Personal: Did you ever just feel like a jerk?

Okay, first off, I have a confession to make.. Those few days I didn’t post anything – I was down South visiting my family. For Christmas.

Okay, my husband and I don’t celebrate Christmas (though I did buy a glitter poinsettia and put it on the coffee table in the living room, next to all our Christmas cards), but my family does.. and they still get us gifts, which, being the materialistic individuals we are – we don’t complain about!

My mom and dad always ask what we want, and we always suffer over our list throughout the year, trying to think of something we wouldn’t spend money on for ourselves. Our Christmas gifts are a time when frivolity and fun are allowed to enter the financial picture.

Eventually, my husband decided on either a leather jacket, or a pocket camera. I, on the other hand, had my heart set on an iPod Touch. One of the evil 64GB ones I could dump my whole media library on, as well as load up with a gajillion fun, albeit useless, applications.

Secure in my belief that a shiny box from Apple was going to be under the tree, I spend the two nights before Christmas Day browsing through the iTunes app store, looking for interesting little doo-hickeys that caught my eye. On Christmas Eve, I went to sleep excited and content.

Christmas morning, I woke up after literally about two hours of sleep. (I was at my dad’s house and have trouble falling asleep in different beds) My husband and I got dressed, brushed our teeth, wiped the gunk out of our eyes and waddled into the living room where people were distributing gifts.

First off, I got some little things, like some snowman mugs, a few cards full of cash (always a pleasure!), a tin of hot chocolate, a DVD player for the living room (our other one had broken), a bottle of Chanel No. 5 (sublime!).. But no iPod. I didn’t see Sadik get his leather jacket or camera either.

Eventually, my dad came over with a BIIIIIIIIG box. My husband and I looked curiously at each other. I asked him to open it, and he did, and what did we find?

Yes. A television. Not just any television, but a 32″, Samsung LCD. Now, I got happy (who wouldn’t be?), but inside, I was disappointed. I felt like an asshole.

You see – the Mr. and I had been in the market for a television. We have spent more than a year wistfully browsing the stores for the perfect television in our budget. We decided that we’d like to go for something at least 37″, but more in the range of 40″-46″ for our living room.

Now, I said ‘we’ earlier, but I should clarify. Mostly the television was my husband’s thing. Every time he was looking at televisions, I’d be wishing for a treadmill. You see, we already have two televisions, albeit – old, clunky, standard models around ten years old. Two televisions, in my opinion, were even one too many. I had only recently given in to the idea of having a tv in the bedroom. A pretty, big, modern looking tv sure would be nice looking in the living room, but that’s about as excited as I got regarding them.

Now, with this twinge of disappointment, I ended up feeling like a major asshole. Seriously.. A majorly stuck-up asshole. I mean, who was I to feel disappointed in something that was so nice? Something that most people would LOVE to get on Christmas morning instead of the usual ugly sweater or maybe a few DVD’s. Here I was getting a huge and beautiful gift, and feeling disappointed about it.

Later on, my brother explained why this had happened. Basically, my dad wanted to have something impressive under the Christmas tree. He didn’t just want to give my husband a little box with a camera, and me a little box with an iPod. He wanted to make an impression. Hence, the tv. I mean, in his mind, and my brother’s mind.. Who wouldn’t want a tv? (and yeah, of course, they’re guys!)

My brother said he picked up the nicest tv in the Christmas budget and got that one, so that we could return it and use the money to get whatever we wanted later on. The thing my little brother didn’t understand (little bro has always lived with my dad who used to be quite well off, and now little bro pulls in a six-figure salary himself).. Is that you can’t give a television to a couple.. and expect the male in the couple to exchange that television for a fun little doo-hickey for his wife. It just doesn’t happen.

On the way home the next day, I actually cried in the car because I felt like such a monster. I should be happy. I should be grateful. I decided to make my husband happy, that we would keep the television, return it and put the money towards an upgrade to a 42″ television package. As much as I really disliked the idea, I figured it would make my husband happy, and once we had it installed in the living room, it would make me feel better just by virtue of it looking so much nicer than our heavy looking 26″ standard tv.

