Wednesday, August 31, 2005

happy blog day

.... wow, it's 11:57pm on World Blog Day. The idea is for there to be more cross-pollination in the blogosphere by getting participating bloggers to recommend 5 other 'unknown' blogs to their readers, especially ones which are very different from their own in terms of culture, perspective etc.

I found about this a little too late to participate but it turns out at least two blogs picked Planet Grenada to be one of their 5. One is islamicate (which has actually been on my blogroll for a while now). And the other is my kid's dad by Stuart Berman. I feel honored to be named by both.

Even though I am finding out about this a little late, World Blog Day still seems like a really good idea. I am definitely tempted to come up with a list of 5 or 10 blogs and have my own personal Planet-Grenada-Give-Shout-outs-to-Blogs-Very-Different-from-Mine-but-Which-I-Think-Are-Still-Really-Cool-Anyway-Day. Maybe in a week or two.

if i was president...

...I'd get elected on Friday
...assassinated on Saturday
...and buried on Sunday.

Here is a recording of Wyclef Jean on the Chapelle Show doing the song "If I was President" from the Christians for Dean website. The movie might have some problems but the Mp3 version should be complete. And here are the lyrics (at least one version of them)

negrophobia, hope and gasoline

Interesting day:
Today I went to perform poetry with a buddy of mine at an event for Black incoming students at a nearby University. The performance itself went ok, we were well received. Afterwards a professor approached us for possibly coming to a class of his to talk about hip-hop. (He mentioned the possibility of $$$ compensation which was kinda nice)

Unfortunately on my way there I ran out of gas. (Alhamdulillah it happened close to a rest stop) But this white guy who I never met before saw me having car trouble and actually drove me the rest of the way to my friend's house so I could make it to the performance. Wow, my sense of hope and trust in my fellow man gets a great big boost.

After the performance, and some pizza, my friend and I get a little gallon container of gasoline so I could drive my car to the next gas station. My friend and I go back to that wonderful rest stop which increased my faith in humanity. But after putting the gas in my car and making sure that it would start, an older women with a major case of negrophobia pulls out of the spot next to mine and ends up bumping into my buddy's car while it was standing in the middle of the parking lot. I say she had negrophobia because when my man approached her car to exchange information she absolutely refused to roll down the window or get out of the car until the police came. Apparently based on what she told the police, she must have thought that me and my buddy were going to carjack her or something. She even told the police that my car had "appeared out of nowhere" (even though it had been unmoved and gasless for nearly four hours). Fortunately we had enough evidence to back up our story (my car engine wasn't hot under the hood, we had the receipt for the gas container, the positioning of the cars, etc.). The cop concluded that the incident was the woman's fault but didn't give her a ticket. I think he basically realized she was being paranoid and told us as much after she left.

Negrophobia is something which I think I understand but it is not a condition for which I have a great deal of sympathy. I figure I'm doing my part against negrophobia by going around and NOT mugging and raping folks. But maybe I should do more? Maybe negrophobes need their own telethon? I can just picture it now. Martha Stewart and Wayne Brady could co-host: With performances by Cuba Gooding Jr., Bill Cosby, Levar Burton (He hasn't been Kunta-Kente in a long time), Gary Coleman, Emmanuel Lewis, and Hootie (yeah, I know its not really his name but it is fun to say "Hootie")

But seriously, what is the cure to negrophobia?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

the name guadalupe

More on La Virgen De Guadalupe from La Voz de Aztlan:

As the Moslems swept through Spain in the 8th century, a great religious treasure was buried for safe-keeping in the earth, in the Estremadura Mountains. It was a much venerated statue of Our Lady holding the Divine Child Jesus that was a gift of Pope Gregory the Great to Bishop Leander of Seville. After the overthrow of the Moorish occupation, the image was uncovered in the year 1326, subsequent to a vision of Our Lady to a humble shepherd by the name of Gil. Our Lady's very special statue was enshrined in a nearby Franciscan Monastery next to the "Wolf River."

The Moslems, during their Spanish occupation, had actually named the river. The Islamic term for Wolf River is "Guadalupe" (Guada = River; Lupe = Wolf). Hence, the famous Catholic image in Spain has been known, since the 14th century, by the Islamic name of "Our Lady of Guadalupe."

But it appears as if that etymology is probably mistaken. A more probable version (Which also makes a nicer story) is:

Guadalupe. A river in the Spanish region of Extremadura was named by the Moors in Arabic wad(i)-al-hub 'river of love', due to the reputedly aphrodisiac qualities of its water. This river gave its name to the original sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe which contains a portrait of the Madonna as a woman with dark, Spanish features, nicknamed La Morenita 'the little Moorish woman', the patron saint of the Spanish world. The Spanish town of Guadalupe in Cáceres province is still a centre of pilgrimage.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

more thoughts from the guadalupe candle

Finding the Virgen de Guadalupe candle also reminded me of how sainthood exists within Islam as well. And traditional Islam has always recognized the closeness (wilaya) which some individuals have to Allah, and has also recognized the merit of seeking intercession (tawassul [1] [2]) through a righteous intermediary. Moreover, even in Islam, Mary herself is seen as the holiest woman who ever was. Some even consider her to be a prophet (because the Annunciation was arguably an example of revelation from Gabriel, not unlike the prophet Muhamad [saaws]). In fact, except for the "mother of God" line, the Hail Mary prayer is pretty much (Islamically) orthodox. Alot more could be said on the subject of Mary in Islam, especially in ways which resonate with Planet Grenada (Fatima is one obvious example which comes to mind.). I'll proabably write up certain ideas in the blog in the future as they become clearer.

joan of rice

joan of rice
Image from Project for the OLD American Century

islam in mexico - the spanish conquest

Someone in my building recently threw out one of those big tall candles to La Virgen de Guadalupe (this one happened to be "rose"-scented) and it got me thinking about certain issues and looking up stuff online (which is how I discovered alot of the recent articles I just posted).

