Friday, December 30, 2011

Coz there's always next year...

If someone in the future had to ask me what 2011 was like, I wouldn't be able to recall everything off-hand because so much happened in such a short space of time that I'd have to take out my list: Revolutions, Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Anders Breivik went bonkers, Financial Crisis, Royal Weddings, Famine, Protests from here to the moon FOR Democracy & AGAINST Corporate Greed, Poverty, Osama bin Laden bonding with Ariel (still not buying the whole story on that one), Flooding, More Famine, More Revolutions, More Protests, More Financial Crisis...

Wall Street and Tahrir Square became the most sought after real-estate in the world; and somewhere in between all that Elizabeth Taylor, Amy Whinehouse, Steve Jobs and a million other people died.

But even if some of us weren't swimming in the moat of all the shit that was 2011... while the rest of world brewed in chaos, social and political upheaval and natural disasters, most people weren't left unscathed - either being mentally, emotionally, financially or cosmically affected by the goings on in yonder. Why? Well, because we are all connected, as everyone from Einstein to Coelho will tell you.
Personally, this year brought about many wanted and unwanted changes to my life. I moved from my comfy spacious house in the suburbs to a smaller space near the city. After much internal dialogue, discussion and debate, I took a huge leap of faith and decided to dive in head first into a new career. I made new friends, lost some and got re-acquainted with old ones.

I also failed in some areas of my life too. I regret not doing everything I had set out to do in 2011 despite my numerous attempts. Specifically with regard to travel. But life got in the way and there was work as well as other commitments and circumstances beyond my control that kept me behind.

Generally, I don't like hope. In my experience, hope only ever leads to expectation. And expectations are never good because they tend to cloud ones judgement. In this instance, I did not only fail myself but others too and there's not much I can do about it except apologise. But sometimes apologies aren't enough. And even though they've failed me too, I won't hold it against them... c'est la vie. I won't beat myself up about it but I definitely won't be making the same mistakes again.

On a somewhat brighter note, I discovered an amazing Doctor. Not that Doctor. I'm talking about this one:
His intelligent dialogue, quick wit and sarcastic humour has me captivated. Never before has a middle aged British man masquerading as an American seemed so appealing. Props to Hugh Laurie.

Perhaps the biggest challenge I had to face in 2011 was my health - or lack thereof. For about two years straight I had been suffering with various health problems. I'd been to doctor after doctor, spending thousands on incompetent "professionals" who were not interested in helping me as much as they were interested in helping themselves to my money and not really doing anything for me at all. By March/ April this year, the symptoms were so severe that we were convinced it was cancer. I was so freaked out and stressed about it, I even mentioned it to my blogger friend Irfaan. It wasn't the dying I was afraid of. Dying I can do. It's living without knowing what the hell is going on that was killing me slowly.

I began to hate... no scratch that, fucking HATE doctors and refused to see another one. Alternative treatments and holistic healing helped a bit, but it still wasn't pinning down the ongoing problem. Every week was a new thing... the worst was the violent mood swings. I was like a Schizophrenic Bitch from Wonkytown - irrational and irritable most of the time while my endocrine, immune and nervous systems decided to vacation on the Isla de Muerta with witty Jack and his crew of miscreants.

But then one day in early October, all that changed. Strolling in with the fresh spring breeze, was my knight in shining Mercedes. Or BMW. Whatever - I can't remember. These things aren't important to me. I just remember it was black, new, shiny and freaking expensive. And beautiful. And he was beautiful. And he just took one look at me and told me EXACTLY what I had been waiting to hear for so long. And that's what made Mother's Doctor so fucking awesome. He single-handedly put an end to my two-year ongoing misery with just one sentence... and he didn't charge me a cent for it.

Turned out, I'm allergic to Gluten. So since October I've had to say goodbye to Bread, Cake, Biscuits, Burgers, Pizza, Baguettes, Pastries, basically everything made or derived from flour, wheat, rye, oats, barley - and since 90% of everything found in stores contain either - that's almost every single delicious thing under the sun. For at least 3 years. Sucks ass I tell you. But the good news is that all my symptoms have disappeared. And it's a bonafide diagnosis. I'm so grateful for that.

