Saturday, October 30, 2010

Frank Rich: The Grand Old Plot Against the Tea Party

Juan Cole: Saudi Arabia Saves Chicago Synagogue from al-Qaeda Bomb Plot

When Muslims Are Bullied - Letter to the Editor by Debbie Almontaser

A One-Term President?: The Choice December 3, 2009 Garry Wills

One of the strongest arguments for continued firing up of these wars is that none of these presidents wanted to serve only one term (even Lyndon Johnson, who chose not to run for a second full term). But what justification is there for buying a second presidential term with the lives of hundreds or thousands of young American men and women in the military? 

I have great hopes for the Obama presidency, even in his first term, and especially if he could have two terms to realize the exciting new things he aspires to do in the White House. But I would rather see him a one-term president than have him pass on another unwinnable war to the person who will follow him in office.

Historian Gary Wills on the Colbert Report

Colbert: If we were to having another civil war right now, what would be our slavery? What would be the issue that would divide us as a country?

Wills: Muslims

Colbert: Really?

Wills: Sure

Colbert: So, who's going to fight for the Muslims in the United States? I mean, some people may think they should have rights but nobody's saying like that's my buddy.

Wills: People who believe in the Constitution will fight for Muslims because they have same rights as you and I.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Garry Wills
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"At root, the involvement with power is,

 in both the Islamic and the Marxist visions, the outcome of the conviction that human suffering, to the extent that it is not inevitable, remains essentially an exclusively political phenomenon. Islam, like Marxism, recognizes the possibility of a prosperous, and just social order here on earth. Christianity, to take another vision, sees - or rather should in principle see - the radical sinfulness of human nature as imposing an operative embargo on the possibility of social justice on this side of the grave. Man's fallen state entails a permanent social disability that no political order could remove. Christianity, like Buddhism, views much of human suffering as an apolitical feature of our plight, transcending as it does purely political resolution. Islam and Marxism, by contrast, are characterized by an integral concern with the conscientious use of power in the service of social change that, in turns, serves to eliminate avoidable varieties of our distress and misery.
 -The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 97

[This is going to be the last quote from this book for now. Alhamdullilah I borrowed it from the NYU library yesterday and finished it today.]

"Islam in Muslim reflection is the religion of the pen.

Muslims a people of the pen. It is significant that the inaugural revelation in Sura 96 (v. 4) already makes a reference to this. The act of reading is the primal act of faith: 'Read!' demands the Angel at Hira. And Sura 68 takes it title from a reference to the pen (qalam), seen in the koranic world as the primary symbol of the divine tuition of mankind through the essentially literary institutions of messengership and scripture. For Muslims, the Koran remains the supreme achievement of the divine pen; Islam prides itself on being an intellectual faith par excellence which takes its basic definition from the unique literary miracle of the Arabic Koran. Throughout the history of Islam, the initial koranic emphasis on literacy and scholarship has been transparent in the ardent Muslim desire for seeking knowledge - and all as part of a paradigmatically religious obligation. There have been also the auxiliary arts of the pen - calligraphy most notably - in which much Muslim ambition has been invested.

-The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 78

"[I]mplicit in Cragg's recommendation of secular statehood

 in an unjustifiably optimistic estimate of the amenability of secular solidarities to moral constraints. The view that secular postures of power lead to humility in matters of statecraft is certainly questionable in an age that has witnessed the arrogant brutality of two 'world' (or rather 'European') wars, Hiroshima, and the shadow of nuclear holocaust. Virtually all the major tragedies of the twentieth century - possibly mankind's worst century so far - have been caused by secular and nationalist ambitions. The hubris of secularity when it rejects any liability to forces greater than itself is not he more pardonable because its source is not religious. It is well to remember that Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four is a critique of totalitarianism in secular dress. Big Brother was not the Pope or an Ayatollah. Inquisitions are not the monopoly of religious enthusiasms.

-The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 76

"Powerlessness is a demoralizing experience.

Apolitical religion itself can easily corrode the hearts of religious men, who feel obliged to stand back, merely wringing their hands when confronted with the spectacle of oppression. What, the Muslim wonders, can have been the inner state of the Lutheran bishops who refused to struggle against Hitler's regime? Can one compromise so fully with evil, and still be capable of prayer? It is for the modern Christian to explain to the world how such a conjunction might be imaginable, let alone achieved.
-The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 63

'Purify the heart - and the institution will follow.'

