Sunday, July 31, 2005

the wonderful wizards of ozomatli

Here is a story from the San Francisco Chronicle (thanks George) called The Wonderful Wizards of Ozomatli. They are an AMAZING band. I've seen them in concert and have some of their music. Their musical influences trot the globe, but Latin, African (and recently) Middle Eastern/North African sounds are certainly well-represented. At one point, Ozomatli also shared members with the equally creative, partially Muslim, rap collective Jurassic 5.

Ozomatli's website
Wikipedia on Ozomatli
Interview with Chali 2NA of Jurassic 5
Jurassic 5's website
Wikipedia on Jurassic 5


Saturday, July 30, 2005

the billion-dollar myth

July 31, 2005

The Billion-Dollar Myth
The 'Matrix' movies portray a frightening alternate reality. When a writer sued the movies' creators for stealing her ideas, she inadvertently exposed another reality--a racial one--that's no less troubling.

Sophia Stewart didn't attend her June 13 hearing at the U.S. federal court building in downtown Los Angeles. She saw the proceeding as a minor hurdle on the way to an anticipated July 12 trial in her copyright infringement suit against directors Andy and Larry Wachowski, James Cameron and other defendants—a trial she imagined would be "one of the largest suits for damages in the history of the film industry."

Her lawsuit claimed that the lucrative "Matrix" and "Terminator" film franchises were based on her ideas. Last month's request by the defendants to dismiss the case was an act of desperation, Stewart believed, because her proof of theft was indisputable. Stewart had attracted many supporters (mostly African American, who agreed that Hollywood had ripped her off) and detractors who question both the validity of her claims and her sanity ever since she began trying to rally support for her case in 2003. She claimed that she would have "big surprises" for the judge and jury, as well as for all of the naysayers, when her case finally went to trial.

Unfortunately, Judge Margaret Morrow wasn't interested in surprises. In her 53-page ruling, Morrow dismissed Stewart's case, noting that Stewart and her attorneys had not entered any evidence to bolster the key claims in her suit or demonstrated any striking similarity between her work and the accused directors' films. Stewart says she is hiring additional attorneys and is asking the court to reconsider that decision, but earlier this summer, in a nearly empty courtroom 790 of the Roybal Federal Building, Stewart's case apparently ended with a whimper.

But as in the "Matrix" movies, there's an alternate reality to this story that says a lot about the continuing racial divide between a mistrusting black America and the mainstream media. Stewart's courtroom defeat stands in bizarre contrast to what many of her fellow African Americans hold true, or want to believe happened as a result of her lawsuit.

In that alternate reality—created by Internet chain letters, radio stations and reputable community newspapers, and still flourishing on the World Wide Web—people sincerely believe that Stewart won her lawsuit last fall, and that she now is the wealthiest African American in the country, thanks to a record multibillion-dollar award. Her supposed settlement has been hailed as a legendary achievement in copyright infringement law, and a major moment in African American history. People also think that word of her victory has been suppressed as the result of one of the most sophisticated media conspiracies in history—even though none of that is true.

The Wachowski brothers' professional résumé was limited prior to "the Matrix"; they had written the screenplay for the lackluster 1995 Sylvester Stallone action film "Assassins," and in 1996 had made their directing debut with the low-budget noir crime flick "Bound." To hear Stewart tell it, that lack of experience suggests fraud.

"I'm the kind of master writer that comes once upon this Earth," Stewart says by phone from her Las Vegas home a week before the June 13 court hearing. "You don't go from [doing] a mediocre movie to a work of genius like 'The Matrix.' "

The Bronx, N.Y., native makes her living doing paralegal work and tax preparation. She is divorced and has two adult children, though she won't reveal her age, explaining that she doesn't believe in pagan rituals and refuses to celebrate holidays or birthdays. "It's all lies and illusions," she says. "We're timeless and ageless." She adds that her spiritual attitude forms the basis for the wise Oracle character in the "Matrix" films: "The Oracle is me. I wrote myself into my work."

In 1983, she says, she completed a science fiction tale titled "The Third Eye," which she copyrighted the following year. Stewart says the as-yet unpublished work—submitted as part of the fact-finding phase of her case—totals 120 pages, including a screen treatment, a 47-page version of the manuscript and a 29-page "original manuscript" with additional pages containing a synopsis, character analyses, illustrations and a table of contents. In 1986, she says, she saw an advertisement posted in a national magazine by the Wachowski brothers soliciting science fiction manuscripts to make into comic books and she sent them all of her materials for "The Third Eye," including a copy of her original manuscript. "My dream was to have my work seen as a movie and a comic book," she says.

Stewart says she never heard from the Wachowskis, and never had her materials returned. Morrow's ruling notes, however, that Stewart did not produce the ad as evidence. In denying that they ever placed such an ad, the Wachowskis said that, in 1986, Andy was just 18 and brother Larry was a 21-year-old college student.

Flash forward to the March 1999 theatrical release of "The Matrix." Stewart, then living in Salt Lake City, went with a friend to see the film. "I said to myself, 'I wrote this,' " she recalls, saying she recognized themes and characters from "The Third Eye" in the film. In June 1999, she says, she filed a written complaint with the FBI, charging that a copyright crime had taken place. In April 2003, acting as her own attorney, Stewart filed a lawsuit against a host of defendants, including the Wachowskis, "Terminator" director James Cameron, producers Gale Anne Hurd and Joel Silver, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., accusing them of copyright infringement and of violating Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws, which were created in 1970 to combat organized criminal entities.

Not long after that, her story began to take a strange turn. Stewart produced and circulated a news release, trying to rally support for her copyright case by recounting her claims and request for damages. The mainstream media response was tepid, at best. However, one newspaper did find her story quite interesting.

On Oct. 28, the Salt Lake Community College's Globe ran an article on its website with the audacious headline " 'Mother of the Matrix' Victorious." Written by a second-year communications student, the article was among the first on the Web to reveal aspects of Stewart's story. Unfortunately, it also was rife with errors, stating among other things that Stewart had won her case (she hadn't) and that she was about to receive one of the biggest payoffs in Hollywood history (she wasn't). The story also questioned why the case had received no media coverage, and quoted Stewart's claim on a website that Warner Bros. had been suppressing coverage of her case for years because AOL Time Warner "owns 95 percent of the media … They are not going to report on themselves." Among the publications and businesses she claimed the company owned: the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek magazine and DreamWorks. In fact, AOL Time Warner doesn't own any of them.

It didn't take long for some mistakes to get the attention of Quentin Wells, the manager of the SLCC Student Media Center, which produces the Globe. "My son, who is a copyright attorney, read the article and said, 'This can't be right,' " Wells says. After approaching Stewart and checking the information in the piece, Wells discovered that Stewart's supposed "victory" was nothing more than a successful defense against an early motion to have her case dismissed. "It was an error [by] the writer," says Wells. "She had misinterpreted what Stewart had said."

Within a week, the Globe added a correction, but at the end of the Web version of the story. Yet a few weeks later, Wells noticed that the Globe website's server traffic had exploded from 14,500 hits a month to more than 640,000. "I contacted our [Internet] provider and told him that his counter must be broken."

It wasn't, and almost all of the new traffic was linking to the Sophia Stewart story. Also, in the brief time that the Globe story was uncorrected on the website, it had been copied and circulated around the Internet through mailing lists. Several Internet blogs then had linked to the story, bringing a steady stream of visitors to the site. The mythos of Stewart's victory continued to grow despite the correction.

The Globe ran a follow-up story this January, which continued to stoke conspiracy beliefs by stating as fact Stewart's assertion that "Warner Bros. and the other defendants in the case have also sought, with almost complete success, to prevent any publicity regarding the suit from appearing in any national or even local media. The result has been an almost total news blackout about the matter."

Soon, both Globe articles were reappearing almost verbatim on news websites such as and continuing to make the rounds on mailing lists, sometimes with new bylines. Unlike the original stories, these reprints never included the correction stating that Stewart hadn't won her case. Radio hosts and callers on radio stations such as Hot 97 in New York City and KPFA's Hard Knock Radio in Berkeley also were discussing the Stewart case. The story began to appear in African American community newspapers such as the Westside Gazette in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the Columbus Times in Georgia. Most of those articles echoed the bad information in the original Globe piece. By April, a vast number of African Americans had read or heard some erroneous version of the Sophia Stewart story.

