Why detox? (Day 34)

I definitely over did the nut stuffed dates last night. While my weight stayed constant on 3 consecutive days at 67.7kg, my Body Fat rose 0.2% to 17.0% while my Body Water and Body Muscle dropped 0.2% to 57.0% and 43.1% respectively.

Inca red quinoa, plums, blackberries coconut milk and agave nectar

Inca red quinoa, plums, blackberries coconut milk and agave nectar

I had my usual hot lemon drink in the morning, followed by breakfast consisting of Inca red quinoa, plums, blackberries, coconut milk and agave nectar. 

Watermelon

Watermelon

Mid morning I snacked on some watermelon. It’s a really refreshing and hydrating kind of snack, great to help you cool down on a hot day. 

Red lentils and buckwheat

Red lentils and buckwheat

For lunch I had red lentils with buckwheat. 

Red lentils with organic gluten-free pasta

Red lentils with organic gluten-free pasta

For my evening meal I combined the red lentils with organic gluten-free pasta made from rice, spinach and tomato. 

Corn-on-the-cob with lime and black olives

Corn-on-the-cob with lime and black olives

I got hungry again in the evening so I ate two corn on the cobs, some black olives and half a lime. 

BBC Watchdog

BBC Watchdog

One of the photos of the 2.0L vs 2.4L Aqua Optima jugs I sent to BBC 1 Watchdog as evidence

One of the photos of the 2.0L vs 2.4L Aqua Optima jugs I sent to BBC 1 Watchdog as evidence

I had a busy day sat at the computer today. I wrote my favourite post so far on blood sugar and also spent some time preparing the evidence that BBC Watchdog asked me to send to them. It seems my earlier appeal on this blog to boycott Argos may have had some impact. BBC Watchdog are thinking of doing a piece on Argos and they may include a section of the show on my bad experience with them! I was up until stupid o’clock in the morning doing my research, writing and evidence gathering. As I was going to bed I noticed a green insect on the ceiling of my bedroom. It looked incredibly beautiful with a bright vibrant green colour. As it was beautiful I let it be and went to bed. 

I'm no expert, but I think it was a female tree cricket on the ceiling of my bedroom. What do you think?

I'm no expert, but I think it was a female tree cricket on the ceiling of my bedroom. What do you think?

A question that I often come across is why do a detox? What’s the point of a detox diet? What is a body detoxification trying to achieve?

Malnutritioned Britain - In Ilford, London, wherever I turn I see people looking like this. I can see the effects of a malnourished nation. In TS1 Middlesbrough I saw the same symptoms.

Malnutritioned Britain - In Ilford, London, wherever I turn I see people looking like this. I can see the effects of a malnourished nation. In TS1 Middlesbrough I saw the same symptoms.

After facing the abyss of nothingness for so many years I was ready to take the plunge into it

After facing the abyss of nothingness for so many years I was ready to take the plunge into it

The first time I did a detox was earlier this year in January 2010. There were numerous factors that made me commit to that detox. First of all I had been suffering from depression for a good couple of years. My psychological state got so bad that I tried to hang myself towards the end of 2009. Lucky for me the hook on which I tied my scarf couldn’t hold my weight and it fell on my head along with a load of dust and debris that was wrenched out of the wall with the force of my weight. The sharp contrast between the utter despair and finally taking the plunge one second, followed immediately by the ruining of the wall, streching  my brand new John Lewis scarf beyond repair and dirtying my rather sexy coat the next few seconds created a moment of divine comedy. I stood there with dust on my head, smiling. I was drunk. Very drunk. I had been out for a regular night out. But as I stood in the club and looked around, I thought about my life, it felt like I was in a deep dark hole from which there was no escape. I couldn’t see how I could get out of this rut. Existence made no sense. I could not see the point in anything. And so I decided to finally go home and finish it once and for all. 

Cannabis Crop Circles

Cannabis Crop Circles

During the days, if I wasn’t self medicating with marijuana, I would be filling the void of meaninglessness with documentary videos on Google and other videos on all kinds of things that are “out there” (e.g. I saw the whole of The X Files from Series 1 to Series 9 plus the two X Files Movies back to back). Marijuana didn’t cure my depression it just made me so apathetic, that I couldn’t even be bothered to tie a shoelace let alone a noose around my neck. Human life made no sense to me. I couldn’t understand why people do the things they do. Why do people go to work? Why do people obsess over money? Why couldn’t I be like them?  But my disillusionment wasn’t limited to humanity. It extended to existence in general.

The leaf-cutter ants from Costa Rica, Central America. Worker ants carrying leaves and the larger soldier ant protecting the workers. But seriously, why do they bother?

The leaf-cutter ants from Costa Rica, Central America. Worker ants carrying leaves and the larger soldier ant protecting the workers. But seriously, why do they bother?

Why did ants, bees and birds do what they do?

Why does God do what He does?

What’s the point in any of it?

A test? What’s the point in that?

Evolution? What’s the point in that?

Self discovery? What’s the point in that? 

Trying to escape reincarnation? What’s the point of that?

Trying to escape suffering? Hey that’s a good idea!

In the search for enlightenment, sometimes the thought of hanging oneself seems like a bright idea

In the search for enlightenment, sometimes the thought of hanging oneself seems like a bright idea

Why bother with sitting under the Bodhi Tree and hoping for enlightenment when you can just end the suffering right here right now? Or can you? This is the dilemma faced by one hoping to escape suffering famously articulated by William Shakespeare:

 

“To be, or not to be– that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep
No more – and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,

A trip into the afterlife? The Ascent into the Empyrean - Hieronymous Bosch - 1450-1516

A trip into the afterlife? The Ascent into the Empyrean - Hieronymous Bosch - 1450-1516

The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.—Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.” 

Hell: an eternity of suffering and suicide?

Hell: an eternity of suffering and suicide?

What if what follows this existence is far worse upon death? What if death isn’t just ceasing to exist (which is more than often the aim of the suicidal)? What if it’s a transformation into something far worse? If I transform into another form of existence, what if I get depressed there? Will I continue trying to cease existing and therefore attempt suicide in these other forms for the rest of eternity? What if the theists are right after all and suicide leads to an eternal damnation in hell? Or, even worse, what if its a union with God who’s existential suffering may well be far worse than our own? At least we can attempt to end it with suicide. God has no such option, for He is doomed to eternity. We think we have it bad. We think we had no choice into coming into existence, but did He? No He didn’t. Not only did He not choose to exist nor is He able to not exist, he gets blamed for the suffering that we all face too. At times like this, it must surely suck to be God. 

The Despair of God

The Despair of God

I tried to see if self help books could help. I read Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich hoping that it would help me to be a bit more “normal” and influence my thinking into embracing the meaninglessness of capitalism by making it a bit more meaningful. While many people who have read Think and Grow Rich will swear that it turned their life around and made them into the millionaires they are now, for me it had the complete opposite effect. In one of the chapters it said that in order to be rich you must cultivate an intense burning desire for money. One must create an obsession for money. One must become Augustus or George Agdgdgwngo.

 

 

Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill

Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill

I could only respond with many curse words and gestures involving my index and middle fingers to such advice. There was no way I was ready to become like that! Not for now anyway. I had more fundamental issues to deal with first. However, if you are someone who does seriously want to be rich and make lots of monies then I do highly recommend reading Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill. It could well change your life.

The dark cloud of depression - a physically percieved phenomena by the depressed

The dark cloud of depression - a physically percieved phenomena by the depressed

Other than this state of affairs, overall, I always felt tired and I was always physically ill. I would walk around and literally notice a dark grey mist in my vision. It felt as if a dark cloud was following me wherever I went. Even if I went outside into the sunshine I’d notice a grey cloud surrounding my person. I’m not speaking metaphorically here, literally it appeared as if there was a grey mist in my vision. On top of these symptoms I would end up contracting some sort of flu virus: the effects of which would last a month or two, and then I would get better, be well for a week and then contract another flu type virus and be ill for another couple of months. This cycle continued all year round. It seemed my health, both physically and mentally couldn’t be worse.