One more such interesting article is a piece on the Spanish Conquest from the website of the Muslim Center De Mexico in Morelos which talks about La Virgen and other religious issues in Mexico.

once upon a time in andalusia

A nostalgic look back to Islamic Spain by Dr. Abdellatif Charafi

muslims in the caribbean before columbus

Muslims in the Caribbean Before Columbus by Abdullah Hakim Quick The title of this informative and rich article says it all. Check it out.

jamaica - the muslim legacy

Jamaica - The Muslim Legacy by Sultana Afroz

The spirit of jihad in Jamaica and the West Indies entered a new phase of peaceful consolidation following the jihad of 1831-32; that of replacing slavery by indentureship (1838).

About 16 percent of the 37,000 indentured Indian immigrants who arrived between 1845 and 1917 were Muslims. Despite their small number and the adverse environment, they established Islamic institutions. The inner struggle for self-purification replaced the defensive jihad of the Maroons and the Muslim African slaves. This revitalized Islam in Jamaica. India had been ruled by Muslims from the early 13th century. The Moghuls (1526-1858) enriched India by building a great empire that still is a source of pride in modern India.

Slavery had lost its importance by the 1830s. India and China were prominent in Britain's commerce ad trade, making enormous contributions to its industrialization and economy.

After losing the North American colonies, Britain sought to make India a classical-style colony. The British exchequer knew of the East's immense wealth, as the East India Company's trade in silk, muslin, cotton and piece goods had generated great wealth for Britain since the late seventeenth century.

India was the home of cloth manufacturing and the greatest and almost sole supplier of cotton goods, precious stones, drugs, and other valuable products. Evidence suggests that "all the gold and silver of the universe found a thousand and one channels for entering into India, but there was not a single outlet for the precious metals to go out of the country."

The empire's opulence and religious harmony gave way to violence and plunder as Britain, following its victory at the Battle of Plassey (1857), pursued a divide-and-rule policy. Evidence suggests that probably between Waterloo (1815) and Plassey a sum of £1 billion was transferred from India to British banks. Between 1833-47, another £315 million flowed into the British economy.

But Britain was not content. To meet its labour needs in the British West Indies, Britain exported about 500,000 East Indians to the Caribbean (1838-1917).

Out of 80,000 Muslims, about 6,000 came to Jamaica during the indentureship period. Their small numbers and challenges of plantation life (starvation, un-Islamic diet, deplorable living conditions in barracks shared by 25-50 adults of different origin, ages, sex, religion, kinship, and 9-hour work days) strengthened their spiritual struggle.

Many came from such predominantly Muslim cities as Lucknow, Allahabad, Ghazipur, Gorakpur, and Shahabad, all of which had witnessed the zenith of Islamic culture and social life. These Muslims ensured the preservation of Islamic identity through community solidarity, adherence to Islamic culture and values, and Islamic education.

This unity manifested itself in the establishment of 2 masjids, which institutionalized Islam in Jamaica.

Muhammad Khan, who came to Jamaica in 1915 at the age of 15, built Masjid Ar-Rahman in Spanish Town in 1957, while Westmoreland's Masjid Hussein was built by Muhammad Golaub, who immigrated with his father at the age of 7.

This masjid was named in honor of its first imam, Tofazzal Hussein. The two masjids became the community's spiritual centers, and united the Muslims by teaching them about Islam and its practices. They functioned like the Holy Mosque in Makkah in worship, and like the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah in terms of the community's spiritual, educational, social, and political life. The indentured Muslims laid the foundation of the 8 other masjids established in Jamaica since the 1960s, with the advent of an African Muslim community that now forms the largest Muslim ethnic group.

With the Indian indentured Muslims, and then with others from the Subcontinent, came the rich Moghul culture's culinary arts, fashion, lifestyle, and aesthetic arts. Gastronomy and exotic delicacies and entertainment dishes have been appreciated at state functions, special ceremonies, and restaurants bearing such Moghul names as The Taj Mahal and Akbar.

Since the 1960s, the variety of Moghlai dishes has increased by new immigrants from the Subcontinent. These Moghul-inspired delicacies are cherished in Jamaica, and more particularly in Trinidad and Guyana.


christopher columbus: the facts vs. the myth

The title of this speaks for itself:
Christopher Columbus: The Facts vs. the Myth by O. Altalib looks at the "discovery" from the perspective of at least one Muslim.

spain's islamic past

This is a very brief piece called Spain's Islamic Past by Gerald Butt which uses the Alhambra in Spain as the principal signpost for the Islamic contribution in Spanish history.

remembering (and forgetting) african muslims in the americas

Remembering (and forgetting) African Muslims in the Americas by J A Progler is an interesting discussion of the ways in which Islam was still manifested in the lives of Muslim slaves brought to the Americas. Starting with the Amistad Rebellion and the events of Alex Haley's Roots, this article also mentions that Makandal, a national hero who led a slave revolt in Haiti and was thought of as a "conjurer" was probably Muslim.

islam and columbus' america

I recently found another website with a series of articles on Islamic Spain. One is Islam and Columbus' America: Lessons We Can Learn from the Fall of Islamic Spain by T.B. Irving a Muslim scholar who also produced an "American" English translation of the Quran.