Such mistakes have long proliferated in American ethnic communities, but the Internet has added to their speed and potency. When the athletic footwear rage of the 1980s led to violence and deaths among urban kids, rumors surfaced in the African American community that one major manufacturer was owned by South Africans, and its profits were being used to support apartheid. After a particular brand of Mexican beer got a foothold in the U.S. market in the 1980s, rumors that Mexican workers were urinating in it were rampant in the western U.S. In her 1994 book "I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture," UC Davis professor Patricia Turner explains that the symbolic quality of some stories often is more important to certain groups than whether those stories are true. Stewart's story seemed particularly credible because she is a real person who filed a real case. "Sophia Stewart is David against Goliath," says Turner, and she represents African Americans who have been victimized by corporations.

Still, the tide is slowly turning. Essence, a million-subscriber magazine aimed at an African American audience, had never published a story on Sophia Stewart. But in its May issue it asked readers to hold off on repeating claims of Stewart's victory, and it pointed out that the case was not scheduled for trial until July. Some Internet chatter in recent months has become less sympathetic toward Stewart and her claims, with one fellow writer claiming "my loony detector alarms started going off" as he read more about her case.

That hasn't stopped columnists at many African American newspapers and news sites from continuing to speculate. content manager Tamara Harris said the erroneous version of Stewart's story is appealing because it "vindicates all of the black artists going through this."

Not everyone believed the rumors. "The first time I saw it, I dismissed it," says Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, a technology columnist at the Star, a 60,000-circulation daily that serves Chicago's largely black southern suburbs. "But then, even though it sounded unbelievable to me at first, I didn't want to completely discount it until I saw evidence that it wasn't true."

Despite the wealth of misinformation circulating on the Internet, finding out the status of the case is as easy as making a telephone call. Stewart makes herself available to answer media questions, and a website called lists her contact information and offers downloadable files of court documents. The site is the first hit when Stewart's name is Googled.

Yet Bobby Henry Sr., publisher of the Westside Gazette in Florida, remained confused recently when told about the case's status. "She didn't win?" Henry asked. "I'm shocked, because her having already won is all out there. It was even on the Tom Joyner [radio] show that she won." Representatives of the nationally syndicated Joyner program say they haven't written about Stewart on the show's site, and couldn't pinpoint when or if Stewart was mentioned on the air.

Dr. Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies at USC's School of Cinema-Television, says the Stewart case speaks to African Americans' deep distrust of the media. "A lot of people, regardless of race, continue to have very unsophisticated views of the media," said Boyd. "And many African Americans in particular are still very distrustful of the media." That distrust comes from a history of being either negatively portrayed or completely ignored by the press.

Bruce Isaacs of Wyman & Isaacs, the attorney representing the defendants in the Stewart case, says a media conspiracy is not the reason the case has seen little coverage. "The question shouldn't be why hasn't the media covered this case, it should be why would the media cover this case?" says Isaacs. "It's a run-of-the-mill copyright case, and I think the judge clearly addressed the case's merits in her ruling."

As for Stewart, she still believes that AOL Time Warner is suppressing her struggle—"Why am I not on 'Larry King Live' or 'Oprah'? " she wonders—and remains determined to make the rumor into a reality. After the judge dismissed the case, Stewart was upbeat. If Morrow won't reconsider her decision, Stewart says she will appeal the judge's decision to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court, if necessary. "And they'll rule in my favor," says Stewart. "So tell everybody that it's not over until the fat lady sings, and she hasn't sung yet."

the mother of the matrix

I haven't done much blogging on Afro-futurism lately, even though I imagined it being a bigger part of Planet Grenada in the beginning. But apparently there has been a new development in the case of Sophia Stewart which makes me want to touch on the subject again.

If you haven't heard already, Stewart is a Black woman who was suing the Wachowski Brothers and Time-Warner on the grounds that she wrote a story called "The Third Eye" which both The Terminator and The Matrix were based on. (The connection is that unborn John Connor who grows up to heroically lead the humans against the machines in the Terminator films, is supposed to be Neo, or "the One" of the Matrix films.)

A recent development was reported in the LA Times in a story called The Billion-dollar Myth. Sadly, the case has been dismissed for lack of evidence, but the LA Times goes on to make some interesting points about how the case relates to other areas where blacks and whites seem to have very different perceptions of the same events.

To be honest, when I first saw the Matrix in the theater I keep thinking over and over again "hey I've seen this before". More than most films, there were many elements of the plot and the setting which I had seen in other works of sci-fi. So from a certain perspective, it wasn't surprising someone would accuse them of plagarism.

In the case of the Terminator, talk of plagarism is much older (in fact James Cameron had already settled with Harlan Ellison over such accusations)

An interview with Sophia Stewart talking about her work

The Mother of the Matrix: Sophia Stewart a website with more background on the case

Story from Salt Lake Community College paper which incorrectly reported that Stewart had already won.

iran and nuclear weapons?

A piece from Common Dreams called Iran: Threatening or Threatened? discussing Iran and its future. I'm considering it as my PBU homework assignment.

don't ask for whom the bell tolls

The Chicago Defender recently published a commentary piece called London and other Atrocities which puts certain things in perspective. Yes, all men and women are created equal, but like George Orwell said, some are "more equal than others".

arab-american demographics

Not exactly news to some folks. But it can be surprising if you haven't heard it before. Most Arab-Americans are actually Christian!?!? Less than a quarter of Arab-Americans are Muslims ?!?! Of course that's just on this side of the pond. The statistics are different in the Middle East.

islamic iraq?

According to the Guardian, Islam Dominates Iraq's Draft Constitution

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Framers of Iraq's constitution will designate Islam as the main source of legislation - a departure from the model set down by U.S. authorities during the occupation - according to a draft published Tuesday.

``Islam is the official religion of the state and is the main source of legislation,'' reads the draft published in the government newspaper Al-Sabah. ``No law that contradicts with its rules can be promulgated.''

Somewhere in the white house, some folks are probably scratching their heads...

Friday, July 29, 2005

i guess we ALL look alike

More details on Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man who was shot 7 times and killed by London police in the wake of the recent attacks. From Common Dreams

the myth of reggaeton

Here is an interesting piece from Davy-D's Hip-Hop on the racial politics of reggaeton called The Myth of Reggaeton by E-PROPS. However, what seems bizzare to me is that, reading between the lines, the author seems to resent the success of reggaeton and sees it as a tool for "Hispanics of European descent" to take something away from Black dancehall reggae artists. But in reality many of the reggaeton artists (starting with El General, who performed the first reggaeton song "Pum Pum Mami Mami") are themselves Latinos of African descent. And reggaeton itself grew out of the cultural synthesis which occured when West Indians moved to Panama (where El General is from) and Puerto Rico. So although the piece from E-Props probably makes some valid points, I'm still concerned that in the name of defending Black cultural ownership of reggae, he may really just be defending ethnocentrism and pitting one group of people of African-descent against another.

angels and demons

So I just finished Dan Brown's Angels and Demons about an hour ago. It has a similar formula to the Da Vinci Code. But where the Da Vinci Code ended on a mellower, more contemplative note, and gave more food for thought in terms of religious ideas... Angels and Demons had several radical and surprising reversals which kept you on the edge of your seat, and was more satisfying in terms of storytelling.

At the same time, if you have a nit-picking mentality, some have pointed to a great number of factual errors, inconsistencies and holes in the plot. And some of the twists might be a little hard to swallow. Also, a major villan in the novel is a sadistic, misogynistic Arab man only identified as "Hassassin" so I don't think Dan Brown is going to be getting any prizes from any Arab/Muslim civil rights organizations any time soon. Come to think of it, in the Da Vinci Code, there is an albino villan who plays an analagous role (as a pawn who does most of the dirty work) and I've heard that some albino groups have expressed concern about how this villan will be portrayed when the movie version is produced.

I imagine that Brown probably feels justified in using such stock stereotypical characters in order better hide the identity of the real villans, but still I wish he had gone a different route.

A big part of the plot involves the Illuminati which is a big favorite target of many conspiracy theorists. I think of myself as pretty moderate when it comes to accepting such theories. But as I've said before, the fact is, the world isn't a democracy. Some people have more power over human lives than others, and some of these powerful people hang out. That doesn't mean that you should believe every conspiracy theory presented to you, but it also doesn't mean that you can dismiss them all out of hand without considering them. Everything should be weighed on its merits.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

glimpses of granada

Occasionally I get e-mails from people who read Planet Grenada and send me links that are interesting and are connected somehow to some of the things I talk about in here. Here are a couple of recent ones.

