Saturday, December 31, 2005

christ: the prequel

I'm in the middle of reading Anne Rice's new book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. It is actually quite surprising on a number of levels. Firstly, it is much more reverent and conventional than I originally had expected (see previous entry from May, christ the lord: out of egypt). In fact, it seems that in the process doing research for the book, Rice has actually decided to become a believing Christian.

Given that she's writing as a Christian, it is interesting to note that she decided to include accounts (apocrophyal from a Christian persperpective but sound from a Muslim perspective) of Jesus miraculously giving life to birds made out of clay. Another more provocative miracle which is placed early in the book is an instance where the young seven year-old Jesus actually causes a bully to die (and then raises him from the dead afterwards)

In some ways, the book is to the Christian gospel what the WB tv series Smallville is to the Superman mythos. Rice fleshes out with amazing historical detail Jesus' early years which aren't covered in the Bible. And as in the case of Smallville, we all know how the story will have to end so there are plenty of moments full of foreshadowing and significance. (Like when Christ's relatives get all quiet when the subject comes up of why the family suddenly left Bethlehem or when Lex starts quoting Nietzsche's theory of the Superman to Clark)

In any case, Rice's book is a nice read so far. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Also by Rice: do you know what it means to miss new orleans

amiri baraka

Bringing up Amiri Baraka's comments about the Nguzo Saba made me think it would be good to add some links about him. He's definitely gone through his own set of changes in terms his literary and cultural life, his politics and religion.

Amiri Baraka Homepage
Blue Neon Alley: Amiri Baraka
Modern American Poetry: Amiri Baraka
Rootwork: Amiri Baraka and the Power of Poetry
Chicken Bones: Amiri Baraka
Planet Grenada: amiri baraka and the millions more movement


Today is the sixth day of Kwanzaa and today's principle is Kuumba or Creativity; to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

For today I'll just share another excerpt from Amiri Baraka's book, "Raise, race, rays, raze":

When we said Black Art, we meant Kuumba. The spiritual characteristic of revelation through the creative. The artist is respected in Bantu philosophy because he could capture some of the divinity. Because it flowed through his fingers or out of his mouth, and because he would lend this divinity to the whole people to raise them in its image, building great nations reared in the image of righteousness. ...

But Black creativity is what will save us - not just "artists" but all of us - after all is said and done - nothing else. An antidote to birth or mind control! The Nguzo Saba itself is one of the strongest examples of Kuumba. And each idea or act that animates our lives must be measured against the Nguzo Saba in each of its components. You must ask of each new idea of dissociation that comes to mind, what does this have to do with bringing about unity... what does it contribute to... self-determination - does it have anything to do with Ujima, collective work and responsibility, and so on...

Tomorrow is the last day of Kwanzaa and its principle is Imani or faith.

Friday, December 30, 2005

swahili and arabic

From The Baheyeldin Dynasty: List of Swahili Words of Arabic Origin


Today is the Fifth day of Kwanzaa and today's principle is Nia or Purpose; to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Something I find really interesting about Swahili is the fact the much of its vocabulary comes from the Arabic language, which gives a whole other layer of meaning to some of the principles of the Nguzo Saba. For example, today's principle of nia makes me think of niyyah (or intention). In Islam it is emphasized that every action must begin with the proper intention. Sincerity is important. And actions are judged by their intentions.

The Nguzo Saba emphasizes the collective side of this principle; the masses of people have to get together and move in the right direction. But Islam (at least when it comes to this particular concept) puts the emphasis on how the individual heart absolutely has to start with pure and sincere intention, or else what follows will be incomplete, corrupt and empty.

Tomorrow's principle is Kuumba or Creativity

even a stopped clock...

Here is an old Ann Coulter piece on Karenga and Kwanzaa. Snide and insulting comments aside (and there are plenty), it is interesting to see someone like Coulter, recognize COINTELPRO, the positive side of the Panthers and the limitations of cultural nationalism.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

why i like it, why i don't

In spite of me really getting into Kwanzaa-blogging this year, I actually have a number of reservations about Karenga and cultural nationalism in general. I definitely believe that the principles of the Nguzo Saba are worth further reflection and discussion, but I don't necessarily feel that cultural practices can really be imposed from above. Culture isn't some burden you have to carry in order to establish your authenticity. Instead, culture is a spontaneous and creative response to ones situation. Black culture is what Black culture does.

For a few days I've been thinking about how to best articulate some of my other reservations about Karenga and was toying with the idea of including a link to an older piece by Ann Coulter on Kwanzaa (and I was going to give the piece the title "even a stopped clock..."). Fortunately, I don't have to sink to such depths. I recently found another blogger who also has a rather balanced view of the holiday. She does a good job of describing Karenga's differences (to put it mildly) with the Panthers along with other issues.

Pica12: Kwanzaa – Why I Like It And Why I Don’t

dhul-hijjah and eid al-adha

According to ISNA, the first day of Dhul-Hijjah is expected January 1. That would mean the Day of Arafah will be the 9th of January, and Eid begins on the 10th. Some Sunnahs of Dhul-Hijjah and the Eid
Central Mosque: Ten Days of Zul Hijjah

julius nyerere and ujamaa

Ujamaa: The Basis of African Socialism by Julius Kambarage Nyerere


Today is the fourth day of Kwanzaa and today's principle is Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics; to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Hopefully you already realize that different communities have chosen to set up Chambers of Commerce to support "their" businesses or publish their own Yellow Pages in order to keep money within the group. For today's entry I just wanted to highlight a couple of interesting examples of distinctive financial arrangements people have come up with which manifest the principle of ujamaa. This shouldn't be taken as an endorsement on my part. You should do your own research for your own investments. But personally I think it is interesting that people are even attempting these kinds of alternatives to conventional business arrangements.

Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund
List of Muslim Financial Institutions
What are co-operatives?
Ansar Co-operative Housing Corporation Ltd.

For further reading:
A history of African-American Farmer Co-operatives, 1938-2000

United Farm Workers

hoax or lie?

Xpatriated Texan is a Liberal Christian blogger who pokes a few holes in the story that mosques were being put under surveilance in order to keep people safe. Check out: Hoax or Lie?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

prison magazine

Muslim blogger, Umar Lee is trying to put together an informal magazine for prisoners and is looking for volunteers, either in terms of writing contributions, contacting prisons, helping with mailings, desktop publishing, etc. For more info go here.

new addition to blogroll

Check out the Woman of Color Blog by activist Chicana blogger, brownfemipower.

carlos santana

"Spirituality to me is water. Religions are like Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, wine, beer, or whatever. But spirituality is what's really going to save you in the battle, man. Champagne is not going to do much for you in battle. And so that's how I look at things. To me, it's very clear. And I think the more we get people this information, spiritual information, they will be able to choose, to realize the power of choice because, again, that's the most empowering thing you can give people. And I'm really happy to say that I'm not the only one waking up to this new dimension." -Carlos Santana

I'm both very suspicious of, and very sympathetic to, the "New Age" movement. On the one hand, under the banner of the New Age movement there is probably alot of ill-informed, self-indulgent undisciplined navel-gazing going on. But on the other hand, more traditional organized religions have certainly shown the potential to stagnate and fossilize into a dry oppressive unspiritual practice. Ultimately, the believers vote with their feet, and if the mainstream religious institutions aren't feeding the hearts of their congregations, their members are going to feel a sincere need to look elsewhere.

So in spite of the fact that I don't share all Santana's beliefs, I think there is something appealing in his willingness to step out on a limb and do his own thing. He not only stepped outside the Catholic Church, but out of a mainstream Christian paradigm altogether.

For a while now I've wanted to do an entry on Carlos Santana. Like John Coltrane, Santana is an amazing musician with a very unique and personal spiritual sensibility. In 1970 he released the album Abraxas (a Gnostic term for god) . For 9 years from 1972-1981 was a follower of Sri Chimnoy and went by the name Devadip. (see Carlos Santana and Sri Chinmoy ) He was later disillusioned with his guru and left, but continued explore spirituality on his own. in the wake of his Grammy-winning album Supernatural he credits his succes to his regular communication with the angel Metatron.

