Aziz Ansari the New Spokesperson for Muslims in America? It’s Worth a Shot An Op-ed piece from the Okra

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Feb 122015
 

Aziz Ansari the New Spokesperson for Muslims in America? It’s Worth a Shot

An Op-ed piece from the Okra

@TheOkraNews

 AzizYes he’s an atheist. He probably couldn’t quote you any verse from the Quran or how to get to the local mosque in his neighborhood. He’s not going to be an honorary member of CAIR anytime soon. The only fasting he may have done for the last 10 years is a 24-hour cleanse most likely to get in shape for some blockbuster movie he’ll be co-starring. And The Hajj for him might be some quaint bar in Santa Barbara.  But God, come on! If there is one person out there who could possibly pacify most Americans completely clueless about Muslims or filled with the fury of Islamaphobia, it’s this guy. Aziz Ansari—born and bred in South Carolina. For the small minority that don’t bother plugging into any form of social media, Aziz is a comedian by trade, but also a big actor, known for playing the sly and sarcastic government official on NBC’s Parks and Recreations. He’s one of Judd Apatow’s boys. He might be a feminist too but that’s not important here. What we do know of him is the 31 year-old, who was raised as a Muslim, in a Muslim family, is famous; far more famous than any American Muslim albeit he’s not technically a Muslim. But does it matter?

Last month Ansari took on Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch when the latter tweeted all Muslims should be held responsible for the actions of extremists. Not surprisingly, in Murdoch’s demented and senile world, the entire Muslim population is liable for the antics of say, ISIS. Ansari’s response was brilliant: “Rups can we get a step by step guide? How many 60 year old parents in NC help destroy terrorist groups? Plz advise.” But it didn’t stop there. Ansari went on the verbal tirade following that up by two more tweets which said: “rupertmurdoch you are Catholic, why are you not hunting pedophiles?” and “rupertmurdoch is responsible for all pedophilia committed by anyone Catholic. @rupertmurdoch why are you pro-pedophile :(“ Touché. Plenty of responses and retweets.

The irony is something did happen in North Carolina this past Tuesday—and it had nothing to with the Jihadists but more with a hateful American who decided to put a bullet in the heads of three young promising Muslims because he allegedly got into a dispute over a parking spot. Yeah right. We’re not stupid. And neither is Aziz. He obviously is a smart dude; the kind you can hang with and laugh, but not in a stoner way. His strongest weapon is his wit. It’s cunning if it was ever evil. But thankfully he uses it to generate applause throughout the country. There is a lack of those qualities in most Muslims as by default our nature tends to become more consciously aware of our non-Muslim surroundings transforming us into introverts.  Even some of our best and brightest shine only in front of Muslim faces. Isolation among the common folk creates safety and confidence. But it doesn’t do anything to the scared and unaware.

Some might argue that even if Ansari was Muslim, his shtick is too provocative to be accepted as an accurate representation of Muslim etiquette. Justifiably, if one has watched his comedy, the vulgarity is forthright, demeaning in some ways. He’s no Richard Pryor or Katt Williams. But Aziz can catch the conservative off guard with some scathing monologue sure to create some anger. Well, so what? Would we be happier with stoic solemn gentlemen who discuss Muslim problems with Americans on television through comprehensive religious opinions conveyed through a lukewarm monotone voice? Or do we want someone zany who understands the communicative nuances of people and can provide remediation, calm, logic and most importantly laughter to a nation that is filled with Islamaphobic paranoia?  Our gut relies on scholars to bail us out when things go sour. But scholars are meant to preach, not work the room. They don’t live in the perplexing and dangerous media vacuum. One could refute handing the reigns to a celebrity as a desperate move to appease and that a Muslim convert perhaps could do a better job. It’s possible. Yet, in a society filled with 24X7 infatuation of big names and the far too exaggerated assumptions in which mediums such as Instagram and Twitter can make them much more intimate with their fans, a celebrity status is more than just the pre-requisite. It’s a condition in which Pavlov would be proud of ringing the bell.

Based on what we know of Aziz Ansari, the last thing he wants is to wear the crown of appointed spokesmen for a religion which he gave back to his parents. He’s got no legitimate ties to Islam and probably would want to avoid any affiliation to faith-based patriotism which tends to drown you in deep waters especially in Hollywood. But his sardonic remarks to Murdoch demonstrated he’s not willing to look the other way when blatant insults are hurled at people who tend to be the scapegoat on anything which explodes. For Aziz to accept such responsibility would be hard although he’s more than aware of how Islam operates and could probably do simple arithmetic in front of Muslim bashers to convince them the two assailants in the Charlie Hebdo attack couldn’t have gotten their orders from one billion followers much less sympathy for their stupidity.

