Saturday, June 1, 2019

“O ye people

you were not created in negligence, nor have you been left on your own. You have a destination where God, Most High, will judge among you and sort you out; ruined indeed and damned is the one whom God, Most High, puts outside His Mercy, ‘which envelops all things’, and outside His Heaven, ‘the breadth of which is that of the heavens and the earth’. But safety will be his morrow who fears and reveres God; who barters what is small for what is vast, what is ephemeral for what is eternal, what brings suffering for what brings joy. Do you not see that you are in the ranks of that which perishes and that you will be replaced hereafter by those who shall remain behind? Do you not see that each day you take to the grave a traveller journeying towards God, his term fulfilled, his future hopes cut short, you put him in a place burrowed in the earth, neither smooth nor cushioned—stripped of means, friends departed and a reckoning ahead?’

[From the sermons of ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz]

Quoted in Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s The Invocation of God, Translated by Michael Abdurrahman Fitzgerald and Moulay Youssef Slitine. (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2000 [2004]), pp. 19-20. See footnote 45 for citations from tafsirs where this is quoted. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Though widely hailed as moderate by many American elites,

[Feisal Abdul] Rauf's view did not reflect the perspectives of other New York City Muslim leaders, such as Imam Siraj Wahhaj of Masjid al-Taqwa of Brooklyn, imams at the Malcolm Shabbaz mosque on 116th street in Harlem, or others who believe that the affluence of American elites -- born of the capitalism that Rauf depicts as the engine of equality -- often involves the twinned projects of international resource accumulation and domestic labor exploitation, thus impoverishing many communities in the United States and abroad [96] Known as the "drug-fighting Muslim for his 1980s efforts to rid his poverty-stricken neighbhorhood of crack dealers, Siraj Wahhaj has long been unabashed about the ongoing economic marginalization and even political "persecution of blacks." [97] Speaking after 9/11 about Muslim Americans' opinion of the United States, Wahhaj sometimes tempers his political rhetoric. Nevertheless, he remains resolute about the injustices black Americans face. "You might hear some anti-American flavor a little bit," in the stories American Muslims tell, he admits, "but not because they hate America." Rather, he points out, "our civil rights leaders [also] spoke about the injustices of America" from a desire to improve the country, not just from animosity toward it. "And you hear it in that way especially [from] Africa Americans. If that make us militant, then we're militant." [98]

--Rosemary R. Corbett, Making Moderate Islam: Sufism, Service, and the "Ground Zero Mosque" Controversy, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2017), pp. 120-121. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

"White supremacy and generational Black suffering have received more attention

as sociological and anthropological phenomena provoking academic responses than as theological and spiritual challenges requiring religious ones. Islamic scholars owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to scholars of other disciplines and activists for addressing themselves and their expertise to what, in my view, are the most pressing moral dilemmas of our time. In effect, the virtual absence of Islamic scholarship from the discourse means that scholars seeking to engage must to so without the benefit of a canon. Instinct, creativity, and an active religious imagination are forced to play roles here that are usually reserved for precedent, rigor, and erudition.
-Shaykh Ubaydullah Evans in "'Make a Way Out of No Way': An Interview with Ustadh Ubaydullah Evans on the Islamic Tradition and Social Justice in Activism" by Junaid Rana, in With Stones in Our Hands: Writings on Muslims, Racism, and Empire, eds. Sohail Daulatzai and Junaid Rana, (Minneapolis, MN : University of Minnesota Press, 2018), p. 356.

Full Video: CAIR Congressional Reception with Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and André Carson

History of British Muslims Symposium: A Historical Understanding of a New Community (Recording of a conference at the Cambridge Muslim College from Nov 2016)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Prof. Ismail al-Faruqi (1921-1986)

