I’ve been given an exclusive opportunity to interview Munir Avery, New York State’s first upcoming Muslim State-Senator:
Every month I’ll be conducting a Poetic-Challenge, challenging various poets, whom I personally know/interact with, just for the sake of sharpening/improving my own poetry, general-goodwill, respect for my fellow “Brethren of the Paper & Pen”, and to just see who from among us has the best “Poetry-Skillz”…Every month, I’ll be picking a brand-new Poetic-Challenger, via Facebook/Twitter, to compete with. This month, it’s Cyrus McGoldrick. Next month, it could very well be anyone of you. So, just be prepared, with some fresh-rhymes.
Topic: Yearning for something More
The Warmth We yearn from one another:
When the blistering Winter descends…
…We can no longer afford to pretend.
We get cold so quickly, it really hurts…
…We pursue warmth which takes work.
We all want the heat of Love, to warm our heart…
…Each of us wants a companion who’ll never part.
But, Life is sometimes a cruel Snow-Storm, covering all in its path, with the crispest & iciest harshness…
…However, we must make a Summer out of every Winter, protecting our hearts from a freezing-tempest.
We mustn’t succumb to the hypothermia of Loneliness…
…We all need someone to keep us from cold distress.
Being close, to the one who you love, is one of the greatest feelings of all…
…So, think about the one who keeps you warm during the heavy Snow-Fall.
I shouldn’t have to reiterate what’s gruesomely obvious, but it seems that I must: significantly large populations of people, living in four countries in the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, are currently facing one of the most devastating famines ever seen in recent memory & possibly in the entire history of the African continent itself. One country particularly, Somalia, has the most to lose as a result of this famine getting worse. Somalia has indeed suffered the most in the Horn of Africa region from this terrible famine, for several reasons: the lack of U.N. relief aid getting into Somalia, the severe the lack of accessibility into this country (making it basically impossible for on-the-ground assessments, as to who needs the most help in Somalia, so relief aid can reach the proper places & people in the first place), the result of over twenty years worth of carnage, murder, political imbalance (which has ruined the political and financial infrastructure of this entire country, making Somalia completely unable to deal with the severity of this famine on their own). Ever since 1991, the Somali people have been given not only the short end of the stick, but, they haven’t even been given a stick to hold on to, for any potential hope to come their way. Unfortunately, they are the perpetual victims & subjects of massive abuse, externally by the international-community, as well as internally, by even their own people. The Somali warlords, ruling with iron fists & fear, who control food, water, life & death, etc., preside over autonomous pocket-sections all over of this nation, as if they were like the notorious mafia chieftains, who ruled America, during the prohibition-era.
One of the most tragic realities of this whole affair is that since Somalia hasn’t had a stable central government in two decades, this has given these ruthless, tribal-warlords a free-hand, to rob, rape & pillage their own people, without any form of accountability. And, because of this unchecked oppression, Somalis are left with little options for survival, because quite frankly, no one seems to care. I mean, there hasn’t been a great international out cry at any U.N. general assemblies that I’ve heard of as of recent, or any move to rid the nation of Somalia of its tyrannical warlords. In Iraq, all you had to say was “WMD’s”, and the U.S., along with her “gong-ho” coalition forces were right there on the scene, like they were the members of Marvel Comic’s “The Avengers”, or D.C. Comic’s “The Justice League”. In the early 1980’s, during the Reagan-Administration, the moment that the U.S. got wind of Socialist/Communist influence expanding beyond Cuba & into Central America, particularly in the republic of Nicaragua, the U.S. gladly gave support, via military/intelligence, arms and money to the Contras (who would in our modern political context be classified as “terrorists-groups”), to do battle against the pro-Socialist/Communist Sandinista government.
I just wonder…..with all the U.S. & U.N. confirmations of “terrorists-cells” & “terrorists-groups”, loyal to “Al-Qaeda”, having swept threw Somalia, with their authority virtually unchallenged by the Democratic/Western-world…..why hasn’t there been a great move to relieve Somalia of its warlords & to help bring stability to this 20-year long war-torn nation?!!!
Is it because the U.S. is still sour about that ass-whippin’ that the U.S. Military was served, early on during the Clinton-Administration in the early 1990’s, by Somali rebel forces…..could be. Or, maybe, it’s because the whole “Al-Qaeda in Africa” story (which is just as much a sham as the whole “WMD” fantasy in Iraq) is an excuse needed to not go the extra-mile, to help these people-Like in the case of Rwanda: a million people were slaughtered within three months, while the “civilized-world” just sat back, and enjoyed the show, like it was a cool made-for-T.V. “Movie of the Week”…..probably.
Or, last but not least, it may just stem from the old colonial mentality of not wanting former prized colonial possessions of the “Dark-Continent” to rise and be economically & politically independent nations, to be forces-to-be-reckoned-with in the world, because the former colonial masters of Africa would no longer be able to further rape its land and/or its people of their innumerable resources…..yeah, I think this is the reason.
But, whatever the reason, the excuses for not giving the Somalis, or any other country help in times of crises like this are pathetic, despicable, and are no longer acceptable, and in truth, they were really never acceptable to begin with.
There a lot of other people here to blame for the tragedy that is Somalia’s current plight. I mainly blame the Muslim-World itself. From an Islamic perspective, these oil-rich Muslim/Arab royal families & kingdoms have enough wealth in their individual & national coffers, to rid not just Somalia, not just the Horn of Africa, not just Africa, not just the rest of the Muslim-World, but the entire globe of starvation. In fact, it’s their inherent religious obligation to do so, just because they have more, while others have less.