Regarding my stupid and frivolous iPod Touch.. I told myself if I got rid of some of the stuff in the house and sold it (essentially cleaning up), that I could use the money to buy my silly little iPod. Thing is, even thinking about that, I feel bad about that. Like I should be being more practical.

I don’t know.. I still feel like a major ass.

Question: Is veganism the ideal Muslim diet?

It’s interesting that I came across this – because ironically enough, my husband and I were at McDonalds (I know, I know..) munching on our reconstituted animal protein and ‘cheese food’ the other day, debating this very issue.

Basically, the ‘facts’ I presented were:

– Since Islam is very pro-animal rights, wouldn’t it be technically BETTER for our souls to not consume animal flesh?

– If the Prophet (SAWS) were alive today, I somehow doubt he would consider even zabiha halal meat ‘Islamically halal‘ due to the heinous ‘living’ (and I use the term ‘living’ very loosely here) conditions of most of the animals before death.

– I’m sure the Prophet (SAWS) would probably also disapprove of the amount of animal products that we are consuming. (Never mind the sheer amounts of food and waste, in general!)

Anyway, please check out the blog post below for a much more in-depth overview from a Muslim vegan perspective:

http://islamicvegan.blogspot.com/

Article Share: Happy Birthday Jesus! (Or is it?)

When was Jesus really born? Would there really be 2,009 candles on his cake if he was counting?

If you’re curious, check out this link:

http://bible.org/article/birth-jesus-christ

Question: Is shoplifting morally (if not legally) okay in dire circumstances?

By GREGORY KATZ, Associated Press Writer – 18 mins ago

LONDON – For a priest in northern England, the commandment that dictates “thou shalt not steal” isn’t exactly written in stone.

The Rev. Tim Jones caused an uproar by telling his congregation that it is sometimes acceptable for desperate people to shoplift — as long as they do it at large national chain stores, rather than small, family businesses.

Jones’ Robin Hood-like sermon drew rebukes Tuesday from fellow clergy, shop owners and police.

From his pulpit at the Church of St. Lawrence in York, about 220 miles (355 kilometers) north of London, Jones said in his sermon Sunday that shoplifting can be justified if a person in real need is not greedy and does not take more than he or she really needs to get by.

The remarks drew a summons from Archdeacon Richard Seed, who said on his Web site that the church rejects the view that shoplifting can be acceptable.

“The Church of England does not advise anyone to shoplift, or break the law in any way,” he said.

“Father Tim Jones is raising important issues about the difficulties people face when benefits are not forthcoming, but shoplifting is not the way to overcome these difficulties. There are many organizations and charities working with people in need, and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau is a good first place to call,” Seed’s statement said.

Eleanor Course, a spokeswoman for Seed, said the archdeacon wants to meet with Jones to discuss the “appropriateness” of his sermon.

“The point we are most concerned about is that shoplifting is simply not a blameless, victimless crime,” she said. “We want to make clear that it simply doesn’t help people. And the last thing a desperate person wants is to be caught for shoplifting, so we feel this advice is very unwise.”

Jones told The Associated Press that he stands by his comments. He said he regretted only that the media is focusing on his view on shoplifting rather than the underlying problem he wanted to address.

“The point I’m making is that when we shut down every socially acceptable avenue for people in need, then the only avenue left is the socially unacceptable one,” he said, adding that people are often released from prison without any means of support, leading them back into crime.

“What I’m against is the way society has become ever more comfortable with the people at the very bottom, and blinded to their needs,” he said.

He said shoplifting could help people who are legally entitled to government welfare benefits but have the benefits delayed for bureaucratic reasons.

This approach was quickly rejected by members of the British Retail Consortium, a prominent trade organization trying to reduce theft.

“It’s the job of our welfare system, which retailers support with the billions they pay each year in tax, to help vulnerable people,” said spokesman Richard Dodd. “There are no excuses for stealing.”

The North Yorkshire Police also condemned Jones’ approach as counterproductive because people already in marginal conditions would find themselves in trouble with the law if they resorted to shoplifting.

“First and foremost, shoplifting is a criminal offense, and to justify this course of action under any circumstances is highly irresponsible,” a police statement read. “Turning or returning to crime will only make matters worse, that is a guarantee.”