Anyways, so what is there is look forward to in 2012? Well for one, the world's ending. That should be fun. Then there are some major developments at work and having just been promoted, I will only be teaching part-time. The other half of the time will be spent on some interesting projects and initiatives. We're going Global. 

Other than that, I don't really know. I'll just be winging it with the rest of humanity - praying for the best. I do hope to actually DO some of the things I haven't had time for in the last year... I want to read more (books). I want to travel more. I want to take better care of myself.

Every year we wait in vain, hoping that the next year will be better.  I don't lament seeing the end of 2011, but I honestly don't see things being any different in 2012. If anything, it will be more of the same and it might even become worse. Not to be the bearer of doom and gloom.

In the past I've advocated LIVING life numerous times on this blog, and not just existing or becoming a spectator in it. However, I've found that it doesn't help much to do your living in the past or the future - something so many of us are accustomed to doing - to our own detriment. So this year I aim to not only live, but to LIVE IN THE MOMENT. Seize the day.

Happy New Year Everyone. And if all else fails, we can just start again in 2013. Right, as you were.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Coz this is how the other half lives: Xmas around the world...

Only in South Africa can you complain that you don't have enough holidays. It was so unfair that Christmas fell on a Sunday that the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) asked Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to give us an extra holiday. And he said yes. So in addition to yesterday's "Boxing Day" public holiday, today is a public holiday too which is great stuff for us. You gotta love it.

So after some serious blogger discussions on chocolate varieties a few weeks ago, I received this in the post on Christmas eve:
Thanks to Dean at Left Coast Guy who went to extraordinary lengths to get this particular brand of chocolate to me. I really appreciate the effort! The Chocolate with the Caramel centre is my favourite and half the bag is empty already lol.

For the most part, my Christmas was the same as it is every year no matter where I am. In one word: quiet. But this year, some friends felt it apt to make me their designated babysitter for the day, so I was stuck with this for the whole day:
Two year olds can kill you. They're cute, but they can kill you.

Now for most people in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas usually looks like this:

But for all of us here in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas usually looks like this:

Here's what Christmas looked like in other parts of the world (click on images for larger visuals):

Iraqi Christmas is blessed for its inter-communal celebrations. Muslims light candles at Church, wishing their Christian neighbours 'Kul Aam Wa Inta Bikheir' (wellness all year) - the greeting adopted for Muslim & Christian holiday alike:

A Christmas tree stands on Bondi Beach as Australians enjoy their summer in Sydney, Australia:

A Christmas tree lights up the gloomy skyline in La Paz, Bolivia:

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the City and to the World) speech from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec. 25, 2011. Benedict XVI called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria and the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in his Christmas message:

Arab Christians in Baghdad, Iraq attend mass at the Virgin Mary Chaldean Christian Church with Bishop Shlemon Warduni:

Athletes dressed as Santa Claus jump in the Mediterranean Sea as they take part in the Copa Nadal in the northern Spanish port of Barcelona. The Copa Nadal (Christmas Cup) is a traditional swimming competition that takes place in Barcelona every Christmas, where participants swim 200 meters in the open sea in the port of Barcelona:

Dubai indulges in the commercial side of Christmas, displaying shiny, decorated trees. A star or an angel makes it to the dizzy heights atop the tree, with the 'cave' at the bottom, in more traditional households in the Middle East:

Pakistani Christians make final adjustments to decorations on a Christmas tree at St. John’s Cathedral, during preparations for Christmas celebrations in Peshawar, Pakistan:

Manger Square, Bethlehem, West Bank of Palestine. The traditional birthplace of Christ attracts pilgrims and indigenous Arab Christians alike for public Christmas celebrations. In private, the whole family gathers in the house of the eldest male member, be it grandfather or the eldest son, and enjoys a meal rich in meat, fruits and vegetables:

Photographer Johan Caslin waits for customers next to a Christmas tree at an amusement park in Managua, Nicaragua:

Indian Christians pray at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Amritsar, India:

People walk by a Christmas tree and other trees decorated for illuminations in Tokyo, Japan:

A Syrian man dressed as Santa Claus plays with orphans in a Christian neighbourhood in Syria:

Arab Christians living in Jordan attend mass:

