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// December 1st, 2006 // Blog

In academic circles, research scientists, especially PhD students, are frankly, cheap labour. We do all the hard work, get very little pay, even less thanks, and virtually no credit. The Principal Investigator (the guy/ gal [mainly guy] who heads the group) however does very little work, gets a lot of pay, even more thanks and 99.9% of the credit.

That sounds fair, right?

Well, they were once small-fry too i suppose.

I actually thought of a good analogy this morning for the relationship between the P.I. and their lowly researchers. There are two main types:

1) The Circus – the group leader in this analogy is known as the “Ring Master”. We, the research scientists are the circus animals. He cracks the whip, we do our tricks and the audience applauds. Circus animals have very little say in what they do, they simple wait for the command from the Ring Master. Circus animals do all the entertaining, and yet have to go to sleep in small cages. The Ring Master barely breaks a sweat and yet sleeps in a luxury trailer.

2) The Zoo – here the P.I. is the zoo-keeper. The scientists are once again, the animals! The animals still do all the entertaining, however now they are responsible for how and when this takes place. The environment is a little more comfortable and open than a steel cage, however in reality, it is a still an enclosure. The zoo-keeper's role is simply to make sure the animals are well fed but he gives little direction on what the animals should do at any given time.

The advantage of the first scenario over the second is that even though the Ring Master is a bit of a fascist, due to his training and direction the circus is far more entertaining than the zoo. Zoo animals have more freedom, but this actually gives them a false sense of security – they think they are doing well in their job, only to find that they are boring as hell and no-one wants to pay to see them. Some zoo animals are clever (most likely because they are ex-circus) and know how to pull the punters. Most however are directionless and fail to produce anything but excrement, and thus are eventually put down.

Either way research scientists are dumb animals who work until they die or run-away, and it's the P.I.s who reap in all the money and fame. An animal cannot go against its master, nor will any other human take any notice of its opinion – it is an animal after all!

If you're wondering which camp i fall in, it's most definitely the zoo.

I cannot wait to be released into the wild!

Anyway, i shall stop with the animal analogies… it's a bit depressing. I suddenly feel for my animal brethren. I think all zoos and circuses should be closed (i mean the real ones) except for those involved in conservation, of course.

Speaking of animals, i found an interesting article on Animal Rights in Islam the other day.

And you thought you'd escaped the “I”-word!

Never! Muwahaha!

Anyway, i'm going home – this bird needs feeding. ba-doom-TISH!

Laters Alligators [OK, OK! I am stopping now!]

14 Responses to “Grrrowl…”

  1. thekid89 says:

    While you present good thoughts, I would like to question, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

  2. iMuslim says:

    Hello “the kid”… can i call you Billy? Sorry, terrible joke…

    Thank you for your kind comment and your excellent question.

    I suppose the choice i have now is to either answer with the standard “islamic” response, or a personal one.

    Well, i will start off with the standard response, which funnily enough has been written in the form of a personal essay by this gentleman. He posted the link on my site a few days ago and i cannot get over how good an explanation of Islam it is, mashallah. I highly recommend you read it first because i’m not sure i can top it!!

    And now for my personal response. This is not the easiest thing to answer, as I basically agree with everything in the article above.

    I suppose it may help you a little if i related some of my personal history – knowing me, this will take a while. If you’re partial, brew a cup of tea first!

    Unlike Linus, i was born into a Muslim community. That does not mean i was brought up as a practising Muslim. Far from it in fact. I knew very little about Islam for most of my life. I think i actually knew more about Christianity as i attended both primary and secondary Christian schools. I suppose i lived most of my life as a “cultural” Muslim, as the word was more of a label then a religious identity to me. This is still true for much of my community, though things are changing now because of all the anti-Islam hysteria; people are being forced to reassess themselves. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but i’m beginning to digress…

    Anyway, I always believed in God that’s for sure, and would often pray to Him in a personal “please help me, i’m in trouble!” kind of way – i think many of us do that! So for me, the existence of God was never an issue.

