Ripples over the Mandela Reflection

Alhamdulliulah I was recently published in the Young Muslim Digest, an Islamic monthly magazine, published out of Bangalore for the last three decades. The article was written after Nelson Mandela’s death and might seem a bit dated. Anyway, the article can be found on YMD’s Website and has also been reproduced in full here.

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It has been very interesting to see the reactions over the last few days, over the death of Nelson Mandela, the South African icon of the struggle against Apartheid and Colonialism. There has been a clamour across the social media universe, honouring and eulogising the dead man. There are two aspects of this that are interesting to me personally.

One is the general trend of Social Media Herd-Mentality and the other being the Muslim response about the same. Herd Mentality can be described as how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviours, follow trends, and/ or purchase items. The social media seems to be the biggest grazing ground for the lot. When deaths such as Mandela’s happen, it is hard to discern whether the sympathy is heartfelt or just an attempt to be among the ‘in-crowd.’ Or maybe it isn’t so hard, but then, who’s counting the statuses.

Marc Maron, the comedian had a quote about the social media effect in his memoir, Attempting Normal, which is quite telling about the emotional state of social media users. He says that the social media culture feeds into our inner-child’s need to be emotionally sated. The user attempts to fulfil his need to be loved and cared through the trickles of likes and comments that follow the status updates. As cynical as it may sound, moments like these make me a believer.

Very few people would truly understand what it meant to be Mandela. A man who built his own prison which he was to live in for 27 years on Robben Island, who, upon his release, saw it better to forgive his oppressors, is not someone you appreciate through a single status update or two.

The internet and the real world is creaking with the weight of sanitised messages from politicians and leaders alike, who purposely gloss over the fact that many of Mandela’s views would not hold much currency today. After all, he was taken off the US Global Terrorist list only in 1998.

Many of the world leaders, who offer their condolences today, reflect on Mandela’s exceptional courage to not only survive jail, but also lead a nation after his release. Yet, they seem to be quite happy to forget that, under their own watch, there are tens of illegally held detainees often with no charges and usually with no trials. Actually, the detainees – made out as terrorists today to suit the needs of the establishment, and probably made heroes tomorrow if the people and media see it fit – have more in common with Mandela than their leaders.

A real tribute to the likes of Mandela cannot be encapsulated in a statement or two. He spent a lifetime fighting for justice and our closing our eyes to the very injustice he spoke and fought against is an insult to his memory.

The issues of apartheid and social inequality were neither caused by aliens nor have they ended. They were, in fact, human problems, caused by humans and have taken very different, yet distinct, forms for those who see through it. No amount of social messages can hide this fact; yet, a decent-sized friend/ follower list on Facebook or Twitter can surely distract a person from this truth.

Patience and perseverance in attaining the objective of truth and establishing a society of justice was taught to us by our Prophet (saws). If he was the true paragon of the struggle, then the likes of Mandela are also examples. Truth and justice are not the monopoly of a religion or region but are values of universal hope for the human race.

Thus, for those who seem to be in awe of Mandela, yet know nothing about him save a few titbits gleaned from the cyberworld, it would be best if they, at least, read a book about him, learn about his struggle and maybe implement an aspect or two into their own lives, struggling for justice in their own way.

While an attention-seeking post on the social media might bring you momentary benefits, the struggle for the betterment of society itself could bring benefits above and beyond imagination, if Allah (swt) sees it fit.

This brings me to the second point of the article which is the Muslim response – or, rather, the responses – on the net. For everywhere you go, there seems to be a view about it among the internet Jama’ath. Without doubt, Mandela was a great man who achieved a lot in this dunya. That Allah (swt) made his name ubiquitous seems a fitting reward for his efforts.

The question that seems to trouble many though, is his state in the Hereafter (Akhira). On the one hand, there is a trend of wishing RIP (see Herd-Mentality above) and, on the other, a strong statement of his ineligibility for attaining the mercy of Allah (swt) and the castigation of the former or even of anybody appreciating him.