Mountaineers wear Santa Claus costumes while rock-climbing on Ansan mountain near Seoul, South Korea:

A father carries his son with a Santa Claus mask while watching the illuminated Sacred Heart's Cathedral on Christmas Day in New Delhi, India:

People dressed as Santa Claus take part in the traditional Christmas race in downtown Belgrade, Serbia:

Palestinian girls outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church is built over the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus:

An Indonesian girl lights a candle during a Christmas mass in Jakarta, Indonesia. Christians in Indonesia - the biggest Muslim country - celebrated Christmas along with the rest of the world on December 25, locally called 'Hari Natal':

A Christmas tree and lights decorate Bolivar square in Bogota, Colombia:

Arab Christians arrive to attend Christmas Eve mass at St Therese Christian Armenian church in Cairo, Egypt:

A Palestinian Christian man places the name of the owner of a destroyed house on the rubble of the Palestinian village of Iqrit during a visit on occasion of Christmas. The several hundred Christian residents living in the hilltop Iqrit village near the Lebanon border were ordered out of their homes in October 1948 amid ongoing fighting of the first Israeli-Arab war, in what the Israeli army said was a temporary measure and the villagers have continued their fight to return, but to no avail:

All images from Getty Images, Associated Press, Reuters & various media outlets.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coz if you've ever wondered what my mornings are like...


07:11am at the kitchen table drinking coffee with the sibling...

Me: I can't believe that I have to go to work today while everyone else is at home, probably still sleeping.

Sis: Tell me about it. I just want to sit here like this for the rest of the day.

Me: Yes, it's a good day to just sit here, like this...

Sis: Well actually I just want to go to London, go have a coffee at Starbucks, walk around Oxford Street, go to H&M, buy some stuff at Lillywhites, eat a donut, sit in Leicester Square and think: this is so much better than New York.

Me: haha. I'm biased. It's funny because you don't actually realise how "British" we are until you go there. Come to think of it, you don't realise how "Dutch" we are either... until you go to Dutch-land.

Sis: Hmmm, that's so true. Colonialists.

Me: But we're quite Americanized in some of our social habits.

Sis: Yeah. Funny thing, I found Americans to be very nice. Which was a bit of a shock to me because we're always hearing about how rude and arrogant they are on TV and in the movies. So I was quite surprised to find that they are actually quite friendly, polite and warm - I had all kinds of people, complete strangers, greeting me and smiling. In some ways they're even better than us! I'm sure you'll find a few racist prejudicial people, they are in every country, but for the most part they're really nice and polite... and that was a pleasant surprise.

Me: I blame the media. The media dictates how we perceive each other... it's the negative media on our side of the world, and the negative media on their side of the world, that influences the way we see each other. But it's hardly fair for everyone on the outside to judge, and in some cases punish, over 300 million people for the views and actions adopted by their government. It's not fair to judge anyone on where they come from and the views of their government. People are different and have their own beliefs and opinions on most things.

Sis: Yep. We should go to America. I'm sure it would be a lot of fun if we went together. We could go to San Francisco, Seattle, LA, Florida and New York...

Me: Yeah we should go! We should go everywhere they tell us not to go. We should go to America and Iran and Colombia and North Korea... and if we die in any of those places, then at least we can say that we died on holiday. It would be better than dying in a hospital bed surrounded by sad, depressing people.

Sis: Yeah. That would be great... it's 07:28am. Do you want to go?

Me: Just one more minute. I just want to savour this moment, before I start running around like a headless chicken for the rest of the day...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Coz I dream of a world where the chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned...

So I've gone from the role of Teacher to Web DeveloperProgrammerOnline Content Manager seemingly overnight. I'm obviously oozing mad skills and talent that apparently, I didn't even know I had. Last week marked the end of a hectic month (I teach month-long courses) and the end of the academic/work year at the institute. But The Boss had other things in mind for me and following a couple of days of training, I found myself being thrown in the deep end, followed by a whole lot of oh-shits.

On the other end of the spectrum that is my life... it's that time of the year again when I have to explain to my 6 year old second cousin Caitlin why she has a huge Christmas tree in her lounge and we don't; or why our cousin Layla's blonde hair and blue eyes doesn't automatically mean that she's Christian; or why Uncle Johnny's shoes are in the street while he's passed out under the kitchen table again. Hey, I never said my family is perfect.

