Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cats - Gratitude Series

Cats. Felis catus. 

I have no human children. I do, however, have furry children. I have 3 to be exact: Bella, Nephtet & Bilkis Queen of Sheba, Sheba for short. I love these cats from my soul. They are a part of me. Life without them would be empty, lonely and boring. People love to say that cats are aloof and cold, but that cannot be further from the truth! My cats are affectionate, loving, needy, playful, intelligent and unique. The 3 of them are very different. 

Bella went through horrible abuse early in her life and it shaped how she takes on the world. She can be skittish, fearful and chooses to retreat in the face of anything she does not understand. I deal with her accordingly. Bella does not do anything except sit in the window and sleep. This is the life she wants. She has no interest in playing with toys. Once in a while she finds me and meows at me for some petting or she finds a lizard and chasing it becomes her life’s work. Sadly she always brings the dead lizards head to me.  Bella likes to sit on the bottom shelf in the kitchen and watch me cook or clean. This is the extent of our interaction. I am OK with that because she is safe, clean, fed, and happy and that means the world to me. Those brief moments when she seeks me out for some love are few and far between but they are a treasure and often bring tears to my eyes. There is no greater honor. 

Nephtet AKA Nephi (neffie) is a princess. She is spoiled. She is a baby. This is my fault. I adopted her and her brother, Amun Ra (Muni), together. Muni was sick and I had to let him go when he was about 8 months old. That was a sad, dark time for me and Nephi. She searched for him for days. I was hurting for my own loss but also for hers. She would sit awake all night long and just howl. I would take her under the covers with me and we would comfort each other with snuggles. Animals do know love. They bond with each other. They long for each other.  Nephi has no concept of evil or any idea that bad things can happen. She floats through life on a cloud of happiness and optimism. Her only source of agony is that I have to leave the house to go to work. Nephi is dainty, small and has the smallest little paws. She is so easy going. I can literally shove my fingers down her throat, get a fecal sample, take her blood, clean her teeth or ears and she just lays there. When she sees or hears the ear flush she gets excited. She loves ear cleanings. Nephi gives amazing hugs. When I pick her up she pushes herself against me and purrs so hard and head butts me then licks my nose. Sometimes I pick her up and we just hug like this for a few minutes. I have never been hugged so deeply in my entire life. 

Sheba is a dominant beauty queen. Sheba is arrogant and full of herself; she is beautiful and she knows it. She loves to stand up tall and arch her back up and forward and put her nose in the air in a “look how fabulous I am” kind of pose. Sheba has impeccable manners. Since she was a tiny kitten she just had manners. When she wants attention she comes to me, sits down, taps me with her paw and waits. If I do not answer her she eventually just walks away. If I do answer her she jumps up on my lap. She never jumps in the middle of what I am doing. Sheba has her own pillow and sleeps right next to my face. I often wake up lying on her chubby fluffy butt. We get all tangled up when we sleep. I love that. She follows me around and does not leave my side. If I call her name she comes running even if she was sound asleep. 

I have the honor of an animal choosing to love me. Just because they are in my home does not mean they have to love me, they will get fed anyway. The fact that I can sit down and within seconds have 2 sometimes 3 cats automatically wander over and curl up on or next to me is mind blowing. Stop and think about that for a moment …. Another species is attached to you, loves you, misses you, and depends on you. 

There was one time that I was deep cleaning my bed room and had taken my bed apart to move it out and clean the floors. In the process I feel spectacularly and loudly. I landed on my wrist and for a second thought I broke it. I cried out. I panicked. Sheba came running. Sheba howled like a banshee. Sheba ran from me to windows to the front door and back to me. Sheba nudged me and howled and howled and howled. She was legit worried. She was desperately trying to get me help. I picked myself up and grabbed her and held her and cried. I have never had any living thing show that much concern for me in my entire life! Her mama was down and she was going to get me help!  That is loyalty!

When I was sick with a kidney stone and writhing in pain all 3 cats came and lay on top of my stomach, purring as hard as they could. They knew something was wrong and they knew the vibrations from their purrs would comfort me … and it did. 

Cats are also hilarious. That is just a fact. Click here to see a few reason why. 

Allah as blessed us with companions in this life. The prophet himself has many pets. He mourned for 3 days when his camel died. He had a Turkish Angora cat (like Sheba) named Muezza that he adored.  One day when Muezza was asleep on his robe he had to get up and he cut the robe around where the cat was asleep so as to not awaken and disturb the cat. I love my cats but if they are on me and I need to get up I often just move them and I remember this every single time and I feel so bad! They deserve better! 

