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Archive for December, 2010

This article made me cry with frustration – ’I didn’t think of Iraqis as humans,’ says U.S. soldier who raped 14-year-old girl before killing her and her family

This ‘Soldier’ says that “The deaths (of his friends) intensified Green’s feelings toward all Iraqis, whom soldiers often called by a derogatory term. ‘There’s not a word that would describe how much I hated these people,’ Green said. ‘I wasn’t thinking these people were humans.'” He also says that he, “sought help from a military stress counsellor, obtaining small doses of a mood-regulating drug – and a directive to get some sleep before returning to his checkpoint south of Baghdad.” and that “he had ‘an altered state of mind’ at the time. ‘I wasn’t thinking about more than 10 minutes into the future at any given time,’ Green said. ‘I didn’t care.'”

He raped and killed a 14 year old. Fourteen.

Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, Green's 14-year-old victim, whose parents and sister were also murdered in the attack. Green said deaths of two of his colleagues had 'messed him up real bad'

It reminded me of the Genocide in Bangladesh. A crime against the very fabric of humanity upon which our globalised society stands. A crime for which no one has yet been brought to account. A crime for which the innocent victims are still suffering in silence and shame.

The word “Soldier” is supposed to instill a sense of security and comfort in the minds of civilians. Soldiers are meant to be safekeepers… Why then are these the very men who take mind altering drugs and commit heinous crimes against the helpless and the innocent and leave deep wounds in the hearts of humans all over the world? Wounds that never heal but rip apart with fresh reports of murders, rape and incomprehensible violence on a daily basis.

Is humanity dead? Common sense as well?

When Pakistani soldiers were told that ALL bangladeshis are ‘Kaffir’ (non-muslims) and should be killed, did they not think that EVERY man woman and child in a country of 75million people could not possibly be guilty, that their deaths could not possibly be justfied. Were these soldiers so inhumane that they felt no remorse when they skewered babies and raped women and killed them by pushing bayonets between their legs? Did they not fear even God’s wrath at the insensitive violence they were disseminating in such an awful manner?

And are we deaf and dumb as onlookers? 40 years on when the same thing is happening in Iraq and the perpetrators are US Soldiers, are we to sit by and watch passively as innocent women and children pay for the price of a greedy and power hungry few?

We should be ashamed of ourselves. We should stop our passivity and actively protest the use of mind altering substances by soldiers which leads to such heinous crimes against humanity. If not then we, like humanity, will wither in our shameful passivity.

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Cross-cultural exchange

I walked into work yesterday to find a greeting card and a box of chocolates from a colleague. Thanking her I realised that I need to buy the same but as a thank you to my team for the support they have given me over the past year.

As I gave a colleague her chocolates and card she said, ‘Oh isn’t this nice, a nice cross cultural exchange!’ Those words stuck in my head. What exactly did she mean? Her sentence implied to me that:

  1. She and I are of different cultures
  2. Christmas is a cultural event

I disagree with both.

I am an Australian and so is she. We both participate in and are part of Australian Culture which is multicultural and diverse. So how is that a cross cultural exchange? And isn’t Christmas a religious celebration? Since when is it a cultural event? Yes it may be celebrated in ways that are representative of Australian Culture but does that make it a cultural event? And does my exclusion from ONE cultural event make me of a differing culture?

“Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) in this sense is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterises a group” (According to Wikipedia). Wikipedia also says that “the culture of Australia is essentially a Western culture influenced by the unique environment and geography of the Australian continent and by the diverse cultural input of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the various waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed the British colonisation of Australia”.

Australians identify as Anglo due to the predominance of the English language, the democratic (ha! Says the ranga) government and the Work hard play harder fair dinkum mentality that predominates Australian life. But Australian culture is more than this. It has been consistently and substantially influenced by the “various waves of multi-ethnic” immigrants that were encouraged by the national anthem vigorously stating that, ‘For those who’ve come across the seas/We’ve boundless plains to share.’ These immigrants have woven around the solid blocks of Australian culture to create a fine art that is diverse, multicultural and exciting whilst in keeping with the themes of working hard and of giving everyone a fair go (ha! Says Rudd)

While I took no offense at my colleague’s very innocent and well meaning statement, it made me think about cultural exchanges. According to an Australian internship website, ‘Cultural Exchange is the exchange of differing ideas, beliefs, rituals, customs and traditions between people with different backgrounds.’ And in this respect Australians rock at cultural exchanges and I hope we keep this alive in the years to come in a society which continuously creates friction using differences in cultural as a lame excuse.

