Can a Person be Gay and Muslim?

Gay mosques are spreading not only in Canada and the United States but across the globe. There is a need for these mosques because the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transsexual community (LGBT) either does not feel welcomed or is discriminated against at local mosques. Why should there be a need for these types of mosques? Would the Prophet Muhammad endorse or condone this type of treatment against the LGBT community? Is it okay in Islam to discriminate against anyone?
There are too many Muslims that I have talked to that ignorantly state that a person has to be a heterosexual before they can be Muslim. This claim is completely unfounded and utterly false and ignorant. The focus of this article is NOT whether it is moral or immoral to be gay. Rather, the focus is whether a person can be gay and Muslim at the same time. If we want to break this down further, the question becomes, “Is it permissible for Muslims or anyone to discriminate against people for their sexual orientation under the umbrella of Islam?”
We first have to define what a “Muslim” actually is. A Muslim (like any other label like Christian, Jew, or Hindu) is a term that refers to a person who is described as being a “submitter to the will of God”. In other words, it is a person who submits him or herself to God. This term does not specify whether this person who is submitting should be a heterosexual.
Second, we have to see what the basic belief structure is for a “Muslim”. A Muslim believes and follows the religion of Islam, which teaches the Unity and Oneness of God, how to obtain peace within yourself and the world around you, and preparation for the afterlife based on a person’s good deeds and intentions. There are 5 basic pillars of Islam: 1) Declaration of Faith that God is One and the Prophet Muhammad is his Messenger 2) Establishment of Prayer 3) Fasting 4) Alms giving (Zakat) and 5) Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca).
The first pillar of Islam does not state that a person has to be a heterosexual before their declaration of faith. If God really wanted to emphasize heterosexuality, he would have made it the first requirement and the first pillar of Islam, or at least one of the pillars of Islam. In addition, God would have stated everywhere in the Quran that people need to be heterosexuals before they can believe in Him. The traditions of the Prophet Muhammad would have called for discrimination of the gay community. Some claim that there are traditions where the Prophet endorsed this type of discrimination, but these traditions are uncorroborated and completely contrary to his teachings and overall message of peace.
In fact, there is a story that exemplifies the Prophet’s acceptance of all types of people. There are actually many stories, but I will mention this particular one. There was a man who came into the mosque and started urinating on the floor inside the mosque. Everyone around him was upset and did not know what to do. Should they yell at him? Should they kick him out? Should the kill him for such disrespect? Prophet Muhammad stopped people from reacting negatively to this situation and allowed the man to finish urinating first. Prophet Muhammad then proceeded to patiently explain to the man that urinating in the mosque was not acceptable and asked him to not do it. If the Prophet did not discriminate or ban this man, that was urinating on the floor from the mosque, who are we to discriminate against the LGBT community? Who are we to tell homosexuals that they are not allowed to come to the mosque to worship God?
The same type of people that discourage gay people from entering a mosque are usually the same people who say you cannot be a “real” Muslim if you do not wear a headscarf, if you drink, gamble, or smoke. Where do we draw the line and who are we to determine who enters a mosque for the worship of God? No matter what a person is or what they do is separate from their belief and worship of God. A gay person can believe that God is one and in the Prophet Muhammad and his message. His or her sexual orientation does not change or invalidate their belief.
Many “religious” people, including Jews and Christians, say that homosexuality is a sin and that is why gay people should be banned from places of worship. Let’s take that argument into consideration for a moment.
If being gay is a sin that bans a person from places of religious worship and from worshipping God, then it follows that people who sin should be banned from places of worship. This would include people who backbite, hurt others, commit adultery, lie, cheat, steal, pass judgment on others, gossip, are greedy, stingy, bad to their neighbors, and who do not follow their faith perfectly.
If membership or affiliation to a religious group is based on sin, then this would mean that 100% of the human race would be barred from worshipping God or attending a church, mosque, or synagogue.
Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, and Bhuddists need to remember that their mosque, church, synagogue, or temple is not a social club where people hang out to judge others and decide who is worthy enough to worship God. These are places of worship which is open to ALL of mankind and nobody should be barred from entering them.
Embrace Humanity.

http://www.islamicbulletin.org/newsletters/issue_24/beliefs.aspx

http://theauthenticbase.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/ther-bedouin-who-urinated-in-the-masjid/

 

Dear Atheists: Science and Religion are Not Mutually Exclusive

atheism

 