Allah has said that whomever we love for his sake we will be with in heaven. The Quran also tells us in 6:38 that animals have souls and will be gathered to him on the last day.  We also know that any act of kindness or evil done to an animal is the exact same as doing it to a human being, there is absolutely no distinctions between the two. Animals will testify for or against us on judgment day according to how we treated them. I just hope that the animals I come into contact with have only great things to say about me. I do my very best to treat them how I would want to be treated. 

 I am proud to be part of a long history of cat lovers. One of the greatest companions of Prophet Muhammad was Abu Hurayrah, a nickname which means 'father of kittens'. Abu Hurayrah was the first feral cat caregiver! He was given the name because he was known to always have a kitten in my hands caring for it. He fed and cared for many cats that thrived around the mosque. It is very common overseas to walk into a mosque and see cats lounging in the mosque. That is a practice is sadly forsaken in most American mosques. Islam even pioneered the anti breeder movement! Islam forbids the buying or selling of cats. They should be given and accepted but not a business option. Why? Because when you make a living being with a soul into a business it is forbidden. All living things have value.

Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said, ‘A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.’ Allah’s Apostle (SAW) further said ‘(Allah knows better) Allah said (to the woman), you neither fed it nor watered when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the insects of the earth.’ –Buhari, Volume 3, Book 40, Number 553.

Prophet (SAW) prayed the eclipse prayer, and then said, ‘Hell was displayed so close that I said: O my Lord! Am I going to be one of its inhabitants?’ Suddenly he saw a woman. I think he said, who was being scratched by a cat. He said, ‘What is wrong with her?’ He was told, ‘She had imprisoned the cat till it died of hunger.’ – Buhari, Volume 3, Book 40, Number 552


Coffee - Gratitude Series

Day 2 –Coffee (30 Day Ramadan Gratitude Challenge)
Coffee: sweet elixir.
Coffee is just good. It smells good. It tastes good in a thousand ways. I love coffee hot, warm, iced, froze, room temperature, left over, fresh roasted, fresh brewed, poured over, percolated, dripped, pressed, shaken and stirred.  

While I may take my coffee anyway I can get it; I am picky about what kind of coffee I consume.  I try my best to only consume shade grown, fair trade coffee. That sounds fancy but it isn’t. It is actually the most simplistic, regular coffee there is. It is the way coffee has always been grown until the last few decades.  In the name of expediency coffee was bastardized into freeze dried concoctions, put into pods and made ‘instant’. I shiver at the thought … Coffee should be fresh, thick, dark, rich, bitter, sweet and creamy all at the same time. If the coffee you are drinking is something you cannot stomach to drink black then the coffee is crap or you do not understand coffee. Do not get me wrong I love all the potions and notions in my coffee too but I start with a coffee I would not mind drinking black as the night, otherwise what is the point?  Going without coffee all day during Ramadan is quite a feat. Yes I drink a ton before sunrise but that does not compare to having it on tap all day long. I break my fast every single day with coffee; counting down the seconds until I can taste that beloved brew.

I feel a special pride in coffee.  After all it is my people, my culture and my religion that brought coffee to the world. For centuries Europe called coffee the devils brew because it was a “Muslim” drink. That is just fine, more for us! A Muslim goat herder in Ethiopia (or Yemen depending on who tells the story) noticed that his goats would consume the berries (yes coffee is a fruit, a berry to be exact) of a bush and become intoxicated. They seemed to be having a fantastic time so he decided to try it himself. That sounds logical to me.  Muslims would drink it to keep themselves awake at night to perform prayers and study. Eventually Europe came to their senses and decided coffee was not satanic and somehow, as Europe does with many things, it became a “European” drink.  

If you have never had real, honest to goodness, shade grown, Ethiopian coffee then you are missing   
out. It is divine. There is something so magical in it. Real Arabic coffee is best thick and strong with a ton of sugar. This is known in Egypt as ‘qahwa mazboot’ …walk into any cafĂ© in Egypt and ask for that and you will rarely be disappointed. Coffee is a ritual. I love the ceremony of coffee. I love the process of brewing something and pouring it into a specific vessel in a particular way and drinking it among friends or as you read a good book. Starting my day without coffee is unimaginable. I have been known to put actual food items back on the shelf so I can afford coffee, gladly and shamelessly.