And it's the same answer every year... just because we are different and we have different beliefs and practices, it doesn't mean that we don't love each other any less. What it does mean is that we love each other enough to respect the differences and accept each other for who we are.

So I come from a family that is more than just diverse, on a scale and magnitude that is both intimidating and overwhelming to many pure breeds. Try explaining those family dynamics to a potential mate from the normal gene pool - never mind the traditional folk - and things are complicated by default. Where I come from, normal just doesn't fly.

In any case, working with foreign nationals on a daily basis has made me more than just grateful for my fruit-salad-family. For one, I've taken it to heart that at least I have a family, since a staggering number of my students are displaced from their families and a solid 95% of them have various members of their immediate families scattered all over the world. Most of them have fled from wars or political, social or economic instability.

It's not uncommon to find a student who for instance, has one parent in Australia and the other parent in London or New York, and a sibling in Canada or Portugal and they are here either all by their lonesome or with an aunt or uncle. Most of them are Professionals and some even come from privledged backgrounds, but they're all equally lonely and yearning for a piece of home.

For many of us, this is something that we tend to take for granted. And it's only when I come across someone who is without their family that I realise how grateful I am for mine. We may not share the same culture, practices or beliefs, but we can still appreciate each other for who we are. And that is what Caitlin is going to have to learn one day.

I'd like to wish my Christian family, friends, blogger friends and readers a happy Christmas. And to everyone else, have a great festive season!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coz absence makes the heart grow fonder, of someone else...

There was a time, not so long ago, when I actually looked forward to getting married and having 6 kids. It was on my list of things to do. And then something changed and I no longer wanted a half-dozen kids. And then something broke and I woke up one day no longer wanting to get married. It's not that I'm ruling out marriage forever - if I met the right person tomorrow, it would surely happen. It's just that it's no longer something I actively want. Seeing how miserable most people are in their marriages doesn't exactly champion the cause.

Mother did not take this news well. Firstly, it seriously fucks up her hopes and aspirations for grandkids. And  I'm no promiscuous singleton so no friends-with-benefits-or-any-other-shit-like-that-unless-he's-Damon-fucking-Salvatore-ok. Illegitimate offspring are definitely not on the agenda (I can barely stand the legitimate ones, lets not go to the other side of the tracks ok, I know, I'm a bitch like that). And ever since then, I have endured all sorts of lectures on the natural procession of life... about how it's different when the kids are your own blah blah blah.

In the meantime, I find myself in all sorts of precarious situations with various members of the opposite sex - again, not helping any cause here. The latest one confuses the shit out of me. Let's call him Sunday because that's the day he features prominently in my life. However, if it continues like this he's going to become Tuesday, the most boring guy in my life day of my week.

Anyways, Sunday is a workaholic. To his defence, he doesn't have much choice in the matter and long hours at the office are an unfortunate norm. What this means for me is that I'm usually relegated to the end of his list of priorities - and I'm totally fine with that, it's not like we're dating or anything like that. We're just in the preliminary rounds of a somewhat important friendship of sorts.

So Sunday sends me a message at 11:30pm on Friday night. He had a hectic day and really wanted a cup of coffee. Specifically, he wanted me to make him a cup of coffee, at 11:30pm. Now three things bothered me about this. Firstly, I don't appreciate last minute meetings or invitations. Secondly, I wasn't keen on having him over at my place at that hour (even though I knew he had just left his office). And thirdly, it was a long hectic day and I had taken two painkillers earlier in the evening so even if I did acquiesce to his request, I was way too drowsy to entertain anyone.

And so I told him that I wasn't feeling too good and asked him if we couldn't reschedule for another day or evening. He said it was fine, but something felt off. Like he was angry with me or something. I sent him another message the following day suggesting a time when we could have coffee together and received no response. I sent another one a few hours later (y'know, in case for some reason he didn't receive it) and... nothing. At this point I was annoyed, but still polite enough to text him and ask him if he's angry with me. Still, nothing.

By then I felt bad because I'm a considerate and sensitive asshole-masochist like that. So I made him an entire pot of coffee and bought some cake at the local bakery and delivered it to his place where it was welcomed by one of his house-mates. And then still... no answer from him.

