"You know I can't live my parents forever" is something often repeated among the Muslim youth circles of America. Obviously I am not speaking of the exceptional few decent Muslims but the numbers having such mentality are rather surprising since I used to be of such a mind set. I heard this again recently and I was wondering what kind of society would you live in if you were to become independent of your parents? Having had the experience of living one semester with Kafir roommates, I can confidently say that the influences American society has on the psyche of a human being can best be summarized by the title of this article.
American preoccupation with sex is quite candid. Everywhere we look, we see attractive women selling things ranging from personal care products to Jesus. "Sex sells" so if it's not selling, put a hot babe on it and you have a winner. Most people think that watching such advertisements will not affect them. Well I have news for you; these commercials are made by some of the best cognitive psychologists in the world who get paid millions to know exactly what is inside your head and how to manipulate it to their advantage. Although superficially looking at such images won't effect you but if you see these images often enough, you will start to associate beauty with those products on a subconscious level just like a lab rat, as soon as it sees a light starts to salivate in anticipation of food. The associations we create with the stimuli in our environment have tremendous impact on us personally and emotionally. Why is it that the hourglass figure of woman is so coveted in America while in other cultures being a little plump is an attractive quality? It is simply due to associations. We create mental association according to the cultures we live in and some of the mental association I have created while living in America are rather distasteful. The description of beauty I find inside my head is defined almost solely by American culture.
Another gift of the American pop culture machine to my readily degrading mind is the bias against black people. Anywhere you look in the media, you find African Americans smoking joints, getting drunk or in general committing crimes. When I saw those images, I knew that these were "bad" images and that not all black people are like that but the mental association was created anyway. When I now meet an African American for the first time, I usually see a likeness to a pot smoking Dave Chappel in them and I never see any likeness to Malcom X. I am not a bigot; I have been turned into one. This is warning to those thinking themselves enlightened by education. If you feed yourself racism, you will become racist whether or not you are aware of it. Racism is subtle and sometimes undetectable thus it is the evil it is.
My biases towards black people aside, I am sure many of my readers are "booze" addicts just as the "dumb witted nigger" so blatantly stereotyped on TV. I am defining "booze" here as anything that a person starts to need in order to function. One line from a movie I once saw (and kindly forgive me for watching it) comes to mind here which was "I am so pissed off cuz I haven't had my morning fix." Now if we were to replace "morning fix" with "morning coffee", "tea" or "aspirin", I am sure the above line will be applicable to most working American men and women.
Our body is a well oiled machines and when it start to mal-function, it usually sends a message such as a headache informing us that it is in need of rest but the usual quick fix response is either caffeine or aspirin. The constant need for such substances starts to control a person's life. May Allah protect everyone from coffee addiction but I have been there and I am telling you, quitting is not easy. The mornings were the most difficult when I could just hear the coffee machine screaming my name but I had to resist. "Hi! My name is Faisal and I have been caffeine free for over three months" (Cheers, Applause "You are an Inspiration to all of us").
The truth is that I am not dependent on any such substances, Alhamdulillah, but even if I do not need a "Coffee Drinkers Anonymous", I sure am in need of a "Video Gamers Anonymous". The addiction to sex and drugs I can understand but the addiction to violence vexes me the most. Most average people are not addicted to violence "Fight Club" style (or so I hope) but they just cannot get enough of violent movies and video games. One person, whose religious commitment I admire a lot, once remarked about "Hitmat 2" that it was a hot game. Now for those of you who do not know, the only objective in the game "Hitman 2" is to murder people as the title suggests. The truth is that I have tried again and again to stop playing video games and nothing has worked. I need help!
I know I have not talked in-depth about the subject I chose to address but in fear of offending others, very few Muslims are talking about these phenomenon in American culture so this is to start the discussion. I can tolerate the niceties of clean language only so much before I break. Sex, drugs and violence are real threats to our humanity and our religion. They are addictions whether we want to talk about them or not. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that one exists. Here is to hoping.
