Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Ph.D." by Langston Hughes

He never was a silly little boy
Who whispered in the class or threw spit balls,
Or pulled the hair of silly little girls,
Or disobeyed in any way the laws
That made the school a place of decent order
Where books were read and sums were proven true
And paper maps that showed the land and water
Were held up as the real wide world to you.
Always, he kept his eyes upon his books:
And now he has grown to be a man
He is surprised that everywhere he looks
Life rolls in waves he cannot understand,
And all the human world is vast and strange–
And quite beyond his Ph.D.’s small range.

-The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes pg. 161-162

"Life without wonder is not worth living." -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Putting Faith Vocations to the Real-World Test - Review of "The Calling" in the NYT

Yerachmiel Shapiro, a newly minted rabbi, shows up for his first job, with a tiny congregation in Red Bank, N.J. “We have no members, we have no money, we have nothing,” one congregant tells him. “What on earth did you see in this synagogue?” No rap or tattoo is going to help him here.
Mr. Alpert also made an interesting choice in introducing only five of the subjects in Part 1. The new blood that turns up in Part 2 helps energize the proceedings, especially Steven Gamez, a likable young man who is entering the Roman Catholic priesthood.
More so than some of the others, he goes beyond vague descriptions of feeling called by God and expresses some of the difficult questions people entering his line of work face. Doing the glum job of providing spiritual counsel at a hospital, he is confronted early on by the death of a child in a car accident.
“The easy answer, and the cop-out answer, is, ‘God is a mystery,’ ” he says. “But that doesn’t suffice. That doesn’t comfort me. It certainly doesn’t comfort Mom or Dad.”
http://tv.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/arts/television/20calling.html

(I didn't get to watch it yet)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dropping Keys by Hafiz

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He
Knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.

-from pg. 206 of The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Imam Zaid: Letter to a Would-be Mujahid

http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/notes/letter_to_a_would-be_mujahid/

The politics of "the Muslim"

interesting post by the chaplain at Brown

http://islamatbrown.blogspot.com/2010/12/politics-of-muslim.html

George Monbiot: Reclaim The Cyber-Commons

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2010/12/13/reclaim-the-cyber-commons/

via Khalid

The New Era of Cooperation Between the White House and Big Business

http://robertreich.org/post/2325857692

Robert Reich: Why America’s Two Economies Continue to Drift Apart, and What Washington Isn’t Doing About It

http://robertreich.org/post/2310443401

Richard Holbrooke's last words: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/12/14/holbrooke

Islam in America: A Panel Discussion Moderated by Noah Feldman

http://avari.typepad.com/avari/2010/12/islam-in-america-a-panel-discussion-moderated-by-noah-feldman.html

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dozens Killed in Bangladesh Fire

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/world/asia/15bangladesh.html

NYT "Raid on Islamic Groups in Germany"

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/world/europe/15germany.html

Muslim women bear burden of stereotyping

http://www.metro.us/newyork/local/article/717674--muslim-women-bear-burden-of-stereotyping

Lyrics for "The Truth That Lies Inside" by Dawud Wharnsby

You smile in the two way mirror of my eyes.
I put on my faith like I wear a disguise.
You can’t see my soul, see the life that I live.
But I show you the mask of the best I can give.
I have hid here, afraid, like a child behind,
the truth of thoughts that clutter my mind.
What if you knew, about all that I do?
The things that I think….
the me that is true?

Would you call me a hypocrite? Call me a liar?
Would you curse out my name?
Would you damn me to fire?
Would you know what to say?
Or would you just walk away,
Afraid the me I’ve tried to hide,
would too closely resemble the truth of you that lies inside?

I’ve been looking for answers since becoming adult,
not looking for dogma to live like a cult.
I've been looking to live, I've been living to find,
freedom from cages that limit my mind.


Would you call me a hypocrite? Call me a liar?
Would you curse out my name?
Would you damn me to fire?
Would you know what to say?
Or would you just walk away, 
Afraid the me I’ve tried to hide,
would too closely resemble the truth of you that lies inside?


Will I scare you? Frustrate you? Upset you? Irrate you?
Challenge your lifestyle or weaken your trust?
Or will you see my effort, my passion, sincerity?
Will you see just a little of yourself in me?
Will you take off your mask so we can both be free?


Would you call me a hypocrite? Call me a liar?
Would you curse out my name?
Would you damn me to fire?
Would you know what to say?
Or would you just walk away, 
Afraid the me I’ve tried to hide,
would too closely resemble the truth of you that lies?




[Taken from here with slight corrections]


Monday, December 13, 2010

John Esposito: Why Do Media Commentators Get It So Wrong on Islam? And What Is the Cost?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-l-esposito/media-commentators-and-is_b_795825.html

Attorney General Eric Holder Conducts “Sting” Operation at Muslim Charity Event

A parody of last Friday's dinner with AG Eric Holder.

http://eggplantpost.com/2010/12/11/attorney-general-eric-holder-conducts-sting-operation-at-muslims-at-charity-event/

via Professor Fadel

Nir Rosen on the "Aftermath" of America's wars

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/radio/2010/12/13/rosen

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/radio/2010/12/13/rosen_transcript

Chris Hedges: No Act of Rebellion Is Wasted

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/no_act_of_rebellion_is_wasted_20101213/

Fareed Zakaria Destroys Beck on Lunatic Islamophobia

http://www.juancole.com/2010/12/fareed-zakaria-destroys-beck-on-lunatic-islamophobia.html

Rep. Ron Paul, G.O.P. Loner, Comes In From Cold

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/us/politics/13paul.html

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Do We Respond? Part 3 – Hamza Yusuf

http://www.sandalaproductions.com/Blog/21-how-do-we-respond-part-3.aspx

via Dawud

"What Works in the Classroom? Ask the Students"

One notable early finding, Ms. Phillips said, is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics.
Teachers whose students agreed with the statement, “We spend a lot of time in this class practicing for the state test,” tended to make smaller gains on those exams than other teachers.
“Teaching to the test makes your students do worse on the tests,” Ms. Phillips said. “It turns out all that ‘drill and kill’ isn’t helpful.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/education/11education.html

Robert Reich: The Why-Should-I-Get-Out-Of-My-Chair Gap in 2012

http://robertreich.org/post/2189538588

The Feds Are Cultivating Their Own “Homegrown Terrorists”

http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/12/the_fbi_caught_another_homegrown_1.html

via Zaheer

“McFootball” in New York?: a Muslim reaction to the CM [Contending Modernities] Launch

http://blogs.nd.edu/contendingmodernities/2010/11/22/mcfootball-in-new-york-a-muslim-reaction-to-the-contending-modernities-launch/

Book review: 'Tablet & Pen,' edited by Reza Aslan

http://www.latimes.com/features/la-ca-reza-aslan-20101212,0,7920493.story

My Flag Flies Above

http://myflagfliesabove.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/my-flag-flies-above/

via Shaykh Abdallah

Haroon Moghul: This Christmas, Give the Gift of Knowledge About Islam

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/haroon-moghul/post_1326_b_788095.html

via Haroon Moghul

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Fed? Ron Paul’s Not a Fan.

