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…


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 Muslim 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.


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?”

“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.

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