Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving And Eid-Ul-Adha

This years thanksgiving marks an interesting intersection of the Muslim holiday of Eid-Ul-Adha and Thanksgiving for Muslim Americans.

Eid-Ul-Adha is a celebration of the Day of Sacrifice. It marks the climax of the Haj pilgrimage. For over 2 million people who have made the journey to Makkah, this day is when you return from Mount Arafat and have spiritually cleaned yourself. A sense of renewal and re-birth for those fortunate 2 million.

For the rest of us, it is a celebration marked by the second Eid. Festivities, family gatherings are common along with visits to the Masjid (Mosque). Muslims around the world share and rejoice the Eid day along with their fellow 2 million Hajjis.

For Muslim Americans, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. In many ways Thanksgiving is bigger than any US holiday because it is unquely burried in traditions that are the fundamentals of being an American. It is a celebration of our unqiue heritage of immigrants that have built the world greatest country. A heritage that bonds us all together this one day irrespective of race color religion or credo.

What will be going through my mind as I plan to share a meal with family this weekend? First and foremost this will be a non-traditional thanksgiving. Instead of a meal at home, I will be at the Masjid celebrating Eid and giving thanks with family, friends and other members. There will be a celebration from all around.

I will be thinking about what this intersection of two holidays means to me? Such an event comes rarely in a lifetime and I want to make it special by listening to voices that speak about our journey in the past year and what is to come.

This year many events have occured. For many 2009 will be a year to forget due to the tough circumstances that our country has gone through. Many personal events have occured that made the year tough and challenging. My business has struggled as we cope the economic downturn. Family turmoil, health issues and sadly a couple of family and friends have passed away.

But then there have been many good things as well. My imediate family is doing well and everybody has so far gone through the year without too big of any events. We enjoyed a good summer vacation and my parents got to go to Kerbala and Najaf along with my brother and his wife. My two children are doing well. Jamila got her Misaaq done and now she is a young lady peering into her future; marveling at the numerous possibilities. Its so awesome to view life through my kids as they wonder about their futures. It reminds me of my childhood days as I was curious about what I will be doing. Its also fun to collaborate with them and provide options and possibilities from my viewpoint and see how they digest those suggestions.

So to all my friends, colleagues and fellow brothers and sisters in the USA, i bid you a great Thanksgiving Holiday and a very auspicious Eid Mubarak! With many challenges and tribulations of this year, I offer a simple thought of thank you for being able to write this column today and being able to say thanks for one more time for one more great holiday. It is a privilege indeed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Korea - "We will not buy American Cars"

It was interesting today to hear a report on NPR about the people of South Korea and their reaction to buying American cars.

President Obama like past Presidents, has tried to bolster the domestic car market overseas - especially in his Asian visit. NPR did an unscientific poll by asking the locals in Korea what they thought about buying US cars. Korea today only buys a meager 6000 vehicles a year! That's it! I see more Hyundai's in one day I think then what Korea buys the entire year.

So what does this mean for us? A common reaction by a patriotic American is to say screw Korea - I will never buy their cars again. Or write to your congressman to put tough tariffs on Korean cars.

I believe a better way to proceed is to bolster our local car manufacturers. Subsidize some of their activities and encourage them to significantly improve their quality and technology. The US has the chance to truly leapfrog the foreign car makers by harnessing the green initiative and truly focusing on building the next generation vehicles.

With the new re-organized companies and the fact that we have helped the locals shed their legacy burdens, I believe the domestic car makers are poised to become a leading force once again. I am glad that President Obama through the department of energy awarded billions of dollars in grants for the Big 3 and others like Tesla Motors to invest in the future Eco friendly vehicles

Its time for us to step up and beat the Koreans, Japanese and the Germans to introduce the next generation power trains in our cars which will serve the future market needs. Once we do this then watch how Koreans and Japanese flock to buy our cars.

Ford, is in my opinion best poised to take advantage of this change. I believe in the next 5 years Ford will become a premier mass car maker with exports far exceeding domestic consumption. From the ashes of this financial meltdown, we will see the giants wake up again.

If you see the quality of products that are coming out of Detroit today - it is excellent products. Quality has improved, design has dramatically changed and progressive thought now dominates this industry. Let's hope the momentum remains. Then NPR can go to Korea after 5 years and let's see what they have to say then.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Personal Opinion of Value on Value Added Tax

The debt clock has reached a staggering $11.9 trillion.

This is a staggering number! Keep in mind that our current GDP is approximately $13.3 trillion. That puts our debt at around 90% of our GDP. Even during the worst times in recent history of Reagonomics the debt was no more than around 65% of GDP. The current debt ratio is the highest it has even been outside of WWI and WWII time when the country was in a middle of a major war. Arguably the "war on terrorism" i guess could qualify as a major combat (Iraq and Afghanistan). But realistically Iraq and Afghanistan do not truly compare to our efforts during WWII.

So what does this debt mean and how do we get out of it. MY proposed answer is the national sales tax or value added tax - depending on how you implement it. Here are 3 basic reasons for implementing a value added tax:

1. It has the potential to progressively raise far more revenue than the income tax. A Washington Post article discusses some valid reasons along this line and how it may be progressive and raise revenues while keeping Obama's $200K tax promise.
2. It encourages a pro-environmental consumer by clamping down on rampant consumerism, reduce consumer debt by encouraging less spending on unnecessary goods, and generally trends the society to a more need based consumer than a want based one.
3. It has the potential to grab a significant amount of additional tax money from the illegal community. Currently most illegal immigrants work and pay no taxes. Combine that with cash earners and other "below the radar" cash based economics which do not pay any income taxes, the VAT captures those when the earners spend any money to buy goods. Conservatively if we say that there are 15 million illegals and that results in 5 million households, with each household spending around $10K in taxable goods. Then at a 10% VAT rate we can easily capture another $5 billion a year!