Maybe one day, the chosen one, our very own Jedi will come—the complete package of an American Muslim who engages with this country both from a newsworthy and entertainment perspective, ala Jon Stewart (RIP from The Daily Show). He or she can shower the country with remarkable control and virtuosity, charming them with truth while dismantling the lies and prejudice. Aziz Ansari, as comical and cartoonish as he may look and sound, is the perfect blend of representation without the bravado and stuffiness which stereotype many Islamic figureheads. Yes, we know. He’s an atheist! But he’s tolerant and presumably has a soft spot for Islam. So give him the badge of honor with a microphone and let him speak. The next Muslim hate crime is right around the corner and we need to be ready with some star power. And if Aziz doesn’t work out, we can always ask Jon Stewart. He needs a job anyways.

 

The Hajj Apology Letter —A Complete Cop Out from Actually Apologizing

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Sep 252014
 

The Hajj Apology Letter —A Complete Cop Out from Actually Apologizing

An Op-Ed Piece by Hammada El-Mahsen

@TheokraNews

#HajjForLife

Hajj emailI tried to avoid it because it made me cringe. But there it was again on my Facebook newsfeed, the same time as it was last year. There were half a dozen. All of them had the same cliché melodramatic voice of pity laced with a solemn request for forgiveness. I like to call them the ‘apology letters’; posts from scores of Muslims who seek to repent before they embark on the annual pilgrimage, the Hajj.

The letters come in many packages. Some provide compositions with polished English and grammar to demonstrate a more serious tone. Others simply write a few sentences expressing regret and bitterness towards others—these are the ones that are done usually prior to boarding the plane which will take them to Saudi Arabia and eventually, Mecca. But they all deliver a rather cold and impartial objective. A few years ago I asked a friend what made him send such a formal letter through a social media outlet just before he left for Hajj. He said it was convenient. There’s nothing to it. Simply draft a post, review it for grammar and shoot it out to f friends who are led to believe that the act of sending a memo so “heartfelt” would be satisfactory for those recipients that apparently felt hurt at some point in their lives by the sender. It’s a great little setup.

Repentance is a big deal in Islam. It’s practically required that you reconcile, resolve any ill-feeling towards a family member or friend especially before you partake in Hajj. Common sense would lead us to believe that a process of actually meeting the party(s) who you had an altercation with would be beneficial in reconciling any grievable differences. Perhaps a phone call would suffice if a face-to-face was out of the question due to say, wide geographical separation; even an email directly to the source would be a step up. But a default letter made out to the public asking for forgiveness? Are you serious?

It seems as if Facebook, Twitter and Google have carved out their own niche, by making a rather earnest act, which is without a doubt, very tough but courageous thing to do, into nothing more than avoiding the dirty work. Conversely, maybe people are perfectly fine receiving a notice from a ‘frenemy.’ They could treat it as admirable and go along their day knowing well that they were provided an apology shared with another 300 people, many of who never even had a problem with the author. It could also be that these recipients will be doing the very same thing when they decide to attend Hajj.

I suppose it’s a defense mechanism. Saying you’re sorry takes a lot of balls. Everyone assumes its easy, until they have to do it. The worse the situation, the harder it is to say I was wrong. But isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Who decided to go on auto-pilot by mass mailing an apology letter? And how is this in anyway being remorseful? War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy once said, “I sit on a man’s back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.” In other words, it’s easy to convey a feeling of remorse allow others to assume that we are channeling sorrow while we rejoice in their appreciation for conducting an act of dignity. But nothing has been done to truly alleviate the weight. If a friend had problems with you, why would they think that a letter directed at no one could serve as a solution?

We’re all so tuned in with the online world that nowadays, much like texting, it’s not about the message, so much that it’s about a message.  It has no substance, just a point. It’s accepted for intention rather than a possible means to an end. Society changes as we move forward. What we did last year seems antiquated. We don’t normally follow things long enough in the fast pace world to cherish the moment. We surrender to future. But that doesn’t mean we relinquish our principles and even moreso, our ethics. Don’t get me wrong. It would be lovely to go through life by mitigating our relationship conflicts from a distance. The artificial use of technology substitutes for emotional reality. We quell our innermost fear by providing it with a placebo that tells it to take it easy and that there is a way out of here. Most ominously, we’re interpreting what we are supposed to do and making it “convenient.”

Okra readers let us know your thought: Would you ask for forgiveness by sending out a mass Facebook post before you went on Hajj?  Or is it not cool?