 “Excuse me ma’am could you take the toilet paper, bread, rice and eggs off and ring up the coffee” 

Why shade grown coffee? 
Well coffee is a ground plant. It is meant to grown on the forest
floor under the protection and fertile support of the upper canopy. This creates a sweeter coffee. In the last few decades forests have been decimated to plant huge coffee plantations so that corporations can plant more coffee plants and harvest more. This creates a product that is low quality and a does a disservice to the eco system that these forests support. One forest growing coffee supports around 300 species of migratory birds every year. These birds have layovers in these lush forests to graze and refuel then continue on their journey to the four corners of the planet to breed. Birds need a coffee break too! These forests also support various mammals and an immeasurable number of insects and smaller animals as well as supply oxygen and a filtration system for the planet.  (click here for more info)

Some of my favorite coffees are:  

Any coffee from La Colombe (click here) ... The owner chooses coffees himself and only chooses the
best beans from sustainable farms

Birds and Beans (click here) carries the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center seal of approval, and mine. They have fantastic coffees, anything that has this seal is a decent coffee. They now sell bird friendly coffee at Whole Foods and it is spectacular!

Caribou Coffee  (click here) is the first Coffee house to exclusively serve Rain Forest Alliance coffees!

Counter Culture Coffee (click here) has great sustainability ethics!

Grounds for Change (click here) has been a long time favorite of mine.

Starbucks Organic Shade Grown Mexico (click here) helps sustain the last remaining cloud forest in Mexico. Also: It is a fantastic coffee!

A haiku I wrote

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ramadan 2013 Day One: I just might die...

Day one: it is 848am & I think I may die of hunger.
Even the cat food smells scrumptious. If the pseudo hunger doesn't take me out then the thirst certainly will. For suhoor (pre dawn meal, basically breakfast but very early) I had Oatmeal with ginger & cranberries and made a bit of a well in the middle with real butter and sugar in the raw. It was decadent. I want more. I was planning to get a nice food porn picture of it but somehow it hurried itself into my mouth and before I could stop it, the sweet grains & berries were in my belly happily nourishing me. I am missing my coffee. I weaned myself off the caffeine weeks ago, or rather rearranged the timing of my habit. What I miss is the ritual. This time of day I sit, sipping on sweet, hot, Arabic coffee with a smidgen of cream in it (sacrilege, I know).

I am just now starting my fast, 9 days late. I had the pleasure of being attacked by 3 kidney stones the
night before Ramadan. I am still trying to find the wisdom and goodness in that. I was so prepared for Ramadan this year. I had spreadsheets, plans, schedules. I had already ready the first 3 Surahs of the Quran. I had my goals all written out. I was in total Ramadan OCD mode. I had taken the class that Seekers Guidance offers each year on Ramadan. I know the class by heart now but I take it anyway because each year I end up discovering some new thing. I was ready. I was going to own Ramadan. Instead, my body owned me, or rather my creator owned me. Maybe that is the wisdom in it. Maybe Allah knocked me down off the Ramadan bullet train I was on. Maybe I was supposed to slow down. I am unsure. I had been feeling ill for a week or so, but not really ill just icky. I had some aches and pains but nothing abnormal for a woman of child baring age. (grrr) Then on Monday evening I suddenly had much worse pain. I was heading out the door to go eat dinner and then go to the beach to try and see the moon. I was excited. I took a class. I knew how this was done. I was ready. Then BLAM! A pain so severe I can not compare it to anything I have ever experienced and I have felt pain before. A pain so severe it made me vomit instantly. I ended up at the emergency room and my friends ended up carrying on with plans. I felt so alone. I was there in the ER all by myself, unable to walk, vomiting in public and bellowing like a crazy person. I was humiliated and lonely. There was no one there to comfort me and tell me I was in fact not dying. There was no one there to question the nurses about the long wait. There was no one there to hold my hijab back while I puked. The pain got worse by the minute and finally it was either my turn or my bellowing had gotten intolerable and I was wheeled back into a room. I was given pain medication and suddenly felt like I could probably run a marathon or two. I took to Facebook to feel sorry for myself because I was alone. I was home by morning, medicated and asleep.
Ramadan arrived while I was knocked out. I was no longer pumped up, I was sad. I had missed it. Sure Ramadan is a month long but I had plans. I made spreadsheets. I was ready. There was no way I could fast in this condition. I know that illness is a perfectly legit reason not to fast, in fact it would have been haram for me to fast because my body has rights over me and I can not do things to my body that would cause it undue harm. I do not get sick often, though the last year or so I have been sick more than in my whole life. I have had colds and allergies but never something like this and I was alone.

