle Akhtar Mohammad (20) and his wife Bibi Nazia (18).

And then there is Palwasha, 2 years old, who, according to her father had no bullet marks and has not been shot but burned alive. It must take a lot of guts, hate, psychic problems – you name it – to shoot a human being. What it takes to burn a 2-year old child alive is beyond comprehension.

That makes it 11 humans from one family. Wiped out from the surface of earth like they never existed, only their blood on the walls left as a witness to their existence and their gruesome passing from this world.

The terrorist then moved on to the next household, that of Syed Jaan, and killed his wife, brother, brother-in-law and his 3-year old nephew. His niece, Zardana, 6-years old has been shot in the head and is still alive, but not expected to survive.

About humans and non-humans

The cautious attempts of some media outlets at insinuating the area to be a hotbed of Taliban activity came to me as no surprise. Neither did the fact that the military was quite fast at trickling bits of information on the assumed health status of the terrorist to the media, sparking interest in him, his past and his family. It all started with his name, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, which, despite the usually tight-lipped American military, was released to the public, even before anyone even asked about who the victims were, let alone ask for their names. His wife and children were relocated “to a safe place” right after the incident and the military attempted to wipe out every reference to him from its websites, because “they owed it to his family”. But when Army Major Nidal Hasan went on a killing spree in November 2009 such courtesy was not extended to him or his relatives.

The methodology of labeling the victims of wars is not a feat unique to how Western militaries run and sell their wars but common across the globe. Demonstrators become “rioters” and members of opposition parties are quickly identified as “terrorists” or “financed by neighbouring countries”. Regimes in Muslim countries invented that, no doubt about that.

What is different though is the methodology of dehumanizing the victims, a technique, given the high number of casualties produced by them and the watchful eyes of the moral instances called “media” and “journalists” that they’re under, invented in the West. A killing becomes an “incident” and an atrocity becomes a “mistake”. The American militaries’ marketing machinery releases tiny bits of information that the media grabs and analyzes over and over again but independent research is barely happening. Journalism is expensive and we live in an age where a royal wedding attracts thousands of journalists from all countries all over the world but questioning information the military releases is barely done. What adds up to this is the fact that the media has never shied away from turning into an accomplice in instigating wars and inflaming opposing parties against each other.

So you dehumanize the victims but you also need to shift attention away from the atrocity itself, towards the perpetrator, or perpetrators, and try to build a case and story around his or their actions. Usually the story involves, allegedly, defective chains of command, misunderstandings or insufficient training.
The average human being is accustomed to naming and visualizing the things he talks or reads about. A Bin Ladin has a name and a face and he can be declared an enemy of the state. He can be chased, killed or even, theoretically, put on trial. His face can be shown on TV and he can be declared as the reason why Afghanistan needs to be invaded.
But how does one pursue a lawsuit against a face- and lifeless concept such as a chain of command, a misunderstanding or insufficient training? Responsibility is spread across so many heads that the target gets blurry. Cases like this either seep away, end up in an acquittal or a scapegoat is found that is convicted and locked away, not just physically but also away from all media attention.

But in case of a sole perpetrator, personal issues come into play as well.
The perpetrator is given a name and identified, which shifts responsibility away from the military and attention defocused from his victims. His family story is released to the public and his caring and worried wife is put more or less in the spotlight. A Joe the Plumber is pulled, intended to align the perpetrator’s personal situation to that of the average Joe, by, e.g., releasing information on his poor financial situation. By now the audience is more or less identifying with him by telling itself “If I was in his situation this could have also happened to me.”.

If you go to war, then go the ‘f’ to war

How does one justify not risking the lives of its own soldiers by throwing off bombs from a plane instead of sending in ground troops? Going to war is not what it used to be. It has become a commodity, a computer game in which lifeless creatures need to sacrifice their life for the greater good.
So if an Afghan that has lost his entire family, thanks to an American cluster bomb – yes, bombs now have nationalities – thrown on his village, goes on a revenge spree then it’s safe to put him in the pre-labeled box “Terrorist”, with no right for trauma, anger or even pride, but if an American soldier does the same then, paying tribute to the American self-perception as the keepers of good and opponents of evil, he is immediately, and I mean in the first reports that came in, referred to as “mentally unstable” and having “marriage problems”. This little distinction clearly exemplifies what dehumanization means.