Islam is the religion of the middle path and we judge by what is apparent. The most fitting of examples is of Abu Talib who, in spite of his devotion to the Prophet (saw), was not released from the punishment of the Fire, even as revealed by the Prophet (saw) himself. As for the fate of one already dead, since we have no means of revelation after our Prophet (saw), it is impossible to say which way he, or she, is going. The matter of faith, though, is clear enough: Muslims are not allowed to pray for the forgiveness of those who died in denial of Allah’s Oneness and, therefore, to be on the safer side, it would be better to avoid statements of similar import.

At the same time, an individual’s final resting place is a matter for Allah (swt) to decide, and taking up His role in this act of determination would be blameworthy. Thus, it would be fitting for a believer to concern himself with his own Akhira and not be bothered about that of a person already dead and gone. If that person happens to be someone like Mandela though, then, maybe, he can take a few lessons in how to conduct his Dunya.

Dawah and Our Attitude

Paul Walker, the famed actor from the Fast and the Furious Series of movies died in a car crash. Its an irony that a man who made his name in movies depicting death defying car stunts died in this way. But irony aside, it is quite tragic to see many Muslims pronouncing judgement upon him and act quite self righteously, sometimes in an attempt to deter other Muslim fans from being attracted to the glamour world. On the other hand, the growing irreverence to sanctity in the social media has even resulted in people making fun of his death through memes and hoaxes.

May Allah SWT protect us!

I remember from a lecture by Sh.Yawar Baig, that the reason Muslims invite non Muslims to Islam is because of the fact that we love for them what we love for ourselves. We Muslims are definitely becoming more active in inviting people to Islam, with tables, talks and debates being set up all over the world. But we need to question are ourselves is the reason why we call people to Islam love or is just a way of feeling good about ourselves because “I established the supremacy of Islam by winning arguments with the next guy on the street.”

Dawah is simple because it is mostly action and less speech. What you do regularly is what you are actually calling other people to. Elvis Presley sang about a little less conversation and a little more action. Dawah is just like that, a little more action goes a long way. The Prophet and Sahaba spread Islam through action. Many know the story of Abu Bakr’s conversion and the conversion of his close friends because they trusted the men whose characters were so pleasing.

Paul Walker’s death is interesting because he was famous among he youth and like I mentioned earlier and thus his death is indeed a sign that all the glitz and glamour in the world is short lived. Yes, the ultimate end of one who denied Allah’s Lordship in this world is the fire, Allah SWT forgives every action except associating partners with him, but that is for Allah SWT to decide and not us.

Thus if you really find it necessary to speak to warn your brothers and sisters, then at least avoid actions such as throwing shame grenades at those who don’t know better (70 excuses for the believer, remember). There has to be a better and more pleasing way of talking and directing fellow muslims away from actions that don’t benefit them without alienating them completely. If dawah to non muslims much love then how much more should advice to a fellow believer be?

After all you wouldn’t want your good deeds reduced on the Day in trying to do good in this world. Take a look at the article which I have reblogged below and this one from YMD to get a perspective on Dawah – Calling to Islam and how the Early Generations achieved it.

Note: This post was edited from its initial form after some introspection and research about the content

Where’s the Mercy?

Paul Walker’s passing today has shocked and troubled many people including his Muslim fans, and it brought up a lot of questions about Islamic belief regarding salvation. These questions are more pressing when one learns that Walker was in the area to attend a charity event for his organization to raise funds for the Typhoon Haiyan victims. It’s extremely troubling to see Muslims act so dismissively about the eternal fate of non-Muslims, acting as if their gods declaring where individuals are going.

One of the dangers of belief is that it can lead one to gain an unjustified sense of certainty about the other. This is further worsened when the conception of God is unbecoming, especially if it’s a God who describes Himself first as Merciful before being Just. That’s not to mentioned not realizing that people have had different exposures, grew up in different circumstances, and will be judged according to their knowledge.

Thomas Paine said, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.”