Do they? Why not: 'Purify the institutions - and the heart will follow?' But a just order is impossible without collective purity of heart. True enough; but a pure individual heart is no bulwark against an unjust order. Cragg's dispute with Islamic verdicts on the relationship between social power and individual conscience is, as part of a larger debate, rather topical these days. It is as well to broaden perspectives here, if only briefly. For the current debate on social justice is also bedevilled by the same question about the correct balance between the reform of individual hearts and the structural changes that, variously, presuppose such a reform or are themselves the cause of it. There is a kind of Christian approach to problems of social injustice which identifies the correct procedure with a change of individual hearts - along with the attendant hope that the world will change in consequence. And there is the opposed strategy, popular with Marxists, of laying one's bet on changing structures and then hoping for a change in the individual's heart - the latter usually being considered superfluous in a structurally perfect world. Both views, expressed here very crudely but not unfairly, are mistaken. Clearly, we need to change both men's hearts and the power structures that lodge and perpetuate injustice. It is this reasoning, no doubt, that was impressed upon the Prophet as he set out to establish the foundation of the Medinan polity.

-The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 61

"An acceptance of the need to enact the faith in social forms

enables the average believer to put his words into action. And action is, as all wisdom unanimously teaches, more salutary than mere idle hopes and wishes felt in some fugitive mood at the close of the day. It is true that such action may be, on occasion, wrongly motivated or have disastrous consequences. But inaction never fails in either respect. We, as ordinary men and women, need realistic ideals, enjoying appropriate action, to exhaust allegiance; we are not in need of impossible ideals that are merely an embarrassing reminder of our own imperfections - especially imperfections of which we are only too aware and indeed all the more aware for failing to eliminate.

The only genuine alternative to power is political daydreaming. There are in the word today, as critic's of Islam's militancy well know, many familiar varieties of unwarrantable cheerfulness fed on a diet of supposed personal salvation, a private rescue from public distress. Such private solace fosters a facility which always serves to carry its possessors very lightly through the indifference and cruelty of the real world. Indeed it dulls the pain that men of goodwill necessarily feel when contemplating the vast panorama of contemporary evil follies, perverse fanaticisms, and military oppositions to the good and the just. But the liabilities of private salvation are fully displayed in the hour of practical action. To perfect oneself, to secure one's own salvation and that of one's own little club is only to cut the first sod. There is still the vast and untended field of duties to the world and to the larger communities of man.

-The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 58

"The standard indictment of liberation theology

 by orthodox Christian writers is remarkably similar in status and motivation to their indictment of the Islamic involvement with power. (Could this be because liberation theology is effectively an Islamization of Christianity?) Conversely, the rejoinders of liberation theologians to their orthodox co-religionists bear a striking resemblance to the standard Islamic critique of official Christianity's alleged withdrawal from the political sector. 

-The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 11

"The neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth

used to quip that he read the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Suppose that all religious believers, including Christians and Muslims, adopted his style of reading. What would they find in the Bible or the Koran - and in the newspaper? Is sacred literature relevant to contemporary global concerns of social injustice, poverty, unemployment and violence? Which of the texts - the sacred or the fallible - should set the agenda for our modern anguish? Should one read the biblical and koranic imperatives 'into' the headlines? Or should the headlines be read backwards into the eternal books of God? Is scripture the record of God's dealings with men and women? Are our dealings with each other the necessary context for God's plan for liberating the oppressed through the appointment of Moses and Muhammad?
 -Shabbir Akhtar, The Final Imperative: An Islamic Theology of Liberation, pg. 9

AHM - liberation theology - Shabbir Akhtar

He [Farid Esack] borrows from the liberation theology of Gutierrez and others to suggest that old-fashioned scriptural readings which acquiesce in establishment tyranny must be displaced by a liberative exegesis that emphasises God's justice. This is a curious proposal, particularly since Shabbir Akhtar and others have already seen liberation theology as amounting in effect to an Islamization of Christianity. The New Testament urges us to 'resist not him that is evil', and enjoins believers to postpone restitution until the imminent Second Coming. Islam, by contrast, appears as intrinsically liberative, taking its cue from the patterns of the Sira. Kenneth Cragg has famously criticised Islam's alleged optimism about 'political religion' and the chances of reforming the deeply sinful structures of the world. But Esack is here working with the contrary stereotypes: we must inject the allegedly Christian paradigm of liberation into a static and accommodationist Islam, so as to render religion capable of changing structures, not just individual souls.

Robert Wright: Islamophobia and Homophobia

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tea Party leader: Defeat Ellison because he's Muslim

Laila Al-Arian: Before Wikileaks, Iraq War Vets Revealed War Crimes

"The more interesting questions are epistemological.