Irritated, I thought to myself, "Fuck him" and responded to an invitation from Thursday (another guy). And then, almost a day later, while I was chatting to Monday via telephone, Sunday messages me to say that he's been swamped with work and that he's not angry with me. And I was like WTF? It took him an entire day just to send that teeny tiny response? Am I missing something? Or maybe he really was very busy - too busy to respond. But I can't help feeling that not even suave Mr. Friday would have done that to me.

I'm not equipped to play these games. I don't know what he wants. In fact, I don't know what any man wants. And I can't be bothered to put the effort into finding out anymore. Can anyone seriously blame me for not wanting to make this kind of childish behaviour a permanent fixture in my life? Oh man, I have stories, I could write a book...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Coz sometimes we need to laugh...

I had an awesome weekend with my girls. Any moment spent with them are guaranteed to be filled with mega-LOL's. We had lunch at Doppio Zero in Greenside. And we laughed. Man did we laugh. I know some of the funniest ladies.

So we got talking about dates-gone-wrong and one of my cousins was relaying the disaster that was her date the night before. She kept on falling throughout the night. At one point she slipped down the stairs and he tried to catch her but she landed on her bum at the bottom of the stairs. They were on their way to pay for the parking ticket and she just sat there on the floor and told him to go ahead, that she'd wait for him (sitting on the floor).

Man did we laugh. I recalled some of my disastrous dates. The weirdest "relationship" being one via text message. Yeah, I had an entire "relationship" on my mobile/ cell phone. Every time he saw me, he'd run away and pretend he didn't know me. But on sms, things were amazing. It was probably the most fruitful relationship that never was.

I've mentioned this before, but the funniest dating disaster I've ever heard of was from one of my closest friends. She was in love with this guy for like forever... and then one day, he eventually asked her out to dinner. She was so excited and nervous that she wasn't thinking straight. She ordered pasta. As the evening wore on and her food arrived, she proceeded to slurp a strand of Spaghetti into her mouth and was met with shock and horror when some of the marinara sauce splattered all over her face. 

Thinking it was just a fluke, she did it again, and got some marinara on her eyelashes and on his shirt. Then at one point, she realised that she was on a date with him... the same him that she'd spent hours dreaming of... and she became so overwhelmed that she started crying. Crying! And he was wiping away her tears, telling her not to cry. And of course, she wanted to DIE the very next day.

Oi, we can be such idiots. I should know. There was that one time, on that one date, when I accidentally set myself on fire. I happened to be wearing a long black dress and fortunately, the only visible damage was from a few sparks that had burnt tiny holes on the bottom half of the dress. Thanks to the Lord it turned out to be minor and the only injury I incurred was a bruised ego and wounded dignity.

And so we laughed. Recalling old tales and telling new ones. Some of them too PG-ish to divulge here. In fact, we laughed from about 1pm until around 7pm. And we racked up a hell-of-a bill. After contemplating how many dishes we'd have to do versus how much jail time if we forfeited on the bill, we paid and were on our merry way... laughing all the way home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coz here are 5 ridiculous things you probably believe about Islam - regurgitated...

I quite enjoy spending most of my time with foreigners. But with the diversity come a lot of questions about me and my beliefs. I could never ever encapsulate everything I believe in one single conversation or post... but I can try by debunking a few myths. And so, as it happened, I stumbled across this old post by and it's done so well, that I feel no need to change anything.


A conservative commentator recently made headlines by claiming 10 percent of all of the world's Muslims are terrorists. An amazing claim, considering that equals 150 million terrorists and if each were to pull off an attack killing just 40 people, they could exterminate all non-Muslim life on earth.


Either they're not all that dedicated to terrorism, or the claim is utter insanity.
Well, if there's one thing everyone thinks of when they hear "Cracked.com" it's "friend of Islam." Which is why we feel compelled to clarify a few misconceptions for our readers. Also, there is no way this article will ever come back to haunt us in any way.
#5. If You're a Muslim Woman, You Have to Wear the Veil
For millions of people in the West, when you say "Islam," the first mental image that pops into mind is this:

A two-person Scotch-garded version would sell like hotcakes.
A woman covered head to toe in a burqa. The truth is, if you could suddenly gather all of the Muslim women on the planet into one giant room and had to throw a football to someone wearing a burqa, it'd be next to impossible to complete that pass.
But the whole hide-them-under-a-veil thing must be pretty big among Muslim communities, otherwise Europe wouldn't be all in in a dither over the things, pushing for bans and whatnot. Right?

