Thursday, June 11, 2009

Islamophobia in context of the broader assault on religion

Although most Muslims are understandably concerned with hatred and fear directed towards Muslims which has been studied in books like as Islamophobia: Making the Muslims the Enemy, it just recently occurred to me (and I will admit that sometimes it takes me a very long time to realize the obvious) to put Islamophobia ("anxiety of Islam") in the context of the broader assault on religion all together.

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith & Letter to a Christian Nation, Richard Dawkins author of The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything are probably the biggest names (and best-selling authors) of this phenomenon.

By placing Islamophobia in context of the broader assault on religion in general, the over-glorification and even idolization of reason and science into a utopic belief system where religious beliefs and those who believe in them including Muslims are all seen as impediments and threats becomes clearer.

About "the new atheists, who attack a repugnant version of religion, [but] use it to condemn all religion," (p. 33) Chris Hedges in I don’t believe in Atheists writes:

"The agenda of the new atheists, however, is disturbing. These atheists embrace a belief system as intolerant, chauvinistic, and bigoted as that of religious fundamentalists. They propose a route to collective salvation and the moral advancement of the human species through science and reason. The utopian dream of a perfect society and a perfect human being, the idea that we are moving toward collective salvation, is one of the most dangerous legacies of the Christian faith and the Enlightenment. All too often throughout history, those who believed in the possibility of this perfection (variously defined) have called for the silencing or eradication of human beings who are impediments to human progress. They turn their particular notion of the good into an inflexible standard of universal good. They prove blind to their own corruption and capacity for evil. They soon commit evil not for evil's sake but to make a better world." (pg. 1-2)

Hedges writes that "the new-atheist attack on absurd forms of religion is also used to avoid confronting the core and most important issues taken up religious thought." (p. 100-101) Indeed, instead they

"offer an escape from moral responsibility and civic engagement. They express the dreams the dreams and desires of a morally stunted middle class. They promote, under a scientific veneer, the selfish lusts of the consumer society and the deadening provincialism of the petite bourgeoisie. Dawkins, in an example of this pedestrian vision, draws up his own list of commandments to replace the Biblical injunctions. He advises people to enjoy their sex lives as long as they don't harm anyone else. He calls on parents not to indoctrinate their children but to evaluate evidence. His are hollow, liberal platitudes that casually deny the seductive lusts of violence, evil and abuse - lusts that the biblical writers who wrote the commandments understood and feared. These atheists are suburban mutations. They are products of a moral and political landscape corrupted by too much television, rampant waste, unchecked self-indulgence, wealth, too little contemplation, the physical destruction of community and a loss of the sacred. They tell us we are good. They tell us we will get better. And they warn us not to get in the way of progress." (p. 86-87)
And among those who get in the way are Muslims:
In The End of Faith, Harris, in passages that could be lifted from a sermon by a Christian fundamentalists, calls for a nuclear first strike against the Islamic world. He defends torture as a logical form of interrogation. He, like all utopians, has reduced millions of human beings and culture he knows nothing about to primitive impediments to his vision of a better world...Harris again reduces a fifth of the world's population to a vast, primitive enemy. He argues that we may have to murder "tens of millions of people in a single day." His bigotry, and the bigotry of all who dehumanizes others, is used to justify indiscriminate slaughter and atrocity. The people to be killed, we are told, are not distinct individuals. They do not have hopes and aspirations. They only appear human. They must be destroyed because of what they represent, what lurks beneath the surface of their human form. This dehumanization, especially by those who live in a society with the technological capacity to carry out acts of massive slaughter, is terrifying."-pg. 36-37.
I haven't read Bruce Bawer's new book (2009) Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (but unfortunately had to see it on display at Barnes and Nobles) - I wonder whether it would fit into this same utopic over-simplifying thinking of the new atheists...Paul Barrett, author of American Islam has a review in last Sunday's Washington Post which you can read here.

Last Chance to Apply for Zaytuna Summer Arabic Intensive

June 22 to August 14, 2009
Berkeley, California

Application Deadline: Monday, June 15


Local (Tuition-Only) Option Available!


Mohammad Abderrazzaq, Boston University
Elsa Elmahdy, American University of Cairo
Aymen Elsheikh, Indiana University, Bloomington
Dawood Yasin, Zaytuna Institute
Souhad Zendah, Tufts University

Click here
to learn more about our instructors..