Former IDF Officer Plays Holocaust Card to Win $1 Million in Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournament

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Aug 062014
 
poker1A

Former IDF Officer Plays Holocaust Card to Win $1 Million in Texas Hold’Em Poker Tournament

By Robin Hoyer Ajib

@TheOkraNews

poker1AReno (NV)—A former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Major used his Holocaust card and beat out more than 1000 participants to win $1 million at the 2014 Bicycle Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino.

Avi Sharon, 49, of Rehovot, Israel was allowed to replace the 3 of Hearts with his own personal Holocaust card that can become any card and suit of his choice after the flop, which is the disclosure of the first three face-up community cards shared by all players. The switch allowed Sharon to hold a pair of pocket Aces, or better known in poker lingo as a pair of “AA Batteries ” or “Admiral Ackbars”, a reference to the amphibious Star Wars military commander for the Rebel Alliance. Sharon won the tournament on a Full House, a hand which matched his pocket high-cards with another Ace on the board as well as two 7s that came on the ‘turn’ and ‘river’, or respectively the fourth and fifth face-up community cards.

“I knew I had to go in strong and take command at some point of the game because I wasn’t doing great,” said Sharon, a 25 year veteran of the IDF who proudly was involved in such infamous assaults on the Palestinian Territories as Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Determined Path. “But when I realized I perhaps was not going to win, I had to use my H-card to gain sympathy and to give me the freedom to do whatever the hell I want.”

After Sharon was crowned champion the sounds of mostly groans and whimpers could be heard from the audience of four hundred with no more than a dozen clapping jubilantly. Sharon screamed with excitement once the dealer announced him as the winner and shed tears as he received the jumbo check from Bicycle sponsors.  This was Sharon’s third title in 12 years. In the two other times he played, the H-card, which is literally a blue card with a bold letter H was used four times to offset any low chips he may have had against some of the fiercest poker players in the world. Not surprisingly, many were not happy with the outcome.

Sammy Abraham couldn't believe his luck when Sharon pulled the H-Card

Sammy Abraham couldn’t believe his luck when Sharon pulled the H-Card

“Every time this guy shows up, we all have to be ready to play against the Holocaust card,” said a peeved Sebastian Kroenecker from Rotterdam and the Netherlands poker champion who came in third at the tournament.  “Why does he get to play that hand while all of us watch in despair?”  In recent years, a petition had been signed by the International Cards Community (ICC) to prevent Zionists from playing the H-card describing it as “illegal.” In several instances reportedly in Europe, players from Israel who insisted they play with the card were immediately disqualified and sent home. However the United States Gambling Association, the biggest supporter of competitive poker, has supported the use of the tool in its effort to demonstrate solidarity with Israel. However, controversy did arise when Arab and in particular, Palestinian players tried to use their own H-card at tournaments but were unsuccessful as the U.S had not recognized Palestinians as a demographic in the process of being ethnically cleansed.

“I don’t understand why this favoritism is one-sided,” said Sameer “Sammy” Abraham, a Palestinian Christian from the West Bank who finished seventh. “Have you seen where I live? If that isn’t annihilation of my people I have no idea what is.” Stereotypical assumptions of those who would play the H-card were also dismissed.

“That is an insult to me and I wouldn’t use that card to win anything,” said Jerry Leibowitz who finished as the runner-up despite controlling the game for most of the leg at the final table. Leibowitz, who is Jewish and grew up in Boston, found the entire H-card play absurd. He stated most Jews in America don’t want some free ride based off an extremely unfortunate incident that happened almost 75 years ago. “It’s something which should always be remembered and commemorated. But to use that today as some vindication defies logic which is beyond me.”

Leibowitz said he is proud to have never used the card in his life.

Leibowitz said he is proud to have never used the card in his life.

A few celebrities also congratulated Sharon on an excellent performance including Jon Voight. Voight who has been in Oscar-worthy movies such as Varsity Blues as well as Anaconda and recently made himself look like an idiot by calling fellow actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz “ignorant” for speaking out against the recent Israeli military invasion into Gaza, tweeted “First you guys take out the Tunnels—now you take out the Tournament. Good job Avi!” Comedian Jackie Mason, who co-founded One Jerusalem, an organization which prevents Palestinians from gaining any sovereignty to the holy city, also showed his heart-felt support for Sharon by sharing his happiness to a robin that was perched outside his kitchen window drinking water. Apparently the 83-year old Mason thought ‘tweeting’ meant communication with a bird that would then relay the message to the intended recipient.