It’s unclear what issues he really had and we will surely never find out but we can rely on the U.S. military regularly feeding us relevant information that will establish the distorted image of him they want us to have.
The traumas millions of Afghans are going through each and every single day don’t qualify for taking revenge, going Israeli on someone or even hating the invaders. They’ve been dehumanized well enough for the population of the invading country to go numb over the invaded’s pain or sorrow or fear.

Or anger.

Just when you thought…

November 19th, 2011

… Afghan music would die and we’d have to spend the rest of our days listening to crappy Afghan Rap Music made in Discos in the U.S. and Holland or watching the 420th version of Dukhtar-e-Kabul along came Ismail and Junaid.

Again.

Enjoy.

Now :-)

Thank you to my cousin’s wife, M. S., for making us aware of this video.

Invited by a Muslim – now what?

August 26th, 2011

A couple of years ago, when I was getting married, some of my non-Muslim/German friends asked me what to wear there and about the Do’s and Don’ts. I didn’t really have to explain much because they know me and my family well enough to know about our religious and cultural peculiarities, in comparison to what they were used to. But sometimes there is a lot more need to explain things.

What I realized in the past few years is that there is little to no knowledge about how things should “go” like when a non-Muslim is invited to a Muslim’s place. This post is for those that are interested in doing everything “correctly”. Actually, there is no right/wrong here as one shouldn’t expect that from each other, but for the culturally motivated I’ll try to be as precise as possible. Please note that much of what is written here is written from an Afghan standpoint but as Muslims from all over the world share common aspects in their cultures it also applies to others.

First off, and you might already be aware of that, many things we say are about making you not feel bad or embarrassed and making you feel taken care of and comfortable. So sometimes you might run into your Muslim friend, maybe even close to his house, and you chat for a while and then, when it’s time to part, he asks you to join him at his place for a coffee or have dinner with him and his family. As you’re close to his place and basically “in his hood” he will feel obliged to invite you over and be a “good host”. He will insist, with very convincing arguments, and try to persuade you and you might get the feeling that he’s serious about his offer.
Well, he’s not.
While he might not mind having you over at his place at that very moment the real reason why he invited you over is because certain complex and unwritten rules in our culture and our genes identify him as a host (which in fact he is not, as he met you outside). Those of us that have not spent their entire life in a different culture than ours and are not integrated or even assimilated will project a responsibility that they’re only supposed to execute among their own people on others as well.

At times this might go uncomfortably wrong, as the following real-life example explains:
A relative of mine moved to the U.S. and got his first job, as a taxi driver. He grew up in Afghanistan and was at quite a mature age when he moved to the U.S., a culture not very well-known to him. So he picks up this American guy and drives him to his destination. During the trip they talk about this and that and the entire atmosphere becomes very friendly. When they reach their destination my relative tries to be polite and declines to charge the customer what he owes him. Afghans usually start those friendly phrases with “be my guest today” which is nothing but politeness and not meant seriously. Well, the American, unfamiliar with Afghan/Muslim culture, takes the offer seriously, gets very happy about it, thanks my relative for the free ride and leaves.

Alright, so back to your invitation.

So now you made it into your Muslim friend’s house. Apparently the offer was meant seriously, meaning: you declined about a thirteen-thousand times but your host persisted and wouldn’t accept a “no”. The rules here are simple and probably not very different to those in other cultures:

Before you leave check your clothes. The more conservative your host’s family is the more conservative you should dress. This is usually no problem for men, unless you’re Scottish and prefer wearing a kilt in your spare time, but it is a bit more complicated for females: no sleeveless shirts, no cleavage, no mini-skirts. Try to show as little skin as possible whereas many Muslims in the West nowadays don’t feel uncomfortable anymore if the female guest wears pants (obviously) or a skirt that covers at least her knees and if her shoulders are also covered.