Jai is a Black blogger with a site called Blog Blog Woof Woof. He got married recently (congratulations) and had his honeymoon in Granada, Spain and uploaded pictures onto his site. So if you want to see pictures of what the original Granada looks like today you might want to check it out. If you look at the rest of his blog he also seems to be a Buddhist so he has a certain amount of spiritual content there as well.

The second entry is from a blog called Mudd Up! (which to be honest, I don't entirely "get") but it seems to have an interesting mix of info on music from Africa and the Middle East, mixed in with other topics. The entry which was sent to me was called BLACK SABBATH & LEO AFRICANUS which has a bit of historical information about the city of Timbuktu and Leo Africanus, who was born in the original Granada. (There are also links with more information about Islamic Spain and Africa.

the black stone

I'm in the middle of reading Angels and Demons, the book which comes before The Da Vinci Code, [2] but is by the same author. Both books feature Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor with an extensive knowledge of art and secret societies through European history.

The story of Angels and Demons involves a complex plot to attack the Vatican, among other things, as a way to attack the Catholic Church and religion in general.

The thought had crossed my mind before, but especially in the wake of Tancredo's remarks, reading the above made me wonder what would happen if the US or some other group actually DID nuke Mecca. What would the implications be?

What happened to Judaism when the Temple was destroyed? The first time? The second time? The third time? If someone nuked Mecca how would it affect the faith of Muslims?

What is interesting, but which I wish I understood better and knew more about, is that in the past there have been other groups which have made attacks on the Kabba and the stone with mixed results.

VERY brief timeline of the Black Stone

The most extreme example which I know of is how apparently a group called the Caramathians (sometimes written Qaramathians) had actually stolen the Black Stone from the Kabba and kept it for about 22 years.

In 317/929, the Qarmatians had spread down in Hijaz, and flooded Mecca and Kaba with the blood of pilgrims under the command of Abu Tahir. They made it a scene of fire, blood and repine for 17 days. It must be known that the Qarmatians had been severely and rigorously condemned by the Fatimids for not complying with the pact and reached late at the Egyptian border. In reprisal, the Qarmatians moved to discredit the Fatimids and recited the Fatimid khutba in place of the Abbasid in Hijaz during their horrible operations, so as to misguide the Muslims that their barbarian operations were directed by the Fatimids. The Qarmatians choked up the sacred spring of Zamzam, the door of the Kaba was broken open, the veil covering the Kaba was torn down, and the sacred Black Stone was removed from the Kaba and taken to their headquarters at Hajar. (source)

Eventually (obviously) the stone was returned, but I wonder what people did in the meantime? How did it feel? Did people even go on hajj during that time?

What would happen if an attack like that were repeated? How much of our faith is tied up in buildings and tombs and relics and how much is tied up in more intangible realities? That's actually a tricky question to answer. There is something to be said for sacred places, for physical ritual, for things you can put your hands on. They help nurture and support our faith. Obviously if we loose those things, there would be a real loss. But on the "other hand" there is also something more, which can outlast any building.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

latino and islamic groups want tancredo to quit

Updated: 6:29 p.m. ET July 25, 2005
DENVER - Hispanic and Islamic groups called on Rep. Tom Tancredo to resign Monday, saying he has embarrassed Colorado by suggesting bombing Islamic holy sites if terrorists launch a nuclear attack on the U.S.

They also criticized the GOP congressman’s staunch advocacy of tougher immigration controls.

“Enough is enough. We’re here to say ‘Stop,”’ Hispanic activist Manolo Gonzalez-Estay told a crowd of about 200 at the state Capitol.

Abdur-Rahim Ali, imam of a Muslim shrine in Denver, said Tancredo’s statement that “you could take out” Islamic holy sites in a retaliatory attack was unacceptable.

“What would happen if a prominent Muslim made that statement about Catholic holy places like the Vatican?,” Ali asked.

Tancredo was traveling and unavailable for comment. His spokesman, Will Adams, said the four-term congressman has no intention of apologizing or resigning.

“They are a lot more upset about what he stands for, our nation’s security and border policy, than anything else,” Adams said.

© 2005 The Associated Press.

who is on my blogroll?

I think I will take a hint from Sister Scorpion (part 1, part 2, part 3) and go through my blogroll and say a little something about each one, maybe getting into why I added them. The process will also force me to reconsider why I linked to some blogrolls and whether the original reasons still make sense. Hopefully, I'll also get some reciprocal blogroll love from some of y'all out there too.

When I started my blogroll, I tried to look for alot of non-stereotypical Muslims with well-written sites and interesting, relevant things to say. Honesty, creativity and originality were a big plus. (Hopefully Planet Grenada falls in the same category). I'm sunni and alot of the blogs I added came from a self identified sunni "traditional Muslim" perspective. (For the subtext-impaired, "traditional Muslim" is code for "don't call me a Salafi") But I've also noticed alot of really well done shia blogs too. In my view the ideal Muslim blog should have a large amount of content I wouldn't just be able to find in an Islamic library. So I really like blogs where people shared their thoughtfully reflected on opinions and experiences

There are also some good non-Muslim blogs that I added too because they fit into my own ideas of what I want to do on Planet Grenada. If I find more suitable sites I will add them in the future.

a heavy truth This is a blog from someone who relatively recently converted from sunni Islam to shia Islam. Me personally, I'm still sunni, but I was just compelled by the honesty and integrity reflected in what I was reading from this person's blog that I couldn't help link to it so I could learn more about what steps and stages she was going through.

a wayfarer's journey "These writings are the footprints of my journey. A 31 year old convert to Islam. A Muslim hippie chick and free spirit." I like her blog because it's "real" and off the beaten path.

aaminah hernandez I couldn't resist adding someone who is so into Muslim literature that they chose the name Writeous Sister. (On good days I think of myself as a poet so I can't help the feeling of cameraderie) She has good information about what Muslim writers and artists are up to these days.

abdul-rahim borges This is a young Muslim cat (only 16) but with alot to say and is a confessed lefty. Tends to write more about his own thoughts and direct experiences. Occasional dash of "Latin" content.

abdulsalaam al-hindi Muslim, Indian, college student, living in the heart of dixie. Views on Current Affairs, life, Islam, The "West", Arabs, South Asians, Americans (People in general), Movies, Songs, The Media, and in the words of Yul Brynner(the king) from the movie "The King and I", "ascetraaa ascetraaa ascetraaa"

afroblog An anti-colonial site by Helen W. Tewolde. She likes Mos Def and Frantz Fanon. 'Nuff said. Unfortunately, the site hasn't been updated in a while.

ahmed's world A recent addition to my blogroll. His site is a regular source of information about Islam that would be useful to Muslims, especially from a Hanafi perspective.

alexandalus Another blog which is more a source of information about traditional Islam. (Especially conferences and other gatherings). Very little commentary.

american muslim journal Not alot of traffic. A Muslim lawyer blogs about current events in the news. (I might remove)

anarcho akbar I wouldn't call myself an anarchist but I definitely like alot of the things this cat is trying to say. To me it seems a no-brainer that Muslims should lean to the left. And Yunus Yakub is putting in alot of effort into working out the details of what that means. More power to him.

andalusian reality I like this site except it hasn't been updated in a long time. The blogger is a thoughtful brother. In a number of recent entries who recently has been sharing his perspective on spiritual books he's been reading.

angry iranian Lawrence Ershaghi blogs mostly about Middle Eastern poltics (emphasis on Iran)from a left-of-center perspective. Informative and opinionated (in a good way)

anthology This is a blog from a Yale student named Arafat. The thing I like about his blog is that it is a real live Muslim talking about his everyday life. Nice but kind of tame. Minimal Muslim/political content. (I might remove)

bin gregory is a blog with a very personal tone. Bin Gregory is an American convert to Islam living in Malaysia sharing his life and experiences. He kinda looks like John Walker Lindh. (Congratulations on the new baby!)

de aqui y de alla Elenamary is a (non-Muslim) Latina blogger. I started getting into her site because as far as I can tell she has the largest collection of links to other Latino/Latina bloggers. But the more I read of her site the more I liked the look, vibe, and content there. She's real cool.

dervish Umm Yasmin is an ex-Bahai, currently Muslim, living in Australia with some good things to say about poltics and religion. (She won a Brass Crescent last year for best female blog)

detainment This was originally created to provide information about, and to rally support for, the two Muslim girls in NY who were thought to be "terrorists" by the government. A recent entry suggests that this might expand.