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=686809561349338&id=347684525261845

Mohamed Ghilan

images

images-1The first Hadith any student of the Islamic Tradition will learn is the Hadith of Mercy. In it the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him gives us the recipe for receiving the Mercy of God by saying, “those who are merciful, the Merciful will have mercy upon them. Have mercy upon those inhabiting the Earth, and the Merciful will have mercy upon you.”

The message delivered by our Beloved peace be upon him has always been described as a message of mercy. Every Muslim knows the verse from Surah Al-Anbiya (21:107) that tells what was the essence and sole purpose of the message entrusted to Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him to deliver, “And We sent you [Prophet] only as a mercy to all people.” We’ve all heard about the numerous examples of the mercy displayed by the Beloved peace upon him to his family, his next of kin, his…

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Life-cycle of a Believer

If you have 10 minutes take a look at this as well

|-| Fajr |-|

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

Surah al-‘Asr is a fascinating chapter in the Qur’an because despite it being the second shortest chapter, it sort of sets the details/blueprint and encompasses the cycle of a believer’s life. Think about it:

“By Time.
Indeed, Mankind is in loss.
Except those who believe and do good deeds, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience.” [al-‘Asr]

A person’s lifeTime seems to follow a certain pattern: We are all in loss and in danger of losing our Hereafter – except for the believer. But when belief enters your heart, you naturally start doing deeds of righteousness. But then belief can’t stay suppressed in your heart and so you advise others and enjoin goodness – more importantly, you stand up for the Truth. And the moment you stand up for the Truth in this world, is the moment you will…

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Charming the Money Snake

Often times in our community we hear the following

“If I was richer I would definitely contribute to this project or that cause!!!

The money I have is just enough for me to get by!!

One day InshaAllah I well be self sufficient enough to spend more in the Cause of Allah SWT

and so on and so forth
Then we some how console ourselves by saying the day I have enough money I will surely give it here and there for the sake of Allah SWT.

How much is enough and who decides this?

SubhanAllah our Prophet SAW admonished us by saying “Save yourselves even if by the skin of the date”. Yet we fool ourselves in this materialistic/consumerist society that one day we will have enough money to spend in Allah’s SWT way after we have spent on ourselves.

Just yesterday one of the brothers I know reminded me that

He ﷺ said, “By Allah I don’t fear for you poverty, but I fear that the world would be abundant for you as it has been for those before you, so you compete for it as they have competed for it, so it destroys you as it has destroyed them.” (Agreed upon)

Reflect!

On the Path of Knowledge

— Written by a good friend

We frequently use Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Awf (RA) and Uthman ibn Affan (RA) as examples to state that “there is nothing wrong with being rich, it’s how you spend the wealth”. This is true but it’s a “premature” conclusion.

Imam Ghazali writes on the topic of “Love of wealth”:
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Know that the likeness of wealth is that of a snake in which there is both poison and medicine, as we have said. Whoever does not know the incantation for the snake and seizes one in his hand will be destroyed. It is for this reason that is not proper for someone to say: “Amongst the companions, there were some who were rich, such as Abdur Rahman bin Awf and the likes of him. Therefore, there is no fault in being rich.” This is as though a child, seeing a magician who takes a…

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Oxfam Relief Efforts in Uttarakand

Recent rains in Uttarakand have created widespread damage in the region with entire villages being washed away and thousands of people still stranded. The Indian army and other agencies are coordinating relief efforts while certain politicians are taking this as an opportunity for one upmanship.

Below is a quick picture I came up with, after a conversation with the Oxfam India representative in Bangalore. The email conversation along with details of operations on the ground and contact details are included here. Oxfam is currently providing relief services in terms of food and blankets at the moment along with help from people experienced in disaster management through their local partners.

Uttarakand Damage

Uttarakand Damage

The scope of their work will extend to providing shelter, health, hygiene and water services. Due to difficulties in transporting material from other parts of India, Oxfam is accepting monetary donations only (tax exemptible) and sourcing required materials from nearby locations. You can choose to blame this person or that or you can contribute in your own small way to helping out people.

Donate at http://www.oxfamindia.org (give them a call to get your tax exemption certificate). Go to the website for more details.

