Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Democracy?

Last night, I watched the documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side". It's one of the most disturbing things I've seen :(

About the film:
Over one hundred prisoners have died in suspicious circumstances in U.S. custody during the "war on terror". Taxi to the Dark Side takes an in-depth look at one case: an Afghan taxi driver called Dilawar who was considered an honest and kind man by the people of his rustic village. So when he was detained by the U.S military one afternoon, after picking up three passengers, denizens wondered why this man was randomly chosen to be held in prison, and, especially, without trial? Five days after his arrest Dilawar died in his Bagram prison cell. His death came within a week of another death of a detainee at Bagram. The conclusion, with autopsy evidence, was that the former taxi driver and the detainee who passed away before him, had died due to sustained injuries inflicted at the prison by U.S. soldiers. The documentary, by award-winning producer Alex Gibney, carefully develops the last weeks of Dilawar’s life and shows how decisions taken at the pinnacle of power in the Bush Administration led directly to Dilawar’s brutal death. The film documents how Rumsfeld, together with the White House legal team, were able to convince Congress to approve the use of torture against prisoners of war. Taxi to the Dark Side is the definitive exploration of the introduction of torture as an interrogation technique in U.S. facilities, and the role played by key figures of the Bush Administration in the process.

The film is one out 10 one-hour films focused on contemporary democracy. The 10 films are broadcasting in October 2007 across all continents, with an estimated audience of 300 million viewers.

In Australia, SBS is the broadcaster for the series. The series kicked off on Oct 7. Several films have already been shown but there are still 5 more to catch:


20:30 - Egypt: We Are Watching You

22:00 - Dinner with the President

23:00 - In Search of Gandhi


20:30 - Bloody Cartoons

22:00 - For God, Tsar and the Fatherland

More info can be found on the Why Democracy website:

To quote the review in Financial Times: The series is able to transform us "from couch potatoes to sofa philosophers"...
Happy viewing ~

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Raya Diaries

Eid Mubarak fell on Saturday. That Friday, the last day of Ramadan, I felt a bit out of sorts. I was not in the mood for Raya. The month of Ramadan went by so fast. I wasn't ready to let go. I haven't made the most out of the blessed month. Too many Ramadan resolutions are still unaccomplished.

Thankfully, I have my house mates with me. They were in full-swing Raya mood. They have made Raya cookies a week ago, put up 'lampu lip-lap' in our house, bought ingredients to cook the Raya delicacies, put Raya songs on full blast, etc... If it weren't for them, this Raya would have been very gloomy indeed.


Woke up at 3am that morning. Planned to go to Lakemba for the Eid Prayer with Farah and Rym. Took a taxi at 5.45am and reached Lakemba 25 minutes later. The taxi driver was also a Muslim. He's very friendly and talkative. When we were nearly there, we could see people in groups walking towards the Masjeed. It was a beautiful sight.

A long stretch of road (about 150 metres??) was closed for the Prayer. The traffic marshals were all wearing a white jubah with a skull cap. We entered the Masjeed. The women's section was packed but there was still room for us. Prayed tahiyatul masjeed and settled down. There was a big screen in front showing the imam leading the Takbir. Looked around and was thankful I had the chance to experience all this...

Finally, it was time for the prayer. The imam's recitation was beautiful. It was slow, steady and deliberate. After it was over, people started to embrace and wish each other 'Eid Mubarak'. We didn't stay for the khutbah since it was in Arabic.

At the back of the masjeed, there were sisters selling hijab. I impulsively bought one in cream :)

When we exited the masjeed, we saw just how large the gathering was. The closed road were filled with people. Subhanallah! the feeling was indescribable. Rym said it reminded her of the time she did her Hadj. (In the newspaper the next day, it was reported that the gathering was attended by 40,000 people).

We walked towards the train station. Most of the shops were closed. Only bakeries selling baklava seemed to be opened. Farah and Rym bought some. It was then that I realized I was hungry and that I haven't eaten much since morning.

Rym wanted to visit a family she knew that lives nearby but they couldn't be contacted. So, we sat on a bench, ate the baklava and chatted to while the time away. After some time, the family was still unavailable, so we decided to go home. But first, we wanted to go past the masjeed one last time.

We took a different route on the way to the train station. It was a quite an exercise. Finally we reached the train station. The train to Central just past us by. The next one is due in 23 minutes. I suggested that we take the train on the next platform.

Bad move. We ended up changing trains 4 times:
-From Lakemba to Bankstown
-From Bankstown to Lidcombe
-From Lidcombe to Strathfield
-And lastly, from Strathfield to Epping.

Fuh! We finally reached Epping at 11.30pm. I panicked a bit. My house is supposed to have its open house at 12pm! Reached home in time. Everything was ready. Felt bad for not helping my house mates. Prayed Zuhur and just then out first guest arrived: our lecturer: Pamela.

More people started to come and the atmosphere was lively. It was nice to see everyone in their best attire and with a big smile on their face. Everyone was greeted with the customary embrace and a "maaf-zahir-batin".

Everything ended around Asar. After that, we came over to Unit 38 (Fatin, Farah, Fariza, Wanee & Hannah). That night, the juniors came over. We played bunga api together. It was fun. I was so tired that I slept at 8.30 that night. Tomorrow should be less tiring, I thought.

Boy, was I wrong. The day started off with Unit 36+37's open house. I went back early because I remembered that I haven't properly talked to everyone back home. After talking to my mum, dad, Kak Yom & Abafan, I went downstairs.

People who didn't come yesterday came that day. There were probably more people who came that day. We were a bit frazzled - will there be enough food?? Nisa whipped up Pengat Pisang & Tom Yam in record time. Alhamdullilah, everything went well.

I was a lousy hostess though. I really didn't know how to entertain the guests, especially the ones that I'm not closed to. So, I shirked from my duty by busying myself in the kitchen, washing the dishes.

After Asar, we went to the juniors' house: 128 + 110. By the time we reached Amrien & Syikin's house, we were so full, we couldn't eat much. There was still one more house to go that night: 107.

So, after Maghrib, we stuffed ourselves again at the Lysa+Aini+Aimi+Ida+Ain's house. They really outdid themselves by cooking beryani, satay, serunding, etc...

That night, I slept around 8.30pm again.
The next day, I have a class test which I still haven't studied for.
I'm banking on my MCQ-literacy to get through the test (!)


A friend I haven't contacted for a long time wrote me a letter. It was a very intimate letter detailing what she's been up to and her personal thoughts and feelings.

I felt touched. We used to be so close. But we've grown far apart ever since we changed schools. I thought that we are far too different now that it's unlikely for us to be close again.

Then I received her heart-felt letter... *lump in throat*

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Art & Islam

In conjunction with Macquarie University's Islamic Awareness Week...

There will be a talk tomorrow on "Art and Islam". The speaker is Peter Gould, a Sydney-born designer. He is passionate about "contemporary graphic design, art, photography and the rich visual & spiritual traditions of the Middle East. His travels and studies throughout the region have inspired a unique cultural fusion that is reactive to a world of misunderstanding".

Do see his website which features beautiful samples of his works.

Date: 10th October 2007
Venue: W6B 325
Time: 1-2pm


The talk on "Terrorism Around the World" today was okay. But I still think that it is a rather ineffectual way to get the message across. You could say what you want in a lecture but people would not be so easily convinced. People are more influenced by the everyday actions of the Muslims around them no?