Friday, August 26, 2005

in da club...

Just a quick question I felt like putting out there:
Which is weirder, seeing a Muslim in a nightclub, or seeing a handicapped person in a nightclub?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

mind reading puzzle

Ok, this is off the beaten path for Planet Grenada but it really weirded me out until I understood it. I figured some of you might get a kick out of it.

The Flash Mind Reader

islam and the cultural imperative

Here is an interesting paper from the Nawawi Foundation called Islam and the Cultural Imperative by Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

(description from Nawai Foundation website)
This article addresses the fundamental need for American Muslims - among the most promising, wealthiest and educated Muslim minorities in history - to consciously establish a new, unique cultural identity. To lay down roots and survive, Islam must reflect the good in America’s diverse races and ethnicities. Historically, Islamic jurists have upheld the Prophet’s legal precedent for respecting non-Arabs’ ethnic and cultural differences as long as they did not contravene his teaching. Islam’s spread and triumphant past reflects this glorious global culture. Like a crystal clear river, Islam and sacred law are pure but colorless, until they reflect the Chinese, African, & other bedrock over which they flow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

olé to allah

At there are several dozen articles about Latino/Hispanic Muslims written from different perspectives But one piece I wanted to highlight is the following about "modern-day Moors" in New York:

Olé to Allah: New York's Latino Muslims
by Hisham Aidi
November 11, 1999

On a recent crisp Friday afternoon in El Barrio, the Puerto Rican heart of East Harlem, Ramon Omar Abduraheem Ocasio, Imam of the Alianza Islamica, delivered a khutba (sermon) in Spanish, English and Arabic on fatherhood and responsibility to a motley congregation of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Panamanians, Spaniards, and African Americans. Although it might seem surprising to find a Muslim mosque thriving in such a traditionally Catholic community, organizations like Alianza Islamica represent the ongoing growth of Islam among Latinos in North and South America (pictured).

Founded in 1975 by a group of Puerto Rican converts, the Alianza Islamica (Islamic Alliance) was the United States' first Latino Muslim association. Before its current location at 106th Street and Lexington, the Alianza coordinated its social programs and grassroots initiatives from different bases in East Harlem. The Alianza was founded by men who came of age during the 1960s and were involved in anti-war protests, civil rights protests, and Puerto Rican nationalist movements. Amin, the caretaker of the masjid (mosque), removes his skullcap to show his scarred scalp -- "all from police batons," he chuckles.

The Alianza's social and political engagement resembles the activism of African American Muslim groups. In the Barrio, Latino Muslims have been at the forefront of battles against gang activity, drug dealing and prostitution. The Alianza has confronted gangs and drug posses, trained young men in martial arts as community law enforcers, brokered truces between rival gangs, and mentored jailed members of the Latin Kings, a local Puerto Rican gang. The Alianza's director, Hajj Yahya Figueroa, speaks about Islam and spiritual health at prisons, explains the difference between "el Islam" and "el Farrakhanismo" at rallies, gives "sensitivity talks" to police officers, and has even addressed the United Nations.

And in addition to community work, the Alianza also holds cultural programs, celebrations and weddings which are a fascinating display of the rich syncretism of "Latino Islam," featuring congregational prayers in Arabic, sermons in Spanish and English, traditional Puerto Rican pork dishes served with lamb instead, Spanish poetry slams, and conga jam sessions.

A growing number of Latinos have embraced Islam during the past two decades. In the U.S. alone, Latino mosques now exist in Los Angeles, New York, Newark, and Chicago, and the community is estimated to be 40,000-strong. The appearance of Latino Muslims is due in part to the growing Latino presence in U.S. inner cities and their subsequent exposure to African American Muslims. On an ideological level, Latino Muslims have been profoundly influenced by their African American counterparts, adopting similar ideas of spiritual self-discovery and emancipation in their approach to Islamic theology.

Like many African American Muslims, Latino Muslims celebrate a glorious past rooted in Africa -- their rhetoric often romanticizes Islamic Spain, the civilization established by the Moors, the Muslims from northern Africa who dominated Spain from the 8th to the 15th century.

Like most Latino Muslims in the U.S., Imam Ocasio acknowledges the influence of African American Muslims, but also points to important differences. "Yes," he smiles, agreeing that black American Muslims have had a significant impact on Latino converts, but unlike our African American brothers, we do not change our last name upon conversion. "Latino Muslims don't have to," he proudly explains, "because many Spanish last names -- like 'Medina' -- are actually Muslim."

Members of the Alianza Islamica share a view of Latin American and Spanish history that is increasingly aired by a younger generation of intellectuals who question the "Westernness" of Western culture. Latino Muslims like Imam Ocasio reject the idea that their culture came wholly from Europe, and instead trace their cultural ancestry to northern Africa. "Most of the people who came to Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean were from southern Spain, Andalusia," Ocasio explains. "They were Moriscos, Moors forcefully converted to Christianity. The leaders, army generals, curas [priests] were white men from northern Spain... sangre azul [blue bloods] as they were called. The southerners, who did the menial jobs, slaves, artisans, foot soldiers, were of mixed Arab and African descent. They were stripped of their religion and culture, brought to the so-called New World where they were enslaved with African slaves. But the Moriscos never lost their culture."

