Monthly Archives: December 2015


You don’t notice it while it happens, but looking back, this year was one of radical change and growth. My father survived cancer, my mother survived a heart attack. I was laid off, broke my foot, discovered my Alopecia diagnosis, then hired at my dream job. I lost friends, but have never been closer to my family. I’m leaving 2015 with the mindset that what is coming for me is better than what has left, and it’s okay to outgrow people and situations.

It took me 25 years to understand the importance of self-care and self-respect. These are often so easily neglected. My Alopecia is most likely triggered by stress, and looking back at the time of the diagnosis, I can see why my hair fell out. I was overanalyzing every facet of my life – why didn’t I have a career? Why was I still living at home? Why didn’t I get into the grad school of my choice? Why didn’t I fall in love? These questions ran through my mind, even at a subconscious level. It’s easy to mask this while living in LA – the city offers distractions. But the superficial lifestyle promoted here is another prop used in this place. Although Los Angeles is home, I found solace in Berkeley. I visited there twice in the past year, once to see my best friend who was a student there, and another time for the Afghan American Conference.

The AAC was probably the most impactful event of 2015. The existential crisis of being Afghan and American was one I believed I experienced alone. Sure, some Afghan friends collectively shared this, but I never anticipated that such a large network of Afghan American professionals and students existed who understood the depth and the importance of our identities as refugee children. For once, I was in a room with not only intellects, but with deep-thinkers, with revolutionaries, with free-spirits and with some of the most compassionate people I’ve met. Those three days shaped me into who I am today, and have taught me that the fight is a good one, and that I have friends in many places. I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my piece, Collective Guilt Across the Afghan American Diaspora.

Social justice was another central cause of my year. Burqas & Beer took off, and with it, my commitment to solidarity, awareness, and the spread and practice of social justice took off as well. I find empowerment in empowering others, and have decided to dedicate my life to it.

I began my blog to cover the news that doesn’t get headlines and the issues that aren’t spoken on. I believed I could constantly update my network, about Afghanistan, about Syria, about Palestine, about black lives in the U.S. I wanted to magnify every cause I cared for on this site. And in the beginning, I did so. But I quickly became exhausted with the heartbreak, with the walls we ran into, with the continued injustice. The recent spike in Islamophobia exacerbated this – and my blog has taken a back seat to my life. Adding fuel to this, I conflicted with members of the Afghan-American diaspora, and quickly realized – I am not the voice of many. On the contrary, my personal beliefs and the way I encounter situations is not typical of my nationality or my religion, and this can be lonely. I often had to bite my tongue or quit typing to avoid tension with those more orthodox and conservative in my community, and although I may share a religion and a nationality with these individuals on a superficial level – they do not see me as one of their own. And I have now accepted that this is okay; I can’t be the voice of 1.6 billion Muslims or 1 million Afghans across the globe.

This leads me to another lesson I mentioned earlier: what is coming for me is better than what has left, and it’s okay to outgrow people and situations. Why spend your time with individuals who did not welcome you with open arms? Why fight for acceptance or respect in a room full of people who undermine your power? Why keep quiet in the face of those who speak ill of you? I decided this year to leave those situations, and to defend myself out loud: my mind and my body are my temple, and I will stand up for myself when no one else will. Moral of this paragraph: talk shit, get hit.

I’m entering 2016 with a healing foot, with my hair left in patches. With a new job and a new outlook on life. I often felt New Years resolutions, promises, posts, anything really, were wack – just cuz it’s a new year doesn’t mean shit will change! But for the first time in my life I feel the air differently, I feel it on my skin and in my bones. A time of great change and growth, and I look forward to my mid and late twenties with excitement. I wouldn’t change a thing, and I am thankful to my Creator tenfold for everything I have been blessed with.

I wanted to especially thank: Briana Edwards for taking the beautiful pictures I used for this site. Gina Doost for making me a guest blogger on What The Doost and allowing me to gain exposure on her blog. The Tribune for posting my work. The Afghan American Conference organizers and participants for welcoming me with open arms. My best friends Ovsanna Arakelyan, Sadaf Azami, and Nargis Ahadi for constantly supporting my blog and being there for me unconditionally. All of the Afghan WCW’s who let me interview them, and everyone and anyone who has commented, liked, subscribed, and shared my pieces.

Last but not least, I am so forever grateful to my Creator, to the OG, to my rock and my strength, to the Peoples Champ, ALLAH SUBHANA WA T’ALA. Nothing I do is without Him and everything I do is for Him.

Remember what Rahim Khan always told Amir:

“There is a way to be good again”.

Peace & blessings y’all, have a Happy 2016!



