Friday, September 25, 2015

Dr. West - the Matrix

While in Sydney for the movie shoot, Dr. West said he and the Wachowskis had bonded over ''wrestling with the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence.'' They share an affinity for plucking ideas from religion, philosophy, pop music, television and movies, and synthesizing them into a prophetic, liberating message. They want to make the world a more philosophical place. (The brothers even gave reading assignments to all of the principal actors in the movie.) 

"Interpretations of The Matrix often reference Baudrillard's philosophy to demonstrate that the film is an allegory for contemporary experience in a heavily commercialized, media-driven society, especially in developed countries."

Robert Frost

~The Fear of God~

If you should rise from Nowhere up to Somewhere,
From being No one up to being Someone,
Be sure to keep repeating to yourself
You owe it to an arbitrary god
Whose mercy to you rather than to others
Won’t bear to critical examination.
Stay unassuming. If for lack of license
To wear the uniform of who you are,
You should be tempted to make up for it
In a subordinationg look or toe,
Beware of coming too much to the surface
And using for apparel hat was meant
To be the curtain of the inmost soul.
via Shaykh Hamza in "The Critical Importance of Al Ghazali in Our Time"

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

(Book) The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

Search the full text of this book

Revised and Expanded Edition

George Lipsitz

Outstanding Books Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, 1999
"[A] valuable resource for middle school, high school, and college level students."
Multicultural Review
In this unflinching look at white supremacy, George Lipsitz argues that racism is a matter of interests as well as attitudes, a problem of property as well as pigment. Above and beyond personal prejudice, whiteness is a structured advantage that produces unfair gains and unearned rewards for whites while imposing impediments to asset accumulation, employment, housing, and health care for minorities. Reaching beyond the black/white binary, Lipsitz shows how whiteness works in respect to Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.
Lipsitz delineates the weaknesses embedded in civil rights laws, the racial dimensions of economic restructuring and deindustrialization, and the effects of environmental racism, job discrimination and school segregation. He also analyzes the centrality of whiteness to U.S. culture, and perhaps most importantly, he identifies the sustained and perceptive critique of white privilege embedded in the radical black tradition. This revised and expanded edition also includes an essay about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on working class Blacks in New Orleans, whose perpetual struggle for dignity and self determination has been obscured by the city's image as a tourist party town.



Praise for the First Edition:
"Traversing a remarkably broad terrain of American social, political, and cultural history from the colonial period to the present, ... Lipsitz takes a variety of angles on the workings of whiteness... All of these discussions are productive; some of them are dazzling... This is a terrifically important book."
Matthew Frye JacobsonAmerican Historical Review
"The Possessive Investment in Whiteness is the product of painstaking research and rigorous analysis.... [Lipsitz's] spirited writing recaptures a fire that has come close to being extinguished in this era."
Brenda Gayle PlummerThe Annals of the American Academy
"If we could only take one book with us into the 21st century, this is the one I would choose. With lucidity and passion, George Lipsitz reveals that so-called 'color-blind' public policy actually contributes to the maintenance of racism; that white privilege and the demonizing of colored people are two sides of the same coin; and that whiteness is both a huge subsidy as well as a noose around the necks of working-class white folk. His insights into how the color line works in the realm of public policy, politics, and culture, and what we must do to destroy it, can save our lives." 
Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Yo' Mama's Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America
"George Lipsitz is one of the few historians of the U.S. who commands an audience eager to read what he writes on virtually any subject. What sets his work still more remarkably apart is the discipline never to abuse that trust...This book is a case in point. As rigorous as it is creative, this collection combines a firm grasp of the material roots and consequences of white supremacy with striking cultural criticism. Its extensive treatment of Asian-American and Latino/a experiences breaks decisively with the tendency of studies of whiteness to reduce race to a black-white binary. Few works on whiteness discuss past and present together with such subtlety, care and passion."
David R. Roediger
"Lipsitz is best known for showing how popular culture and the changing fortunes of the working class and people of color transformed the United States after World War II. This new book brings together his fierce passion for racial justice with his talent for cultural analysis."
The Progressive
  Also available in e-book


Introduction: Bill Moore's Body
1. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness
2. Law and Order: Civil Rights Laws and White Privilege
3. Immigrant Labor and Identity Politics
4. Whiteness and War
5. How Whiteness Works: Inheritance, Wealth, and Health
6. White Desire: Remembering Robert Johnson
7. Lean on Me: Beyond Identity Politics
8. "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac": Antiblack Racism and White Identity
9. "Frantic to Join . . . the Japanese Army": Beyond the Black-White Binary
10. California: The Mississippi of the 1990s
11. Change the Focus and Reverse the Hypnosis: Learning from New Orleans

About the Author(s)

George Lipsitz is Professor of Black Studies and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of A Life in the Struggle: Ivory Perry and the Culture of Opposition (Temple), Rainbow at Midnight: Labor and Culture in the 1940sDangerous Crossroads, and Time Passages.