On Thursday, House Republican leaders announced that Representative Ron Paul of Texas, the outspoken Republican libertarian who ran for president in 2008, will become the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Fed. His position on the central bank is captured in the title of his 2009 book, “End the Fed” (Grand Central Publishing). 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/weekinreview/12chan.html

A Bastion of Religion Sees Rise in Secularism (on Poland)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/world/europe/12poland.html

Colorado GOP loses Hasan

http://coloradoindependent.com/69449/colorado-gop-loses-hasan

via Hussam

"Holder Tells Muslim Group Stings Are ‘Essential’"....

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/us/politics/11holder.html

Robert Reich: Why Bill Clinton’s Favorable View of Obama’s Tax Deal Should Be Disregarded

http://robertreich.org/post/2175557122

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri: For God or for Fame? The Making of a Teenage Bomber

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/3869/for_god_or_for_fame_the_making_of_a_teenage_bomber/

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri teaches religion at Reed College and is the author of A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order (Cambridge University Press 2010).

Knowing a Terrorist When You See One By Scott Horton

Over the last decade the world has witnessed an explosion of cases in which the term “terrorist” has been applied to domestic political adversaries, journalists, lawyers, and others who present governments and hyperventilating politicians with unpleasant facts. Today the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has published a book entitled Blacklisted that meticulously documents this process, with a focus on abuse of the “terrorist” label in Europe. In the post 9/11 period, governments around the world increasingly used the term “terrorist” to muzzle people—insuring that they are denied access to the media, are not allowed to present challenges in court, and effectively disappear from the political stage. The worst abusers by far are authoritarian governments (Zimbabwe and Burma are good examples) that try to pin this label on democracy and human rights advocates. But this study also lays much blame at the feet of the United Nations, which has often allowed individual nations to call “terrorists” whomever they please.

As U.N. rapporteur Martin Scheinen points out in his foreword to the book, “There is a fundamental need for a broader public debate concerning the future of terrorist listings.” Listing foreign terrorist organizations is a powerful tool in the arsenal against terrorism, but it is also the subject of a great deal of official chicanery. If it is to be used effectively, then the international community, with the United States at the lead, has to focus more attention on the sort of conduct which will qualify a group as “terrorist.” Violence, particularly targeting innocent civilians indiscriminately, is an essential element of the definition. A government’s determination that its critics or political adversaries are “terrorists” must be subject to review by courts on the facts involving objective criteria. And the media and the public must be on the guard against political rhetoric that seeks to turn the concept of “terrorist organization” into a weapon against democracy itself.
http://harpers.org/archive/2010/12/hbc-90007849

[Ron] Paul Defends Wikileaks: Neocons Don’t Like Losing Grip on Empire



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxPB9yy7IJ4

http://www.juancole.com/2010/12/paul-defends-wikileaks-neocons-dont-like-losing-grip-on-empire.html

Biographical Notes on Taqi al-Din Subki

(Imam) Taqi al-Din Subki [...] is 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-Kafi ibn 'Ali ibn Tamam, Abu al-Hasan Taqi al-Din al-Subki, born in Subk, Egypt, in 683/1284. The Shafi'i scholar and Imam of his time, he was a brilliant intellectual, hadith master (hafiz), Koranic exegete, and Islamic judge who was described by Ibn Hajar Haytami as "the mujtahid Imam whose imamate, greatness, and having reached the level of ijtihad are agreed upon," and by Dhahabi as "the most learned, eloquent, and wisest in judgement of all the sheikhs of the age." Educated in Cairo by such scholars as Ibn Rif'a in Sacred Law, 'Alam al-Din Iraqi in Koranic exegesis, and Sharaf al-Din al-Dimyati in hadith, he also travelled to acquire knowledge of hadith from the sheikhs of Syria, Alexandria, and the Hijaz after which, as Suyuti records, "he devoted himself to writing and giving legal opinion, authoring more than 150 works, his writings displaying his profound knowledge of hadith and other fields and his magisterial command of the Islamic sciences. He educated the foremost scholars of his time, was a painstaking, accurate, and penetrating researcher, and a brilliant debater in the disciplines. No previous scholar attained to his achievements in Sacred Law, of masterful inferences, subtleties in detail, and carefully worked-out methodological principles."
Salah al-Din Safadi said of him, "People say that no one like him had appeared since Ghazali, though in my opinion they thereby do him an injustice, for to my mind he does not resemble anyone less than Sufyan al-Thawri." With his vast erudition, he was at the same time a godfearing ascetic in his personal life who was devoted to worship and mysticism, though vigilant and uncompromising in matters of religion and ready to assail any innovation (bid'a) or departure from the tenets of faith of Ahl al-Sunna. In addition to al-Takmila [The completion], his eleven-volume supplement to Nawawi's Sharh al-Muhadhdhab [The exegesis of "The rarefaction"], he also authored the widely quoted Fatawa al-Subki [The legal opinions of Sukbi] in two volumes, as well as a number of other works on tenets of faith, Koranic exegesis, and fundamentals of Islamic law, in the latter of which his three-volume al-Ibhaj fi sharh al-Minhaj [The gladdening: an exegesis of "The road"], an exposition of Baydawi's Al-Minhaj on the methodological bases of legal ijtihad, has won lasting recognition among scholars. In A.H. 739 he moved from Cairo to Damascus, where he was appointed to the judiciary and presided for seventeen years, at the end of which he became ill, was replaced by his son Taj al-Din, and returned to Cairo, where he died twenty days later in 756/1355 (ibid., 4.302; al-Fatawa al-hadithiyya (y48), 114; al-Rasa'il al-Subkiyya (y52), 9-13; Sheikh Hasan Saqqad; and n).
-Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat Al-Salik, x345, pg. 1102

Friday, December 10, 2010

Race to Nowhere Screening by Kinza Academy with Hamza Yusuf

http://vimeo.com/17166865

Thanks Yusuf and Khaled

Europeans Criticize Fierce U.S. Response to Leaks

PARIS — For many Europeans, Washington’s fierce reaction to the flood of secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks displays imperial arrogance and hypocrisy, indicating a post-9/11 obsession with secrecy that contradicts American principles.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/10/world/europe/10wikileaks-react.html

Paul Krugman: Obama’s Hostage Deal

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/10/opinion/10krugman.html

Anthropology a Science? Statement Deepens a Rift

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/10/science/10anthropology.html

Dawood Yasin: Dartmouth Team Departs for Nicaragua to Work on Community Projects

http://now.dartmouth.edu/2010/12/dartmouth-team-departs-for-nicaragua-to-work-on-community-projects/

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin on FOX about his book "Green Deen"



http://video.foxnews.com/v/4446638/religion-goes-green/

Robert Reich: America’s Future in the Global Economy: This Week’s Words and Deeds

http://robertreich.org/post/2154743914

The first scene from “The Domestic Crusaders” by Wajahat Ali

http://goatmilkblog.com/2010/12/09/the-first-scene-from-the-domestic-crusaders-tom-jones-and-the-biryani-surprise/