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Surprise! Muslims Love Jesus (Peace be Upon Him) Too


In honor of the holiday, here are eight things you may not know about the role of Jesus — and his mother, Mary — in Islam:

  1. Jesus, Mary, and the angel Gabriel are all in the Quran (as are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and a bunch of other Bible characters).
  2. Muslims believe that Jesus (called “Isa” in Arabic) was a prophet of God, was born to a virgin (Mary), and will return to Earth before the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal (“the false messiah”), also known as the Antichrist. All of which may sound pretty familiar to many Christians.
  3. Mary (called “Maryam” in Arabic) has an entire chapter in the Quran named for her — the only chapter in the Quran named for a female figure. In fact, Mary is the only woman to be mentioned by name in the entire Quran: As noted in the new Study Quran, “other female figures are identified only by their relation to others, such as the wife of Adam and the mother of Moses, or by their title, such as the Queen of Sheba.” Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the entire New Testament.
  4. Just as with all the other prophets, including Mohammed, Muslims recite, “Peace be upon him” every time we refer to Jesus.
  5. Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles: The Quran discusses several of Jesus’s miracles, including giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, raising the dead, and breathing life into clay birds.
  6. The story of Jesus’s birth as told in the Quran is also the story of his first miracle, when he spoke as an infant in the cradle and declared himself to be a prophet of God. Here’s the story:

    And remember Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her family to an eastern place. And she veiled herself from them. Then We [God] sent unto her Our Spirit [the angel Gabriel], and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said, “I seek refuge from thee in the Compassionate [i.e., God], if you are reverent!” He said, “I am but a messenger of thy Lord, to bestow upon thee a pure boy.”

    She said, “How shall I have a boy when no man has touched me, nor have I been unchaste?” He said, “Thus shall it be. Thy Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me.’” And [it is thus] that We might make him a sign unto mankind, and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter decreed.

    So she conceived him and withdrew with him to a place far off. And the pangs of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date palm. She said, “Would that I had died before this and was a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!” So he called out to her from below her, “Grieve not! Thy Lord has placed a rivulet beneath thee. And shake toward thyself the trunk of the date palm; fresh, ripe dates shall fall upon thee. So eat and drink and cool thine eye. And if thou seest any human being, say, ‘Verily I have vowed a fast unto the Compassionate, so I shall not speak this day to any man.’”

    Then she came with him [the infant Jesus] unto her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary! Thou hast brought an amazing thing! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not an evil man, nor was thy mother unchaste.” Then she pointed to him [Jesus]. They said, “How shall we speak to one who is yet a child in the cradle?”

    He [Jesus] said, “Truly I am a servant of God. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I live, and [has made me] dutiful toward my mother. And He has not made me domineering, wretched. Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised alive!”

    That is Jesus son of Mary— a statement of the truth, which they doubt.


  7. It’s also believed that Muslims were actually the first to believe in the concept of Immaculate Conception – that Jesus was born to a virgin mother.
  8. Jesus is the most quoted prophet in the Quran


As the media, presidential candidates, and the agendas of most Western nations is to divide people along religious lines, I hope posts like this inspire solidarity and a sense of reality: we’re more alike than different.

I’m off – time to decorate the tree!

Merry Xmas,

xoxo Madinah


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Christmas Carols: Muslim Style

In a time where divisive rhetoric is thrown at us from left and right, it’s beautiful to see solidarity between two Abrahamic faiths.

Classical Muslim sufi and gazal artists playing famous Christmas carols on the Sitaar and Tabla. Commercial initiated by Tata Sky:


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A Christmas Story of Apartheid

Graffiti artist Banksy is known for his prolific, thought-provoking pieces that focus on colonialism, oppression, and other social ailments. This photo of Joseph and Mary attempting to enter Bethlehem has resurfaced and made its rounds on the Internet. If the Biblical and Quranic figures attempted to make the journey today, Israeli apartheid would bar them from doing so. Remember, Jesus was a Palestinian Jew. Food for thought. 


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I learned a valuable lesson in tactility – By Aliem Jiles

I learned a valuable lesson in tactility. That the people you let touch you stay long after they leave.

How Ashanti Foolish of me, to think this frame couldn’t house those memories. That this body couldn’t become a broken home after a broken boy tracked soot throughout its corridors.

And sunken beneath its floorboards
lie your undoing.

the remnants beneath the skin or the surface, and underneath where the hurt is. There’s this need to be touched, a longing to be cut, by a dagger or a mans hands that seem to be proficient in drawing blood.

Settled for whatever magic touch you could get, and now you’re left with the track record of boys, who’ve left track-marks on your skin; around your wrists and your hips, and the nape of your neck where they’ve kissed and layed waste

to everything holy that lied in your epidermal layer.

And I know, I know in the beginning it all seemed so topical

Until you realized pandoras box was only 10 degrees below, waist deep and now you can’t even remember what you touched the lock for.

Or why you were so desperate, or how you could have possibly nested or nurtured a thirst so unquenchable.