Little gifts are not unwelcomed but do leave the booze at home. Don’t bring any wine, beer or anything else that is alcoholic.

At the door you will be greeted by your counterpart. If you’re male it will be the man in the house and if you’re female it will be his better half. Depending on how conservative they are/aren’t both of them might be awaiting you at the doorstep to welcome you.

You may greet your host as you always do but as a man don’t stretch out your hand to the females. Here, again, depending on how conservative the family is you should wait and see if she stretches out her hand to you. Cheek-kissing a female, as a male, is not cool so don’t try that. If you want to impress your host big time you may place your right hand at your heart while you greet the females, ask how they are doing etc. and always keep a little bit more distance than you would if she wasn’t Muslim.

When you enter the house take your shoes off. Don’t ask if you can leave them on, just take them off and if your host doesn’t mind you running around his house in your shoes he’ll tell you to leave them on. Be persistent about taking them off and mention it at least two to three times. If your host still insists on you leaving them on then you’re free do so.

Do you see a pattern there? Yes, it’s all about back-and-forth. One party declines multiple times, the other party insists, multiple times. Whoever is serious about what he says will “win”. It always works out, there is no deadlock here. Never happened.

Once the actual invitation is taking place things might get a little more complicated.

As a male guest you’re pretty much restricted to staying in the living-room whereas females have more freedom in moving around the house.

In the conversations do avoid topics and jokes of ambiguous nature, especially if females are around. Don’t comment on the beauty of any females in the house as that will be taken as a grave insult to their modesty and the male host’s dignity and honour.
Feel free to talk politics. We love that and we’re all experts and know-it-alls in politics ;-)
Don’t mention the war (every Muslim knows or has experienced a war that he can talk and brag about), unless you’re on our side ;-) and don’t be insulted if discussions heat up. They often times do and nobody takes them personal.

At dinnertime we will try to stuff you, so you better be hungry. Don’t be afraid of not eating or trying something if you seriously don’t like it or are allergic to it. You’ll notice that, on the second invitation, whoever cooked the food on the first invitation will have memorized what you like and what you don’t like.
During or at the end of the dinner feel free to ask for recipes or for any of the food to be wrapped up so you can take it with you. We love that as the happiness of our guests with the meal we prepared means a lot to us, so special attention will be paid to that.

When dinner is over and conversations are ending, or not ending, you will notice that nobody tells you to leave and nobody makes any allusions for you to leave. You will notice that no Muslim will ever tell you to leave his house. I repeat: you will never be asked to leave and the host will never declare it to be late (meaning: “get the hell out”). As a guest it is your responsibility to call it a day and ask to leave. Actually, you don’t have to “ask” but in our, Afghan, culture we always end such evenings with words similar to “with your permission blahblah we will leave now as you might be tired as well blahblah and our kids are at home alone and blahblah”. Just make up anything, it doesn’t have to sound 100% realistic. Just don’t wait for your host to end the evening, that will not happen and you will see yourself sitting on his couch at 4am in the morning with him trying his best to keep you entertained and… comfortable.

To My Non-Muslim Friends

June 27th, 2011

Every once in a while you invite us, the Muslims, to your weddings, birthdays, parties and Christmas celebrations.
Every now and then we can’t make it. Every now and then we don’t want to make it. It’s not personal, not at all. In fact, the mere gesture is what we appreciate more than you can imagine. Among us Muslims and Afghans it’s all about intention, respect and politeness and such invitations are considered as all three of them, especially because we live in a western society and you show that you care about us.

It might sound awkward to you but the reason why many of us try not to attend your events is because of you, not us, drinking alcohol. You might be wondering why we care about you drinking it as long as we, the Muslims, don’t. After all we’re not doing anything that goes against our religion, right?