People in need should turn to charitable organizations and government agencies for help, rather than take matters into their own hands, the police said.

“To do this would make the downward spiral even more rapid, both on an individual basis and on society as a whole,” the statement said.

Text copied in entirety from the original article, available at:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091223/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_shoplifting_ok

Rave: Soy crumbles have won me over!

Has anyone else ever had these? If not, maybe you can relate..

I remember always walking by the ‘soy/vegetarian/vegan’ section at the grocery store. More often than not, I’d stop for a moment, pick up a few packages, examine them curiously and then decide, “eh, no, not today”. A few times I even managed to pick up a tub of extra-firm tofu or soy cheese, but they always seemed a disappointment.

I think my reluctance stemmed from an unpleasant experience probably about ten years ago. I’m pretty sure it was a Boca Burger, and one of the first commercially available incarnations of the ‘meatless patty’. Long story short, it was AWFUL. It tasted like cardboard with a seriously unpleasant aftertaste. I didn’t see how anyone could incorporate those terrible things into a regular part of their diet.

It wasn’t that I had an aversion to soy, itself. On the contrary, I was always rather fond of edamame (soy beans), and tofu – the latter on condition that it was properly prepared. Floating in sharply-angular pillows in bowls of miso soup, marinated and fried or steamed in Chinese and Korean concoctions.. Just the stuff at the grocery store always struck me as ‘ick’.

Anyway, this past week I was out at the grocery store shopping. I was instructed (as usual!) not to spend too much money and just get stuff we ‘need’. I tend to spend about $50 a week on groceries, a large part of that budget being consumed by the kosher poultry we buy (unfortunately priced at twice or thrice the cost of ‘regular’ product).

Prompted by a desire to be ‘cheap’ (or should I say ‘frugal’?), I decided to take a second look at that ‘meat substitute’ section of the store. The ‘meatless crumbles’ looked non-threatening and I figured I could drown any ‘ick’ flavor out of their little soy bodies by long-term immersion in boiling, heavily-flavored sauces. At about $3.50 for a box, versus at least $6.00 for the smallest package of chicken (lasting one meal), or $4.00 for non-kosher or non-halal turkey sausage (which I almost always feel guilty about) – the ‘fake-o’ meat was a steal.

Upon getting home, I was excited about the meatless crumbles and compelled to experiment. I decided to put them to the ultimate test – my husband.

I had a little less than half an hour before he was due home, so I thought I’d whip up something quick. Sauteed an onion in some olive oil, added some red pepper flakes, garlic, diced green pepper, celery, and about 1/3 of the meatless crumbles. After all was cooked to my liking, I added some chopped tomatoes, a bit of tomato sauce, salt, pepper and oregano and left it to simmer. In a separate pot, I prepared some whole-wheat fettucini. It all came together quite nicely and was ready before my husband even walked through the door.

After he had settled in, I offered him his dinner. He happily took it and started to munch away. I looked at him as he was eating and he really didn’t seem to notice anything was amiss. He actually asked for seconds.

At this point, I still hadn’t tried it yet, myself. I had already eaten a bit earlier and wasn’t quite hungry. I don’t always taste my food as I’m cooking it because I’ve gotten to the point where I kind of know how most things are going to turn out without even tasting them (a useful trick during Ramadan!). As I was getting my husband his second helping, I decided to get a small bowl for myself.

Eventually I did taste it. It was good, really good. If no one had told me, I wouldn’t have known either. The only possible give-away is that the sauce didn’t take on a ‘meaty’ flavor, and there wasn’t that sheen of oil or fat on the plate after we were finished. Those are good things!

After I had tasted, and my husband was still tucking into his plate with gusto, I asked him if he noticed anything unusual. His answer, “no, why?”. I told him that it was soy crumbles instead of meat, and to his credit, he didn’t look annoyed or disturbed, he just kept eating. I asked him if he minded if I kept using them and he said, “I wouldn’t even notice”.