The title is again not mine. I visited a message board recently where alot of Islam bashing was going on and decided to search for the most talked about topic. The title of the topic was the title of my article and it was by far the longest running thread in the whole message board. I will not provide a link since we don't any more junk inside our heads than is already there.
Wasalamon September 6, 2004 11:05 PM
very well written article, if hidayahonline.com does not mind, I suggest you submitt this to an American or non-muslim magazine or newspaper because this is the type of material society at large should learn from.
Any time of addiction is bad. For eg, internet addiction can ruin your life, your career, your studies, everything(I had/or still have it)
And for those taht are alcoholics, they say taht there is a gene, wallaahu alim but really one does not know if they have addictive compulsive disorder unless one gets into an addiction and cannot come out of it. Sadly the problem of alcohol and drug addiction has seeped into our community as well. Alcoholic anonymous might work for everyone but I wanted to start something that would be for Muslims that have gotten into this trap. We definitely shy away from talking about societal vices that have infiltrated our camps. For eg. not in the masjid or not any of the khateebs address the issue and the fact we are living in darul harb makes things more complicated. But nonetheless we have save our youth and this ummah and set an example for others to follow.
Ma shaa Allaah excellent article.
Regarding your coffee liberation: I cheered, applauded, and now I say "You are an Inspiration to all of us". I switched to decaf. a year ago and alhamdulillah I have been free of the java demon ever since. (I know its an exaggeration, but we all need our victories :) )
An excellent book on the effects of television that I recommend to all is "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander. The author used to be one of the bigwigs in the advertizing industry and was one of the many exploiters of the many tricks of the trade. Good read.
And finally, we must keep in mind that as muslims we are addicted to nothing save Allah. We do not accept anything less than Allah as a god or as a motivater of action. La ilaha ilallah...
I will be silent on your African Amerian comments, even though I am not African American. I have met you before and we didn't really connect. Now I know why.on September 7, 2004 5:12 AM
This is an open request of forgiveness from all minorities and women. Kindly forgive me for what I have become. I am trying to change I promise.
Brother Not, If you will be kind enough to meet me one more time, i will definitely try harder this time. Please forgive me for my shortoming earlier since Allah forgives those who forgive others.
You make an excelent point Sister Ibtisam, and like I said, I have not even touched the surface here. Internet, TV, Video Games, Shopping, Music can all become addictions. I like the idea of a Muslims only Alcoholics anonymous but before that I need a video gamers anynymous. Please someone help.
The defective gene argument has been put forth by drug addicts, cross dressesrs and homosexuals for as long as I can remember. "I do what I do because I am made that way, it isn't in my control". Maybe it is true and I do have a video game gene that keeps me hooked on violence but if I start thinking like that, I know I will never cure myself because I am taking responsibility away from myself and placing it on nature to justify what I do. Maybe there really are defective genes and maybe there really is a gene telling me to play video games but to that I say Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bare. If I have been given that gene, I have also been given the ability to fight it.
on September 7, 2004 8:43 AM
regarding your section on how tv made you biased:
there really are worse things in society than smoking a joint akhi. in fact, you had to have ignored an exceedingly long list of them to arrive at dave chappelle in your screed. the truth is that often what goes on in low-income neighborhoods and is glossed up and sold to voyeuristic suburban youth is no more than an inevitable symptom of free-market wealth distribution and the brutal means (read racist police, under-funded schools, substandard healthcare, CORPORATE CONTROL OF THE MEDIA, etc.) employed by the moneyed-class to protect that allocation scheme. yet one would not expect to feel justified in walking around proclaiming "i'm perjudiced against white people" even if that prejudice is born of thoughful analysis instead of some base, visceral reaction to something they saw on tv. so then how is it ok for you to say it about black people in your article?? check yourself akh.
and lest you continue to believe that self-destructive activites as a reaction to poverty and ghettoization are linked to race, do some reading about the indo-pak muslim community in great britain or arab muslim community in france. (i'll summarize in case your don't get around to it: teen pregnancy, drug abuse, drug-trafficking, intra-cultural violence, theft, high unemployment, above average drop-out rates etc)
in real life, an educated person such as yourself seeking absolution from his demons by shifting the blame outside while simultaneous passing judgement on others based on fictitious, corporate sponsored images is really quite absurd.