ethnically incorrect I think I added this blog because of two main reasons. Firstly I was intrigued by what Sume would have to say as a Muslim who is "ethnically incorrect" (a Vietnamese Muslimah adopted by a white family with an Arab husband) since I sometimes feel ethnically incorrect in my own way. But secondly on a visual level this blog is strikingly beautiful beyond words. I REALLY like the artwork she displays on a regular basis.

from clay "We're made from clay but also from a spirit that is not of this world. Negotiations between the two are now in session. Meanwhile, you may find here some reviews, commentary, short fiction, translations, links to various articles, excerpted quotes, and anything else that has a good chance of being kindling or edifying" This brother is from Chicago. He's Muslim. He's a writer. I couldn't help myself.

ginny's thoughts A really good mix of opinions on Islamic topics, current events in Africa, and personal-life stuff.

hasan al-mu'min I was happy and sad when I found this short-lived blog. Happy because it is basically the only other blog I've seen by a Latino Muslim of African descent. Sad because it has not been added to in over a year.

holla at a scholar Adisa Banjoko is a Muslim who has a really good blog. He writes mainly about hip-hop, race and politics but there are also healthy doses of entries on Islam, chess and other subjects.

ideant This is a blog by Ulises A. Mejias, a Latino who is married to Muslim intellectual, Asma Barlas. He often has interesting things to say on culture and technology. It is more "academic" than most.

ihsan A REALLY good Muslim group blog with interesting perspectives on current events and Islamic topics.

insight Comments by Louay Safi on Islamic affairs and issues relating to human rights, reform, American Muslims, globalization, democracy, and world peace.

islamicate "We are here to comment upon the culture and society, which affects Muslims, and that are affected by Muslims. We want to make informed, critical commentary.We don't want to be labeled as either 'progressive' or 'conservatives' We hold that there is not a normative Islamic thought, but rather, a spectrum of ideas and thoughts that are in constant engagement with one another." This is a really good general Muslim blog.

izzy mo's blog Musings on Islam, art, culture, beauty and other random tidbits from a Southern-born African-American Muslima and Artist.

latino pundit An informative general Latino blog.

left side of the dial A better than average lefty blog. But it is probably the only one that promotes Kurt Vonnegut's fictional religion of Bokononism

leftfield mullah A nice left-of-center current events Muslim blog.

living tradition A nice blog on traditional Islam. Often very critical of PMUNA.

mere islam Reflections, rants and raves on Islam, Islamic spirituality, comparative religion, current events, modern society, noteworthy books, English grammar, healthy living and the human condition.

moorish girl Moorishgirl is a Morrocan woman who has a very well-done literary blog. Emphasizes Arab-American and Middle Eastern writers.

muslim postcolonial "The Muslim Postcolonial challenges the oppression of Empire and celebrates Islamic cultures and histories around the world"

muslimahsoul An African-American Muslim woman's blog with a refreshing personal and original feel.

negrophile A really nice blog on Black current events. Also generously maintains a HUGE blogroll of Black bloggers.

positive muslim news "News about good things Muslims are doing in North America and around the world." Reminding the ummah and the rest that the glass is half-full.

postcolonial iraq "A postcolonial Iraq watch dedicated to genuine Iraqi self-determination; a post-fundamentalist and post-liberal watch for consociational patriotism and a confessionalism beyond religious as well as secular sectarianism" Really good and interesting political content. Hasn't been added to in some time.

progressive muslim thoughts "In my blog, I present political views especially on the Middle East. I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and am currently a Scoville Peace Fellow at Citizens for Global Solutions in Washington, DC. I bring my perspective as a Shia Muslim, a grassroots activist, someone who was brought up in the United Arab Emirates & lived in Jordan"

qiyamah forecast Like the song goes... "It's the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine" It's been dead for a while but seems to have been resurrected recently. This is a group blog which brings occasional reminders that the world is often a stranger (and funnier) place than we realize most of the time.

rendering islam A good blog for dealing with all sorts of creative expression by Muslims. "Celebrate the expression of Islam's beauty through visual arts, literature, singing, and more."

old SAFspace Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of Saffiyah, a young Canadian Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace. Her blog recently moved location: new SAFspace

sister scorpion Strong Muslim mom you don't want to mess with. LOL. She definitely speaks her mind. A very well done blog.

sisters talk A collection of African-American blogs.

some muslim blogs a page with more Muslim blogs.

sufi art An online gallery of the artwork of Sufi Shaykh Husayn Neuzil.Born in Chicago in 1932, Husayn Neuzil studied Toltec, Zapotec and Mayan art in Mexico under the influence of muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Neuzil traveled extensively in the Middle-East including Iran, Israel and Turkey. His work shows the influence of Islamic design and illumination. (It hasn't been added to in a while)

sunni sister Just a REALLY good overall Muslim blog. Deals with current events and other useful topics.

the sulbani sagas Creative writing from a Western Sufi (Hispanic?) Hasn't been added to in a while.

thoughts & readings Nice blog with excerpts from Sufi literature.

toward's god is our journey Good general blog with thought Muslim commentary.

unveiled Edgy Muslim writing.

virtually islamic "News, Commentary, Information and Speculation about Islam in the Digital Age"

Monday, July 25, 2005

adio kerida

In some sense, this entry is a kind of counter-point to Planet Grenada. Ruth Behar is a Jewish Cuban-American woman (poet, writer, filmaker, anthropologist) who created the film Adio Kerida which is a documentary look at Cuba's Sephardic Jewish community.

Sephardic Jews view themselves as Hispanic people who are connected to both the Arab and African worlds because of their history of cultural and emotional interpenetration with those worlds. They descend from the Jewish populations expelled by the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century. After the expulsion, they settled in the countries of the Ottoman empire and northern Africa, which welcomed them and made it possible for them to live as Jews among Muslims. 'Sepharad' means Spain in Hebrew. Sephardic Jews are notable for having clung with a passion to their nostalgia for Spain and their love for the Spanish language, despite having been forced to leave Spain because of their ethnic and religious identity.

One might expect that Ruth Behar's experiences as a "white" Jewish Cuban-born American and mine as a Black Muslim US-born Latino could be a potential source of conflict. We come from very different places when it comes to the black/white dichotomy,the Abrahamic religious tradition and Cuba. But in fact I think the multiplicity of identities is something which itself can help bridge the gap. For many people the big demographic variables like "race" "ethnicity" and "religion" tend to line up in predictable ways. White/ American/ Christian or Mestizo/ Mexican/ Catholic or Asian/ Japanese/ Buddhist for example. But when those variables don't "line up" in expected ways, there is a kind of dissonance created which can stimulate a certain kind of acute thoughtful awareness about identity (and a kind of cameraderie that comes out of having a common struggle).

Coincidentally, I've actually met Ruth Behar before. Several years ago, I saw her at the local Latin music spot one night and before I knew her name, I asked her onto the floor and we danced for a while. (There must be some kind of metaphor in there somewhere). After a few songs, we sat and talked for a bit. When she said who she was I was surprised: "Wow, I checked out one of your books out of the library the other day!". Anyway, small world.

Most of the above links died but you should be able to find some materials here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

arabs and the racial lessons of 9/11

Ok, I think this will be the last thing I'll steal from the site, at least for a while. Arabs and the Racial Lessons of 9/11 is a surprisingly self-critical but brief piece by activist Carol Chehade about the role Arab-Americans play in the US racial hierarchy.

a few afro-latino links

Here is a piece about the site
The actual site (mostly in Spanish)

Red Afrovenezolana (mostly in Spanish)

The Afromexico page (bilingual)
The Black Mexico Homepage (mostly English)
Africa's Legacy in Mexico (a series of essays and photographs)
African Roots Stretch Deep into Mexico (a column)

black colombians fight for land and rights

This is a brief piece from about how Black Colombians are affected by the conflict between the guerrillas (FARC) and the paramilitary (AUC)

brazil race diary 1999

I just recently discovered some pages with interesting info on Afro-Latinos from Karen Juanita Carrillo at (so that's why a couple of blog entries are about that subject). Here is one about the many ways that issues of race and culture manifest themselves during a brief trip to Brazil

first black "miss honduras" wins court case

This story is a bit old, and I know its "just" a beauty pageant, but that just makes the actions of the pageant director that much more egregious. He resented the fact that a Black woman won the crown of Miss Honduras and didn't want to award her with everything she had coming to her. That's cold.


