Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Identity Politics in Purgatory"

Identity politics has had a lot of bad press lately. On the one hand, the dominant reflex of the Right (as well as significant portions of the Left) is to maintain and police an ideological "identity-blind" standpoint by accusing anyone who speaks of the social hierarchies, segregations, and injuries of identity of having created them. The election of Barack Obama as U.S. president has only reinforced claims that we have entered a "postracial" era. Many on the radical Left, on the other hand, and more significantly for our purposes, critique identity politics for creating obstacles to revolution. The recognition and affirmation of identities - class, race, gender, sexuality, even at time religious identities - can reveal social wounds, the argument goes, demand redress of social ills, and create weapons for revolt and emancipation, but cannot operate the social metamorphosis, especially the self-transformation, necessary for revolution. And yet all revolutionary movements are grounded in identity. Here is the conundrum we face: revolutionary politics has to start from identity but cannot end there. The point is not pose division between identity politics and revolutionary politics but, on the contrary, to follow the parallel revolutionary streams of thought and practice within identity politics, which all, perhaps paradoxically, aim toward an abolition of identity. Revolutionary thought, in other words, should not shun identity politics but instead must work through it and learn from it.
-pg. 325-326 of Commonwealth by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."

-Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach

My classes this semester

So classes started Tuesday, ma sha Allah, it's been busy ever since..

Here are the classes I'm taking this semester ma sha Allah:

Concepts In Social And Cultural Analysis

This course is designed and intended as a gateway to all majors in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA). It is organized around readings of key primary and secondary texts that illuminate the development of modern categories of social and political thought, institutions and social movements. In lectures and through close reading and discussion, we will be developing an inventory of important concepts that are foundational to the ways we have come to think about social life in modernity: capitalism, property, class, race, nation, society, city, corporation, state, colony, gender, culture, democracy and poverty. In this way, the course explores the intersections among social epistemologies (the diversity of ways of knowing the social world), lines of power (forms of empowerment/disempowerment in social life) and struggle (historically specific forms of social and political mobilization).

Writing Seminar II: Immigration and Identity

In this course we will examine the complex and varying experiences of recent immigrant populations. We will explore the perspectives of immigrants who see themselves as outsiders and the experiences of immigrants who see themselves as insiders within a relocated immigrant ethnic culture. We will consider what these perspectives show us about belonging and alienation, about being part of a group or being the “Other.” This course asks: What does it mean to be an immigrant today? What logistical, legal, emotional and psychological issues does it entail? What differences are there between 20th century immigrants' experiences and the lives of 21st century transnational immigrants? We will read and discuss fictional accounts drawn from actual immigrants' experiences and will supplement these with numerous historical, anthropological, autobiographical, literary critical and journalistic works. Students will write several essays throughout the semester, which will prepare them for the final research paper. Readings may include fiction by Samuel Selvon, Jamaica Kincaid and Jhumpa Lahiri, in addition to theoretical and historical texts by Benedict Anderson and Roger Daniels, among others, as well as social criticism by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Imagining the Middle East

This course looks at historical and contemporary representations of the Middle Eastern cultures and societies in the modern Western imaginary. We will examine shifting representations of the Middle East in pre- and post-enlightenment European political and intellectual discourses, Western literary texts and travel literature, and contemporary US popular culture (films, advertising, thrillers, spy novels, romance fiction, etc.). We will also consider the interrelationship between popular cultural representations and the manner in which the Middle East is conceptualized in the academy and in "high culture" in general (e.g., theorized as Orientalism). It is an assumption of the course that a "post colonial" framework is key to interpreting not only the Middle East, but also the “West.”

Modern America

This course examines the history of the United States from the Civil War to the present. During this period the United States came to play an increasingly significant role on the world stage, notably in late 19th century imperialism, the global depression, two world wars, the Cold War, and the global “War on Terror.” This course pays particular attention to world historical themes that marked this period, including industrialization, population growth, citizenship, science and technology, urbanization and suburbanization, and the exploitation of natural resources. By situating America within a global context, we will examine ideas such as American exceptionalism and the rise and eventual dominance of the U.S. in the global sphere. This course will also incorporate the study of culture, race, class, and gender into a new globalized survey of Modern America.

