Saturday, February 20, 2010

"What you will find are seven Arab-American narratives

that are in the end very American stories about race, religion, and civil rights and about how the pressures of domestic life and foreign policy push on individual lives....They are students and grocery-store clerks, teenagers and twenty-somethings, community workers and soldiers. They are religious and secular, male and female. What they want most is what the majority of young adults desire: opportunity, marriage, happiness, and the chance to fulfill their potential. But what they have now are extra loads to carry, burdens that often include workplace discrimination, warfare in their countries of origin, government surveillance, the disappearance of friends or family, threats of vigilante violence, a host of cultural misunderstands, and all kinds of other problems that thrive in the age of terror.

And yet this is far from a gloomy book. In fact, I have developed a great deal of optimism through its writing. What I have found is that young Arab Americans understand both the adversities they face and the opportunities they have with an enviable maturity. They have a keen awareness about their lives, an acute kind of double consciousness that comprehends the widening gap between how they see themselves and how they are seen by the culture at large. They live with multiple identities and are able to draw connections to the struggles others have faced in our American past. These young men and women have been raised by immigrant parents and educated in a post-civil-rights-era America. They bring with them a deep, sometimes first-hand, understanding of the conflicts ranging in the Middle East and at the same time they are well versed in the recurring battles for equality in the United States. They often draw lessons from this past to their own lives, reading themselves through the pages of American history. This is a remarkable trait often missing today, where telling someone she's "history" is the equivalent to telling her that life is over. But their lives are just beginning.

Stories connect us to each other. In ways that polemics and polls cannot, they can reveal our conflicts within ourselves and our vulnerabilities to each other. Stories can describe why certain choices are made and others are passed over, and they can reveal the colors of our emotions. Stories have the capacity to convert a line drawing into flesh, to dislodge the power of the presumption and prejudice. Perhaps this explains why I responded the way I did to the many inquiries I heard from friends and associates after I described the project of this book to them. "Oh, you're writing profiles," they would say.

"Portraits," I would answer. "Hasn't there been enough profiling already?"

Friday, February 19, 2010

West Side via West Bank

Najla Said’s “Palestine,” a one-woman Off Broadway show that began previews on Saturday, is a coming-of-age story about Ms. Said’s journey to become an Arab-American on her own terms.

The daughter of Edward W. Said, the Columbia University professor who until his death in 2003 was the most prominent advocate in this country for the cause of Palestinian independence, Ms. Said guides the audience though her teenage years as a self-described politically agnostic Upper West Side princess to a vision of herself today, a 35-year-old woman who is deeply moved by the very word “Palestine.”

Ms. Said, a writer and actor, insists that she is not an especially political person. “Palestine,” which officially opens on Feb. 17 at the Fourth Street Theater in the East Village, offers no remedies for Mideast tensions or blanket assessments of a complex situation. [continue reading]

IMAN's Project Restore: Donate Now

"Man is a yes...

Yes to life. Yes to love. Yes to generosity. But man is also a no. No to scorn of man. No to degradation of man. No to exploitation of man. No to the butchery of what is most human in man: freedom.

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Commemoration of the Martyrdom of Malcom X

Join the Schomburg Center in commemorating 45 years since the martrydom of Al Hajj Malik Shabazz with a discussion on Malcolm X and Islam Today.

Sunday, February 21st

Panelists include:
Dr. Sapphire Ahmed, The Peoples Doctor
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, Environmental Justice/Youth Activist
Imam Yusef Ramadan, Masjid Nuriddin, Queens
Sam Anderson, The Malcolm X Museum.

Performance by:
Gaith Adhami, Spoken Word Artist

Free admission.

*The Malcolm X Museum is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997 and chartered by the Board of Regents of the New York State Education Department*

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"To whom does war bring prosperity?

Not to the solider who for the munificent compensation for $16 per month shoulders his musket and goes into the trench, there to shed his blood and to die if necessary; not to the broken-hearted widow who waits for the return of the mangled body of her husband; not to the mother who weeps at the death of her brave boy; not to the little children who shiver with cold; not to the babe who suffers from hunger; nor to the millions of mothers and daughters who carry broken hearts to their graves. War brings no prosperity to the great mass of the common and patriotic citizens. It increases the cost of living of those who toil and those who who already must strain every effort to keep soul and body together. War brings prosperity to the stock gambler on Wall Street - to those who are already in possession of more wealth than can be realized or enjoyed.