There is a gross misunderstanding that religion and science can never go together. There are people who say “religion does not support science and science does not support religion”. I would agree partially with this statement. But the problem is that too many people, including atheists (from what I have observed), mainly premise their argument on the religious background they come from. Many atheists that I know come from Christian or Jewish families. Others are from Hindu families or just purely atheist families. Many of these people that I know did not look to see if there are other religions out there that not only agree with scientific discoveries but are reinforced further when new discoveries are made.
I’ve noticed whenever an atheist argues that religion and science are mutually exclusive, he or she refers to Christianity as a reference point most of the time. I understand that, historically, the Catholic Church had been at odds with scientific discoveries relating to the cosmos. It even shunned and ex-communicated prominent thinkers, scientists, and astronomers for being heretics. But that was all political. Currently, there are some Christians that do not believe in many of the scientific theories and some who do. I do not know why atheists always use Christianity as a reference for most of their argument, but the only reason that I can think of is that it is because we live in a country that is primarily Christian.
The one major Abrahamic faith that doesn’t cross people’s minds is Islam. It is possible that the political and social propaganda against this religion make people not want to even think about what this religion has to say about anything, let alone scientific information. Nor do they look into Hinduism or other religions to see what their perspective is. All the arguments are mainly centralized around one religion when there are so many others out there.
I will be discussing the Islamic, Hindu, and Greek perspective of science as a part of religion- mainly focusing on the cosmos in this article.
Although the Greeks had discovered the planets, their orbits, constellations, and stars, their discoveries were still limited. I want to talk about discoveries that go beyond the discussion of planets, like: the big bang theory, gravity, meteors and rocks in space, how the Earth’s atmosphere protects against meteors and rocks in space being flung at us, and how the universe continues to expand. Neither the Greeks, nor any other ancient civilization, had records of these types of topics. These discoveries are fairly new.
Muslims (followers of Islam) believe The Quran (Islamic Holy Book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the tribal regions of Arabia in stages over a period of 23 years, from 609 CE to 632 CE through the Angel Gabriel. A couple of issues must be understood before I mention Quran quotes. The Prophet Muhammad did not know how to read or write, so it was impossible for him to write the Quran himself. Although he came from a very affluent and prestigious tribe in the area, he was still a layman who had an export/import trading business. He was not a scribe, a scholar, an astronomer, or a scientist. Another important piece of information to know was that there were scientific concepts being revealed to tribal people in Arabia in the 600’s CE who did not know much about their world. They did not have the technology to make discoveries that were revealed in the Quran. In addition, it is believed that the Quran has never been altered or changed. The original copy is located in a museum in Turkey.

Earth’s atmosphere protecting against meteors and other cosmic debris:
Islam:
We have adorned the lower heaven with the adornment of the stars and have protected it from every rebellious satan. These satans…are pelted away from every side and are repelled…And if any is able to snatch a fragment, he is pursued by a piercing flame.” Quran 37:6-10
Research has found that our planet’s atmosphere protects us against meteors and other space debris that fly towards us on a daily basis. However, they are burned up even before they reach the Earth. This is because the Earth’s atmospheric gases compress while the cosmic debris pass through. When atmospheric gases compress, temperatures rise so high that the object burns itself up before it hits the Earth.
In order for people to understand this in Pre-Islamic Arabia, the term “Satans” had to be used as a substitute word because no one really knew what a meteor, asteroid, or cosmic debris was. The last line is pretty self-explanatory. It is referring to cosmic objects being very hot to the touch. If this verse was too specific for the times, people would think the Prophet was completely crazy. (Please note that this is my personal interpretation).
Greeks:
The first person to look into gases was Empedocles (492-432 B.C.), who thought that the Earth had four basic substances: earth, water, fire, and air. But there was nothing mentioned along the lines of explaining the burning up of cosmic objects upon contact with the Earth’s atmosphere. Studies about the Earth’s atmosphere and gases did not start until the 1500’s, which was almost a thousand years after the Quran was revealed. The point is that there was no way that Prophet Muhammad could have known this (or anyone at the time or before his time) specific information.
Christianity:
The closest verse that I found in the Bible relating to this topic was in Revelations 7:1-17, but it still is not specific as to objects being repelled or pelted away that are really hot.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. Revelations 7:1-17.
Hinduism:
While there is a lot in Rig Vedas (Hindu scriptures) about planets and astronomy, the only verse I found that mentioned meteors was located in Hymn LXVI. Visvedevas. Book 10, part 6:
As the Sun dews with meath the seat of Order, and casts a flaming meteor down from heaven. So from the rock Brhaspati forced the cattle, and cleft the earth’s skin as it were with water.”
This mentions meteors but does not state how the Earth’s atmosphere protects against meteors.
Big Bang Theory:
Next, I want to talk about the Big Bang Theory that started developing in 1927 which theorizes that the universe was in an extremely hot and dense state and began expanding rapidly. Some say it exploded and some say it expanded to the point where there were separate galaxies that formed. Regardless of whether there was an explosion or expansion…something happened which caused the gases to separate into galaxies.
Islam:
Did the disbelievers not realize that the heavens and the earth were one solid mass, then We tore them apart, and We made every living thing of water?” Quran 21:30.
We see that the term “heaven” may be referring to a gas and “earth” referring to a solid. Both were combined as one solid mass and then “torn” apart. Whether there was an explosion, expansion, or a tearing apart- the point is that there was a separation of these solids and gases that created different planet and galaxies that we know of today. Some planets became solids like Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, and some became planets of gas like Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune.
Christianity:
I did not find any theory such as this one from Greek times. However, the closest verse I found from the Bible was in Genesis 1:1-31:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”
These verses are older than the Quran, so the form and style of the language had to be more symbolic so the people of the time were able to understand them.
Hinduism:
In Hinduism, The Nasadiya Sukta, the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda (10:129), Hymn 109 and Hymn 129 mentions the world beginning from a point, through the power of heat.
Then neither Being nor not-Being existed, neither atmosphere, nor the firmament, nor what is above it . . . The One breathed windless by its own power. Nought else but this existed then.”
“In the beginning was darkness swathed in darkness: all this was but unmanifested water. Whatever was, that One coming into being, hidden by the void, was generated by the power of heat.”
This theory contributes towards one of the aspects of the Big Bang Theory. Although, this verse is not specific regarding the exactness of the beginning of the world that we know of; it must be understood that Hinduism is one of the oldest (probably the oldest) religion in the history of mankind. The explanations will be suited to the times in which they were revealed.

