Haja Fatmata Binta Bah - It's been 10 years since you left us

10 years ago, this day (7th April), I lost a very special woman in my life.

10 years later, I still feel the urge to connect with her.

Words cannot describe the emptiness.

There’s no substitute for a mother’s unconditional love.

Neneh, we miss you. May Allah continue to bless you, and may you continue to rest in peace.

10 and 20 years ago...

This year in 2018, celebrating 10 and 20 years of sad and happy moments…

20 years ago, in 1998, I experienced two life-changing events – one happy and one sad.

1998 was the year when I got married to my wonderful wife, my best friend, and the mother of my beautiful children. Getting married to her changed my life for good. I am forever grateful for having her in my life.

In the same year, I lost one of the most important persons in my life - my father, my friend, my mentor and my role model. I learnt a lot from him, both from what he said and from what he didn’t say. His whole life was a lesson to me. He thought me humility, honesty, kindness and how to be there and sacrifice for others. His memory lives on.

10 years ago, in 2008, I experienced another life-changing (sad) event.

I lost my mother. I can’t find the words to describe how I felt about her and the connection that we had. It was too deep to describe in words. All I can is that 10 years later, I still feel the urge to pick up the phone and call her and talk about everything and nothing. Then, I realize that she’s not there anymore.

May Allah grant them, and the faithful departed, eternal rest in Jannah. May He continue to guide us all.

In 2018, as we progress through the year, I’m happy to begin celebrating our wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife, Mariama. I love you!

We thank Allah for his blessings.

On appreciation: Learn to thank those who contributed to your success

When we fail to achieve something, it is easy to find the reason(s) for our failures in others or something. It is all too easy to find someone or something, or some circumstance to blame for our lack of success. If our marriages fail, it is because our spouses don’t understand us, or are not supportive. It is because of our in-laws or our family. It is because of our friends or our work. The list goes on. When are kids don’t succeed in school, it is because of the school system, incompetent teachers, bad influence of friends, or the neighborhoods. The list goes on. If we have difficulties at work, it is because of our employer, our supervisor, our colleagues, or unsupportive spouse and family. There is always someone or something that had contributed to the failure. Everything in society seems to be against us.

However, how often have we tried to identify the causes and contributors to our success? All too often, we over-hype our own contribution for the success. But, the reality is that our success, just like our failure, depends on other people, things and circumstances. The same factors that we identified for our failure, if flipped around, may be the same factors that contribute to our success. Therefore, when our marriages succeed, we should recognize the positive contribution of our spouses, our families, our in-laws, our friends, our spouses’ friends, our co-workers, our employers, and our society. These are all skewed in our favor for success. When your child success at school, we should recognize the positive contribution of their teachers, the support staff, the school system, their friends, our families, our friends, and the society. When we succeed at work, we should recognize the positive contribution of our spouses, our children, our co-workers, our employers, and our society. For, if these contributions were negative, it is easy to spot and blame them for the failure.

Appreciate yourselves and others, for no man is an island, and no one lives in isolation. We are an integral part of our society, for better or for worse.

And, above all, thank God.

OPINION: Why Africa's leadership is failing to uplift the continent and its people

The problem with African leaders is that they talk too much. This is why they fail to act on their intentions.

I’ve heard a lot of inspiring messages from many African leaders about how they plan to transform the continent, and its people, from beggars to equal partners who can make their own decisions about their own destiny. They have ambitious plans on taking back Africa and its natural resources, so that Africans can benefit from its own wealth instead of being exploited by outsiders.

I am convinced that some of these leaders have good intentions and they are genuinely committed to making these changes. But, most of these ambitious plans will have a major impact on the status quo, i.e. Western dominance, colonialism, imperialism, or whatever name they wish to call it.

The problem is this. If you’re the little guy in the room, you cannot be talking about what you’re going to the do to the big guy that will hurt him badly. That’s irresponsible. By doing so, you are already undermining your own strategy. You can only brag about what you’re going to do if you’re the big guy  in the room and you want the little guys to pay attention and be more afraid of your wrath. For example, the big guy can afford to threaten with economic sanctions, travel ban, and so on, if you, the little guy, fail to do certain things. But, if you’re the little guy, your big words will only be setting you up for failure. The counter-attack can be devastating.

My advice: If Africa has to succeed, it’s time for its leadership to stop talking big and tough about how they will uplift the continent at the expense of the more powerful nations. If you have done your home work, then start acting and stop talking. Just do the right thing at the right time.

Opinion: My 14-year-old son's solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis

As I was driving my son to his Model United Nations conference where they are debating peace and security around the world, we had a good conversation on what it will take to bring a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He came up with a brilliant idea. He said, “why not separate Jerusalem from Israel and Palestine?”. I asked why, and his response was that everyone claims to own it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims. So, let it be free for everyone. This got me thinking as we continue discussing the various other options on the table and why they’re failing or will fail.

Option “fight to the finish”: Maintain the status and fight to find a winner, hoping that one of them will either be defeated or give up the fight.

We’ve seen that this approach is taking us nowhere. They have been at each other for decades and all we see if more destruction of lives and property, more hatred and bloodshed, people on the sidelines taking sides due to the religious dimension it has taken, and the exponential growth of so-called freedom movements and terrorism on a global scale - all of them taking lessons from and finding justification from the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

Option “2 state solution”: Get both Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a 2-state solution with clearly defined boundaries with each maintaining its sovereignty.

This is easier said than done, as we’ve witnessed over the years. No party is willing to give up claim to the disputed territories such as Jerusalem. With disagreements over where the borders should be, there will always be border conflicts. If the issue of Jerusalem is not resolved, the 2-state solution will remain a nice dream.

Option “single Israeli-Palestinian state”: A single Israeli-Palestinian state. We can call it the United States of Israel and Palestine (USIP).

Unifying Israel and Palestine into one federation will be the ideal outcome. Both Israelis and Palestinians will live together in peace and harmony as one people under one constitution and one government. Some areas will have autonomy on how they are governed, but under one federal government. However, this outcome is idealistic, at least, for now. Israelis will be outnumbered in the new state. Therefore, if normal constitutional democracy is practiced and free elections are held (with one person one vote), chances are that the power will shift to the Palestinians. It is difficult to imagine Palestinians voting in large numbers for Israeli representatives and vice versa. This total shift in power will threaten Israelis’ sense of belonging and will not be acceptable. The only way to maintain that balance of power between minority Israelis and majority Palestinians will be through suppression, i.e. apartheid-style rule so that the minority can maintain its grip on power.

So, now let’s explore option “Free Jerusalem”: Declare Jerusalem as no-man’s land, neither under Israeli nor Palestinian rule; a free land for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Today, Jerusalem remains the most contentious piece of land for both Israelis and Palestinians. Everyone has historic claim to this parcel of land and no one wants to give it up to the other. Without agreeing on this parcel of land, all other options are threatened. Therefore, it is best to declare it “everyone’s and no one’s land”. Make it into a free zone where every major religion can practice and people from around the world can have free access. It should not fall under Israeli nor Palestinian jurisdiction. Maybe, the United Nations can govern it as a land that needs protection and preservation for the sake of humanity and for generations yet unborn.

Given its religious and historic significance, it will remain the center of attraction for pilgrims and tourists. The revenue generated from pilgrimage and tourism will be enough to upkeep itself and to support other peace initiatives around the world.

There you go. Problem solved! … by a 14 year old.

(Note: This article was first drafted in March 2017)

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Haja Fatmata Binta Bah - It's been 10 years since you left us

10 years ago, this day (7 th April), I lost a very special woman in my life. 10 years later, I still feel the urge to conn...

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