"Metatron ignited in me the concept of being patient, gracious and grateful," Santana muses, fingering a gold and silver pendant which, he says, is a representation of the angel. "He made me feel like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, and he still visits me in dreams. Some people don't believe in him, but that's okay. Like I said to Rolling Stone, I'd rather live with my craziness than your sane reality. In my craziness, I get to hang out with some seriously cool people."

(See also Metatron: Angel of the Presence)

Other articles/interviews with Santana:
Carlos Santana: Ready to reincarnate
The Eagle Flies Again: Interview with Carlos Santana
The Supernatural Rebirth of Carlos Santana by Zannah
The Uncompromising Spiritual Passion and Positivity of Carlos Santana by Craig Hamilton and Jessica Roemischer

And from Grenada's past:
the guru principle

ujima continued

In a similar vein, we should also stop to consider the connection between social justice issues globally and our personal individual lifestyles. For example, a few individuals are willing to pay a little bit more money for Fair Trade Coffee but what about other goods and services? A large portion of the prosperity and high standard of living found in the West is due to certain unjust economic and political arrangements which we benefit from. So what would happen to our standard of living if the world became more just? What would happen if all our goods were "Fair Trade"? If everything suddenly cost more, wouldn't we have to learn to get by with less? In order to truly work towards having society be more just, and to work responsibly for the collective good, we also have to be willing to sacrifice the various ways we've been benefitting from injustice.

If you want to follow this train of thought further, you might be interested in the voluntary simplicity movement. I'm not claiming to represent them, or speak for them, but I think at least some sectors of the movement are into making that same connection between social justice in the world and a certain kind of lifestyle at home.


Today is the Third day of Kwanzaa and today's principle is Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility; to build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.

From the film Bulworth, starring Warren Beatty in the title role of a temporarily suicidal liberal politician. And Halle Berry as Nina, the sexy B-Girl raised by a Black Panther mother (but Bulworth doesn't know that yet):

Bulworth: (looking at NINA) You know who Huey Newton was?

Nina: (slowly she nods her head) yes.

You know a lotta people I talk to, the blacks your age, they have no idea who he was.
(long pause)
(long pause)
Why do you think there are no more black leaders?

Nina: (after a pause)
Some people think it's because they all got killed. But I think it's got more to do with the decimation of the manufacturing base in the urban centers. Senator, an optimistic population throws up optimistic, energized leaders. And when you shift manufacturing to the Sun Belt in the Third World, you destroy the blue-collar core of the black activist population.

Some people would say that problem is purely cultural. The power of the media that is continually controlled by fewer and fewer people, add to that the monopoly of the media, a consumer culture based on self-gratification, and you're not likely to have a population that want's leadership that calls for self-sacrifice.

But the fact is, I'm just a materialist at heart. But if I look at the economic base, higher domestic employment means jobs for African Americans. World War II meant lots of jobs for black folks. That is what energized the community for the civil rights movement of the 50's and the 60's. An energized, hopeful community will not only produce leaders but more importantly it'll produce leaders they'll respond to.
Now what do you think, Senator?

(Bulworth is speechless)

So what do YOU think? Does Nina have a point? The part which is grabbing my attention right now (especially in terms of connecting it with collective work and responsibility) is the idea that consumer culture itself is discouraging the growth of progressive leadership; and so instead of getting leaders who believe in "Give me liberty or give me death" we end up with "Get rich or die tryin'".

And what I find really interesting about this train of thought is that ujima seems to provide an alternative on which to base (or reinforce) at least a large portion of traditional morality. In other words, living out the principle of ujima requires a willingness towards self-sacrifice and a rejection of hedonism.

And so in addition to doing the right thing on religious grounds, or because of what would happen if the neighbors found it, ujima suggests that certain kinds of vices and indulgences are bad because they are anti-progressive and bad for the community.

Further reading:
Bulworth: The Hip-Hop Nation Confronts Corporate Capitalism

Tomorrow's principle: Ujamaa or Cooperative Economics

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Today is the second day of Kwanzaa and today's principle is Kujichagulia or Self-Determination; To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Out of the 7 principles, I would say Kujichagulia is one which I see we (in the broadest sense) need to put a lot more effort into implementing.

It's not just a matter of acting on an individual level and "naming ourselves" in the sense of replacing "slave names" with an X or taking on Arab names or Pre-Columbian names.

It also isn't just a matter changing our collective names and arguing whether Latino is more appropriate than Hispanic (or Chicano or Spanish-surnamed American etc.) or arguing whether Black is better than Negro (or colored or African or Blackamerican or African-American etc.) or whether Muslim is better than Moslem (or Muhammadan or Submitter, etc.)

Arguing about isolated labels can be important on a personal or a psychological level, but from another perspective it is more like window dressing. A much more important concern is the issue of who gets to decide the questions and terms of the public debate.

For example when it comes to the debate on meritocracy, equality and inclusion who decides to focus on race-based affirmative action in higher education instead of the much more tangible economic disparities in the funding of public education which makes students unequal before they even set foot on campus? And how does that decision get made?

To truly manifest the principle of kujichagulia, doesn't just require an act of will made in a vacuum (although that's an important first step) but it also should ideally be backed up by institutions which can make your definition of the world a reality. To a large degree, this means that we (in the broadest sense) need to participate in and have a louder voice in the media. BET and Spanish language tv are a nice start but things can be a lot better than they are, especially when it comes to in-depth news and news commentary. The is power in the media, and we (again, in the broadest sense) should consider how we can have a voice when it comes to those images which fill the collective imagination. That might mean going into journalism, advertising, filmaking, publishing, or other fields.

Even if you just want to do something on the side, some of these are easier than you might think. For example, it is relatively easy to get a show on Public Access television. And with advances in audio technology or desktop publishing, if you want to get your own book or CD out, it is a lot easier than it used to be. Or you might just want to put your thoughts out there through a blog...

And speaking of blogs, an idea for next year would be to AHEAD OF TIME come up with a set of bloggers who agree to blog on kwanzaa for at least most of the seven days and perhaps make a temporary Nguzo Saba blogring/blogroll for easy access.

Anyway, I think I've said my piece on today's principle.

Tomorrow is Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility

tawhid (umoja cont')

Since umoja means unity/oneness I also wanted to build on the Islamic notion of tawhid (oneness) as well. One of the most straightforward, eloquent and coherent descriptions of the Islamic concept of tawhid can be found in Abul A'La Mawdudi's well-publicized work, Towards Understanding Islam. The book unpacks and elaborates on the meaning of tawhid in such a way that it becomes the foundation of an entire way of life, an entire way of looking at the world.

One longish excerpt which describes this really nicely can be found at: Effects of Tawhid on Human Life. And you can also find a free online version of Towards Understanding Islam as well. The book is rather short as far as books go but it presents the subject matter in a really nice way and is well worth reading.

Monday, December 26, 2005

black and hispanic

Having been born in New York to a Puerto Rican family, Ronald Flecha is, at the same time, Hispanic and black. Since the African heritage is especially strong in the Caribbean, Flecha thought that his genes and his ancestry would save him from being discriminated by other blacks. But he was wrong.

When I was in the Army's basic training, back in 1968, I got caught in the middle of two discriminatory feelings. I was chastised by both ends of the spectrum: the African Americans were not agreeable with me, and the anglo Americans weren't either. There was a kind of two-way racism in there.
Full story in the Havana Journal


Today is the first day of Kwanzaa. And the principle for the first day is umoja or unity. More specifically, according to Maulana Karenga umoja means "To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race."

At nearly every Kwanzaa related-event I've attended, it has been claimed that Kwanzaa is neutral as far as religion is concerned and that people of any belief should feel free to particpate. In my opinion that is more true now, but I don't believe that was the original intent of Karenga and the US (United Slaves) organization.

In Amiri Baraka's colleciton of writings "Raise, race, rays, raze" he has an entire essay on the deeper significance of the 7 principles of Kwanzaa (the Nguzo Saba) as the core and foundation of a new values system:

The 7 principles are the spine and total philosophy of the US organization. They are simple in what they say, but total in that they evoke all the levels of meaning associated with philosophical systems.