Hatem Bazian, UC Berkeley
Aishah Holland, Calligrapher, student of master calligrapher, Mohamed Zakariya
Kenneth Honerkamp, University of Georgia
Zaid Shakir, Zaytuna Institute
Hamza Yusuf, Zaytuna Institute

Click here for an updated list of visiting scholars.


  • 8-week program in Berkeley, California
  • 5 hours of instruction a day, 5 days a week
  • Equivalent to 1 year of university-level Arabic
  • Introductory (no prerequisite), intermediate, and advanced courses
  • World-class faculty
  • Competitive tuition
  • Guest lectures by renowned scholars
  • Deluxe accommodations
  • Tuition-only option available for local students

for more information

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More on the Cairo Speech + Juan Cole speaking tomorrow

[Taking more of a blogging style as Haroon Moghul does and linking to articles instead of copying and pasting entire ones...]:

Check out these two articles of authors critical of Obama's Cairo speech: one by Chris Hedges (who's I don't Believe in Atheists I'm reading right now and am massively underlining whole passages in) called Hold Your Applause and another by Anis Shivani entitled The Speech Obama Didn't Give to the Muslim World (shukran to Dawud McCarthy for this!)

Juan Cole, the author of Engaging the Muslim World is to speak in NYC at Columbia tomorrow (Thursday). Click here for details (kufi tip :) to islamicate for this)

Lastly, see Omer Subhani's post Frank Gaffney is off his rocker regarding a most idiotic piece America's first Muslim president?

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Jackson

“Neither assimilationism is nor rejectionism is a route for Muslims to go today; rather the only option that we have is that of indigenization.”

I really do believe that this twenty first century and in fact the first quarter of this twenty first century will be an enormously important era in the history of Islam in America.

It is this period that future generations will look back to and if those generations are successful and they are enjoying a dignified existence as Muslims in America, neither assimilated nor isolated, then they will look back to the activities of this generation, this one right here, and say "that was the beginning."

And if they are failures, they will look still, back to this generation, this one right here, and say "they were failures."

We are right now making history whether we like it or not. If we do absolutely nothing, we are making history and our contribution to history therefore will be nothing. Allah has placed us in a historically significant place and now we are living in a historically significant time, and what we do will make all the difference in the world.”

(Dr. Sherman Jackson, Muslims at the Crossroads,
ISNA 2003)

E-baad-e News

Young Muslims Seeking a Way Between Two Worlds

Article in the Washington Post: Seeking a Way Between Two Worlds: Young Muslims Strive to Uphold Their Faith, Find a Place in the Dominant Culture

Many had just entered high school in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks and now, eight years later, they are leaving college and choosing their path in life. Young Muslims in the Washington area are part of a generation that appears markedly different from their parents in career choices, assimilation and views of their religion. (Keep reading...)
Thanks to Zyad Qamer for this!
E-baad-e News

History of Muslim Societies class at Jamaica Muslim Center (NYC)

A thematic inquiry into Islamic History organized over five sessions:

A. On Historiography- What is Islamic History?

B. View from the Center - Caliphs & Sultans

C. Visions of Islam - Faqih or Faqir?

D. View from the Edge - Conversion & Islamization

E. Colonial Modernity - Revival & Reform

F. Edge of the Future - Islam in America

As a seminar it will be driven by weekly readings and class discussions. The classes will be held at Jamaica Muslim Cent
er [Masjdid al-Mamoor, 85-37 168TH Street. Jamaica, NY 11432] on Saturdays: June 27th, July 11th, 18th, 25th, and Aug 1st from 5:45pm to 8:00pm.

The Class is FREE but you must REGISTER at ISLAMTRIUMPHANT@GMAIL.COM to reserve a seat. Please provide us with your 1) Name, 2) Email address 3) Background in the subject, and 4) Expectations of the Seminar to help us organize and give you access to course syllabus, materials and updates. Last day to register online is June 20th 2009.

Visit Course Website

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One of my favorite quotes from Emerson

"The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loth to disappoint them.

With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. -- "Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood." -- Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."

Ralph Waldo Emerson in "Self-Reliance"

E-baad-e News

identity politics: the path to peace?

Although I think I recognize the importance of identity politics as John Esposito asserts, (shukran to MR for that) especially in a context where Muslims have been the target of fear-mongering and stigmatization, so that it does feel like a breath of fresh air and relief to be acknowledged, appreciated - I don't think that that should translate into a blank check in support of anybody.

This is something I fear in Muslim reactions to the Obama speech: losing that balance of having both appreciation for the significance of the moment while also being critical and offering constructive criticism.