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/TheDomesticCrusaders_SceneI.pdf

Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin (2010)

“The Earth is a mosque”
Muslims are compelled by their religion to praise the Creator and to care for their community. But what is not widely known is that there are deep and long-standing connections between Islamic teachings and environmentalism. In this groundbreaking book, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin draws on research, scripture, and interviews with Muslim Americans to trace Islam’s preoccupation with humankind’s collective role as stewards of the Earth. Abdul-Matin points out that the Prophet Muhammad declared that “the Earth is a mosque.”
Deen means “path” or “way” in Arabic. Abdul-Matin offers dozens of examples of how Muslims can follow, and already are following, a Green Deen in four areas: “waste, watts (energy), water, and food.” At last, people of all beliefs can appreciate the gifts and contributions that Islam and Muslims bring to the environmental movement.
“Ibrahim Abdul-Matin not only shows the myriad ways American Muslims are contributing to the resolution of the environmental crisis that threatens us all but also goes a long way toward humanizing the Muslim community by sharing with the reader the lives of so many extraordinary, talented, and visionary people.”
—Imam Zaid Shakir, Zaytuna College, Berkeley, California
“Ibrahim blends his passion for a green economy, his love and understanding of faith, and a deep commitment to justice in this book.”
—Van Jones, founder, Green for All
“At a moment when distortions of Islam are what feed most Americans, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has done something both practical and inspiring. He persuades us that the imperiled environment is both common struggle and common ground for people who share, it turns out, more than simply God.”
—John Hockenberry, Emmy-award-winning journalist, author of Moving Violations, and host of National Public Radio’s The Takeaway
About the Author
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a policy advisor in the New York City Mayor’s Office on issues of long-term planning and sustainability. He is a media personality on NPR’s The Takeaway and the brains behind the blog Brooklyn Bedouin.
Foreword author, Keith Ellison, Congressman for Minnesota district is the first Muslim Congressman.

U.S. attorney general to speak to Bay Area Muslims amid distrust over surveillance

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_16819533?nclick_check=1

"Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East" edited by Reza Aslan (2010)

A volume that celebrates the magnificent achievement of twentieth-century Middle Eastern literature that has been neglected in the English-speaking world. A landmark literary event, this groundbreaking work spans a century of literature by the region's best writers—from the famed Arab poet Khalil Gibran to the Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk—all of them bound together not by borders and nationalities but by a common experience of colonial domination and western imperialism. As best-selling author Reza Aslan writes, the mesmerizing prose of the Middle East-Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu-has been virtually excluded from the canon available to English readers. Under the umbrella of Words Without Borders, Aslan has assembled this extraordinary collection of short stories, memoirs, essays, and poems, featuring both contemporary and historical works, with many of the selections newly appearing in English. Featuring literature from countries as diverse as Morocco and Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, Tablet & Pen is a long-awaited work that is to be devoured as a single sustained narrative from the first page to the last.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

another take on the "Rally to Restore Sanity"

200,000 people attended Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" in October. 200,000 people who weren't psychiatrists. That's a powerful testament to our collective mental health. Stewart and co. were criticized — primarily by Bill Maher and other bruised left-wing pundits — for holding a rally that wasn't "about anything" in particular. But I think it was about everything. It was about the extent to which irrationality has pervaded our public discourse, which is something epitomized but not wholly localized in punditry. It was about the extent to which we've allowed one-toothed fortune-tellers to take over the marketplace of ideas.
http://nyunews.com/#/opinion/2010/12/07/07pretent/?ref=ajax

"Suit Over Killing Order in Terror Case Is Dismissed"

a joke...
Bates also said he must dismiss the case because Anwar al-Awlaki did not bring the suit himself. The judge was not swayed by the father's argument that the cleric could not sue because it would force him to come out of hiding in risk of his life. Bates said al-Awlaki could peacefully present himself under protection of international law and even suggested in a footnote that the cleric could possibly participate via videoconferencing while still in hiding.
Bates also said there's no evidence al-Awlaki wants his father to sue to protect his constitutional rights — the two are not in contact because of the safety risk. On the contrary, Bates said, al-Awlaki has publicly denounced the U.S. legal system and said Muslims are not bound by Western law.
 http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/12/07/us/politics/AP-US-Cleric-Lawsuit.html

Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History (Library of American History)

Muslims have long played a central role in American history. Since the colonial period when an estimated 20,000 African Muslims were transported to America as slaves, through the early 20th century when Muslim immigrants entered the United States from the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, to the present day, Islam has been an integral part of the American experience. The founding of the Nation of Islam in the 1930s augmented the Muslim-American population among African Americans, and this group including such prominent figures as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Farrakhan has had an enormous influence on American life and politics since the 1960s. Since passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, approximately 1 million Muslims have come to America, establishing new neighborhoods and communities in all 50 states.
Few groups are as diverse as Muslim Americans, and yet no other group has been as stereotyped, maligned, or marginalized in American society. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 produced a heavy backlash, transforming the Muslim-American experience in the United States. At the dawn of the 21st century, they are often misunderstood by mainstream society, portrayed as caricatures if they are portrayed at all.
The new Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History aims to rectify this treatment and place Muslim Americans squarely in the center of American history and culture. Written in clear and jargon-free prose, this authoritative reference provides a new and broader, more inclusive approach to American history. Including nearly 300 articles, this two-volume reference book is the first to focus on this critical subject, covering all the historical and contemporary issues, events, people, court cases, themes, and activism relating to Muslim Americans. More than 100 historians, scholars, and experts contributed to this encyclopedia, tracing the experiences and impact that Muslim Americans have had on our nation's history for hundreds of years. Original documents, a master chronology, and an extensive bibliography complete this illustrated reference.

Is the College Debt Bubble Ready to Explode?

http://finance.yahoo.com/college-education/article/111460/is-the-college-debt-bubble-ready-to-explode

via the Catherine Austin Fitts blog

"Generation Why?" by Zadie Smith

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/25/generation-why/?pagination=false

Must read (especially the second half after the review of the film The Social Network)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Robert Reich: The American Jobs Emergency Requires Action

http://robertreich.org/post/2082971308

Interview with Shaykh Abdallah Adhami on altmuslimah.com

http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/rsa/4067/

"Hassan Ali

praised Webb as a "proper Muslim" (pucca Mussulman) [sic], one who knew Islam's true spirit and was neither overly rationalistic nor dry, but worthy of Islam's "sacred treasure" as reflected in spiritual masters like al-Ghazali and Rumi. Webb's heart, Ali contended, was filled with the love of God and his prophet. [34] It was the spirit of Islam, rather than its aberrations, that won Webb's allegiance. In this regard, he truly constitutes an "embedded monument" from the past for the future. Perhaps, his legacy may once again play a role in furthering and protecting an even more pluralistic America, one eager to extend its hand to the world at large and its own growing Muslim community at home in the spirit Webb invoked more than a century ago when he addressed the Muslims of India: "I want to take your hand and carry it across the sea to be seized in an earnest, fraternal grasp by the people of American." [35]
-A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, pg. 279