    I suppose my return journey to Islam was a long and subtle one. Most of my friends have always been study-buddies. When i look back, it seems that the different friends i made at each stage of my education were becoming more religiously-minded as i progressed up the ladder. So at secondary school, none of my friends were Muslim, and we were not that serious about religion in general even upon reaching our late teens. Then at university, i met many different kinds of people as happens in such a diverse environment, and i made some friends who were more open about discussing their beliefs, including some who plain didn’t believe at all.

    One of my closest Uni friends was a Christian, and although we never went into detail about either of our faiths (i didn’t know enough about Islam to do that anyway) she was the first person who i could mention the “G”-word in front off without being embarrassed. We had many heart-to-hearts about many different subjects but i could tell our bond was only strengthened by our mutual belief in God.

    After i graduated, i went on to study for my Masters. Here i made my first semi-practising, semi-aware Muslim friend (i’ll call her N). We were very alike – neither of us knew much about Islam, were not really practising and could not hold a conversation about the topic for more then a few minutes – i think that was more due to my ignorance than hers. By that time it was 2002 and so we were living in the early days of the post-9/11 era. Up until then i had not been affected by the whole event. Of course i was mortified by it, but as i was not a practising Muslim it never became directly relevant to my life. No-one came up to me asking awkward questions about Islam or accusing me of being a terrorist! However, after making friends with N, things changed a little. I started to take more interest in current affairs involving Muslims, but to be honest it was only because of my cultural affiliation with Islam. However this interest was put on hold when N and I were effectively separated after starting our full-time research projects.

    After my second graduation, i moved onto my PhD (yes – i am the eternal student!). It was then that i finally came face-to-face with a practising Muslim woman! As i said before, most of my family were not practising. She (“S”) didn’t even realise i was Muslim until Ramadaan (the fasting month; please refer to my Glossary for explanation of terms in italics) started and i mentioned i was also fasting. What made the greatest impression on me was her inner-strength. Like most non-Muslims, i thought Muslim women who observed hijab [Islamic clothing for women] were little lambs who didn’t have much to say except “this is Haram and that is Haram!”. S blew the lid right off that misconception. She somehow managed to display an assertive attitude whilst maintaining her wonderfully demure femininity. Later i was to realise that this trait was not unique to S but is commonly found in many Muslim women who have fully embraced Islam. Anyway, we became good friends, and for several months there was very little mention of our religion.

    Then, one day S comes up to me while i’m working at my bench and very innocently asks:

    S: “Why don’t you wear the hijab?”
    Me: “Errrm…”
    S: “Is it because your mum doesn’t wear it?”
    Me: “Errrm… i.. er… maybe?”
    S: “I was just wondering. Anyway, i’ll let you get on with your work.”
    Me: “Err… OK!”

    Now, that doesn’t seem like a very interesting or significant conversation, but it was the start of an avalanche of soul-searching!

    For the next i-don’t-know-how-many weeks, all i could think about was that question. It wasn’t even like she asked “Why don’t you pray the salat?” which is the most important pillar of Islam after the shahada (testimony of belief in there being only one God, and Muhammad being His Messenger). In comparison to the salat, the hijab is a secondary part of being a Muslim woman. But for some reason that question got under my skin like you won’t believe!

    The worst part was, i didn’t even have an answer! It was like there was a huge void where my opinion should have been. That is when i started scouring the internet to read about Islam, mainly in my quest to find a scholarly opinion that said “Hijab is not compulsory”! A bit sad, i know. My investigation into the hijab and its rulings opened a door of questioning that had been firmly bolted for most of my life: Why am i a Muslim? Or should i say: Why am i not a Muslim? What was my excuse for not following the commandments of Islam? What were the commandments of Islam anyway??!!