Their object in having war and in preparing for war is to make money. Human suffering and the sacrifice of human life are necessary, but Wall Street considers only the dollars and the cents. The men who the fighting, the people who make the sacrifices, are the ones who will not be counted in the measure of this great prosperity....The stock brokers would not, of course, go to war, because the very object they have in bringing on the war is profit, and therefore they must remain in their Wall Street offices in order to share in that great prosperity which they say war will bring. The volunteer officer, even the drafting officer, will not find them. They will be concealed in their palatial offices on Wall Street, sitting behind mahogany desks, covered up with clipped coupons - coupons soiled with the sweat of honest toil, coupons stained with mothers' tears, coupons dyed in the lifeblood of their fellow men.

We are taking a step to-day that is fraught with untold danger. We are going into war upon the command of gold. We are going to run the risk of sacrificing millions of our countrymen's lives in order that other countrymen may coin their lifeblood into money. And even if we do not cross the Atlantic and go into the trenches, we are going to pile up a debt that the toiling masses that shall come many generations after us will have to pay. Unborn millions will bend their backs in toil in order to pay for the terrible step we are now about to take. We are about to do the bidding of wealth's terrible mandate. By our act we will make millions of our countrymen suffer, and the consequences of it may well be that millions of our brethren must shed their lifeblood, millions of broken-hearted women must weep, millions of children must suffer with cold, and millions of babes must die from hunger, and all because we want to preserve the commercial right of American citizens to deliver munitions of war to belligerent nations....

From George W. Norris, Congressional Record, 65th Cong., 1st sess. (April 4, 1917), pp. 212-214.
-quoted in Opposing Viewpoints in American History, Vol 2, p. 70-71

"We cannot worship this golden calf and go unscourged.

We cannot violate the principles of our government and enjoy the blessings of those principles. We cannot deny freedom across the ocean and maintain it at home. This Nation cannot endure with part of its people citizens and part colonists. The flag will lose all its glory if it floats at once over freemen and subjects. We cannot long rule other men and keep our own liberty. In the high and holy name of humanity, we are trampling upon the rights of men. But Nemesis will wake. The mask will fall; our joy will turn to bitterness; we shall find ourselves in chains.

Most of all, we lament the stain that has come to our flag, not from the solider carrying it, but from the policy that has compelled him to carry it in an unjust cause. On executive hands falls, not only the blood of the hunted islander, but the blood of the American murdered by the ambition that sent him to invade distant lands. What we most deplore is the surrender that we as a nation have made of our leadership in the world's great work of human emancipation. What we most bitterly mourn is that we, by our selfish dreams of mere commercialism, have piled obstacles mountain high in the way of progress.

What is most suprising and most alarming is the fact that large numbers of our poeple still call this national ambition for conquest and dominion a form of exalted patriotism. But we are surely under the spell of a malign influence. A false Americanism has captivated our reason and corrupted our conscience. May this hypnotic lethargy, induced by the glittering but deceptive bauble of imperialism, speedily pass away; and may these fellow citizens become again true Ameriacns, free to labor for the liberty of all men and intent on helping the lowly of all lands to independence.

It is time that all American citizens should look more carefully into the conditions and tendencies which constitute what may well be called, "The Menace to America." Let me discuss briefly certain phases of what rises ominously before us as the Philippine problem.....
From Joseph Henry Cooker, The Menace to America (Chicago: American Anti-Imperialist Leage, 1900).
-quoted in Opposing Viewpoints in American History, Vol 2, p. 46

“Prophetic churches, prophetic mosques, prophetic synagogues

can all play a fundamental role in nurturing children by transmitting noncommercial values. I’m talking about love, care, service to others, sacrifice, risk, community, struggles for justice, and solidarity. All of these nonmarketplace values struggle against a market-driven culture.

“You have to have deep, deep religious faith to stay in the struggle for a long time.

Ask anybody who’s been in the struggle for the long haul. You have to have deep faith. Faith is our primary source of empowerment. If you haven’t dealt with the bondage of death and despair, then you’re going to be disillusioned after the first laps This is not a sprint. This is a marathon.

"At its best,

religion can provide us with vision and values, but it doesn't provide the analytical tools. One doesn't look to the Bible to understand the complexity of modern society. It can give us certain insights into the human condition, certain visions of what we should hope for, but we also need social, political, and economic tools.

"Here's the bottom line:

to be inspired by ordinary human beings made by God who undergo suffering but who have the courage to imagine a different future and are willing to fight for it, and to decide to fight along with them. That is prophetic thought and prophetic action as I understand it.

"It's critical to understand your history,

and then be true to oneself in such a way that one's connection to the suffering of others is an integral part of understanding yourself. This is a deep problem these days. To be great in our times too often means to have great material prosperity and no moral magnanimity at all.