Almost.

The problem is that we’re supposed to stay away from things that are clearly forbidden, “Haram”, to us. We’re supposed to stay away from temptation and anything else that is considered going against the teachings of Islam. Even as kids we’ve been taught that those things are not good to do so those memories and thoughts are deep inside us.
Secondly there’s the cultural aspect. As Afghans we’re overly protective of our spouses and children and we don’t want them to be around people that are drinking or acting in any other way that goes against our religion or culture. Even if we do attend your events, as sometimes it’s inevitable or it would be absolutely impolite not to attend them, you will often times see us coming over by ourselves, without our spouse, and leaving after a short while.
So it’s nothing personal. It’s not about not wanting to be in your company or not wanting to “hang around” but about us feeling uncomfortable in an environment that, since childhood, we’re taught is considered “Haram”.

Living in a western society this leads to a bunch of problems to some of us. I don’t attend some of the industry get-togethers because during those events people drink beer. I have skipped every Christmas party my employers have invited me to. And I skip the yearly joyride-boat-trip-thing that a former colleague keeps inviting me to since… years.
Simply put, they’re all not compliant with my upbringing and I feel uncomfortable being there. Still I feel bad about turning down your invitations as I know you mean it in a good way.

Before all of this sounds like a bad excuse let me stress again that we do appreciate the fact that you do invite us and that you do want us to be around you. We have been trained to keep those little pleasantries in our memory and in our hearts and to not forget them.

The least we can do is tell you honestly why we can’t attend. I think in the past I’ve been pretty honest about that to my non-Muslim friends. Good explanations, how awkward they may sound, are always better than a bad and obvious excuse.

Peace talks and Pakistani demands

April 25th, 2011

For a minute let’s ignore the fact that the main sources of trouble in Afghanistan have been it’s neighbouring countries (besides traitors among our own people). Doesn’t work? Yes, I thought so.
Instead have a look at the following list of demands made by the Pakistani government, an artificial construct with a history 1/100th of that of Afghanistan. While I have great respect for the ordinary people of Pakistan that have sheltered us and sacrificed their lives to save their fellow Afghan and Muslims brothers and sisters someone (yes U.S.A., I’m talking to you) clearly needs to make up its mind about whether it’s worth negotiating with a stakeholder that comes up with such absurd demands.

First published in Arman-e-Milli Daily, for now we’ll assume the following list has not been faked.

1. By convening a Loya Jirga Afghanistan should veto establishment of US permanent bases in Afghanistan. Instead, Pakistan will put pressure on Taliban and other armed oppositions to cooperate with Kabul and stop resistance;

Fair enough.

2. US is losing its influence in the region, so Pakistan, Afghanistan and China should form an economic bloc in the region to make China a superpower in the region;

Left India out of the equation?

3. The influence of resistance fronts [the forces who resist Taliban] should be weakened in the Government;

Sure. Let’s not forget who armed them in the first place.

4. The number of India’s political offices in Afghanistan should be decreased;

What about yours?

5. Baluch tribes of Pakistan who are currently operating inside Afghanistan should be expelled from Afghanistan;

Why?

6. The tribal elders from cross-border areas should be invited to the Loya Jirga;

Need official representatives in Afghan-only matters? Yes, they’re Pashtuns and we consider them Afghans, but seriously?

7. TAPI gas project should be only between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan and India should be expelled from the deal;

Seriously?

8. Haqqani network should be represented in the future Government in Afghanistan;

Why not involve Lashkar-e-Toiba in a future Pakistani government?

9. Afghanistan should regard the views of Pakistan in appointing its defence, interior and intelligence chiefs and;

Why don’t we just appoint Pakistani generals? Or why don’t you just take care of that for us?

10. Afghanistan should officially recognize the Durand Line in the Loya Jirga.

Not even the Taliban went for this one and this has been one of the main reasons why Pakistan has been involving itself in Afghan matters throughout the last 30 years.