"It is notable

that Webb's adoption of Islam did not conflict with his sense of himself as an American. One might even argue that it empowered his sense of himself as an American, by enriching it with a living attachment to the Muslim East and the Ottoman Turks. In this matter, Webb's religious and psychological profile contrasts with that of many Muslim immigrants to the United States. For a number of them, Islam constitutes their greatest cultural and psychological vulnerability, putting them on the defensive in an alien land in what may appear to them as a hopeless cultural battle. Many early immigrants abandoned Islam altogether or "reinterpreted it" so completely that it ceased to be itself and became little more than a species of Unitarian Christianity. [20] Webb too had a strong affinity for Unitarians but thought of them in very different terms. Instead of him becoming like them, he was convinced they would ultimately become like him. In India, he informed his Muslim listeners of his confidence that Unitarians would "adopt Islam when they really know what it is." [21]

For Webb, Islam was not a psychological or cultural impediment, despite the hurdles he and his family confronted because of their espousal of it. Islam did not threaten his self-image as an American but affirmed it, creating a self-confident and optimistic religious vision. Webb refused to surrender his common sense or his own judgment to the authority of others who had no understanding of him or his people. Webb's circles, open to converts and sympathizers, men and women alike, were, in principles, predicated on the same ideal that no one in or outside of Islam should be required to believe what he could not rationally accept. Through Webb's circles, he sought to extend the principle of interpretative control to each follower.  Unlike many twentieth-century American converts, Webb's conversion to Islam did not put him in a bind with himself and his American identity, causing him to forsake his heritage and commit cultural apostasy. On the contrary, Webb found in Islam the very fulfillment of the American ideals he believed in. He did not see himself as standing "apart from or superior to his fellow Americans after his acceptance of Islam." Rather, he kept living as an American and was comfortable with that identity, feeling no alienation from surrounding society or seeking to alienate it from himself. [22] 
-A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, pg. 277

"When the final word is in,

Webb's "embedded monument" will not be one of an idealized human being. Whatever else Webb may have been, he was very human and had the strengths and weaknesses, virtues and blemishes in inherent in human beings. His true story does not diminish his humanity or undo its potential for edification. Idealized narratives are not only unacceptable to honest people and for sound historical methodology but make up the substance of fable and ideology, providing little good in the real world. When such idealized narratives disembody their subjects - even legitimate heroes - from the reality they lived, they only serve to mislead, disempower, and immobilize because they present fictional figures that cannot be emulated or learned from.
 -A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, pg. 272-273

"Webb's life

transpired "in the middle of it all," and to tell his story is to relive one of the most important periods of the American experience. Although Webb was largely forgotten after his heath, historians have renewed his memory in recent decades. For the large and growing Muslim population of the United States, Webb may soon regain his place in the middle of it all, although no longer standing there alone but with a large contingent of other notable figures in American Islam who, like Webb, were long forgotten after their deaths. Webb was not alone among the early representatives of Islam in America in his struggle to persevere in his religion in the absence of a supporting community. Like his precursors and successors, Webb provides the American Muslim community today not only with a sense of the importance of community, but also with a deeper sense of identity and historical community.
-A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, pg. 20

"His adoption of Islam

in late-nineteenth century American was utterly out of the ordinary, but the manner in which he pursued it was not. Webb embraced Islam in the spirit of classical American individual initiative in religion. [68] Moreover, Webb regarded his conversion as a perfectly natural alternative for himself and any other American who chose it. He never became deeply learned in Islam yet was creative in his application of what he knew. With an instinctive American naturalness, he assumed authority in the interpretation of his adopted religion, rejected "fanaticism" and bigotry, and never felt himself duty-bound to follow any "irrational or backward" formulations associated with the faith wherever he might encounter them. Webb founded his life and his vision for Islam in America on the same broad spiritual ethos through which he himself initially made his journey to the faith. 
-A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, pg. 20

"Webb unapologetically

espoused his newly adopted faith in terms that made clear he saw no contradiction between it and his deeply rooted American identity. Many of his Victorian American contemporaries had heard of him in the press and wanted to hear the story of his religious odyssey. Although Webb's speech that morning, as on the following day, was occasionally disrupted by the corpulent and bothersome Boston missionary Reverend Joseph Cook and his followers - whose outbursts proved to be an annoyance for many other representatives of nontraditional religions and purveyors of unconventional opinions at the parliament [the "First World's Parliament of Religions" fair in Chicago,1893] - Webb's audience was, for the most part, "intelligent, sympathetic, quick to appreciate, and applaud." [1] He identified with them naturally and emphasized his belief in their fairness: "I have faith in the American intellect, in the American intelligence, and in the American love of fair play, and will defy any intelligent man to understand Islam and not love it." Webb repeatedly emphasized that Islam and "the Arabian Prophet" had for generations been misrepresented to Americans, making it difficult for them to comprehend his new faith or why he had chosen it. Still he proclaimed his faith in the American character: "I feel that Americans, as a rule, are disposed to go to the bottom of facts and to ascertain really what Mohammed was and what he did, and when they have done so, I feel we shall have a universal system which will elevate our social system to the position where it belongs." [2]
-A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, pg. 4

Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah: A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb (2006)

Conflicts and controversies at home and abroad have led Americans to focus on Islam more than ever before. In addition, more and more of their neighbors, colleagues, and friends are Muslims. While much has been written about contemporary American Islam and pioneering studies have appeared on Muslim slaves in the antebellum period, comparatively little is known about Islam in Victorian America. This biography of Alexander Russell Webb, one of the earliest American Muslims to achieve public renown, seeks to fill this gap.
Webb was a central figure of American Islam during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A native of the Hudson Valley, he was a journalist, editor, and civil servant. Raised a Presbyterian, Webb early on began to cultivate an interest in other religions and became particularly fascinated by Islam. While serving as U.S. consul to the Philippines in 1887, he took a greater interest in the faith and embraced it in 1888, one of the first Americans known to have done so. Within a few years, he began corresponding with important Muslims in India. Webb became an enthusiastic propagator of the faith, founding the first Islamic institution in the United States: the American Mission. He wrote numerous books intended to introduce Islam to Americans, started the first Islamic press in the United States, published a journal entitled The Moslem World, and served as the representative of Islam at the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. In 1901, he was appointed Honorary Turkish Consul General in New York and was invited to Turkey, where he received two Ottoman medals of merits.
In this first-ever biography of Webb, Umar F. Abd-Allah examines Webb's life and uses it as a window through which to explore the early history of Islam in America. Except for his adopted faith, every aspect of Webb's life was, as Abd-Allah shows, quintessentially characteristic of his place and time. It was because he was so typically American that he was able to serve as Islam's ambassador to America (and vice versa). As America's Muslim community grows and becomes more visible, Webb's life and the virtues he championed - pluralism, liberalism, universal humanity, and a sense of civic and political responsibility - exemplify what it means to be an American Muslim.