Look at them there, plotting new ways to drive super-slow in the HOV lane.
After all, we all know that Islam hates women -- the fact that Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that actually prohibits women from driving, or that only predominantly Muslim countries still use death by stoning as a punishment for adultery, proves it, right?
But Actually...
Thinking that all Muslim women have to dress like this...
...is like thinking that all Christian women have to dress like this:
That photo is from one of several small Christian sects that require women to dress like it's Little House on the Prairie.
So for instance, in France they have about 3 million Muslim women. French police decided to figure out how many of them wore burqas and/or niqabs and found the number to be ... 367.

Then again, these were French police.
Not 367,000, but 367, a number so small that from a statistical point of view, it's barely enough to register as a margin of error. As for the rest of Europe, the numbers are even more disastrous for the burqa business (for instance, Belgium has 500,000 Muslims, a couple dozen wear the burqa).
Yes, there are Middle Eastern countries where the veils are required by law (namely Iran and Saudi Arabia) and combined those countries have less than 5 percent of the world's Muslims. There are actually more Muslim countries that outright ban the wearing of the veils than there are that require them. They can do that because wearing a veil is not required in Islam but is more of a custom, depending on where you live and who's in charge.

Much like hot pants.
Hey, speaking of which, try this number on for size: Of the five most populous Muslim-majority nations, four of them have elected female heads of state.
So there's a fantastic chance that in 2012, Sarah Palin will be campaigning for an achievement that Muslim ladies have already accomplished.

We bet Megawati Sukarnoputri knows the United States doesn't have a Department of Law.
#4. Our Founding Fathers Would Never Have Tolerated This Muslim Nonsense!
It's easy to stand on a soapbox and publicly bluster about what you think the Founding Fathers would think about the godless, multicultural United States today. After all, these were Christian, God-fearing men, damn it. They certainly wouldn't put up with all this tolerance for these terrorist religions.

Thomas Jefferson, moments before leaping into the air on a giant eagle and drop-kicking Saladin.
It's a good thing some Americans are standing up for good old-fashioned American values and passing laws to prohibit Islamic law from taking over the U.S., because that's totally around the corner! Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson is smiling in his grave!
But actually...
Even if they were staunch Christians (or deists, whatever), plenty of the Founding Fathers had a healthy admiration for the Muslim faith. Thomas Jefferson, for example, taught himself Arabic using his own copy of the Quran and hosted the first White House Iftar during Ramadan.

Jefferson believed in celebrating the deliciousness of all world religions.
John Adams hailed the Islamic prophet Muhammad as one of the great "inquirers after truth." Benjamin Rush, who was so Christian he wanted a Bible in every school, also said he would rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammad "inculcated upon our youth" than see them grow deprived "of a system of religious principles." Benjamin Franklin once declared: "Even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service." Even George fucking Washington personally welcomed Muslims to come work for him at Mount Vernon.
So, why all this Founding Father/Muslim love? Probably because Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah of Morocco was the first world figure to recognize the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain in 1777. Another reason was that the Founding Fathers were smart enough to distinguish between terrorists and everybody else on the whole damn planet, as demonstrated in the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797. It was in this agreement that the U.S. declared: "The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Mussulmen [Moslems]."

Another possible translation.
#3. "Muslim" Equals "Arab"
Remember that crazy lady with the Einstein hair who asked John McCain if Barack Obama was an Arab? No? Well, let us refresh your memory:

The instant John McCain realized that he would never, ever be president.
We're willing to bet there's more than a 20 percent chance this woman meant to say "Muslim" but accidentally said "Arab" because same thing, right? And even if you're not in the tea party camp, where you're convinced "Arab" and "Muslim" are interchangeable, you've probably operated under a similar assumption: that non-Jewish Middle Eastern people are Muslim and that most Muslims live in the Middle East.
But actually...
Only about 20 percent of the entire world's Muslim population is Arab or North African. For comparison, about 22 percent of the global Christian population is African, yet when somebody says "Christian," you don't immediately picture a dude from Africa. Equating "Muslim" with "Arab" makes just as much sense.