Gaza : If the dead could speak

This is something I wrote for the people in Gaza. Take Heart my brothers and Sisters – Your Lord shall never forsake you.

Al Jazeera ReportsThe death toll has crossed 100 people in Gaza with over 800 injured. During this period, more than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.

“Gaza is about 25 miles long and 5 miles wide. Its population is 1.6 million people, and nearly half of those are children. Their food, water, and energy supply are all controlled by Israel. This isn’t a war. This is shooting fish in a barrel.” – Somewhere on FB

If the dead could speak

If the dead could speak what would they say

What are the stories of those passed away

Who would want to come back and

Who would want to stay.

 

War on terror, terrorists or the Pillar of defence

Out to get those who intimidate them

The mighty aren’t really that mighty if they

Fear the sling shots of those whose rights they took away

 

A single soul is equal to all of humanity

So don’t take a life away but those who build

empires  now don’t care about

how many lives have been wiped away

 

Fathers, mothers and even children aren’t safe

when “targeted strikes” kill everyone in its wake

How blind are those who believe the lies that says

killing pregnant women in self defense is okay 

 

Let every oppressor know there is a witness over him

Let them know His names –  the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith,

the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior.

The One who has promised darkness to the oppressor on a Mighty Day

 

He expelled from fortresses those who thought

They would never go away and those stronger in strength

He caused winds to blow them away

yet His Mercy Encompasses even the oppressors who pray

 

Don’t think those who die in His way are forgotten

For they Rejoice in the bounty of their Lord and no fear is upon them

Yet our hand cringes at action, the mouth dries at speech

Maybe then it is we who are dead and not they.

 

If the dead could speak what would they say

What are the stories of those passed away

Who would want to come back and

Who would want to stay.

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Below are 5 out of 10 facts about Gaza posted in this Huffpost article

1) “PRISON CAMP”

David Cameron once referred to Gaza as a “prison camp” and “some sort of open-air prison”. 1.7million Palestinians are crammed into just 140 square miles; Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth.

Israel, despite withdrawing its troops and settlers from the Strip in 2005, continues to control its airspace, territorial waters and border crossings (with the exception, of course, of Gaza’s land border with Egypt).

2) (UN)FAIR FIGHT

Remember: according to the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem, in the last major conflict between Israel and Hamas – ‘Operation Cast Lead’ which kicked off in December 2008 – 762 Palestinian civilians were killed, including more than 300 children, compared to three (yes, three!) Israeli civilians.

We seem to be seeing a similar imbalance in bloodshed this time round: “More Palestinians were killed in Gaza [on Wednesday] than Israelis have been killed by projectile fire from Gaza in the past three years,” wrote Palestinian-American activist Yousef Munayyer on the Daily Beast website.

3) “COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT”

Why do they hate us, ask ordinary Israelis? Well, Gaza has been under siege since January 2006, after its residents dared to elect a Hamas goverment in free and fair elections. The subsequent economic blockade imposed upon the Strip by the Israeli government at one stage prevented the residents of Gaza from importing, among other things, coriander, ginger, nutmeg and, even, newspapers.

Most international lawyers, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), consider the blockade to be illegal under international humanitarian law; in 2009, a UN panel, led by distinguished South African judge and self-confessed Zionist Richard Goldstone, accused Israel of imposing “a blockade which amounted to collective punishment”.

4) “ON A DIET”

In 2006, Dov Weissglass, the then chief of staff to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon summed up his government’s approach to Gaza and its residents when he confessed: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

A rhetorical flourish? Not quite: in 2008, Israeli defence officials in charge of restricting food and supplies from entering Gaza went so far “as to calculate how many calories would be needed to avert a humanitarian disaster in the impoverished Palestinian territory, according to a… declassified military document.”

5) STUNTED GROWTH

Some 10% of children under five in the Gaza Strip have had their growth stunted due to prolonged exposure to malnutrition. “Stunting (chronic malnutrition) is not improving and may be deteriorating,” concluded the World Health Organisation in May of this year.