Ismail & Junaid – Qaraara Rasha

April 20th, 2011

Sometimes you can’t help it but fall in love with a song within its first ten seconds. Be it the composition, the instruments or the lyrics. Happened to me today, again… see the video below.

I also found the lyrics and made some corrections to the transcription. Here you go…

Maa Kho Baraan Ka Che Waregama Pe Khkulee Mekh,
Bya Me Janaan Ka Che Gerzegama Pe Sawee Makh.
Za Kho Zaaregam Qurbaanegam Dagha Shondo Rang,
De Yaar Sara Me Ka Malgaro Delta Shoma Tang.

Ooh Qaraara Raasha… Ooh Qaarara Raasha
Ooh Qaraara Raasha… Ooh Qaarara Raasha

Wrek Sho Ghamoona Che Khkaara Sho Dagha Khkule Mekh,
Bya Gham Taaza Sho Che Pana Sho Dagha Storey Mekh.
Ke De Ashnaa Kem Jorrawema De Khoboono Mahal,
Ke De Pradey Kema Da Ghama Ba Rekhtoono Mahal.

Ooh Qaraara Raasha… Ooh Qaarara Raasha
Ooh Qaraara Raasha… Ooh Qaarara Raasha

Ze Kho Ghani Yem Armaani Yem Dagha Shondo Jaam,
Ze Kho Maftoon Yem Lewaney Yem De Janaan Pe Naam.
Ze Kho Khatir Yema Meena Ze Pe Speena Krrem,
Ze Ismail Yema Meena Ze Pe Weena Krrem.

Ooh Qaraara Raasha… Ooh Qaarara Raasha
Ooh Qaraara Raasha… Ooh Qaarara Raasha

Maa Kho Baraan Ka Che Waregama Pe Khkulee Mekh,
Bya Me Janaan Ka Che Gerzegama Pe Sawee Mekh.
Za Kho Zaaregam Qurbaanegam Dagha Shondo Rang,
De Yaar Sara Me Ka Malgaro Delta Shoma Tang.

There’s also an English translation available but the two verses are missing…

Turn me into droplets of rain so I dribble the pretty face,
Then coat me with dearness so I wander around the baked face.
I adore and love the crimson layer on her lips,
And I seek the company of my friends for I’m world-weary.

O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!
O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!

Begone are melancholies as the angel face rears it’s head,
And when it subsides back, melancholies rejoin.
(missing)
(missing)

O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!
O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!

I’m “Ghani” for I long for the goblet of beloved’s lips,
I’m “Maftoon” for I break through sanity for the sake of my love.
I’m “Khatir” for my love is pure,
I’m “Ismail” for I love with my dripping blood.

O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!
O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!

Turn me into droplets of rain so I dribble the pretty face,
Then coat me with dearness so I wander around the baked face.
I adore and love the crimson layer on her lips,
And I seek the company of my friends for I’m world-weary.

O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!
O serenity, embrace me! O serenity, embrace me!

Facebook and that privacy thing

May 16th, 2010

My friend Cem has written a blog posting on how he’s trying to reduce his visibility on social networks. I haven’t been worrying about those things much because until now my “strategy” was to only publicize what I feel comfortable with making the rounds on the Internet. So if I comment on what’s wrong about the Taliban, Israel or the new Afghan government then it’s my right to do so and I feel comfortable about it. But the problem about information is that its meaning unlocks with the context it was publicized in. My statements taken out of context may easily be used to convey a picture of me that depicts me of either a Terrorist-hater, Terrorist-lover – or whatever else. While I don’t care about that much I do care about what I have control of.
Taking control is what this blog posting is about so please take a look at the evolution of privacy on Facebook and you will see a clear path that I would not describe as an evolution, but a degeneration. An evolution is considered as a development into something better but this is not what I see on that picture or on this picture. I can’t and I won’t take my blog offline as this is an area that I have full control of, but I will reduce my visibility on social networks, starting with Facebook. Weeks ago I have deleted some of my personal information there and I will consider taking the family pictures, although shared with family members only, offline as well. There’s just no more trust in Facebook.