I think Moustafa Bayoumi, author of said it best when he wrote:

Obama's address also contained some worthy language of mutual respect and offered valuable recognition of Islamic civilization and even of the role that American Muslims have played in U.S. history. And he did seek to chart a new relationship between peoples on the premise that our identities are not mutually antagonistic, let alone mutually exclusive.

But it's not only clashing identities that drive the conflicts in today's world, which unfortunately is how the Middle East is almost always portrayed in the United States.

In reality, historic and structural inequalities play a much larger role in why people fight with one another. To paper over these issues with too much talk about identity is to think that peace can be had with a handshake and a hug.

But it cannot, and the sooner we recognize this, the better.

Obama's speech sought to convince the world of something it already knew, that peace is desirable. But peace without justice is merely the calm between wars.

ISLAM IN EUROPE—Insult: Fractured States?

NYC is the place to be right now :)

LIVE from the NYPL (New York Public Library)

ISLAM IN EUROPE—Insult: Fractured States? is a three-evening symposium on June 9, 10, and 11 that gathers prominent, cross-sector speakers from diverse disciplines and the Muslim diaspora to share country-specific perspectives on Muslim communities’ integration in European society.

In five events, ISLAM IN EUROPE sets the context for and explores multiple perspectives for viewing relations between European societies and their Muslim communities. Participants will examine how different European nations and the Muslim diasporas within their borders consider immediate local issues, as well as look at the development of a Europe-wide discourse. The program also offers opportunities to bring American voices into this dialogue and is aimed at identifying opportunities for cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

Through scholarly debate, the related voices of participants of ISLAM IN EUROPE will articulate new perspectives offering insight into the ideas that shape policy and thought.

Part I, June 9, 7:00 pm
Opening Event: How Did We Get Here?

Part II, June 10, 6:00 pm
Migration Policy, Response and Reaction: The Status Quo

Part III, June 10, 7:30 pm
Youth: The Future

Part IV, June 11, 5:00 pm
Media: A Catalyst For Change

Part V, June 11, 7:00 pm
Conclusions: Where Do We Go From Here?

More info

Shukran to Mohsin for this!

Noam Chomsky speaking in NYC this Friday

Friday, June 12. 7:00 pm AT RIVERSIDE CHURCH

490 Riverside Drive,Between 120 and 121st Street

Crisis & Hope: Theirs and Ours

Noam Chomsky
Introduced by Amy Goodman with Music by Earthdriver & Mahina Movement

5:30 pm - Doors Open & Benefit Reception for Brecht Forum
6:00 pm - Pre-Event Concert with Earth Driver and Mahina Movement
7:00 pm - Main event with Noam Chomsky & Amy Goodman

On the forty-year anniversary of the publishing of his classic American Power & the New Mandarins, Noam Chomsky comes to the historic Riverside Church in Harlem, New York City, to address a wide range of issues from the global economic crisis, US military intervention in the Middle East and South Asia, left electoral and social movement upsurges in places like El-Salvador, Bolivia and Venezuela, and the election of Barack Obama. Chomsky, whom The New York Times Book Review has called "arguably the most important intellectual alive," is the author of over 100 books including in the last few years; What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy and Hegemony or Survival.

Sliding scale for talk: $20/$25/$30

Please contribute what you can afford.

Chomsky on Obama's Mideast Policy

Article by Noam Chomsky called Turning Point? from June 7th, 2009, which starts:

The Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas meetings in May, followed by Obama's speech in Cairo, have been widely interpreted as a turning point in US Middle East policy, leading to consternation in some quarters, exuberance in others. Fairly typical is Middle East analyst Dan Fromkin of the Washington Post, who sees "signs Obama will promote a new regional peace initiative for the Middle East, much like the one championed by Jordan's King Abdullah... [and also] the first distinct signs that Obama is willing to play hardball with Israel." (WP, May 29). A closer look, however, suggests considerable caution.

It is also worth remembering that the George W. Bush administration went a bit beyond words in objecting to illegal Israeli settlement projects, namely, by withholding U.S. economic support for them. In contrast, Obama administration officials stated that such measures are "not under discussion," and that any pressures on Israel to conform to the Road Map will be "largely symbolic," the New York Times reported (Helene Cooper, June 1).

There is more to say, but it does not relieve the grim picture that Obama has been painting, with a few extra touches in his widely heralded address to the Muslim World in Cairo on June 4.