There is nothing worse than being sick, drugged and feverish and having to get up in the 100 degree heat, get on a bus and get groceries and cat food.

Ramadan is a time of year when friends and family come together. You eat together every night, you speak more often and you take more concern with those around you. Islam in general puts great emphasis on friendships and relationships with family. Having just broken up with my best friend I knew Ramadan was going to be especially lonely. Ramadan usually is a rather lonely time for me. My fathers side is Muslim but they have all passed away. My mothers side is Christian and they do not care to hear anything about my faith & I am not close with any of them except my mother. So the happy, boisterous Ramadans of childhood are long gone. I have gotten somewhat used to being alone. The Muslim community in my city is very disorganized and we have no Imam. We have very few activities and even the ones we do have I am not able to attend. The mosque is a 2hour bus ride each way and it just does not work out. My Muslim friends live out of state or over seas. We talk via Skype and text but it is not the same as having someone next to you. It is very hard to fast when you are home alone all day. I am pretty sure I heard the coconut cream pie in my fridge talk to me about a hour ago. It was telling me "Oh come on, eat me, you know how good I taste. All my creamy, sweet, coconutty goodness, I am just what you need. No one is hear, no one will know. I won't tell if you won't tell" ...

Aside from the unscrupulous pie that tries to persuade me, I am prone to depression and sometimes feel like there is just no point in all this. Those moments are fleeting but they are there none the less. I have to remind myself that I do not fast during Ramadan because of the ritual or the people in my life, or lack there of. I fast because I am submitting my desires and my will to that of my creator and training my ego to recognize those even less fortunate than me.

My way of rising above the fact that I am alone during a month long holiday designed to bring people together is to get OCD about it and plan it out, have a routine and maximize my benefits. Allah has told us that if we say we love him and submit to him we will be tested. I should know this by now but I am rather daft. I made goals, I made a statement. I said I was going to do this and that. I had plans. I was ready. Allah dealt me a swift blow to let me know who the best of planners is: Him, always Him. He sent me a test. I made these lofty goals and Allah took away the first third of Ramadan and left me with the last two thirds to accomplish my goals. Challenge accepted.

Goal #1 To pray the 5 daily prayers on time. This has always been hard for me. It is hard for me to do anything on time. I am home alone all day and night, there are no constraints on my time. I am free to do whatever, whenever and yet I pray late every single time. It is not planned. I have 10 adhan alarms. I always end up trying to do 50 things before I pray when what I should be doing is just praying on time and organizing my closet later. It is funny how you always remember you need to do random tasks like scrape out the oven or organize your pantry right when it is time to pray.

Goal #2 Read the entire Quran 3 times this year. During Ramadan Muslims are supposed to read the entire Quran once. Ramadan is the month the Quran was first revealed. I planned to read it once in the first 20 days and twice in the last 10 days. I still have time. #rockymode

Goal #3 Pray at least 8 rakah of taraweeh prayers every other night. Taraweeh prayers are done in the evening and the actions are basically the same as the regular 5 daily prayers but different portions of Quran are recited and supplications are made. The prayers are optional but beneficial.

Goal #4 Stand the night in prayer at least one night of the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Laylatal Qadr (night of power) is the night the Quran was revealed and this night holds many blessings, the main one being that if you stand this entire night in prayer all your sins are forgiven. The thing is we have no idea when this night is. We know it is in the last 10 nights and most likely in the last 5 nights and that it is most likely an odd numbered night. The 27th and 29th nights are considered to be the most likely possibility but any of the 10 are possible. We have no idea which ones it is so standing all 10 nights is the best way to be sure you got it. Doing this is not required, however it is, obviously, strongly encouraged.

Goal #5 Memorize at least 2 separate portions of Quran. I have not yet decided which. It can be just one verse or an entire chapter. I am awaiting inspiration.

Goals #6 To walk away from empty and idle conversation or arguments. This is a huge one! This is something very hard for me any time of the year but during Ramadan this waste of time is forbidden.