According to Ocasio, there are many Islamic and Moorish elements in Latin culture; he says that the Spanish "ojala" is derived from the Arabic "insha'allah" (both expressions mean God willing), while the Spanish exclamation "olé" comes from "Allah." Some scholars seem to agree. "In a sense, no single word could be said to encapsulate as such Spanish history as that three-letter word 'Olé,' " one historian wrote recently. "'Olé' is the Spanish adaptation of 'Allah', the Arabic word for God. So when Spaniards say 'Olé' at a bullfight, they are saying Praise 'Allah'." Ocasio also sees Islamic influences in Spanish and Latin American architecture. "[Just look at the] fountains, tiles, arches," he says. "You want proof that many artisans and workers were secretly Muslim? There are churches and cathedrals in Latin America which were built facing Mecca."

The debate over the Moorish influence in Spanish culture dates back to the early 20th century. While at that time many scholars refused to acknowledge Spain's Muslim and African past, or saw it as a negative influence if they admitted it at all, a few sought to celebrate that heritage. The poet Manuel Machado proudly declared himself a member of the "Moorish race, a race from the land of the sun," and the celebrated Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca confessed his "feeling for those who are persecuted...the Negro...the Morisco." But it was much more common for Spanish intellectuals to dispute the extent of the Moorish influences and to look on that past with hostility.

Now, younger critics are questioning and challenging the origins of Spanish literary and philosophical traditions that have previously been held to be quintessentially and inviolably "Western." Many scholars have identified African and Islamic influences in Spanish literature, music and thought, and have even traced those influences to the New World, particularly the Spanish Caribbean. The work of scholars like Lucia Lopez-Baralt, a professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico, and the Cuban historian Maria-Rosa Menocal, would seem to support the contention of Latino Muslims like Imam Ocasio, that the Spanish Caribbean owes a tremendous cultural debt to the Moors.

Many even claim that the first non-Indian language to ever be spoken in the New World was Arabic -- Columbus set sail for the Americas, the story goes, with a crew of Moriscos and a Jewish translator, Luis de Torres, who spoke Arabic; upon landing in La Hispa?ola (now the Dominican Republic), de Torres is said to have addressed the local Indian chief in the language of the Koran: "Asalam Aleykum." With such history to refer to, for Ocasio and members of the Alianza Islamica, converting to Islam is like reclaiming a lost Muslim and African heritage.

The Alianza's banner, hanging proudly in front of the organization's two-story converted townhouse, unabashedly celebrates this revisionist view of Latino history: against a red, white and blue backdrop stands a sword-wielding Moor, flanked by a Taino Indian (one of the indigenous inhabitants of Puerto Rico) and a black African. The Spanish Conquistador -- "who raped and pillaged" -- is simply left out.

Cultural pride, alienation, and the Barrio's wretched social and economic situation, have at least partly influenced the Latino Muslims' rejection of Christianity, which many regard as the faith of a guilty and uncaring establishment.

But in rejecting Catholicism, many Latino Muslims have alienated friends and family. Khadija, who "reverted" to Islam 26 years ago, says her family was opposed to her becoming a Muslim. "My father used to pull the veil off my head," she recalls. "My mother used to cook with pork tallow. It was war." One evangelical group on 107th Street, a block from the Alianza, was also aggressively opposed to the Muslims' activities, but most Barrio residents now view the Alianza with curiosity and respect because of its community service work. As part of an AIDS outreach program, the Alianza gave lectures on HIV infection and drug abuse, helped the sick get treatment, and gave free iftar meals (festive gatherings at which Muslims break their day-long fast) during the holy month of Ramadan. "We were called the AIDS group," remembers Mohamed Mendez, the Alianza's Education Officer.

Although the local Latino community has been largely supportive of the Alianza, some non-Latino Muslims have not. Mendez says many Arab and Pakistani Muslims seem critical of the Latinos' efforts to adopt Islam. Immigrant Muslims sometimes attend djumma (Friday) prayers at the Alianza, but they often criticize the group's command of Arabic and their understanding of Islam; one Pakistani Muslim even said that Puerto Ricans are "too promiscuous" to be "good" Muslims. And in fact, the Alianza is actually being ousted from its current location by an immigrant Muslim landlord.

Despite the hostility of some Asian and Middle Eastern Muslims, the Alianza's director, Hajj Yahya Figueroa, is undaunted, and hopes to establish a dawah (proselytizing) center in the South Bronx. "In Harlem, about three people take the shahada [convert to Islam] each month," he says. We could get a bigger following in the Bronx."

Wherever the Alianza ends up, it will probably continue to grow and thrive, and will certainly continue to celebrate the Spanish Caribbean's Muslim African roots. "We are reclaiming our history after a 500 year hiatus," Imam Ocasio proclaimed at a recent Alianza event. The Catholics never successfully stripped the Moors of their identity. "We are the cultural descendents of the Moors."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Massive Anti-War Event Sept. 24 in Washington DC

Two groups: United For Peace and Justice and A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) are both planning events in D.C. for the weekend of September 24.The primary purpose of the gatherings is to speak out on the war in Iraq, but larger issues are also being invoked.

Past Planet Grenada entry on the event

a turning point

United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) is coordinating a three-day antiwar mobilization on September 24–26 in Washington, D.C. Here is a brief interview between mobilizing coordinator L.A. Kauffman and In These Times about preparations for the event.

pat robertson is evil: reason #873

Pat Robertson calls for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (on video)

From the August 22 broadcast of The 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

(courtesy of the left side of the dial)

Monday, August 22, 2005

no place for me

A Washington Post piece called No Place for Me about the disconnect between Black males and the Black Church.

new spirit in the mosque

Here is a nice brief story on inclusion and diversity at the Mission Viejo Masjid in Southern California titled Islam: A New Welcoming Spirit in the Mosque.

