As you know, Yassin was sent to prison for 15 years for a crime which he never committed. Before his arrest, he was a family man, a hard worker, and had good relations with people. Yassin helped people by answering their questions and helping them to solve their problems.
Feel free to ask Yassin any thing, especially about:
* His book, Son of Mountains, or anything else he has written
* His website or any thing else you have heard about him
* Anything about Islam and his understanding about Islam
* Any other life topic - Yassin is a father, husband, religious, refugee, Kurd and prisoner
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Please remember Yassin is in a special prison unit, so it takes a while for your question to get to him and for his answer to be returned to you (all of this is done by postal mail, not email). It may take as long as three weeks for you to receive your answer. Please be patient until you receive your answer back, but Yassin will certainly answer your question.
To ask Yassin a question, email Lynne Jackson, the website administrator. She will then forward your email to Yassin via postal mail at the CMU. Once she received an answer back from Yassin, she will post it here and notify you via email that his answer has arrived.
The following e-mail was sent by Yassin to several of his supporters (including his son), and is the first communication we’ve had from him since news of the appeal denial on July 2 reached him. It is written as a letter to one of his supporters, a journalist, and also includes a poem. Both have been edited for English grammar and usage.
I Am Not Surprised
I am not surprised.
When they arrested me the first time, I was shocked the next morning when they took me to court. I was surprised to see all those police, marshals and media, and I was really confused: what was all that about? Who am I [to be so important]? What did I do? What was going on? All of it was unbelievable. I was laughing and arguing with the marshals that there is a law in this country and I did nothing wrong, so the judge will free me and let me go back to my family. But that did not happen, and the judge refused to give me bail, claiming I was a flight risk and a danger to the community, even if I did not have travel documents and there was just 50 cents in my wallet, plus I am stateless and have no country to go to. Above all, I did nothing wrong to [have to] hide myself and leave my children. Then while I was in jail and learned something about prisoners and the prison system in this country, I understood what was going on. It does not matter that I said or did nothing wrong, it’s not me, its the politics and discrimination. Anyone can see, by whatever the government called evidence––he will not have any doubt that I am innocent, and if I was not Muslim and an Imam in the first place never would I have been targeted. Even if they targeted me, never would I be indicted; even if they indicted me, no way to take me to trial by that evidence; even if they took me to trial, no way for the jury to find me guilty; even if they found me guilty, no way for the judge to accept it; even if the judge accepted it, no way for the appeal court to let it go. But all of this happened, not because the prosecutor proved anything by the evidence but just because I was foreigner, a Muslim who had a little beard.
All the government did was misrepresent their evidence to confuse the court and prevent justice from taking place. For me, everything was the drama written and produced by the government, and everyone else had a little role to play, including the judge, jury, and my lawyer. But still I am happy because I did nothing wrong and harmed no one, what they did to me is wrong and not fair, and I believe the truth will never die and people will find it sooner or later. What the government did is sad and dishonored justice and humiliated the Constitution, not me. Anyone who knows me and saw the evidence in the trial knows I am innocent and now respects me even more than before. No one believes I am a dangerous wild criminal who must be locked down in an isolated unit. I am just a scapegoat for the [government’s] wrong policies and a victim for their nonsensical ongoing war. It’s not just me––there are millions worldwide who are suffering and [who are] victims of this war.
The government has all my records and they know my entire life, they interviewed hundreds of people, they know very well I had nothing to do with terrorists or [anything] anti-American or [with] violence, and that never in my life did I participate in any fighting or plan or support any terrorists. Simply, I am just a Muslim and a stateless Kurd, no more, no less. Let the government celebrate their victory and let some fools congratulate them for destroying my family and for putting an innocent man in prison. Let the media sing for them and mention [me] as a big victory in their war. That and the appeals court decision does not change anything from the real truth and the big fact that I am innocent and did nothing wrong.
I am grateful for everyone who has supported me, wished and prayed for the best for me, and has felt sorry for my family. I appreciate your time and support and I would like to assure you all that I am fine and patient. They cannot put hate in my heart and revenge in my thoughts. I know it’s not over, and I hope you believe the same and stay firm until justice takes place and the truth comes out. Please do not forget my family.