In a second step I will be deleting some of my Facebook friends. Family members and people I have personally met will be on Facebook and business contacts will be on the Salam Business Club, LinkedIn and of course XING. I will stay in touch with the rest on Twitter or wherever else I have met them. This is in no way meant as a personal offense to the deleted friends but as a way to organize my presence on social networks and to share personal information only with those that I have a personal relationship with. Setting up visibility restrictions for every single message, picture and other pieces of information is not only cumbersome but due to the complexity inherent to Facebook literally impossible.

I hope you, ex-Facebook friend, understand my intentions and, again, don’t take this as an offense. In fact I recommend everyone to do the same thing. It’ll make you feel much better about Facebook and your privacy :-)

Pashtu Sufi Poetry and Double Coffee

November 2nd, 2009

I was always wondering why Double Coffee, a competitor of Starbucks, is using a picture of the famous Pashtun poet Abdul Rahmad Mohmand (1653 – 1711) in their logo. Here’s a picture of “Rahman Baba”, as he’s more commonly known as:
Abdul Rahman Mohmand

… and here’s a small version of the Double Coffee’s logo (a trademark of Double Coffee company) – sorry, I couldn’t find a larger one:

Double Coffee LogoI’d be interested to find out what they have in common with Rahman Baba and what they will do about all the Afghans in Hamburg that have started stealing table mats from Double Coffee stores that have Rahman Baba’s picture printed on them? :-)

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Pakistani soldiers torturing old Pashtun men

October 1st, 2009

At times I run across videos that show horrors of what humans are capable of doing. Many times it’s not clear what’s really happening in those videos and if they’re real or fake but the video below speaks for itself.

Pakistani soldiers enter a building and interrogate the male residents, asking for information on the Taliban. They don’t get the answers they’re looking for so the head of that group orders his subordinates to beat the men. The men are begging for mercy while they get kicked, whipped and hit everywhere but the soldiers are ignoring them and keep on torturing them. One of the brave soldiers shows his female side by pulling his victim’s hair. The most gruesome part comes at the end, when an old man is beaten up while he’s begging for mercy for them to let go of him and screaming “Ya Allah, Ya Allah”.
In war times torturers and those that commit crimes often try to play down their guilt by claiming they were ordered to do what they did but if you have a closer look at the soldiers in this video you will see that some of them really enjoy what they’re doing.

Two of the four beaten men are elderly men that could be your or my grandfather but torturers are not exactly known for their sense of honour so they ignore their pleas for mercy. I’ve been harrassed, blackmailed and chased through Peshawar by the Pakistani police myself so I can tell you one thing: stuff like this is very common over there. In Pakistan, when people speak about the police, they don’t call them “cops” but “dogs”.

Make a right-click here and and choose “Save as…” to download the Video.

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Seven languages… and counting!

May 3rd, 2009

In addition to English we have launched a few more languages on the Salam Business Club: German, French and Turkish as languages written from left-to-right and Arabic, Urdu and Persian which are based on Arabic letters and are written from right-to-left.

The thoughest part was making sure the pages are implemented in a fashion that makes it possible to apply a different CSS and language file to it so the complete content, text and writing direction changes. Once that system was set up we provided the translators with three different methods to translate the content: using a backend translation system, inline-editing of words they see on the site and the old-school way of translating the texts from within an Excel-sheet and importing them into the system.

Salam Business Club - Dashboard

Kudos go out to Max, Dmitri, Amit, Jayawant and Pankaj for all the technical stuff and Ayla (Turkish), Eman (Arabic), Hossein (Persian), Nasir (Urdu) and Saloua (French) for the translations. Our biggest thanks goes to Eman who had the toughest job as she was the first translator and she probably had to spend more time beta-testing than translating the site. Her invaluable feedback paved way for the other translations. In case you’re looking for professional translators get in touch with me and I will connect you to those highly recommended folks.