Expansion of the Universe:
Islam:
Scientists have recently discovered that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate. The Quran says:
“And it is We Who have built the Universe, and behold, We are steadily expanding it.” (Quran 51:47).
“We” is referring to the royal plural God in this verse. Edwin Hubble’s discovery of an expanding universe was in the 1930’s, whereas the Quran was revealed in early 600 C.E.
Hinduism:
All the planets of the universe, from the most evolved to the most base, are places of suffering, where birth and death takes place. But for the soul that reaches my Kingdom, O son of Kunti, there is no more reincarnation. One day of Brahma is worth a thousand of the ages [yuga] known to humankind; as is each night.” Bhagvad Gita (VIII, lines 16-17)
These verses have been interpreted to mean the universe is expanding. Brahma is the God of Creation in Hinduism and one day of Brahma is equivalent 4.32 billion human years. When you double this number to get the number for a day and night of the Brahma, you get 8.64 billion years. This was theorized by Aryabhata in the 6th century. This analysis suggests that the universe is expanding.
Christianity:
God says in Isaiah 40:22 that God “stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
This verse suggests that the universe was expanded or “stretched out” and the term “spreads” seems to be implying that the “heavens” are still expanding. This verse can be interpreted as God expanding it or is perhaps continuing to expand it.
The discussion here is just a glimpse of what other religions say on scientific topics. If people are truly interested in what God has to say in different religions regarding different scientific topics, they should do their research before outright dismissing the possibility of an infinite supreme Creator and generalizing all religions as rejecting science.
How can science and the study of the world be separate from religion when it is religion that tries to explain the human relationship to the Creator and all of His Creations?

Citations:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran

http://science.howstuffworks.com/question308.htm

http://www.outerspaceuniverse.org/how-earths-atmosphere-burns-meteors-comets-and-other-space-debris.html

http://www.psi.edu/epo/faq/meteor.html

http://www.universetoday.com/94392/getting-a-handle-on-how-much-cosmic-dust-hits-earth/

http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/asimovatmosphere.pdf

http://www.ishwar.com/hinduism/holy_rig_veda/book10/book10_06.html

http://www.openbible.info/topics/the_big_bang_theory

http://www.hinduwisdom.info/Hindu_Cosmology2.htm

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Have Muslim Women Reduced Islam to a Fashion Statement?

hijab article

 

“O Prophet, enjoin…the believing women, to draw a part of their outer coverings around them. It is likelier that they will be recognized and not molested. Allah (God) is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Quran, Chapter 33, verse 59.

And enjoin believing women to… guard their private parts and not to reveal their adornment except that which is revealed of itself, and to draw their veils over their bosoms…” Quran, Chapter 24, verse 31.

 

With worldwide protests and movements in favor of wearing the “Hijab” (a headscarf worn by Muslim women), and even having an annual “World Hijab Day”, it seems like the concept of a simple modest head dress that has been mentioned in the Quran (Muslim’s Holy Book) only a couple of times, has spun out of control and has become the main focal point of Islam for women.

The Hijab generally refers to the headscarf that Muslim women wear in public and in front of men that they potentially can marry. Without going into the technicalities of different interpretations of the Quran that pertain to the headscarf and debating whether wearing one is a requirement or not, this article focuses on how Muslims have put too much of an emphasis and importance on their outward appearance. Many will ask, “So, what is the problem with putting a lot of emphasis on Hijab and dressing properly?”

There is nothing wrong with wearing a headscarf and dressing properly. It becomes problematic when people start thinking that is the ONLY requirement of a religion or the MAIN requirement of faith. There are a lot of problems with making your religion to be viewed as a faith that focuses only on miniscule details that is open to interpretation. Focusing on one aspect of a religion takes people away from its main teaching and core beliefs. The focus on the hijab is causing hostilities between women who wear a hijab and women who do not. It is leading young Muslims away from faith because they think there is nothing else to the religion. It is leading to worldwide confusion as to what the concept of the hijab is when it pertains to women and Islam in general. Women are now inventing false concepts about Islam in the defense of them wearing hijab (i.e., Hijab is the road to salvation and any woman who wears it will directly gain entry into heaven; which is completely false because a Muslim’s salvation is in his or her deeds). The focus on Hijab continues to silence Muslim women who do not wear one. Even if there is a Muslim female scholar with a doctorate degree in Islamic studies, women are not willing to listen to her until she wears a headscarf. These type of women have forgotten basic values of Islam. They continue to show their bodies in a sexual/provocative manner, continue to engage in impermissible sexual activity secretly in their colleges or schools, and the gossiping, mocking, and passing judgment on others still continues. But as long as they have a headscarf on, it’s okay, right?