Although I wonder how "new" the spirit is. Most mosques I've been to are pretty much integrated. Congregations in downtown areas or near college campuses tend to have a balanced mix between African-American, Arab and Desi members. Neighborhood congregations reflect the population of the neighborhood.

On the other hand, I grew up going to a Hispanic church which is currently right across the alley from a white church of the same denomination!

Unfortunately, most of the major denominations still practice segregation in local churches, hospitals, schools, and other church institutions. It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when many are standing to sing: "In Christ There Is No East Nor West."
~Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958 (source)

That's not to say that things are perfect in the mosque. Sometimes interactions across ethnic lines don't go much deeper than a salaam and a smile. But (unlike many churches) at least people are worshiping together, and praying in the same line. And then their kids are playing together, and going to the same Islamic schools and programs. And pretty soon... that's how you get the kind of interactions mentioned in the Newsweek piece. It is interesting to think about what the future will hold in terms of Muslims and race-relations in the US.

(courtesy of negrophile)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

tariq ali

Tariq Ali was mentioned in the last entry as a member of Telesur's board. In spite of his name he's actually not Muslim, but comes from a secular post-colonial perspective. So basically, he wants the US to stay out of brown folk's business, but once the US stays out, he still wouldn't want the religious forces to take over. Interesting guy. I saw him give a speech on the US occupation of Iraq when his book "Clash of Fundamentalisms" came out. When I have more time, I plan on reading more of his stuff.

Tariq Ali's entry on Wikipedia
Tariq Ali's page on ZNET
Tariq Ali's page from the New Left Review

telesur - "latin america's al-jazeera"

The new Pan-Latin American tv Channel Telesur began broadcasting recently to bring news from a Latin American perspective. It is backed by the governments of Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay who say they want it to promote Latin American integration. The driving force has been Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose government has contributed 70 percent of Telesur's financing and owns 51 percent of the channel. The channel's board members include a group of international supporters including the actor Danny Glover, the writer Tariq Ali and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

The "Latin American 'Al-Jazeera'" is already ruffling feathers. Before the new channel even started broadcasting, the US House of Representatives passed an amendment to call for the US government to broadcast its own channel in the region to counter Telesur's influence.

That's sort of a disturbing thought. The image just flashed in my mind of a more tan version of Tom Cruise, only with a Latin accent saying "I want the truth!" while a US congressman with an uncanny resemblance to Jack Nicholson replies "You can't handle the truth!".

Telesur's Website
BBC News story about Telesur
Democracy Now! story about Telesur (includes excerpt from interview with Telesur's president)

Friday, August 19, 2005

that old-time religion... not!

A recent Guardian piece written by Karen Armstrong called Unholy Strictures makes the interesting observation that fundamentalism is actually a new thing(bida) in the history of Christianiity and Islam. Even though fundamentalists often claim to follow the "Old Time Religion", it would be more accurate to see them as being part of a recent reaction to the influence of modern science.
Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation. Preoccupation with literal truth is a product of the scientific revolution, when reason achieved such spectacular results that mythology was no longer regarded as a valid path to knowledge.

We tend now to read our scriptures for accurate information, so that the Bible, for example, becomes a holy encyclopaedia, in which the faithful look up facts about God. Many assume that if the scriptures are not historically and scientifically correct, they cannot be true at all. But this was not how scripture was originally conceived. All the verses of the Qur'an, for example, are called "parables" (ayat); its images of paradise, hell and the last judgment are also ayat, pointers to transcendent realities that we can only glimpse through signs and symbols.

We distort our scriptures if we read them in an exclusively literal sense.

According to Armstrong, one difference which contributes to the growth of fundamentalism is the fact that, in the past, the scriptures were primarily performed orally and taught in context, in the presence of a teacher. But now, with widespread literacy, it is easier for individuals to (mis)read the texts, out of context, selectively for themselves.

I don't want to sound like an Amish caveman or anything, but it is important to realize that every example of "progress" in history, every step forward, typically comes with a price. In the West, some good things came out of the Reformation but it also led to a certain amount of chaos and violence as well. And in the case of Islam, it is traditional Islam (Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaat) the classical understandings which have been dominant for most of Islamic history, which are for the most part more tolerant and peaceful than the modern "reform" movements which tend to carry the label "Fundamentalist" who are involved in much of the violence giving Islam a bad name.

(ps. i found the Armstrong story from anarchoakbar)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

making face, making soul

In the course of looking for more information about Gloria Anzaldua and Borderlands online I found the following website about Chicana feminism. Making Face, Making Soul is actually the name of a book which Gloria Anzaldua edited and contains an interesting and inspiring collection of texts about feminism and women of color.

The WEBSITE Making Face, Making Soul is here and has a pretty interesting bunch of links on a similar set of topics.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

immortal technique: volume 2

So I finally got Immortal Technique's Revolution, Volume 2. It's a pretty good follow-up to Volume 1. I wasn't disappointed. I bought it at a local store which is something like a cross between a lefty book store and a head shop. They also happened to have a good selection of music including "underground" and political hip-hop

Here is a brief interview with Immortal Technique from

And here are some previous Planet Grenada entires about the man:
[1], [2], [3]

black muslims in the uk

Given the recent piece on Afro-Caribbean people in the UK, I thought it would be good to recap some older entries on the subject. The Forbidden Dialogues is a book which I blogged about early on. And I later included an excerpt from that same book in an entry titled laughing lions.

race, islam and terrorism

Most African-Caribbean men who become Muslims do so because it gives their lives hope and meaning

Robert Beckford
Tuesday August 16, 2005
The Guardian

I met a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo at a university function at the end of the summer term. A well-educated academic, he had escaped the civil war engulfing his country. In the middle of our conversation on the state of Africa, he reminded me that there were "many well-educated white males engaged in acts of terror" in his country.