Salam Business Club is live!

December 31st, 2008

I’m proud to announce that the Salam Business Club has finally went live. Have a look at http://www.salambc.com and sign up for an account now.

Stumble upon… websites!

May 30th, 2007

After hearing and reading so much about it the past few months I decided to sign up for StumbleUpon.com. You have no idea what it is? Let’s see what Wikipedia says about it…

StumbleUpon is a web browser plugin that allows its users to discover and rate webpages, photos, videos, and news articles. These webpages are typically presented when the user — known within the community as a Stumbler — clicks the “Stumble!” button on the browser’s toolbar. StumbleUpon chooses which new webpage to display based on the user’s ratings of previous pages, ratings by his/her friends, and by the ratings of users with similar interests. i.e. it is a recommendation system which uses peer and social networking principles. [...]

For me this has become one of the most fun tools lately and I discovered quite a few interesting websites by just stumbling upon them. Give it a try :-)

Java/Oracle related website: theserverside.de

January 7th, 2007

I’ve recently started filling theserverside.de (yep that’s mine!) with content. Any help is appreciated, so if you’re tech savvy and interested in filling theserverside.de with Java, JEE/J2EE and Oracle related content then drop me an e-mail. I’ll check out your skills (website or profile etc.) and provide you with decent access to the site :-)

Torture Strategy

March 19th, 2006

Seeing the latest images from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq reminded me, once again, why every American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is considered a legitimate military target by those countries’ resistance movements. Keep in mind that the situation in Bagram/Afghanistan is even worse as nobody – except for the Red Cross – was allowed to see the prison from the inside. How many innocent people were killed in there with the help of the Karzai government?

The message the American government tries to convey doesn’t make sense when it claims that those torturing orgies were the deeds of a few individuals that ran out of control. Apparently there’s a scheme behind this as every U.S. military prison, be it Abu Ghraib, Bagram or Guantanamo, has “a few individuals” that permanently run “out of control”. In addition to that it fits into the strategy that the Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has carefully worded in one of its investigations in 1995 called “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence” (PDF-Document), which actually refers to the U.S. nuclear strategy in a post-cold war world – but still relates to this very same idea of acting unpredictable and being irrational:

“Because of the value that comes from the ambiguity of what the U.S. may do to an adversary if the acts we seek to deter are carried out, it hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed…”
[...]
“The fact that some elements may appear to be potentially “out of control” can be beneficial to creating and reinforcing fears and doubts within the minds of an adversary’s decision makers. This essential sense of fear is the working force of deterrence. That the U.S. may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project to all adversaries.”

To put it another way: just because the “Axis of Good” is bombing the middle-east and Afghanistan into a nicely levelled, peaceful, McDonalds parking-lot it doesn’t mean that they’re acting democratically – according to their self-conception.

… reminds me of what pacifists say: “Fighting for peace is like f4v”.

U.S. Military Asking For Help

March 4th, 2006

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from a lady that works for the “Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center” (abbreviated as DLIFLC). She asked me to help her find the Afghan author of a Dari book who lives in the same city as me. She wanted to ask him for permission to reproduce some of the stories in his book for her Dari courses. She surfed the web for my last name (why my last name?) and came across this website (thank you, Google).
Misleadingly their top-level domain is “.edu” so I thought I’d be helping an educational institution, such as a university or a college.

Curious as I am I took a look at their website and, besides all the logos of the Department of Defense scattered all over their pages, I ran across this piece of text:

“The mission of the DLIFLC is to educate, sustain, evaluate, and support foreign language specialists under the guidelines of the Defense Foreign Language Program, which provides the Department of Defense and other Federal agencies with linguists fully capable of supporting United States national interests worldwide.”

So basically I would have helped the American military in their efforts to develop the Dari language skills of their spies, agents and soldiers that are responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of Afghans during their attack on Afghanistan, burning killed Muslims, killing crowds of children with grenades, keeping “ghost prisons” and torture and rape men, women and children.