Chávez Brings Hope to Afro-Venezuelans: On How Blacks in Venezuela are optimistic with Chavez in power.

Completing the Chavez Revolution: On how Blacks in Venezuela are working to fight racism and make gains as a community.

damali ayo

an interesting letter from damali ayo, a conceptual artist with my kind of sense of humor.

tokens aren't just for buses

Check Out
Reasonably priced, discrete and confidential!

black people love us!

Why do Black people love Sally and Johnny?

shobak: outsider muslims

Thanks to elenamary for turning me onto Naeem Mohaiemen. He serves as editor of Shobak: Outsider Muslims a news site with an emphasis on South Asian Muslims. Recently, they have a few good entries about the aftermath of the London bombings.

Western Muslims: "Collateral Damage" of London Bombings
Shahara Islam: British-Bangladeshi among London's dead
Pakistani beaten to death in UK


The New York Times recently did an editorial about how the US military's approach to interrogation in Guantanamo, Cuba is turning female soldiers into lap dancers. The piece is called The Women of Gitmo.

Friday, July 22, 2005

rebirth of a word, a film, a slur

So can the you use the master's tools to take down the master's house?

Check out Rebirth of a Word, a Film, a Slur by Naeem Mohaiemen where he considers Rebirth of a Nation and goes on to discuss the attempts by different communities to re-appropriate racist elements for their own purposes.

(Rebirth of a Nation is DJ Spooky's remix of D.W. Griffith's explicitly racist film, Birth of a Nation, which is actually one of the early subjects I started to blog on in an entry called afrofuturism/ rebirth of a nation)

remembering edward said

Check out this impressive collection of Edward Said's writings.
The Edward Said Archive

disappeared in america

Since 9/11, thousands of Muslim immigrants were detained in a security dragnet. The majority of those detained were from the invisible underclass of cities like New York. They are the recent immigrants who drive our taxis, deliver our food, clean our restaurant tables, and sell fruit, coffee, and newspapers. The only time we see their faces are when we glance at the hack license in the taxi partition, or the ID card around the neck of a vendor.

Already invisible in our cities, after detention, they have become "ghost prisoners." In this, there are eerie parallels to past witch-hunts, including the 1919 detention of 10,000 immigrants after anarchists bombed the Attorney General's home; the 1941 internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans; the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs; and the HUAC Black-listing under Senator Joseph McCarthy. While our work started in the American context, we have expanded to look at Europe, in recognition that anti-immigrant xenophobia, coupled with Islamophobia (a more acceptable shorthand for "dark masses"), is not a new or uniquely American phenomenon.

VISIBLE, is a collective of Muslim and other Artist-Activists, that created the DISAPPEARED IN AMERICA project. DISAPPEARED is a walk-through installation that uses film, soundscape, images, installations and lectures to humanize the faces of post 9/11 "disappeared" Muslims. It is also a traveling, multimedia lecture that has been shown in Stuttgart (with Walid Raad/Atlas Group), London (with Otolith Group), New York (Queens Museum of Art), Stockholm (Finnish Embassy), Helsinki (Kiasma Museum) and other cities.

The site has alot pages and pictures about this particular project along with many links about the more general phenomena of disappearing Muslims... I even thought I saw a picture of one brother I hadn't heard from in a loooong time.... no joke. (Is that you Daoud? From the Downtown Islamic Center in Chicago?)

(thanks to elenamary)

the rapture

ok, so this is yet another movie entry. No, i'm not turning into Roger Ebert. It's just that I'm still enjoying the novelty of being able to find movie screenplays online. It's an interesting way to go about "seeing" movies. On the one hand, you basically have all the dialogue right there. If you've seen the movie before, you get to be reminded of all your favorite lines. On the other hand you are *reading* it so you still get to use your imagination/memory. I guess it raises the whole question of what is it that makes a movie good in the first place. Is it the lines, the acting, the special effects, the action sequences, cinematography, etc.?

So the film I wanted to point you to in this entry (last one for a while) is The Rapture. I once tried to sum it up as "Soft-core for Mormons" (It seems to have a religious moral lesson, but at the same time it also includes graphic portrayals of intimate behavior.) It is about a woman (played by Mimi Rogers) who after living an unfulfilling life goes through a surprising transformation while the apocalypse is happening in the background. David Duchovny (pre-X-Files) also stars. (But that doesn't matter if you are reading the

blessed are the cheesemakers

(A crowd is listening to Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount and he is in the middle of the Beatitudes. The camera pulls out and we even see people in the crowd listening from a distance.)

Jew: Could you be quiet, please. [To trouble:] What was that?
Trouble: I don't know... I was too busy talking to bignose.
Man: I think it was 'Blessed are the cheese-makers'.
Jewwife: Ah. What's so special about the cheese-makers?
Jew: Well obviously it's not meant to be taken literally, it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

Here is The Life of Brian from the strange people at Monty Python. In some ways, this is among the most reverential religious parodies ever. The movie is actually really good about treating Jesus (as) himself with extreme respect and seriousness, while ruthlessly making fun of the religious people who misunderstood him, and if he wasn't around, were willing to turn the main character Brian, into a Messiah of their own(whether he wanted to be one or not).

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Spike Lee's 2000 film Bamboozled is actually in some respects an homage to Network. Both are stories where the (anti-)hero works for a television network, is put in a precarious position in terms of their job, and out of desperation "comes down from the mountain" and reveals more Truth than the network is ready to hear.

One significant difference is that Bamboozled obviously takes the scathing social commentary of Network and focuses with laser-like intensity on race, in particular, the representations of Black people in the media.

The stellar cast includes Damon Wayans in the lead role, Paul Mooney as his father, Mos Def, muMz the Schemer, MC Serch and others as part of an activist hip-hop group called the Mau-Maus (The inside pun is hilarious. The analagous characters in the original movie Network were Maoist revolutionaries). Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson play a pair of modern-day television minstrels. And the members of the Roots play the role of musicians (wow, what a stretch) for the tv show, where they are caled the Alabama Porch Monkeys.

In any case, the film is amazing and not to be missed.

An interview with Spike Lee about the film

official Bamboozled site.

If you think television is a Satanic implement to enslave humanity, and you live too far away from a Blockbuster Video, here is the screenplay to Bamboozled

"i'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore"

The title of this entry comes from the (remarkably prescient) 1976 film Network. Before the Daily Show and Politically Incorrect... before Tough Crowd and Fox News... before Morton Downey Jr. (Anyone remember him?) this film explored what can happen when journalists depart from the usual lies and try to speak the truth in a new way. It is the story of Howard Beale, an aging tv anchorman at the UBS television network (smile) where the news division has been recently put under the control of the entertainment division. As a result, Beale, the respected, but less than telegenic, anchor is fired. But before he fades away, he gives a 'final' broadcast so electrifying that it causes the network to rethink their decision and sparks a series of events which ultimately spiral out of control.

I have been thinking about the movie these because it seems like so much of our news is distorted by the desire to entertain rather than inform. The local news gets more and more sensationalized. And it is a little scary how many people have Comedy Central's Daily Show as their main source of news. (poll on where people get their news)

If you don't have an account at Hollywood Video, here is the entire screenplay for the film: Network

spanglish is my language

After pointing to the Badmash site, I figured I should also mention which is a hilarious Latino humor site which I've actually "borrowed" a few images from. And a high point of the website is definitely the humor of cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz. One downside is that the site doesn't seem to get updated very often.

the mind of carlos mencia

Recently Comedy Central decided to give Carlos Mencia a show called Mind of Mencia and put it in timeslot which used to belong to Dave Chapelle's Show. To be honest, I haven't seen a whole lot of the show, but I've seen him in the past. At first I was just excited to see a Latino stannd-up comedian but the more I heard him, the more I ended up not liking his politics. His CD Take a Joke America seemed to almost take an apolegetic attitude towards white racism. And his right-wing tendancies seem to get in the way of me really getting into his comedy.

It's weird to me. At what point did comedy become so political? I mean, there has always been poltical humor, but in the post-Daily Show era there seems to be this bizzare convergence between the opinionated political pundits and the stand-up comedians.

For example take a look at a recent interview with Tucker Carlson and Carlos Mencia:

Carlson: So you're clearly a conservative.

Mencia: You know what? I think I am. But I can't say that I'm a conservative because of course I grew up Hispanic and you know, there's Jesus Christ and Kennedy in my mom's house. And - you know what I mean? I could never actually say it.