Victim of war,
Scapegoat for this administration’s policy,
Note: as the answer to Petra's question and reaction to the appeals court decision, I wrote this poem, which I would like to dedicate to you all:
I Am Not Surprised
we are living in the time of corruption
this decision is another mistake and delusion
it brings no good to anyone
and will never save the country
it only affects and destroys the family
the court should not justify
holding the innocent behind bars
under the claim we are at war
we are sitting in the train
fools drive us backward
to the Dark Ages
by extreme ideology
this nation is transferring from a civilian society
and Constitutional country
to the biggest police state
in the name of security
By alert and emergency
they took our liberty
in the Nazis’ rule and fascists’ ideology
there were no rights for foreigners and refugees
how much justice can we get
when they judge us by secret evidence
in secret courts?
I see the justice system politicized
that’s why nothing makes me surprised.
On April 2, 2008, Anne asks:
Q: How realistic do you think it is for democracy to be adopted in Kurdistan, Iraq, and the Middle East at large? What steps do you think must be taken before it could be an effective form of government in these regions?
A: CREATING DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Because the soul of democracy is to allow people to elect their own leaders and chose their own way for life, I believe that in Kurdistan and in all the Middle East, democracy will be possible only when:
1) The governments in the West leave the people in the Middle East to select their own leaders and to choose their own way to live.
2) Western governments bring back all of their armies from the Middle East
3) Western governments and their corporations stop selling and giving weapons to the kings and rulers in the Middle East
People in the Middle East need food, education and peace. Without these essentials, no one can think perfectly. And without thinking perfectly, there is no way for anyone to make the right decisions. Let us help them think perfectly.
On March 20, 2008, Grace asks:
I think it is very cool that you are sitting in cyberspace and awaiting questions.
Here's one: "I have not been taught to associate Muslim or Islamic culture with environmentalism, and I presume this is because I am ignorant of this. Is there an Islamic environmental voice (or more than one)? Also, is there a way for American environmentalists to express solidarity with the Muslim world concerning issues of preservation of species, preservation of land and the wish for a nontoxic world for our children?"
Thank you. I have enjoyed the answers to the other questions on the website very much, Grace.
A: Dear Grace,
Please search on the internet. Hopefully, you will find Muslim individuals and organizations who work to protect the environment. I am sorry for not having some names in my mind or some organization's address but certainly it's exellent for Muslims and others (non-Muslims) to come together and do something to protect our planet. Prophet Mohamad said we are all in the same boat - if we let any one make a hole in the boat, we all drown - if we stop him from holing the boat we all will be saved. And we have many verses in Quran which command us to help each other for what is good - but as to why Muslims are not active about this and many other issues, I'd like to tell you this:
In 1992 when I was in Kurdistan, we used to live under two embargos, one international directed at Iraq including Kurdistan, and another by the Iraqi government against Kurdistan. There was no fuel and people started to cut the trees. When I tried to stop some people, they yelled at me, "Which is more important, our children's lives or the trees?" I said their children's lives. So they said if we do not take this tree to warm our house they (our children) will freeze and we have no other way to cook! We in Muslim lands are looking to save people's lives and protect human rights - we need a century to think about trees' lives and animals' rights. Thank you for doing this on behalf of Muslims.
On February 22, Lucy asked:
Q: I really enjoyed your answer to the question of the jinn [see next question]. In this country, mothers used to threaten their children with the boogey-man, a character much like the jinn.
I was particularly intrigued by your statement:
"1. Whatever scientists prove is true about worldly and physical things, which can be understood by our mind (intellect)."
In this country, there is a great deal of controversy between "intelligent design (sometimes called creationism)" and evolution.
Does Islam have a similar controversy or do they accept concepts like evolution?
Is There A Conflict Between Islam And Science?
A: Dear Lucy:
Let me repeat what Shekhul Islam, one of the best known and respected scholars of the 13th century, said almost 800 years ago: “There is no opposition between Islam and science, or between religion and the intellect”. If there is any difference, it is for one of two reasons: either what people claim is science is wrong and is based on an unproven theory, or what people claim is religion is wrong and is based on an inauthentic text or a misunderstand of an authentic text. The one who created the mind is also the one who sent religious revelations, and also created the universe. It is impossible that He created this universe and yet sent us something that does not fit into it, or that He gave us a mind and yet created something that the mind must reject. What He created He wants us to believe in. This is what He said and this is what I believe in. All of the conflict between science and religion is of this nature.