Needless to say that I sent her a negative reply:

“Dear <Name removed>,

I took a look at your employers website and I’m afraid I can’t help you.
I do not agree with the U.S. policy in regard to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, an information you can also read about on my website sherzad.com, and I have serious reservations against helping the DoD in any way – directly or indirectly. If the DLIFLC was a “regular” company – not related to the American military – I would have been more than glad to help you. Unfortunately the American military is directly responsible for arresting, torturing and killing some of my relatives and family friends and this is keeping me from helping them.

Thank you for your understanding,
Rias A. Sherzad”

Of course me rejecting their request won’t change anything in regard to how the world goes. But the American military must be very used to Afghans helping them achieve their aims. They sure do. Who else does the translating on Guantanamo Bay and on the Bagram Airbase if not such be-namos (be = without) Afghan traitors that the Afghan history is full with?

Munich, 1972

February 20th, 2006

Last Saturday I went to the movies and watched Steven Spielberg’s latest movie “München” which depicts the events during and after the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

For the historically challenged: in 1972 a group of Palestinian rebels tried to kidnap the Israeli olympic team in order to trade them in for Palestinians arrested in Israeli jails – a deal that was rejected by Golda Meir, the Israeli premier minister back then (who was, in the movie, portrayed as a nice ‘ole lady that in fact she never was). The plot was foiled, all eleven athletes were killed (most of them accidentally by German police forces) and some of the Palestinian rebels as well. Others were jailed and later released or traded in for hostages (some call them “trading goods”) taken elsewhere. It’s sad to see that those Palestinians and Israelis had to die but as I learnt from western media they can be considered “collateral damage“.

A hit-team of five Mossad agents was sent out to hunt down and kill eleven Palestinians suspected of masterminding the Munich-operation. Killing is what they did, but we’ll forget about the historic fact that the Mossad killed people that had nothing or barely anything to do with the happenings in Munich, as proven many, many times in the past years.

What I found strange about the movie was, that everything around the Israelis was nice and clean. Nice cities, clean streets, nice clothes and the hero had a pretty wife and was perfectly shaved. They always had doubts and hesitated before they killed someone and showed a high level of moral maturity.
The villains, here: Palestinians, had moustaches that would have scared the living hell out of Stalin and Saddam Hussain, had dark circles around their eyes, were always unshaved and had the scariest look and the darkest sunglasses I’ve ever seen. Their motto seemed to be “Shoot, then ask” whilst the Israeli murder-squad had philosophical discussions about what they were doing there and if it was right or wrong.
During the movie, only once of course, a Palestinian villain had the opportunity to explain his point of view to the hero – and was killed some five minutes later. Who would stand alone infront of a group of four armed men, unprotected, and take part in a five-against-one shootout? According to Steven Spielberg: stupid Palestinian cannon fodder, duh!

Historically and morally the biggest bs I’ve seen lately but I didn’t expect anything else…

Wanna-Be Hackers

February 20th, 2006

This is the “Top 5″ of this month’s folders that people expected to find stuffed with lots of interesting (meaning: private) data when playing around with the URL of this website:

/privat
/mp3
/dokumente
/rias
/admin

There’s nothing exciting on this website’s subfolders for you to see so stop wasting your time and get a life :-)

Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi

May 4th, 2005

Today, again, I caught myself reading Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi’s (also known as “Rumi”) poetry for hours. I don’t really know what makes me do this as I’m not into Sufism nor any other kind of spirituality that Rumi’s poetry expresses.

What does make me read his poems over and over again is the fact that much of his poetry forms the basis of classical Afghan music, such as Nashinas‘ beautiful version of “Beshnaw az nay”, meaning: “Listen to the reed”. That might have built the bridge.
Compare the poetry of “Listen to the reed” to “Baby hit me one more time” and you might understand what attracts me to Afghan music and Rumi’s poetry in general… ;-)

Check out khamush.com and RumiOnFire.com for a collection of his works.