Richard Falk has a more in depth look at the situation including policy failures and media hypocrisy here 

To give or not to give

BBC had a show sometime back called “Britian’s Biggest Hoarders”.  The show documented the lives of two individuals who had the habit of hoarding stuff and the effect of this habit on their spouses and children. Their houses were stuffed with things (sometimes from 30 years ago) like sardines in a tin can, leaving just enough room to sit and sleep. The condition is apparently called Compulsive Hoarding where the individual keeps acquiring items and perceives these items to have a higher value than their actual value. Such people can rarely bring themselves to discard these items even if they can’t make use of it anymore.

Why am I going on about this condition?

In preparing for my wedding next month, our apartment is being repainted. Ours is not a very large place and every day the painters do up one room. The painting process though has made me realize the amount of things we have. Before painting a room, my mum and I empty the stuff that can’t be covered up and move it to another room or the hall or wherever convenient. A few days of this juggling about has made me feel as if there is no end to things we have.

As I look around and see things that vary in size, shape, value, utility and age, I know why I need some things but what to do with others I can’t figure out. Some things I can remember when I got them, others I have no clue why they are here.  Some things hold sentimental value and others are just plain rubbish. Yet somehow I feel it is impossible to clean them out. In taking decisions about keeping, discarding or giving away an item, we always seem to side with keep it over chuck it. Somehow we always feel that this might be useful some other time.

Don’t get me wrong, we are the average household with the average number of things acquired over the years and we keep giving away stuff/ throwing them off as and when required. But when the issue of doing it all at once has come upon us, the task seems infinitely more difficult. We are handicapped in, India (depending on where you are) as compared to the west because of the lack of centralized and easily accessible services (both profit and not for profit) to get rid of stuff. This definitely adds to the bias but what bothers me is well known verse in the Quran and incident in the Prophet’s  life.

Allah says in the Quran  in the Chapter of the Cow

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.[2:177]

Notice how He says that piety is not just doing the outward rituals but it is to truly believe in Him and His commands. The belief then should cause the believer to do things in spite of its obvious difficulty. In this verse the first of such acts is to give from wealth you love to those who need it.

I am reminded of the incident where in preparation for the Battle of Tabuq, the two closest companions of the Prophet  competed to see who would give away more for Allah’s sake. Umar ibn Al Khattab gave away half his wealth and thought that would be enough. But when he saw Abu Bakr give away all his wealth Umar realized he couldn’t surpass Abu Bakr.

When the Prophet  asked Abu Bakr what he left for his household, he replied Allah and His Apostle, indicating his reliance in Allah’s providence. Today when I look at an old watch that nobody uses, I still loathe giving it away because I think I can fix it and use it again. This being items not in use, I wonder when will I be able to give away a watch that I am using to someone else who needs it. May Allah give you and me strength.

Hurricane Sandy’s wake

In the modern world where happiness is directly associated with the amount and value of our possessions, Allah still provides us opportunities to reflect. After Hurricane Sandy, millions of people lost their belongings and possessions, besides being in mortal danger. In Syria, people everyday wake up to the fear of destruction of their homes and families. These are just incidents in recent memory and there will always be many more to look towards and think about.

In spite of knowing the limited value of material things we hold on to it as if we are to live forever. The process of letting go is hard but working towards it is our real purpose. To end I would like to give you a quote by Imam Ahmed who was once asked –

” Can a man be extremely wealthy and still be modest?”

He replied, ” Yes, As long as he carries his money in his pocket and not in his heart “

I Pray that Allah makes it easy for us to give for His sake from that which we love. Ameen.

