They came from opposite sides of the wire - one a prisoner, the other a guard in the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp. But today Moazzam Begg and Christopher Arendt have met as friends. It's a remarkable symbol of unity in the week when President Obama signed the order to close the camp that shamed the US.

The ex-inmate and the ex-soldier are now on a lecture tour, continuing in Leeds tomorrow and going to Hull, York, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast before ending in Cardiff. Moazzam, 40, from Birmingham, was held as a terror suspect for three years, before being freed without charge in 2005. Christopher, 24, served with the Michigan National Guard, on a year's tour of duty at Guantanamo. He now works with lobby groups in the US.
Today, they tell their stories to Dennis Ellam, from The Sunday Mirror.


I was kept in solitary for the first two years. I saw no one, spoke to no one, except my guard. We were locked into these tiny cages, steel with mesh sides and bright lights. All I had in there was a sheet and a roll of toilet paper. I would be shackled, sometimes so tightly I couldn't feel my hands or feet. When I asked for something I could use as a prayer mat, they brought a thin camping mat and that became my mattress for the next two years.The only time I was allowed out of my cell was to be interrogated. It was often in the middle of the night and I never knew if it would last for five minutes or 24 hours or longer, with interrogators banging on the desk to keep me awake. They would ask plainly stupid questions, like: "When did you last see Osama bin Laden?" And they told me: "You'll be imprisoned for life, or you could face execution, or both - execution after a very long time."Everything was designed to dehumanise. To keep myself sane, I read and re-read and memorised the Koran. I wrote poetry with the two-inch stub of a pencil they gave me. I cracked up a couple of times and smashed my cell - but only twice in three years. Every day used to begin the same way, before dawn. After two years of solitary, I had to file out of my cell with the others in our orange boiler suits and flip-flops and line up for prayer. Then we prayed, shook hands and went back to the endless routine... breakfast of bread and cheese, lunch of cereal, crisps, raisins, peanuts and a typical evening meal of white rice and beans, with fruit. In between there would be set periods to shower, exercise, meet with doctors and lawyers, and write mail - under supervision. But every day was the same... hopeless and pointless.

I have nightmares about the physical abuse I suffered at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where I was first kept. This is important - because while President Obama is closing Guantanamo, the "ghost" prisons around the world, like Bagram, are staying open.

Meeting Christopher was a very special moment for us both. It was emotional, sure, it couldn't be anything else, but we were just proud to share this chance to get together. He began saying how sorry he was for everything that had been done to me and the rest of the prisoners - I interrupted him. I told him it wasn't necessary to apologise. I met many good men among the guards at Guantanamo, who had begun to question what they were doing. It helped to pass the days, chatting with them about family and politics, and the difference between the UK and the US. Christopher's a great friend now. There is no lingering hostility, or regret, there's no reason for forgiveness. I understand why he did what he did. In a way, he was as much a victim of the Bush regime as I was. It's fitting we should be together this week as the new President Obama has taken a very big step towards righting the wrong of Guantanamo. On his first day, when he just suspended the military tribunals, I worried he wasn't about to go all the way. Then he announced its closure, and I was overjoyed.The only disappointment is that it might take a year before it's finally gone - a year will be a long, long time to all those men who have already spent seven or eight years caged in there.

Guantanamo will haunt me for a long time. I still wake at night and see it. I lost three years with my children when they were growing, which I can never recover. It's taking a long time to readjust.One reason why Christopher and I can be such good friends is that he's one of the few who knows what it was really like. He saw it too, albeit from the other side.


I came to see Moazzam to make my apologies. And to meet the man as a fellow human being, without bars or locked doors or people looking over us or bureaucratic forms, without one of us in an orange boiler suit and the other in a soldier's green fatigues.

All the time I was in Guantanamo, I watched people being treated just as if they were cattle. To de-humanise, that was the principle behind it. I didn't know Moazzam in there, but I guess I might have delivered the essential supplies to him - toothpaste, toilet rolls, soap. That was my job, after I made it plain in a letter to my commanders that I didn't want to be posted there because I didn't see myself in the role of oppressor. They sent me anyway, and just gave me the menial work, walking up and down the blocks. You might wonder why I signed up in the first place. You have to realise that recruitment teams would tour the trailer parks and the working-class schools of America, telling young folk that the Army offered a good salary, a secure living, a chance to extend your education, plus an 8,000 dollar signing-on bonus.

I was 17 and keen to escape a small-town background. It seemed like a very tempting prospect. Of course, most Americans at the start had no idea what Guantanamo Bay was, or even where it was - we were simply told that this is the place where we would be shoving the terrorists, after 9/11. I remember that event very well indeed and faces of the men being blamed. That planted it in the American mind. Men of Middle Eastern appearance were guilty as hell.

