A Promise To Azfal

If you like books about Dragons being chased by the awkward kid turned hero, you are in store for a monumental let down. A Promise To Azfal has no such fantasy story line. (Sorry) What you can expect to read is the “GREATEST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN.” (This is my humble and biased opinion!)

I planned on posting my latest query letter, but I realized that there are too many spoilers, so I will post a blurb instead.

“What the hell is a blurb or a query letter? Is that a gay letter?” No you imbecile. A query letter is a professional letter, written to literary agents, in which an author pitches a finished novel. It may seem easy, but query letters are quite challenging; the goal is to summarize my 391 page novel, in only one page. (It’s basically like using a blender to mix Mountain Dew, Coke, chocolate ice cream, a cherry, a kiwi, a strawberry, and one cashew nut—then asking someone to separate all of the ingredients into individual cups. Ok, it’s nothing like that, but it is a daunting task!)

The blurb is what you will find on the back cover of most books; it’s the reason most people purchase a novel. Blurbs can be one, two, or three paragraphs. For this post, I decided to write a short, one paragraph blurb in order to keep from revealing too much of the plot. (I will mention one spoiler…EVERYONE DIES IN THE END! By “the end,” I mean the end of each individual’s respective lives. No Weapons of Mass Destructions will be found here either!)

The history of the conflict between Christians and Muslims has always intrigued me. When I originally came up with the idea for the story, I wanted to write about a hero who discovers all of the damaging secrets hidden in the Vatican Secret Archives. My goal was to expose the fact that the Catholic Church is corrupt and unnecessary. As I researched the story, I went through a transformation. I no longer believed that the Catholic Church was unnecessary. At the time, I believed in “god” and I understood that attending Mass didn’t guarantee salvation; it simply allowed people to celebrate the “goodness of the lord” in a group setting.

My novel evolved as well. I no longer had the desire to bring down the Catholic Church; I wanted to show that the Church was a great and useful institution, which could serve to help people persevere through difficult challenges. (This is all pre-atheist thinking. Click on the religion tab in the categories section to read my thoughts regarding the Church.) The novel became more about distancing the true Catholic faith from the evil corruption.

Luckily for me, my good friend President George W. Bush made an egregious error. Before the invasion of Iraq, he said, “This will be a modern day crusade.” The guy has said some dumb things during his Presidency, but this was his defining moment. It’s almost as if he wanted to give Muslim extremists a reason to unite in a religious war against the West; Osama Bin Laden couldn’t have dreamed of a better recruiting tool.

I decided to use Bush’s quote as the turning point in the title character’s life. Azfal is an Egyptologist and devout Muslim from Iraq. He believed in using diplomacy to bring peace to the world and didn’t support Saddam Hussein. The former U.S. President’s misguided proclamation causes Azfal to blame the Catholic Church and the Pope for the unnecessary invasion. The story follows the main character Jassim, Azfal’s grandson, who is on a mission to fulfill the promise that he made to his vengeful grandfather.

A lot of research went into the novel. I found some interesting Catholic Church facts which the average churchgoer won’t hear during Sunday Mass. Obviously, my goal is to publish the novel, but a second, less important, goal is to have the Pope place my book on the Church’s banned list. I would also love to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church. (That would be amazing!)

THE BLURB:

     The escalating tension between America and Iraq is the back drop for this compelling tale about an unbreakable family bond. The main character, a native Iraqi named JASSIM, and his grandfather AZFAL witness the traumatic invasion of Iraq; the suffering the pair experience is unimaginable. A resentful Azfal masterminds an outlandish plot for Jassim to convert from Islam to Catholicism, join the priesthood, and uncover damaging Church secrets in order to reveal them to the world. The boy, a phenomenal soccer star whose best friend Sabatina is secretly in love with him, has to choose between keeping the promise that he made to his grandfather and chasing his own destiny.

 

If the story seems interesting, you’ll have to wait for the release date in order to learn how the tale unfolds. The rest of the novel is filled with betrayal, love, hate, a secret society, twists and shocking revelations. I can’t explain the satisfaction of completing a full length novel. Hopefully, I will be able to find a literary agent to help me with the publishing process.

“Why the heck do you need a literary agent? You can self-publish the book.” Yes, I am aware of the self-publishing route, but I want the satisfaction of taking the traditional path. (I’m old school!) I can also publish an e-book, but I want to find an agent who will believe in the story and help me with future projects, as well. (I already wrote the outline for a second novel and I completed the first two chapters. I also have several book ideas in various stages of the creation process.)