"What kind of human being do you want to be?

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? What kind of witness do you want to bear? The prophetic question remains: Are you willing to be in solidarity with those whose tears are flowing? These are profoundly human questions.
-Cornel West, Hope on a Tightrope: Words & Wisdom, p. 28

"It takes courage to interrogate yourself.

It takes courage to look in the mirror and see past your reflection to who you really are when you take off the mask, when you're not performing the same old routines and social roles. It takes courage to ask - how did I become so well-adjusted to injustice?

It takes courage to cut against the grain and become nonconformist. It takes courage to wake up and stay awake instead of engaging in complacent slumber. It takes courage to shatter conformity and cowardice.

The courage to love truth is one of the preconditions to thinking critically....When you place a high value on truth, you have to think for yourself.

DUIN: Muslims here since slavery

thanks Ammar!

The Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

"Before Imam Siraj's lecture, Rami Nashashibi,

the executive director of IMAN and a second-generation Palestinian, made an opening speech. Rami talked about IMAN and the organization's work in the inner city, describing substandard housing and educational resources in low-income neighborhoods, African America, Latino, and Arab. Rami referred to his privilege, "having never had to live in the projects," but he focused more on the blessing "to work in an environment" with inner-city Muslims who have "suffered the legacy of racism and oppression and have risen to honorable ranks to inspire" more privileged Muslims to use Islam to transform and enhance lives.

Rami talked about immigrants and their children trying to find a place in American society, but in his terms, place did not mean finding acceptance by the white majority. Rather, it meant raising one's consciousness of poor communities and doing something about it: "We have a place in America, a place not simply black and white, cut-and-dried, but a place of active work, da'wah [outreach to non-Muslims], getting involved to do something about your environment." Rami challenged the mostly immigrant Muslim audience to do something about poverty and racism by uniting with Muslims from different race and class backgrounds: "This is your ummah. It is one ummah. Never underestimate a concept that unites beyond ethnicity, class, and race...It is a lofty ideal but Muslims have championed this concept for fourteen hundred years." American Muslims commonly refer to themselves as an ummah, he noted, but they fail to live up to the concept: "Post 9/11, we have no more time for slogans. We have to be real about this thing."

"Unveiling Traditions was conceived as a project to to examine

the extent to which Islam shapes intellectual practice in primarily Muslim societies and to give Islamic cultures a more prominent role in postcolonial and multicultural theories. The global furor over the Rushdie affair did more than any recent event to bring postcolonial fiction into the mainstream; yet, with very few exceptions, postcolonial critics never seriously examined the place of Islam in debates of multiculturalism. The challenge of including Islamic subjectivities and cultural epistemologies into a world of equal differences has been left untheorized, probably because the religious imaginary is dismissed ahead of time as either conservative or unredeemable. Yet I don't think people can step out of their cultures (notwithstanding the much vaunted hybridizing effects of the market place) and reconstitute themselves in an entirely new vocabulary. My defense of Muslims' rights to their identities and memories is motivated exclusively by my strong belief that only secure, progressive, indigenous traditions, cultivated over long spans of time, can sustain meaningful global diversities and create effective alternatives to the deculturing effects of capitalism.
-Anouar Majid, Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World, p. vii

"Such precepts [Qur'an 33:53] were necessary on account of the great love they bore him,

and their desire to be in his presence as long and as often as possible. Those who were with him were always loath to leave him. Nor could they have been blamed if they stayed, for when he spoke to anyone he would turn to him so fully and make him so amply the object of his attention that the man might well imagine himself to be privileged enough for liberties that others dared not take; and when he took a man's hand he was never the first to relinquish his hold. But while protecting the Prophet, the Revelation introduced at this time a new element into the liturgy, which made it possible for his people to give expression to their love and to benefit from his spiritual radiance without imposing unduly their presences upon him. Verily God and His angels whelm in blessings the prophet. O ye who believe, invoke blessings upon him and give him greetings of Peace. [33:56] And shortly afterwards, the Prophet told one of his Companions, "An Angel came unto me and said 'None invoketh blessings upon thee once, but God invoketh blessings upon him tenfold.'" [26]
-Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, p.221

Qing Wu Deserves a Second Chance

by my professor of 'U.S. Constitution and Communities of Color' class! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"If envy is a sin,

then I am the incurable sinner, for I envy every eye that ever caught a glimpse of you. I envy the waves that carried your voice and the air that touched your cheeks. I envy even the ground that once served you, and I confess to you that despite my indulgent sins, my shameful whimsies, and my ugly flimsies, I confess to you, "I love you."
Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, "The Sunna of the Beloved," Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam, p. 147