"My own intellectual journey ranges from early studies in the scholastic Muslim tradition

with grounding in the classical texts of Arabic grammar, literature, law, legal theory, theology, philosophy, and logic, among other subjects, to an encounter with modern disciplines of the humanities and the social sciences. In trying to make sense of two intellectual traditions while existentially battling racism, colonialism, and imperialism in my own South African community, I have had to struggle with several issues and questions. In more than one way, this book also maps the way I negotiate these questions in the company of Ghazali.

-pg. 2 of Ebrahim Moosa's Ghazali & the Poetics of Imagination

“If there is anything that Ghazali’s work teaches those grappling with contemporary Muslim thought,

it is how to find a better way to engage with the tradition. Ghazali did not surrender to tradition: he imitated and invented simultaneously. Contrary to what many contemporary Muslims claim – modern educated ones as well as those who assert a traditionalist pedigree – Ghazali shows that being faithful to tradition includes the ability to question and reinterpret it. Unfortunately contemporary Muslim thought displays two distressing tendencies: surrender to the authority of tradition or the complete jettisoning of tradition.

The French scholar of Islam Jacques Berque very pithily summarizes contemporary Islam's struggle to negotiate true progress without falling prey to an imperialist positivism. "Today, all too many militants and intellectuals," he observes, "are proponents of either an authenticity with no future or of a modernism with no roots."

- pg. 62 of Ebrahim Moosa's Ghazali & the Poetics of Imagination

More bias in US against Muslims than other faiths

Personally knowing a Muslim is not linked to a lower level of prejudice, although not knowing a Muslim is related to the greatest level of bias. The authors of the report say this finding underscores the need for better education on what Islam teaches.

"What really seems to impact one's perception of a group much more than knowing an individual is having a positive opinion of that group's distinguishing characteristic, which in this case is their faith," said Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. "That one person being nice enough could simply be explained as that person being an exception."

Respondents who say they attend religious services more than once a week are significantly more likely to have a favorable view of Muslims. Mogahed said people who are more religious generally consider prejudice a moral evil and often have respect for the devout of other faiths.

Researchers also found a link between prejudice against Jews and Muslims. Americans who acknowledged "a great deal" of bias toward Jews were much more likely to feel the same about Muslims. The survey results could not explain why the two prejudices are linked. Mogahed said bias against both groups should be tracked and studied together to understand the dynamic.

"Groups working against the two types of prejudices should perhaps form a closer alliance," she said.

Martin Luther King, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"

Chris Hedges: Turning King’s Dream Into a Nightmare

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"For me, tradition is not an event, it is a process.

And I think that the one thing that militates against the essentializing of tradition is that the facts on the ground in tradition simply defy that. And so, for me, what is important is the process, that puts us all in a position to argue our perspective and then at the end of the day to be able to agree on multiple authenticities. That is the value of tradition to me, not to go back to the past and try the biases, perspectives, and specific socially and culturally informed notions of the ancients and superimpose them onto modern Muslim society. That's not the point of tradition. "
Sherman A. Jackson
Islam(s) East and West: Clash of Imaginations?
Harvard Divinity School: Center for the Study of World Religions
March 12, 2007

(Thanks to Abood for the transcription!)

“This attempt to foster a conversation among iterations of different intellectual traditions

aims to advance an emancipator and humane discursive tradition, one to which the Muslim intellectual legacy can make a meaningful contribution despite the double marginalization that Muslim thought suffers. Western humanities and modern philosophical traditions intentionally overlook Muslim thought as a sustainable inspiration for knowledge; this is one form of marginalization. And certain contemporary Muslim knowledge practices often consciously refrain from articulating Muslim thought in an accessible idiom or engaging with the historical Muslim tradition in an empowering manner from their multiple locations in the present. This is a form of surrender to the hegemonic discursivity of modernity, even though Islamist proponents would claim to resist modernity by means of such actions. For, indeed, those who choose isolation and absence unconsciously endorse the dominant knowledge practices as normative while reducing the knowledge of their own tradition to a subaltern status, veiled in its alleged purity and suffocating in its isolation.”

