Monday, November 30, 2009

Susie of Arabia Interviewed on GHADA'S WORLD

I 'm pleased to announce that I have been interviewed on a fellow blogger's blog called Ghada's World.

Ghada's World is a relatively new blog written by a young American Muslimah convert who lives in Utah. That alone makes Ghada's World very interesting.

Ghada has published a variety of other interviews with women on her blog as well as writing about some of her own life experiences.

I thought she asked me some pretty tough questions that really made me stop to think - and that's a good thing!

So click on over to Ghada's World to read my interview!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours!

A n unbelievable downpouring of rain showers fell in Jeddah yesterday over a period of several hours, wreaking havoc on this normally very dry city and the surrounding area.

I woke up to dark heavy clouds and the rare sound of ominous thunder. I have never seen it rain here like this in the two years I have lived here. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I had seen it "rain" here before, and I would have called it sprinkles not rain.
Since it rains so rarely here, Jeddah is not equipped to handle the flash flooding that comes with this type of heavy rainfall. There is no where for the water to go so the streets become like raging rivers.

Yesterday I would estimate in some areas that the water was at least three feet deep. Hundreds of vehicles were disabled and stranded and some passengers even required helicopter rescue.
I read this article in the Arab News reporting that at least 24 people died as a result of the flooding, but an updated article places the death toll now at more than 75. I saw children and grown men getting drenched out in the rain and wading into the waters.
Many of the main thoroughfares in Jeddah have curbed center road dividers separating several lanes of traffic, and then another set of curbed dividers for the service access roads. In many areas that I saw, these dividers were totally immersed underwater, creating a dangerous situation for vehicles trying to navigate their way through.
Some hotdog drivers (remember women are not allowed to drive here in Saudi Arabia) were weaving through the high waters at unsafe speeds, trying to create big waves to disrupt other safe-minded drivers who were not so daring, while others lent a helping hand to those who needed it.
Here in Jeddah, it is not unusual to see vehicles driving on the wrong side of divided streets, but yesterday it was even more common as drivers attempted to avoid deeper waters on one side of the street or the other.
Arab News photo by Adnan MahdaliIronically this heavy rainfall coincided with the first day of Hajj, the religious pilgrimage to Makkah where millions of visitors descend upon this area of the world. Most of them enter the country through Jeddah, as Makkah is just a one hour drive away. Aside from some Hajjis being stranded due to the heavy rains, the pilgrims in Makkah surprisingly managed to go about their religious rituals relatively unaffected by the inclement weather.
Businesses experienced loss of sales, schools were closed early, and there were heavy traffic delays and electrical outages. I lived through many hurricane seasons in South Florida, and this episode in Jeddah would rival the amount of rainfall received in that area of the world, just without the high winds.

UPDATE: An Arab News report on November 28th says that as many as 350 people are still unaccounted for and hundreds of others' homes were destroyed by the floods.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Family's Struggle with Autism

4-yr-old Sinan

With the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving coming up in just a couple of days, it's a good time to reflect on those things we are thankful for, like having healthy and happy children.

Fellow bloggers, Abu Sinan and Manal, are the parents of two beautiful little boys, Sinan and Sayf.

Four-year-old Sinan has been diagnosed with a severe form of Autism called PDD - Pervasive Developmental Delay. Treatment and therapy for this condition is expensive and many expenses are not covered by insurance.

This family needs your help to help pay for the expensive out-of-pocket costs for therapy necessary to help little Sinan.

Please read more about their plight on Abu Sinan's blog, where they have set up an easy PayPal account for donations. There is also a video there of beautiful little Sinan that you can watch. Getting Sinan the help he needs in at this point in his life is crucial.

If you are at all in a position where you can help this family out with a donation, I would urge you to do so.

And be thankful if you were blessed with healthy children this Thanksgiving...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Child's Custody

10-yr-old Adam Jones

When divorce is involved, in the vast majority of child custody cases in the Middle East, custody of the children is almost always granted to the father. But what about when divorce is not the issue, but instead the father dies? One would think that the mother of the children would get custody of her own kids, right? Not necessarily so, especially in the Middle East.

One case that has made international headlines recently is the case of Adam, whose mother is British and whose Qatari father passed away in 2005. In early October of this year, Rebecca Jones, Adam's mother, was talked into visiting her deceased husband's family in Qatar with her ten-year-old son Adam. The boy was a virtual stranger to the family, having lived in Bahrain most of his life. But what was supposed to be a family visit has turned into a family's desperate fight over the custody of Adam. The Qatari family promptly kidnapped the child and Adam's 77-year-old grandmother has now been awarded custody by a Qatari court.