I suppose this article was a complete failure if I was unable to communicate to my readers that I am a byproduct of the free market system. My biases are my own and they are involuntary and I am trying to fight these demons. One of my best friends, Ibrahim Amon, is African American and I love him to death but my problem is not that my biases have grown spontaneously, my point is that my brain got used to what I kept feeding it. I kept feeding it racist movies, it became racist and now that I am feeding it a daily dose of Quran and sunnah: well let's just say the results are rather predictable. The basic point I was trying to make is that in our sinful pride we think that watching "voyeuristic" images of gang violence, even while knowing that the events are fictitious, won't have an impact on us when the exact opposite is true. I assaulted my brain with anti-black bias, it became biased. My prejudices are nothing more than a "base, visceral reaction" to something I saw on tv and are not thoughtful analyses of the situation and that was my whole point in that paragraph.
I suppose the reason I came off as racist in that paragraph about balck people was that I didn't condem racism, whether voluntary or involuntary, strongly enough for the evil that it really is and for that I beg forgiveness from everyone who read my article. I am editing the article right now.
Having lived rather close to a Pakistani Ghetto, I am more aware of the real products of poverty than any amount of reading can make me.
Hmm, quite the pit of misunderstandings...
I think bro. Faisal was 'just' trying to say that TV is harmful and one of the reasons why TV is harmful is that it can create prejudices and biases in people against African Americans.
Obviously, if he felt that racism towards African Americans were logical and justified he wouldnt be listing it as an negative and avoidable side effect.on September 7, 2004 2:48 PM
i concede that i MAY have completely misundrstood what you were saying, but i don't think so. in point of fact br. faisal has not stepped back from the idea that he is somehow not at fault for "seeing dave chappelle in every black person," even though he is keenly aware of the source of that idiocy.
and really, how different is this claim of social conditioning from what every racist/sexist/elitist says in their own defense? what of the racist cop who protests -implicitly- "well i probably shouldn't have assumed that it was a gun, but society has me all mixed-up about these black guys...gee whiz cut me a break" which of course society does.
the very notion of saying 'i know this is wrong but i'm a sad victim of programming, that's why i [fill in the blank]' would be farcical were it not so commonplace among muslims.
there is no excuse for doing what you know to be wrong. to say you can't help it really means that its not of sufficient import to you to fix it.
for the record, its really not personal, [i'm don't think i've ever met you akhi] but there is FAR too much tolerance for this kind of inane bigotry in our communities. case in point, none of us go around seeing OBL in every muslim because of televised indoctrination nor would we make excuses for someone who did.
and this is not about you not condemning racism, rather it is about you subtly justifying it. inshaAllah i am 100% wrong.
Again, this whole misunderstading was the result of my poorly written article. My whole point, which I obviously failed to communicate, was that we need to take an active stance against passive racism. I am not subtly justifying any bigotry, I am admitting that it exists and that we need to actively fight it. I never said I was not at fault infact, I admit my shortcoming. TV may have induced passive racism in me but it is me who chose to watch that TV vis a vis I am at faulton September 7, 2004 3:53 PM
ok, one last point, and perhaps i was unable to convey this in my two previous attempts because i was being a bit too caustic.
i reaalize what you're saying completely and i still think it contains more than a hint of sub rosa prejudice. just recently i witnessed a member of our community, who i've also seen advocate for more respect toward african americans and has even championed the call for more black leaders in the community and who is also well respected a well respected speaker [he gives lectures at various events] call a black character in a video game a nigger, as though the terms are interchangable. and this is a person who thinks himself an egalitarian.
now i know this is not what you did. however your comment that you are "not a bigot, (you've) been made one" is almost as incongrous as the example above. to later claim that you made yourself one by watching too much tv still ignores a fundamental problem, which is that muslims can so easily become bigots only if they somehow think its not so bad to be such.
i seriously doubt that you would have been so quick to confess that watching tv had made you a fornicator or a thief or a drunk, or a homosexual. but a racist, well that's treated like being lazy or materialistic or addiccted to caffiene. it's a character flaw sure, but really not the end of the world. yet in a country where some people OWNED other human beings less than 150 years ago, and in many instances are still able to deprive those people's descendants of basic rights with impunity (ex. the florida election fraud of 2000) it is a quite the big deal.