Goal #7 I will not sleep all day and stay awake all night as this totally defeats the entire purpose of fasting and in fact means I am not fasting at all. This is a common trend among Muslims and it is not cool. I am a night owl by nature. I thrive at night. I am nocturnal. I get stuff done at night. Napping is OK and in fact both science and Islam agree that a nap in the afternoon and sleep broken up into two chunks of time is actually more beneficial to the brain than one chunk of sleep time. This will be hard to do without coffee.

......I just went and smelled the pitcher of iced coffee I have in the fridge. I feel like a crazy person but that coffee smelled like pure bliss. Only 9 more hours until that dark enchantress is flowing in my veins...

I was so bummed that I did not get to implement my plans the way I had wanted to. The 9 days I lost I will have to make up again. I can make them up in cooler months with shorter days. This is part of Allah's mercy. I also take comfort that in my sickness and the insane amount of pain I went through there is forgiveness of sins. Alhamdulillah! I am faced with so many opportunities all at once for my sins to be forgiven and I am worried about my spreadsheets! #priorities

I will survive this. This is only day one and it has only been 6.5 hours. I am not withering away. I had plans. I was ready. Those plans are still doable, inshaAllah.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

An immigrants dreams, realized.
The Statue of Liberty is the one thing that, for me, is the American icon. Every immigrant longs to see that lady, her torch held high, welcoming them. Her inscription reads:

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

~The new Colossus by Emma Lazarus~

 You see this American icon, our statute, our Lady Liberty is begging for those who long for freedom and a chance to create your own destiny to come to her and breathe free. My father took me to the see the Statue of Liberty when I was a small child. I do not remember much about actually seeing her, but I do remember my fathers tears. I remember him telling me that he was happy that I was going to have a life so incredibly different than his. I had no idea what he meant then, but I sure do now. My father lived and died a refugee, his entire life dictated by visa's and embassy documents. America right now is once again going through this debate over immigration. This has been a problem since day one. There has always been backlash against those who arrived 5 seconds later than those already here. This country would be nothing without its vibrant immigrants that went through hell to get here, that toiled and petitioned and gave up their entire lives to come here. So this Independence day let us show some respect for those new Americans in our communities. Let us welcome those huddled masses to our teeming shore and realize that they just want what we already have. If you have never been to a swearing in ceremony for people becoming American citizens, I really suggest you go. I have been to many in my lifetime and every time it brings such emotion. I look out into the crowd of faces hailing from all the corners of our world and each one standing tall, proud, tears flow, hand on heart and almost unable to recite the words that deem them Americans.

I am the daughter of immigrants. First generation. Most of my family does not live in America.  Most of my family lives under occupation and repressive regimes. Most of my family does not have a right to even speak against their rulers, let alone vote them into or out of office.

My birth mothers parents came here from Greece after World War II, seeking what everyone seeks when they come to America: that dream. My father came here to attend university and start a life. He knew the only chance he had at any semblance of a normal life was to come to America. His American dream was cut short for reasons that are an entire other story. Growing up surrounded by immigrants I learned the value of this thing called freedom. I was born here. I was born on a cold winters day, at 5:25 in the evening, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, in Brooklyn, New York. I tell people that when they tell me to go back where I came from. Go back to Brooklyn? Sure! No problem! B.K. represent! As the daughter of immigrants I struggled my whole life with this duality. I am both fully American and fully Arab. My homeland is and always will be Palestine, but my country is and always will be America. I have had many chances to live in various countries. I have family in about 15 different countries. I could go live with any one of them. I choose to stay here, in this land of dreams.

When you grow up with immigrants, and you watch your loved ones over seas fighting for simple rights you take for granted, you learn the value and the luck of your place of birth. I was born knowing I had the right to vote. I was born knowing I could own land, sell that land, own and operate my own business, get an
education, legally be required to attend school, and that my pursuit of happiness was not a lofty ideal but a given right. I did not have to fight for any of these rights, those before me had already done that. I am ever grateful for their struggles and sacrifices.

Yes, Islam gives me all these rights, but sadly Muslim rulers do not, specially not to a woman. I remember the 4th of July as a kid and the fireworks scared me to death. I also remember my father jumping out of his skin at every boom because it sounded just like the bombs dropped on his home growing up. I remember my father teaching me the song 'This land is your land' and telling me that this country was mine, that I belong here and to never let anyone tell me different. When you are born here and your family for generations back is from here, you tend to take for granted what value that holds.