Our parmo's mint!

Our parmo's mint!

Diet wise I would eat whatever was convenient and cheap. Lot’s of takeaway shops were close to my place in Middlesbrough. I’d eat takeway quite frequently (3-4 times a week). When I was really depressed I couldn’t be bothered to go shopping as it was too much effort so I would eat only when I was starving and it would be in the most convenient form i.e. a take away or a delivery. The famous Boro Chicken Parmo (my favourite Parmo’s in Middlesbrough were from 1. Montanas/Malones, 2. The Halal Centre and 3. Europa Restaurant), Fish and Chips, Chicken and Chips, Pizzas, Donar Kebabs, McDonalds, KFC, Chinese… you name it. We’d eat it! Much of the time money was really tight, so I often opted for Sainsbury’s Basics brand of crappy processed food for the poor, stingy or uninformed eater. Sainsbury’s Basics Cottage Pie was regularly on the menu. These Basics meals were often a treat as 10p ASDA noodles were a staple for us for quite a while. Great for the wallet and relatively convenient too. But what exactly was it providing our bodies and our minds in terms of nutrition? I’d eat a lot of junk food too and my junk food consumption doubled or tripled during the munchies after smoking the good shit. No thought went into what I ate. I grew fatter and fatter by the day. And as I had lost faith in my religion only a few years earlier, where once what I ate and did was governed by strict religious restrictions now I felt liberated. I could finally explore what the world had to offer and not worry about upsetting my Creator in the process. I welcomed the experience of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and the flesh of every animal I could have the opportunity to consume with open jaws. I thought I had liberated myself, but little did I realise that I was poisoning myself. I have now come to realise that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. 

Absolut bacon (vodka infused bacon) and no I haven't tried this!

Absolut bacon (vodka infused bacon) and no I haven't tried this!

Shrine of Ali ibn Abu Talib in Najaf, Iraq. If paradise is real and there is a spot on earth from paradise then it is here. I recommend every mystic and aspiring mystic of any or no religion to visit this place and share with me what they feel

Shrine of Ali ibn Abu Talib in Najaf, Iraq. If paradise is real and there is a spot on earth from paradise then it is here. I recommend every mystic and aspiring mystic of any or no religion to visit this place and share with me what they feel

My parents knew I was going through a rough patch and searching for meaning. Their offer of help came in the form that they knew and were familiar with. They were going to go on a Shia pilgrimage to Syria and Iraq and my Dad offered to pay for me to accompany them. They were hoping that I converted back to the path I was once an avid proponent of. I was open to experiencing these places of pilgrimage, but wasn’t sure I could handle travelling with emotional crazy Shi’ites to their most holy of holy places. I more than welcomed visiting the resting place of Ali ibn Abu Talib (who’s sincerity I still could find no fault with despite my loss of faith), however, hanging around with a load of fanatics for a whole month whilst avoiding being detected as a non-believer in their midst? It was a tough call. But I agreed anyway. I thought I’d give it a shot. The change in scenery might do me some good. And at the time I was open to experiencing something out of the ordinary even though I was convinced it wouldn’t be something that would make me believe in the same old way of thinking I used to believe to be the Truth. The potential of experiencing something spiritually sublime was worth the risk of being found out and potentially being executed (apostates get the death penalty according to the majority interpretations of Islamic law).

My faith-losing process wasn’t a horizontal movement from one faith to another, it was more like a vertical ascension, which would start in me losing faith in faith itself and in the end help me to rediscover FAITH anew. I warned my parents that it was unlikely that I would convert back and that they shouldn’t pay for me if they thought that is what was going to happen. They agreed (but still hoped).

Me and my dad and Ali ibn Abu Talib (Outside Imam Ali's Shrine in Najaf, Iraq)

Me and my dad and Ali ibn Abu Talib (Outside Imam Ali's Shrine in Najaf, Iraq)

Fantastic! A free holiday to places of historical and spiritual significance to millions of people with no catch! A couple of days later my dad called and informed me of the fine print… As he was paying for me to go to a place of pilgrimage, he wanted me to “purify” myself from the things Islam forbade. i.e. no alcohol leading up to the trip and no pork, oh and start praying namaz. What? As if it wasn’t bad enough that I was agreeing to accompany them to a place I knew I would be surrounded by suffocating Islamic culture he wanted me to abase myself to rules set by him prior to the trip?!! I can’t tell you how angry my initial response was (which I didn’t express to my dad). This is what really bugs me with the Islamic way of always asserting itself on people into behaving in a way that it thought was appropriate. It is proudly explained to people that Islam means “submission”. This is true. But another word which expresses this philosophy is “domination”. For submission is meaningless unless there is someone doing the domination. Ironically this rebellious streak I have against being dominated by others may well be due to my Zaidi and Fatimid genetic heritage. My ancestors never accepted that anyone other than they had the right to lead the Muslims (literally means ”those who submit”) after Muhammad, their forefather. Most of the Fatimid Sayyids took a non-violent approach to what they deemed was the usurpation of their divine right. However, the Zaidis (a branch of the Fatimids) made it a part of their religion that a descendent of Muhammad could not be an Imam unless he rebelled violently against the usurping government of their times. I digress, where was I? Yes! How dare anybody try to control how I behave!

A Muslim prostrating in namaz

A Muslim prostrating in namaz

After thinking about it for a bit, I agreed to cutting out the alcohol and pork but informed my dad that it was nonsensical asking me to pray 5 daily prayers like a Muslim as I was no longer one. In fact I had been thinking of doing a detox for a while, and my dad’s insistence that I should cut out alcohol and pork leading up to the trip felt like a good opportunity for me to finally commit to a detox and see what effects it had on me. I decided to experiment and cut out five things: 1) All Meat including fish and eggs; 2) Alcohol; 3) Tobacco; 4) Granulated Sugar and 5) Caffeine. I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know that ten days from the start of the detox that I would feel how I can only describe as “ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!!!” I felt so good I wanted to proclaim the Gospel of Detox to all my family, friends and the whole world! For someone who had been in the depths of depression for years, who had not yet deciphered the meaning of life, yet feel such intense joy, surely it was worth sharing with my fellow man? This amazing feeling didn’t require expensive drugs, a fad diet, a belief in any particular religion or cosmological perspective, nor the purchasing of products of any particular brand. All it seemed to require was stop poisoning the body with poison, giving it the nourishment it needed and making use of the limbs it was born with physical activity like exercise. Simples.

Like Jamie Oliver, I'm on a Nutrition Mission

Like Jamie Oliver, I'm on a Nutrition Mission

Some medications can make you feel really spaced out

Some medications can make you feel really spaced out

I should point out that pretty much immediately after my attempt at topping myself, I finally sought medication in the hope of dealing with my situation. My sister had been encouraging me to get on medications for a while. I tried a few medications. The first few were horrendous, with unacceptable side effects (like becoming asexual and being so dazed you can’t do anything anyway). It was the third type of medication I tried that finally suited me. It helped me sleep at night (which was fantastic as I used to suffer from sleep apnea). And it worked without de-philosophising my mind and turning me into a non-thinking machine. At first it did make me feel a bit doped out during the day, but after a few months of using it I felt normal during the day. Starting the medication was a crucial decision in helping me to recover. However it was only after I started the detox did I feel “ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC”. I started the detox about 3-4 months after starting the medication. I kept up my medication during both detoxes. I would not recommend coming off medication for a detox without the supervision of your Doctor. So if you suffer from depression (i.e. do you have regular thoughts of killing yourself?) then I can’t recommend enough the use of medications prescribed by your Dr to help kickstart your recovery. For most of my life I inherited the opinion that depression was my fault for not thinking “properly” or thinking too much. Many people who have not experienced depression think that you should just “be strong and pull yourself together.” This is utter rubbish. Seek medical help immediately and do not be ashamed or embarrassed to seek help particularly if your thoughts have a suicidal pattern to it.