Subject Categories 

October 13, 2015 @ Columbia – Guy Burak (NYU): Mecca, its Descriptions, and the Political Reorganization of the Indian Ocean in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century

Seminar Meetings in 2015-2016
October 13, 2015 – Guy Burak (New York University): Mecca, its Descriptions, and the Political Reorganization of the Indian Ocean in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century
In 1542, a quarter century after the Ottoman conquest of the Arab lands, the famous Meccan jurist and chronicler Jār Allāh Muḥammad Ibn Fahd  (d. 1547 or 1548) completed a fairly short work devoted to the construction projects the Ottoman sultans, the new “Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques,” undertook in Mecca since the Ottoman conquest of the city.  Ibn Fahd’s work is quite unique for two main reasons: (a) it is one of the very few works in the Arabic historiographical tradition (if not the only one) that is devoted to the construction projects of a specific dynasty; and (b), unlike most Arabic chronicles, it provides remarkably detailed description of the buildings and the Ottoman building techniques.  As such, it is the first comprehensive response by an Arab chronicler to the emergence of an Ottoman imperial aesthetic idiom in the sixteenth century.
Ibn Fahd, however, was not the only author who wrote about the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina, known as Ḥaramayn, in that period.  In 1521, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Maḥmūd al-Iṣfahānī wrote a description of the Holy Mosques in Çagatay Turkish and dedicated it to the newly enthroned Ottoman sultan, Süleyman Kanuni (r. 1520-1566).  The renowned author Muḥyī’l-Dīn Lārī (d. c.1526) wrote about the pilgrimage (ḥajj) and the Ḥaramayn for the Gujarti sovereign Muẓaffar Shāh II (r. 1511-1526), and this work was copied regularly throughout the sixteenth century in the Holy Mosque in Mecca, the exact same place where Ibn Fahd wrote his chronicle.
By looking at these texts and their circulation, I will explore the interplay between political claims over the Ḥaramayn, the physical construction projects, and their representations across the Indian Ocean, from Istanbul to Gujarat, in the first half of the sixteenth century.  I will concentrate on the complex dynamics between the Ottomans, the Sharifs of Mecca, and the sultans of Gujarat in the decades following the Ottoman conquest of the Holy Cities.  The Ottoman conquerors, much like their Mamluk predecessors, preserved the rule of the Sharifs of Mecca in a system that may be described as layered sovereignty: the Sharifs maintained their own administration and issued coinages in their name, while recognizing the sovereignty of the Ottoman sultan.  At the same time, other rulers, primarily the sultans of Gujarat, maintained a strong presence in the city.  The Gujarati sultans built a madrasa in Mecca, gave to it manuscripts they had commissioned, and provided funds to the Sharif and scholars in residence, while considering Mecca a safe haven for their harem and treasury in the wake of the Mughal invasion of Gujarat.
Against this backdrop, I will argue that the circulation of the manuscripts of the different descriptions of Mecca and Medina reflects the ongoing dialog between the various Indian Ocean sovereigns.  For example, numerous copies of Lārī’s work found their way to the Ottoman capital, while Ibn Fahd dedicated works to the sultan of Gujarat and his vizier.  Furthermore, in addition to being immediate means through which sovereigns expressed and promoted their claims vis-a-vis their counterparts, the texts contributed to the emergence of shared pietistic sensibilities across the Indian Ocean around the Ḥaramayn and the Prophet Muḥammad.  These sensibilities lasted for centuries. 

Human Rights Watch on Bangladesh

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party and its allies swept to power in the January national elections after key opposition parties refused to participate. The opposition demanded polls under a neutral caretaker government and all attempts at negotiations, including by the United Nations, failed to resolve the stalemate. Hundreds were killed and injured in violent attacks surrounding the elections.
The trend toward increasing restrictions on civil society continued, with the government introducing a draft bill that imposes restrictions on already beleaguered nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and their access to foreign funding. The government also introduced a new media policy that imposes unacceptable limits on free expression and speech.
Security forces carried out abductions, killings, and arbitrary arrests, particularly targeting opposition leaders and supporters. In a positive development, after years of impunity for the security forces, several members of the notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were arrested following the abduction and apparent contract killings of seven people in May.
Compensation and relief for victims and survivors of the April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza in Dhaka was slow because international companies that sourced garments from the five factories operating in the building failed to contribute enough to the financial trust fund set up to support survivors and the families of those who died. After the accident, the government amended its labor laws to make it easier for workers to form unions. However, workers reported tremendous pressure from owners and managers not to do so.