I have heard of women telling me that the first step to Islam is appearance, which is outrageous. Many girls who convert to Islam are told that the very first thing they must do is to wear a headscarf, which is not true. The first pillar of Islam is to have faith and the declaration of faith- NOT wearing something on your head. In fact, there are only a couple of verses that even talk about the hijab in the Quran. But Muslims have made the concept of Hijab the entire focal point of Islam. They forget that Islam is about so many other things like their devotion to God, charity, not judging others, not mocking others, being good to your neighbors, etc. The three main questions that are asked of a Muslim after his or her death is: 1) Who is your Lord?, 2)What is your religion?, and 3) Who is your Prophet?. Nowhere do these 3 questions include whether a headscarf was worn. It is also believed that on the Day of Judgment, mankind will be judged according to their deeds and how they spent their time in the world. If someone’s answer is that they just wore a headscarf and that they should enter heaven directly based on that alone are highly mistaken.

My favorite quote that I think sums up the essence of Islam is located in the Quran, Chapter 2, verse 177:

“Righteousness does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or towards the west; true righteousness consists in believing in Allah (God) and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets, and in giving away one’s property in love of Him to one’s kinsmen, the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer, and to those who ask for help, and in freeing the necks of slaves, and in establishing Prayer and dispensing the Zakah. True righteousness is attained by those who are faithful to their promise once they have made it and by those who remain steadfast in adversity and affliction and at the time of battle (between Truth and falsehood). Such are the truthful ones; such are the God-fearing.”

A Hijab is not a fashion statement. It is not a symbol of freedom or oppression. It is not a political statement. It is a covering that goes over your head and a covering on your body with the purpose of not attracting sexual attention. It is that simple. It has been worn by many different religions over time including Christianity (Corinthians I, verses 11-15) and Judaism. (The headscarf’s origins are ancient and there is a lot of history with its development and evolution, but that is a discussion for another day.)

There is so much work that is needed in the community like setting up shelter homes and food kitchens for the poor and needy, creating more humanitarian organizations, providing more education about Islam to Muslims, working on getting rid of genital mutilation of women, acid attacks, and honor killings across the globe, being friendly to neighbors, not passing judgment, and getting along with one another.

The focus needs to be LESS on “Appearing” Muslim and MORE “Being” Muslim.

The Medina Charter: First Formal Constitution in History?

 “O People, we created you from the same male and female and rendered you into distinct peoples and tribes that you may recognize one another. The Best of you in the sight of God is most righteous….” Quran, Chapter 49, verse 13.

Rest assured that Whosoever from among the Muslims or the Jews or the Christians or the Sabeans believe in God and the Last Day, and performs good deeds, he will have his reward with his Lord and he will have no cause for fear and grief.Quran, Chapter 2, verse 62.

What is the Medina Charter?

The Medina Charter was drafted by Prophet Muhammad in the year 622 A.D. after the migration to the City of Yathrib (currently known as Medina). It is known to be the first constitution in Islam and arguably the first formal constitution written in history. The charter was the first declaration of Medina as a City-State. It established a government system that addressed social and political issues in an area that was rife with chaos and tribal conflict.

This Islamic constitution provided equal rights to Muslims and Non-Muslims. The “Ummah” (community), in this historic document, was defined to include not just Muslims, but Non-Muslims, unbelievers, and pagans alike. There is a gross misconception amongst Muslims that the “Ummah” (community) means the Muslim community. But this was not the intention of the Prophet Muhammad. If it were the intentions of the Prophet, he never would have drafted this charter giving equal rights to all in the community.

The Medina Charter covered a range of issues: right of each community to practice their own religion, freedom to choose one’s own religion, freedom of speech, and the unity and cooperation amongst all citizens. “A person given constitutional shelter shall be granted an equal right of protection as long as he commits no harm and does not act treacherously.” (Article 50).

There is particular emphasis placed on the rights of Jews in the area that is covered in 10 separate articles (Articles 30-40), giving them equal rights. The only group that was not protected in Medina was the Pagan tribe of Quraysh (the tribe that Prophet Muhammad used to belong to) due to their hostile relations with Muslims and Medina, “There shall be no refuge for the Quraysh (the enemies of the state) nor for their allies” (Article 53).

Significance?

It is argued that the Medina Charter was the first written Constitution in history. Some argue that it was the Athenian Constitution written by Aristotle in 350 B.C. that was the oldest constitution in history. I tend to disagree with this assertion. If you look at Sir Frederic G. Kenyon’s translation of the Athenian Constitution, it reads rather like a treatise or an account on the history of the political situation of Aristotle’s era. There are barely any laws or regulations regarding the formation of a City-State. The World English Dictionary defines a constitution as “The fundamental political principles on which a state is governed, especially when considered as embodying the rights to the subjects of that state”. The Athenian Constitution is far from this definition.