The 7 principles are "10 commandments" yet more profound to us - US because they are pre and post 10 commandments at the same time. If there is UMOJA, for instance thou cannot kill, steal, bear false witness, commit adultery, or any of the things the western world thrives on. The commandments are fulfilled by the initial need of blackness for unity- oneness.

Personally, I think the whole idea is pretty provocative. It would be interesting if there were a positive group which actually tried to flesh out and develop the 7 prinicples in a serious and thoughtful way and put them into practice.

Tomorrow's principle: Kujichagulia or Self-Determination

Sunday, December 25, 2005

2nd annual brass crescent awards

Click on the Icon to find out more information

And the categories are:

BEST MIDDLE-EAST/ASIAN BLOGGER - The Islamsphere is truly a global phennomenon. In Iraq, despite the chaos and uncertainty, there is a sea change of free speech and expression, the vanguard of which are blogs. There are also bloggers in India, in Pakistan, in Jordan, and most other countries that host muslims, all of whom have their own perspectives on faith, culture, and politics.

BEST GROUP BLOG - which multiple group blog in the Islamsphere has the best diversity of writers and the most interesting debate on Muslim issues?

MOST DESERVING OF WIDER RECOGNITION - Which blog is a true diamond in the rough, one that everyone should be reading but who most just haven't heard of (yet) ?

BEST THINKER - Who is the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophically wise among us? This category is intended to highlight a blogger who may not post daily, but when they do post, they really make an impact.

BEST FEMALE BLOG - The woman's voice in Islam is equal to the man's, and in the Islamsphere we seek to make sure the female perspective is highlighted and given its rightful due. Which muslim woman's blog has done the most to explore the role that women play within Islam and society?

BEST POST OR SERIES - Which single post or group of posts in the Islamsphere was the most original and important, above all the others?

BEST NON-MUSLIM BLOG - Which blog writen by a non-muslim is most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialog with muslims?

BEST BLOG - the most indispensable, muslim-authored blog there is. Period.


So tomorrow marks the beginning of Kwanzaa, the seven-day period of reflection and celebration founded by the controversial figure Maulana Karenga, as an expression of African-American heritage. I figure that no matter what people have to say about Karenga, we can do worse things with our time than spend the next seven days thinking deeply and conscientiously about our principles and values and where we are headed as a people.

As a matter of fact, I've never actually "celebrated Kwanzaa" (in the 'proper' way, over 7 days, lighting candles, etc.) In my opinion, it would be improper for a Muslim to do so. But I have been present at a number of Kwanzaa celebrations over the years. What happens on many colleges and universities is that since Kwanzaa itself (December 26 to January 1) typically occurs when school is not in session, students and faculty would tend to have a one-day year-end event which serves as a chance for the Black community to come together one last time before the holiday break.

This year, I still don't plan on "officially" celebrating Kwanzaa but I think it would be valuable and interesting for me to use the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba as a springboard for blogging for the next seven days.

To start this off, tomorrow's principle is Umoja or Unity. And I'll try to have an entry finished by the end of the day.

Wikipedia: Kwanzaa
Official Kwanzaa Website

evelio grillo

For a while now I've been thinking of blogging some on Evelio Grillo, the Afro-Cuban American veteran whose published the autobiographical work Black Cuban, Black American: A Memior a few years ago. His life exemplifies one likely trajectory for Afro-Latinos, namely to join the Black American community and get "African-Americanized" so to speak.

But for those who don't have the time to read his memoir, I recently found a "clipping" of a newspaper interview with Grillo about his experiences. Enjoy!

black hispanics and the census

By John Moreno Gonzales
Staff Writer

NY Newsday
July 15, 2003

Hispanics who identify themselves racially as black take on economic and social characteristics that more closely mirror those of African-Americans than of other Hispanics, according to a study on the often overlooked group released Monday.

The findings by the Lewis Mumford Center of SUNY Albany said that the nearly 1 million black Hispanics identified by the 2000 U.S. Census are more educated than other Hispanics, less likely to be immigrants and less likely to speak a language other than English.

Yet their economic performance is worse, with a lower median household income than other Hispanics, as well as higher unemployment and poverty rates.

John R. Logan, the author of the study and director of the Mumford Center, attributed the economic disparity between black Hispanics and other Hispanics to the "very strong color line in the United States."

"The opportunity structure here is that when people decide who to hire, or to rent to, when it comes right down to it, race does make a difference," he said.

The most intense concentration of black Hispanics in the United States was by far in the New York metropolitan area, with 9.2 percent of Hispanics calling themselves black, according to the census.

The national origin of black Hispanics was largely Dominican and to a lesser extent Puerto Rican, with Cubans and Central Americans also showing significant numbers of Hispanics who identified themselves racially as black.

Rosina Pearsall, 36, who lives in Garden City and is a instructor at the Westbury Language Center, said her black skin and Latino heritage has led to little direct segregation.

"But when I am with Caucasian people they look at me differently," said the English as a Second Language teacher from Costa Rica. "They are asking themselves 'How come a black girl is Spanish?' And they can't understand that."

The study found that 28 percent of black Hispanics were immigrants, compared with 41 percent of all Hispanics. Sixty-one percent of black Hispanics spoke a language other than English in the home compared with 79 percent of all Hispanics. The mean education level of black Hispanics was 11.7 years, compared with 12.5 for non-Hispanic blacks and 10.5 years for all Hispanics.

The median household income of black Hispanics was $35,000, closer to the $34,000 of non-Hispanic blacks than to the $38,500 of all Hispanics.

Their unemployment rate was 12.3 percent, compared with 11 percent for non-Hispanic blacks and 8.8 percent for all Hispanics. Their poverty rate was 31.5 percent, compared with the 29.7 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 26 percent for all Hispanics.

Black Hispanics tend to marry non-Hispanic blacks at a higher rate than they do other Hispanics, the report said. Nearly half the black Hispanic children had a parent who is a non-Hispanic black.

Pearsall married Milton Pearsall last year, an Army warrant officer who is African-American. "African-Americans are a little more open to accept me because I look like them," Rosina Pearsall said.

Faced with such a mixture of racial backgrounds, the report also found that Hispanics are increasingly choosing to not identify themselves as either black or white. In the 1980 Census, only 33.7 percent of Hispanics chose to forgo any racial classification. In 2000, 47.4 percent did not choose a race.

Logan acknowledged, however, that the bulk of Hispanics may not call themselves white or black simply because they factually are neither. The dominate Hispanic group in the United States, those of Mexican heritage, are often of both Spanish and indigenous blood and their skin is neither black nor white.

© 2003, Newsday, Inc.

To see the full Mumford Center report, "How Race Counts for Hispanic Americans"
Click Here

he knows when you are awake...

And we haven't been...

In Spying and Lying by Katrina vanden Heuvel points out how the media has been complicit in the recent spying scandal and how the government convinced the New York Times sit on the story for about a year before making it public.

And it would be bad enough if it were just an action of the government, but according to Tom Daschle, who was Senate Majority leader after 9/11 Congress Never Authorized Spying Effort and so the spying was actually illegal.

As a protest against these revelations Judge James Robertson resigned from the Foreign Intelligence Surveilance Court or FISA. In "normal" circumstances, FISA is the body set up to approve eavesdropping and last year out of 1,758 requests for warrants, they approved all but 4. FISA even has the ability to approve warrants after the fact. Nevertheless, the administration still wanted to bypass even this much oversight. And gave rather weak reasons for doing so.

Initially it was claimed that only communications between US citizens and foreign nationals were subject to surveilance, but in reality there are indications that the scope of the surveilance was much more extensive than admitted to at first. [2]

Looks like the country is getting coal this year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

he knows when you are sleeping...

From Alt.Muslim:
Following last week's revelations that the Bush administration approved of warrantless tapping of phone conversations made by US citizens, the FBI and US Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) have confirmed that it conducted hundreds of warrantless searches at US Muslim sites (mosques, homes, businesses, etc.) over the last few years.

Santa Doesn't Watch Muslims, But The FBI Does

the son of mary

From the Quran 19:16-34

Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.

She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah."

He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.

She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"

He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us':It is a matter (so) decreed."

So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): "Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!"

But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, 'I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into not talk with any human being'"

At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!"

But she pointed to the babe. They said: "How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?"