New book "American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism" (2008)

In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, many of America's Christian evangelicals have denounced Islam as a "demonic" and inherently violent religion, provoking frustration among other Christian conservatives who wish to present a more appealing message to the world's Muslims. Yet as Thomas Kidd reveals in this sobering book, the conflicted views expressed by today's evangelicals have deep roots in American history.

Tracing Islam's role in the popular imagination of American Christians from the colonial period to today, Kidd demonstrates that Protestant evangelicals have viewed Islam as a global threat--while also actively seeking to convert Muslims to the Christian faith--since the nation's founding. He shows how accounts of "Mahometan" despotism and lurid stories of European enslavement by Barbary pirates fueled early evangelicals' fears concerning Islam, and describes the growing conservatism of American missions to Muslim lands up through the post-World War II era. Kidd exposes American Christians' anxieties about an internal Islamic threat from groups like the Nation of Islam in the 1960s and America's immigrant Muslim population today, and he demonstrates why Islam has become central to evangelical "end-times" narratives. Pointing to many evangelicals' unwillingness to acknowledge Islam's theological commonalities with Christianity and their continued portrayal of Islam as an "evil" and false religion, Kidd explains why Christians themselves are ironically to blame for the failure of evangelism in the Muslim world.

American Christians and Islam is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the causes of the mounting tensions between Christians and Muslims today.

Thomas Kidd is associate professor of history at Baylor University and resident scholar at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. He is the author of The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America and The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism.
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8828.html

A review in Foreign Affairs


Article in Religion Dispatches: "Evangelical Islamophobia as American as Apple Pie: The 2010 Elections and the deep history of American antipathy towards Islam" (Thanks Mohammed)

"The road of knowledge is lonely, but the traveler is assured when he finds someone else's footsteps."

-Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, "The Scholar's Road," Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam, p. 326

a re-post from 2/21/2010

Interesting..."Obama Makes Unannounced Visit to Afghanistan"....

Many White House officials were kept in the dark about the journey, as was the Afghan government. The president’s published schedule for Friday listed him meeting with advisers in the Oval Office and then making a public statement on the latest jobs report, with the schedule reporting that “the location of the statement is T.B.D.,” or to be determined.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/04/us/politics/04prexy.html

Cornel West: Obama is for big business not the jobless



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1w6w2n9Hks

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Interesting - "The Catholic Schools We Need" by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan

Given the aggressive secularization of American culture, could it be that Catholics are looking at the same consequences that met those 19th-century prelates? Today’s anti-Catholicism hardly derives from that narrow 19th-century Protestantism, intent on preserving its own cultural and political hold. Those battles are long settled. Instead, the Catholic Church is now confronted by a new secularization asserting that a person of faith can hardly be expected to be a tolerant and enlightened American. Religion, in this view, is only a personal hobby, with no implications for public life. Under this new scheme, to take one’s faith seriously and bring it to the public square somehow implies being un-American. To combat this notion, an equally energetic evangelization—with Catholic schools at its center—is all the more necessary.
http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12448

For a brief critique, see: "Rewriting the History of Catholic Schools in America The resurrection of “Dagger John”" by Marian Ronan on Religion Dispatches

"The least likely of your sincere falsehoods is your words: ‘I am a Sufi!’"

-Abdal-Hakim Murad, Contentions 16, # 10.

Reporter's Notebook: On Oakland thoroughfare, sexual slavery a lucrative business

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/01/reporters-notebook-on-oakland-thoroughfare-sexual-slavery-a-lucrative-business/?hpt=T2

"The second necessary condition

for understanding revelation is the proper intention - to sincerely wish to be guided by God. This does not mean that non-Muslims and even atheists cannot contribute to the factual body of knowledge useful to contextualizing the Qur'an; but you cannot attain what you do not set out to find. The meaning of the revelation can only be accessed by those who believe that ultimate meaning is beyond the limited understanding of any human being and who sincerely turn to the Qur'an for the purpose of finding that meaning. However, attaining the state of humility that is characteristic of a sincere intention is not easy. How many individuals are confident of the purity of their intentions and the soundness of their hearts, yet clearly are deceiving themselves?

We all have emotional scars, spiritual disabilities, and stubborn desires that make us less than perfect mirrors for God's divine light. This is why we need to live our faith in community with others - so they can help illuminate our flaws and support us in our spiritual growth. But our growth will be limited unless our communities reflect the diversity of human experience. [...]

Fear, whim, greed, pride - how many potential barriers exist to block our understanding of the true meaning of God's words! Certainty we need to be exceedingly cautious about claiming to have grasped the true meanings of the Qur'an. How much better would it be if we stopped making declarations for a while and humbly, earnestly, tried to listen to God?
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 231-233

"Thus, in the first place,

we must use all the intellectual resources God has given us to attempt to understand the true meaning of the Qur'an. [...] God gave Muslims, individually and collectively, sight, hearing, and intellect to put at the service of studying the linguistic and historical context of the Qur'an. It is impossible for any one individual to master all these aspects of Qur'anic learning, even in a lifetime of study. A serious effort to understand the Qur'an, therefore, necessarily includes a deep engagement with the extensive scholarly tradition of Islam.
This is something that many modern activists and commentators on the Qur'an have lacked. Indeed, many of the most influential Muslims (for better or worse) who made claims about the Qur'an in the twentieth century were not trained as religious scholars. Sayyid Qutb was a writer who captured the attention of Arabic readers with his articulation of widely felt frustration with arrogant and repressive Middle Eastern rulers in his extensive commentary In the Shade of the Qur'an. Abul Ala Mawdudi (d. 1979), founded of Jamaat-e-Islami in pre-partition India and prolific commentator on the Qur'an, was a journalist. With the success of the argument that the doors of ijtihad should open and that consensus should be expanded to include the voices of non-specialists, writers like Qutb and Mawdudi did not feel restrained by their lack of scholarly credentials to make claims about  the meaning of the Qur'an.
In his characteristically blunt fashion, Fazlur Rahman, an influential twentieth-century scholar of the Qur'an, decried the inability of many activist-oriented Muslims to develop a relevant, coherent, and systematic approach to the interpretation and application of the Qur'an:
The traditionalist ulema, if their education has suffered from a disorientation toward the purposes of the Qur'an, have nevertheless built up an imposing edifice of learning that invests their personalities with a certain depth; the neorevivalist is, by contrast, a shallow and superficial person - really rooted neither in the Qur'an nor in traditional intellectual culture, of which he knows practically nothing. Because he has no serious intellectual depth or breath, his consolation and pride both are to chant ceaselessly the song that Islam is "very simple" and "straightforward," without knowing what these words mean. In a sense, of course, the Qur'an is a simple and uncomplicated, as is all genuine religion - in contradistinction to theology - but in another and more meaningful sense a book like the Qur'an, which gradually appeared over almost twenty-three years, is highly complicated - as complicated as life itself. [13]   
While activists and revivalists are limited by their superficial understanding of classical Islamic learning, staunch traditionalists must be aware of the severe limitations of the inherited tradition. Our search for the true meaning of the Qur'an and its application to our lives cannot be a narrow, partisan following of a particular school of thought, for it certainly possible that groups, like individuals, can engage in self-interested exegesis. In a previous study of slavery and social status in Islamic law, I argued that such a tendency is evident in the deliberations of early Muslim scholars. [14] Only a truly open-minded, critical engagement with the diverse schools of thought and approaches to the Qur'an will be sufficient to claim the exercise of due diligence. 
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 230