My article has a message to Muslims and Non-Muslims. To Muslims, I would like to say that the term “Ummah”, which translated into “community” in English does not only encompass Muslims. This term includes all people from all backgrounds. We should embrace everyone because God created everyone equally. Build bridges of love and not hate. Find common ground with your fellow human beings. Do not discriminate, do not hate, do not exclude, and give everyone their due rights. This was the intention of Islam and the intention of the Prophet Muhammad. No matter how much the world may misunderstand you or your religion, your duty is to be true to your faith, and to be the best human being that you can be. Continue to do good deeds, be patient, and kind regardless of how people treat you. Show your character through your actions and focus on the bigger picture of Islam instead of getting tangled in the technical man-made details of it.

Most importantly, READ. Read the Quran from the beginning to the end with the history behind each chapter. Read it in the exact order it was put together so you can understand the context of all the verses. You do not skip around in a fictional novel, so why do you skip from chapter two to chapter 35 in the Quran? Open your mind and think. Embrace reasoning and do not rely on the opinions and interpretations of scholars and imams. Every imam or scholar will have their own interpretation and opinion. Research on your own. You do not need scholars because the Quran was revealed to a lay person and meant for common people. If was meant to be revealed for elites and scholars, it would have been, but it was not. Have confidence in your understanding of the Quran and live it the best way you can.

To Non-Muslims: Do not base your opinion of an entire faith based on the actions of a few. Never judge a religion or faith based on its people or the culture of the people. People do not define faith or religion. People, culture, and faith should be kept separate in our minds because these three categories differ greatly. [See article on Culturalization of Religion Article]. We see governments and some people committing horrendous acts in the name of Islam and use Islam as a scapegoat for all negative actions, but this is not Islam. I have realized through my research of the Quran, its history behind each chapter, and the history of the Prophet that Islam teaches equality, religious tolerance, peace, love, and the right to self-defense in cases of persecution or oppression. Religion exists for maintaining social order in society and creating an environment of peace where people can co-exist with one another. Commanding them to hate or kill is simply contradictory to any faith.

 

Citations:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Medina

http://www.constitutionofmadina.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Constitution-of-Madina_Articles.pdf

http://www.interfaithathens.org/article/art10171.asp

Watt. Muhammad at Medina and R. B. Serjeant “The Constitution of Medina.” Islamic Quarterly 8 (1964) p.4

http://www.constitution.org/cons/medina/kassim2.htm

The First Written Constitution in the World, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1968. First published in England, 1941

Peter John Rhodes. A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford University Press), 1981, 1993: introduction, pp. 2–5.

http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/athenian_const.1.1.html

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/constitution

Birthday Party with a Good Deed

Sadia Covert:

Inspiring 7-year old who chose to feed the hungry for his birthday instead of receiving gifts

Originally posted on Hunger Van:

02-23-14 Rayaan Shakir Birthday Hunger Run (8) Restaurant depot parking lot had no parking. MY helper in shopping for the Hunger Run said “why are so many people here, are things free today”.      i replied, “no, we are late to Rayaan’s Birthday party”. Around 12:30, i arrived at the residence of Erum and Shazad Shakir in East Brunswick. Salaam Uncle, Erum and Shazad  Shakir greeted me with a joy on there faces, “please joins us for lunch before we unload the Hunger Van”. As i am eating, 7 year old Rayaan walks up to me and asks. “Do you remember me, I helped in making sandwiches for homeless, its my birthday and i will do it again with my friends today”.

In 2011, Muslims Against Hunger Project  started a mobile soup kitchen program known as HUNGER VAN which brings food and other basic needed items to the homeless and needy in the street. Volunteers gather…

View original 893 more words

How to make really soft rice krispy treats

Have you ever had a problem with your rice krispy treats being a little too tough the day after and wondered why? Making them soft is about technique.

First, follow your regular rice krispy treat recipe. While the marshmallows and cereal are melting and coming together in a pot, make sure you are not stirring the mixture too much because this will lead to the treats being a little tough. After your mixture is done, pour it out on a greased cookie sheet. Now, pay attention to this because it is important. When your scraping/pouring out the mixture onto the greased cookie sheet (just spray the cookie sheet with a little bit of cooking spray or rub it with butter), make sure you are not pressing down on the mixture or trying to shape it. If you press down on the mixture, it will become tough.

Let it cool and then cut. After you have cut the treats, immediately place it in a parchment paper/wax paper lined container with a tight-fitted lid. If you have to stack the treats because of space issues, just make sure to separate each layer with a new piece of wax/parchment paper. Do not refrigerate.

Enjoy!

The Rise of Political Extremism

Elephant-Donkey-boxing

From taxes, government spending, and the economy to national defense, education, and social reform, our two-party system in the United States represents a split of two opposite extreme views. There is no moderate voice on issues anymore, and the American people are forced to choose one party from the two. In my search of articles for objective explanations of basic differences between the two parties, the results yielded biased information based on party loyalty. Objectivity is dead, and a new era of blind, unwavering loyalty (no matter what the consequences may be) has been born.