"Spirituality and Social Change: An Interfaith Roundtable"

Found this recording online at the "itunes university"

"Spirituality and Social Change: An Interfaith Roundtable" (1:59:22)

with Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann (moderator), Prof. Susannah Heschel, Rev. Dr. Heng Sure, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock

The Aurora Forum at Stanford University

(I actually attending this program in person :) Good memories of going there with Samieh and meeting Dustin (for this first time I think) there :)

Dr. Umar on Societal Obligations 3

When Muslims focus exclusively on individual obligations and interests, they lose sight of Islam's social mission. They become victims of an atomistic, one-dimensional mindset that is virtually incapable of critical consciousness and social awareness. As such, many Muslims have little ability to comprehend and have minimal incentive to participate in their community's preservation and growth, much less the concerns of the world beyond them.
-See "Societal Obligations" in Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah's important article "Living Islam With Purpose," p. 16

Dr. Umar on Societal Obligations 2

In the West today, Muslims have the communal duty to identify and implement societal obligations necessary for community growth, civic engagement, and environmental protection. It must be stressed that societal obligations are not the sole domain of activists and volunteers. Today, as in the past, Muslim communities cannot meet their societal obligations without farsighted institutional development, including the establishment of religious endowments and the employment of well-trained professionals.
-See "Societal Obligation" in Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah's important article "Living Islam With Purpose," p. 16

Dr. Umar on Societal Obligations

Societal obligations allow no Muslim to remain a passive spectator in the community. There is always work to be done, whether it pertains to urgent needs or more general requirements. Those who are not able or qualified to perform societal obligations must give material and moral support to those who are performing them. Muslims who are qualified to fulfill societal obligations must take part in them to the extent they are able, but as before, the communal responsibility for failing to meet societal obligations falls upon both the qualified and the unqualified alike.

-See "Societal Obligation" in Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah's important article "Living Islam With Purpose," p. 15

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"As we will see, Muslim women travel in the shared space of the ummah,

but they also travel across multiple ethnic spaces in which they encounter multiple Muslim discourses. Such discourses distinguish not only African American and South Asian Muslim spaces but also Muslim spaces characterized by the same ethnicity, for example, different African American Muslim spaces. Ethnicity is not homogeneous. Members of an ethnic group carry multiple and contrasting loyalties and affiliations within a common ethnic identity, including affiliations related to religious choice, socioeconomic status, gender, and generation. When intraethnic affiliations vary and often compete, this variation translates into moments of separation without one's own ethnic group and a possible connection with a member of another ethnic group.

pg. 96 of Jamillah Karim's American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender Within the Ummah

the opening of "In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong" by Amin Maalouf

How many times, since I left Lebanon in 1976 to live in France, have people asked me, with the best intentions in the world, whether I felt “more French” or “more Lebanese”? And I always give the same answer: “Both!” I say that not in the interests of fairness or balance, but because any other answer would be a lie. What makes me myself rather than anyone else is the very fact that I am poised between two countries, two or three languages and several cultural traditions. It precisely this that defines my identity. Would I exist more authentically if I cut off a part of myself?

To those who ask the question, I patiently explain that I was born in Lebanon and lived there until I was 27; that Arabic is my mother tongue; that it was in Arabic translation that I first read Dumas and Dickens and Gulliver’s Travels; and that it was in my native village, the village of my ancestors, that I experienced the pleasures of childhood and heard some of the stories that were later to inspire my novels. How could I forget all that? How could I cast it aside? On the other hand, I have lived for 22 years on the soil of France; I drink her water and wine; every day my hands touch her ancient stones; I write my books in her language; never again will she be a foreign country to me.

So am I half French and half Lebanese? Of course not. Identity can’t be compartmentalized. You can’t divide it up into halves or thirds or any other separate segments. I haven’t got several identities: I’ve got just one, made up of many components in a mixture that is unique to me, just as other people’s identity is unique to them as individuals.

Sometimes, after I've been giving a detailed account of exactly why I lay claim to all my affiliations, someone comes and pats me on the shoulder and says "Of course, of course - but what do you really feel, deep down inside?"