He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah. He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; (He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"!

Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

rage and race in latin america

From Open Democracy: The time of the underdog: rage and race in Latin America by Ivan Briscoe takes a broad look at how traditional oppressed groups seem to be gaining more of a voice and representation in several different Latin American nations.

i'm dreaming of a...

From Alternet: A Whiter Shade of Christmas

I don't mean to be a Grinch but this is a rather scary post on how normal the white nationalist movement seems to have gotten lately. It is isn't just rural, southern, uneducated and poor. And they don't just have cross-burnings but also put together cookbooks and run Aryan clothing drives.
[...] white supremacists are not a monolithic group. During research for her 2002 book, "Inside Organized Racism: Women and the Hate Movement," Blee found that the public's preconceptions about racist activists, and specifically about racist women, were skewed. After interviewing 34 white nationalist women, she wrote that "many did not fit common stereotypes about racist women as uneducated, marginal members of society raised in terrible families and lured into racist groups by boyfriends and husbands." In fact, most of Blee's research subjects were educated middle-class women with decent jobs, and many came to racist activism on their own.

Also on white supremacists:
race and sex
prussian blue

At the moment, it is not quite as extensive as AfroCuba Web which has been in my permanent link section from the beginning, but seems to be shaping up to be another decent site (It also seems rather apolitical and more "cultural" than the former)

big brother is watching you

To be honest, I feel a bit overwhelmed by what I've been finding in the news these days. The NSA is spying on U.S. citizens. The government is planting favorable stories in the Iraqi press. Secret prisons in other countries. Less than convincing disavowals of torture. We were nearly going to bomb Al-Jazeera. What is the world coming to? Right now it feels like it is too hard to compartmentalize and sum everything up while throwing in some nice links. A free press is absolutely essential to making sure that our leaders act responsibly, but recently the media has been letting us down. In certain respects Congress has as well. There is some hope in John Conyers and others. But still, where does that leave us? What can we do?

"we shall change them for fresh skins"

One of the more vivid passages in the Quran (for me anyway) describes how in the afterlife some individuals will continually be given new skins. By contrast, in the here and now, most of us tend to keep the skins we have along with with all the positive and negative consequences which are attached to them.

The Sunni Sister recently revised and posted on her blog: White Privilege, White Muslim which has some really thought-provoking comments on how white converts to Islam don't magically stop being white. Plus she includes ALOT of useful links on white privilege generally, and related subjects.

invisibility blues

The invisibility of Black Hispanics is a theme which comes up so often it sometimes seems like a cliche (to me anyway). Why aren't there more Blacks in Spanish-language magazines? Why aren't there more Blacks on Spanish television? (Although I have to admit, we are appearing more on Spanish-language talkshows recently... but not necessarily in ways which make me well with pride.) And when I visited the Prado art museum in Madrid several years ago I felt like Buggin' Out from Do the Right Thing, asking myself "Why aren't there any brothers on the wall?"

On that note, George at Negrophile has recently pointed to some pieces dealing with Afro-Latin "invisibility". Where Did Mexico's Blacks Go? deals with Mexico while Blacks in Argentina and Long-Unclaimed African Roots discuss the mystery behind the "disappearance" of the Afro-Argentine population.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

john coltrane

From: The Jazz Church by Gordon Polatnick:

Sometimes I think I'm the only one who understands what true religion is. It's that cozy state of mind where nothing is more apparent than the unassailable fact that each of us belongs here on Earth, and is deeply loved by an enduring spirit. If you've got that kind of religion, you want to share it. If you've really got that kind of religion nobody will mistake you for a used god salesman. That's your litmus test, my proselytizing friend, turn one person off and it's back to the pew for you. True religion is the light bulb that just has to be flicked on to attract a flock of worshipping moths. Amen. That light bulb doesn't have to convince the moths that it's burning bright (those moths can tell and they
come a' runnin').

On Divisadero Street there is a pretty bright light bulb that first appeared over the head of Franzo King in 1971 when he had the idea to organize the "One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Body of Christ," which would soon evolve into Saint John's African Orthodox Church.


For a while now I've been meaning to include some links on these folks, they are a religious organization inspired by the music and spirituality of jazz great, John Coltrane. I've never been to a serice, but I'm still kind of impressed by the idea of being able to find sanctity and mystery in the midst of something which most folks would view from a more mundane perspective.

Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church
The Aspiration of John Coltrane by Richard Carlson

monkey business

Any movie that features white people sailing off to the Third World to capture a giant ape and carry it back to the West for exploitation is going to be seen as a metaphor for colonialism and racism.

Or so says Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton in his recent piece which tries to thoughtfully wrestle with the question: Is King Kong racist? (With a discussion of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness to boot). Haroon at Avari/Nameh deals with similar issues in his timely post: the martyrdom of king kong

For my part, I agree whole-heartedly with Pinkerton's comment above and I don't think anyone should have to work very hard to view King Kong through a racial/political lens. Shoot, I have a friend who reads Curious George in the same way! Both are stories of apes taken out of Africa to the West. In the case of King Kong, the strong giant ape is blatantly exploited and when he rebels the story has to end violently and tragically. On the other hand, the Curious George stories are meant for young children so George is allowed to survive and is treated paternalistically, rather than harshly, by the Man in the Yellow Hat. (is there a "field ape" / "house ape" issue here?)

But to be honest, I never really got into Curious George or King Kong. I'm more a Planet of the Apes fan (And I'm only talking about Pierre Boule's original novel and the first 5-film cycle, not the television series or Tim Burton's remade pile of monkey s---)


In fact, one of my favorite all-time movies is Conquest of the Plant of the Apes largely because of the more interesting political content and the non-tragic ending where the apes (i.e. slaves) rebel and take over. Here the racial symbolism is perhaps too blatant for some tastes. The human characters who are most sympathetic to the ape cause are clearly Armando (played by Ricardo Montalban, a Hispanic) and Macdonald (played by Hari Rhoades, an African-American). And in the early 70's when the film came out, in the wake of the Watts riots, it would be hard to miss the connection between the political events of the day and the final climactic scene of the film when the apes have started to violently rise up against their human (i.e. white) oppressors, and Macdonald (the Black man) is arguing about revolutionary principles with Caesar, the ape leader:

MacDonald: Caesar... Caesar! This is not how it was meant to be.

Caesar: In your view or mine?

MacDonald: Violence prolongs hate, hate prolongs violence. By what right are you spilling blood?

Caesar: By the slave's right to punish his persecutor.

MacDonald: I, a decedent of slaves am asking you to show humanity.

Caesar: But, I was not born human

MacDonald: I know. The child of the evolved apes.

Caesar: Whose children shall rule the earth.

MacDonald: For better or for worse?

Caesar: Do you think it could be worse?

MacDonald: Do you think this riot will win freedom for all your people? By tomorrow...

Caesar: By tomorrow it will be too late. Why a tiny, mindless insect like the emperor moth can communicate with another over a distance of 80 miles..

MacDonald: An emperor ape might do slightly better?

Caesar: Slightly? What you have seen here today, apes on the 5 continents will be imitating tomorrow.

MacDonald: With knives against guns? With kerosene cans against flamethrowers?

Caesar: Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch and conspire and plot and plan for the inevitable day of Man's downfall--the day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we will build our own cities in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you... NOW!

(This is how the movie ends in the original script, but it was a bit too militant for some folks... go figure... so the content was later toned down when the film was released)

But to go back to the original question, I'm not sure how interesting it is to ask "Is King Kong a racist film?". Even if the title figure may be a stand-in for Black or Third World humanity (which is likely) the film's content is relatively easy to unpack and analyze and we can decide for ourselves who the heroes and villans are, and whether the ending is comic or tragic. The real question isn't whether the film is racist or not, the real question is who will we be rooting for?