We’ll tackle Republicans first. Republicans generally oppose abortions and contraceptives. But they also believe that an individual is responsible for themselves and their families in society. Republicans are generally opposed to excessive spending, and welfare is considered as such. These two view points, when combined, lead to an extreme, ideological thought process that fails in application when it stands alone.

Let’s assume that we have applied these two viewpoints in current society. Imagine living in a country that has a ban on abortions along with contraceptives, and that there is no welfare. If there was an impoverished pregnant woman, she would be forced to have a baby without any means or resources to support herself and her baby. This would result in homelessness and even death. There is no way that she could have had an abortion because abortions are banned. There is no way that she could have prevented her pregnancy because there is a ban on contraceptives. And there is no help from society because social programs such as public aid do not exist. Republicans would argue that she should not have gotten pregnant in the first place if she had abstained from sex and that she should not have been poor if she made better decisions in life. But let’s be realistic. People have sex and not everybody has ideal conditions to have the perfect life. We cannot legally force people into abstinence. But we can give people remedies and solutions to problems that may ruin their lives.

Democrats, on the other hand, are more liberal in social and economic issues. They are not opposed to welfare or abortions. Let’s assume that we are currently living in a country that is completely liberal. There is no ban on abortions and contraceptives and money is being given out to all the single moms and all the children they conceive. This is the opposite extreme, and unrealistic.

This viewpoint leads to economic hardship and an unbalance in society. The taxpayers will have to pay for the contraceptives, abortions, and all the children being born to moms that have chosen to have many children. It makes potential moms reliant on a system that keeps funding their poor decisions while the middle and upper class are punished for working hard. Why should the taxpayers keep rewarding this? This system would only favor one side, and would incentivize behavior that relied on the system for provision.

We need to find a balance and come up with a win-win situation while also keeping things in perspective, regardless of our personal feelings on certain issues. We may not like or agree with certain actions of people, but we still have to be practical and think of the impact on society as a whole in the future. We cannot afford to be idealistic anymore. Life is not a classroom where we all wax philosophical. This is reality.

The moderate stance on the subject would be to make abortions and contraceptives available for unplanned pregnancies to lessen the burden on taxpayers. Then, drastically cut welfare funds for each child that is born to an impoverished women to discourage their behavior, and to enable them to eventually be self-sufficient. There should be no reason for a woman who does not have the means to support children to keep having children, especially when she has access to resources to either eliminate or prevent her future pregnancies. Republicans are happy because they do not have such a heavy tax burden and are not paying for the poor life choices of others, and democrats are happy because people still get to retain their social freedoms and rights. Society is better because we have a system in place that encourages people to be self-sufficient while catching individuals who occasionally slip and fall.

On February 18, 2014, The Ways and Means Committee Democrats released an analysis on the effects of Republicans blocking an extension of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation which expired on December 28, 2013. More than 1.8 million Americans have been cut off extended unemployment insurance. In addition, nearly 72,000 are losing their benefits and insurance, on average, every week, according to the Ways and Means Committee Democrats (see link to website). This is an example of political extremism. Our economy is still not fully recovered with an unemployment rate of 6.7%, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Republicans are essentially telling people that they should get jobs in a country that does not have enough jobs for everyone. That is unrealistic. It is as if someone commanded people to grow corn on Mars when the planet does not have the environment to cultivate corn. When these people do not have jobs or unemployment benefits, others blame them for being a burden for taxpayers. Cutting off benefits does not help people find jobs; it only digs a deeper hole for them and society in general.

Similarly, Democrats showed their own political extremism this past week. According to a February 19, 2014 article by Mlive from Lansing, Michigan (please see link), a petition to raise minimum wage from $7.40 to $10.10 per hour by the year 2017 was approved by the State Board of Canvassers. The Democrats are expecting Republicans to reject the proposal. Although it makes sense to raise minimum wage to keep up with the soaring costs in our country for consumers, we must also look at the other side of the coin and make sure that the employers and businesses are also protected, since they are also a part of our society. We need to strike a balance and keep the playing field fair. To simplify, if Bob owns a store and has to pay this increased wage to his five employees, without having any tax breaks or any help from the same government that forced him to pay a higher wage, Bob will have to lay off one of the five employees to compensate, or raise the prices of his products or services.

Even though many people have their reservations and personal feelings about corporations or businesses, we have to take care of everyone, including employees and employers. This would be the moderate position which would lead to effective legislation.

Why do we have political extremes to begin with? Why are we all the way to the right or all the way to the left? To keep things brief, I think it goes back to my article on Moral Relativism and how there is much confusion as to the morals and standards in our society. Second, people apply blanket statements and policies to different issues without thinking about their long-term effects. And third, people are loyal to their party lines and will side with their party on issues regardless of the consequences. Fourth, people just accept the current system for what it is and do not question it- “That is how the system works because it works that way and it is correct because that is how the system works.”