Carlson: Even as a comedian, even though you have license to tell the truth you can't admit you're a right-wing -

Mencia: No, all my views are totally that. They pretty much are. But I can't actually say it because my mom would kill me and she's still my mom.

Carlson: She doesn't have a sense of humor about that?

Mencia: No if my mom heard me tell you, listen, I would - immediately the phone would ring. I can't believe you told the man with the bow tie I saw him on CNN how you were like him. How could you do that? But between you and me you don't have read between the lines.

videoclips from another Carlos Mencia interview

An older LA Times piece: Culture Clash on "South Park" Republicans, Tough Crowd (a comedy show hosted by Colin Quinn where I believe Mencia was an occasional guest) and other ways in which the culture has been slowly shifting to the right.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

the west fueled islamic radicalism

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 2:56 p.m. ET

By Andrew Gray

blatantly "stolen" from Adisa Banjoko who still hasn't given me a link on his site like he said he would but is still a generally decent human being anyway.

LONDON (Reuters) - Western foreign policy has fueled the Islamist radicalism behind the bomb attacks which killed more than 50 people in London, the British capital's mayor Ken Livingstone said on Wednesday.

Livingstone, who earned the nickname "Red Ken" for his left-wing views, won widespread praise for a defiant response which helped unite London after the bombings. But he has revived his reputation for courting controversy in recent days.

Asked on Wednesday what he thought had motivated the four suspected suicide bombers, Livingstone cited Western policy in the Middle East and early American backing for Osama bin Laden.

"A lot of young people see the double standards, they see what happens in (U.S. detention camp) Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there isn't a just foreign policy," he said.

Police say they believe there is a clear link between bin Laden's al Qaeda network and the four British Muslims who blew up three underground trains and a double-decker bus on July 7.

"You've just had 80 years of Western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of a Western need for oil. We've propped up unsavory governments, we've overthrown ones that we didn't consider sympathetic," Livingstone said.

"I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s ... the Americans recruited and trained Osama bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians to drive them out of Afghanistan.

"They didn't give any thought to the fact that once he'd done that, he might turn on his creators," he told BBC radio.


Prime Minister Tony Blair's government has insisted the bombings have no link to its foreign policy, particularly its decision to invade Iraq alongside the United States.

But an opinion poll this week showed two-thirds of Britons see a connection between the Iraq war and the bombings. A top think tank and a leaked intelligence memo have also suggested the war has made Britain more of a target for terrorists.

That did not stop the right-wing Daily Telegraph castigating Livingstone, a maverick member of Blair's Labour party who was celebrating London's selection as host of the 2012 Olympics just hours before the bombers struck.

Wednesday's edition of the paper featured a picture of the mayor between photographs of two radical Muslim clerics under the headline: "The men who blame Britain."

Livingstone has made clear he condemns all killing, including suicide bombing. But is also a long-standing critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

"If you have been under foreign occupation, and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work, for three generations, I suspect if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves," he said on Wednesday.

Israel's ambassador to London Zvi Heifetz accused the mayor of expressing sympathy for Palestinian militants.

"It is outrageous that the same mayor who rightfully condemned the suicide bombing in London as perverted faith', defends those who, under the same extremist banner, kill Israelis," he said in a statement.

original source: wired news

racial tensions in the american ummah

I just wanted to totally plug a recent entry on Izzy Mo's blog called Racial Tensions in the American Ummah because it is totally on point and people don't talk about that subject nearly as much as they should.

british muslim forum

Here is the website of the British Muslim Forum (representing hundreds of mosques in England) who has recently issued a fatwa strongly condemning the bombings in London.

blatantly "stolen" from the good brother at alexandalus

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

latinos and the supreme court

The blue latino efforts, for the most part, seem to be a step in the right direction, but given the lessons learned from Clarence Thomas, and given that there seem to be some conservative Latino federal judges waiting in the wings, it seems much more important to find a judge with a genuine concern for civil rights, who deeply opposes racism and bigotry, and who will promote democratic values, regardless of color. Especially since color and ethnicity will not guarantee the former.

Hispanic Groups: Bush Owes Us Supreme Court Nominee from NewsMax.Com


Check Out a new online grass-roots organization for progressive Latinos. The current items on their agenda:

Tell Urban Outfitters to remove their crude and offensive tee shirt: "New Mexico, Cleaner Than Regular Mexico" Sign the petition!

Tell President Bush to nominate a Latina/Latino judge to the U.S. Supreme Court who respects the rights and freedoms of all Americans. Sign the petition!

Join the conversation and help us send a message to America"Una Declaración de Amor: Progressive Latinos Speak to America"

CNN should fire Lou Dobbs for his relentless anti-immigrant reporting and race baiting commentary Sign the petition and tell Lou Dobbs: You're Fired!



This is a little off the beaten path, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. Badmash is a very well done South Asian humor site, full of cartoons, short films, all kinds of parodies, and plenty of Dishoom!

Monday, July 18, 2005

muslim anarchism

In the last few years, there has been talk knocking about on the idea of Islamic Anarchism, primarily from the US-based punk Muslim Michael Knight. But there has been sparse evidence of any coherent online presence of Muslim Anarchists, until June 20th, 2005, when Yakoub Islam, a British-based Muslim, published his online Muslim Anarchist Charter.

If you would like to further explore this intersection of religious belief and political ideology you might want to consider:

On becoming a Muslim Anarchist (from the Ihsan blog)

islam and anarchism (wikipedia)

anarcho akbar (a muslim anarchist blog)

anarcho akbar (a topically organized muslim anarchist site)

Muslim Anarchist Charter

the magic of not reading

New Harry Potter Film Turns Children On To Magic Of Not Reading
LOS ANGELES - Around the world, children are being turned on to the magic of not reading by the blockbuster film Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. "My daughter Julia never liked to sit passively and stare at a screen, but this new movie has really locked the power of her imagination," said Hannah Foss, 38, of Dayton, OH. "She can't put her books away fast enough." "Movies are great," said Tarzana, CA, 10-year-old Emily Hart. "You can see exactly what the characters look like without having to guess."
From the Onion

harry potter and the book-burning benedict

Since I had recently been blogging about cults recently I thought it would be appropriate to write a tongue-in-cheek entry about how fanatical and cultish the Harry Potter fans are. I know a whole bunch of people who went and bought the new book yesterday and several of them have already finished it!

The Harry Potter books are almost like a powerful, but non-addictive drug. There is a strong compulsion to buy it, and people put aside numerous obligations aside in order to get their "fix" but once they've read the book, they don't need to keep rereading it.

But on second thought, looking back to some of the opposition to the Harry Potter books, I have to wonder which group is more cult-like, the fans, or the fanatics who think that people who read the Harry Potter books will suddenly start worshiping the devil.

Fanatics are after Harry Potter again (An old article, about the response to earlier books)

Pope Benedict Opposes Harry Potter Novels (a more recent article based on an older interview with the Pope, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger)

That's not to say the books shouldn't be criticized. As a Muslim, I myself would express reservations about the fact that in the first volume, the villan turns out to be the nice harmless-looking guy in the turban. But I think it is more useful to point out this fact than to censor the book.

J.K. Rowling's Official Website

Wikipedia on Harry Potter

more protestant islam

Here is another paper exploring the concept of "Protestant Islam":

Contemplating Protestant Islam: A Look at Islamic Reform Movements through the Lens of Sixteenth-Century Christianity by Charles McDaniel A paper presented at CESNUR 2004 international conference, Baylor University, Waco (Texas), June 18-20, 2004. The paper is academic and so it is rather "objective" in tone. And it is unlike the previous piece in that it isn't mainly a defense of traditional Islam.

protestant islam

Here is an article called Protestant Islam by Mohammed Al-Abbasi from Masud Khan's excellent site for promoting traditional Islam. I would say it argues in favor of a mild forms of the guru principle (in the sense of defending the value of following traditional scholarship) and is critical of the Salafi movement.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

the guru principle

The topic for the Progressive Blogger Union this coming week is Sun Myung Moon. He is not just a kooky "cult" leader. He has been very quiet about it, but he seems to have gained a certain amount of influence in the U.S. behind the scenes. For example he owns the Washington Times.