"The medieval poet and mystic Rumi (d. 672/1273) wrote:

The interpretation of the sacred text is true
if it stirs you to hope, activity and awe;
and if it makes you slacken your service,
know the real truth to be this:
it is a distortion of the sense of the saying, not a true interpretation.
This saying has come down to inspire you to serve -
that God may take the hands of those who have lost hope.
Ask the meaning of the Qur'an from the Qur'an alone,
and from that one who has set fire to his idle fancy and burned it away,
and has become a sacrifice to the Qur'an, bowing low in humbleness,
so that the Qur'an has become the essence of his spirit.
The essential oil that has utterly devoted itself to the rose.
You can smell either that oil or the rose, as you please.

[fn 2: The Pocket Rumi Reader, ed. Kabir Helminski (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2001), 171; I have made minor changes to the translation.]
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 221

"Leaving aside

 the issue of how notions of orthodoxy or heresy are constructed, the challenge remains for sincere Muslims to arrive at a consistent methodology that determines how much context is relevant to an interpretation and when it is proper to set aside specific rulings for general principles. One has to acknowledge the risk of overcontextualizing the Qur'an and relying too heavily on the general principles it expresses. This could lead to a complete relativizing of the content of the Qur'an, so that is explicit norm would apply only to the era of its revelation. Nevertheless, the line between relevant context and self-interested or careless relativization is not easy to discern. We will finish this chapter with an exploration of an issue that illustrates this dilemma....
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 216

"It is important to recognize,

however, that textual literalism is not necessarily connected with intolerance, political radicalism or violence. On the positive side, the insistence of the Salafiyya on comparing societal practices with the practices of the early Muslim community allowed for the abandonment of some unjust customs, like the exclusion of women from the mosque. On the other hand, this approach can degenerate into a simplistic and literalist reading of the Qur'an and the Sunna. In particular, fundamentalist readings often diminish the relevance of historical context for understanding the true meaning of the Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunna. Such readings also give little attention to the need to reconcile particular rulings with general principles and values articulated in the Qur'an and the Sunna. Finally, literalistic readings can efface the role of the human interpreter. Decrying "man-made" institutions, literalists seem unaware of their own roles as human interpreters when they select particular passages to justify their positions.
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 212

"The authority of scholars

in classical Islam was supported, displayed, and transmitted through institutions of religious learning - the seminary (madrasa), the "cathedral mosques," the ijaza system, etc. These institutions provided not only a locus from which religious authority could be projected, but also a substantial framework within which the great diversity of Sunni thought could be expressed and organized. To this extent, I suggest that "tradition" was a stabilizing element in premodern Muslim societies to the extent that it was manifest in actual institutions and practices rather than just a body of ideas transmitted over the centuries. This does not mean that premodern Muslim societies were always peaceful and stable. Scholars regularly came into conflict with one another and with political authorities. At the same time, as a group, the scholars exercised a certain authority within designated institutions; thus, their corporate identity superseded any internal dissent, and ensured that there was a place for "scholars" in every Muslim society.

However, when these institutions were disrupted, destroyed, and disconnected, first under colonialism and then when they were placed under the bureaucratic order of separate modern nation-states, Sunnism underwent a radical transformation and experienced a significant blow to its sense of a unified community. This is one of the reasons why scholars from the early modern period until today have tried to find an institutional mechanism to revive a form of consensus that could be relevant to society. The late twelfth-/eighteenth-century Indian reformer Shah Wali Allah Dihlawi, for example, argued that in a town or locality when it was comprised of "the ulema and men of authority." [31] Later, Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938 CE) suggested that consensus could be instituted by forming a legislative assembly from representatives of the different schools of law. In the mid-twentieth century, the shaykh of al-Azhar, Mahmud Shaltut, pointed out that such a body would be authoritative only if all constituents were granted freedom of opinion and were protected from the arbitrary exercise of political power. Here, the efficacy of consensus is wedded to the process of ijtihad - the continual exertion of the intellect to search for new information or previously unexamined factors that could contribute to different judgments or perspectives.
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 208

"As we can see,

Qur'anic rulings and principles have been extended by scholars to ensure that the revelation remains relevant to new situations and circumstances. Scholars have also recognized that while it is important to analyze individual verses for their vocabulary, syntax, grammar, rhetorical style, and cultural and historical references, the Qur'an will be left in disjointed pieces if one does not have a broader framework that goes beyond these particularities. To this end, scholars have invoked general principles and universal values found in the Qur'an to connect, reconcile, and balance divergent rulings obtained through deductive reasoning from particular Qur'anic texts. in the early centuries of Islam, legal scholars referred to concepts such as istihsan (setting aside a particular ruling if it will have a negative impact), istislah (choosing a ruling that benefits people), and ma'ruf (what is "fair" or "reasonable") to empower them to set aside a judgement arrived at through narrow legal reasoning for the sake of another judgment that is more in keeping with the overall spirit and values of the Qur'an.
A more comprehensive and holistic framework for assessing legal rulings was fully developed by the middle period of Islamic history. Imam al-Ghazali, once agian, emerges as an influential figure in Sunni Islam with his convincing and emphatic demonstration that all rulings found in the Qur'an and Sunna aim to promote a limited number of universal goals. Other scholars, including, most famously, Abu Ishaq Al-Shatibi (d. 790/1388), joined al-Ghazali in arguing that the primary purpose of Islam was to promote and preserve five or six fundamental values: religion, life, property, intellect, family, and honor. [29] Theoretically, any exegesis or ruling that contravenes these "goals of the Sharia" (maqasid al-Shari'a) must be set aside.