For a long time I found this oft-repeated question amusing, but it no longer makes me smile. It seems to reflect a view of humanity which, though it is widespread, is also in my opinion dangerous. It presupposes that "deep down inside" everyone there is just one affiliation that really matters, a kind of "fundamental truth" about each individual, an "essence" determined once and for all at birth, never to change thereafter. As if the rest, all the rest - a person's whole journey through time as a free agent; the beliefs he acquires in the course of that journey; his own individual tastes, sensibilities and affinities; in short his life itself - counted for nothing. And when, as happens so often nowadays, our contemporaries are exhorted to "assert their identity," they are meant seek within themselves that same alleged fundamental allegiance, which is often religious, national, racial or ethnic, and having located it they are supposed to flaunt it proudly in the face of others.

Anyone who claims a more complex identity is marginalized. But a young man born in France of Algerian parents clearly carries within him two different allegiances or "belongings," and he ought to be allowed to use both. For the sake of argument I refer to two "belongings," but in fact such a youth's personality is made up of many more ingredients. Within him, French, European and other western influences mingle with Arab, Berber, African, Muslim and other sources, whether with regard to language, beliefs, family relationships or to tastes in cooking and the arts. This represents an enriching and fertile experience if the young man in question feels free to live it fully - if he is encouraged to accept it in all its diversity. But it can be traumatic if whenever he claims to be French other people look on him as a traitor or renegade, and if every time he emphasizes his ties with Algeria and its history, culture and religion he meets with incomprehension, mistrust or even outright hostility."
(pgs. 1-3 of this fascinating little book: In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. Translated from the French by Barbara Bray.

Shahed Amanullah: Clinton disappoints the Muslim world

Monday, February 15, 2010

Imam Zaid: Conclusion to "Grayeyard Detriot"

So what is the connection between these disparate ideas buried in Graveyard Detroit? African Americans, most of whom are still waiting for the deposit of the funds to cover the bad check Dr. King referred to in one of his speeches, the white middle class whose homes, retirement and pension funds, jobs and sense of security have been stolen by the latter-day robber barons, and Muslims along with others whose lives and lands have been or will soon be laid waste by the American war machine? They must all be made to see that they are being brutalized by the same globalized corporate forces. That being the case, they must find ways to unite if their resistance to those forces is to have any efficacy.

For example, African Americans cannot see Latinos who are “stealing all of the jobs” as the enemy. They must understand that the system that forces campesinos from their land through unjust and inequitable agricultural policies and sends them flowing desperately northward is the same system that structurally marginalizes and criminalizes young African American men and then profits off their incarceration.

Disenfranchised white folks must understand that Islam is neither their enemy nor a threat to their existence any more than the Vietnamese in the 1960s, Latin Americans leftist organizations in the 1980s or tomorrow’s bogeyman, whoever it may be. All of our “enemies du jour” are just desperate people trying to the best of their understanding and ability to preserve their land, culture, and resources against the rapacious appetite of a global empire. The white middle class must understand that it is not the Muslims who have closed down their factories, eliminated their jobs, stolen their retirement funds, devalued their homes, and burdened their children with a mountain of debt by bailing out the banks, insurance underwriters and finance houses.

Furthermore, the white middle class has to stop playing the silly game of political musical chairs, blaming the incumbent party, be it the democrats or the republicans, for the ravages of a morbid system. The problem is not the democrats or the republicans when both parties have sold out to the corporate interests whose army of lobbyists floods Capital Hill shelling out money to the quislings of both parties who in turn sell out the voters they pretend so hypocritically to serve. The problem is a system that facilitates such a pernicious farce.

The mounting frustrations of the white middle class against the failures and excesses of the political system will not be solved by tea party protests or scapegoating hapless groups such as Muslims or Latino immigrants. Only united and focused nonviolent political action that works to undo the oppressive structures that advance what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as the evil triplets of poverty, racism, and militarism will lead to any lasting change in this country. The white middle class, or its surviving vestiges, must be an integral part of such action.

For their part, Muslims must have the wisdom, insight and sagacity to realize that the current wars being visited upon Muslims are not evidence of an American or Jewish-led crusade against the faithful, any more than the Vietnam War, the first Iraq War or the invasions of Panama or Grenada were crusades –despite the existence of some rhetoric that conveys that impression. They are all geostrategic conflagrations fueled by an outdated Machiavellian logic that ultimately transcends religion.

Muslims must also realize that in some instances poor people in America are brutalized by the police, prison guards, ICE officers and other agents of the state in ways that make many poor neighborhoods in America microcosms of occupied Muslim lands. The validity of this comparison is reinforced by the image of Blackwater mercenaries prowling the streets of New Orleans keeping the “refugees” in check in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Muslims must also understand that there are many American groups and individuals, including Jewish ones, who are working tirelessly to reverse the policies that demonize Muslims and direct bombs and missiles towards their lands. Furthermore, Muslims must see that only by forming bonds of solidarity with those oppressed groups in America and elsewhere will they gain the critical mass needed to begin addressing their grievances and alleviating their suffering.