    After some more research and a LOT of deliberating, i eventually came to the rock-solid conclusion that i had avoided Islam all my life for no good reason and i had to start practising it asap. There was no getting away from it – the evidence was stacked up against me and my natural aversion to go against the grain of society. I decided rather oddly, that my first step was to wear the hijab. And so, on Easter Sunday of 2004 i did just that. I don’t think my sense of timing was very good though. That day my mum had returned from India and i had to go to Heathrow airport to collect her – at the time the Army had posted tanks there to protect against some sort of terrorist threat. So not the best day to begin Islamifying myself!!

    Anyway, i survived that ordeal unscathed, but there was worse to come… Now i had to go into work as a identifiable Muslim!

    [dramatic music]

    “What will my supervisor say?!”
    “What will my colleagues think??”
    “Will they even let me on the Underground?!”

    These were just some of the thoughts that were frantically passing through my mind from the moment i opened my eyes on the first morning back to work. As i approached my building, my heart began to beat violently and i was getting the sweats. I swear this was one of the hardest things i ever had to do in my life! Once again, my timing was awful as that day we had a lab meeting. That meant EVERYONE in my group was going to ge

    t an eyeful of me in my new Islami-outfit, including my then scary boss!

    And you know what happened??

    Absolutely NOTHING! That’s right – zilch, nada, niente.

    No-one questioned me. No-one made any funny comments. There was no laughing and/or pointing. It was like nothing had changed!

    Even so, i was sure i’d get a reaction of some sorts from S because i hadn’t mentioned anything to her about the subject since she asked me the question all that time ago. But even her response was somewhat limp compared to what i imagined:

    Me: “So… what do you think?”
    S: “Hmm?”
    Me: “Y’know, about the hijab?”
    S: “Oh! That’s nice. Is it permanent?”
    Me: “Well, of course, inshallah!”
    S: “Oh – OK!”
    Me: [WTF?!!] Note: i hadn’t forgotten my terrible swearing habit at the time!

    So i learnt an important lesson that day. All those stupid thoughts in your head that tell you not to bother with openly obeying God, keeping faith on the “inside”, not to “rock the boat” – they are stupid indeed. Most of the time no-one else cares what you do, as long as you’re not harming them or anyone else.

    Anyway, after that “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” moment i made a much greater effort to read about Islam. I read many books, the most important one being the English translation of the Qur’an (please see Glossary for more info), i continuously questioned S and the other sisters i met, i scoured the internet for articles both for and against Islam. In fact, i think i neglected my PhD more than a little during this time! However after all this research i never thought: “Hang on, none of this makes sense!”. If anything, the more i read, the more i questioned, the more i contemplated, the more everything fit. Islam made sense of the world. Not in a supernatural, hocus-pocus kind of way. It was rational, it explained man’s purpose, it flowed with his nature and reason without conflict – a seamless finish.

    I especially worried about the whole “Science vs Religion” debate that everyone goes on and on about. It seems to me that it should be re-labeled the “Science vs Judeo-Christianity” debate as most people argue over certain verses from the Old Testament. Although Islam teaches to respect the Bible, as it has genuine roots, Muslims do not believe it to be the complete word of God. So it is likely that the verses being debated are not divinely inspired. Thank God, the Qur’an does not suffer from the same problem. If anything, it goes hand in hand with genuine scientific discoveries such as the Big Bang theory and embryology, which was a shock to me! Muslims have always enjoyed a healthy relationship with Science from the outset, especially in the fields of Medicine, Maths and Astronomy. It is unfortunate to see how the “modern” Muslim world lags behind the “West” these days as our predecessors were pioneers of these subjects.

    Now, just under three years later, i am still learning about Islam. However i would say my efforts are more concentrated on improving my character and my willpower to better practise beneficial deeds such as charity, justice, and good manners, and to try and stay away from harmful deeds, such as selfishness, miserliness and general bad manners. Slamming my swearing was hard but i got through it, just about!

    It can sometimes be hard to stay calm when everyone around you seems to be losing their heads over repeated accusations of Islamo-fascism or whatever the heck it is called now. I know there are many problems in the Muslim world, but the root cause for most of them is not Islam, but rather a great ignorance of Islam! I only hope this changes soon for the betterment of not only the Muslims, but for all of mankind.