This family did not rip him away from his mother out of love or concern for him at all. Some reports have indicated that his Qatari family's motivations are based on the child's inheritance. Apparently Adam will come into a large amount of money when he turns 18. Adam doesn't even speak Arabic and his grandmother doesn't speak English.

The boy, like many children of Western women and Middle Eastern men, holds dual citizenship - both British and Qatari. Rebecca's deceased husband's brother, Fahad Al-Madhaiki, whom she trusted, tricked Rebecca into signing a document written in Arabic, that in effect allowed the family to challenge her parental rights to Adam. Rebecca, who has remarried and lives in Bahrain, has been denied visitation by her dead husband's family. To make matters worse, Adam suffers from a condition called dyspraxia, which affects developmental motor skills such as balance and coordination.

Social workers who met with Adam to ensure that he was in good shape told Rebecca that Adam is unaware of the custody battle and was told by his abductors that he is being kept out of his home in Bahrain because of the swine flu.

Human rights groups have condemned the Qatari court's ruling, and Rebecca has received lots of support from around the world, especially from her son's British school in Bahrain.
Adam Jones and his mom RebeccaIf you are on Facebook, you can sign up to the group "Return Adam to his Family in Bahrain." Rebecca recently posted the following on her Facebook group on November 18:

"Dear Friends, The minors affairs authority asked us to come to their office for a meeting today. They called Fahad the uncle who took my son and asked him to come in to talk about the fact that I had not seen my son for nearly 7 weeks and this was a violation of my rights as a mother. To see this person sitting acros...s the table for me was very difficult after what he has done but I tried to stay calm because they warned me if I became angry they would not be able to mediate and negotiate a visit to my son. Anyway to cut a long story short after two hours of negotiations he agreed for me to see my son for a few hours at 5pm. I was overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of seeing him, however it was short lived. Ten minutes after I left to prepare for my visit with Adam the minors affairs called me to say that Fahad had called and changed his mind and the visit was off. Truely heartbreaking. Rebecca."

How can this Qatari family, in all good faith, steal this child from his mother, deny her visitation, and think that what they are doing is in the best interest of this child?

For more information about the plight of Adam and Rebecca:

British Woman Claims Son Kidnapped by Grandparents in Qatar

Social Workers Win Access to Adam

ITN Video Interview with Adam's mom Rebecca Jones

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where is the HONOR?

Noor Almaleki

Noor Almaleki was a beautiful 20-year-old woman who always had a thousand watt smile on her face. She had high hopes for her future, wanted to get a college education and have a career. But that was not to be. Noor was of Iraqi descent but was raised in Arizona since she was a young child. The older she got, the more Noor's father, Faleh Almaleki, got upset at how Westernized she had become. He forced her to quit her job at a fast food restaurant and tried controlling every aspect of her life. She rebelled. Noor just wanted to be what in America would be considered normal. Her father secretly arranged for her to marry a total stranger, an Iraqi man she did not know, and tricked her into going to Iraq. Once there, her dad said she couldn't return to the states unless she married the man. So she did, and she returned to Arizona without her husband. And then Noor fell in love with another man. The young lovers moved in together. Her father was furious that she had brought such dishonor to the family by her immoral actions.

So furious that he killed her by running her over with his Jeep.

Once he had committed this incomprehensible crime against his own daughter, Faleh Almaleki attempted to flee from the US on a flight to London. Upon arrival in England, he was refused entry and was immediately deported back to the United States, where he was promptly arrested. Faleh Almaleki has allegedly admitted to killing his daughter, reasoning that she had brought shame on the family.

Faleh Almaleki intentionally ran over his daughter Noor with a Jeep and killed her"Different cultures, different values. One thing to one culture does not make sense to another culture," said Peter-Ali Almaleki, explaining why his father mowed down his sister Noor in a government parking lot in Peoria, Arizona, killing her.

Peter-Ali's statement is definitely true. I certainly don't understand how murdering one's own daughter is acceptable in some societies when it is believed that she has brought shame on the family with what they perceive to be immoral behavior. How can family honor be more important than a family member's life? What honor is there in killing your own daughter?

Are we not expected to follow the laws of the land that we are in when we travel or live in other countries? Why then does this father knowingly disobey US law and then flee like a coward? Most honor killings are carried out by a male family member against a close female relative. However honor killings directed at men are becoming more common when it is believed that the male family member is gay. It is estimated that an average of 5000 honor killings occur worldwide every year.