There is no group, which alone can undo the dangerous policies and politics of a global empire that in many ways threatens the very existence of our planet. Opposing that oppressive force will require a globalized resistance that has the ability, like transnational corporations and their surrogates, to transcend national boundaries. That resistance must have the insight to engage in a deep level of analysis that looks beyond the superficial categories presented by corporate-sponsored pundits and ideologues to see the underlying causes of our collective problems, the structures that unite the disparate groups that suffer as a result of the policies that facilitate the corporate dominance of the world, and the strategies that will be needed to move forward.

If Graveyard Detroit can teach us anything, it is the degree to which our lives have become intertwined. Whites, African Americans and large numbers of Arabs, many of them Muslims –Lebanese, Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians and others- live in and around Detroit. Globalizing economic forces have brought them together, and despite the periodic traumas and great stresses that threaten to tear them apart they have been able to form a civic community, which had begun, prior to the 2008 financial meltdown, to come together to begin to rebuild their city. If these communities are able to regroup and then cross the lines that divide them, perhaps their example will inspire a world in desperate need for a new direction, and Graveyard Detroit can become a symbol of rebirth.

Tariq Ramadan: Seven "Cs"

What Muslims urgently need is first of all confidence. The identity crisis is a deep one and it is imperative, through education, to develop better knowledge of oneself and one's history, to shape a conscience and intelligence that is confident and serene: that is both sure of itself and humble toward others. Ultimately, self-confidence should be allied to confidence in others.

This process must be associated with a permanent, rigorous duty of consistency; one should not idealize one's values and message and become unable to draw up a thorough critique of the contradictions, malfunctioning, or even betrayals that run through Muslim societies and communities. Critical mind, critical loyalty, active rationality are not only the best allies of deep spirituality but also the conditions for development and renewal. Wherever they are, in whatever region of the world, Muslims should be witnesses (shahid, plur. shuhada) to the richness and positive potential of their message.

To this end, they must contribute to the common welfare, whatever people's religion, status, or origin: the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, in our eyes, should have no religion. Muslims citizens' contribution must be an answer to the outdated discourse obsessed with "integration."

In all the realms of intelligence and action (the sciences, the arts, cultures, societies, politics, economy, ecology, ethics, etc.) Muslim must recapture the energy of creativity and a taste for initiative and risk. Minds and talents must be liberated and women and men must be offered space for expression, experimentation, criticism, and renewal.

Yet they must not forget that many of their fellow citizens (eve of their fellow believers) have fears, do not understand, would like to know more: communication is essential. Choosing terminology, defining concepts, being able to shift one's perspective and show intellectual (and cultural) empathy are important not only from one's standpoint as a speaker but also in the situation of those who listen (with their fears, their history, their references).

Another requirement remains: being consistent and self-critical cannot justify failure to criticize others' inconsistencies hypocrisies. Confronted by powers, governments, or even laws (like the apartheid laws that used to be institutionalized in South Africa), one must retrain one's duty and right to contest. One must be able to resist the betrayal of principles, even when the betrayers are one's own family, one's fellow believers, one's government, or whoever else. One must not remain silent, whether in front of the hypocritical posturing of Western states in reaction to China's repression of Tibetans (whom I have been defending for over twenty-five years) or amid the international community's silence while Palestinians suffer colonization and repression at the hands of successive Israeli governments. [24]

Developing the capacity for empathy, understanding, forgiveness, and reaching compassion for oneself and others (as the Buddhist tradition requires) is another imperative. What this involves is not pity or passive sentimentalism but understanding and forgiveness in action, demanding justice without even forgetting the realm of the heart and of love. [25]
-Tariq Ramadan, What I Believe, p. 87-88

Tariq Ramadan: Manifesto for a New "We" - An Appeal to Western Muslims and Their Fellow Citizens

The Prophet (Nasheed Video) Dawud Wharnsby Ali

Thanks to Farooq!

Chris Hedges: The Information Super-Sewer

"One should not fail to observe the revival of spirituality and of the quest for meaning among Muslim Westerners.