American Foreign Policy
America is not perfect, not by far. She has many issues, problems and has committed many sins. America was founded on the graves of its indigenous peoples and built on the backs of slaves and I never forget this. I am not happy about many of America's policies and invasions of lands. It is hard to love my country when she drops bombs on my homeland, when missiles and bullets with "Made in America" written on them pierce the flesh of my loved ones. I have the right to complain about America. I have the right to dislike her choices, to be angry with her, to fight against her policies and to keep her in line with the values spelled out in her laws and to fight to keep those laws just and fair. That is a right many take for granted or simply do not even recognize at all. Criticizing America is not unpatriotic, if it was then not one of the founding fathers was patriotic.

For all that I dislike there is so much I do like. I love apple pie. I love New York City. I love our landscapes, beaches and national parks. I love being able to do what I want, when I want and not have some security or secret police follow me around. I love being able to choose for myself what religion to have, what education I want and being able to form and voice my own opinions. I love being able to buy whatever my mind can imagine, at 3am. I love the diversity of America. America was built on diversity. The founding ideals of this country was religious freedom, separation of church and state and openness to all peoples. I love that I can get Cuban, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Japanese and Indian food in almost any American city.

I love that the first two countries to establish diplomacy and trade with America were Morocco and
Egypt. Without this support this country would never have been able to build anything or survive those first years as a fledgling nation. I love that there is so much Islamic history right here in America. The state of California is named after the word caliph which means leader in Arabic. I love that Muslims came to this country long before that poor excuse for a navigator Christopher Columbus ever dreamed it possible. I love the fact that for the most part we obey traffic laws in this country. When the light turns red, we stop. When the light turns green, we go. This is unheard of in many other places. I love that we can buy a cup of coffee that is bigger than the human stomach. I love that whatever your opinions, ideals, morals, religion or lifestyle you can find other like minded people to commune with. I love that I can sit in a coffee shop all day and talk mad ish about America and still walk home with next to no fear of being detained. I love that I get go to the Bahamas for less than $50. I love being a consumer. I love voting for my president. I love that America finally has decent animal cruelty laws that give animals right to humane treatment, other countries do not have such laws and it is ugly. I love that, in America, I am able to just be, to just exist. As a Palestinian this something I do not have the right to do in my homeland. I watch my friends and family in Egypt fighting in the streets for basic needs and am so thankful. I watched this program and this Muslim woman born in Kuwait was becoming an American citizen. She was so excited because for the first time in her life she was going to have the right to vote. Islam gave women the right to vote 1400 yrs ago. Muslim men have taken that right away from us, but America gave it back to us.

You can watch this program "Lidia Celebrates America" by clicking here. I highly recommend watching it. It will give you an appreciation for the diversity of this nation of ours and for the struggles people go through to get here. They are not coming here with some covert agenda, they are coming here to survive, to escape persecution, for freedom of religion (or from religion), for opportunities in education and careers unthinkable in the lands they were born in.

I fight against the increasingly Islamophobic, xenophobic trend that this country is going towards. I am not blind to the drones that assassinate people without due process. I am not blind to the evil wars we have fought for no good reason, in which I have lost friends and family on both sides of. I am not blind to the fact that this country, the land of the free, has more people incarcerated than any country on this earth. I am not blind to the fact that as a Muslim, Arab and activist I am subject to search and seizure, arrest and maybe even jail time if I stand up too loudly for what I believe in. I know all of this. Even with all of this I would rather live here, in America, than anywhere else. Maybe I am choosing the devil I know over the devil I only know a little bit, but this is home. When America is right I stand beside her and defend her, and when she is wrong I stand up and fight against it. That is my right and my duty as an American, to be the system of checks and balances.

Despite my deep love for this country, my country, I have never really been accepted here, not fully. I am not a white Christian, there for I do not belong, I am a visitor, I am unwelcome. Yet, my love for this country runs just as strong and maybe even stronger because I know the value of this American dream. I am American by birth and proudly so. I love that my passport does not say 'refugee' on it, as it would if it were any other passport because that is what I would be if it were not for America. Palestinians are always refugees. My father was a refugee and died a refugee. My mothers family were all refugees. I have something they did not have. I have a country. I am a citizen. I belong. My passport, birth certificate, social security card and drivers license all say that I belong here, it is my birth right. I am living the dream my family wishes they could be living. I am fully Palestinian. I am fully Egyptian. I am fully Muslim. I am fully a woman.

I am a damn proud American.