How do we know what we think we know? Why is it that the more information we collect the less likely we are to grasp what it means? Possibly because a montage is not a narrative, the ear is not the eye, a pattern recognition is not a figure or a form of speech. The surfeit of new and newer news comes so quickly to hand that within the wind tunnels of the "innovative delivery strategies" the data blow away and shred. The time is always now, and what gets lost is all thought of what happened yesterday, last week, three months or three years ago. Unlike moths and fruit flies, human beings bereft of memory, even as poor a memory as Montaigne's or my own, tend to become disoriented and confused. I know no other way out of what is both the maze of the eternal present and the prison of the self except with a string of words.
-Lewis H. Lapham in a beautiful essay "Figures of Speech"  which is to be the last "Notebook" entry in Harper's, Nov. 2010.

Why a Jewish Seminary Must Find Common Ground With Islam

Monday, October 25, 2010

Should NPR have Fired Juan Williams? You Betcha

"Racism and Islamophobia is primarily about dehumanizing Arabs and Muslims. A significant portion of the United States can only accept the horrific crimes against humanity in the Middle East if there is consensus that those dying are less than human."

Marc Manley: A Letter To My People

Glen Greenwald: The Nixonian henchmen of today: at the NYT

Chris Hedges: The World Liberal Opportunists Made

Some Question Insistence on Israel as Jewish State

Tony Blair's sister-in-law converts to Islam

via Heather Laird

Albanian Muslims risk their own lives to save Jews from Nazis during World War II

via Shaykh Abdallah

‘Three Faiths’ at New York Public Library — Exhibition Review

"Liberation theology

at its best is a worldly theology - a theology that not only opens our eyes to the social misery of the world, but also teaches us better to understand and transform it. Academic theology in the First World, true to its priestly role, remains preoccupied with doctrinal precision and epistemological pretension. It either refuses to get its hands dirty with the ugly and messy affairs of contemporary politics or pontificates at a comfortable distance about the shortcomings of theoretical formulations and practical proposals of liberation theologians. Yet, for those Christians deeply enmeshed in and united with poor people's struggles, theology is first and foremost concerned with urgent issues of life and death, especially the circumstances that dictate who lives and who dies.
-Cornel West, "On Liberation Theology: Segundo and Hinkelammert" in The Cornel West Reader, pg. 398

James Cone on Theology and Life

I firmly believe that the issues to which theology addresses itself should be those that emerge out of life in society as persons seek to achieve meaning in a dehumanized world. This does not mean that theologians should ignore the scriptures and the traditions of the churches, or that these sources of the past should be manipulated to accommodate contemporary concerns without regard to their original historical setting and meaning. Rather it means that theologians should not do theology on the basis of scripture and tradition as if the existential and historical concerns of present-day humankind were nonexistent.
I believe that Christian theology achieves its distinctive identity when it takes on the issues of those who are struggling to be human in an oppressive world. Christians believe that their faith has something to say about this world and about the human beings in it - something that can make a decisive difference in the quality of life. It is therefore the task of theology to demonstrate the difference that the gospel can and does make in human lives, using the resources of the scriptures and traditions of the churches as well as other modern tools of social, historical, cultural, economic, and philosophical analysis.
Theological problems are not given by divine fiat, nor are theologians' solutions derived only from fixed divine revelation. Theological problems arise from theologians' interests, the issues that they consider important in the definition of their discipline. To whom theologians talk and what they talk about is a choice that they make so as to concretize what is regarded as theology. Therefore one knows what is important for theologians by whom they talk to and by what they choose to talk about. The issues that define the work of theology define theology itself.
-James Cone, For My People, pg. 28-29

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The intolerance of the tolerant

via Shaykh Abdallah

"Without enlightened educational institutions

that attract talented students and in the absence of curricula that impart a mature understanding of modern thought and realities, it is unlikely that a sophisticated understanding of the Islamic religious tradition can ever be fostered. Without careful examination of their original historical context, the thousands upon thousands of dusty manuscripts and old books preserved in Islamic libraries will remain little more than interesting fossils of history. Until classical Islamic learning is made meaningful to contemporary Muslims, it is difficult to fault those who question its relevance.
-pg. 11 of Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah in the fourth Nawawi paper: "Innovation and Creativity in Islam"

The "Thread" on the firing of Juan William

"The Thread is an in-depth look at how major news and controversies are being debated across the online spectrum."

Frank Rich: What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?