That'd be like associating "Kansas" with "hate-filled douchebags".
While we in the West have been conditioned to associate Islam with the Middle East, a whopping 61.9 percent of all Muslims -- aka a supermajority -- don't live in the Middle East at all; most Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region. Indonesia alone is home to more than 200 million Muslims, and the Indian subcontinent has roughly a half-billion Muslims.
It works the other way, too. For example, if you think being Arab guarantees you being Muslim these days, well, we are sorry to disappoint. As much as 10 percent of the world's Arab population is Christian (that's more than 14 million people). That means there are 1 million more Arab Christians than, oh, we don't know ... the world's entire Jewish population.
#2. Western Cultures Are Far More Humane Than the Bloodthirsty Muslims
Even before the whole terrorism thing, Islam had a reputation in the West for violence. Part of it has to do with how abruptly Islam was all up in everyone's face. For instance, while Hinduism took about 1,000 years to spread through India, and Christianity took about 400 years to go from persecuted cult to the state religion of the Roman Empire, Islam went from one guy's epiphany to the dominant political and religious force in the Middle East and North Africa in about 100 years.
So a lot of people have reached the conclusion that the religion spread like holy wildfire for one reason: the sword. The next logical leap from this viewpoint is that as a people, Muslims must be violent and barbaric conquerors. Even before 9/11, you saw this portrayal in popular culture all the time:
But actually...
Muhammad laid out some pretty progressive rules of warfare, and medieval Muslims out-niced the Christians in battle by a landslide. Especially since Muhammad personally issued "a distinct code of conduct among Islamic warriors" that included:
No killing of women, children or innocents -- these might include hermits, monks or other religious leaders who were deemed non-combatants;

  • No wanton killing of livestock or other animals;

  • No burning or destruction of trees and orchards; and

  • No destruction of wells.

And no kicking with cleats on, Jeremy.
In short, Muhammad wanted his armies to fight like freaking hippies. During the fucking Dark Ages.And they did.
But the biggest territorial gains were made after Muhammad's death, right? Maybe that was when Islam earned its bloodthirsty reputation? Not exactly. His successor codified the existing rules and made them the standard for his army. Which probably explains why the Muslim army conquering Europe "exhibited a degree of toleration which puts many Christian nations to shame," in the words of one expert.

Plus, they built all sorts of nifty buildings.
So while Christian crusaders were beheading enemies and tossing their heads like oversized hacky sacks, their Muslim counterparts had a whole honor code that led them to feed the armies of their defeated enemies.
#1. Islam Is Stuck in the Dark Ages
There are really three big negative stereotypes about Islam -- that it hates women, that it's violent and that it hates any kind of scientific progress. We've covered the first two already, but how can you argue against the third? Their governments are based on ancient religious texts! And what diseases has Iran cured?

You guys could at least take out herpes or something.
But actually...
In the same way that not all Christians are Young Earth Creationists, plenty of modern Muslims see room for interpretation in the Quran. In fact, 45 percent of American Muslims in one poll said they see evolution as "the best explanation for the origin of human life on Earth," which isn't so shabby, considering only 24 percent of evangelical Christians believed the same. The percentage of Muslims embracing the scientific explanation for the origin of life was about the same as Americans as a whole (48 percent).

If they only knew how to communicate their views like we do ...
And historically, they have a hell of a track record. Science and math as we know it wouldn't even exist without Islam. The Islamic Golden Age caused a revolution in virtually every field of human thought, during which they fucking invented algebra -- and advanced everything from geography and exploration to the arts, architecture, philosophy, urban development, medicine and health.
The Muslims actually came pretty damn close to sharing all this brilliance with the truly ass-backward kingdoms of Christian Europe, since the Islamic caliphates blanketed every country they conquered with schools, libraries, public works and the most comprehensive system of social welfare on the planet. In fact, the case has been made that if the caliphates succeeded in conquering all of Europe an Italian Renaissance would have been unnecessary.

It would have saved us all a lot of dong-staring, too.
So, there's that.