A less famous "guru" is Lauryn Hill's recent spiritual advisor named Brother Anthony, mentioned in the Rolling Stone piece called The Mystery of Lauryn Hill

Our individualistic secular society tends to be VERY suspicious of "gurus". In fact, one can even find antipathy to "gurus" even among people who acknowledge a spiritual dimension to life, which from a certain perspective is a little odd. If you have legal trouble, you go to someone who knows the law; a lawyer. If you have financial issues, you go to a financial advisor. If your car needs to be taken care of, you go to a mechanic; someone who understands cars and knows how they work and has experience fixing them. So if your soul is troubled, why wouldn't you go to an expert, someone who knows souls and knows how to heal them and guide them along the right path? So, in theory at least, I think that the idea of a guru - shaykh - teacher makes alot of sense.

The problem comes in when you actually have to find a good guru. In the case of mechanics, lawyers and doctors there are bodies which certify the ability of each "expert". You can ask to see their diploma from law school, or their board certification etc. In the spiritual case, this is often much harder to do (although it is not impossible to get some indications. For example, in Sufism a shaykh would need to have ijaza or permission to teach given by another shaykh)

At the same time, it also very possible for any sufficiently charismatic individual to simply claim to have some kind of spiritual qualification and abuse the trust of unsuspecting students., And that's where the problems start. False, unqualified or fraudulent gurus can damage and exploit the people put under their charge and we are right to be concerned about them. And unfortunately such gurus are common and widespread. Finding a true teacher is a difficult process, and requires a certain degree of discernment. Like finding a needle in a very big haystack.

The healthy counterbalance to the guru principle is what might be called spiritual egalitarianism (At least that's the term which comes to mind); the idea that spiritual knowledge isn't just the special domain of experts but that it is something we all have access to. Some groups, like the Quakers are quite explicit with their doctrine that we all have the "inner light" and so instead of looking outward towards a scholar or a shaykh, they tend to look within to examine their own conscience in search of guidance.

I would say that, like the guru principle, the idea of spiritual egalitarianism has its positive aspects but it can also be abused. (In the sense of not recognizing ANY differences between the deepest spiritual insights and the most self--serving populist slogans) And I would say that there is evidence for both tendancies in Islamic sources (from the positive perspective). There are certainly references which suggest that if we don't know something we should "ask those who know". But there are also texts which point to the idea that our ability to reason gives us the capacity to look at the signs of Allah, in the world, in history, in nature and in ourselves to find evidence of his will.

More later...

Friday, July 15, 2005

arrested development

The other day I was driving some friends to the airport and I popped an old mix tape I'd made about 10 years ago into the tape deck. I had labelled it "Redemption Songs" and it was full of a lot of modern music which was spiritual and mostly upbeat, but not necessarily devotional in the usual sense. There was plenty of Bob Marley (of course), some Ladysmith Black Mambazoo, some Fugees ("The Temple"), some KRS-ONE ("The Real Holy Place"), some Tracy Chapman ("Mountains of Things", "All That You have is Your Soul"). Even some Terrence Trent D'Arby ("If you all get to Heaven").

There was also a lot of Arrested Development ("Tennesee" "Fishin' For Religion", etc.) My friends actually hadn't heard of Arrested Development (damn I feel old) and as I was trying to explain what they were like, I thought that this would actually be a good topic to blog on.

Now I really don't like the word "cult" but apparently sometime after the group moved off the radar, Speech (the main vocalist from Arrested Development) became a member of the the Atlanta Church of Christ, one of the International Churches of Christ (part of what is sometimes called the Boston Movement). The movement has become contraversial recently because of some "cult-like" features.

The Church practices something called "discipling" where newer members would be paired with a more experienced member who would guide them in the church. Now at first glance this idea isn't so bad. And even in Islam there are individuals who may seek the assistance of a shaykh who they could consult when they make certain decisions. But the problem is that this more experienced member or "discipler" didn't even have to have any special qualifications. And on top of that, the disciplers exert a high degree of control over the day-to-day life of the people below them (including extra-curricular activities, who they can date, and how often to have sex with their spouses, etc.)

On top of that, the Church seems to make high demands on the time and resources of its members and discourage ties with people outside the church. And they seem to have a narrow view (narrower than most Christians anyway) of who is a "true believer".

Recently, the Church has gone through a certain amount of restructuring and reform. Kip McKean, charismatic former-head of the movement resigned due to personal reasons and that seemes to have created the opportunity for many of the churches in the movement to "mellow out" (while other individual churches have probably not changed very much at all).

At the same time, this is all just background and a general picture. I have no idea if Speech, himself, has really been victimized by the group in any sense. Perhaps the Atlanta Church of Christ is less controlling. Or perhaps in an attempt to attract a celebrity/spokesperson he is being treated differently from other members. (Just as some have said John Travolta and Tom Cruise and other celebrity Scientologists are probably treated differently from rank-and-file members of the Church of Scientology).

On top of that it is hard to imagine the "revolutionary" brother who sang "Fishin' For Religion" or essentially made up his own religious scripture in a song like "Washed Away" ending up as a member of a cult but then stranger things have happened. But on the other hand, in his Arrested Development days, Speech's songs certain manifested a strong spiritual hunger and longing which actually might make a person more likely to join a group like ICOC.

In any case, Speech continues to make music. And his albums continue to explore religious themes. For example, Check out Speech's solo album "Spiritual People"

Speech/Arrested Development Webpage (LIFE MUSIK)

Arrested Development Lyrics

More critical piece about ICOC from a Muslim site

A page on ICOC from Rick Ross' anti-cult site

different religions week

Different Religions Week 2005 is Friday, July 15 to Friday, July 22. During the week, please consider attending a religious service of a faith different from your own.

Different Religions Week was founded in 2003 by Nathan Black, an undergraduate at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Troubled by the frequency of religiously motivated violence and the complexity behind the conflicts, Black resolved to make a small, long-term contribution to the search for tolerance and peace.

Black believes that most religiously motivated violence arises from the misunderstanding and demonizing of one side by the other. He is convinced that if people could simply observe the way their supposed enemies connect with their spiritualities and muster the strength for their daily lives, we would all be struck by the similarities of humans and their faiths ?not the alleged differences over which we kill.

Aware that closed minds are difficult to change, Black formulated Different Religions Week as a chance for those already tolerant to stand up and say, I, for one, am going to stop living in a box. It is hoped that if such an expression of open-mindedness is made as loud as possible, some of those on the fence about different religions will then feel compelled to participate. They, in turn, may be able to tickle the curiosity of their peers with even narrower worldviews. In this way, understanding and tolerance of different religions may eventually trickle down to the most adamantly bigoted the fanatics and the terrorists that sadly exist in most every religion, and who lie at the heart of the scourge of religiously motivated violence.

Maybe you should consider trying it out and learn about a different place of worship. And conversely, we should keep in mind that someone might want to visit the masjid (after all, the week goes from Friday to Friday) so we should try to be good hosts.

Via: Left End of the Dial

Thursday, July 14, 2005

islam and the race question

A little on the academic technical side, this is a brief paper by Dr. Paul Hardy (Who I think I 've actually met before. Only I knew him as Abdul Ghani... he was one funny brother) called "Islam and the Race Question" which argues that Islam is deeply egalitarian and anti-racist.

not just in february

On the Hanafi fiqh list, someone had recently asked a question about Blacks and Islam and part of the answer included a link to a piece by Imam Zaid Shakir entitled Reflections on Black History Month. I still have to think a little more about his take on Fanon, but in general it is a pretty good piece.

what do blacks have in cuba?

This is actually an old article by Pedro Perez Sarduy about the racial situation in Cuba. In other contexts Sarduy often sounds like an apologist for the Cuban regime but this current article seems a little more even-handed.

santeria and islam


Here is a brief review of the book Afro-Cuban Religiosity, Revolution, And National Identity by Christine Ayorinde.

The review begins with the remark:

"Ayorinde breaks new ground in her important discussion of the evolution of revolutionary policy toward religion in general, and Afro-Cuban religious practice in particular. . . . Although she is careful not to overstate her case, the conclusion one can draw from her book is that the nation Fidel Castro declared to be 'Afro-Latin' in 1975 is in the process of becoming the world's first socialist state acknowledging (however tacitly) a congeries of African-derived religious forms as its 'national' religion."--Stephan Palmié, University of Chicago

For a long time I've been thinking about the relationship between Santeria and Islam. There are interesting similarities and contrasts. Although on a personal level, the bulk of my family members are either Protestant (like my parents) or Catholic or non-religious, from an "ethnic" perspective, one could certainly make a case that Santeria is the religion of "my (Cuban) people" (which is basically the point of the above passage). The descendants of African slaves in the New World especially South of the Border were able to substantially hold onto the faith and traditions of the ancestors by hiding their practices within a Catholic matrix. Outwardly they showed devotion to Saint Barbara, but inwardly they would think "Chango". Outwardly they would pray to St. Peter, but in their hearts they would say "Ogun". Some might dismiss Santeria as idolatry and superstition, but from another perspective it is an admirable exercise in creative resistance to oppression.