And even after all the wreckage left behind that is you.

You still long to be set ablaze, scorched.

I learned a valuable lesson in tactility.

That there’s a chance the people you let stay the night will make a mess before they go.

They will leave behind ghosts… Haunting the parts of you that were never allowed visitors.

So that your home is shelter to phantom emotions, ghoulish soundtracks and limbs reaching hearts beating and heavy breathing, anxiety.

Wondering if you’ll ever be able to entertain guests again… Debating if you even should.

I learned a valuable lesson in tactility, that if you’re not careful you’ll be left with a lack of feeling, numb.

And your once warm home will lodge an indifference that’ll read “Dilapidated” on it’s doormat.

Windowpanes frosted over with jadedness

and you will be just that.

A broken home due to broken visitors you shouldn’t have invited in at all..


-Aliem Jiles

Twitter Aliem

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#WCW: 3 Afghan-Americans Aiding The Refugee Crisis



I am dedicating this week’s WCW post to three of my amazing Afghan sisters, Arzo, Jasmine, and Layma.

As our counterparts in the Middle East escape the turmoil that has ravaged our homelands, three young Afghan American women are leaving their comfortable lives to offer some kind of help. I am extremely lucky and humbled to know these three women, whom I can call my friends. Arzo Wardak, Jasmine Afshar, and Layma Murtaza will be traveling to Lesvos, Greece, to provide basic necessities to these refugees directly. They have offered to document their purchases and update us about their work.

Currently, only two Afghan volunteers are assisting Afghan refugees arriving in Lesvos. They will be leaving soon. It is crucial that we fund Arzo, Layma, and Jasmine jaan’s work at this time. Donations will not be used for their trips however. They are going DIRECTLY TO THE REFUGEES. Each of the girls are covering their own travel, food, and accommodation expenses. All we ask of anyone who reads this is to donate what they can. All donations will go directly towards purchasing food, emergency equipment, warm clothing, feminine and hygiene kits, sleeping bags, and so on.

Jasmine is currently receiving her Masters Degree in Peace and Justice Studies, with a focus on security and sustainable development. She has interned at the Center for American Progress, and has conducted research on U.S. assistance to rebuilding Afghanistan.


Jasmine Afshar

Arzo is a policy analyst and Afghanistan advocate on the Hill. She currently lives in Washington DC and is an active Afghan American community leader in the DC metropolitan area. She has made appearances on RT and advocated on behalf of the diaspora.You can read a message from both Arzo and Jasmine, as well as donate by pressing HERE HERE HERE HERE.


Arzo Wardak

Layma received her Masters in Migration and Refugee Studies from the American University in Cairo. She was a civil rights lobbyist in California with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and is now a Communications Consultant in Afghanistan for a local Afghan NGO. You can support her mission and read a personal message from Layma HERE HERE HERE HERE.


Layma Murtaza

Their trips come at a crucial time. Six Afghan children drowned this Tuesday off the Turkish coast, adding to the tally of those who end their lives escaping war. The Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies, including a baby, and are still continuing the search for two more.

Please, donate whatever you can. Knowing these three amazing women personally, I know without a doubt that they will use your money to directly help those trying to survive this crisis.




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Syrian internally displaced people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and pro-government troops has killed at least 70,000 people, and forced more than one million Syrians to seek refuge abroad. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)



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Afghanistan: A Video Portrait

Filmmakers Lukas and Salome Augustin traveled to Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif, intent on capturing portraits of daily life. Lukas had lived in Kabul from 2006 to 2008, working with a humanitarian aid organization called Operation Mercy, and he’d fallen in love with the place. When he returned in 2011 with his then-fiancée Salome, he shot this film, in part as a tribute to his friend Gayle Williams, an aid worker who was killed by the Taliban in 2008.

I watch this video monthly to remind myself of what I’m fighting for. I hope it sparks the same flame in you.

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Islamophobia is a Choice

My grandmother wore hijab. I remember watching her prostrate so full of faith to her God that she loved so much. I remember sometimes holding her scarves and putting them up to my nose because I loved her perfume. I remember brushing her long hair that she wore in a braid down her back. I remember she always had tazbeeh in her hands, and God’s name on her tongue.

My Bibi Shireena Zahrah Wardak passed away years ago. But today, for some reason, I imagined her walking down Parthenia Blvd., near the last home we all lived in together. And I imagine our neighbors, juvenile delinquents living together in a half-way house. For being former convicts, they were extremely friendly to myself and my family. 

As impressionable young men, would they have been so nice in today’s world? Where women in hijab are literally assaulted everyday in this “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave”?

In the most bittersweet way, I’m happy my Bibi Shireena Aday isn’t alive today. Because anytime she walked out that door in her beautiful hijab, I would be terrified to find her hurt.

Islamophobia is a choice.

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