What many people think is science is in fact nothing more than an unproven theory. I have no doubt that evolution is one of those theories which have never been proven scientifically. Many scientists today reject what Darwin said.
Many things that people believe are part of religion, in fact are just culture and ignorance, or are based on incorrect understanding, or on a misinterpretation of a religious text. It is time for all of us to think deeply and to reexamine our information. As to learning from our mind and science, this is an area for the material aspects of life. We must make sure that our information is correct and that we understand its implications perfectly. We should never blindly copy any one. As to learning from religious texts, this is an area for worship about the unseen aspects of life. We must make sure that the text is correct and we understand it perfectly.
It is sad that many people in the East do not care about science and as a result they believe many nonsense things in the name of religion. This makes their lives miserable. But even sadder in the West many people have left religion, and deny it, and forget their souls, and the Lord. In the name of science, they believe nothing that is “unseen”. This makes their lives a disaster. Peace has left their minds and hearts. They live in doubt and desire has taken control of them.
We really need to take care of our minds and our hearts, our bodies and our souls. Neglecting any of them will destroy our balance. Thinking, learning science, being intellectual is the mind’s work. Having mercy, and showing loving behavior is the job of the heart. Worshiping and praying is food for our soul. Eating, exercising, and feeding our desires is for our body. These complete each other. The perfect man uses each of them in the right way that brings success and happiness.
Best wishes to you. Yassin.
On February 27, Jeanne asked:
Q: This is a question about your creative process. Do you dream in Kurdish, Arabic, English, or all three languages? And, when you are writing about an abstract concept, or an emotion, do you think about what you want to write in Kurdish first, and then translate it in your mind to English...or to Arabic, and then to English....or do you "think it" in English immediately? (This is from someone who speaks and writes only one language!) Are there benefits to knowing three languages when you write, instead of only one? If so, can you talk about them?
In Kurdish we say “Bnwa Deta Xawt” which means “sleep in order to reach it in your dreams”. They say this for people who talk about things but who have no way to get them. In my culture when they say that something is just a dream they mean it is just imagination and it will never become reality. That is why I do not like to dream about what I want and what I am searching for. If I see any dream it is like Dr. King’s dream. I see these dreams while I am awake. My dream becomes my goal – what I live for and struggle for.
But the dream you are asking about has an international language. Language is never a problem in a dream. You find yourself talking to everyone and they understand. Never in any of my dreams was someone not speaking Kurdish, even if the person was from China or Germany. Whatever prevents us from reaching what we need and love in our life will be demolished in our dream. My cell door is always open in my dream. The guard never says no to anything I do in my dream. I have contact meetings with my family almost every night. I hug my children, I talk to my wife, I play with my baby, and nobody stops me. Some times I fly. I go back to my country, I visit my relatives, I speak to my friends, I carry my flag.
There is no limitation in our dreams and there is nothing called a language problem in the dream. I wish you could travel and take a trip to Kurdistan in your next dream. You would find yourself speaking Kurdish like them, or you would find the Kurds all speaking your language better even than you.
For the second part of your question about which language I use to express myself when I am writing, people who know many languages usually express themselves initially in the language in which they are most fluent which generally is their native language. Only when they were inspired by something they heard or saw or read in another language would they be likely to express themselves initially in this other language. My problem is that I did not complete my study of Arabic when I started English. It is just like what happened to Mr. President, who before completing his mission in Afghanistan, went into Iraq. As we see he lost both of them. That is exactly what happened to my Arabic and English. Moreover being isolated in jail from my family and from any native Kurdish speaker has caused me to forget many words in Kurdish too. Now I have no real language. I speak from my heart. Those that know me, and love me and refuse to accept the injustice that was done to me, they understand me. And you are one of them. You do not care about my misspellings, you don’t worry about my grammar mistakes, and my nonsense sentences do not bother you. But still you understand me, because we are human beings. We can have a common language and it is easy to understand each other. All we need is a clear heart and pure intentions. If not we will never understand each other even if we speak the identical same language. Keep dreaming.