In the publishing world, literary agents are necessary because most major publishers will not deal with authors, directly. The agents act as a middleman during the negotiation process. The agents will also help to ensure that the story is properly edited for submission.

Feel free to comment on the novel. (Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated!)

@PeteTeix617

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Why Is Her Face Covered

I received a text containing an interesting website. psychologytoday.com. I came across several great articles and I was compelled to write about one in particular. The Mystery of the Veil, by Jaime Booth Cundy sparked this post.

In the article, Cundy discusses a new Belgium law which bans the covering of one’s face in public. Clearly, the law is designed to prevent Muslim women form wearing their traditional headdress, the Niqab and Burqa. The proponents of the law claim they are attempting to improve women’s rights, but I agree with Cundy, who suggests there is no difference between forcing a woman to wear a headdress and forbidding a woman from wearing one. It should be the woman’s right to decide whether or not she wants to wear a headdress.

The article is interesting and Cundy makes some great points. (I suggest googling the title and reading the article.) It is funny what happens when humans use religious texts to promote their own views. Islam is actually an extremely peaceful and tolerant religion, but the world perception is completely opposite because of a few extremists and a fundamental misinterpretation of the text. The true Muslim has a duty to follow in the tradition of the Prophet. (Obviously, I don’t believe in the Qur’an or the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad, but I know enough about the faith to voice an opinion.)

Mohammad considered women his equals; the downgraded role of women in Islam is the result of the Caliphs (leaders) who followed the prophet. Mohammad’s wives did not wear the veil until after he died. The veil was actually part of the Christian tradition; it was a sign of being a member of the upper-class, and was not required by the religion. The Qur’an commands people to dress moderately, not veiled. Some conservative man made the decision to force women to wear the coverings in public, based on his interpretation and the tradition was passed to future generations.

The Prophet’s wives were allowed to participate in the religious discussions; they were active and respected members of the faith. (Yeah, I said wives. You didn’t think a guy would be given the title of God’s Prophet and not use it to have more than one woman, did you?) Polygamy is technically allowed in Islam, but men must treat each wife equally, which is impossible, so it is unusual to find a Muslim man with more than one wife. (There is an interesting documentary named Women of Islam, I suggest people view it!) The belief in Islam is, men are responsible for providing for the family, but the interpretation was determined by men who lived in a misogynistic society. It is interesting to note that the first written copies of the Qur’an were given to the wives of Mohammad after his death in 632CE.

Professor Leila Ahmad is an educated woman who is leading the movement to provide a current interpretation of the Qur’an. The hope is that Muslim women will be given more rights in the Islamic world. She probably won’t be able to make the changes which she desires, but there is hope that a young lady who follows in her footsteps will be able to remove the negative aspects from the religion. The women of Islam enjoyed greater freedoms until the Caliphs, who followed Mohammed, changed the tradition and forced women to become second class citizens. One of the Prophet’s wives, Aisha actually led Muslims in battle after Mohammad died. There is no sexism in the Qur’an; the sexism comes from the male interpretations.

Before we judge a woman wearing a Muslim headdress and feel sorry for her, we need to keep in mind that, “We may not understand why, we can point out that according to our interpretation of the Qur’an it does not say that a woman must remain covered, but yet there are women in the world that believe that they should be fully covered, and they make the choice to do so.  What are we saying to these women if we tell them that they are brainwashed, or that they are misinterpreting their own religion?  Are we not telling them that they aren’t intelligent enough, or free enough, to make their own decisions?” –Cundy.

The problem with religion is the fact that people become insane. The faith becomes more important than their family members. “What the HELL is an Honor killing?” For those who are unfamiliar with the practice, honor killings occur when one member of a family decides to kill another family member who he feels has dishonored the family name. This usually occurs when a father or brother kills a female form the family who cheats on her husband or has premarital sex. Honor killings are usually unreported and unpunished. (There are places in the world where the practice is widely accepted and encouraged.) Nothing says honor like killing your daughter! Honor killings have nothing to do with Islam; they are the result of misinterpretation of the text.