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People say that Hajj is a life changing opportunity and that one returns from the journey a changed person. Well I’m glad to say those words came true for me as well. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a once in a lifetime journey to the holy city of Makkah. To be eligible for Hajj one must: be a Muslim; have reached puberty; be of sound mind; be free (not a slave); have the financial means; and possess the physical means.

Hajj spans five days with several specific locations and rites to perform for ones hajj to be valid. The first day of Hajj falls on the 8th day of the Muslim month of Dhul Hijjah and everyone who has made their intention for Hajj goes to Mina on this day. The day is spent at the camp in Mina, settling in, praying and resting for the days ahead. I was warned ahead of time that the camps at Mina are no luxury camps and I would have to have patience with others and with my environment. Still I was surprised to see the minimal conditions and the frugality in the level of hygiene maintained by others.

Despite this, Mina was a great experience. I spent time at close quarters with people I would never ever see again that were now my best friends for the next four days. People whose clothes hung to dry at my feet, whose hands nudged me in their sleep. As an Australian in a Bengali camp, we were a bit of an anomaly and everyone wanted to know our life story. It was at times like this patience was again key, as we tried to remember and gently remind others that this was a time for prayer and repentance, not twenty questions.

The next day was the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah also known as the day of Arafat. On this day every single Hajji (person who is performing Hajj) stands on the field of Arafat and prays from noon to sunset for forgiveness and for anything they so wish. Contrary to popular belief, the central part of Hajj is not to perform the tawaf (rounds around the Ka’ba), but to be present at Arafat during the time between noon and sunset on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah. The prophet said, “Hajj is Arafat.” (Ahmad).

The sheer amount of people was intense and I was mentally ready for all kinds of mishaps, and yet the heat seemed mild, the tent seemed cool, there was even a light breeze as every single person (6 million I later found out) made their presence felt on the field of Arafat through their tears and cries for forgiveness and their hushed prayers for their loved ones. The sight of so many people from such varied walks of life, race and creed was enough to move even the most hardened heart. I found myself wondering that Hajj was not only an introspective journey, but a way for us to mingle with people from all over the world and learn from them and observe them and grow as a mature and aware individual with respect and patience.

After sunset we made the move to walk to Muzdalifah, seven kilometres away) where we were to spend the night. As we prepared to walk we were informed that a bus was available, little did we know that this bus would be the reason seven kms would take 6 hours. The bus did not move for the first three hours due to the amount of traffic on the road. The next three were spent crawling at snail’s pace amongst the thousands of other buses going on the same road. Again, Patience was the key as women on the bus became increasingly agitated and the driver got lost. Having finally made our way to Muzdalifah, we spent the remainder of the night sleeping, praying and collecting pebbles and returned to Mina in the morning.

On the third day of Hajj – the 11th of Dhul Hijjah – we started off to the Jamrat, the place where three walls stood which represented the devil, where we would cast 7 stones as a way of expunging the devil from our consciousness. From our camp to the Jamrat it was a 4km walk. A walk which took over an hour, climbing over broken sandals, umbrellas, blankets and rubbish, moving as a sea of bodies towards our destination. Despite the huge volume of people, there were no fights, no disruptions and people shared their food and water as well as smiles.

After casting our stones we made our way back to Makkah and performed the seven rounds of the Ka’ba which is known as tawaf. Here again I was surprised at the level of patience exercised by such a huge volume of people as we all moved in unison. So close and yet so completely unaware of each other and so intensely aware of God. Again patience was key as people grew tired and slowed down and others overtook them, but everyone had only one thing on their minds, repentance.

There are two key things I have brought away from my Hajj experience, Patience and Observation. Without patience, 6 million people would not have been able to complete the 5day ritual that is Hajj with smiles on their faces. And without observation, one cannot learn from the people around them nor judge themselves and ask for repentance. During Hajj there was not a moment that I was physically alone, I was continuously pressed upon by others surrounding me and yet the peace and tranquillity and heightened awareness of being close to God I have found nowhere else.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: “He who performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and avoids all lewdness and sins will return after Hajj free from all sins as he was the day his mother gave birth to him.” (Bukhari and Muslim). Congratulations to everyone that performed Hajj for completing such an intense journey.

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