Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm sorry, did I scare you?

"Islam is a cancer to the world. Sadly, it will, eventually, come down to either them or us. I just hope it comes to a head before they can destroy the US from the inside-out."
I found this on a discussion board that I like to frequent. Sadly, this is just one of many quotes I have begun to see in increasing frequency. In my free time, I like to peruse different blogs and discussion boards in search of insight from many different perspectives. Maybe it's a microcosm of my raising. I was raised in a family where my blood comes from two faiths. Although I am very proud to call myself a Muslim, I have also dedicated myself to learning and understanding the ways of other religions. I think growing up, my religion was always sort of a novelty to others. Here I was, regular Joe Schmo. No accent, no exotic wardrobe, no excessive body hair... well OK, maybe that one. I was definitely not the guy you saw walking down the street and instantly in your mind labeled "Muslim" or "Arab." Then the towers fell. Two beacons of our nation's prosperity, rising towards the heavens themselves, felled in one swoop. Along with those towers fell the lives of countless fellow Americans, just trying to work another day to put another meal on the table. Then came the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of your stance on the war itself, many brave men, good men, have laid down their lives fighting for OUR nation. As of late, we have seen Israel and Iran going back and forth with threats of nuclear weapons and retribution. Not a good combination.
One of the groups who have faced much tribulation in these times is the Muslim American. I tend to avoid using terms like Muslim American, African American, etc. as I believe they pack us all into neat little packages, and take ways from the unique qualities of individuals. As time has passed however, the hijab atop your head, or the dark skin or even just walking out of a mosque has brought forth labels nobody should ever be given without proof. Muslims in America are no longer a novelty. They come from the same place all these terrorists come from. If it looks like a terrorist, smells like a terrorist, then it's gotta be a terrorist, right? We scare people, for reasons not of our own doing. Well I'm sorry, did I scare you? Let me tell you about me, so that maybe I won't frighten you so much.
I shop at your grocery store. Hell, I go to the same convenience store because I know they've always got the freshest Copenhagen. My kids will go to school with your kids. We interact with one another in our community. Personally, I might be the guy doing your taxes next year. We sit next to each other at Aggie football games, yellin our asses off. Maybe I don't eat pork at the tailgate, but I'm there, and I probably know just as much or more about the goings on in Aggie football than most.
But I'm a Muslim. Everything I do in life is to glorify God(Allah)swf. I'll take my kids to the mosque and they learn the same things I was taught as a youngster, which is probably a whole lot different than what you think it is. I am personally against abortion, I think kids should be able to pray in school if they want to, and I think the moral climate of our nation isn't where it should be. I believe in God, Family, and Country. I pay my taxes, vote, go to jury duty, and celebrate OUR nation just like you do. Did you know that on May 1, 1776, a Syrian immigrant was killed fighting for his adopted nation's independence? Did you know that Muslim and Arab Americans have fought in every major U.S. conflict since? You can believe what you want to believe about the religion I follow. This is America, it's your right. But when you say you're an American, it doesn't mean any more than when I or any other American who also happens to be Muslim says it.
Alot of Muslim Americans are afraid of folks who say things like this. You scare them just as much as they apparently scare you. They don't want you to give them trouble. When you say things like this, it frightens them. "We're first generation Americans, we dont want any trouble. We don't want to rock the boat." Well, more Muslims need to come out and say ignorant statements like this don't scare me. You can't control whom I pray to just like I can't control what you think of my religion. But I will say this. Folks who judge others by labels such as religion, race, or creed don't get very far in this country. Never have, never will. That's why intolerant backwards and ignorant "Muslims" who resort to tyranny and terror will never get anywhere on these shores. Because we dont let people treat others like that in this nation, at least not for long.
So in short, think what you will. But before you tell me that that the faith that I hold so dear is a "cancer," get to know me first. Meet me at our grocery store, or at our kid's baseball game. Come see me at your local mosque if you can't find me anywhere else. Know me and what Islam has made me, and then make your judgement.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh Monte Cristo, how my waistline shall miss thee...

First off, I just wanted to say I spent a few years in Casual Dining Management (apparently just got out in the nick of time). So, as most already know, Bennigans' parent company abruptly filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy yesterday, shuttering 150 Bennigan's as well as about 80 Steak and Ales. For the last couple years, most in the business have known MRG has been fighting an uphill battle to keep Bennigan's prevalent. They've tried new concepts (Plano & Southlake Tavern & Bennigan's Sport) with very little success. With the economy in such a shaky condition, this was bound to happen, unfortunately. It is tough, because there's some good hard working folks now looking for a job in a market that seems to be heading the opposite direction.
Having spent years working for Brinker International, I was fortunate enough to get a first hand glimpse into just how ambitious many chain restaurants can be when it came to expansion. At one point while I was working for Brinker, the plan for Chili's was 400 new restaurants in four years. Considering at the time the number of units was already at 1,000+, this was definitely an ambitious design. It seems as if everytime a housing development pops up in the suburban sprawl of Dallas, a Chili's goes in right alongside the Wal-Mart and fast food restaurants. Unfortunately, with the fast rising prices of commodities necessary in the restaurant industry, coupled with the current economic well-being of the average suburban resident, we are starting to see some nasty consequences of such an over-saturated market. To go along with MRG filing Chapter 7, Brinker International has been trying to sell off Macaroni Grill for over almost a year, and is reportedly close to selling for nearly half of the initial asking price. Applebee's was sold to IHOP about a year ago, and it will be interesting to see if they can turn things around.
It seems like there are mixed emotions on this situation. On one end, you have many who are concerned that another large industry is facing heavy losses, further weighing on our economy. On the other end, I have seen many happy to see these restaurants shrinking away a bit. Some are happy for the opportunity it provides for local owned restaurants. One interesting concept I saw was the effect of casual dining restaurants on the household. I have read where some believe that cheap quick food choices have enabled us to lead even busier lives and turned "dining out" away from being a luxury, as well as cut down on "quality family time." So, my question is where do you place yourself on this scale? I figured this was bound to start happening, and I could see it getting worse before it gets better. So does it sadden you to know your neighborhood won't have quick, easy access to an Applebee's, Chili's, and Friday's? Or is this going to help open opportunity for small, quality dining options, as well as more folks eating at home and spending quality time with their family? Where do you stand?


Alright, so my lovely wife has inpired me to give this blog thing a try. To be honest, I have been thinking about trying one of these for awhile. I think writing is a great outlet, and blogging seems to be a great way to express your opinions in a public forum. I don't think I am really looking for any infamy in doing this. Instead, I am hoping the close circle of friends and family who initially view this will be interested in the topics I bring forth, in hopes of fostering a little bit of intelligent discussion. I hope to be introspective, but this isn't my journal. I also hope to present my opinions in an intelligent manner, but by no means am I a journalist. I am vastly interested in different opinions on a multitude of subjects, including faith, sports(Aggie Football only a month away!!), politics, current events, etc. So expect to see a bit of everything here, as I aim to truly post many of my musings. I look forward to posting some interesting things, and I am looking even more forward to hearing your response!

Thanks & Gig Em,