There are many horrible examples of honor killings, but I will only mention one which I found particularly disturbing:

“Kifaya Husayn, a 16-year-old Jordanian girl, was lashed to a chair by her 32-year-old brother. He gave her a drink of water and told her to recite an Islamic prayer. Then he slashed her throat. Immediately afterward, he ran out into the street, waving the bloody knife and crying, ‘I have killed my sister to cleanse my honor.’ Kifaya’s crime? She was raped by another brother, a 21-year-old man. Her judge and jury? Her own uncles, who convinced her eldest brother that Kifaya was too much of a disgrace to the family’s honor to be allowed to live. The murderer was sentenced to fifteen years, but the sentence was subsequently reduced to seven and a half years, an extremely severe penalty by Jordanian standards.”

A new phenomenon, which is a direct result of the honor killings, is vaginal rejuvenation surgery. “What the heck is that?” This is when a woman pays a plastic surgeon to restore her hymen. (Now that’s what I call a born again virgin!) Women from the Middle East travel to the United States in search of a better education; while here, they have premarital sex, a result of assimilating into our “superior” culture. These women pay to restore their hymen so when they return to their homes, their husbands will not be able to discover the truth about their sexual pasts. In some cultures, the mother-in-law will examine the woman to see if she is worthy enough to marry her son. If a daughter is returned to her father because she was deemed to be impure, the father will usually kill her. Honorably of course!

Although I do not believe in any religion, I think it is important to make a clear distinction between the true heart of a religion before we make judgments. Islam is a tolerant, peaceful, pro-woman religion; it’s the men who changed the original teachings of the prophet in order to take control. The next time you hear someone say, “I don’t like Islam because women are mistreated.” You’ll understand that the mistreatment of women is not a part of the actual religion.

From the point of view of someone who does not practice religion, I can only ascertain that the goal of most religions is to separate. We may view the honor killings as an extreme practice, but we must not forget that religion causes Christian fathers to disown their unmarried pregnant daughters, which I consider a lesser form of honor killing.

Knowledge and understanding are the keys to change! Not Barack Obama, “he is a long-legged Mack Daddy!” (YouTube ‘Barack Obama is a Mack Daddy’…I love those videos! Pastor Manning is insane! RELIGION IS AWESOME!)

For tomorrow’s post, I will discuss another article from the website which I found truly enlightening!

@PeteTeix617

Osama: Terrorist or Hero

***For the purpose of this post, I will not factor in any of the conspiracy theories about Bush’s involvement in the World Trade Center bombings. I watched the videos and read the stories. They are interesting and could possibly be true, but I don’t have access to the necessary documents which would allow me to discuss any conspiracy theories. I am writing under the assumption that Osama Bin Laden was the architect behind the attacks on America.***

If, for even one second, you think I am a supporter of Osama Bin Laden, you’re out of your freaking mind. I also don’t think he is a hero if that’s what you expected me to argue. Well, he’s not a hero to the western world at least. I think anyone who can target innocent people, regardless of purpose, is a maniac and a complete jackass. (I don’t mean to offend the funny jackasses on MTV!)

But…

Before we brand Osama “the most horrible human being to ever walk on the planet,” let’s try to break down and understand the events which led to 9/11. Bin Laden was not a crazy blood thirsty killer; he was fighting a religious war. (Religious war is an oxymoron, but not a cool one like jumbo shrimp. People actually die over whose mythical deity is better. I guess it makes sense!) I will give some of the historical factors which I believe led to 9/11, but it is the responsibility of anyone who wants to know the entire story to spend the time and research the information; this is not a history lesson.

Propaganda is extremely important when foreign policy is concerned. We must be careful not to accept anything which is force-fed to us; people who don’t think, deserve to be manipulated. Any person or country who opposes US interest is usually given a bad name. (A perfect example of this is Hugo Chavez. I honestly haven’t studied his life enough to comment, but I do know he can’t be as bad as the press makes him out to be. Venezuela has a lot of oil and the US wants to control it. The fact that Chavez doesn’t bend to the will of the White House is commendable. FYI: according to CNN the price of gas in Venezuela is 0.12 cents per gallon! Think of that the next time your gassing up! Chavez believes it’s the people’s oil! Like I said, I don’t know too much about the guy, but he seems ok.) It’s interesting that the Government which runs Saudi Arabia is similar to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The difference is our government’s desire to remove the Taliban from power in order to install a puppet regime, and the US needs to befriend the Saudis in order to ensure we have oil. [The media labels the Taliban members as bad, but the Saudi royal family members are good.] Don’t buy into the rhetoric about entering the war for some patriotic duty. We were acting in the interest of the US economy. Too bad our leader was an imbecile and the war ended up destroying our financial system. (Yes, I know the housing crisis was crippling, but analysts are projecting the war in Iraq to cost 3 Trillion Dollars! Some even expect the war in Afghanistan to cost double. Our two un-winnable wars made it impossible for the government to deal with the housing crash. Bush is the ultimate gambler, “I have a hunch Saddam has some WMDs. What the hell it’s only 3 Trillion, let’s role the dice! C’mon seven, daddy needs a new source of oil!”)