I told myself the CIA guys were smart, that the interrogators were specialists in their jobs, and so they must have information on the prisoners they were holding, for them to be inside. Now I know they had no idea what they were doing. As I talked to the prisoners, I came to realise they had one thing in common, they didn't know why they were there. I was helping to guard 650 men and none of them had been told why they were being held in those blocks. Worse, I could see them losing their minds. That state would come closer and closer, for all of them.

Once I was manning a gate, next to the psycho ward, where all the detainees who had finally lost it were being kept. All night long I could hear this guy screaming and screaming and screaming. And I can hear him still. He had been brought there with his mind intact. Now he was incarcerated without hope, his family were an ocean away and he hadn't seen them for years. He didn't know why this was happening or how long it would last. And the crazy thing is, Guantanamo Bay is actually a beautiful place. First thing in the morning, when the sun was coming up over the ocean and the detainees were at prayer, singing together in Arabic, it was a very intense, very moving experience. Later in the day, you just knew, someone might be beating the s*** out of them.
It seemed all the more terrible to be wearing that uniform, with the stars and stripes on the shoulder, the flag of freedom. All we were defending was the freedom of politicians, to advance their careers while we did their dirty work. It's hard for anyone to understand what happened in Guantanamo.

But Moazzam and I, we know...

Taken from The Sunday Mirror :
Article written by Dennis Ellam
Sooo, i've been tagged for the very first time ever, by my very special friend at: Ammena's Adventures ! Yes, I feel special :) (and as u can guess, i'm also excited...)

Before I begin, I should mention that my girl Ammena n I met a few years back when we were both in Mississauga, Canada. I remember goin to her cozy, little place in Mississauga a couple times. Unfortunately we only met twice after that, and then I got really busy for a while. Next thing I know, she's moved to Cambridge n it's the middle of the winter so I couldn't make the drive down the 401 to meet with her. Alhamdulillah tho, we kept in touch...kinda.. thru MSN & Facebook and now, coz of us both being bloggers its so much easier!
Insha'allah tho, I plan on making a very active effort to keep in touch with her, and maybe we'll find ourselves crossing paths sometime soon in life, Bi'idhnillah.
She also gave me a very good idea that will definitely help me with my abaya plans.

أحبك في الله - I love you for the sake of Allah (swt) Sis.

NOTE: You have to add one additional "favorite" thing to the end of the list when you answer.

Favorite color: Black!

Favorite perfume (guys): Isse Miyaki - its deadly ;)

Favorite perfume (girls): Miss Dior by Christian Dior

Favorite pj brand: La Senza

Favorite clothes brand in general: Urban Behavior (i think?)

Favorite person in the entire world: my husband

Favorite country: oooh, I don't have one

Favorite car: Lamborghini Murcielago

Favorite sport: Basketball

Favorite sport player: i don't have one

Favorite spot in America: never been to the US, fave in Canada is: Wonderland :)

Favorite animal: cats

Favorite movie: Pride and Prejudice - the BBC version (lame i know)

Favorite singer: Ahmed Bukhatir - anasheed singer

Favorite day in the week: Friday!

Favorite time of the day: night time

Favorite holiday season: summers in Canada, winters in the Middle East

Favorite number: don't have one

Favorite food: Italian

Favorite chocolate: right now its Al Bateel

Favorite cartoon: don't have one

Favorite blogger: too many to list!

Favorite Flavor Ice Cream: Jamoca Almond Fudge

Favorite Mobile Brand: Samsung

Favorite name: (female) Hidaya (male) Hamza

Favorite hobby: Reading

Favorite room in my house: bedroom

Favorite Fruit: peaches and mangoes, the combination works best for me

Favorite flower: roses

Favorite Word: guy... as in "ya guy!" ( its a Scarborough thing)

Favourite non religious book: The Kite Runner

I'm adding: Favorite hot drink: French Vanilla Cappuccino from Tim Horton's

I'm tagging: M.J
Lost in Riyadh
Halal Honey
Tranquility from Within
And anyone else who'd like to do it :)

I’m sure we’ve all heard the clichés about the importance of good communication in marriage. From a personal perspective, I’ve known about it for a long time, but I never really understood the meaning of the word “communication”.

Communication means talking... so as long as we talk to each other, everything should be ok?

Not quite. Just recently I had an interesting experience whilst talking to my husband on the phone. It made me understand “communication” in a completely different manner. I thought I would share the story with you.