For Ismail al-Faruqi, a Palestinian, the journey to Islamic identity unfolded in the American academy. With graduate degrees from Harvard and the University of Indiana, and post-doctoral studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, he began his career as a university professor. During the first phase of his intellectual journey, he believed in the power of Arabism as a culture and civilization to create a universal ethical system by promoting standards in human relations as enjoyed in the Qur'an. For him, Arabism is not Arab nationalism or ethnocentrism, which developed under colonial rule, but an all-inclusive identity that is infused with Islamic values. It is not rooted in European ideologies of nationalism; rather, it is grounded in the Arabic Qur'an and shared by all Muslims whose culture, values, and ethos are inspired by its revelation. [58]
By the early 1970s, al-Faruqi began to share the general Arab disenchantment with Arab identity and turned to Islam. Reflecting on this period of his life, he reminisced, "There was a time in my life...when all I cared about was proving to myself that I could win my physical and intellectual existence from the West. But, when I wont it, it became meaningless. I asked myself: Who am I? A Palestinian, a philosopher, a liberal humanist? My answer was: I am a Muslim." [59] From then on, he promoted Islam as the only umbrella ideology that can bring Muslims together. He criticized nationalism as an instrument used by the West to divide.  Purified from its accretions and its compromises with Western colonialism, authentic Islam can bring about the revitalization of Muslim societies. In the process, Muslims need to avoid economic and political dependency, social and cultural emulation of the West, political fragmentation, and military impotence. The goal is to liberate Jerusalem and restore it to Muslim control. [60]
He became especially interested in the potential creation of a worldwide Muslim leadership in the United States. Besides mentoring large numbers of international graduate students at Temple University, he helped organize intellectual institutions dedicated to the task of "Islamizing knowledge." He argued that all knowledge is grounded in value systems. He believed that infusing the social sciences and the humanities with an Islamic foundation would help bring about the revival of Islam in the modern world. Toward this goal, he helped establish the American Association of Muslim Social Scientists, the International Institute of Islamic Thought in northern Virginia, and the Islamic College in Chicago to provide committed Islamic leadership, not only for the immigrant community, but more importantly, for the whole world of Islam. His writings were popular among a significant segment of Muslim students on American campuses, who found in them the way to maintain a distinctive identity that enhanced their strategy of survival in a hostile environment. Al-Faruqi recommended the appropriation of an Islamic ideology that emphasized that Muslims were not beggars in the United States, but active participants in the building of a just society. The adoption of an Islamic ideology was promoted as a mechanism to free the immigrant from the sense of guilt for achieving some measure of success in the United States.
At the same time, al-Faruqi sought to carve a space for Islam in the American religious mosaic by attempting to integrate Islam. He found the definition of America as a Judeo-Christian nation quite exclusionary, keeping Muslims outside the bounds of being fully recognized and celebrated citizens of the United States. He participated in interfaith dialogue with the World Council of Churches in Geneva [61] as well as various groups in the United States to promote the idea of dialogue among the "Abrahamic faiths." He emphasized that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are grounded in the same source of faith, the God of Abraham. [62] He also sought to integrate Islam as a subject of study in the American Academy of Religion [AAR] by forming the Islamic Studies Section, which provided a venue for scholars to discuss Islam as a living faith in the United States and not as an alien "Oriental" religion.
Al-Farqui also sought to construct a modern universal Islamic culture that is not only relevant, but also appealing in the American environment. He authored a book celebrating Muslim cultural achievement. [63] He disagreed with the sentiment among some immigrants that called for austerity and piety and the banning of music and art, and urged Muslims to surround themselves with Islamic decorations and artifacts in their homes and to participate in Islamic events such as eid celebrations. He believed that Muslims in the United States should adopt the practice prevalent among African-American Muslims and make the mosque a family-centered place where women attended and participated in mosque services. The mosque, he believed, should not only be the center for maintaining people in the faith, but also, and more importantly, should be crucial in fashioning the Muslim family, the most important social unit for the preservation of Islam in American society. Asked if he wanted to create a reformed Islam for North America, similar to Reformed Judaism, he replied, "No, my model is Conservative Judaism." [64] 
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011), p. 32-34.


Muslim National Organizations after the Gulf War of 1990

The last decade of the twentieth century ushered in a new phase in Muslim integration and assimilation into the United States. Several factors coalesced to bring about a major transformation in the Muslim community. The Gulf War of 1990 marked the end of financial support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. Initially, the withdrawal of support had a devastating effect on Islamic projects in the United States. Both ISNA and FIA shut down for lack of funds to pay their staff. But communal paralysis did not set in. Several of the alumni of the Muslim Student Association welcomed the freedom from dependency and began to work to establish permanent Islamic institutions. In the process, the power shifted from umbrella organizations to decentralized leadership, the independent mosque executives committees. While ISNA reopened with a skeleton staff, its ability to control and guide the progress of Islam nationwide had been greatly diminished. Its journal, Islamic Horzion, continues to be distributed nationally, and its annual conventions draw about thirty thousand Muslims. It has recenyl started hosting annual academic conferences on "islam in America," "Islam in Prisons," and "Islam among Latinos," which provide important insights on the daily life of Muslims in North America.
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011), p. 23.

Arab-American Muslims & "Western"/American domination

Arab-Americans have attempted to synthesize their experiences of America with the Arab and Muslim experience of a dominant "West" during the history of European colonial expansion and subjugation of the Muslim world beginning in the sixteenth century and lasting through the first half of the twentieth century. Western domination of Arab nations has been perceived as continuing through American hegemony and intervention in the area since the 1950s, and as manifest today in what Arabs see as the American support of Israeli colonial and expansionist policies in Palestine and the surrounding Arab states. American support for autocratic regimes that appear to be clients of American interests, and the recent American-declared war on terrorism, implemented through regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq and widely perceived by the Arab and Muslim world as a war on Islam, appear to fit the same pattern.
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011), p. 14-15.