Reference to the goals of the Shari'a have become more frequent since the advent of modernity, when Muslim scholars have been trying to find a consistent and holistic approach to legal reasoning that can replace, to some extent, the narrower, technical, and case-by-case deductive approach of much traditional legal reasoning. According to many contemporary scholars such as Mohammad Hashim Kamali, this approach is more consistent with the message of the Qur'an:
A cursory perusal of the Qur'an would be enough to show that the Qur'an pays much greater attention to values and objectives such as justice and benefit, mercy and compassion, upright character and taqwa, promotion of good and prevention of evil, affection and love within the family, charity, camaraderie and other redeeming values. The Qur'an may thus be said to be goal-oriented and focused on the structure of values that have a direct bearing on human welfare. The Qur'an is for the most part concerned with the broad principles and objectives of morality and law, rather than with the specific detail and technical formulas that occupy the bulk of the usul [juridical] works. [30]
While emphasizing the importance of the goals of the Shari'a, Kamali also stresses that they in themselves are not a methodology, but rather "serve the purpose of opening up the avenues of ijtihad." After all, to determine whether a ruling furthers or hinders a goal of the Shari'a, scholars must assess the "benefit" (maslaha) of the ruling. This assessment is, to a large extent, an empirical determination. Who is qualified to make such an assessment? Is it only scholars of the Qur'an and other religious scholars? In any case, this new legal thinking will only be productive if it occurs within an interpretive framework that is consistent, and within a context that can be accepted as legitimate and authoritative. At this point, it is therefore necessary to consider the way in which authority has been constructed in an Islamic exegetical and legal context and what challenges entail for arriving at authoritative rulings in a modern context.
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 205-206

"Qur'anic memorization

is valuable because it is a process whereby children come to embody the Qur'an (or parts thereof)....Qur'anic memorization has been portrayed as a process of mindless rote learning and indoctrination into Islam. My research suggests that viewing it in this way reduces it significance in the lives of Muslims by implying that the process of learning ends with the process of memorization. Embodiment theory facilitates a description of the ongoing learning process that begins with Qur'anic memorization. Memorization, then, is an investment in a lifetime of potential learning, one that will provide guidance and direction to the student beyond the school years. The Qur'an is living as an oral text through the mental and physiological capabilities of the students' bodies, to translate what has been engraved in their minds to their lips, where it comes forth living, to be shared as recitation or in prayer and to be reflected upon over a lifetime, as a source of understanding, inspiration, and learning. 
fn. 57: Helen N. Boyle, Quranic Schools: Agents of Preservation and Change (New York and London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004), 97-98 
-from The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, pg. 123-124

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Glenn Greenwald: The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/11/28/fbi/index.html

Frank Rich: Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy


But both rallies, for all the commotion they generated, have already faded to the status of quirky historical footnotes. The reason is that neither addressed the elephant in the room — or the donkey. That would be big money — the big money that dominates our political system, regardless of who’s in power. Two years after the economic meltdown, most Americans now recognize that that money has inexorably institutionalized a caste system where everyone remains (at best) mired in economic stasis except the very wealthiest sliver.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/28rich.html?_r=1

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination (J.K. Rowling's 2008 Commencement Address at Harvard)

http://harvardmagazine.com/commencement/the-fringe-benefits-failure-the-importance-imagination

"The experience of reading a novel

has certain qualities that remind us of the traditional apprehension of mythology. It can be seen as a form of meditation. Readers have to live with a novel for days or even weeks. It projects them into another world, parallel to but apart from their ordinary lives. They know perfectly well that this fictional realm is not 'real' and yet while they are reading it becomes compelling. A powerful novel becomes part of the backdrop of our lives, long after we have laid the book aside. It is an exercise of make-believe that, like yoga or a religious festival, breaks down barriers of space and time and extends our sympathies, so that we are able to empathise with other lives and sorrows. It teaches compassion, the ability to 'feel with' others. And, like mythology, an important novel is transformative. If we allow it to do, it can change us forever.

Mythology, we have seen, is an art form. Any powerful work of art invades our being and changes it forever. The British critic George Steiner claims that art, like certain kinds of religious and metaphysical experience, is the most "'ingressive," transformative summons available to human experiencing'. It is an intrusive, invasive indiscretion that 'queries the last privacies of our existence'; an Annunciation that 'breaks into the small house of our cautionary being', so that 'it is no longer habitable in quite the same way as it was before'. It is a transcendent encounter that tells us, in effect: 'change your life'.

If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest. If professional religious leaders cannot instruct us in mythical lore, our artists and creative writers can perhaps step into this priestly role and bring fresh insight in to our lost and damaged world.
-from pp. 148-9 of Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth

‘Imagine Better’: Can Harry Potter Change the World? ...

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/3763/%E2%80%98imagine_better%E2%80%99%3A_can_harry_potter_change_the_world_/

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Islam in America

has deep historical roots that go back at least as far as the colonial period. Its present development is relatively recent and has occurred over the course of the twentieth century. Because the American Muslim community is still young, it has not taken definite shape or adopted hard and fast points of view. As stated in the introduction: "The beginnings are the manifestation of the ends." Good beginnings promise good futures; putting down a sound foundation makes it possible to build an enduring edifice. But the opposite is also true. It is critical for American Muslims, as we move forward, to lay strong foundations and make new beginnings. Determining the way forward cannot be left to others and cannot be left to chance.
At present, different groups and different visions of Islam compete for American Muslim community's allegiance. The content of ideologies will probably continue for years to come, but ultimately a particular vision of Islam is likely to predominate. Once a distinctive vision of Islam has been effectively established among American Muslims, a new chapter in their history will begin. That vision, once established, will become Islam's default position in the United States and dictate for generations how the Muslim community understands itself and the world around it. It will automatically set its own priorities and objectives. Ultimately, the vision of Islam that comes to prevail here will be the primary determinant of whether Islam succeeds in the United States or fails. If the vision of Islam that finally predominates in America is authentic and wise, it will constitute a wise precedent and an enduring model for further development. If it is deficient, it will remain a constant obstacle for future generations.
Our generation of American Muslims will likely play the pivotal role in the first effective establishment of Islam in the United States. This lot is unlikely to fall to our children or grandchildren. They will either be the beneficiaries of our success or the victims of our failure. Indifference toward the future of Muslims in America is not just an offense to the community; such indifference will lead to irremediable historical mistakes. The supreme societal obligation that falls upon our generation in building the American Muslim community of the future is to identify the priorities and required societal obligations that concern us and to acquire the means to meet them. The five operational principles are among the greatest of our resources and constitute a necessary component of eventual success.
 -from pg. 36-37 of "Living Islam With Purpose" by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah

"In speaking

about creating an indigenous Muslim culture in the United States, it must be emphasized that such a culture would not be a single, monolithic whole, nor would it necessarily develop along the lines of the dominant culture or any particular subculture. American culture, like human cultures everywhere, is not a single uniform entity. It is a complex of many diverse cultures and subcultures existing. They complement and compete against each other and have the same relation with the dominant culture of the mainstream. Endorsement of American culture means being open-minded toward all the multiple expressions of the indigenous cultural heritage. As emphasized before, the maxim "culture has the weight of law" disallows outright rejection of any cultural or subcultural legacy; the maxim allows American Muslims to adopt or to adapt what they like as long as it is not detrimental. Our attitude should remain consistent with Islam's default position that customs are presumed to be permissible, beneficial, and good until proven otherwise; in borderline cases, we have recourse to the maxim "the basic rule in customs in exemption."