He was not referring to suicide bombers but to middle-class corporate executives who fund warlords and low-rank politicians in exchange for access to diamonds and other precious minerals. Their act of terror was to be party to the ethnic cleansing, rape, child abduction and murder conducted by the renegades they financed. Conscious of the dangers of stereotyping, I replied: "Surely not all white males involved in business in Africa are bad? I'm certain many get involved in business with the best of intentions but are seduced by the lure of profits."

Introducing the subject of "race" into the analysis of any area of social conflict can enlighten or obscure the real causes of distress. And this perilous pathway has been followed in some of the news coverage of young black men and domestic terrorism.
The Jamaican origins of Jermaine Lindsay, one of the July 7 suicide bombers, has prompted some to ask why a disproportionate number of black males are attracted to extremism. Lindsay, 19, had spent the vast proportion of his life in England, which made tenuous the tabloid obsession with his place of birth. Intriguingly there was less of a clamour over the ethnicity of Richard Reid, the notorious "shoe bomber", who had a white mother and a black father. In the case of David Copeland, the white, racist, homophobic nail-bomber, there was no analysis of a potential relationship between ethnicity, extremism and terror.

Black men converting to Islam should be placed within the religious context of their communities, where religion still matters. African-Caribbean men and women continue to turn out in large numbers for religious activities. But Islam is able to do what the black church cannot - attract black men.

I have spent most of my working life in conversation with African-Caribbean converts to Islam. Two relationships stand out. I have an ongoing dialogue with an artist who converted in the mid-90s. His journey began when he listened to tapes of African-American Muslim preachers while at graduate school in America. The tapes made a clearcut link between a commitment to Allah and black liberation from poverty, drugs, gangs and meaninglessness. His first visit to a predominantly African-American mosque was life-changing. Hundreds of smartly dressed black men full of self-belief, black pride, purpose and respect immediately became role models.

This is still the case today. Many black men, including Reid and Lindsay, were impressed by Islam's African-centred preaching and positive association with blackness. After all, one of the most powerful icons of the 20th century, Malcolm X, made the journey from Christianity to Islam in search of black redemption. My artist friend says mainstream Islam provides him with a social awareness and commitment to justice that is mostly ignored in black churches.

I have a nephew who recently converted while serving a prison sentence. Spending an inordinate amount of time alone in his cell, he took to reading the Bible and the Qur'an to pass the time. Intrigued by the notion that Islam was the last testament, God's final revelation, he pursued his interest by attending lessons with the imam assigned to the prison chaplaincy. Convinced, he became a devotee.

It was clear to me that the daily regime of Islam provided him with the tools for personal discipline and an interest in intellectual thought. He gained qualifications while inside and, most importantly, became completely dissociated from criminal activity. Having left prison, he continues to live devoutly, and is employed in a management position.

Most African-Caribbean men converting to Islam do so because it is a religion with a capacity to give their lives hope and meaning. This is not a new idea. As long ago as 1888, the Caribbean educator Edward Wilmot Blyden argued that Islam was more respectful of black culture and easier to translate into Caribbean culture than Christianity.

There will always be a few captivated by extremist versions of Islam that exploit the continued disaffection and marginalisation of working-class black youth. After all, with as little potential for social mobility as their migrant grandparents, it is difficult to sell them the New Labour dream of living in a meritocratic "stakeholder" society.

As is the case with the white middle-class corporate executives who see no ethical boundaries preventing them from working for exploitative multinationals in Africa, which displace and destroy the lives of tens of thousands, there will always be a small number of impressionable converts, from the poorest communities, who are lured on to the paths of unrighteousness.

Robert Beckford is a lecturer in African diasporan religions and cultures at the University of Birmingham


boondocks tv show

Exclusive interview with Aaron McGruder about the upcoming Boondocks television show from C.H.U.D. (Cinematic Happenings Under Development)

aaron mcgruder

Here is an old post 9/11 interview with Boondock's creator Aaron McGruder from the Refuse and Resist site.

boondocks: livejournal

Here is a livejournal which echoes some recent Boondocks strips.

boondocks: public enemy #2

So I recently bought the latest Boondocks collection, Public Enemy #2 To be honest, it was a little disppointing but I'm a big fan so I had high expectations. It was funny, but not gut-busting laugh-out-loud funny. It was good. But I felt like it would have been better if it had a little more scathing political humor, and a little less momma jokes. I don't regret buying it, but I didn't have to rush.

in this time of war against osama...

In this time of war against Osama bin Laden and the oppressive Taliban regime, we are thankful that OUR leader isn't the spoiled son of a powerful politician from a wealthy oil family who is supported by religious fundamentalists, operates through clandestine organizations, has no respect for the democratic electoral process, bombs innocents, and uses war to deny people their civil liberties. Amen.

-Huey Freeman's Thanksgiving Prayer

languages dying

Here is an Al-Jazeera piece entitled Languages in Danger of Dying Out about how in some parts of the world, certain languages are in danger of disappearing altogether and how important it is to do something to save them.

As Wade Davis, an anthropologist who roams the world as an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, wrote: "Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, an ecosystem of spiritual possibilities."

my son, the fanatic

Here is a review of the film My Son, The Fanatic by Muslim poet, Marvin X, connecting the film to the recent events in London.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

ending poem

There is a theme in alot of Latino poetry. There are alot of pieces out there which talk about the experience of being part of a diaspora and being caught in the middle of multiple worlds.

