Saturday, October 23, 2010

NYT: WikiLeaks Founder Gets Support in Rebuking U.S. on Whistle-Blowers

Democracy Now: Pentagon Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on Upcoming Iraq War Wikileaks Docs (Part 1 & 2)

Interpretations of the Prophet's life in the twentieth century

Islam is a broad church, divided as well as united by readings of the life of its founder. The twentieth century saw the Prophet reinvented in multiple and sometimes improbable ways: as a pacifist (by Hasan Askari), a radical socialist (Mustafa al-Siba'i), a Third Worldist, anticolonial hero (Ali Shariati), an Arab nationalist (Michel Aflaq), a Nietzchean or at least a Bergsonian superman (Allama Iqbal), an eco-warrior (Fazlun Khalid), a feminist (Fatima Mernissi), an arch-conservative (King Fahd), a scientist (Maurice Bucaille), a postmodern foe of metanarratives (Farid Esack), and a proto-democrat (Muhammad Asad). The list could be extended, but the diversity must answer finally to an authority - not to an hierarchy, which for better or worse has been largely absent from Islam - but to historians, and, more complicatedly, to patterns of devotion to the Prophet which are recurrent enough in Islamic history cautiously to be described as normative.

-"Muhammad from a Muslim Perspective" by Tim Winter in "Abraham's Children: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Conversation," pg. 114

Abdal-Hakim Murad on 'liberation theology'

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyred pastor of Berlin, was so horrified by his hierarchy’s insistence on Luther’s doctrine of non-intervention in politics that he issued his famous call for a ‘Christianity without religion’. And I myself, growing up when memories of the war were still all around me, often heard of the martyred Stauffenberg’s attempt to kill Hitler, but could not name a single German bishop who was remembered for rebelling against the Reich.[12] Certainly for my own spiritual journey, the old images of Christ, solace of pacifists and ineffectual dreamers, were less impressive than the new icons of a truly socially responsible human being drawn by Bonhoeffer and, more especially, the liberation theologians. Sometimes I believe that there is significance in the fact that I was baptised by Father Jack Putterill (1892-1980), best known of all radical priests in his day, who insisted that true religion is not pacifist or apolitical, but must be a revolutionary challenge to the rich and the autocratic.[13] Putterill, to my knowledge, went to his grave without knowing the Prophet whose Lord was Lord of the Poor, who actively championed their cause and adopted their way of life, who challenged great empires instead of meekly submitting to them. That Prophet, hailed by the socialist Bernard Shaw as ‘a princely genius’,[14] turns out to be a spiritual type close to the urgent but hidden needs of a comfortable, bourgeois consumer culture, which in its heart yearns not for faint chanting in distant oratories, but a willingness to engage in a virile way with the real issues of poverty and injustice. Such, of course, was the motivation which drove Roger Garaudy, whose Communism was of the empathetic kind, and who therefore broke with Stalinism and entered the free, non-hierarchical space of Islam. For Garaudy, like Putterill and Shaw, secularity could only produce freedom within the confines of the ‘cage of steel’. True freedom lay beyond, but it had to be promote itself, and therefore incorporate a willingness to challenge those who degrade God’s earth and His servants. Faced with radical evil, preaching and witnessing alone are tragically inadequate.
Liberation from the cage, whether that cage be capitalist or Marxist, should be a real liberation for society as well as for the spirit. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Conversations with History - Tariq Ramadan (Berkeley, CA - October 7, 2010)

On NPR's firing of Juan Williams

See coverage by NPR itself, BBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

The LA Times reports "In wake of NPR controversy, Fox News gives Juan Williams an expanded role" with a three-year $2 million contract! while "conservative figures blast the public radio network for its response."

NPR also has an updated blog post about the controversy, plus an apology from the CEO about a hasty and "thoughtless remark" she made that "Juan Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and 'his psychiatrist or his publicist.'"

Glen Greenwald argues that the firing of Williams was a "a very welcome blow" to the "glaring double standard in our political discourse generally and in the world of journalism specifically, whereby anti-Muslim bigotry is widely tolerated, while those perceived as expressing similar (or even more mild) animus toward other groups are harshly punished." See his updates for rebuttals to some of the arguments defending Williams.