Planet of the Apes (scripts for films and series)
Those Damn Dirty Apes! by Anthony Leong
Slate: The Apes of Wrath: The radical political history of Planet of the Apes.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

yup, we definitely all look alike

From La Voz de Aztlan: Air Marshals lied about slain Latino passenger saying "I have a bomb" Maybe they should profile people who look like air marshals?

islam and the blackamerican: finally finished

I actually finished Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking toward the Third Resurrection well over a week ago but I've been letting it marinate in my head some before coming up with any kind of final blog entry on it. It is funny but with all the other info I've already included about this book and Sherman (Abdul-Hakim) Jackson's ideas, by now I feel like I have almost nothing left to say. I liked the book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to say anthing about Islam and race relations in America. From a certain perspective, the point of the book is really simple to state: Blackamerican Muslims need to figure out how to be Black (e.g. anti-racist, culturally authentic) AND American (e.g. claiming and owning all the rights and privilieges of citizenship and nationality) AND Muslim (e.g. orthodox, a full part of the world community of Muslims) and hold down jobs, all at the same time. And if we give up struggling to affirm and claim any part of that task, then we end up paying too high a price. Everything else is details.

Has anybody else read the book and would like to share their thoughts?

imprisoned intellectuals

In the course of trying to repair a link in my Dhoruba bin Wahad entry I found an online draft of the book Imprisoned Intellectuals: US Political Prisoners and Social Justice edited by Joy James.

This larger work not only includes a section on Dhoruba bin Wahad but also Jalil Muntaqim, Safiya Bukhari, and many other activists coming from a wide range of perspectives (Muslim, Latino, Native American, former Black Panthers etc.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

malik rahim


Ihasan Podcast: Malik Rahim speaks out on Katrina
Washington Post: For a Former Panther, Solidarity After the Storm
Social Resistance: 'This is criminal' Malik Rahim running for mayor of New Orleans
Common Ground: Common Ground Collective (Malik Rahim founder)
A.N.S.W.E.R.: Katrina Survivors Struggle for Justice
Democracy Now!: Malik Rahim Demands Inquiry into Hurricane Katrina Deaths and Amnesty for “Looters” (interview)

Other Ihsan Podasts (good stuff on Tookie Williams, Million Family March, etc.)

black cats who became muslim

Some time ago, a Sunni African-American Muslim blogger had asserted that African-American Sunnis weren't doing as much in Black communities as Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. And to be honest, the fact that he said so kind of annoyed me.... not just because I thought he was wrong, but because of the nagging suspicion that he might be right. So I felt compelled to try to disprove him by trying to point to Black Sunni activists and doing entries on them at Planet Grenada.

In the process, what I found is that there are alot of Sunni individuals and organizations quietly doing alot of positive work in the Black community. But because they don't seek out controversy, they don't get the same kind of media attention which Farrakhan or the Nation do.

In particular, I found a group of African-American Muslims who were all former Black Panthers and it made me really curious to see how many African-American Muslims came to Islam along that particular trajectory. It would be good if someone could do more research on the phenomena. Perhaps some Panthers are left unsatisfied by Marxist materialism and so they feel a need for more spirituality and become Muslim. That would be my guess, but to be honest I really don't know.

I've been mulling this subject over for a while, but it came up again for me recently because I've reading about, and working on a blog entry for, Malik Rahim who has been in the news lately. He is a (you guessed it) former Black Panther but is still very much involved in community activism. He lives in New Orleans and is running as the Green Party candidate for mayor. I'm tentatively assuming that he's probably Muslim but I'm trying to find out more information about him online.

remember imam jamil al-amin
nuh washington
dhoruba bin wahad
interview with safiya bukhari
jalil abdul muntaqim
mustafa ibn talib

prison islam
another piece on prison islam

young lords
a really nice black panther page

(i may need to fix some links)

paris diary

Salvadorian-American journalist Josue Rojas compares and contrasts his own hyphenated existence with that of the African/Arab/Muslims in France.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

mustafa ibn talib

Another brief profile of a brother on death row at San Quentin.
CCADP: Writings by Mustafa Ibn Talib
Al-Fath al-Mubin: More writings
CCADP: Biography of Mustafa Ibn Talib/ Andrew Lancaster

jalil abdul muntaqim


Jalil A. Muntaqim was born October 18, 1951, in Oakland, California, the first of four children in his family. His early years were spent in San Francisco. In his junior high school years he obtained a summer scholarship to attend an advanced high school math and science program; and while in high school he obtained a summer scholarship to attend an advanced college summer math and engineering program. During the civil rights movement, he participated in NAACP youth organizing and was one of many who engaged in street riots against racism and police brutality in San Francisco.

In high school, he became a leading member of the Black Student Union and later became involved with Ron Karenga's "House of Umoja". After the assassination of Rev. King, Jalil began to believe a more militant response to national oppression and racism was necessary and began to look towards the Black Panthers for Self-Defense for leadership. He became affiliated with the BPP when he was 18 years old. Having moved back to San Francisco from San Jose, Jalil was recruited into the Black underground by elementary school friends who had since become Panthers.

Less than two months from his twentieth birthday, on August 28, 1971, Jalil was captured along with Albert Nuh Washington (deceased) in a midnight shoot-out with San Francisco police. (It has been alleged that Jalil and Nuh attempted to assassinate a S.F. police sergeant in retaliation for the August 21, 1971 assassination of George Jackson.) Subsequently, Jalil was charged with a host of revolutionary underground activities, including the assassination of NYC police officers for which he is currently serving a life sentence.

When he was arrested in 1971, he was a high school graduate and employed as a social worker for the California State Employment Office. Having been imprisoned since 1971, Jalil is one of the ten longest held Black political prisoners in the world. He states, "I came to prison an expectant father and will leave prison a grandfather."

PARC: Jalil Abdul Muntaqim
Kersplebedeb: Jalil Abdul Muntaqim
IIPI: Jalil Abdul Muntaqim

Prison Activist Resource Center
Innocent in Prison International
Can't Jail the Spirit

straight thuggin'

Black students at the University of Chicago are calling for campus wide discussions on racial sensitivity following a controversial party held at a campus dorm last month. Under the theme “Straight Thuggin,” partygoers – all of whom were white, according to Chicago’s local ABC news affiliate – followed instructions to dress, act and speak as if they were part of the hip-hop culture while listening to rap music throughout the event. The students said they were also offended with pictures from the party showing participants dressed in baggy clothes, wearing sideways baseball caps, exposed underwear, bandanas and other accessories.

"I don't think that it was meant in a racist way, but I think it was just sort of ignorant in not knowing it would offend people," said Brittany Hamelers, UIC student.

Yes Brittany.

And what is really weird is that this sort of thing isn't an isolated event. From time to time, I've read about similar events on college campuses (often in the context of the Greek system). And for years, white youths in Brooklyn have been attending similar regular "kill whitey" parties. What is going on? At first I was thinking that there needed to be some kind of healthy cautious revival of real white pride. But now I don't really know. Where is this all coming from?

Black News: Straight Thuggin’ at The University of Chicago
Chicago Maroon: “Ghetto”—themed dorm party offends students
Black Entertainment: Themed night by white U of Chicago students deemed racially insensitive
Planet Grenada: "kill whitey"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

what i would do with the rest of my life?

Of course, the timing makes this piece more than a bit sad. But for me it helps raise all sorts of questions about the Tookie Williams case. Is he sincere about being redeemed? How important is it that he still proclaimed his innocence in spite of the weight of evidence against him? Is it possible to do enough good deeds to make up for taking a life. What is the purpose of capital punishment and the criminal justice system in general? Is it to balance some kind of moral calculus (punish the guilty)? Deterrence? Rehabilitation? Protecting society from dangerous people? Something else entirely different? Redemption?

My name is Stanley "Tookie" Williams. I've been residing on San Quentin's condemned row for over 24 years. As a death row prisoner, my testament to redemption has been met at times with condemnation and misinformation. Fortunately, it is God who anoints with the oil of redemption. The forgiving God to whom I pray has sublimated me, humbled me and vicariously works through me.

In the beginning, redemption was an alien concept to me. However, while in solitary confinement, during 1988 to 1994, I embarked upon a transitional path toward redemption. I underwent disciplined years of education, soul-searching, edification, spiritual cultivation and battling my internal demons. Though I was loathed for being the co-founder of the Crips, my redemption caused me to repudiate my gang leadership role, to repudiate any affiliation with the Crips or other gangs.

Redemption has resurrected me from a mental and spiritual death. It symbolizes the end of a bad beginning, as well as a new start. Being redeemed has enabled me to reunite with God, reclaim my humanity, find inner peace and discover my raison d'tre, my reason to exist.