Asalaam Aleikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu,
Brother Faisal, I think the easiest fix to that problem is to come with me on Wednesdays or Sundays when I go to Masjid At-Taqwa in Brooklyn. I think you'll be amazed at what you see. Many of the brothers there are immigrants from Sudan, Nigeria, other places from Afica...as well as many African-American Muslim brothers. Insha Allah it would be quite a change from what you would find in most New Jersey cities and suburbs. There is a big difference between what you will see from African americans, Muslim African Americans, and Muslim Africans....and I think that will help you to get rid of your problems. I'm really serious..if you want to come along with me it's no problem.
As for the subject of media brainwashing...it really is something that exists. I'll give you an example...of how even African brothers are brainwshed into thinking that they should be 'ghetto'. A lot of brothers from Africa come to Egypt for studies whether it be for Arabic, Deen, or college studies. I just want to stress to you that there really is a giant difference between Africans and African-Americans...it's a totally different way of life. A Ghanan friend of mine (not Ibrahim) who immigrated to the U.S. used to get lots of flack from African-Americans asking him why he's acting so 'white'. He just said...where I'm from this IS how the people act. Now As you know ever since the satellite dish has entered homes around the world people are trying so hard to imitate western cultures. The sad thing is that when I was in Egypt I used to see some of these African students dressd up EXACTLY the way you would see people dressed up in a ghetto rap video and exactly how you see so many non-musim African-americans dressing and acting like in the streets. It was quite saddening, because even black people have been brainwashed into thinking what black people should be like. You can even read this in the autobiography of Malcolm x, when he would say how much he used to put all sorts of chemicals in his hair (usually with a large amount of pain) to make himself look more 'white'. He also used to say how his father would subconsiously treat him nice because he was of fairer skin then them all...being brainwashed into thinking that whiter was better.
This comment turned out to be an article in its own...I hope I did not offend anyone...please excuse me for any ignorances.
Wasalaam Warahmatullah Wabarakatuon September 8, 2004 4:49 AM
Asalamalikom brothers and sisters. I suggest that we use the proper Islaamic guidelines in giving advise to our brother Faisal. If you wish to disagree with or try to rectify what he is saying, please do it in a merciful manner and not just magnify his mistakes. There is a certain science of giving nasihah and it is best if advise is given to him privately. And I honestly believe this article is completely misread and misinterpreted by most of us. I know brother Faisal and he is no where close to being ignorance,racist, bigotted or what not. He is very educated, open minded and a good Muslim brother who is just trying to tell how it is without any sugercoating. For example, he is not saying that every black person is like Dave Chapelle, he knows thats wrong, its just that, that is the image he has developed subconciously of him, and I am pretty sure brother Faisal knows its wrong and lets assume he is trying his best to get rid of it. Sometimes we just cannot help the images that come to our mind when certain terms and figures are said. For example, when I think of Ali' RadiaAllahuAnhu, I think of Shiism, which is obivously wrong, but the Shiias are so obsessed with Ali' (to the point of sometimes raising him to prophethood or even divinity (Authoobilla)) that a connection is made in my mind between Ali' (RA) and Shiism. However I should try to get rid of that image and may Allah help me to do so. Sorry for the long comment. Waslamalikomon September 8, 2004 12:15 PM
As salaamu Alaikum
Quite an interesting topic of discussion that can be expanded in so many ways Alhamdulillah.True-we tend to sweep these problems under the carpet and pretend they are not there.Then we would not have to turn our focus to the Huge responsibility of how to remedy these problems in our Ummah.YES-the problems DO exist whether we admit it or not,but if we don't DO anything about it,we are just wasting our time.InshALLAH this article shall spur some of us to action.