Everyone in the world has their own and unique reaction to frustration, anger and emotional pain. Some people like to talk about it immediately with someone that they can turn to, some people thrash it out with the person who caused the pain, others avoid discussing it with anyone, and some people want to be left alone with their pain and feelings because they like to dwell on it for a while in silence, without further communication.

When you get into a conflict with your spouse, both parties are bound to have their own reaction to negative emotions. I personally am the type who, when hurt, likes to be left alone with the pain. My husband on the other hand, likes to thrash it out immediately and solve it with me. It gets interesting when I start telling him to leave me alone, and he is insistent on fixing the problem a.s.a.p!

Initially I resented him for wanting to discuss things immediately whilst my brain had shut down and refused to negotiate or discuss. It was only later that I realised that he was only trying to help me. In my frustration I don’t see beyond my feelings and my desire to be left alone. By doing that, I don’t realise that there can be many negative repercussions of my behaviour, and that maybe my way, isn’t the best way to communicate in a marriage.
If I am left alone to dwell in my pain, I end up festering feelings of resentment, anger, disappointment and start making my own assumptions about things that may not be correct. I also create a wall between myself and my husband, and I shut him out. I go into “cold-war” mode and give him the silent treatment without realising it; because in my mind I’m busy dwelling on what happened. I always repeat the incident in my head and it causes the situation to worsen.

Luckily for me, my husband realised this aspect of my character a while ago, and told me that, although he thinks that I’m an amazing person, he feels that I need to improve my communication skills (which I agreed with). Ever since then, he’s been working on slowly bringing me out of my shell, and he makes me discuss my feelings, which I previously hated to do.

When I start to tell him that I don’t want to talk right now, he insists on discussing what I’m feeling, why I am angry, what my issues are and he moves towards solving the problem immediately. Initially, I HATE IT. Slowly however, I start to talk and discuss my feelings and in about 5 minutes, we have managed to sort out our misunderstandings, clear the air and resolve the issue. Then I look back and I wonder, wow, what just happened?

And I realise: what I hated, was actually good for me and all he wanted to do was help. That’s when I think to myself, Alhamdulillah for having a husband who cares about me and wants to help me improve myself; I always make a silent dua in my heart thanking Allah (swt) for blessing me with a righteous and caring husband, who understands me more than I understand myself.

May Allah (swt) bless our marriage, and the marriages of all the Muslimeen in this beautiful Ummah, and may He, Most High, reunite us with our spouses in Jannatul Firdaus. Ameen.


I've been hunting around in Muscat for different stores that sell abayas, which might be interested in shipping their goods the US/UK/Canada/Australia.
Unfortunately, I didn't get much feedback from them about sending their goods out of the Middle East, so I've been sitting at home and brainstorming about ways of doing it myself.

I came up with two options that I thought I might share with my viewers:

1) There's a possibility of purchasing the items myself and paying for shipping from here to whichever country it needs to go to, and the receiver pays for the cost of the abaya + shipping.
- In order for this to work, I'd need to make sure that shipping costs and the price of the abayas are feasible for the receiver.

2) If the receiver isn't in a hurry to get the abayas, I can purchase the abayas and bring them with me to Canada, when I go back there for my summer-time visits. At that point, I could ship the abayas for a much lower price, from Canada.
-This would only be convenient for those people who don't mind waiting, and wouldn't want to spend extra money on shipping costs.

In terms of Abaya pricing, I can give you a rough idea of what it costs to make specific abayas.

- A Bahraini style bhisht abaya, completely plain, with no embellishments, can be stitched for about USD $ 60 (give and take $10). Obviously the more that are made, the lower the price is.

- Any kind of crystal work is extra, and things like: initials, names and crystal borders can be made, but it costs about $20 extra to do that, depending on the intricacy of the design.

- More complicated styles of abayas, such as Abaya 4 in my previous post, will be more expensive, based on the 2 different types of fabrics being used and the cut and style. Something like Abaya 4 will cost roughly about USD $100. Anything extra could be added to the Abaya, but that would cost more

- A balloon abaya, also completely plain, such as Abaya 3, can be stitched for about USD $ 75. Its a bit expensive because it requires A LOT of cloth to achieve the right effect.

I'll be honest, the first abaya is the most expensive due to the crystal work and tassels as well as the cut and the material. I could try to replicate that with a tailor, but I don't think it can cost less than USD $ 100.

Shipping costs are as follows:

Abayas are heavy due to amount of material used to make one. 6 meters of cloth is the minimum amount of cloth needed for an average sized person- who is not more that 5 feet 5 inches tall. Taller sisters would probably need more cloth.