I feel fantastic!

I feel fantastic!

A PET scan can compare brain activity during periods of depression (left) with normal brain activity (right). An increase of blue and green colors, along with decreased white and yellow areas, shows decreased brain activity due to depression.

A PET scan can compare brain activity during periods of depression (left) with normal brain activity (right). An increase of blue and green colors, along with decreased white and yellow areas, shows decreased brain activity due to depression.

Taking medication helped me get to a level where I could have the motivation and the will to commit to a detox. I believe the detox took my physical and mental health to another level beyond just prescribed anti-depressant medication. I do wonder if a person who is suffering from depression is able to be cured by the healthy diet a detox encourages. I guess it would depend on what is causing the depression. If it’s due to bad brain chemistry as a result of poor nutrition or toxins/stimulants then maybe it would. However if there is instead a physical malfunction in the brain then I doubt it would cure it. But then again what if the good nutrition was combined with a strong faith and reprogramming of the brain as well as influencing other factors which impact on a healthy mind and body? Then maybe it could. I haven’t tried this so I can’t comment from experience. It would be interesting to see. Perhaps this could be a focus for me next time I do a detox…

Going on the kind of detox I have been doing seems to create the conditions that boost the body’s and mind’s ability to perform optimally. The basic principle of the detox is very simple: cut out the crap and give the body what it has been designed/evolved to consume. If it requires synthetic packaging and a massive marketing budget to persuade you to consume it, it’s more than likely a load of rubbish. Of course there are exceptions to any rule, though it is true most of the time. If it’s natural  and comes in biodegradable packaging (I’m thinking an Orange for example) then its more than likely good for you. Of course there are poisonous natural things out there too like poisonous mushrooms and berries that you shouldn’t eat, but you hopefully get the point I’m trying to illustrate!

Processed food: throw it in the bin

Processed food: throw it in the bin

As a result of going on a detox I notice: clarity of my mind; enhanced physical senses; significantly improved sexual health (e.g. increased libido; increased sensitivity; more intense orgasms; increased semen volume and trajectory; more solid erections); drastic increase in positive moods and emotions; a feeling of freshness and increased energy levels; a renewed desire to be creative; increased ability to remain focused on a task and a sustained ability to work towards goals; a reduction in body fat; fresher breath; clearer more vibrant looking skin; increased confidence and charisma. Need I say more?

Detox your diet and become healthy

Detox your diet and become healthy

I can’t recommend going on a detox enough. I invite you to give it a go!

Please share your detox experiences with me. If you blog your experience let me know and I’ll put a link to your blog on mine.

Good luck!

 

Which coconut milk? (Day 33)

It seems yesterday’s walking around in Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner, Marble Arch and Edgware Road did my waistline some good. My weight stayed constant at 66.7kg but my Body Fat dropped 0.4% to 16.8%. My Body Water went up to 57.2% and my Body Muscle rose 0.3% to 43.3%. 

Red quinoa, blackberries, plums, agave nectar and coconut milk

Red quinoa, blackberries, plums, agave nectar and coconut milk

For breakfast I had my hot lemon juice drink followed by Inca red quinoa, blackberries, home grown organic plums, agave nectar with coconut milk. 

Red lentils, organic gluten-free pasta and vegetable juice

Red lentils, organic gluten-free pasta and vegetable juice

For lunch I had red lentils with organic gluten free pasta made from rice, spinach and tomato with a glass of vegetable juice made from carrots, fresh beetroot, celery, cucumber and ginger root. 

Dates stuffed with, cashews, walnuts and almonds

Dates stuffed with, cashews, walnuts and almonds

In the afternoon I snacked on dates stuffed with cashews, almonds and walnuts. 

Baingan-ka-bharta, red and brown lentils with salad

Baingan-ka-bharta, red and brown lentils with salad

For dinner I ate bharta, red lentils and brown lentils with fresh salad. 

Island Sun Coconut Milk

Island Sun Coconut Milk

Dunn's River Coconut Milk

Dunn's River Coconut Milk

During this detox I’ve tried a few brands of coconut milk. I’ve tried Dunn’s River Coconut Milk, Island Sun Coconut Milk and a third one the brand of which I can’t remember. I have been quite surprised in the variation of flavour and texture in the different brands. Dunn’s River Coconut Milk is by far the best from the three that I have so far tried. It is thick and creamy in texture and has a rich coconut taste to it. The other two were far more watery and just didn’t have a distinct enough coconut taste to them. If I had tried the other brands first, I would not have recommended coconut milk as a delicious alternative to cow’s milk. Ingredient’s wise Dunn’s River Coconut Milk is far purer too. It simply contains coconut meat and water only. The ingredients of the other two brands had all kinds of E numbers and other unnecessary additions that did nothing for the flavour of their products. The only plus point the other two brands had over Dunn’s River Coconut Milk is that you can heat them up without them curdling. But what’s the point if the heated coconut concoction lacks flavour?!

So if you do go out to try coconut milk I recommend trying a few varieties before making a decision if you like the milk of coconut or not. Let me know if you discover a brand of coconut milk that you particularly admire.

 

Religion, politics, philosophy and a date or two at Speakers’ Corner (Day 32)

Inca red quinoa, blackberries, coconut milk and agave nectar

Inca red quinoa, blackberries, coconut milk and agave nectar

There is no surprise after last nights feast that this morning despite losing 0.3kg in weight I gained 0.3% fat by going up to 17.2% Body Fat. My Body Water went down to 56.9% and my Body Muscle dropped 0.2% to 43.0%.     

For breakfast I had my hot lemon juice followed by Inca red quinoa with coconut milk, blackberries and agave nectar.     

It’s a Sunday and I was in the mood for going out to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. I’m quite surprised that I haven’t taken my wife there since moving to London in April. When I was younger I enjoyed going there quite a bit to see people debating all kinds of things. Sometimes I dabbled in debating a bit myself. A desire to go there was sparked by a religious debate I had with an acquaintance from Middlesbrough on Facebook a few days ago. Though I am no longer religious I can still debate religion with the knowledge and perspective of both a fundamentalist believer and a staunch opponent of religious dogma. Quite a cool place to be.     

Marble Arch, London

Marble Arch, London

So after breakfast we arranged to meet our friend Zar (Zahid Yusaf) at Stratford station and then went straight to Marble Arch station on the Central line, which is the nearest station to Hyde Park’s Speakers Corner. I had two goals today. One was to be entertained by watching debates while letting off some steam by debating a bit myself and also going on a hunt for luxurious Iranian dates from Edgware Road.      

First stop Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner. As we past Marble Arch and crossed the road into Hyde Park we could see the crowds thronging in groups. From this distance they looked like pigeons huddled together around bird food dropped on the park floor. I’m not sure why, but seeing groups of people gathered in a public space has an exciting feel about it. Whenever I see the public in large groups it always raises my curiosity as to why that is. What are they looking at? Are they attracted to something? Or are they running away from something? I imagine this feeling of excitement and curiosity is shared by others too. Perhaps it is a deeply ingrained evolutionary response. Humans are herd animals after all.      

Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, London

Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, London

Anti-war rally in Trafalgar Square, London

Anti-war rally in Trafalgar Square, London

We walked over to the mass of people and went through each group. There was a large group stood around a young Black man listening attentively to him. There was a large group around him so I thought something interesting must be going on. He was talking about international politics. There was no debate going on. People were just listening and nodding in agreement. I didn’t find the scene interesting enough to be able to work out exactly what he was talking about. Perhaps the people who surrounded him felt a sense of satisfaction hearing someone talk about how messed up the world that we live in is. Sometimes it’s comforting to hear someone else articulate what we already believe deep down. The person might not be saying anything new or innovative, he might not be sharing ideas that will open your mind to another perspective, but simply hearing the same thing being said again but eloquently can quench one’s desire for wisdom. Not for me. I came here primarily for entertainment. I wasn’t interested in a leftist political rally. If I wanted to do that I would have gone to a CND protest march in Trafalgar Square. So I suggested we move on and explore the rest of Speakers’ Corner’s aural buffet. 

Bible bashing

Bible bashing

The next group seemed a bit more like the kind of entertainment I was after. It was a slightly smaller group but it was a lot more interactive. A large group of people stood and sat in a semi-circle around a dark skinned man. From his appearance and accent he sounded like he was either Southern Indian or Sri Lankan. He stood on a mobile step, much like a platform step ladder but with only a couple of rungs on it. As he spoke he waved and pointed to a thick book in his left hand. I looked a bit closer and noticed it was a copy of the Bible. Of course! How could I have doubted what his source was? He was pointing to it and proclaiming that the world was only 6000 years old. He then pointed straight ahead of him above the crowd in front of him and said that additional proof can be found at the London Natural History Museum where you won’t find a single artifact that is older than 6000 years old. It was a bold claim which I will at some point seek to clarify by visiting his alleged source. There were many vocal opponents to this man and his claims in the audience. The exchanges between him and the crowd were comical and humorous in nature. It was all done in good nature, even the jeering was done in jest. I mean how seriously could one take this man’s claims? The discussing, debating, jeering, pointing, booing had no real animosity or venom in it. Everybody seemed to be having fun even the main speaker – though he was very serious about what he believed in.     

These guys can grow a beard and don an Arab scarf and be cool, but if I do the same thing?

These guys can grow a beard and don an Arab scarf and be cool, but if I do the same thing?

Just a bit of harmless DIY, honest

Just a bit of harmless DIY, honest

At one point the exchange between him and someone else had me laughing out loud it was so funny. At that moment the speaker pointed at me with his eyes and said “I can see some Muslims are finding this funny.” Now what made him think that? Sure I found it funny, but what made him think I was a Muslim? He didn’t know my name (Ali Zaidi) for which one would have been easily forgiven for making that mistake. I wasn’t dressed in a particularly Arab way to give that kind of impression either (not that Arab dress makes you a Muslim). Then I remembered I hadn’t shaved my face in a couple of weeks while I had shaved my head. Was that it? A beard? Does having a beard make you Muslim? Well if I was White and maybe even Black and I had a beard would people assume I am a Muslim? Probably not. It seems being brown with a beard people assume you are Muslim (even Muslims). Not only that, people assume you are a religious Muslim and some people think that you must also be a Terrorist. That’s crazy. A beard is a natural thing that almost all men have naturally growing on their face since puberty (unless you come from a culture where the estrogenic effect of eating unfermented soy products over the generations has made the men a little bit girly ;-p). Many people choose to shave it off. Sometimes I shave it off.  Sometimes I let it grow. This discrimination against brown men with beards must stop! So I responded and said “I’m not a Muslim! You’re wrong in assuming that I am!” I’m not sure it registered in his brain. And as I continued exploring Speakers’ Corner the rest of the day I started to get the feeling that most of these people were very narrow minded and stubborn. It seemed once they believed in something they held onto that belief and repeated it parrot fashion for the rest of their lives. And I imagine that particular speaker will continue believing that the world is only 6000 years old and that I with my brown shaved head and black beard on my face am and continue to be a Muslim in his very literal interpretation of the world.      

Google's No. 1 image result for "japenese men": too much Tofu bruv

Google's No. 1 image result for "japenese men": too much Tofu bruv

Nice Guy at Speakers Corner, London - One of God's Beloved and Chosen people (Zionist)

Nice Guy at Speakers Corner, London - One of God's Beloved and Chosen people (Zionist)

Another Nice Guy at Speakers Corner, London - Another one of God's Beloved and Chosen people (Wahabi)

Another Nice Guy at Speakers Corner, London - Another one of God's Beloved and Chosen people (Wahabi)

We explored a bit more to see what else was on offer. We saw a few more Bible Bashers, many of them of the more extreme kind. We saw a Fundamentailist Zionist Jew: again not a particularly friendly chap. I was quite surprised not see any Muslim speakers. There was a Muslim stall with a banner that read: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad… three men, one mission. It sounded like the tagline to the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Leaflets were available for people to pick up but there didn’t seem to be much talking going on. In previous visits to Speakers’ Corner a decade or so ago I remember there were as many Wahabi Muslim fundamentalists Qur’an bashing as there were Christian fundamentalists Bible bashing. Not today. Sure there were regular Muslim guys discussing with speakers, but no main Muslim speakers. It was Ramadan and I was expecting to see religious zeal to be heightened for Muslims and an increased fervour to do dawah this month. It seems not being able to eat in the day might have got Muslim speakers too tired to come out and preach.      

Ali Zaidi meets Howard Isenberg, Speakers Corner, London

Ali Zaidi meets Howard Isenberg, Speakers Corner, London

As I stood hovering near the Muslim stall I noticed an old man with grey hair and intellectual glasses wearing a placard around his neck that stated: “I HAVE DISCOVERED THE SECRET OF ETERNAL YOUTH” walking through the crowds. It reminded me of and a skinny bearded Indian looking man I had seen here maybe 15 years ago who was holding a placard which stated: “I KNOW THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS”. When I approached the lone sage-looking figure and asked him what the secret was, he whispered in my ear “Don’t eat dairy products” in a really Bud bud ding ding 2.99 Indian accent. Anyways back to the old grey man who had allegedly discovered the secret to eternal youth. As he walked past me I stopped him and engaged him in conversation. His name was Howard Isenberg. He had worked out the secret to eternal youth back in the early 1980s when he was in his early 40s. We pointed out that he didn’t look like he was in his 40s. He informed us that we were making the mistake of judging his aging by external factors. He also said it would be pointless sharing with us the secret as it wouldn’t be of any benefit to us as only one person in the world can have the privilege of living forever at any time and that he was it. I said “What if I was to stab you right now?” He said I wouldn’t. He went on to say that even if I attempted to do such a thing the spirit world would protect him and prevent me from doing so. Howard was the least interesting person I spoke to today. Despite his dullness he did manage to have an extra made in Ricky Gervais’s Fame DVD. He was interviewed by Karl Pilkington perhaps one of the most inquisitive minds in the world.      

     

Cute chocolate labrador

Cute chocolate labrador

We walked around some more. We noticed a teenage boy walking a beautiful chocolate Labrador. My wife and Zar spent a few minutes stroking the cute pup. I wanted to, but refrained to do so as I was eating fruit and nuts we had packed with us and didn’t want to dirty my hands. Finding somewhere to wash my hands in the middle of the park would be close to impossible. It was obvious to me that this kid with the dog was using the cute Labrador as a pivot for attracting chicks. His dog certainly had the attention of my wife for a good 10 minutes!      

The skinny black parrot man (this must be an old photo of him when he wasn't so skinny)

The skinny black parrot man (this must be an old photo of him when he wasn't so skinny)

I noticed a small group of Christians and Muslims debating. Well it was more of a shouting match with neither of the groups taking the time to listen to each other. I approached an elderly skinny black man who had a Bible in his hand and almost talking to himself when proclaiming that salvation was to be found only through Jesus. I tried to engage him. I said: “Do you believe this to be true or know this to be a true?” He didn’t respond but merely repeated himself just like a parrot: “Salvation can only be found through Jesus!” I tried again in vain: I looked straight in his eyes, gently touched him on the arm to get his attention, and said: “Do you believe this to be true or do you know this to be true?” Again almost looking over my shoulder he repeated himself like a tape recorder on loop. I was getting very frustrated. What was wrong with these people? What did they think they were going to achieve by not listening and repeating themselves as parrots? Did they really think they were going to convert anybody to their path in such a robotic way? I thought I’d try the Muslims, maybe there was more wisdom in their approach.     

"Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other Than Allah, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy." Qur'an 4:82

"Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other Than Allah, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy." Qur'an 4:82

There was a tall slim Arab man with a Qur’an in his hand. I asked him “Why should I believe that is the word of God?” He responded: “Allah says in the Qur’an if it were from any source other than Him you would find much discrepancy in it. If you can’t find any mistakes in it, it proves it’s from God.” I was puzzled by his response. I have read the Qur’an and I know such challenges exist in its text. The argument rendered me speechless. I was puzzled at my initial inability to respond eloquently to such a challenge. Eventually I said to him “I do not accept the challenge. The challenge is nonsensical. Millions of books have been written: does the lack of error in them prove they are from God?” The problem with his argument was that it assumed I believed in a God just like he did. After a few minutes of thinking about it, I went back to him and said. “That argument was pathetic. If a person does not believe that God created this fantastic Universe, that He did not create you and me, He did not create this world which one could say is “perfect” why would he believe that He was the author of a book written in Arabic 1400 years ago?” He agreed with my argument. But then he tried a different tact by trying to trap me into a position on cosmology…     

Atheism, Monotheism, Pantheism, and Panentheism described diagramatically

Atheism, Monotheism, Pantheism, and Panentheism described diagramatically

He asked: “Do you believe in God?” I thought for a second and wondered if I did. I responded: “I don’t know.” He said: “What do you mean you don’t know!? Do you believe in him or don’t you? If you don’t know who else would know…” I started to understand what he meant… he thought that my answer was I didn’t know if I believed in God or not. What I meant was that I didn’t know if God existed or not, and if He did in what sense He existed. So I explained to him my position. “I do not know if God exists. Even if He does I do not know in what sense. Sometimes I believe in a monotheist God. Sometimes I view the world from a naturalistic perspective and think intelligence has evolved out of non-intelligence; sometimes I do not take a position at all.” In my mind I also thought: “and sometimes I think that I am God from a pantheistic perspective where everything that exists including you and I are God” but I refrained from mentioning this out loud as such a concept is almost impossible for a strict monotheist to grasp. Their brains respond with “DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE!” And their brains go into overload and eventually crash. So I did not burden him with such fanciful ideas… for now. He then said: “When do you believe in God?” With a smile on my face I said: “When I experience beauty, particularly when I eat delicious food. When I eat a delicious Iranian date for example… for those few moments I become a monotheist and I sing praises to Allah.” He looked at me with a blank expression and said “No you don’t!” “I don’t?” “No! You don’t! You think of Allah when you’re in danger and you experience fear for your life.” Oh man. This Arab dude had no hope. He was repeating things like a parrot just like the skinny old Christian black man. Do these guys do any thinking for themselves? Nope. They just repeat what they have read in their sources which they consider divine. He was referring to a subject in the Qur’an which talks about how foolish men remember God only when in despair. So by asking me this question, he wanted to get confirmation of his Qur’anically programmed beliefs. However, when I responded with something different, he filtered out what I said, he did not listen to me and tried to change reality to fit his beliefs by changing what he thought were the times I did dhikr of God. And this is how dogmatists of any kind see and interpret the world. I was shocked that someone would turn around and imply I was lying in response to such a simple question rather than listen to what I actually had to say.     

Dhikr: "Verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest" Qur'an 13:28

Dhikr: "Verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest" Qur'an 13:28

Mustafa Abu Yazid (Translates: Mustafa Father of Yazid) this photo shows the kind of people in today's world that would name their child Yazid (I feel sorry for his son, poor bar steward)

Mustafa Abu Yazid (Translates: Mustafa Father of Yazid) this photo shows the kind of people in today's world that would name their child Yazid (I feel sorry for his son, poor bar steward)

After his remark, he said “So you like dates do you?” I said I did. He said,  ”Well the best dates aren’t Iranian. The best dates are Algerian and they are called Deglet Nour.” When I enquired where I could get them from he said that Waitrose sold them and that he would bring me some in two weeks time if I were to come to Speakers’ Corner again. I said I might and I asked him what his name was. He said “Sufyan.” In my mind I giggled. The giggling was the ingrained response of an ex-Shia. Names such as Sufyan, Mu’awiya and Yazid are to a Shia what the name Hitler is to a Jew. How many Hitlers do you meet these days? Not many right? Well that’s what its like with a Shia coming across a name like Sufyan. Quite a rarity. Shi’ites wouldn’t even call a pet dog any of these names (firstly because they wouldn’t have pet dogs because Muslims consider dogs to be dirty, but even if they did they wouldn’t call a dirty dog such a name). My instinctive response to laugh at someone having the misfortune of being called such a name proves that certain parts of my brain still have the programming of a Shia. I said: “Sufyan? As in Abu Sufyan?” With a smile on his face he said: “Yes”. With a  smile on my face I said “Cool.”  With that our conversation started to fizzle out and I noticed some of the other Muslim guys were debating with a tall middle aged Northern Irish man. He didn’t seem a regular, just someone passing by, but coming to the rescue of the skinny old black parrot Christian man. The Muslims were quizzing the Northern Irishman about how is it possible for Jesus to be both God and the Son at the same time? The Irishman said that it was and quoted the Bible from somewhere. The Muslims all had a copy of the Bible and were doing a bit of Bible bashing themselves. They pulled out Biblical verses to “prove” that Jesus was not God nor the Son of God.     

The Christian concept of the Trinity

The Christian concept of the Trinity

I watched with amusement. Seeing these people argue amongst themselves was like watching immature children squabbling in a playground. At one point I got irritated at how both sides seemed to be repeating arguments parrot fashion to each other. So I thought I’d be a Good Samaritan and do a good deed and try to help the Muslims see things from the other perspective. So I tapped Sufyan (still giggling in my mind) on the shoulder and said: “Dude, if you give me a moment I’ll try and show you how it’s possible to be both God and man at the same time.” He said “How?” I said: “By the use of the metaphor of the dream.” So I began explaining to him how “When one dreams, there is the Dreamer… i.e. the one who is doing the dreaming. Then there is the Dream Character within the dream who is the Avatar of the Dreamer i.e. the perspective of the character from which you experience the dream. This example shows how you are simultaneously the Dreamer beyond the dream and the Dream Character within the dream. This whole scenario can be taken as a metaphor. The Dreamer is a metaphor for God while the Dream Character is a metaphor for the individual person. It is therefore possible for God and man to be one and the same thing.”     

The Dreamer, the dream character and the dreamscape are One

The Dreamer, the dream character and the dreamscape are One

Puzzled Monotheist

Puzzled Monotheist

He just had a puzzled blank expression on his face. “Did you understand what I just said?” “No! It doesn’t make any sense!” It’s not that it didn’t make any sense, he refused to listen as it offended his strictly monotheistic conception of the world, where Creation and Creator are seen as distinctly separate to each other. Any thought of comparing God to creation is considered Shirk the greatest of all sins according to Islam. Therefore with this dogmatic belief ingrained in his mind a sincere Muslim will refuse to even contemplate such a perspective of God. Such pantheistic perspectives realised by Muslim mystics in the past has led to their execution by the dogmatic narrow minded majority. To a dogmatic monotheistic Muslim, God cannot be compared to anything. Doing so is Kufr. To a pantheistic Muslim, God cannot be compared to anything as there is nothing other than God with which to compare Him. To think that there is an “other” with which to compare God with is itself Shirk.      