The interest in the Middle East began with the British, who desired a faster route to India and the Spice Islands. At the risk of getting into too much detail, I’ll just summarize. The Middle East was part of the Ottoman Empire. There were no countries, just a group of Ottoman provinces. Britain placed selected Arabs in positions of power, and the new kings were grateful; they remained under British influence. The British promised the Arabs they could have their own independent nations as reward for helping to remove the Ottomans. (When were the Ottomans driven out? Maybe a few hundred years ago? No! 1918; WWI.)

Eventually, the US replaced Britain as the world’s premier superpower. America has been involved in Middle Eastern affairs ever since. In the 80’s, during the Cold War, Russia was attempting to spread communism and grow its empire, and the United States was forced to prevent Russian expansion. Afghanistan, strategically located, became the perfect location for Russia to gain influence over the Middle East. Why is this important? Because Osama Bin Laden was a member of the Afghan resistance. He and his supporters were trained by the US. (That’s right people, those Al Queda videos of men preparing to fight against the infidels came from American military assistance. It’s hard to imagine a bunch of guys training on what looks like a school yard jungle gym can strike fear in Americans, but those videos were on the news almost weekly.)

The freedom fighters, as they were called, also received weapons and other military equipment. (From President Ronald Reagan’s freedom fighters, to President George W. Bush’s terrorists! You gotta love it!) The Russians were eventually defeated and Bin Laden elevated to hero status in the Muslim world. He had no interest in Afghanistan, but Osama believed in jihad. (There are two jihads in Islam. The greater jihad is an inner struggle towards self improvement. The lesser jihad is the struggle against enemies of Islam.) Bin Laden felt he was doing his duty when he helped to remove the Russians from the nation of his Arab brothers. The US supported him, but when he decided to fight against the “new enemy of Islam,” he was labeled a terrorist.

Knowing how fanatical Bin Laden preached, does anyone think it was wise for former President George W. Bush, prior to the invasion of Iraq, to call the mission a “modern day crusade?” I know the guy was an ignoramus, but come on! How does someone like that get elected to lead the free world. (The US political structure has to be improved. This won’t ever happen again! I’LL MOVE TO CANADA IF PALIN IS OUR NEXT PRESIDENT!!!)

I hate to point this out, but there is no difference between Osama Bin Laden, who fought a religious war against the United States and Pope Urban II, who ordered the first Crusade in 1095 bce. (Who am I kidding, I love to point that out!!!) How many innocent people must have died during the four years of fighting in Jerusalem! Each leader knew there would be collateral damage, but winning for “god” was more important. Why is Pope Urban II remembered as the hero of the First Crusade but Osama Bin Laden is labeled a terrorist; they committed the same atrocities. Two religious terrorists in my view! (The sad thing is, Pope Urban II was a saint compared to some of the other Pontiffs!)

(For the ignorant, both Osama and Urban fought for “god.“ Allah is god and god is allah. Same faith, the only difference in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the changes brought on by the prophet each chooses to follow. Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad are all prophets from the same lineage!)

From the American perspective, Osama is a terrorist. He ordered the killing of innocent citizens, and he felt the operation should have been carried out by any means. Bin Laden didn’t care about the collateral damage, which makes him evil, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he achieved his main objective of affecting the US economy. (I think it’s amazing that the term used for killing civilians is “collateral damage.” How is that acceptable?) I don’t agree with the methods used by Al Queda, but I do admire the courage to take on the most powerful nation in the world.