Now a national Sales Tax is not good all around, but for a detailed look at the pros and cons go to this website to read the benfits and drawbacks. I feel the benefits outweighs the drawbacks.

Write to your congressman about this idea. At the end of the day I believe whether we like it or not we HAVE to raise taxes and raise some additional revenue. I think the consequences of not doing anything for this national debt is worse than taxes.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Farewell Message

It was Saturday night and my phone buzzed. An SMS from our Masjid SMS system said, "A Sad Demise...". This was a typical message when a congregation member of our community had unfortunately passed away. The message said that the funeral ceremonies would be held Sunday morning at 9AM.

The member was a family friend and a person whom I had known since my arrival to Houston in 1983. He had lived a full life so it was a mixed feeling. A person who has lived a full life finally departing; leaving behind a legacy, memories and friends who will remember the great times.

Funerals always make you the rat race we run everyday truly getting us to the goal of leaving a legacy? This question I have asked more often recently than ever before. The last three years have truly been challenging for me. With the company of great friends and colleagues I started a business in 2006. The journey has been a long challenging one. At many times, even today we continue to ask, "are we doing the right thing?"

But at this funeral as you stand in front of the body in state and pray the final prayers, you are reminded the full circle and journey of us. For the journey must be about the pursuit of happiness and building a legacy. What crystallizes for me is the last conversations that friends, families, colleagues and congregation members will have as you lay in state? What will that legacy be?

A human being hidden deep in the subconscious always pursues immortality. Even though we all know immortality is not possible, yet the human life force instinctively desires it. It longs to live forever. Everyone thinks about it everyday. But then at a funeral you are reminded that immortality is a fable and that it is not possible. My question: is it is truly impossible? What is immortality?

My thoughts are that immortality is the legacy we leave behind. Today as people spoke gently about the passed away, it was interesting to understand that the legacy of this person who just passed was now frozen in time. He had in essence now become immortal. His memory was frozen in time; immortal. He will forever now be remembered as the last person he was before he took the last breath, or last seen, or the last deed he had done.

As my journey since 2006 has allowed me to unplug from the corporate money grabbing rat race, I have come to realize that ultimately my journey must take me to this immortal state. For anything else would be a futile waste of energy, time and resources. What is it that we all long for? Is it the big car, the expensive house, the luxurious vacations? Well of course we all want that, but what will be the whispers when I lay in state? What will the conversation be when people gather to stand in line for the last prayers for me? What will be the thought in the person's mind as he carries the casket with my body in state in it? Will the weight he carries on his shoulders be a burden or a some form of longing to be part of my immortality and legacy?

For today I resolve - my journey must be part of the greater good. As cliche and as soapy that may sound, it is a journey often aspired by all but achieved by a few - close your eyes, think for a minute about who comes to your mind first as you try to remember a loved one. Think about why you are thinking of him so fondly. You have just answered the question - what does immortality and legacy truly go and try to achieve that. That my friend will give you the ultimate prize in life.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Is Nostradamus Right?

Have been watching the gimmicks of the Nostradamus series on A&E, Discovery and SyFy. Kind of interesting to see the fervor around the end of the world series as 2012 nears.

My theory is that the Mayans picked a number that was way far in the future and just stuck the number as something they will never have to deal with. And 'lo and behold' here we are thousands of years later speculating on the end of the world when someone decided to stick that number on a calendar as the last number he coud think of based on astrology mumbo jumbo!

How many times has the world ended! Remember Y2K! How about WWI and WWII when I am sure our parents and grand parents speculated on how this war will "end all wars".

As the story of the end the world continues and evolves. Here is my take on what is happening to the world since around 2000.

I feel the balance of power and the socio economic balance is shifting. Finally after 500 years of power shifting to the "Western World", we are seeing the early stages of the shift back to the East. Just like all cycles, the peak of the West is passed and the Ascent of the East has re-emerged.

Its only human and natural order that this shift happens. The revelation and awareness of this cyclical shift is accentuated by the age of the internet. Information today flows quickly and the human collective consciousness is more aware of each other's influence - more so than ever before. This awareness has accelerated the transfer of power.

I believe for whatever we do, the inertia of the West way of life will inevitably cause us to give up our status to the East. The transfer of power has already begun. It is time that we accept and adapt rather than resist. By adapting we will be able to co-exist and blossom. By resisting we stand to loose it all to complete self destruction.

The choice is we adapt or resist.....

So in a way Nostradamus was right---I guess---we will see the rise of the third anti-christ - except the anti-christ is the 3rd shift of power, once more to the East. I wonder if this will fly in Quatrain 10001, Century 9?????

---aahh one more show comes on in a few minutes, something about Newton and his predictions???....

Thursday, November 05, 2009

For it begins when it ends

A celebration for the end
Forty days and nights have passed
A wave of blessing on Kerbala and Najaf

He came shouldering thousands
All in the glimmer of His eyes
The Prophet's grandson asking questions
For He asked for our forgiveness
Clinching his hands on the grill of silver and gold

Specs of tears flowed on cheeks for all
A joy for the hundreds on His side
On the ground beside him
Many more thousands peering on the TV
Begging for forgiveness as blessings flowed

His last deed to prostrate for His Commander
Ask not whether we are forgiven - for that is a must
Ask what gifts he comes bearing
The gateway to heaven for all guaranteed

For those returning with cups full
Shower the less fortunate as we share the victory
For the Commander had said - we have won indeed!
Foretold almost 1400 years prior
The courtyard filled with marble and gold
More so filled with invaluable forever grace
The two domes await for another time
Soon it shall happen again and again indeed.