Recently, I was asked if I am prepared to die. I responded, "I'm prepared to live." Though execution looms like poisonous toxins, God's gift of redemption [revives] my life. I inhale redemption and exhale joie de vivre. That's why I do not fear death. Socrates stated while defending his life before court judges, "A man who is good for anything should not calculate the chance of living or dying. He should only consider whether in doing anything, he is doing right or wrong, and acting the part of a good man or of bad." I opted for good to assist the hopeless.

Consequently, my spirit deeds are exhibited in my nine children's books; my memoir "Blue Rage, Black Redemption"; my educational website; my Internet Project for Street Peace; and my Peace Protocol. All of my work is predicated on persuading youths and adults to not follow in my footsteps. Still, my desire is to do more.

Recently, I met with Bruce Gordon, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). From that extraordinary meeting came an historic partnership. Each NAACP chapter will be working with me to create and implement a violence prevention curriculum for at-risk youths throughout America. The partnership with this nation's oldest civil rights organization will provide me with the structure and support to carry out my vision of a gang-free America.

I know that to whom much is given, much is expected. If Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger grants me clemency, I will accept it as an obligation to society to spend the rest of my life working to reverse the cycle of youth violence. It is my desire to help save society from producing more victims.

Here and now, I bear witness that God's bequest of redemption has replenished me with a mission and revealed that the impossible is possible.

Final Call

better out than in

It’s Easier to Fuel A Movement from the Streets Than from A Jail Cell by Tonyaa Weathersbee. On the Oakland vandalism cases.

stanley tookie williams (1953-2005)

From: "Democracy Now! interview"
Well, my interpretation of redemption, it differs from the theological or the academical rendition. I believe that my redemption symbolizes the end of a bad beginning and a new start. It goes beyond, in a sense of being liberated from one's sins or atonement in itself. I feel that my redemption mostly or primarily encompasses the ability to reach out to others.

-Stanley Tookie Williams

Stanley Williams gained world-wide attention and praise for his work in prison, including the publication of children's books advocating non-violence and alternatives to gangs, an autobiography, and Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story a Hollywood movie honoring him, starring Jamie Foxx. In 1997, Williams wrote an apology, posted on his website, for his role in creating the Crips. In 2004, he helped broker a peace agreement (called the Tookie Protocol For Peace) for what had been one of the deadliest and infamous gang wars in the country, between the Bloods and the Crips, in both the state of California and the city of Newark, New Jersey. Williams received a letter from President George W. Bush commending him for his social activism.

Williams was reportedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year from 2001 to 2005; nominations came from Mario Fehr, a member of the Swiss Parliament; four times by Notre Dame de Namur University Philosophy and Religion Professor Phil Gasper; William Keach, a Brown University Professor of English Literature, nominated Williams for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Wikipedia: Stanley Tookie Williams

Monday, December 12, 2005

richard pryor (1940-2005)

Richard Pryor describing his trip to Africa in 1982: Excerpt from Live on Sunset Strip
"I was sitting in the hotel lobby, right? And a voice says, 'What do you see? Look around.' And I looked around, and I saw people of all colors and shapes. And the voice said, 'Do you see any niggers?' I said no. 'You know why? Cause there aren't any. Cause I'd been there three weeks, and I hadn't said it. And it started making me cry, man. That's a devastating fucking word. That has nothing to do with us. We are from a place where they first started people."

Wikipedia: Richard Pryor
IMDB: Richard Pryor

the african presence in caribbean poetry

The African Presence in the Caribbean: An analysis of African-Antillean poetry by Elsa M. Calderón is meant to be a guide for Spanish teachers, but still serves as a useful outline and resource for anyone interested in Afro-latin poetry.

word association

Here is the famous Saturday Night Live routine between Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase. Pryor plays the role of Mr. Wilson and Chevy Chase is the interviewer.

Interviewer: Alright, Mr. Wilson, you've done just fine on the Rorshact.. your papers are in good order.. your file's fine.. no difficulties with your motor skills.. And I think you're probably ready for this job. We've got one more psychological test we always do here. It's just a Word Association. I'll throw you out a few words - anything that comes to your mind, just throw back at me, okay? It's kind of an arbitrary thing. Like, if I say "dog", you'd say..?

Mr. Wilson: "Tree".

Interviewer: "Tree". [ nods head, prepares the test papers ] "Dog".

Mr. Wilson: "Tree".

Interviewer: "Fast".

Mr. Wilson: "Slow".

Interviewer: "Rain".

Mr. Wilson: "Snow".

Interviewer: "White".

Mr. Wilson: "Black".

Interviewer: "Bean".

Mr. Wilson: "Pod".

Interviewer: [ casually ] "Negro".

Mr. Wilson: "Whitey".

Interviewer: "Tarbaby".

Mr. Wilson: [ silent, sure he didn't hear what he thinks he heard ] What'd you say?

Interviewer: [ repeating ] "Tarbaby".

Mr. Wilson: "Ofay".

Interviewer: "Colored".

Mr. Wilson: "Redneck".

Interviewer: "Junglebunny".

Mr. Wilson: [ starting to get angry ] "Peckerwood!"

Interviewer: "Burrhead".

Mr. Wilson: [ defensive ] "Cracker!"

Interviewer: [ aggressive ] "Spearchucker".

Mr. Wilson: "White trash!"

Interviewer: "Jungle Bunny!"

Mr. Wilson: [ upset ] "Honky!"

Interviewer: "Spade!

Mr. Wilson: [ really upset ] "Honky Honky!"

Interviewer: [ relentless ] "Nigger!"

Mr. Wilson: [ immediate ] "Dead honky!" [ face starts to flinch ]

Interviewer: [ quickly wraps the interview up ] Okay, Mr. Wilson, I think you're qualified for this job. How about a starting salary of $5,000?

Mr. Wilson: Your momma!

Interviewer: [ fumbling ] Uh.. $7,500 a year?

Mr. Wilson: Your grandmomma!

Interviewer: [ desperate ] $15,000, Mr. Wilson. You'll be the highest paid janitor in America. Just, don't.. don't hurt me, please..

Mr. Wilson: Okay.

Interviewer: [ relieved ] Okay.

Mr. Wilson: You want me to start now?

Interviewer: Oh, no, no.. that's alright. I'll clean all this up. Take a couple of weeks off, you look tired.


torture in the homeland

In These Times: Torture in the Homeland by Salim Muwakkil. It's not just "over there" but "over here" in our own communities.


Amexem Times and Seasons is an ecclectic collection of articles, mainly on proto-Islamic and early Islamic activities in the United States.

religion in science fiction


Arab and Islamic themes in Dune
my Dune-related comments
Can The World of Star Trek Help Americans Understand Muslims and their Culture of Terror? (from a parody site)
Religion in Star Trek

klingon language

The most extreme example I know of a fictional cultural element taking on a life of its own is the Klingon language. It was made up for a movie so that the aliens could have a more realistic feel to their lines and now people actually speak it in their daily life. You can take classes in it. Shakespeare and Gilgamesh have been translated into it. (I've heard some folks are working on the Bible).

islam and science fiction

Yes, I'm a big geek. Here is a page I recently found on the connection between Islam and Science Fiction called: von Aurum's Islam in Sci-fi

And some obligatory past entries:
star wars: an islamic perspective
a coincidence you think this is?
so i finally saw it
only human

arab and african culture

From IPOAA: Arab Culture and African Culture: ambiguous relations by Prof. Helmi Sharawy

(This paper is extracted from the book 'The Dialogue between the Arab culture and other cultures', published in Tunis in 1999 by the Arab League, Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation)

is racial prejudice on the rise in egypt?

From IPOAA: A Question of Colour: Is Racial Prejudice on the Rise in Egypt, or are Egyptians Merely Obsessed with Skin Colour? by Gamal Nkrumah

ipoaa: precolumbian muslims

Since I started Grenada, I've probably post a couple of slightly different pieces on this subject. This one is from the IPOAA (Indigenous People of Africa and America) Magazine: Precolumbian Muslims in the Americas by Dr. Youssef Mroueh

whiteness and other lies

From The Black Commentator: "Whiteness" and Other Lies: An interview with David Roediger deconstructs the concept of whiteness and points out how it is not as "natural" as some people assume.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"if money is the root i want the whole damn tree"

For some reason I've been thinking about the issue of Islamic economics and happened to stumble across a couple of recent articles on some recent events in modern-day Islamic finance.