The changing role of the imam in US mosque communities

The 1985 survey noted that the traditional role of the imam had been transformed, even though a few of the imams, supported by the Muslim World League, had attempted to replicate the tradition of authority that obtained overseas. In several instances, the imams were overruled by their congregations, who had invested the decision-making role in the mosques' elected executive committees.From being a leader of prayer, the imam in the United States had taken on the role of a pastor, providing counseling and instruction in the faith, representing the community to the general public, participating in interfaith activities, and defending the faith.
-Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011), p. 10.


"Those who emigrated in the second half of the twentieth century

brought with them diverse national identities, developed by the nation-state to inspire their loyal citizens so they would defend national security against outside enemies. For immigrants, their attachments to these national identities are continually tested by events in their home countries and by American foreign policy toward their countries. Such home ties became strained during the Gulf War in 1990-1991, when Gulf Arabs questioned the authenticity of the "Arabness" of citizens of the northern states (Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia) who opposed Saudi Arabian and American retribution against Saddam Hussein, and dismissed them as "Arabized" peoples who did not understand the threat that Saddam's military posed to the Gulf states. At the same time, some Arabs of the northern tier criticized Gulf Arabs as greedy and gullible and accused them of contributing to the disempowerment of the Arab people in their willingness to spend tens of billions of dollar to support American destruction of Iraq and to empower Israel in the process.
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011), p. 6.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Christian Leaders Welcome Muslim-American Women to Congress

Islam as Black History: A conversation with Edward Curtis and Jamillah Karim

Book: Muslims in the Western Imagination by Sophia Rose Arjana (Oxford UP, 2015)

Throughout history, Muslim men have been depicted as monsters. The portrayal of humans as monsters helps a society delineate who belongs and who, or what, is excluded. Even when symbolic, as in post-9/11 zombie films, Muslim monsters still function to define Muslims as non-human entities. These are not depictions of Muslim men as malevolent human characters, but rather as creatures that occupy the imagination -- non-humans that exhibit their wickedness outwardly on the skin. They populate medieval tales, Renaissance paintings, Shakespearean dramas, Gothic horror novels, and Hollywood films. Through an exhaustive survey of medieval, early modern, and contemporary literature, art, and cinema, Muslims in the Western Imagination examines the dehumanizing ways in which Muslim men have been constructed and represented as monsters, and the impact such representations have on perceptions of Muslims today. 
The study is the first to present a genealogy of these creatures, from the demons and giants of the Middle Ages to the hunchbacks with filed teeth that are featured in the 2007 film 300, arguing that constructions of Muslim monsters constitute a recurring theme, first formulated in medieval Christian thought. Sophia Rose Arjana shows how Muslim monsters are often related to Jewish monsters, and more broadly to Christian anti-Semitism and anxieties surrounding African and other foreign bodies, which involves both religious bigotry and fears surrounding bodily difference. Arjana argues persuasively that these dehumanizing constructions are deeply embedded in Western consciousness, existing today as internalized beliefs and practices that contribute to the culture of violence--both rhetorical and physical--against Muslims.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

What Is A Western-Muslim Identity? | Dr. Abdal Hakim Murad

A Special Lecture on the Cambridge Muslim College by Dr. Abdul Hakim Murad

Thomas Merton on "white-collar violence, the systemically organized bureaucratic and technological destruction of man"

In 1967, the Carmelite monk and philosopher Thomas Merton recognized in the Vietnam war, and in the structural injustices that maintained racial and economic segregation in the United States, a parallel to the treatment of Shylock [from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice]. 
"Instead of preaching an ideology of the Cross for others and advising them to suffer patiently the violence which we sweetly impose, with the aid of armies and police, we might conceivably recognize the right of the less fortunate to use force, and study more seriously the practice of non-violence and humane methods on our own part when, as it happens, we possess the most stupendous arsenal of power the world has ever seen" (Merton 1967: 10).
Without ideological sympathy for the leftist movements of the Third World, Merton was nevertheless able to see the relationship between oppressive structures and revolutionary violence. Importantly, in his attempt to develop a Christian theology dealing cogently with the cycles of oppression and violence, Merton recognized that it was far from always situated in the relatively visible context of direct colonial domination. Instead, he noted:
Violence today is the white-collar violence, the systemically organized bureaucratic and technological destruction of man...It is this polite, massively organized white-collar murder machine that threatens the world with destruction, not the violence of a few desperate teenagers in a slum. But our antiquated theology myopically focused on individual violence along fails to see this. It shudders at the phantasm of muggings on our own doorstep, but blesses and canonizes the antiseptic violence of corporately organized murder because it is respectable, efficient, clean, and above all profitable." (Merton 1967: 6,7) 
--Anders Strindberg & Mats Warn, Islamism: Religion, Radicalization, and Resistance, (Cambridge UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011), p. 52.