I have appromixated the weight of one abaya to be a maximum of 5kg/10lbs.

According to that weight, I'm going to give a rough estimate of the cost of shipping to the US and its coming up to about $50 via FedEx, which ensures that the package arrives in about 4 business days.

I'm sure I could get a cheaper rate from UPS, especially if I set up a business account with them.

I'm tempted to open up a website to handle requests for abayas that people are interested in, but the only thing holding me back is the cost. If I could find a way of cutting costs in shipping, I think it might be beneficial to everyone.

I hope this post has helped in answering some of the questions that people have had regarding my abayas. As of now, I'm asking everyone who is interested, to let me know which one of the two options they would prefer for shipping, and if the prices I have quoted for the cost of abayas are something that they can work with. I'm still working on the shipping costs from the middle east, so I'll keep everyone updated on that. I'm gonna add a poll to the blog to see what everyone has to say, it will help me keep tabs on all the opinions.

I'm also in the midst of packing and moving my belongings to Riyadh, so please bear with me in case of delays. Once I'm settled in Riyadh, I might be able to offer more to everyone.

Thank you to all those who liked and commented on my abaya collection, you've inspired me to do more and to share my ideas with others.

May Allah (swt) forgive our sins, and grant us His Divine Shade on the Day of Ressurection.
After much thought I've decided to do a fashion post!

...Ya its not really me, but I thought I'd give everyone an idea about abayas in the Middle East, more specifically in Oman. I've been back visiting my parents in Oman for almost a year, and insha'allah next month it will be time for me to move on to Riyadh. Before I leave in a couple weeks for my walima, I've decided to take pictures of some of the abayas that I've bought recently and post em up along with a brief description of their origin, name and style. So here it goes!

1) This first one is an abaya that I've designed recently. It's made in Oman and it has a Chinese collar, button down front and made from a shiny satin material. Its front and back are plain but the sleeves have embellishments. I've had them make 2 sleeves, one inner plain, fitted sleeve and an outer one which has crystals on the inside and also a bell shape to it. I've included a second picture of just the sleeve to give u a better idea. I also have buttons to close the outer sleeves if I don't want them to show too much. The sleeves have a single silver tassel and so does one corner of the shaila.

2) This second one is an abaya that I bought at the Omani Souk, and its a Bahraini style abaya that's very popular here, its called a Bhisht. Its similar to the farasha style that was popular earlier. Its also made from a satin material, and it has embellishments on the waist and cuffs of the sleeves. It also has a hidden waist band that you can tie under the abaya to give it some shape if you like.

3) This abaya is new Omani style that's really famous here amongst the girls. It's called a "balloon" abaya. I bought it ready-made because it's apparently a bit complicated to stitch. It's one of my favorite styles of abayas as well. I've included an up-close picture of the neck area to show how it's stitched to give it such a beautiful shape. It's plain except for a simple lace around the cuffs of the sleeves and the bottom of the abaya, which I added after I bought it.

4) This is an abaya from Dubai. I'm not sure if there's a name for this style, or if it's typically Emirati, but I really liked it when i saw it. It has a plain front and back, with a small neck opening. The sleeves are really pretty, an inner fitted sleeve and an outer flared sleeve.
The part I like best is the back of it; it has 2 outer folds that come together at the centre of your back, to be tied together based on how you'd like it to look. I'd also like to note that this is a loose fitting abaya, so no matter how tightly its tied, it doesn't show your shape or accentuate any curves because its simply too loose, it just adds a train-like effect to the back of the abaya to make it look more flowing.
The front:

The back:

5) This is actually a jilbab that I bought from Toronto before I left. Its one of my favorite ones and is a beautiful aubergine color. It has 2 layers, an inner layer that's closed, and an outer layer that has slits on either side going down the length of the jilbab. It has a very pretty embroidery pattern on both sides and on the cuffs as well. Its originally Jordanian.

6) Here's another Bhisht, Bahraini style abaya that I purchased from Dubai. In this you can see the waist band very clearly as I've left the abaya completely plain except for a line of crystals on either length of it, and on the cuffs of the sleeves. The waist band lifts up the front of the abaya about an inch so the front becomes shorter than the back, when its tied.

7) Last but not least, here's an abaya I bought from Abu Dhabi a while ago. It has got a Chinese collar and plain button down front, but the back of it features a strip of textured cloth that goes, in a single stripe, down the back of the abaya. I also has a matching stripe on the sleeves and the edge of the shaila.

Hope you enjoyed my lil fashion post, lemme know what u thought!

Israel, you can not put a chain on the ankle of a Palestinian,without finding that the other end is fastened to your neck.