Black Electorate: Answering to a Higher Authority by Ahmed Namatalla is on the growth of the Islamic banking sector.

This article is about a recent gathering of the World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain with over 500 participants from 31 countries.

And finally, On The Prohibition of Riba (Interest) and its Implications for Optimum Economic Performance by A. S. Mika'ilu is a discussion of some of the theoretical economic principles behind an interest-free economy.

Friday, December 09, 2005

white muslims

By some strange coincidence, two of my favorite bloggers have recently written posts on the experiences of white Muslims

From Umar's blog is the very comprehensive and aptly named entry: The White Muslim and from Sunni Sister (Umm Zaid) is the more specific, but no less interesting or relevant: Marriage & The White Skinned Convert

Grenada's Past:
so white they named white people after them
white muslims and moorish science

islam in latin america

The Murabitun have come up on Grenada before, mainly in the entries islam and mexico and laughing lions as well as several of the links in my link section. Here is a more recent piece which mentions the activities of the Murabitun and other Muslims in Latin America.

Islam in Latin America

Latin America is home to a sizeable and diverse Muslim population with deep roots throughout the region. Most Muslims are of Arab descent, typically of Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian origin, although Christian Arabs from the Levant far outnumber their Muslim kin. There are also sizeable South and Southeast Asian Muslim communities with roots in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Indonesia in Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere in the Caribbean Basin. The region is also experiencing a steady stream of migration from the Middle East and South Asia in recent years, especially in vibrant free-trade zones such as Iquique, Chile and Colon, Panama.

As a result of intermarriage and conversion, Islam is becoming one of the fastest growing religions in Latin America. There is evidence to suggest that Muslim missionaries based in Spain and their regional affiliates are making inroads into disenfranchised and underserved indigenous communities that were once the target of evangelical Christian sects for conversion [6]. The competition between Muslim and Christian missionaries for prospective converts has even led to confrontation and violent clashes in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Spain’s al-Murabitun (The Almoravids, after the African Muslim dynasty that ruled North Africa and Spain in 11th and 12th century) is believed to be the most prolific missionary movement operating in Latin America [7]. The group is an international Sufi order founded in the 1970s by Sheikh Abdel Qader as-Sufi al-Murabit, a controversial Scottish Muslim convert born Ian Dallas. Although no hard evidence has surfaced tying the group to international terrorism, let alone al-Qaeda, Dallas has been accused of harboring extremist leanings. Aurelino Perez heads the Murabitun’s campaign in Chiapas, where he competes with Omar Weston, a British-born Muslim convert who resides in Mexico City and heads the Centro Cultural Islamico de Mexico (CCIM), for adherents in Chiapas and the rest of Mexico. Known locally as Muhammed Nafia, Perez is a Spanish convert to Islam who hails from the southern Spanish city of Granada in Andalusia.

The Murabitun’s ambitious efforts to gain adherents in Mexico include an unsuccessful attempt to forge an alliance with Subcommandante Marcos and his Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), following the group’s armed rebellion in Chiapas in 1994 [8]. The Murabitun are comprised predominantly of Spanish and European converts to Islam. There are also reports that Muslim missionaries are finding adherents among indigenous peoples in Bolivia and elsewhere in Latin America [9].

In an effort to win over converts in Latin America, the Murabtiun emphasize the cultural links between the Arab world and Latin America through Spain’s Moorish heritage. In doing so, the Murabitun and like-minded movements advocate a collective reversion to Islam, which in their view signifies a return to the region’s true heritage, as opposed to what many see as conversion to the Muslim faith. In this sense, Islam not only represents an alternative to the colonial traditions imposed on the indigenous and mestizo peoples of Latin America, namely the Roman Catholic Church, but is also a nativist tradition that has been suppressed. The Murabitun also claim that Islam is not tainted by European and Western colonialism and imperialism, but instead serves as a remedy for the oppression and destruction brought about by the Spanish conquest.

Given al-Qaeda’s documented successes in recruiting Muslim converts in Europe and the U.S. to its cause, many observers worry that Muslim converts in Latin America provide fertile ground for new recruits due to their perceived ability to circumvent travel restrictions and blend into Western cities more effectively.

There is no evidence to suggest that the recent trend toward conversion to Islam in Latin America stems from a turn to political and religious radicalism. On the contrary, most Muslim converts see Islam as a vehicle for reasserting their identity. They also see conversion as a form of social and political protest in societies where they are marginalized and experience discrimination [10]. In this context, it is no surprise that groups such as the Murabitun, with their message of social, political, and cultural empowerment, are making inroads into disenfranchised and impoverished indigenous communities. The group also supports local education, social welfare, and other projects that include Arabic language instruction and the publication of the Qur’an in Spanish and other local languages.

From, Radical Islam in Latin America by Chris Zambelis

Thursday, December 08, 2005

here is not like there

"What happened in France would never happen here, not because the United States is less racist, but because the class and demography of the Muslim community here bear almost no resemblance to its counterpart in Europe." -Ali Moossavi

Detroit Free Press: Metro Detroit Arabs don't feel France's alienation American Muslims Not Like Those of France

The above two pieces are careful to distinguish the Muslim community in America from the rioting Muslims in France. To me it is pretty clear that they are motivated by a desire to reassure the American public that "we're okay" but that doesn't make the claims any less factual. Objectively, the demographics of the Muslim populations on each side of the Atlantic are rather different. In the United States, much of the Muslim population is highly educated; lawyers, engineers, doctors, etc. Many have grown up in the US, or have traveled here from abroad in search of training, education, or good jobs.

In Europe, the Muslim population is generally less educated, and less affluent than their counterparts in the US. They play a much different role in the European economy. In fact, I had a conversation with some Germans about a year ago and when they got around to discussing the Muslim (in this case, mostly people from Turkey and also some North Africans) I was struck by how much their stereotypes were reminiscent of those attributed to Mexicans and African-Americans in the US.

So the riots are pretty clearly not the result of religion or a clash-of-civilizations. In this case race and class are more salient.

are muslims a race?

The Production of the Muslim Race by Nassim Mobasher is an excellent piece, also from Hot Coals, on how Orientalism "racializes" Muslims.

Books such as The Arab Mind authored by anthropologist Raphael Patai, and used by the Pentagon as a comprehensive source of information about Arabs/Muslims, depict ‘Muslimness’ as an ontological and inescapable way of existing. In the logic of orientalists like Patai (and the neo-conservatives who read his book ‘like a bible’ ), ‘Islam the culture’ is passed on and inherited, from generation to generation, impervious to change and essentially inferior. This racial conception of culture, codified in pseudo-biological terms, produces the ‘Muslim’ as a racial category.

Once "Muslim" becomes a "race", you can then go on to make sweeping generalizations about Muslims as a whole regardless of class, culture, education, or even level of observance. The move also tends to justify profiling as well as the oxymoronic construction of "secular Muslim".

"pretty sneaky, Sis"

willie perdomo online

From Norton Poets Online: Willie Perdomo, one of the first writers to even give me a hint that a space like "Grenada" existed.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

third resurrection blog

Okay, to all those who want to participate in Third Resurrection (or whatever this Blackamerican Muslim group blog will end up being called), could you e-mail me at I have ideas but would prefer to get input and have a discussion before just diving in.

islam and the black american: still reading...

So this is a continuation of: islam and the blackamerican: finally reading it. As I'm getting more into the book I'm starting to feel that it would be too hard to summarize what I'm reading and do it justice. So I'll just pull out one nugget which seems worth pointing out, especially in the light of the recent events in Oakland.

In most religious conversations, debates and discussions in which I find myself, I often take the position of holding up an idealized Islam which contrasts with the various imperfect practices, vices, flaws and scandals which exist in the Muslim world. And so any flaws are attributed to culture, economic conditions, educational levels, political manipulation, lingering effects of colonialism, neo-colonialism and globalization, etc. Islam is perfect, but its implementation is always a work in progress.