Ending Poem
by Rosario Morales and Aurora Levins Morales

I am what I am.
A child of the Americas.
A light-skinned mestiza of the Caribbean.
A child of many diaspora, born into this continent at a
I am Puerto Rican. I am U.S. American.
I am New York Manhattan and the Bronx.
A mountain-born, country-bred, homegrown jibara child,
up from the shtetl, a California Puerto Rican Jew
A product of the New York ghettos I have never known.
I am an immigrant
and the daughter and granddaughter of many immigrants.
We didn’t know our forbears’ names with a certainty.
They aren’t written anywhere.
First names only or mija, negra, ne, honey, sugar, dear

I come from the dirt where the cane was grown.
My people didn’t go to dinner parties. They weren’t
I am caribeña, island grown.
Spanish is in my flesh, ripples from my tongue, lodges
in my hips,
the language of garlic and mangoes.
Boricua. As Boricuas come from the isle of Manhattan.
I am of latinoamerica, rooted in the history of my
I speak from that body. Just brown and pink and full of
drums inside.

I am not African.
Africa waters the roots of my tree, but I cannot return.

I am not Taìna.
I am a late leaf of that ancient tree,
and my roots reach into the soil of two Americas.
Taìno is in me, but there is no way back.

I am not European, though I have dreamt of those cities.
Each plate is different.
wood, clay, papier machè, metals basketry, a leaf, a
coconut shell.
Europe lives in me but I have no home there.

The table has a cloth woven by one, dyed by another,
embroidered by another still.
I am a child of many mothers.
They have kept it all going.

All the civilizations erected on their backs.
All the dinner parties given with their labor.
We are new.
They gave us life, kept us going,
brought us to where we are.
Born at a crossroads.
Come, lay that dishcloth down. Eat, dear, eat.

History made us.
We will not eat ourselves up inside anymore.

And we are whole.

When I'm not in a critical mood, the piece has a nice ring to it. But when I put my thinking cap on, I get mixed feelings about the poem. I can probably blog about it more later on, but the basic question I would want to raise is whether this joyful image of mestizaje allows for or is consistent with Pan-Africanism? Actually, I had this same question when I first read Gloria Anzaldua's book Borderlands/La Frontera. She went on and on about being a mestiza and combining the best elements of different worlds. But then if I replace "mestizo" with "mulatto" it just has an incredibly different ring to it and raises the question of whether Anzaldua (or before her Vasconcelos with his idea of La Raza Cosmica) is saying there is something wrong with being "just" Black?

Just something to think about.

gustavo perez firmat

Cuban-American writer Gustavo Perez Firmat also has had some interesting results playing with Spanglish poetry...

Bilingual Blues

Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones.
I have mixed feelings about everything.
Name your tema, I’ll hedge;
name your cerca, I’ll straddle it
like a cubano.

I have mixed feelings about everything.
Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones.
Vexed, hexed, complexed,
hyphenated, oxygenated, illegally alienated,
psycho soy, cantando voy:
You say tomato,
I say tu madre;
You say potato,
I say Pototo.
Let’s call the hole
un hueco, the thing
a cosa, and if the cosa goes into the hueco,
consider yourself en casa,
consider yourself part of the family.

Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones,
un puré de impurezas:
a little square from Rubik’s Cuba
que nadie nunca acoplará.

brenda cardenas

Brenda Cardenas is a Chicana poet from the Midwest who has done some interesting things with writing in Spanglish. If you click on her name you can find links to other pieces of hers. But this is one I wanted to include.

Al Mestizaje

In mi gente's hips, el clave
and from mi gente's lips, sale
a fluid, funky lingo fusion
that fools among you call intrusion
but purity is an illusion.
So if you can't dig la mezcla, 。chale!

Es Indio, Africana, Gitana, Americano,
Europeo con nada feo y todo vale:
El papalote, el aguacate, el tecolote, el cacahuate,
y las rucas en sus troques parqueando con los chucos.
Es que muchas palabras inventamos.
Son los brazos en abrazos
y el gas en tus chingazos
that always make us strong.
Es el ソque? en nuestro choque,
el 。ole! in mi pozole
que siempre give us song.

Hay un oso en sabroso
y tanto ajo in carajo!
que la verdad requiere ver,
y no podemos hacer nada sin un ser.
En la mente de mi gente que es tan inteligente,
hermanos se levantan las manos
y todos los derechos están hechos.
。Echale! Es como anda la banda. 。Echale!

Watcha! Mi Totacha te da catos, un mitote de Caló.
Es la lengua de mis cuates, un cuetazo Chicano.
We call Allah with 。ojala!
and send Dios with adios,
and the al in tamal feeds us all. 。Orale

decolonized tongue

It is a bit hard to explain exactly what I'm getting at but this past week also made me want to experiment more with finding my own poetic world, my own language and voice. Kind of how Five Percenters or Rastas have their own "language" and terminology. And some poets like Saul Williams or Reggie Gibson have also come up with special terms which set up re-occurring themes in their work across several poems. I think it would be a good way to develop a certain kind of distinctiveness to my writing which I would like to play with for a while. At the same time, I wouldn't want to become susceptible to the criticism: "Just because folks don't understand you doesn't make you deep".

I also want to write more pieces in Spanglish, not just writing pieces in English where I throw in references to yucca and frijoles negros every once in a while, but really make use of both languages, breathing with both lungs so to speak. It should be interesting.