Human Rights Watch defines "honor killings" as follows:

Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by individuals within her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or allegedly committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Murdered sisters Sarah and Amina SaidOn New Years Day of 2008 in Texas, an Egyptian man shot and killed both of his teenage daughters, Sarah and Amina Said, when he discovered that they had boyfriends. Last year a young Saudi woman was killed by her father for chatting on Facebook with a man. Recently in Pakistan several young girls were buried alive when they refused to enter into arranged marriages and expressed their desires to marry men of their choice. Sixteen year old Aqsa Parvez was strangled and beaten to death by her own father in Canada over her refusal to wear the hijab, the scarf many Muslim women wear to cover their hair in public. And in a bizarre twist on honor killings, an Iraqi woman was arrested for orchestrating the rapes of some 80 women, shaming them so that she could recruit them into becoming martyrs, suicide bombers whose actions would free them and their families from the shame of their rapes that SHE had arranged in the first place. Other women have been killed for wanting a divorce, for flirting, or just for wearing makeup. Many times her murderer is never charged with any crime, and oftentimes, if they are, the maximum sentence will be six measly months in jail.

But what really surprises the hell out of me is the reaction - and many times the LACK of reaction - from the communities involved when honor killings occur. When mourners at Sarah and Amina's funeral were told by their imam that "all living things are destined to die," as if to just shrug off their deaths as a natural process, and were told by another religious cleric that parents need to work to keep their families strong - they are missing the opportunity to decry and discourage this type of misogynistic behavior and, in reality, are condoning it. I know that Islam does not condone honor killings, but there is no denying that there is a recurring pattern here that honor killings are mainly committed by Muslims against Muslim women.

Yaser Said is wanted for murdering his daughtersThe killer of Sarah and Amina Said - their father Yaser Said - is still on the run. It is believed that he absconded to Egypt right after killing his daughters. Until men around the world stop trying to control every aspect of their women family members' lives, treating them like children who are unable to make decisions for themselves, telling them how they should dress and behave, or who they should marry, or where they can or cannot go - until men allow women to make their own decisions about their own lives, women like Noor, and Sarah, and Amina will continue to be murdered by the very men who are supposed to love them and protect them. How many more innocent young women must die before this archaic and barbaric practise stops? I concede that immorality is rampant in the West, but killing a child for not wanting to wear a scarf on her head is way worse than any immoral behavior I can think of.

When honor killings occur, does the rest of the community REALLY look upon it as having restored the family's honor? Do any of them view it as wrong? Or do people actually believe that these murders are justified? I don't understand how cultures can claim that their religions are peaceful and say that killing another human being is wrong, and then all these senseless crazy murders like this keep happening. The men of these families have appointed themselves judge and executioner in these cases, but doesn't their religion tell them NOT to judge others? There is something very wrong with the man who would rather KILL his own child than to have her live her life exposing her hair, or having a boyfriend, or marrying for love. I just don't understand this mentality...

UPDATE: 23NOV2009 - Faleh Hassan Almaleki, Noor's father, has pleaded Not Guilty in court to charges of Aggravated Assault. He's been on suicide watch in jail which caused his hearing to be delayed twice. It is expected that he will be charged with more serious offenses since Noor died.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Peace, Tolerance and Compassion

The big story coming out of Kent, Connecticut, this past week has to do with a grieving father pitted against town officials over the wording for a proposed memorial to the man's son who perished in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.

Peter Gadiel lost his 23 year old son James on that fateful day. James was an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald which had its offices on the 103rd floor of Manhattan's World Trade Center in New York City. For several years now, James' hometown of Kent, CT., has been wanting to remember and honor him with a plaque to pay tribute to his memory. And this is where things get sticky. Peter Gadiel is insistant that the wording on the plaque should specifically state that James was "murdered by Muslim terrorists." Fortunately the City of Kent town officials have balked at Mr. Gadiel's request.

I certainly understand and sympathize with Mr. Gadiel's grief, however I feel that his request is misguided. I also find it offensive, racist, indecent, unfairly prejudicial, inflammatory, and hurtful toward the millions of peace-loving Muslims in our world. This issue is about so much more than just political correctness. Labeling an entire group of people based on the actions of just a few renegades only serves to perpetuate hate. And perpetuating hate is not something that the USA (or any country, for that matter) needs to be doing. Understanding different cultures, respecting other religions, and tolerating those who are different from ourselves is key. We must teach our children these important lessons so that they hopefully might grow up to live in a world of peace, tolerance and compassion. Don't we ALL want this for our children?

I realize this is a touchy subject with very strong emotions attached, but I was shocked at the amount of insulting and hateful comments I read on several websites. I will not publish any comments that I find offensive, uncivilized or insulting toward Muslims.