The execution of Mansur al-Hallaj. His crime? In a state of ecstacy he percieved and declared: "Ana al Haq" or "I am the Truth" which pretty much means "I am God"

The execution of Mansur al-Hallaj. His crime? In a state of ecstacy he percieved and declared: "Ana al Haq" or "I am the Truth" which pretty much means "I am God"

As I knew this equating God with man was offending his beliefs so much that it was acting as a filter to stop him from listening to what I was trying to express I said “Ok lets take God out of the equation. Do you understand how the Dreamer and the Dream Character are one and the same thing?” “No I don’t!” “DOES NOT COMPUTE!! DOES NOT COMPUTE!! COMPUTER SAYS NO!!” His head then started to vibrate violently until it exploded staining my brand new jacket with bits of brain and blood… just kidding. This is where the narrow mindedness of dogmatists becomes apparent. They refuse to listen to what you have to say as it contradicts their very simplistic, black and white, singularly-dimensioned perspective of reality.      

He said to me, “Is this what you believe?” “Because if you don’t believe it why are you expressing it to me?” He grilled me with these questions in such a way as to insinuate that I was a Christian undercover. I said, “I’m just trying to show you where he might be coming from.” He then responded “I don’t care what he thinks.” Pointing to the Bible in his hand he said, “This is his authority and I will show him through his authority that he is wrong.” I then said: “What are you trying to achieve?” It seemed clear to me that these guys just liked arguing for the sake of arguing regardless of whether their opponents convert to their dogma or not. I continued: “Aren’t you here to do dawah? Aren’t you trying to convince people that Islam is the Truth? If you are, then how can you say that you don’t care what he thinks? The Qur’an says to call people with wisdom. Before you can do that you must understand where a person is coming from. Once you understand their perspective you will understand the weakness of their thinking and where it falls apart. Only then will you be in a position to create doubt in their mind concerning their particular perspective. Once doubt is created you can offer them your solution that doesn’t break down as their perspective does when the same test is applied.” Wow! Here was I, an ex-Muslim, teaching a fundamentalist Muslim how to preach to people more effectively.     

Dogma vs Dogma

Dogma vs Dogma

I have found this method works regardless of the beliefs a person holds. Every belief is a model of reality or a model of an aspect of reality. Every model is a model of reality from a particular perspective. No model can fully contain the whole of reality in totality and is therefore flawed to some extent and if taken to extremes, particularly if reality is seen from an alternative perspective that particular model can be broken. Therefore all beliefs can be broken, because beliefs are just models of reality. It therefore holds true that doubt can be created about any belief. When you realise this to be the case, you let go of your attachment to beliefs and free your mind to explore the world from as many perspectives as you so desire.     

A paradigm shift occurs when you break free from the limitations of any particular perspective

A paradigm shift occurs when you break free from the limitations of any particular perspective

Shisha cafes in London's Edgware Road

Shisha cafes in London's Edgware Road

I fancied a change from the scene for a bit and suggested going to Edgware Road to go on a hunt for some dates. Edgware Road is to the Arabs of London as Chinatown is to London’s Chinese. It’s filled with Arabic restaurants and Shisha Cafes. I assumed there would be some Persian influence in the area and hoped to find some upmarket Iranian dates from somewhere on that street. As we made our way I started to feel hungry. We walked passed a Sainsbury’s and decided to see if it had anything suitable for me to eat. The Marble Arch branch of Sainsbury’s is brilliant. It had a massive range of food and drink to choose from. I felt as though I was in a Waitrose, M&S or Morrisons. I looked around and spotted a Rainbow Salad. A rainbow salad!? What on earth was that? Sainsbury’s Rainbow Salad contains Israeli Cous Cous, Edamame Soya beans, carrot, chickpeas, mixed peppers, lentils and seeds with a pot of honey & lime dressing. All of the ingredients seemed natural and vegan. Other than my doubts about the Soy content and the Cous Cous coming from a controversial nation – it seemed I had to try it at least once.     

Ingredients of Sainsbury's Rainbow Salad

Ingredients of Sainsbury's Rainbow Salad

Anti-Zionist campaigners picketing a Marks and Spencer store in Dublin, Ireland

Anti-Zionist campaigners picketing a Marks and Spencer store in Dublin, Ireland

During my Islamic past, one of the things I was keen on was taking a stand against the oppression of the Israeli government against the Arabs and Palestinians of the region. A practical non-violent way of doing this is to join the Boycott Israel campaign. I found doing this in the UK pretty tough, and guess I never fully committed to it. The most I did was boycott Marks and Spencer and Starbucks and products blatantly labelled “made in Israel”. When I was a religious Muslim I pretty much shared the alleged opinion of Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Yep that’s right, the ideal for me would’ve been to “wipe Israel off the map”. However now that my perspective of reality has shifted somewhat, where do I stand on such political issues at the moment? Well, I’ve mostly kept the boycott up. I am still disgusted by the heavy handedness, brutality, arrogance, racism and utter impunity with which successive Israeli governments continue to act. I oppose tyranny and oppression from all corners, be the perpetrators Jews in Israel, Arabs in the Middle East, Pakistani villagers in Sialkot, Indians in Kashmir, the British in Northern Ireland, the Americans in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the Iranian government against its own people, the Dairy Industry against cattle, the farming industry against animals, capitalists on the environment and aliens against humans. I oppose oppression and tyranny in all its ugly forms against all its victims by every perpetrator even if that perpetrator be me.     

Boycott Israel

Boycott Israel

So what is the solution to the Middle East conflict? Well its easy for me to sit here far, far away from the conflict and arrogantly give my opinions on what I think should happen. However as I’ve had to touch on the topic I may as well express my current perspective on it, however remote and distant I may well be fom the situation. Muslims generally feel that Israel should not exist. Many are not clear on what a solution could be. Perhaps it’s easier to not think about it and just make the most of the fact that there is a country that behaves in such a completely despicable way that you can direct your anger and hatred towards it. There is oppression against Muslims all over the world, but no country gets the amount of unrestrained hatred from Muslims that Israel does. In every other conflict in which Muslims are involved certain rules of engagement apply. For example it is generally accepted by the majority of Muslims that terrorism is wrong and the targeting of civilians is out of the question. However for many Muslims Israel is one exception. Why? Because it is the civilians themselves who are committing the oppression by immigrating into a country that has forced out millions of Palestinians from their homes. Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians is the only example I can think of where it seems many ordinary Muslims are in silent agreement “that it’s ok.” Not only are such acts not seen as terrorism, but such acts of violence are seen as the legitimate, desperate and heroic acts of freedom fighters. Perhaps I am wrong? Maybe things have changed from when I was in the scene. Well it certainly was the view that I held and I don’t recall meeting anybody I discussed the issue with who disagreed. We felt that the Palestinians were so badly oppressed that children who had their brothers, sisters and parents murdered in front of them by the Israeli army, had the right to retaliate  with bombs strapped to their chests. What alternative did they have? Play like normal children in the streets and then be shot in the head by Israeli snipers anyway?     

Some Israeli soldiers deliberately kill babies

Some Israeli soldiers deliberately kill babies

The probelm with this conflict is that Israel has no chivalry when dealing with the Palestinians and some of the Palestinians respond with violence that goes beyond what is morally acceptable too. Israel as a nation state should know better as it acts as a nation and has the infrastructure to control how its soldiers go about conducting themselves. The Muslims amongst the Palestinians should know better as they have the examples of legends like Ali ibn Abu Talib who’s chivalry is legendary. The Christain Palestinians have the examples of Jesus who was all about peace and love. Wasn’t he?     