But, why has hunger still remained an undisputed champion in our lifetimes, in a world of unprecedented human wealth & possession-There’s plenty for all, but it seems that no one wants to share, because they just don’t care.
On the night of June 4th & the early morning of June 5th, 2011, I participated in the annual “AFSP: Out of the Darkness Overnight” Anti-Suicide walk, in New York City. I didn’t even realize how important this walk that I had committed myself to was, until I actually got to the starting point of the walk, in Brooklyn. The walk hadn’t even started yet, and I was just jolted with anxiety & excitement, not knowing how this whole event would play out. There were all types of people there, at this walk, from all over the country & around the world. They were there to lend their support to put an end to Suicide, at all costs. However, there was one group of people who were not in attendance at this walk……it was us, the Muslims; we were nowhere to be found!!! It’s so ironic how something as prevalent & important an issue as Suicide, or this kind of walk, could possibly be the furthest thing from our agendas-It’s not something that we even think about, or are concerned about.
We are so pathetically distant from real issues in our society, like Suicide-I can say for myself, as an individual Muslim, that this walk is incredibly significant to my ability to be of better service to Allah, as His servant, as well as being of better service to my Human race. As Allah says, “From that which we’ve imposed upon the Children of Israel is the following: Whomever kills a person, whom has killed no one, nor has caused corruption within the Earth, it’s just as though they’ve killed killed all of Humanity. Yet, whomever saves them, it’s just as though they’ve saved all of Humanity.”.(Noble Qur’an: Chpt.5, V.32). It’s a proven fact that Suicide-Awareness indeed saves lives!!! There were so many people here, all for the same objective: to save people from making the mistake of taking their own lives. Even if only one person was saved because of this walk, it would be worth it.
This walk was absolutely amazing, to say the least!!! Every step on this this 18-mile journey was an excuse for me to reflect on this precious gift that Allah has given us called life. This walk was in fact a celebration of life itself; my fellow participants, from every part of this nation, all had individual & personal purposes for committing themselves to this walk, along with a valid narrative to boot. I had the awesome privilege of meeting & conversing with some of the most humane, amusing, and positive people you could ever find on the planet-Take actress/activist, Mariel Hemingway, for example, who lost 7 of her own family members to Suicide. In spite of her tremendous loss, she displayed such fortitude, that I very much admired her for. And, she shared her personal story of familial tragedy, with such an immense level of grace, honor & dignity; she’s also a strong advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide-Prevention as well, which is the organization that annually sponsors the “Out of the Darkness Overnight”.
During this walk however, I still felt isolated, alone, and disappointed. Everyone had a walking team, or at least family or friends to walk with, but I didn’t have anyone initially with me walking, nor a walking team; I was just by myself. I tried very hard to conceal my immense anger and disappointment at the Muslim-Community, our leadership & organizations particularly. I reached out to at least 5 major Muslim institutions of Islamic-Learning, Muslim advocacy groups, and leadership councils…..none of them showed the significant want, or care, to partake in this cause, or endorse me, or even help me to spread awareness about this walk. When I sent out e-mails to these institutions, groups, councils, and organizations, they didn’t even have enough courtesy to reply to me and say they were not interested-I received zero responses, from at least 98% of those whom I contacted. But, in spite of all of that, I made it my business to commit to this walk, and to do it by myself, because you know what they say: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”.
Honestly, there were in fact instances where I wanted to just quit this walk, because of lack of support for it, from my own community. However, after every mile, and after every check point/rest stop, and all in between, there were people, congratulating us for the miles that we had already walked and encouraging us to walk even more. These people, the AFSP staff, volunteers, family members of those who were running, family members of those who committed Suicide, all of them gave us so much encouragement to go on and finish this walk. It was so wonderful having them there to instill encouragement to complete our walk.
But, there’s one thing I can say, walking by one’s self does have its advantages-Whenever people would ask me as to who, what, or why I was walking, I had the splendid opportunity to express myself individually, as an individual Muslim. Everyone whom I had told that I was walking on behalf of the Muslim-Community were absolutely ecstatic, and I could see the surprise, and delight on their faces; they were shocked that a Muslim would even be there, and at the exact same time, they were so happy that a Muslim was there. For those whom I came in contact with, and told that I was representing the Muslim-Community, it was a good feeling for them to know that somewhere out there, at least one Muslim actually cares about this cause, and this may have been the very first time that many of them have even met a Muslim. But, it shouldn’t have been just be me who cares, it shouldn’t have been just me out there, all of us should care, and all of us should’ve been there!!!
Alas, it was just me out there, one Muslim, by himself, and even just as an individual, I made a positive impact on people that I came in contact with. Just imagine, if the Muslim-Community had a significant presence there? It would have been such a powerful Da`wah power-play, for people to know that we empathize with them, and want to be part of the solution to this major problem plaguing America. We all owe it to Allah, then to our fellow man, to be a part of this particular walk and movement, to put an end to Suicide. The grand involvement of the Muslim-Community in this walk would most definitely place a positive imprint on the minds & hearts of the people who would witness us there. It would be a tool that we could’ve used to help us clarify the negative stigmas about Muslims being inherently religiously violent, that serves as every-day slander in popular media upon our religion, as well as the general character of the Muslims.
When we’re seen participating more often at these types of events, promoting the general preservation of life, then it would turn the tides of how we’re viewed in America and across the world. Participation in a walk like this would place us in a different light, as caring individuals, who respect, honor and celebrate life. We must all make a more valiant effort to involve ourselves in the society that we live in, to paint a better image of Islam & Muslims, through our actions, as well as contributing to the general betterment of our society, by being of better service to the people.