Moderation is key for effective legislation. Politicking and legislating are not detached, scientific skills. Rather, they are social skills, and when we exercise them, we should use the same principles that we learned in grade school with our friends: empathy, fairness, and cooperation.

Citations:

http://www.svgop.com/files/Differences%20Between%20Republicans%20and%20Democrats.pdf

http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/the-difference-between-republican-and-democratic-brains-20131121

http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

http://democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/press-release/expiration-federal-unemployment-benefits-cost-economy-over-3-billion-january-and

http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2014/02/minimum_wage_petition_drive_ge.html

Moral Relativism: The Death of Morals, Part I

Although moral relativism is a new trend that seems to be growing in popularity, it is not a novel concept since it has ancient Greek origins. This concept is defined in a variety of ways. However, it is mostly understood as the truth or justification of moral judgments as not being absolute. To put it simply, when it comes to judging actions in society as being moral or wrong, we are asking questions such as, “Why is this action bad or immoral? What makes this conduct wrong? Can we really judge this as being immoral and by what standard?”

I started thinking about this new trend of moral relativism when I began to have conversations with people on the subject from a variety of backgrounds and age groups. One of my most interesting conversations was with a girl that actually thought that cannibalism, rape, incest, and pedophilia were not immoral. She said that we only judge them to be immoral because we live in society that views them as such. If we go to certain parts of the world, cannibalism is acceptable according to the culture of that country or region. During the Roman days, relations between an older man and a young boy was quite acceptable because it was a norm during that time. Rape is not really considered rape in some parts of the world; therefore, it cannot be wrong. This was a very interesting conversation but it left me thinking, “then what really makes actions wrong and how does a society determine its immorality apart from just environmental and cultural factors?” There has to be other factors that make something wrong, especially when you just know in your gut that the particular action is wrong and immoral.

I realized that this new movement was not only implying that nothing is considered wrong anymore by taking away the distinction between right and wrong, but also creating much confusion in our culture.

Some examples of moral relativism at play can be found in issues such as children born out of wedlock, pornography and stripping, and relaxed marriage laws and infidelity. These issues do not even touch the tip of the iceberg of societal problems these days and the overall breakdown  of our country.

So, many people may ask, “What is wrong with being a single mom and having a child without getting married? It’s their life and their decisions and no one should judge them for their decisions”. These mothers do not want to be judged for their decisions and society does not really discourage this behavior either. It is one thing to put a scarlet letter of adultery on their clothing and another to provide encouragement, support and an environment that nurtures this type of reckless behavior. We see welfare and cash assistance programs (at least in Illinois) for these type of families, and an increase in the monetary amount for every child that is born. There are even church programs to help these women out in addition to the welfare system. It is a backlash from the baby boomers where our society was too strict before and now it is going in a completely opposite direction. We had one extreme of shunning single moms out of society when they were impregnated before marriage and now we have the other extreme where we provide full support to women who get impregnated before marriage. There has to be a balance and some standards in society. So, what is the problem with children born out of wedlock and how does it affect others?

There are a multitude of studies done to show that out-of-wedlock births have increased since the 1960’s in the U.S. (in fact, it has doubled). According to a 2013 article by US News and Global Report, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey linked poverty with out-of wedlock births. Data showed significant connections between income and these type of births. Of women who made less than $10,000 who gave birth, 68.9% were not married. This link between out-of-wedlock births and poverty of the mothers places a heavy financial burden on the taxpayers of this country. Now, tax payers are supporting more single moms and all their children, which is never-ending because the rate is only on the rise. Crime rates are increasing with children that are born out-of-wedlock and who have no cohesive two-parent family unit. An absent father, a non-cohesive family unit, and a financially difficult life of the mother all put stress and pressure on a child from that type of a family. So, is having children out of wedlock immoral? YES! It is wrong because it places a burden and negative effects on the child, the mother, and members of society. Everyone has to pay one way or another for these mothers’ poorly made decisions. Our society cannot afford for these women to be selfish. If they make decisions of having children without marriage and without financial support, then there should be no expectation or encouragement from society to support something that everyone else will suffer from.

What is the solution? Personally, I think that this behavior is reckless and hurts society in the long run and should not be rewarded by throwing money at it. Instead of handling this in an extreme fashion, which most people propose to do by either arguing to get rid of welfare completely, or by trying to ban abortions and contraceptives. Both of these options are irrational and unrealistic. We cannot eliminate a welfare state. However, we can work with what we have and change some rules. For every child born out of wedlock, the monetary assistance given to a mother should significantly decrease. And since, taxpayers will be forced to pay taxes towards welfare against their will anyway, they should only be required to pay for birth control pills and effective contraceptives for these impoverished women. The religious groups will argue that government money should not pay for contraceptives and that we should also ban abortions. If we do this, the problem of illegitimate births will continue. It is unrealistic to think that people will stop having sex. There should be options to prevent pregnancy and there are only two: contraception or abortion. Abstinence is not one of them.