     

Let’s look at this problem from another hypotheical situation. If for arguments sake the Arabs or the Muslims ever got their act together and became a force to be reckoned with (which they clearly are not today as they are divided victims around a lot of the world) what would they do if they were in a position to overpower Israel? Would the Palestinians push the Israelis out how they pushed them out? Or would they wipe them out and commit a genocide against them? Is this the way forward? Really? Clearly the most noble and chivalrous thing to do would be to forgive them. Could there be any act more exemplary than to forgive those who have wronged you if you gain a position of power over your oppressor? Surely this would particularly hold true for the newer generation of Israeli children who were born there out of no fault of their own? If the most merciful action to deal with the Israelis who you have hypothetically overpowered is to deal with them with peace, why not start trying to have peace with them now?     

Peace Now

Peace Now

There needs to be a grassroots effort within both populations for a peaceful solution to the terrible mess that Israelis and Palestinians find themselves in now. If you are an Israeli, refuse to participate in the further occupation of the Palestinians. If you are in the Israeli Defense Force refuse to cooperate with your seniors if they order you to take an offensive oppressive action. Don’t let yourself be lured by tit for tat revenge. Be strong in your commitment for peace. Have the courage to refuse. The greatest thing you can do for the security of your country is to be at peace with your neighbours. If you are Palestinian resist from being provoked into a violent response. Rarely did the last century see the defeat of an oppressor through violence. And the same I believe is the case with your struggle. Take the example of Ghandi and Martin Luther King who fought and defeated oppression with non-violent resistance. Or take the example of Hassan the grandson of Prophet Muhammad who agreed to a peace settlement with Muawiya the tyrant. His desire for avoiding bloodshed was so great that he was willing to abdicate and thus hand political power to Muawiya who was from the family that were the sworn enemies of Prophet Muhammad and his family. Or take a better example still, when Prophet Muhammad himself signed the treaty of Hudaybiyyah. He made a peace agreement with the Meccans who had driven the Muslims out of their land and usurped their property. Is this not what the Israelis have done to you? Yet Prophet Muhammad made a peace agreement with his oppressors. Many of the Muslims disliked the idea of accepting a peace treaty with the oppressors, they felt that they were giving up their rights by agreeing to the terms of the peace agreement, yet the peace treaty had huge repercussions for the destiny of the Muslims. Follow this Sunnah of Prophent Muhammad and I am convinced you will witness the wisdom of making peace with your oppressor.      

Courage to Refuse: www.couragetorefuse.org The IDF men and women in Israel who dare to stand up to the tyranny of their own government should get the support of non-Israelis who would like to see an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people

Courage to Refuse: www.couragetorefuse.org The IDF men and women in Israel who dare to stand up to the tyranny of their own government should get the support of non-Israelis who would like to see an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people

Peace and justice can only come to the Palestinians when their oppressor has a change of heart from within. You need to make your oppressor realise that her ways are no good. You must make the Israelis change and realise that oppressing you is wrong. The only way you can do this is by resisting Israel through non-violence and by reaching out to peaceful Israelis and joining forces with them. It is the peaceful Israelis who will be able to change the thinking of their fellow countrymen. They are human like you and me, and you must have faith in the humanity that is in their heart that is waiting to come out. I have no doubt that part of the solution for peace will involve the peaceful people amongst the Israelis and the peaceful people amongst Palestinians and Arabs reaching out and offering each other an “olive branch”. Peaceful people from the international community will need to offer their olive branches to both communities too and support them in fostering a harmonious relationship with each other. One day it may be possible for people to no longer limit themselves as belonging to this racial tribe or that racial tribe and instead see their common humanity to the extent that they interbreed. Make Love. Not War.     

     

So while I think the boycott of Israel is in some sense a good thing, I think it’s too much of a one-sided approach. Yes boycott the Israeli goods and companies that support oppression and racial segregation but promote and do business with the ethical and peaceful organisations within Israel that oppose the tyranny and oppression of their government and military and are pro-peace. There are long lists available online on which Israeli companies to boycott but I believe there should also be a list of companies that are for a just peace in the region and who should be exempt from the boycott. In a letter that Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib wrote to Malik al-Ashtar upon his appointment as Governor of Egypt he advises:

You should not treat good and bad people alike because in this way you will be discouraging good persons and at the same time emboldening the wicked to carry on their wickedness. Everyone should receive the treatment which his deeds make him deserve.

It is wrong to label a whole group of people as being oppressors. Many Israelis were born in Israel and did not personally make the choice of ousting Palestinians from their land and homes. Their parents might have, but they personally were born in a situation in which they personally had no choice. When a generation of people war with each other, it is up to their children and grandchildren to reach out to each other and say “You know what? Let’s stop fighting and create a beautiful world together.” But in order for this to be possible, it’s imperative that the newer generations on both sides refrain from following the violent example of their elders. A new generation must come out that is free from hands tainted with blood. If this doesn’t happen then the cycle of violence will continue for further generations until people do have the sense to work towards peace.    

Justice. Peace. Life.

Justice. Peace. Life.

Medjool dates

Medjool dates

Once we came out of Sainsbury’s we continued on our hunt for dates. We stopped in almost every grocery store. I imagined that it would be easy finding Iranian dates stuffed with nuts. But it seems the grocers were catering for their Arabic locals with almost exclusive Arabic dates from around the Arab world. There were dates from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia Morocco and even Israel. Only a couple of the shops had dates from Iran which were the standard ones I was already used to buying. The dates from the Arab countries all looked dry on the outside and didn’t appear that appetising. I eventually sought the opinion of one of the shop keepers and asked him which dates were the best. He said Medjool dates were the most expensive and considered the best. I looked at them. They looked big, but dry and wrinkly on the outside and these were a produce of Israel. I reluctantly bought some as I had many doubts about them. I also bought the only dates I could find with nuts in. They had a mixture of walnuts, almonds and cashews in them. The packs didn’t say what kind of dates they were or where they were from however. To me they just looked like standard dates. But as there wasn’t much of a choice when it came to nut stuffed dates I bought a pack. I also bought a standard £3.00 pack of Iranian dates – as these seemed to be the only Iranian ones available in all the shops on Edgware Road. We also came across a Waitrose where I saw the Deglet Noor dates Sufyan bragged about. They looked to me like standard Tunisian dates so I refrained from buying them. By this time, I was getting really hungry.     

Dates stuffed with cashews, walnuts and almonds

Dates stuffed with cashews, walnuts and almonds

Deglet Noor dates

Deglet Noor dates

Tropical Fruit Tropicana and Sainsbury's Rainbow Salad

Tropical Fruit Tropicana and Sainsbury's Rainbow Salad

We made our way back to Hyde Park and sat on the grass near Speaker’s Corner. I opened up my Rainbow Salad and Tropicana 100% Pure Tropical Fruit Juice. The Rainbow Salad tasted really good. It seemed healthy too. I also tried a couple of the Madjool dates which cost a fortune. I was pleasantly surprised. Though they looked dry on the outside once I started to chew I noticed on the inside they were actually quite moist. I think I have finally found a date that actually beats standard Iranian dates. I started to quickly regret not buying the Deglet Noor dates. What if despite their standard appearance they tasted and felt good to eat too? Next time I see them being sold I will buy myself some. Overall it was a very satisfying lunch experience.     

 

After having our lunch we headed back towards Speakers’ Corner. As we approached we noticed a group of really fit black men and women. They wore sports clothes branded with Be Fit Today branding. They were approaching people and challenging them to box using gloves and pads and to do over 100 punches in a minute. If you were able to do so they were offering a free personal training session with Nengi the lead Personal Trainer. I caught Nengi’s eye and asked if it was possible to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. He said yes of course, it depended on the kind of exercise you do, and on what and when you eat. It sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and judging by his physique he obviously walked his talk. He encouraged me to have a go at the boxing, I said I didn’t really fancy getting sweaty. Despite me not wanting to participate he asked one of his colleagues to take down my name so that we could arrange a free personal training session later in the next week or so. The detox is approaching its end and I am considering going on a fat loss regime post detox (after an initial break). The personal training session could help upgrade my current regime to one tailored for fat loss.     