– pg. 35 of Ebrahim Moosa's Ghazali & the Poetics of Imagination

"The spread of Islam outside the Arabian Peninsula

brought into the fold of the Muslim empire a range of peoples, cultures, intellectual and religious traditions. In the early period, there was no such thing as 'Islamic thought,' like the usul al-fiqh, kalam, and usul al-din that would later be so designated. As such, conversion to Islam did not oblige individuals to convert to any particular tradition of thinking. Rather, converts would come to Islam with the intention of 'thinking' on the data of revelation in the best way they knew how, be that way grounded in a Greek, Manichean, or Arab nativist tradition. Over the course of the formative period, some of these traditions would be able to sustain themselves as legitimate while others would be rejected as alien or even antithetical to Islam. In the final analysis, however, all of them would share a common trait: they were all historically determined, ultimately external to revelation. Recognizing this fact would appear to be the sine qua non for the success of any religion with universalist claims. It is interesting, however, to see so many who champion the universalist claims of Islam unable or unwilling to recognize this fact."

- pg. 16 from Dr. Jackson's introduction to his annotated translation of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali's Faysal al-Tafriqa, On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam

“One of the issues related to change that has exercised me for some time

is an observation that stems from my reading of classical Islamic texts, whether they be law, theology, history, mysticism, or philosophy. When studying the ancients, I am struck the epistemic openness and the liberty with which many thinkers and authors energetically engaged with a wide variety of knowledge traditions. They did so without allowing the provenance of knowledge be a decisive veto factor. Hence, a good portion of early Muslim intellectuals were open to the spirit of knowledge, whether it came from Greek, Indian, Biblical, or other philosophical traditions. Some strains of thought did resist this intellectual orientation, but they were hardly successful in dampening it.

This picture contrasts radically with many strains of contemporary Muslim intellectual thought, especially religious discourse. The provenance of an idea or a practice is more significant in contemporary thought than the substance of the idea. The prevalence of this condition has not only resulted in the atrophy of knowledge, but the process of knowledge production itself has suffocated. Knowledge related to religious discourse, such as ethics, law, theology, and philosophy, is quarantined from intercourse with ideas that have a non-Islamic genealogy. Only in the realm of science and technology is knowledge of a non-Islamic provenance tolerated, since these are viewed as secular discourses. This symptomatic response, of course, is partly explicable in the light of the harsh aftermath of colonialism and the consequent loss of self-confidence among Muslim societies…”

–pg. 25-26 of Ebrahim Moosa's Ghazali & the Poetics of Imagination

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy

necessary." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM)

The American Learning Institute for Muslims is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable organization based in Michigan dedicated to empowering Muslims through targeted education. ALIM provides substantive knowledge in all relevant aspects of Islamic Sciences but goes beyond these basic building blocks and teaches critical thinking intertwined with the elements of true Muslim character as applied to these subjects. This leads to basic Islamic literacy, which allows for the development of empowered Muslims through meaningful discourse and true intellectual and spiritual development.

ALIM is a specialized institute. ALIM is not committed to making scholars of its students; rather it seeks to produce Islamically literate members of society that will have a positive effect on Muslim society as well as the society at large. Islamic Literacy goes well beyond the simple memorization or passive reception of texts. ALIM provides tools that allow a student to seek and process knowledge critically, with the proper balance of the Mind and Heart. These students will be able to engage scholars in a productive discourse that allows for mutual development and the true coming of an Islamic Renaissance.

In any successful culture and society there are several role-players that facilitate development and perpetuation. These role-players must communicate effectively. Effective and meaningful discourse necessarily requires a lingua franca or common language whereby the participants in a discussion may convey their ideas and experiences clearly. ALIM seeks to provide the lingua franca as well as the environment in which scholars, professionals, activists, artists, writers, community leaders and members of Muslim society might engage each other effectively and develop strategies and possibilities for Islamic society and culture. This is Muslim empowerment!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Help Haiti Online Fundraiser - SeekersGuidance with Islamic Relief. Sunday, January 17 at 2 pm EST

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.

Could you please help get the word out:

Join IslamicRelief, SeekersGuidance, Reliefworks, MSA National, and the Fawakih Institute for the"Help Haiti, Heal Haiti" Online Fundraiser Event.

Sunday, January 17, 2 pm EST.


CNN video: Islamic Relief for Haiti

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