Islam is perceived as such as problem today that Muslim scholars or intellectuals are often called upon to explain what Islam is not in light of current challenges. However, Islam is first and foremost an answer for the majority of Muslim hearts and consciences, echoing a quest for meaning at the core of rich and industrialized societies. This is hardly ever mentioned, and yet this is where the essence of religion lies: millions of Muslim women and men experience religion as spiritual initiation, reconciliation with meaning, and question for the liberation of their inner selves in a global world dominated by appearances and excessive possession and consumption. To be a Muslim Westerner is also to experience the spiritual tension between a faith that calls for liberation of the inner self and a daily life that seems to contradict and imprison it. This is a difficult experience whether for a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim; it is a difficult experience for all human beings who wish to remain free with their values and who would also like to offer their children the instruments of their freedom. It would be worthwhile, at the core of all those debates, not to disregard that essential religious, spiritual, and philosophical dimension.

-Tariq Ramadan, What I Believe, p. 33-34

John Gray: The atheist delusion

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Such psychological data must be taken into account when starting this discussion:

people are afraid; they experience tensions and doubts that often produce passionate, emotional, sometimes uncontrolled and excessive reactions. The consequences of those interacting crises can be observed everywhere: under the effect of emotion, one listens less, deafness sets in; reflections become less complex and subtle, they are expression in binary terms and subtlety is perceived as ambiguity. Essentialized stories serve to justify final judgements about the others (one person's behavior is seen to represent all of her or his society or community). High-sounding philosophical or political arguments will have no effect if one does not take into account the real and sometimes devastating consequences of psychological tensions, of mistrust, fear, emotion, deafness, binary thinking, or of focusing on essentialized stories that serve as indisputable evidence to reject or condemn. To run against the tide of those phenomena (which once again similarly affects all parties), we need an educational approach relying on a pedagogy that takes people's psychological state into account, without trying to make them feel guilty (nor to stigmatize them) and which strives to explain, qualify, and think in mutual terms. The evolution of fear and doubt must be answered with a revolution of self-confidence and mutual trust. Emotional rejection and deafness must be answered by intellectual empathy through which negative emotions are kept at bay and subjected to constructive criticism. This requires a long-term, demanding, dialectical approach that can only be developed at the grass roots. It can only be achieved through proximity, and I believe at least fifty years will be necessary for people to get accustomed. That is a long time...and yet is so short on a historical scale.
-Tariq Ramadan, What I Believe, p. 28-29

"No cliche is more stupefying than that which describes Al Qeda as a throwback to medieval times.

It is a byproduct of globalisation. Like the worldwide drug cartels and virtual business corporations that developed in the Nineties, it evolved at a time when financial deregulation had created vast pools of offshore wealth and organised crime had gone global. Its most distinctive feature - projecting a privatised form of organised violence worldwide - was impossible in the past. Equally, the belief that a new world can be hastened by spectacular acts of destruction is nowhere found in medieval times. Al Qaeda's closest precursors are the revolutionary anarchists of late nineteenth-century Europe.

"As societies throughout the world become more modern,

they do not thereby become more similar. Often they move further apart. In these circumstances, we need to think afresh about how regimes and ways of life that will always be different can come to coexist in peace.

Rather than looking to an illusive future we would do better to turn to the past. Toleration was practised many centuries ago in Buddhist India, in the Ottoman Empire and the Moorish kingdoms of medieval Spain, and in China. There is nothing liberal, western or modern about the peaceful coexistence of communities having different values and beliefs.

Such regimes cannot simply be reinvented. They were devices for peaceful coexistence in times when most people were born into a single way of life. Today, many societies harbour many ways of life, with many people belonging to more than one. Even so, these ancient regimes of toleration teach a vital lesson. Liberal societies are only one way in which different ways of life can live together.

The modern myth is that with the advance of science one set of values will be accepted everywhere. Can we not accept that human beings have divergent and conflicting values, and learn to live with this fact? It is a strange notion that humanity is destined for a single way of living, when history is so rich in conflict an contrivance.

"As with any part of science, the Darwinian worldview cannot be taken as the final truth.

Contrary to the Positivists and their disciples in the Vienna School, there is nothing to say that science is bound to yield a single view of the world: 'science contains many different and yet empirically acceptable worldviews, each one containing its own metaphysical background.' [7] Science surely rules out some worldviews, such as those required by phrenology or Nazi 'racial science'; but it is only a metaphysical faith in the uniformity of Nature that supports the idea that one day a single view of things will be left alone in the field.