If ethnicity were a primary consideration in choosing a religion, then it is likely I would have become a practitioner of Santeria (which is becoming more dominant and widespread in my parent's homeland) instead of Islam. I chose Islam, in part, because it was a more universal religion, a more human religion. As one author put it, Islam is about the encounter between God as such, and man as such. Nevertheless, there are still ways in which Islam has a certain strong organic relationship with the Latino and Black [1] [2] experience. (Also check my links section for sites which deal with Black or Hispanic/Latino Muslims)

Another interesting question for me is to think about how Muslims ought to view Santeria. In my opinion, one of the real strengths of Islam is it's capacity to come to terms with other religions and tolerate them, without collapsing into a wishy-washy relativism. Muslims can respect the divine origins of Christianity, Judaism, and other revealed religions while at the same time encouraging a commitment to truth and justice.

As the Quran says:
Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. [2.62]

And over the centuries, as Muslims encountered other faiths, arguments were made that Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, etc. could also be recognized as people of the book, or at least those who "believe in Allah and the Last day and do good".

In the case of Santeria where do we stand? Although sometimes thought of as polytheistic because of the belief in different orishas or spirits, Santeria actually does believe in a single creator God (named Oludumare). So in Islamic terms it is at least conceivable that the different orishas represent different names or aspects of the one God, or more likely, the orishas, who are generally not thought of as perfect or absolute, can correspond to angels or jinn. Another possibility is that some of the orishas were actually human prophets who (like Jesus) became "deified" once their ministries ended. In fact, this likely in the case of Chango who was an ancient Yoruba king.

Do practitioners of Santeria have a book? The principles of Santeria are generally transmitted by an oral tradition (and so was the Quran originally), but there is a collection of oral texts, in particular there are a set of texts related to Ifa divination (which in certain respects is similar to the I Ching, discussed in an earlier blog entry)

Santeria also provides its practitioners with an ethical/moral framework as well. In this regard, the 11 Commandments attriibuted to Oludumare are sometimes mentioned:

1. You will not steal
2. You will not kill, except in self-defense and for your sustenance
3. You will not eat human flesh
4. You will live in peace among yourselves
5. You will not covet your neighbor's properties
6. You will not curse my name
7. You will honor your father and mother
8. You will not ask more than I can give you and you will be content with your fate
9. You will neither fear death nor take your own life
10. You will teach my commandments to your children
11. You will respect and obey my laws

All in all, I would just like to suggest that Santeria, like Christianity and Judaism, can be thought of as a religion of Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book) with a divine origin (however distant or however much it may have changed since its beginnings). But of course, Allahu alim (God knows best).

wild pigeon

On a related note.. let's look at censorship of a much more extreme political and violent variety. 10 years in prison for writing a single poem! May Allah make it easy on him:

The poem "Wild Pigeon," written by a Muslim poet in China and published by an official Chinese literary publication, seems innocuous enough - a young pigeon is trapped and caged by humans when he ventures too far from home, and chooses to die rather than be imprisoned for life. However, this poem was published in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, otherwise known as East Turkestan, and officials saw in Nurmuhemmet Yasin's poem a call for Uighur separatism. The plight of China's Muslim minority, which considers itself to have been forcibly integrated into China (alas, that bane of Muslim existence, oil, lies under their feet), has become worse in recent years as Beijing has implemented measures to suppress the Muslim population of 19 million and encourage non-Muslim Han Chinese to settle the area. This, in turn, has radicalized some Uighurs and turned them towards militancy, which then creates a backlash against the remaining Uighur population. Which brings us back to Mr. Yasin and his poem. After a closed trial in February 2005 at which he was not permitted to hire a lawyer, Yasin was sentenced by the Kashgar Intermediate Court to 10 years in jail for inciting Uighur separatism, a sentence which was later upheld on appeal. He has been permitted no visitors, and his personal collection of 1,600 poems and stories has been confiscated. Yasin's story is by no means unique - similar judgements have been made on other Uighurs for infractions as small as wearing a beard. "The authorities continued to use the international war against terrorism to justify harsh repression in Xinjiang, which continued to result in serious human rights violations against the ethnic Uighur community," reads a report from Amnesty International. "The authorities continued to make little distinction between acts of violence and acts of passive resistance." While there is little chance that China will restore the independence East Turkestan enjoyed between 1938 and 1949, activists are turning to the Internet and other media sources to keep China's human rights abuses in check, using Tibetan activism as an example.

Source: alt.muslim


Just yesterday the issue of censorship came up for me in a weird way. I drove a friend to a high school where he had to work on a project. And when I got bored I used the high school's computers to surf the internet, check e-mail and actually write a little for this blog. The first time I came to the Planet Grenada front page, everything was fine. But after a few minutes when I tried to come back a bizzare/scary warning message appeared saying that due to content, access to the page would be denied.

It gives me something to think about. On the one hand I want to be free to be edgy and candid and open and critical. I should be able to use all the words in the dictionary (and a few that aren't) if I want to. On the other hand, I do feel that the content of this blog is interesting, informative, positive, and its something that I'd want to share with a large set of people. It feels like a trade-off.

respect the technique

Politically conscious Afro-Peruvian rapper, Immortal Technique, is the subject of this recent piece from In These Times, entitled Respect the Technique

fighting terrorism with islam

Finally, someone doing things the right way. Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, of Yemen's Dialogue Committee and the Yemeni Organsation for Human Rights came up with a unique strategy after an increase in militant influence in Yemen led to increased attacks. Confronting captured militants in prison, he challenged them to back up their beliefs with the Quran in a series of debates, ultimately proving to many that their interpretations of the Quran were misleading.
full story from alt.muslim

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

negrodamus 2

Audience Member: Negrodamus, why is President Bush convinced there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Negrodamus : Because he has the receipt.

negrodamus 1

Audience Member: Negrodamus, why do white people like Wayne Brady so much?

Negrodamus : White people like Wayne Brady because he makes Brian Gumbel look like Malcolm X.

"it makes my teeth white" - paul mooney

In this blog, especially with certain entries, I often have some very intensely personal things in my life that I'm dwelling on, but instead of coming out and saying exactly what is going on in a clear and explicit way, I often point to public events or creative works or artists who are in the same ballpark, and which are hopefully still interesting to the other people reading, but in reality are only the tip of the iceberg. This is no exception...
Have you ever heard of Paul Mooney? He's this amazing Black comedian. In my book he is actually THE Black comedian. He was a writer for Sanford and Son, he wrote for Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Saturday Night Live, and head writer for In Living Color (he's the one who made up Homey the Clown). He has appeared in Spike Lee's film Bamboozled, Robert Townsend's film Hollywood Shuffle and even an episode of Good Times. Most recently he has appeared on the Dave Chapelle show as Negrodamus and on the Ask a Black Dude segment.

An article entitled Straight Talk appeared in the Bay Area journal Metroactive a few years ago gives a taste of Mooney's material but doesn't do it justice. Instead of shucking and jiving like generations of Black comics from Mantan Moreland to Martin Lawrence to the latest Neo-Blaxploitation sit com on UPN (which stands for U Pick a Nigger, according to Mooney) or BET for that matter, Paul Mooney's laser sharp wit is radical, liberating, cutting edge and cathartic.

The two albums of his I'm aware of ("Masterpiece" which I have, and "Race" which I'm trying to find) are both out of print.

Mooney's humor is certainly not for the easily offended, but if you can get past that he has alot to say. If you think about it, due to obvious economic and demographic realities of the market, most Black entertainers and artists are creating a product intended for white consumption, or at least strongly influenced by the preferences and demands of white consumers (e.g. the biggest consumers of mainstream hip-hop are white kids). And in the case of comedy, this means that to a large degree Black comedians set up Black people to be objects of ridicule. But Paul Mooney turns this formula on its head and fights for laughs with the ruthlessness of a Mau-Mau.

He uses his words to redefine the world in new ways. It's like he can reach deep into your gut, up through your limbs, pull out your funny bone and then proceed to beat you upside the head to knock some sense into it.

More later...