The reduced financial aid through the welfare system coupled with access to contraceptives will make mothers or potential mothers think twice before they make a decision to have children out of wedlock. This system will let society know that this practice is discouraged, slow the breakdown of our society, lower crime rates, and put less of a burden on taxpayers, and not waste taxpayers’ money.

Moral Relativism: The Death of Morals, Part II

Continued from Moral Relativism Part I…….

Another example of moral relativism’s contribution to the deterioration of societal standards is pornography, stripping, and all who are affiliated with it.

I hear women who say that their bodies are “works of art” and by stripping or fornicating on camera, they are “expressing” this work of art. It is about freedom of expression and art. This is completely irrational and a poor attempt at justifying their own objectification. It is amazing, however, how a multi-billion dollar industry has convinced them of this nonsensical rational. Taking off your clothes is irrelevant to freedom and art. Even old artwork that showed women’s nudity was just a painting of a naked woman by a perverted man who called it “art” to make his prurient interests sound more sophisticated. Re-labeling nakedness does not make it something else. I can call a cheeseburger a hotdog until I am blue in the face, but that does not make it a hot dog. Nudity and naked are synonymous.

I understand that there are parts of this world and this country where women do not have a choice but to do this type of work either voluntarily or against their will. However, with the women that do have options should try to work somewhere else and respect themselves.

So, what is the problem with this and why is it wrong? Women keep complaining about the glass ceiling, the lower wages than men in professions, society not taking them seriously, the perpetuation of the “dumb women” stereotypes, objectification of women, and sexual harassment, and many other issues. They complain about these issues because these issues actually exist. While so many other countries have had their women prime ministers and presidents, we have never had one single female President for our country. For crying out loud, Pakistan, a country at a young age of about 67 years, has already had a female prime minister. We have our female CEO’s, scholars, and political officials, but we are still not taken seriously. There are still jokes about women who are in power being accused of climbing their way up to the top by engaging in lewd or promiscuous behavior.

We need to increase awareness in women and foster a strong self-esteem and stop the rationalization of revealing our precious bodies for a little bit of cash.

The last example is relaxation of divorce laws, infidelity during marriage, and the lack of sanctions for adulterous affairs. Every state in the U.S. has No-fault grounds as the basis for obtaining a divorce. Some states have fault grounds (breakdown based on adultery, impotence, bigamy, desertion, etc.) along the option of no-fault grounds which affect waiting periods to obtain a divorce. A no-fault ground is the reason given to the court of why the petitioner is seeking a divorce. The term that is usually used for seeking a divorce on no-fault grounds is “irreconcilable differences” that lead to a breakdown of marriage. This is a catch-all category that does not have a solid definition- it could be anything that causes the breakdown of a marriage. This concept was not defined in the drafts by the National Conference of Commissions of Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL). Even though the American Bar Association opposed this standard, it still passed. We start seeing the beginning of the deterioration of society in 1970 when California was the first state to relax divorce laws by creating the “irreconcilable differences” standard through the California Family Law Act of 1969, which became effective on January 1, 1970.

The problem with no-fault grounds for divorces is that it grants divorces a little too quickly even with a waiting period involved. Some states require a 180-day separation or waiting period before obtaining a divorce but this can be waived by asserting “serious marital discord”. In addition, there are no real remedies for adultery as if it is okay to have adulterous affairs during marriage because there will be no harsh ramifications later in a divorce proceeding. In Illinois, a cheating spouse has no effect on alimony, child support, or the division of marital property or assets. Alimony awards under Illinois law, 750 ILCS 5/504 (a), must be calculated “without regard to marital misconduct. The division of marital property is also determined “without regard to marital misconduct” under 750 ILCS 5/503 (d). Child support is to also be determined “without regard to marital misconduct” under 750 ILCS 5/505 (a).

The only other options to punish or discourage an adulterer is to file for dissipation and replace the misallocated marital funds (which has its own timing and substantive challenges), or to bring a tort action against the lover of the cheating spouse (which also has its own nearly impossible standards).

Divorce rates and infidelity are on the rise and our laws are not helping in reversing the growth; nor do our laws have any realistic solutions. The only solution is to fight to bring back more strict divorce laws through legislation and maybe go the Constitutional route of proving a compelling state interest to bring back fault grounds of divorce and creating sanctions for marital misconduct.

People are complaining about so many issues such as the constant increases in taxes, increases in divorce rates, increases in crime rates, and the hindrance of women’s rights and progress. We keep passing legislation and throwing more money at the problem instead of fixing it at its root. The reason why we have so many problems is because there are no moral standards anymore. The concept of morality has evolved into nothing more than an entertaining philosophical debate saved for college classrooms.

 

Citations:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/

Moser, Paul, K. Moral Relativism: A Reader. New York: Oxford University Press. 2001. Print.

http://www.usnews.com/news/newsgram/articles/2013/05/06/census-bureau-links-poverty-with-out-of-wedlock-births

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2013/nonmarital-births.aspx

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/the-number-of-children-living-in-single-parent-homes-has-nearly-doubled-in/

http://il.welfareinfo.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-fault_divorce#United_States

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59