On February 26, Steve asked:
Q: In your essay on Hypocrites you speak eloquently about the evils that result from the lies and deception of Hypocrites. In this country we have certainly had enough experience with the Bush Administration to know how devastating it is to be ruled by hypocrites. But in your essay you went further and said that under a dictatorship most honest principled people are forced to become hypocrites to survive, and you implied that that was one of the worst aspects of living under a dictatorship. In this country we have not (yet) had to live under such extreme circumstances, and most people here I suppose are unfamiliar with the day to day hypocrisies in a dictatorship that people must pretend in order to survive. Could you explain this to me more clearly and in more detail from your personal life. What kind of hypocrisies were required by normal honest people when you were living under a dictatorship and what effect to it have on them. What effect did it have one you?
LIFE UNDER THE DICTATOR
A: Dear Steve:
One of the famous stories in my country occurred when the Dictator visited our area. According to the normal custom, some beautiful children must bring flowers to the Dictator and he would then accept the flowers and kiss the children. On this occasion while he was carrying one of children, he asked if the child knew who he was. The child said “Yes”. The Dictator asked him, “Who am I?” The child said, “Saddam Hussein”. The Dictator asked again, “How do you know me?” The child said that every night when the Dictator appeared on TV, his father spit at his image and turned off the TV. The Dictator’s guards immediately found the father in the crowd and took him away, and to this day nobody has found his body.
I am not confirming this story for you but I believe that it is real and it happened. At any rate, all the Iraqi people and especially the Kurds, knew that one wrong word from their children in the school or on the street could cost them their life. That is why people always tried to teach their children to see and hear nothing, and if they did see or hear something to deny it, or face death for the whole family.
I was asked how living under a dictator forced people to be hypocrites. I would like first to say that I do not believe that many people living under the Dictator were actually hypocrites because real hypocrites lead lives of lies for their own joy and benefit. What normal people did under the Dictator was not for their own joy or money, but for saving their lives. They were forced to be hypocrites and lead double lives.
How did people do this? Let me tell you how hypocrisy was part of life from birth to death. I will just make simple points but someone may write a novel or make a film about them all some day.
1. The first day when a son was born, the parents, especially in the villages and the mountainous areas, used to do one of three things. They could refuse to register the child so that when the boy grew up and went with the peshmerga or refused to go into the army, (which was obligatory), the government would not know that they had a child. They could say we have a daughter and chose a female name for their son, and have him wear girls clothing until he was 7-10 years old, and then have him sent away to another area when he got older. Or they could register their son with an Arabic name but at home call him always by his Kurdish name.
2. From age 3 to 10 parents tried their best to prevent their children from hearing any anti-government statements or to see any peshmerga. If the child should be exposed to such influences, the parents would constantly remind the child that if any one asked him, he should never say what he saw and deny what he heard. From an early age we knew one word could cost us our life and the lives of our parents.
3 Teenagers in Middle or High School were forced to join the Dictators Baath party. Refusal to join could result in being expelled from school, or being imprisoned. You would be placed on a list of bad citizens and you would be watched at all times. You had to attend all government events such as demonstrations or the Dictator’s birthday, to show your support for the Dictator. Once a year everyone was required to participate in a “renewing pledge” of support for the Dictator’s leadership. (This was instead of elections). Every summer all students had to participate in a training camp to prepare students for the military, and anyone who refused would be immediately kicked out of school and taken into the Army. Every student had to take an obligatory class about the Iraqi revolution and the Dictator’s life, and if they failed to write on the test what they did not believe, they could not pass or advance in grade. We were never allowed to express our true feelings and most of what people normally said was the exact opposite of their true feelings.
4. Everyone was forced to hang the Dictator’s picture in his car and store. If not it meant that you did not love your country and you supported the peshmerga.
5. People every day in public praised the Dictator and his regime, but at night time or when the trusted someone, they would curse the Dictator and exchange news about the peshmerga.
6. During the day people openly listened to the government radio and TV, but at night or under ground they would listen to Farhad’s peshmerga broadcasts.
7. Nobody could get a job as a teacher or doctor or electrical engineer, or bank official, or any officer until he had signed a statement joining the Dictator’s party. In Iraq there was no private banks or phone companies, or electric companies – everything belonged to the government.
8. Many people, to avoid special intelligence spies, used to fly Iraqi flags on their houses and put the Dictator’s picture in the house windows, and openly and loudly sing the Iraqi National Song, while all the time cursing everything they heard.