"To Muslims, I repeat that Islam is a great and noble religion

but that all Muslims and Muslim majority societies did not in the past and do not now live up to this nobleness: critical reflection is required about faithfulness to our principles, our outlook on others, on cultures, freedom, the situation of women, and so on. Our contradictions and ambiguities are countless. To Westerners, I simply repeat the undeniable achievements of freedom and democracy should not make us forget murderous "civilizing missions," colonization, the destructive economic order, racism, discrimination, acquescent relations with the worst dictatorships, and other failings. Our contradictions and ambiguities are countless. I am equally demanding and rigorous with both universes.
-Tariq Ramadan, What I Believe, p. 22-23

"The encounter between the West and Islam

(between civilizations, nations and/or citizens) will not be achieved constructively and positively through mere wishful thinking, by optimistically recalling the existence of common values. The problem lies further upstream. All of us show should humility, respect, and consistency. Humility, by admitting that nobody, no civilization or nation, holds a monopoly on universals and on the good, and that our political and social systems are not perfect; respect toward others because we should be convinced that their richness and achievements can be beneficial to us; and last consistency, because the other's presence acts like a mirror in which we should confront our own contradictions and inconsistency in the concrete, day-to-day implementation of our noblest values. This is a difficult exercise but an imperative one. Instead of unfairly comparing the ideal of our theoretical values with the other's practical deficiencies, we must compare practices, shed light on contradictions and mutual hypocrisies, and together impose a double requirement: clarifying the area of our common values and striving to be ever more faithful to them intellectually, politically, socially, and culturally. This strict, staunch commitment has caused me to be perceived as a "traitor" by some Muslims and as "fifth column infiltrated agent" by some of my Western fellow-citizens.
-Tariq Ramadan, What I Believe, p. 21-22

"If the political advantage of translation is the expansion of the discursive field,

then the greatest gains will be had where the differences seem to be the most extreme, while problems may lie where the task of translation confronts too little resistance. As an example, "Islamic economics" has integrated itself quite completely into the global, capitalist economy. The Pakistani economist Muhammad Akram Khan writes that Islamic economic thinking, constrained by lack of "intellectual freedom" and a fear of "dissenting opinion," has been focused far too narrowly: "The entire enterprise of Islamic banking has become a doubtful proposition, more devoted to literalist or legalistic solutions, satisfying theologians but not yielding any benefit to humanity"; it is too exclusively concerned with "material betterment to the neglect of the environment and distribution of income and equity among the people." [14] Oliver Roy states bluntly: "[T]he 'Islamic bank' is a marketing tool and not a scheme for a new economic order....The Islamization of the economy is thus largely rhetorical." [15] This is despite the fact that, as Rahman insists: "The basic elan of the Qur'an" is its "stress on socioeconomic justice and essential human egalitarianism." [16] A thought-experiment: What if the "Islamic economy" did not take the easy way of identity politics, defining itself as an economy belonging exclusively to Muslims, but considered its natural constituency to include the anti-globalization movement as the most authentic, contemporary political expression of Islamic principles regarding nature, labor and economic justice? If we are to speak in terms of a global Left rather than regime-change within Muslim counties, what may be needed is not less religious reasoning, but more.
-Susan Buck-Morss, Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, p. 11-12

"While al-'aql is in one sense stable,

it is also open to change and evolution, as its actual substance is not dictated by revelation but is negotiated in real space and time. Such change, however, occurs slowly, organically, within the recognized rules of the game, and - as with the rules of any sport - for the purpose of improving rather than destroying the game itself. In its actual operation, al-'aql has a certain dialectical relationship with al-naql. For while al-naql is in one sense fixed (the canon of revelation being closed), in another sense, Unanimous Consensus (or simple vertical longevity or horizontal predominance) can confer upon rational/intellectual methods and arguments an authority approaching that of the transmitted canon. Through the aegis of al-'aql, in other words, a doctrine can move from the periphery to the center, where its "Islamicity" comes to be assumed rather than argued." [24]
-Sherman A. Jackson, Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering, p. 10

"The literal translation of al-'aql is 'reason.'

As I will show in chapter 1, however, al-'aql as a constituent of Muslim Tradition refers neither to the plain dictates of the faculties nor to any particular uniform regime of systematic reasoning. It is, rather, a highly contested terrain of competing "regimes of sense" that oscillate between primordial and synthetic reason, yielding overlapping composites that religiously literate Muslims collectively recognize as "public reason." Among the subtleties of al-'aql is that not purely a tool of exegesis, or extracting meaning from the sources; rather, it is just as often a mechanism for monitoring eisegesis, that is, validating/invalidating meaning that is read into the sources, whatever the actual origins of this meaning may be. In sum, the essential function of al-'aql is to adjudicate interpretive disputes and validate interpretive arguments in the public realm in a manner that is recognized as fair and impartial. [24]
-Sherman A. Jackson, Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering, p. 10

Imam Zaid: We Are All Collateral Damage

(from before)

Shaykh Jihad Brown: Some Thoughts in Praise of Idealism