Sharon, who also uses the H-card for free pizza deliveries and priority boarding, was later asked if he won the tournament fairly considering no other player had a special card like him. “Yes it was fair. If I have the upper hand whether it’s in the military or in poker I’m going to do whatever I can to take advantage regardless if the world thinks wrongly of it. It’s my reasoning and it doesn’t have to make sense. My question to you is what are you going to do about it?”

Muslim Leaders Attend Washington Fundraiser—Brag About Posts and Bowling with Dalai Lama

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Feb 282014
 

Muslim Leaders Attend Washington Fundraiser—Brag About Posts and Bowling with Dalai Lama

By Ahmad Muneer
@theokranews

rockstar imamsWashington (DC)—Close to 30 American-Muslim leaders, mostly under the age of 45, were present at the Dialogue for Interfaith Council Symposium’s (DICS) 3rd annual fundraising dinner last night to discuss the success of their Facebook posts which ranged from modest brag ado to all-out narcissism.

The event, held at the Four Seasons Hotel, generated more than $85,000 which would go towards the leaders’ Facebook page so they could purchase more ‘likes’ in order to help raise awareness about themselves and the extraordinary things they tend to do every few hours of the day.

“I think its fantastic people came out for the great cause to love me,” said Riyaz Murtaza, a civil-rights attorney from Chicago with a Facebook following of 30,000, mostly from Nigerian sheepherders. “I want my fans to know that they mean everything to me. Last month I dedicated my climb to Machu Pichu with an orangutan strapped to my back for them.” Murtaza, who acknowledges himself as the Muslim Don Draper, also confirmed he taught the monkey Arabic to expand on his Islamic knowledge.

“I’m pretty happy with myself,” smiled Abid Al-Fawdi, a social activist whose credentials include an online self-help book on gardening and two interviews with Fox News on the Muslim swimsuit, the Burqini. “I was actually in Hong Kong earlier this week bowling with the Dali Lama, when I realized I had to be here. If it wasn’t for the business class upgrade I received, I probably would have been too tired to attend this function.” Al-Fawdi, who during a Q&A session, sported a Babushka which allegedly was a recent gift from former Soviet Union’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Gromyko (Gromyko has been dead since 1989), said he thinks it’s important American Muslim leaders get the attention they deserve because of their knowledge. “Let’s face it—King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me! Leaders are a rare breed because we know more than most Muslims. Therefore, we need to have the spotlight.” When a reporter asked him what ‘more’ did he know, Al-Fawdi arrogantly responded “well I know I have more Tweets than you.”

American Muslim leaders have been under fire recently for demonstrating an attitude which borders on swagger and cockiness in media blogs and posts, characteristics that were unheard of with their predecessors. Some of the younger ones have been criticized for supporting just about any politically correct organization because its “cool” and blogging ambiguous philosophical quotes like teenagers who’ve smoked weed for the first time.

rock star leaders 2As a result, many have felt the need for the experts on Islam to minimize the number of updates on their latest and greatest conquests. A handful of protestors demonstrated peacefully outside the hotel lobby with signs expressing their disapproval. “Do people actually consider them as intellects?” said Fareed Shamil of Bethesda, Maryland. “I followed Murtaza on Facebook for a week while the Gaza Flotilla raid was happening in 2010. Instead of some insight to the actual incident, all he kept posting were pictures of his socks that he bought from Target and how uncomfortable they were.” Shamil asserted the new Muslim evangelists have gone overboard with their fame and are actually making it tempting for others to become part of their fraternity. “They’re basking in some demented form of rock stardom and telling us about the fun they are having. If it’s really true—than where do I apply?!”

By far the biggest moment of the evening was when CNN reporter Zayd Hamadullah showed up in a limousine driven by his wife, wearing a leopard-print Nehru jacket, a Fez and Armani sunglasses. Taking a cue from legendary Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, Hamadullah, a.k.a PrimeTime walked into the gala shaking hands with the throngs of onlookers and flashing peace signs. “That’s right baby—the show is here,” the 27 year-old said.

While discussions among a few leaders did turn serious as there was concern on the possible shortage of new bragging material, most stayed positive and felt confident that their fan base and level of commitment as douchebags on social media sites would only increase in 2014. “This isn’t going to be like The Jersey Shore,” said Mohid Barir, Director of Urban Community Development for the Council of Arab Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a self-described Muslim intellect despite not having a degree in any Islamic subject. “We’re not going away. We’ll be on television more, at speaking events and writing more posts about our escapades of deep sea fishing on a yacht in St. Tropez. This is how we connect to other Muslims and let them know that we are their representatives to the world.”