Michel Houellebecq Hated Europe Before You Did (Jan 5, 2019)

Meet a Drexel Student [Mona Elgohail] Who Used Her Clinical Psychology Education to Combat Suffering of Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Islamism as a social movement

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and the fastest growing. Roughly one-quarter of the world's population is Muslim, and over one-third of all sovereign states are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, most of them in the so-called global South. 
In the course of its thirteen centuries of expansion and consolidation, Islam has infused, absorbed, supplanted, and dialogued with a wide range of local cultures and experiences. In the process, it has become not only a transnational, but also an intensely local source of identity to its adherent around the world. Yet in the modern era, it is only in the last three decades -- coinciding with the failure of third worldism and advent of globalization -- that Islam has been propelled from the sidelines of third world politics to a defining role on the global stage. Its political manifestations feed into, and are fed by real socioeconomic concerns around the globe; local injustices as well as regional and global imbalances, real or perceived. Its representatives have emerged as self-styled defenders of the downtrodden, restorers of local autonomy, and defenders against neo-colonial impositions. 
Grounded in the experiences and narratives of real communities, Islamic political leaders have come to champion a range of oftentimes contradictory parochial narratives. Framed by the universal claims of a common confession, they also constitute a global movement that encompasses and transcends any and all of its local manifestations.

-Anders Strindberg & Mats Warn, Islamism: Religion, Radicalization, and Resistance, (Cambridge UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011), p. 1.

"Islamism: Religion, Radicalization, and Resistance presents political Islam as one of the most  powerful social movements of our time. Those who are interested in a critical and non-conventional study of Islamism will benefit greatly from reading this book."

-Ali Mirsepassi, New York University

MSNBC: "The military-industrial complex is now run by women" (Jan 3, 2019)

Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong (Jan 4, 2019)

NYT: American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup (Jan 4, 2019)

Correcting ‘Hamilton’: Acclaimed musical doesn’t know its history, notes HLS Prof. & historian Gordon-Reed (2016)

Historian Annette Gordon-Reed would like to make clear that she likes “Hamilton,” the Broadway hip-hop musical phenomenon about Alexander Hamilton, which audiences and critics have adored and some scholars and writers have scorned.  
 But she would like to make clearer that she found the show problematic in its portrayals of Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Fathers, and the issue of slavery. The musical is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, who in Chernow’s view has been the most underrated and misunderstood of the Founding Fathers.   
“A Broadway show is not a documentary,” said Gordon-Reed, a history professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences who also holds the Charles Warren Professorship of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. “Artists have the right to create,” she added, speaking last week at a student-sponsored event about the musical, “but historians have the right to critique.” And so she did.

Burke and Paine on roots of political division in America

Judy Woodruff talks to Yuval Levin about his new book, "The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left,"

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

Born in Thetford in the English county of Norfolk, Paine migrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. Virtually every rebel read (or listened to a reading of) his powerful pamphlet Common Sense(1776), proportionally the all-time best-selling[5][6] American title, which crystallized the rebellious demand for independence from Great Britain. His The American Crisis (1776–1783) was a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Common Sense was so influential that John Adams said: "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain".[7] 
Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote Rights of Man (1791), in part a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on Irish conservative writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in England in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel. 
The British government of William Pitt the Younger, worried by the possibility that the French Revolution might spread to England, had begun suppressing works that espoused radical philosophies. Paine's work, which advocated the right of the people to overthrow their government, was duly targeted, with a writ for his arrest issued in early 1792.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Thinking about Religion, Belief and Politics with Talal Asad

Dr. Cornel West on the Global Shift Right (Dec 31, 2018)

"This is hardly a religion of comfortable accommodation with sin and evil.

To say Allāhu akbar while preferring one's own opinions and desires is to invite the charge of hypocrisy. For Muhammad, the rejection, not acceptance, of violent struggle would have denied God's supremacy. Is peace, even tainted with widespread justice, preferable to justice secured through some limited violence? Muhammad was never seduced by such over-refined but coward hypocrisy that insinuates a devious justification for lapsing from the rigours of authentic idealism. 
--Shabbir Akhtar, Islam as Political Religion: The future of an imperial faith (New York: Routledge, 2011), p. 104.