9. The only way we were allowed to write about freedom and talk about independence was to substitute the word “Palestine” instead of “Kurdistan”. In fact many Kurdish poems about Palestine are actually about Kurdistan. I remember in 1987 when Zaheer Rajbayani, a well known Kurdish lecturer, came to my city, Chamchamal, and held a conference. We asked him why everyone was writing poems about the rocks in Palestine, and nobody even mentioned our mountains in Kurdistan. Why do they just say poems about Qudis (Jerusalem) and never about Kirkuk? He just laughed and said, “In fact we do not give Palestine any favors but we use them because that is the only way we can breath”. They he said, “If we didn’t want to throw a stone at the army in Kirkuk, we would never say anything about it in Palestine”. It was really true. We used to cry for our freedom but instead of saying Kirkuk we used to say Qudis, and instead of saying Kurdistan, we used to say Palestine.
10 Many people used to spend daytime as government agents and army officers, and nighttime as peshmerga.
As to how all of this affected me let me make these points for you.
1 As a child I did what any other child did and I followed all of what my parents taught me by never telling anyone what I saw or heard.
2. As a teenager, with some of my friends, we refused to do many things that many people were doing. We were emotional and sometimes we used to speak as though we were living in Sweden and we had a right to speak as though we were free.
3. When someone did not care about his life and was not concerned about his body or enjoyment, he could do much good and could avoid having to humiliate himself. I learned from all my peshmerga friends, and my illiterate dad, that the way to freedom is to accept that earth is our mattress to sleep on, the sky is our blanket to cover us, the rocks are pillows to put under our heads, and grass is our food. There was no benefit in dreaming about castles, or looking to buy cars, or going to restaurants, or collecting gold or worshiping money. This I believed.
4. Instead of living in the City we stayed in the villages. This meant we had no electricity, or phones, or roads, or hospitals, or clinics. This cost me my sister Salmah in 1979, and my brother Jalal in 1981, and my mom in 1986, all for lack of medicine and hospitals in our village.
5. I chose to push a cart in order to survive rather than getting an office job that would require me to sign up for the Baath party.
6. I lost my right to get a good education. I had to leave school for some years to work and support my family. Many other times I did not go to school to avoid participating in Government events and this was very dangerous.
7. The Dictator cost me my dad in 1991. I left him behind and the army killed him because I had no car to give him a ride, and I thought we could stop the government’s attack and come back for him when we reoccupied the city.
8. I was forced to leave my country and my people to seek college and education somewhere else.
9. I was forced to bring three children into this universe to suffer without any citizenship in any country of this world.
10. My wife was left to cry and suffer alone without travel documents to go home and see her mother and without even a green card to feel safe in this country.
11. I lost my freedom and got 15 years in prison. If it was not for the Dictator, I never would have left my country.
I do not believe what the people did was hypocrisy because they were forced to do so; they tricked nobody except the Dictator; they did not do it for money or joy; it was the only way to save their lives. But for me it was no life and I avoided hypocrisy as much as I could. Thousands of people who know me and are alive now will know that I said the truth: I defended the people during ANFAL in 1988; and I shouted loudly “Death to the Dictator” in 1991. In many seminars and speeches I said things which many people were even scared to hear at that time. If I had been willing to live a double life it would have been easy for me to get a position and become rich, but this is the way I grew up…and that is why I am in jail now.
Beside telling the truth and using my pen, never in my life have I used my hand to harm anyone and never have I supported any violent act by word or money or philosophy. I still believe this. “Truth will never die and wrong deeds will never last”. Pharaoh drowned but not Moses; Hitler killed himself; Saddam lost everything. Nobody who is unjust will have a future and no one by force will win people’s hearts. I hope those in power will understand this.
On February 6, Steve asked:
Q: I have a question connecting Islam and Eastern folklore. It's about the jinn.
I know " genie" is a Western version of the word, but I'm not sure Westerners could define what they really mean by "genie."
My impression is that, in Eastern folk tales, the jinn are supernatural beings, possibly evil spirits. Is this right? And when tales are told about them, are the stories regarded as fables meant to make points about ethics or moral behavior, or do people regard the jinn as real? And, if people believe the jinn are real, how do they reconcile that belief with the teachings of Islam?
- Steve Trimm
A: Dear Mr. Trimm.