PS : Last year I was able to take part in Charity Week 2011 being in London through the Imperial College Islamic Society. This year seemed to be much bigger and better than last year (preview below). May Allah bless all the people who gave, the people who organised and the orphans who shall benefit. Ameen

Of Jasmines and the Internet

I wrote this article a long time ago, when  I was in India and the so called Arab Spring had just begun. Tunisia had already removed their leaders and Hosni Mubarak was to be soon deposed. I was thinking about Syria and putting down my thoughts about it when I remembered this. In the face of the current Syrian situation this article almost looks naive. Khair. Read through to remember how “easy” the revolutions before Syria were. More on Syria later

*****

When, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia, set himself on fire a couple of weeks back, out of sheer desperation that poverty brings with it, little did he know he was going to stoke flames of dissent long buried in the hearts of the citizens of the Middle East. These flames now raging like wildfires all over the Middle East from Yemen to Egypt have their leaders running for cover. Fanned by Internet Media ( Facebook, Twitter etc.) and to some extent the reports of Al Jazeera News Channel, Bouazizi’s self immolaion has set in motion a possible domino effect of governmental change across the Middle East. Tunisia’s own president Mr. Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali has long since resigned and is now under self imposed exile in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hosni Mubarak’s family has already fled to London fearing for the safety of their lives.

JasmineThough uprisings against self-styled dictators in the Middle East arent uncommon given the massive corruption, rot and decay that exist in government institutions, the protests this time around have had a sense of purpose to it. Dubbed the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ to signify a revolution occurring across societies, Tunisians are not ready to step down until there is a popular government in place while Egyptians today hope to garner the support of a million people as they march to ouster Mr. Mubarak. While I scan the updates coming from Egypt constantly, I can’t help but laud the people of Egypt in their efforts. It would be insolent on my part to claim that affairs of Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations had been on my radar prior to these uprising. Yet, the popular nature of these protests is definitely noteworthy. Regular people who live regular lives have stepped out on to the streets to voice their opinion against the oppression that has left them crushed. The Egyptian army sent in to quell the crowds has declared hints of support towards the ‘Million Strong March’. Reports by Robert Fisk at The Independent currently in Egypt talk of the camaraderie and brotherhood apparent among the protestors and the law enforcement agents.

Such images are encouraging to say the least and though already democratized as a nation it is important for us as Indians to sit up and take notice of the developments taking place in the Middle East. True we elect our representatives, but governance in India today is a joke. How different is Hosni Mubarak from those in power today? Aren’t we witness to some of the biggest scams in modern Indian history? While we recline comfortably in our couches hardly having too wait for a live stream of the IPL on our 3G enabled cell phones, how many thousands literally die of hunger in India? Activists of human rights are simply convicted for secession and terrorism, while real terrorists and criminals languish in jail cells or government chairs afforded the best in their class of luxury! I reiterate our governance is a joke and we need to take a stand.

As I already mentioned the people in the protests in Egypt and related countries are everyday people with everyday stories like yours and mine. Another thing I’d like to mention is that we do not need to get onto the streets to create change. It took our freedom fighters 90 years (from the Revolt of 1857) to garner independence for us Indians. It hardly took 3 weeks (from the self-immolation of Bouazizi) to bring the matter to a head in Egypt. The difference this time being the pervasive nature of social networking and print/TV media. Boon or bane, one can hardly deny the role that Facebook et al. had to play in precipitating the events in the Middle East. While we watch the social networking revolution blitz us daily with new offerings it is imperative for us to indulge in a thought revolution. Muslims are the original disciples of SatyaGraha, learning it from their Prophets and in particular Mohammed (PBUH) while Indians were taught the ways of struggle by Gandhi himself. Through a revolution stemming not from violence but from moral rectitude and adherence to ethical standards there is hope for positive change again. A revolution that can be taken to the doorstep of almost any person above the age of 15 and having access to the internet without having to set a foot on the ground. A revolution which any person who follows the affairs of the world around will “Like”.

It is up to us to take notice of the issues that plague us. It is up to us to make the right noises about these issues. It is also up to us that the noises we make are heard by so many people that it can truly make a difference. The good news is we have a tool we can easily use. The bad news is we don’t “Share”.

PS : – While it is very easy for us to be happy with developments in Egypt, let us not forget the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that pervade the streets. Shops and homes are being looted by anti social elements and food supply is becoming scarce. People who lose possessions in this period lose them for good. I pray for a speedy end to these occurences that is causing so much discord and I also pray for the lasting peace for the people of Egypt. Amen.