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan in Conversation with Vishakha Desai

Tuesday, Jun 9th 6:30pm

$10, members, students with ID and seniors, $15 non-members

Acclaimed author Reza Aslan discusses Islam in the context of history, faith, ideology, and culture with Asia Society President Vishakha Desai.

Together they explore historic patterns of interaction between the Muslim world and the United States and the potential to build new and more meaningful relationships, particularly for the next generation. Reza Aslan is the author of No god but God and, most recently, How to Win a Cosmic War

Link & Tickets

Just saw this video of Reza taking on Sam Harris, author of the End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (2004) and Letter to a Christian Nation

Monday, June 8, 2009

"On the road:" article on Yusuf

“I was reaching the grand old age of 28 and I hadn’t yet found what I was looking for,” he says. “Then I was confronted with something that I had never expected. It was the first time I put my head into anything to do with Islam and as I began to read the Quran, I couldn’t believe that I’d missed it all my life.”

Read here

The unequal treatment of two religiously motivated crimes

Article by Junaid M. Afeef at
For two recent crimes, a Muslim, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, is charged with terrorism and murder. In a similar case, a Christian, Scott Roeder, is charged with murder but not terrorism. Yet, there are ample indications that both sought to influence government policy.

U.S. Justice Department: N.J. woman fired for wearing Muslim head scarf

by Joe Ryan/The Star-Ledger at

Monday June 08, 2009, 6:51 PM

NEWARK -- The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today accusing Essex County officials of illegally firing a Muslim corrections officer for refusing to remove her head scarf.

The suit, filed in federal court in Newark on behalf of Yvette Beshier, asks for a court order forcing the county to accommodate religious observances as part of its uniform code for corrections officers.

"Employees should not have to choose between their religious beliefs and their economic livelihood," said Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division.

A spokesman for Essex County declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing pending litigation.

Attempts to contact Beshier were unsuccessful. According to property records, she is 44 and lives in East Orange.

The suit accuses Essex County of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against employees based on race, color, sex, national origin and religion. The religious discrimination provisions require employers to reasonably accommodate workers' religious observances and practices.

The Essex County Department of Corrections initially suspended Beshier for wearing her head scarf, or khimar, according to the suit. She asked officials to make an exception to the uniform policy, saying her religion required her to wear it, according to the suit.

But the county refused, and eventually Beshier was fired, according to the suit. The lawsuit does not specify when Beshier was hired or fired.

"Federal law requires all employers, even those having policies regarding the wearing of uniforms, to reasonably accommodate the religious observances and practices of their employees," King said.

In February, the Justice Department settled a lawsuit accusing Washington, D.C.'s, transit agency of discriminating against a woman who refused to wear pants, citing her Apostolic Pentecostal faith.

In 2000, New Jersey's Department of Corrections agreed to relax its no-beard policy after 33 Sunni Muslim corrections officers filed suit.

[Shukran to Sana for this!]

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Paint the Town Green"

No wonder!

"In celebration of Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas, the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Borough Hall will be lit green from June 5-7. The color green has many significant associations in Islam and s considered auspicious."

-from the Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas booklet, pg. 22

Masterpieces of Islamic Calligraphy from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

June 2, 2009 – September 1, 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY / 212.535.7710

Masterpieces of calligraphy—on display through September 1, showcases the calligraphic art of the Islamic world, from Spain to south Asia and beyond. The works, ranging in date from the eighth to the nineteenth century, include several richly illuminated Qur'anic manuscripts, as well as sumptuous album pages in a variety of scripts, examples of inlaid metalwork, fine ceramics, and rare textiles with calligraphic elements. Many calligraphic scripts—from early kufic to the later refined nasta'liq—are shown in a range of media, demonstrating the impact and importance of this most quintessential of art forms.

This installation is presented in conjunction with Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas, a ten-day festival and conference in New York City celebrating Islamic culture (June 5-14 2009).

Shukran to Sabahat for this! See link with map of the museum

Gaith Adhami

is a very talented brother. last night he performed some of his spoken word pieces at the MECCA fundraiser. you can listen to some of his pieces here. heads up on his CD coming out in a month or two

Dr. Hatem Bazian's comments and responses to parts of Obama's speech given to the "Muslim world."

Dr. Hatem Bazian addressing a crowd of demonstrators at a rally marking the 42nd year of Israeli occupation of Palestine just a few days after Obama's speech in Cairo.

Ibrahim Abdul Matin on FOX!!!

Shukran to Faiza N. Ali for this

Our President in Cairo: Muslims Listened. Did America?

[Shukran to Masroor for this link]