If it was not for my promise to answer each and every question I received, I would have been tempted to forget or ignore the question you asked! For centuries in the third world we have been victims of “Jinn”. We have been taught many nonsense stories about them. In dark and lonely places we have been so scared of them that we freak at any sound, or voice, or moving thing, especially in the night, or in any dark place during the day. This fear shapes many people into weak personalities. We used to say that we are not scared of the dictator or his army because we can see them and we can defend ourselves. But what can someone do against an invisible enemy – the Jinn in our imagination?! I left the Middle East to be safe from persecution and the fear of the Jinn but what do I find – I have been prosecuted and the Jinn followed me right into my jail cell! What can I say about Jinns? I wish I had never heard about them!
In part of our culture the Jinn is quite different from how I am describing it. In the part that includes my country, Jinns are ugly devils, scary, harmful creatures. They live in the darkness and wait for an opportunity to attack people. They like spreading fear everywhere. Women silence their children when they cry by saying, “Oh the Jinn is coming. He will eat us”. Whenever the women need their children to do something or to stop something all they need to say is, “If you don’t behave, I’ll call the Jinn.” Then the children hold their mothers and beg her not to call the Jinn. They will do whatever the mother wants. This fear grew up with millions of children and it damaged the mind of thousands. The situation became worse when some religious people claimed to be able to deal with Jinns, and use them and get information from them. From this they claimed to know what luck people would have, what would happen in their future. Then many ignorant people whenever they had a pain or a problem, instead of going to a doctor, wouldl go to see a “Sheikh of Jinns”.
All my life when people asked me about Jinns, I used to tell them, “Don’t worry about them – They are powerless and cannot do any physical harm to us. The best way to be safe from them is to never think about them, and do not listen or accept as true any of the stories people tell about them. All you need to do is to read a prayer every day”. I saw many people who claimed to have talked to Jinns and used them to get special information. Most of them ended up mad, and the rest of them needed to have mental treatments. What they said and did was mostly senseless. 90% of what people claim about Jinns is nothing more than their imagination. Some of them had what today is called schizophrenia or split personality.
Here is an example I actually witnessed to help you understand how many people are frightened and loose their peace of mind as a result of nonsensical thinking and believing. Many times one of my neighbors told me that there were Jinns in his house and he did not know how to get them out. I asked him how he knew. He said that many times he heard their sounds. Always I used to tell him that there was nothing to be done except prayer. Read prayers and don’t worry – they cannot cause you or anyone any harm. One night he took me to his house when there was no one there – just me and him. Then we heard from the ceiling a sound, “Jrr, Jrr, Orrt”, as though something were being folded and pulled. I had no answer as to what it was and was confused as to how a Jinn could live inside a concrete ceiling. (Of course, in our culture they can live anywhere including the pen I write with and the paper which I use.) Later on when I saw one of my friends who was a physics teacher I told him about the sound.
He said, “Was the heat on?”
I said “Yes, the house was real hot”.
He said that because of the heat, the iron in the concrete expanded and that made the sound.
It is really sad that nonsense stories about Jinns destroy many people’s minds and make life in the poor countries more miserable, especially in the villages and other areas where people are illiterate. It is sad to see even here in the West, that millions of people who read magazines are scared of whatever the astrologers tells them.
As to what Islam says about Jinn, we believe they are a kind of creation of God and in general are invisible like Angels. Satan is considered to be one of them, but not all Jinn are evil. Jinn, including Satan, are powerless to do any physical thing, or any physical harm to human beings. All they can do is to throw doubt into people’s hearts or minds, and scare them until they become very weak and eventually lose their minds.
The best and only solution for Jinn is to never think about them or be scared of them. Reading daily prayers helps, as does depending on God. Do not listen to or accept all of the nonsense stories that people tell about them.
In Islam we are not allowed to believe in anything unless it fits into one of two categories:
1. Whatever scientists prove is true about worldly and physical things, which can be understood by our mind (intellect).
2. Whatever we have in a clear authentic text of God’s messengers without any interpretation.
Unfortunately Eastern and Muslim culture has covered our minds and prevent us from understanding our real religion. Jinn destroyed our civilization and nonsense stories have made us suffer for centuries. I did not want Jinn to have any place in my web site, but you brought them up. I would like to tell every one of you that you all need to be careful from those human devils, Satan and Jinn. We all need to read our prayers and never think of them or be scared of them. That is the best way to defeat them. In the time of knowledge and science, magazine astrologers and Jinn story tellers should get out of business. No one should ever ask about them or believe in them.