    So after all that, i think my answer to your question of “Why do i believe in Islam?” is simply “because there is no good reason not to!”.

    I pray you found my answer useful. I’m sorry for going on a bit – i tend to waffle! If you require any more information about Islam then please visit the links on my main page. Please feel free to ask more questions and i will try to answer them as best i can, God-willing.

    I thank you once again for your question and pray God guides you to the truth.

    Best wishes,


    P.S., I am bound to get some hostile responses to this comment – it is up to you to consider them but i first ask you to read the Qur’an and the Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which can be found on my main page before making up your mind about what Islam really is. Thanks and best wishes once again.

  3. Daniel says:

    Z…., this must be the longest, but the most sincere comment ever written.

    It’s interesting that you would observe that you’ve always believed in God. Did this come from nature or nurture? Cheers!

  4. iMuslim says:

    Hi D!

    I try to be sincere wherever possible as there is no point in lying about these things, no matter what other people may think!

    Wrt your Q, there is an interesting narration from Muhammad (peace be upon him) explaining that belief in one God is our nature from birth:

    “Every child is born upon fitrah [natural belief in and submission to God], then it is his parents who make him Jewish, or Christian, or Magian (Zoroastrian), just as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal; do you find it mutilated?” [al-Bukhari]

    This is why i think so many people believe in God – or a God-like being(s) without much encouragement.

    I haven’t done a survey or anything, but it seems many atheists believed in God at some point in their lives, usually during childhood.

    As it would be virtually impossible to separate the effect of nature from that of nurture, the answer to this question will rest on personal opinion.

    My own experience suggests that my belief in God was natural, but the outcome of this belief was moulded by many different environmental factors.

  5. Lucyp says:

    Do you not consider your upbringing as influential on your religious stance? I only ask because i was raised in an atheist manner and God and the Bible etc was never mentioned and i put that upbringing down to my Atheist beliefs now. (My parents were also total hippies which I put down my pacifist beliefs down to)

  6. iMuslim says:

    Do you not consider your upbringing as influential on your religious stance?

    Yes, of course it had a great influence for most of my life. My parents were not practising Muslims either so i never felt any pressure to learn about Islam to any significant degree until the incident i described above at the start of my PhD.

    Thankfully both my parents and I have both undergone somewhat of a revival in the last few years. I’m not sure if i had anything to do with their change in behaviour, as i wasn’t home much!

    I actually faced some resistance from my father when i started practising. I think he was worried that i had fallen in with some strange sect or movement. There are quite a few out there. I think my newbie zealousy didn’t help! Things are much better now that i’ve settled into my faith.

  7. Daniel says:

    Given that our world is the largest circus/zoo of them all do you want that to be closed down too, Z….?

    Only joking! Cheers!

  8. iMuslim says:

    Given that our world is the largest circus/zoo of them all do you want that to be closed down too, Z….?



  9. Isha' says:

    About the relationship of terrorism and Islam:
    Robert Pape’s findings

    And a piece of Conversation with History with Pape (1 hour video).

    And my effort to sum up and to build upon.

    Muhammad’s Sword is always a good read.

  10. Isha' says:

    About the relationship of terrorism and Islam:
    Robert Pape’s findings

    And a piece of Conversation with History with Pape (1 hour video).

    And my effort to sum up and to build upon.

    Muhammad’s Sword is always a good read.

  11. Farzeen says:

    Assalaamu’alaykum wa rahmatu Allah sis

    That was a beautiful account of your ‘journey to Islam.’ SubhanAllah… A ‘born again Muslim’..hehe. It’s beautiful. :) There’s a zeal that people have after they’ve searched and found, and alhamduliAllah you have it.

    May Allah continue to fill your heart with His nur, ameen!

  12. Anonymous says:

    May I commend Dr. Mani Bhaumik’s Code Name: God ?

  13. iMuslim says:

    Thank you very much for that link; it looks very interesting! I may invest in a copy… thanks again!

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