Many Muslims make the extra step of identifying an idealized universal Islam with the particular understanding of Islam which they have from "back home" in Muslim countries, and this becomes the scale against which Islam in America is measured. (And of course, the American understanding of Islam will necessarily be found wanting. I've even heard the comment from one person: "There is no Islam in America, just good intentions"). But as Jackson points out, this way of thinking fundamentally sets up immigrant Muslims from "over there" (even medical doctors and engineers) as religious authority figures while it disadvantages American Muslims (no matter how well-read). Ethnicity and immigrant status can effectively become a proxy for religious learning.

Jackson goes on to suggest that instead of speaking of a single universal Islam, it makes more sense to think in terms of multiple culturally and historically conditioned Islams. More specifically, just as one can speak of Black Religion which is born out of Blackamerican history one can also speak of Post-Colonial Religion which comes out of the formerly colonized developing world's experiences with the West. And where Black Religion has been a liberating force and a form of resistance to domination, according to Jackson, Post-Colonial Religion "seeks first and foremost to reverse the sociocultural and psychological influences of the West, either by seizing political power as a means of redirecting society or through and ideological rejection of all perceived influences of the West." And so immigrant Islam isn't more pure or more universal, it is just conditioned by a different set of circumstances.

(to be continued...)

the pre-columbian presence of muslim africans

From Hot Coals (a new blog I found about recently and I'm getting into): THE PRE-COLUMBIAN PRESENCE OF MUSLIM AFRICANS IN AMERICA IS NO MYTH! by Imām Al-Hājj Tālib ‘Abdur-Rashīd. It is an interesting contribution to an ongoing historical debate about what was going on this side of the pond before Columbus.

vamos a rapiar: latinos and hip-hop

From a blog called The Fallout Shelter: Vamos A Rapiar: Latinos and Hip-Hop Music A survey of the contribution of Latinos to the genre along with interesting discussions of the line(s) and connections between black, white and Latino identity.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

more hispanics turning to islam

From courtesy of Hispanicon:
El Diario/La Prensa, Nov 29, 2005
NEW YORK, New York -- Islam, the religion with the most followers after Christianity, is growing rapidly in the United States – and the majority of new followers are minorities, especially Hispanics, according to New York’s El Diario/La Prensa. In 1997 the American Muslim Council counted approximately 40,000 Hispanic Muslims. Recent studies estimate there are 75,000 followers most of them in big cities like New York and Miami.According to Juan Galván, vicepresident of the Latin American Dawah Organization and Census Bureau, the majority of Hispanics practicing Islam in the New York metropolitan area are Puerto Rican and Dominican.

the green party supports divestment

Press Release: The Green Party calls for divestment from the state of Israel.

dave chappelle is alive and well

Originally From the New York Times: Dave Chappelle Is Alive and Well (and Playing Las Vegas). If you recall from on the beach with dave chappelle recently converted Muslim comedian Dave Chappelle walked away from his show on comedy central and turned up in South Africa getting spiritual guidance. Now he's apparently touring and playing comedy clubs.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

ecological crisis

The Truth Laid Bear blog ecosystem is in the middle of being revamped. On the one hand, Grenada seems to be getting more traffic, more links, and my rankings have actually gone up (currently #1538... but think about how many blogs are out there). And what is really amazing to me is finding out that when I do a Google search on certain topics I'm interested in, it is not infrequent that a Planet Grenada post will be in the top 10! But on the other hand, I still went from a Large Mammal to an Adorable Little Rodent. Confusion.

insignificant microbe?
intelligent design
waiting for the sun to set
on the truth laid bear

new blog idea

An idea recently occured to me: Start a Blackamerican Muslim group blog. It could be called "Third Resurrection" after Sherman Jackson's use of the term. The first resurrection occured when the Nation of Islam and similar groups appeared and offered Blacks an alternative to mainstream Christianity. The second resurrection occured after Elijah Muhammad passed away and Warithdeen Muhammad brought the Nation of Islam more in line with the teachings of Sunni Islam. The third resurrection is occuring now as Blackamerican Muslims continue to negotiate their relationship with Black Religion, the immigrant Muslim community in the US, and the broader traditions and movements of the Muslim world.

The different groups which look to Elijah Muhammad (The various incarnations of the Nation of Islam and the Five Percenters) definitely have a strong virtual presence. It is odd to me that African-American Sunnis, in spite of having larger numbers, don't have that same identifiable presence online.

Thoughts? Interested?

which makes more sense, a muslim-owned liquor store or a rastafarian barbershop?

In recent news, in at least two Oakland liquor stores, a group of African-American men wearing suits and bowties have gone into the stores and commited acts of vandalism. But the story is like an onion, with several layers.

Firstly, the liquor stores are owned by Arabs/Muslims but obviously Islam prohibits buying and selling alcohol.

Secondly, the African-American men were at first assumed to be from the Nation of Islam, but it turned out that they were from a different group of black Muslims (who may or may not be believers in Elijah Muhammad).

So thirdly you have the irony that orthodox Muslims often accuse certain "Black Muslim" groups of being disbelievers on theological grounds (for believing in a prophet after Muhammad or for believing that Fard was God) but now the Black Muslim group is criticizing the immigrant Muslim group for not following a basic element of Islamic practice.

Fourthly, this could just be seen in racial terms, just another non-Black group making a profit by selling harmful/low-quality/negative products in the Black community. The fact that its being done by Muslims who according to their own religion shouldn't be selling this stuff anyway is basically just salt in the wound.

Fifthly, I don't want to sound like a vigilante, but there is crime and then there is crime. This reminds me of past occasions when I'd hear news of some frustrated but well-intentioned community member burning down their local crack den... or Rev. Pfleger, a white (but very "down") priest in Chicago who has been arrested in the past for vandalizing alcohol and tobacco billboards in Black neighborhoods (but aquitted of the charges by the jury). The case in Oakland is definitely more severe since it involved kidnapping as well as arson. But still, not everything which is legal is right. And not everything which is right, is legal.

Sixthly, I would say the ultimate responsibility (or at least complicity) for all this rests in a number of different places. Obviously, the brothers who vandalized the store are responsible for their actions. But (from a religious and social perspective) the brothers who owned the store should have made different business decisions. But at the same time, the zoning laws and economic and financial conditions are set up so that setting up such stores in poor communities is an attractive proposition (from a profit-making perspective).

And finally, the seventh layer I would want to mention is the question of tactics. Even if we can sympathize and understand the feelings of the people who vandalized the store, what should the most constructive effective response have been? I honestly don't have a perfect answer. But it should be possible to organize collectively and more peacefully to address some of those other levels. Work through the political system to work change zoning laws and liquor licensing. Work on the community level and perhaps organize boycotts. And also locate, create, and nurture alternatives. For example, if a Muslim opens a halal grocery store (or other kind of business) in the community, make sure to support them.

That's basically all I have to say about it, right now. But you might also want to look at...

what other bloggers have said about the issues:
Izzy Mo: racial tensions in the ummah... again
Adisa Banjoko: Hip-Hop Predicted Liquor Store Trashings Long Ago
Ihsan:Alcohol smashed in Oakland, California
Sunni Sister: Pops

what news sources have reported:
ABC NEWS: Nation Of Islam Furious With Police
Inside Bay Area: Oakland liquor stores under siege
San Francisco Chronicle: Nation of Islam, store owners slam vigilantes
San Francisco Chronicle: Liquor store owner's ordeal- Arson, kidnapping in Oakland -- 6 sought in previous attack
MSNBC: 2 surrender to police in liquor-store vandal case
Kron4: Police Arrest Two Men in Liquor Store Attacks (videos)
MIPT: Two arrested in attacks on Oakland liquor stores
MIPT: Liquor store clerk found safe after kidnapping; shop had been vandalized for selling to blacks

why you bringing up old stuff? (some previous Grenada posts loosely related to the Black/immigrant divide in the United States):
racial tensions in the american ummah
in the ghetto
arab-american demographics
arabs and the racial lessons of 9/11
racial jujitsu or the more things change...
new spirit in the mosque
"asalam-alaikum , akhi. could you get me a lottery ticket?"