Monday, September 21, 2015

"For if religion is truly to be used to address

the very real trials of modern life, which include misguided militancy in the name of religion, adherents must move beyond the platitudes of interfaith dialogue and reach deep, to draw from the ancient waters of prayer, meditation, and introspection. The noise of secularity--and even the noise of religion--has crowded our minds and let us incapable of thoughtful action. But noise is a hallmark of the modern world. In contrast, at the true heart of every religion lies silence, penetrated by illumination: Buddha, the Enlightened One, under the Lote tree; Moses, the prophet, in the Sinai; Jesus, the Messiah, in the desert; and the Prophet Muhammad in the cave of ̣Hirā'. The source and power of religion is in its ineffable presence, as well as in the profound state of spiritual quietude that accompanies it, though it is often absent in modern religious adherents. Religious disquietude, and the problem it forments, has led people to seek other sources of silence for enlightenment, or noise for entertainment, that are less troublesome and less self-righteous than religion. Meanwhile, the cycle of oppression spirals on." 
-Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

"God promises a reward

 without measure in the next world to those who are patient with tribulations in this one. This does not mean that we should adhere to a passive quietism, refraining from attempts to redress wrongs or oppose injustice; rather, it means we must strive for an inner world of submission and resignation even as we struggle to restore balance and restitution in the outer world. In this lies a subtle distinction lost on too many."
-from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's introduction to The Prayer of the Oppressed of Imam Muhammad b. Nasir al-Dar'i, pg. 9.

"Aristotle (d. 322 BCE) reminds us

that all tyrants invariably surround themselves with sycophants because they cannot bear to hear the truth. But the tyrant also needs these yes-men because he demands tacit approval of his beliefs and actions, and what he fears most is an honest and critical look at himself. The more a tyrant's power increases, the less he tolerates dissent. And what is true for a tyrant is also true for a tyrannical nation."
-Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Introduction to the Prayer of the Oppressed, p. 5.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shaykh Hamza's Introduction to the Prayer of the Oppressed (al-Du’a al-Nasiri)

I think the introduction to The Prayer of the Oppressed (al-Du’a al-Nasiri) is the most profound piece of writing I have seen from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, ma sha Allah.
From the back cover:
The power of this prayer of Imam Muhammad al-Dar’i lies in its simplicity, its purity, and its sincere supplication. It is essentially a plea to God that our transgressions be overlooked, that divine mercy be bestowed upon us, that social justice be restored in spite of us, that wrongs be righted, and that righteousness reign once again in our lands, so that the destitute may no longer be in need, the young may be educated, the animals’ purpose fulfilled, rain restored, and bounties poured forth. It is a plea to be freed from the aggression of foreigners in lands over which they have no right – a plea much needed in our modern world, rampant as it is with invasions and territorial occupations. Ultimately, it asks not that our enemies be destroyed, but simply that their plots, and the harm they cause, be halted. Its essence is mercy, which in turn is the essence of the Messenger of God, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him: “And We have only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds.”
“Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has rendered a tremendous service to Islam with this translation of a powerful, deeply spiritual supplication, and passed it along to a community of Muslims far removed from its Moroccan roots. He has also augmented it with a riveting Introduction that examines the nature of oppression and its impact on human societies, while challenging us to admit our powerlessness to God.”
— Imam Zaid Shakir
Author, Co-founder of Zaytuna College
“Hamza Yusuf is in himself and his work, a beautiful, and absolutely necessary, living bridge between the Islamic and American cultures. His eloquence, and his brilliant intelligence, are vital energies, nourishment, we can share.”
— Coleman Barks
Author, The Essential Rumi
“The prayer of Imam al-Dar’i is a reminder that in all religions and all cultures there are men and women of wisdom and courage who rise to stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. The greatest virtue we possess, as the poet knows, is compassion, not only for the victim but also for the victimizer. It is the contradictory tension of justice and mercy, of law and forgiveness, which makes us complete human beings.”
— Chris Hedges
Author, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
“Stunning. Imam Muhammad b. Nasir al-Dari’s prayer-poem is beautiful, the accompanying CD is beautiful, but what is most remarkable is the introduction by Hamza Yusuf. It is as thoughtful and erudite, as clever and as powerful, as honest and moving as anything ever written by a Muslim in North America. This guy isn’t building bridges; he’s revealing the ones that are already there. This is wonderful stuff by a scholar who needs to sit down and seriously start thinking about writing a book.”
— Review of The Prayer of the Oppressed posted on