I ended up using the remaining 2/3 of the package this week. In total, it served us through three dinners, all making enough for left-overs. There was the fettucini bolognese I already mentioned, a meaty, albeit meatless chili, and a concoction consisting of potatoes, cubanelle frying peppers, long hot peppers, tomatoes and tomato sauce, and of course – meatless crumbles, invented to rid the fridge of potentially soon-to-decay vegetables. They were all excellent (if I do say so, myself).

I AM A CONVERT!

This is good on so many levels:

1. It’s cost-effective. For about $3.50, I had enough ‘meat’ to make three meals with enough for several left-overs each time. This is a considerable savings over the $6 a pack chicken, which only lasts one meal or so.

2. It’s significantly lower in fat and calories than ground beef. I also don’t have to deal with inept halal meat counter workers who get annoyed if you ask the fat content of their ground beef. (FYI – always the same answer: “I don’t know”. A real pain in the you-know-what if you’re calorie counting, since you have to assume the worst)

3. As long as it’s vegan (and most if not all of them are), they’re always halal or kosher.

4. You can keep quite a few (if not all) meals in your house happily vegetarian or vegan without complaint.

5. It keeps the taste of the food ‘clean’ without the sometimes overpowering taste of meat. This really allows the other flavors to shine through, keeping things complex as opposed to simply ‘meaty’.

6. It’s guilt-free and contributes to your good karma. You can rest assured no animals were harmed bringing that food to your table.

There are plenty of reasons more, but I don’t want to get preachy. I’m not a vegan, hell, not even a vegetarian.. I do wish I could be, though. (I’ve had fantasies about being a raw-foods diva or a fruitarian, ha!)

In closing.. If you haven’t tried these soy crumbles before, I’d certainly recommend that you do. If they worked for a person like me, and if they passed under the radar (even earned the approval!) of my notoriously finicky husband – I’m sure they’d work for you. Give ’em a shot!

Rant: Sunnah does not equal fard!

C’mon people.. How many times do I see people in real life, but most especially online – who don’t seem to know the difference between sunnah and fard.

It’s not difficult.. All things fard are, of course, sunnah, but all things sunnahare NOT fard.

Some examples (referring to beards – the group itself is called ‘Sunnah Beards’):

Random Muslim Dude #1 Assalamualaikum! 😀 it’s great to see our own brothers adorning the Sunnah. 🙂 though currently there are also many brothers thinking they look better mutilating themselves and looking like them Luth people. Let’s show them what REAL men should look like.

Random Muslim Dude #2 There are brothers mutilating themselves as we speak. Close brothers that we know. Please spread the naseeha of the beard. Refer them here if you wish. Invite brothers to join Insha’Allah.

Seriously dudes.. ‘Mutilating themselves’ because they shave their beards? Gimmie a break.

This week I’ve also seen stuff saying it’s fard for a woman to wear full face veil (such as niqab or burqa) with gloves, thick socks, the whole nine yards. Also, that wearing colors is haram, and that it’s best if only one eye is uncovered for the women, because using both eyes is frivolous.

I really feel sorry for the people who believe this crap. The sad thing is, these are usually the same people wailing on and on about bid’ah. Don’t they know the TRUE definition of bid’ah is making unlawful that which is lawful and vice-versa?

Islam is not supposed to be a difficult religion. It’s not supposed to be a hardship.. Don’t these people know the damage they’re doing? These self-appointed sheikhs. I wish they could see how many people they alienate, how much bid’ah THEY are throwing out.

I seriously pity the newcomers to Islam who don’t know how to separate the lies and exaggeration from the truth. So many people LEAVE Islam because of the judgments.. Being told they aren’t doing enough or doing well enough. Leaving because they can’t handle all the rules. If they only knew the truth!!

Blog Love: ChillYoIslamYo

I’ve really got to give this guy kudos.. A brother after my own heart!

Here’s his post called: ‘Grow the Beard – How to Give Dawah and Not Scare Muslims Away’

http://www.chillyoislamyo.com/grow-the-beard-how-to-give-dawah-and-not-scare-muslims-away/#comment-31570

This is another great one: ‘Trust in Allah but Tie Your Camel’

http://www.chillyoislamyo.com/trust-in-allah-but-tie-your-camel/