Be Fit Today

Be Fit Today

We walked around exploring Speakers Corner more. At one point I noticed a black man stood on his own with a poster which stated something on the lines of “Ask me the secret to abundant wealth”. He was stood on his own, looked slim, fit with really good skin and though wealth creation doesn’t currently really interest me, I was curious what he was about. I said hello and asked him what he was about. He asked me if I’d like to be wealthy, I said why not, and then he said well what are you prepared to do about it? At this point the conversation was getting a bit too wealth heavy for me so I explained that I wasn’t really focused on wealth creation at the moment, but was curious what he was all about. I guess I was partly sympathetic towards him as he was stood by himself. He started talking about how he was involved in a direct marketing business selling healthy foods. “Direct Marketing? Do you mean a pyramid scheme?” He said, “Actually, pyramid schemes are illegal in Britain and so no, not a pyramid scheme but direct marketing.” “Ok…” I wasn’t sure what the difference was, if in fact there was any difference, but gave him the benefit of the doubt anyway. So he went on to describe how he promotes the products of this health company called Sunrider that has really amazing health products and that there was an opportunity to come to a food fair next Monday to test some of the products out for free.     

Sunrider International

Sunrider International

I've found that brushing my teeth with natural organic toxin-free toothpastes my teeth are becoming yellow

I've found that brushing my teeth with natural organic toxin-free toothpastes my teeth are becoming yellow

This gentleman’s name was Earth G. Earth G? “What’s the story behind your name?” He explained how is birth name was a slave name adopted from the masters of his ancestors. He renamed himself with a name that was in line with African ways of naming themselves based on nature and he came up with a name that was as universal as possible. I believe his full name was on the lines of Earth G Moon Star. This name might sound a bit eccentric to those reading this post. However I can assure you that he seemed anything but eccentric. He looked vibrant, he was slim and fit and his skin was wonderful. Zar and Naadira both commented afterwards how they couldn’t take their eyes off his skin it was so nice! Neither could I. I was looking him up and down looking for signs of health and unhealth. He wasn’t overweight. He looked wealthy, full of life. When I say wealthy I mean he didn’t look like he was missing anything. He was confident and he seemed sane. I judged him to be one of the soundest persons I spoke to that day. Not only that but when I expressed that I was doing a detox our conversation naturally went in the direction of nutrition and he freely shared his findings with me. The only physical flaw that I noticed was that his teeth were yellowish. I wondered if this was due to him possibly using natural alternatives to commercial fluoride-based toothpastes. I‘ve noticed my own teeth gradually turn yellowish since I’ve stopped using commercial toothpaste from the beginning of the detox. One of the first things I’m going to do is go back to using whitening fluoride-based toothpaste once my detox finishes. Fluoride might not be good for you when ingested, but it seems there is little dispute about it being good for the teeth if applied topically. I’ll just have to make sure I rinse my mouth thoroughly once I’m done. 

 

Vata. Kapha. Pitta.

Vata. Kapha. Pitta.

He mentioned a few main concepts that I remember clearly that were new and insightful to me. He talked about how one should eat according to one’s metabolism and/or blood type and recommended two books: Eat Right 4 your Type by Dr. Peter D’Adamo and Eat Right 4 your Metabolic Type by Dr Cass Ingram. I had briefly come across the idea that different diets might be suitable to different people when I passed by some information on Ayurvedic Diets. I had even completed an Ayurvedic Type Test. Apparently I am the Pitta Type. I’m not sure what to make of such approaches to health. Worth exploring before making a final decision. I am dubious of approaches to life that claim one size fits all. I asked him if they were similar to Ayurvedic claims and he said that it was quite possible. I went on to seek his opinion on whether it was possible that people went through phases in their life where in certain phases it was appropriate to be a heavy meat eater and at other phases in ones life it was more appropriate to be a vegan. He agreed and went on to suggest that even within one day, certain foods might suit you at certain times of the day, whilst not being suitable at other times of the day. I couldn’t agree more.

Herbivores, Omnivores, Carnivores and Detritivores

Herbivores, Omnivores, Carnivores and Detritivores

A future subspecies of man? The Carnivorous Man

A future subspecies of man? The Carnivorous Man

He introduced me to another idea. He said that amongst human beings you will find eating habits as wide and varied as the eating habits of animals in the jungle. He went on to declare himself as primarily a carnivore. This was a very potent observation. And we agreed that there was nothing wrong with this difference in human eating habits. It’s just the way things are. Some of us are carnivores, some of us vegans, some of us vegetarians, some of us omnivores. Who is to say that one way or another is right or wrong for the entirety of humainty? When people talk about what is the right way to eat, I hear arguments about how man’s Paleolithic ancestors ate a certain way; I hear arguments about the immorality of treating animals in a certain way; I hear arguments about how man’s digestive system has evolved to be a omnivorous; I hear all kinds of opposing theories. But has anybody considered that we have all evolved to be eating differently to each other as we do now? Maybe some of us have evolved to be carnivores, others herbivores, while others omnivores in all its varieties. And even if our bodies haven’t yet fully adapted to agriculture, to technology or to our moral leanings is it possible that in the future man will physically evolve not as one homogenous unit but into separate branches of a tree, where some of us will evolve into specifically herbivorous, omnivorous and carnivorous species? Could there be a day where their will be a race of exclusively raw meat eating humans (who won’t be able to digest vegetation), while another race of humans that is exclusively fruitarian (and not able to digest meat), while others subsisting mainly on say fish? While another race of humans maintaining their ability to extract nutrients from a varied omnivorous variety of both animals and plant sources. I find such an idea fascinating.     

A future subspecies of man? The Herbivorous Man. The prey of the Carnivorous Man.

A future subspecies of man? The Herbivorous Man. The prey of the Carnivorous Man.

A Sikh Kara worn on the right arm

A Sikh Kara worn on the right arm

During our conversation I noticed the old Indian “Do Not eat dairy Products” man, and my brother had called a few times to arrange for us to meet up before going to my parents home. We gave Erath G our details and took his business card and excused ourselves after agreeing to attend the food fair the following Monday. Before heading home I wanted to say hello to the Indian man and see what pearls of wisdom he had to share with us today. He was talking to another Asian man who was clean shaven, with a turban and Sikh kara on his right wrist and was using rosary beads. The Dairy Man was also wearing a turban-like bandana. We went over to them. They looked at us wondering what we were doing there (it was as if we interrupted a private conversation). I told the Dairy Man I recognised him from about 10-15 years ago. “You said the secret to happiness was “Don’t eat dairy products” what is your advice today?” He said: “That’s right, cow’s milk is for calves”. I said to him “Is your message the same today?” He looked as though I had put him on the spot. He said: “Do things slowly. When you talk, talk slowly. When you walk, walk slowly. When you eat, eat slowly. When you fight, fight slowly.” It turned out the pair were more like a couple of eccentric comedians, rather than wise sages. The dairy Man acted out fighting slowly whilst clenching his fist in mime. They both seemed to assume I was Muslim. And I made the mistake of assuming that they were Sikh with their Turbans. I said to the guy with the Kara, “But you’re wearing a Kara?” He said “A kara doesn’t make you Sikh.” I then asked “What are you reading while you’re going through the rosary beads?” He said “Nothing. I’m just counting beads.” Ok… it seems I made the same mistake with these guys that people had been making towards me all day. These guys were a pair of eccentric nutters making a point about not judging a book by its cover. It seems I had met my match!     

Bhaingan ka Bharta

Bhaingan ka Bharta

Finally we left and made our way back to east London. I and Naadira went to my parents’ home where we feasted on my parents cooking. I ate Bharta, red lentils, salad and corn on the cob. Lovely.

Corn-on-the-Cob, salad, red lentils and Bhaingan-ka-Bharta

Corn-on-the-Cob, salad, red lentils and Bhaingan-ka-Bharta

 

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