Question sent to Yassin on February 6, 2008 and and we received his answer on February 20, 2008
On January 24, 2008, Claire asked:
Q: Dear Mr. Aref,
When you were a child, what was your favorite story?
Your "Pine Bush Family" Member,
A: Dear Claire:
I am sorry to tell you I was never a child! As the baby duck soon come out from the egg run to the water and swim, my mom told me the way I used to creep my my belly to the corner in the basement to save my life from attack and hide ourselves from the army.
I do not remember a lot before I became 8 years old and since I was eight, I was a man, working harder than a lot of people today do, helped my dad on our farm, sheppard and laboring for people to buy some food for my family when ever our village was surrounded by the army, when ever helicopters circling above our heads and attaching our village, whenever we run to the cave to hide from the army, my dad was always telling us this story to keep us hopeful and make us strong.
One of his favorite stories was Sultan Mahmood and it became my favorite story I remember from my early childhood. Let me share it with you.
"Khoda La Sultan Mahmood Gawyatra" which means "God is greater than Sultan Mahmood"
Sultan Mahmood was a big tribal leader and a big tyrant, beating people, taking their wealth, and making them labor for free. There was a very poor man in the village, working hard to get food for his family. When the Sultan's people came to take him to work for free for the Sultan, the man apologized and told the Sultan's people that the day he did not work, his family would have no food to eat. Sultan did not accept this, and sent for the poor man again. Again, the poor man refused to go.
This time, Sultan send the poor man a letter which said "if he did not come today, tomorrow he will be hanged dead."
The poor man read the letter and said to the Sultan's messenger, tell Sultan "God is greater than him."
While the poor man was waiting to be hanged the next day, all the night he was calming his wife, and telling her not to worry, "God is greater than Sultan Mahmood."
In the early morning, he heard the sound of the Caller, he kissed his children and said good-by to his wife. He came out not to hide himself, but to go to Sultan and tell him he is not afraid. But the Call was for a different reason. Instead of hearing that he was to be hung by Sultan's order, he heard Sultan died last night and they need people to go dig the grave and prepare his funeral! He waited to hear it again, it was the same.
The poor man went back to his home and said to his wife, "I told you that God is greater than Sultan Mahmood! He is gone, he is dead. I am going to grieve him."
Me and millions like me in our daily hard time and difficulty, we repeated this. I have repeated this for 25 years in Iraq and from my jail I keep telling my wife, my children, my supporters that God is greater than Sultan Mahmood.
On January 6, 2008, Jeanne asked:
Q: Since Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all Abrahamic faiths at root (though there are significant differences between them), what can people do to bring the faiths closer together in terms of mutual understanding and respect, despite the theological differences? What can unite the "People of the Book," rather than divide us?
A: Dear Jeanne:
As George Bernard Shaw said — America and Britain are two nations, the same language separating them!
The same is true about Judaism, Christianity and Islam - the belief in one God, the belief in a hereafter, and respecting human dignity separating them!! But for coming back together, I believe these five steps are necessary:
1) We must stop politicizing religion
2) We shound not use religion for our own interest!
3) We need to reject all the interpretations which have made best of desire are based on desire and keep the text as it is.
4) We must refuse all the nonsense stories and any separation between religion and culture
5) We can't judge and punish people. Our duty is to advise and give the message, as all the messengers did.
Question sent to Yassin on January 7, 2008 and we received his answer on January 22, 2008
On January 5, 2008, Lynne asked:
Q: What can I do in my daily life to promote peace and justice?
A: Dear Lynne:
It's the right question. All of us should ask ourselves every day, "What can I do to make peace and bring justice?" I believe no one can answer this question better than ourselves, each one of us has different abilities and opportunities than others and we are the best judges of what that answer will be. . . but in general I believe everyone should:
1) Get peace in his-her mind and tranquility in his-her heart
2) Make peace at his-her home and among family
3) Spread peace in his-her neighborhood and city
4) No one should read or write, say or listen to anything that leads to hate or to praise for the war
5) Supporting justice for anyone, making peace between any two or more people, sheltering anyone who is homeless, feeding anyone who is hungry, giving charity to anyone who is poor, comforting anyone who is sick, educating anyone and doing anything for saving our planet, stopping war, building good relations, spreading love and many more activities are daily life's action for peace and justice. Do any and all of them every day as much as you can. The point is to do something every day.
Question sent to Yassin on January 8, 2008 and and we received his answer on January 22, 2008