I felt a sense of pride when twitter announced that Bin Laden was dead. (We live in a different world. Tweets are the best news source around. I remember, during the CNN coverage, hearing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the first person to tweet about Osama’s death; CRAZY! How in the world did he know?) I can remember the fear I felt on September 11, 2001. I continued to look at the skyscrapers in Boston, fearing they would be the next targets. (How dumb does the government think we are that they used the bullshit color fear system. “Today, the fear level is orange.” Does anyone question that Bush created the system on his own?) I always found comfort when I heard the news reports of Bin Laden’s failing health and horrible living conditions. Having to move around from cave to cave with no luxuries seemed fitting; if we couldn’t find him, at least he was struggling.

Osama was horrible, but I can at least understand why he did what he did. I am not a proponent of any violence, because I believe what separates humans from the other animals is our ability to reason. Diplomacy should always be the only option. (Anyone who believes Osama Bin Laden was a crazy psychopath, lacks education.) The Al Queda boss did what most leaders choose to do; he decided not to consider the innocent lives of the civilians when drawing up his master plan. Did Bush consider the innocent lives of the Iraqis who were killed during operation ‘Shock and Awe?’ How was that not an act of terrorism? (As a history major, I was offended by W’s recklessness. Iraq is located in the cradle of civilization and this guy decided to drop bombs on some of the world’s most historical sites.)

I know what people are going to say, “We can’t sit back and do nothing. Someone has to pay for 9/11!” I agree, but the way Bush went about exacting revenge can only be described as “Bushian!” Our military had the capability to capture Bin Laden, years ago; targeting Saddam Hussein was the dumbest strategy ever. In a way, Bush helped Bin Laden; Al Queda became the most treasured organization for radical Muslims. Bush was the prefect recruiting tool for the radicals. His decisions couldn’t have been any more perfect from a marketing standpoint. I was happy for America when special forces killed Bin Laden because, regardless of religious or political views, the world is a better place without Osama; I just can’t bring myself to high-five over someone being shot. (But I understand the celebrating that occurred around the country. Any American, who lived through 9/11, had to feel jubilant.)

The troops finally accomplished the Mission—only 8 years after Bush stood on that aircraft carrier with the huge “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner and proclaimed victory. (Anyone who voted for W should be forced to donate $100 to cancer research!) My sense of pride was quickly replaced by a sense of inadequacy once the details, of Bin Laden’s life on the run, were revealed. Are you kidding me? The guy was living in a mansion! It was a slap in the face. I can’t walk onto a plane with a beverage because of this man, and he’s living the good life in a mansion? UNBELIEVABLE! The very freedoms that Bush launched the war to “protect” were ripped from every American citizen. “Thanks Bush, these TSA freedom-cavity searches actually make me feel safer!”

Religion is such a horrible entity. Cancer, AIDS, the Plague; nothing has killed more people than faith! We have to consider the Islamic point of view. (I understand Muslims need to make monumental strides in the treatment of women, but bombing Middle Eastern cities will not help improve women’s rights.) Bush wanted to bring American freedom to the people of Iraq, but how is a Muslim supposed to accept some of our cultural principles. We have thongs which are marketed to 10 year-old girls. We have horrible teenage pregnancy rates, divorce happens in half of marriages, and STDs are spreading faster than a stripper’s legs. Are those the standards we want to share with the world. It’s easy to judge the cultural values of other nations, but let’s not forget to turn the microscope on our own society; we’re not the finest example.

Bin Laden is no hero of mine, but I can understand why he is revered amongst Muslims. Regardless of what anyone thinks, Osama Bin Laden is a terrorist, so are Pope Urban II and W. The former president should honestly be forced to answer for lying to the American people, launching a war in order to kill Saddam, risking the lives of American troops,  and ordering the murder of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens. (No one can argue that Bush didn’t invade Iraq in an effort to out shine his father. Never mind, people can argue anything! I mean, someone had to argue that he was the right man for the job during the election! How would you like to have that assignment? “Ok, all you have to do is convince the world that W is intelligent.” I QUIT! I wish wars were fought like in the past. The president should have to be on the front lines leading the troops.)

Bin Laden killed innocent Americans to fight his war, and Bush killed innocent Iraqis to fight his. What is the difference? I can’t justify the deaths! There are millions of people who die every year due to unnecessary gang violence, and we always hear the same quote, “Why are these kids killing each other for no reason?” When are people going to stop killing each other for religious reasons?

*****If you are a deranged, Super-Patriotic American, with a limited education, and you are incapable of comprehending my views…PLEASE DO ME A FAVOR; When you shoot me, aim for the head so I can die instantly. There is no need to make me suffer–What Would Jesus Do!*****

@PeteTeix617