In traditional Muslim societies, creative adaptation of indigenous norms was conspicuous and often more beneficial than mere adoption of them. Likewise, American Muslims need not be content with just adopting good cultural norms; it is often better to adapt them imaginatively in order to produce results that are more beautiful and more beneficial than existed earlier.
  -from pg. 35 of "Living Islam With Purpose" by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah

"An excellent example

of an empowered and empowering Muslim woman is the elegant twelfth-century scholar Fatimah bint Muhammad al-Samarqandi [fn 44: The family name "Samarqandi" means "from Samardand." Her family was Syrian but originally hailed from Central Asia.] of Syria. Her father was a preeminent Hanafi jurist and took active part in his daughter's education. Fatimah become widely renowned for her own knowledge. She mastered Hanafi jurisprudence and the sciences of hadith; her legal judgements (fatwas) and transmissions of hadith were held in the highest regard. Fatimah also excelled as a teacher of the various Islamic sciences. She instructed man as well as women, and students traveled to Syria to learn from her and receive their scholarly credentials.

Fatimah al-Samarqandi was a personal counselor of Nur al-Din Zangi. Nur al-Din is counted among the most significant rulers in Islamic history; he is remembered primarily for preparing the ground for the success of his vassal Salah al-Din (Saladin). Fatimah was renowned for her beauty and was widely regarded as the most beautiful woman of her time. Kings and princes unsuccessfully sought her hand in marriage. She chose instead to marry one of her father's students, al-Kasani, who is ranked today among the most brilliant Hanafi jurists. Fatimah chose him because of a commentary he wrote on one of her father's principal legal works. Al-Kasani's commentary, The Most Marvelous of Beneficial Things (Bada'i al-sana'i), constituted his marriage gift and is one of the classics of Islamic jurisprudence. Few if any works in the Hanafi school show greater attention to the rationales and ultimate purposes of the law. Although al-Kasani ranks among the most competent of jurists, it was Fatimah who corrected and edited his legal opinions. His esteem for her was so great that he would not sign the legal opinions he issued until Fatimah signed them first.

[fn 45: 'Umar Rida Kahhala, A'lam al-nisa' fi 'Alamay al-'Arab wa al-Islam, 5 vols. (Beirut: Mu'assasat  al-Risalah, 1991), 4:94-95; see also Abd-Allah, Famous Women in Islam, 14 CDs (Chicago: Nawawi Foundation, 2004).
 -from pg. 28 of "Living Islam With Purpose" by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah

Yahya Birt: Islamophobia Studies and Policy Round-Up

http://www.yahyabirt.com/?p=227

"A religious psychology

narrowly molded by lists of dos and don'ts is greatly handicapped. Muslims with such an identity struggle not to feel alien or out of place in surroundings where their list of dos and don'ts is not shared. They not only have problems relating to non-Muslims; ironically, it is often more difficult for them to interact with other Muslims who do not conform to their way of thinking. In reality, laws, behavioral standards, and even reasonable lists of dos and don'ts are part of the Islamic ethos, but they must have their foundation in sound knowledge, core values, and universal principles like those epitomized in the five operational principles. When Islamic identity is based on core values and universal principles within the parameters of acceptable behavior, it is empowered to function with self-confidence anywhere and with anyone: it ceases to be psychologically vulnerable in diversity and becomes receptive to the broadest cognitive frames.
-from pg. 27 of "Living Islam With Purpose" by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah

"The presumption of permissibility

is crucial for personal growth and community development of Muslims in the United States. Some Muslims regard Islam as little more than a list of dos and don'ts, and, generally, the don'ts outnumber the dos. When Islamic identity is behaviorally defined in this fashion, it fosters a psychology permeated with debilitations, inhibitions, and narrow cognitive frames; prohibition is made Islam's default position, and the religion is given the appearance of permitting very little and prohibiting everything else.

The presumption of permissibility emphasizes that the reverse is true; Islam's real default position is one of general permissibility with an affirmative attitude toward the world. The basic rule of general permissibility does not mean that the clear prohibitions of Islamic law are discarded. In fact, it lays stress on the fact that prohibitions in Islam are grave matters and must not to be taken lightly. Because prohibitions are grave matters, they demand cogent proof based on sound knowledge, not on hearsay, misgivings, or inhibitions. Ibn Taymiyyah adds in his discussion of the presumption of permissibility that it is reprehensible for a Muslim to be preoccupied with the minutiae of what may or may not be forbidden or to be obsessed with constantly asking about them.

[fn. 41: Ibn Taymiyyah, al-Qawa'id al-fiqhiyyah, 206, 211-218)]
 -from pg. 27 of "Living Islam With Purpose" by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah

"Since presumption of permissibility

is the dominant rule,  Muslims are not required to prove that things are permissible; only claims of prohibition demand proof. Today, many Muslims take it lightly to declare things forbidden; the opposite was true for the companions and the authoritative voices of Islamic law. Their inhibition, to the extent that they may be described as having inhibitions, was to pronounce things forbidden unless they were not already clearly known to be so. When the great legal scholars of the past took the decision to classify something as forbidden based on personal interpretation, they based their arguments on conclusive evidence, and even then they made their decisions with marked hesitation.
-from pg. 27 of "Living Islam With Purpose" by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah

Somalis in Twin Cities Shaken by Charges of Sex Trafficking

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/us/24gang.html

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Classes for next semester iA

The Enlightenment and Its Legacy

The Enlightenment, the 18-century cultural and intellectual movement in the West, has had a lasting influence on our present values and political thought. Reason, freedom, skepticism, critical thought, progress - and even democracy - are values and commitments we have inherited from this era. In order to specify the thought of this period (as well as debates and disagreements), we will first read various authors of the Enlightenment, including Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, and Wollstonecraft. In the second part of the course we will turn to the legacy of the Enlightenment. We will consider the doubts and critiques that have arisen. For example, Nietzsche and Freud (and psychoanalysis) have questioned the primacy of reason in both individual and collective action; Adorno and Foucault have questioned the ethics of political rationalism; and recent feminists have noted the paradoxes of the Enlightenment's rather narrow and implicitly gendered view of equality and citizenship. Do such criticisms alter our view of the basic tenets of Enlightenment thought? Or, on the contrary, might we read them as continuing the "spirit of critique" inaugurated by the thought of the 18th century?

Politics, Power, and Society

The nature and dimensions of power in society. Theoretical and empirical material dealing with national power structures of the contemporary United States and with power in local communities. Topics: the iron law of oligarchy, theoretical and empirical considerations of democracy, totalitarianism, mass society theories, voting and political participation, the political and social dynamics of advanced and developing societies, and the political role of intellectuals. Considers selected models for political analysis.
African American History Since 1865

The purpose of this course is to explore and probe the experience of African-Americans since the Civil War, emphasizing black life and culture paying particular attention to gender relations, everyday life, race and racism, significant individuals, key events, and relevant institutions.

Approaches to Asian/Pacific American Experience

This interdisciplinary course provides a general introduction to the themes of Asian/Pacific/American Studies through class discussions, guest speakers, and visits to community organizations in addition to traditional class methods. Emphasizing historical perspectives, it explores concepts of home and community, as well as Asian and American in the context of Asian/Pacific/American experiences. Issues covered may include: diaspora and migration, colonialism, orientalism, labor, family/community formations, national and international law/policy vis-à-vis A/P/As, intersections of sex/gender/race, education, popular culture and representation, activism, pan/ethnic identities, and electoral politics.