I think that Br.Faisal's intentions where noble-perhaps some might have been offended by his wording,but it is all in the spirit of healthy debate and critisism.When we are communicating something the reciever at the other end will recieve the message according to his understanding and experiences...not neccessarily what the sender intended but the way he or she saw it.So every person might have a different view.No one is RIGHT or WRONG.We should learn from each other and use our experiences to better our Imaan and not let shaitaan use this as an opportunity create discord.Inshallah
WAs Salaamon September 8, 2004 2:01 PM
Salaam Alaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu,
I hope this message reaches everyone in the best of health and iman. C'mon Faisal. You are smarter than this. Its always disappointing to find people with these kind of views no matter what the excuses are, as clearly pointed out by Alex (well done), but its even worse when its someone you know. This is twice now from two Muslim brothers that I respected. But I forgave one and I can forgive another. But this really surprises me coming from you. And you know me!
Or at least I thought you did.
And by the way I'm not African American. Remove the American part. But then again we are all the same. Right?
Ibrahimon September 8, 2004 3:02 PM
JazkAllah Khair Humayoon for your kind words and for hitting the nail on what I was trying to say (Ali and Shisim, very pertinet example) , may Allah reward you in this life and the hereafter.
I won't be be able to sleep well toonight knowing that Ibrahim is disappointed in me. Forgive me my friend, whether my biases are my doing or not, I promise I will remove them from my heart.
Wasalamon September 8, 2004 3:57 PM
Asalaam Aleikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu,
One day, Abu Dharr got angry with Bilal and insulted him, saying: ‘You, the son of a black woman!’ Bilal came to God’s Messenger and reported the incident in tears. The Messenger reproached Abu Dharr, saying: Do you still have a sign of Jahiliya? Repentant of what he did, Abu Dharr lay on the ground and said: ‘The head of Abu Dharr will not be raised (meaning he will not get up) unless Bilal put his foot on it to pass over it.’ Bilal forgave him and they were reconciled.
Bukhari, “Iman,” 22.
Also, check out Mumia Abu-Jamal's commentaries.
Wasalaam Warahmatullah Wabarakatuon September 8, 2004 5:54 PM
Asalaam Aleikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu,
btw, Abu Dharr (Radia Allahu Anhu) was a person whom the Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"The earth does not carry nor the heavens cover a man more true and faithful than Abu Dharr."
I hope this message reaches you all in the best of health and iman. Don't worry Faisal I still love you for the sake of Allah ta'aala. And Rami thanks for the reminder.
P.S. I am becoming addicted to Hidaya. :( At the worst possible time. Instead of studying my Arabic look at what I am doing. :( :(on September 9, 2004 4:50 AM
Shaikh Humza Yusuf for President!on September 23, 2004 12:44 AM
I totally agree with the author of this article. His comments about the media shaping his view as well as a whole nations view hit the nail on the head. As an African American female I believe there are many stereo-types perpetuated by the media, then in turn are acted out by our youth because that's what they see people on t.v. doing. It is a reverse of the classic idiom...art imitating life, but instead life is imitating art. Are we too foolish to believe that if we see an image day in and day out constantly pumped into our minds that we won't start to absorb the image, believe the image and in turn act out on our interpretation of that image. The stereo-types are there and not only of black people, but of most minorities. Isn't the Middle Eastern guy always shown as the terrorist, driving a taxi cab or behind the counter of the convience store? Isn't the Mexican always cutting grass or the housekeeper? And blacks are shaking their ass, playing basketball, smoking weed and making lots and lots of iligitimate children. But then again are these really stereo-types or are they reality.
Muslims do own convience stores
Mexicans do cut grass
and black people do play basketball
I think it is wrong when the media leads us to believe that all people of that race to that certain act and only people of that race do that certain act.
I know Asians who play basketball
Mexicans who smoke weed
black people who own convience stores
and Muslims who love to dance.
We shouldn't be defined or limited by a certain roll.