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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
40 Day Detox Diary