Juan Cole writes: "The Muslim-American community has a right not to be characterized as being in general dangerous, since almost none of them is dangerous." He also looks at a recent study of terrorists act in Europe in 2009. Contrary to the prevailing idea in the media of Muslims as the dangerous enemy to be feared, the study found "most were the work of ethnic separatists."

Akbar Ahmed of the American University in Washington and Dawud Walid, director of CAIR-MI also weigh in.

Interestingly, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has issued a statement stating "Firing Juan Williams Was Wrong, Despite His Offensive Comments"...

Ethan Casey: Now what? Tony Judt helps us understand our 21st-century world

via Haroon

"If we are to understand the world whence we have just emerged,

we need to remind ourselves of the power of ideas. And we need to recall the remarkable grip exercised by the Marxist idea in particular upon the imagination of the twentieth century. Many of the most interesting minds of the age were drawn to it, if only for a while: on its own account or because the collapse of liberalism and the challenge of Fascism offered no apparent alternative. Many others, some of whom were never in the least tempted by the mirage of Revolution, nevertheless devoted much of their lives to engaging and combating Marxism. They took its challenge very seriously indeed and often understood it better than its acolytes.

The Jewish intellectuals of interwar and postwar Central Europe were especially drawn to Marxism: in part by the Promethean ambition of the project, but also thanks to the complete collapse of their world, the impossibility of returning to the past or continuing in the old ways, the seeming inevitability of building an utterly different, new world. "Zydokommuna: ("Judeo-Communism" may be an anti-Semitic term of abuse in Polish nationalist circles, but for a few crucial years it also described a reality. The remarkable Jewish contribution to the history of modern Eastern Europe cannot be disentangled from the unique attraction to Central European Jewish intellectuals of the Marxist project. In retrospect, of course, the intellectual and personal enthusiasms and engagements of the age seem tragically out of proportion to the gray, grim outcome. But that is not how things seemed at the time.

Because all this passion now appears spent, and the counter-passions it aroused accordingly redundant, commentators today are inclined to dismiss the ideological "culture wars" of the twentieth century, the doctrinal challenges and counter-challenges, as a closed book. Communism confronted capitalism (or liberalism): It lost, both in the terrain of ideas and on the ground, and is thus behind us. But in dismissing the failed promises and false prophets of the past, we are also a little too quick to underestimate - or simply to forget - their appeal. Why, after all, were so many talented minds (not to speak of many millions of voters and activists) attracted to these promises and those prophets? Because of the horrors and fears of the age? Perhaps. But were the circumstances of the twentieth century really so unusual, so unique and unrepeatable that we can be sure that whatever propelled men and women toward the grand narratives of revolution and renewal will not come again? Are the sunlit uplands of "peace, democracy, and the free market" truly here to stay? [6]
 -Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century by Tony Judt, pg. 15-16

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Every once in a while I think I need to remind myself of this quote from Dr. Umar :)

Social sciences like psychology, sociology, and anthropology are often mistakenly regarded as less worthy because they are not as lucrative and do not afford elite status in our community. In reality, the social sciences play a critical role in modern society and constitute key priorities for American Muslims. They serve the community's essential interests in areas such as mental health, social welfare, and cultural development. Our ability to function effectively as Muslims in modern society requires a nuanced understanding of modernity. Such an understanding falls squarely within the competence of the social sciences. It is a primary societal obligation for American Muslims to develop sufficient cadres of well-trained social scientists whose research is not only of use to the Muslim community but is valuable to the greater society at large.

Specializations in the humanities like history, modern thought, philosophy, and literature are widely considered in our community as marginal, but they too are necessary and meet essential societal obligations similar to those of the social sciences. They impart a wider view of the world; how its past relates to its present and future; and the seminal ideas of our times. They give direct access to effective cross-cultural understanding and intellectual development and enable the community to take interpretive control of itself and its religion in a contemporary context.
-Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah in his Nawawi paper called "Living Islam with Purpose"

Sherman A. Jackson - Sharia in America: How Religious Laws Change