If I have any progress on either of these two fronts I'll probably share the results down the road.

inspiring and humbling

Being at the Poetry Slam was inspiring and humbling all at the same time. Inspiring because of the beautiful words which we were hearing on a regular basis. Humbling due to the level of competition. Every day I would see people walking on the street whom I had seen on HBO's Def Poetry Jam or who definitely should be, and they were in the competition like everyone else. "Oh look there is Taylor Mali peeing!" or "Oh look there's Mayda Del Valle walking down the street!" (Actually, Taylor was competing but Mayda was not)

For me personally, poetry has been more of a hobby, but other folks were definitely thinking about it as a career move. And so they had the hunger and the hustle which comes with that. Given all those factors, I feel good about how our team did. We were in the middle of the pack in terms of overall rankings but we were also invited to perform one of our pieces at a showcase. InshaAllah, we'll do better next year,

the grass is always greener...

Sometimes I wonder if some transgender people are like the Michael Jacksons of their gender? I mean, I'm sure there are many transgendered people who are born physically different or with ambiguous anatomy or unusual hormone levels. But I wonder if for some it has more to do with psychology and experience. For one reason or another, they have such an antipathy to their own sex that they feel a need to switch teams.

Perhaps if you are born a man in a patriarchal society, then "being a man" can bring with it so much responsibility that some people don't want the job and so they quit. The same could be said in the opposite case as well. But to be honest, I don't really know. I'm just speculating. I think in the ideal society there would be mildly distinct gender roles but they would fit together hand in glove. The rights and responsibilities would balance out so that individuals would feel respected, and no one would feel overburdened or exploited.

surreal moment

Just last night I saw a black man wearing a t-shirt that said "White Trash" across the front.

did you see that guy wearing the dress?

I've touched on gender issues before ( [1] [2] [3] ) But this past week made some of the questions more salient. One of the funny things about the poetry slam was that if someone asked you "Hey, did you see the guy wearing the dress?" you actually had ask "Which one?" (There were at least 3). Also, several of the poets would have identified themselves as transgendered. One was an Asian person who was at the very very beginning of a female to male transformation. So they had not undergone any surgery or hormone treatments, but they were still asking people to refer to "him" with the masculine pronoun. This person wore something under their clothes to flatten their breasts and was considering a hysterectomy.

It raises all sorts of questions: What does it mean to say a person is "male" or "female"? Is it genetic (XX or XY)? Is it anatomical? Is it a matter of external behavior? Is it internal psychology? If you are interacting with an individual who has a different definition of gender than you do, are you a bigot if you act according to your own definition instead of theirs? Does it matter if we are talking about bathrooms and locker rooms instead of the grocery store?

But I wonder, right now, society is in the middle of a transition when it comes to our collective understanding of sex and gender. What are the implications of all those changes? At the end of the day when all the dust has settled will we see all these changes as positive overall or something else? In one of his books, I think that S.H. Nasr describes Islam as a patriarchal religion (presumably he intends this in a "good" way). Is it possible that some stability and "rigidity" in gender roles is healthy? Or is a society where people freely play with gender lines closer to the ideal?

Monday, August 15, 2005

conference on spiritual activism

Also from Alt.Muslim, a review of the "Conference on Spiritual Activism" by Shaikh Kabir Helminski. The conference was organized by Tikkun magazine and seemed to be geared around promoting a kind of progressive spirituality among Jews, Christians, Muslims and other communities. For more info, click on the included link.

sleeper cell

From Alt.Muslim, an article on an upcoming show on Showtime called Sleeper Cell where an African-American Muslim FBI agent tries to infiltrate a terrorist sleeper cell. With Muslims, both in front of and behind the camera, one hopes that the show won't be blatantly stereotypical when it comes to religion.

The fact that a show like this is appearing on cable (rather than broadcast tv) reminds me of how at one point I would have said that the most sympathetic and human portrayal of Muslims on tv was on the HBO series, Oz which was set in a prison, and the Muslims were all inmates.

I wonder if it has something to do with the creative freedom possible on cable, or if it is something else?

african-american muslims

By Maura Jane Farrelly
New York
12 August 2005

When reporting on Islam in America, the media often focus on immigrant communities, either from the Middle East or from Southeast Asia. But as many as 40% of the Muslims in this country were born here, and their families have been living in America for generations. By some estimates, African Americans are the largest single ethnic group within America's diverse Muslim population. And until recently, black Muslims felt somewhat alienated from their immigrant religious brethren.

It should be stated from the outset that the overwhelming majority of African-American Muslims are Sunni Muslims. They do not subscribe to the racist ideology of the Nation of Islam, which says white people were created by the Devil to test black people. It is a common misconception that all African-American Muslims belong to this controversial group, when in fact most practice a racially inclusive form of Islam that -- theologically, at least -- is just like the Islam practiced in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. That does not mean, though, that African-American Muslims are exactly like the immigrants with whom they share a faith.

"My generation of Islamic reverts came out of a social movement here in the United States, says Muhaimina Abdul-Hakim, who has belonged to the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, New York, sine 1972. "The Civil Rights movement and Black Nationalism. So we had a different political ideology about America in the first place."

Ms. Abdul-Hakim very consciously refers to herself as a "re-vert," rather than a "convert," because she sees her conversion to Islam as a return to the faith of her ancestors. The first Muslims in America were slaves, brought here from Africa in the 17th century. Like so many other black Muslims her age, she converted at a time of great social change in the United States. And because of this, there is still a strong desire within the African-American Muslim community to change America's socio-economic structure.

That desire is not necessarily shared by the immigrant Muslim community. According to , Richard Turner, who teaches Religious Studies at the University of Iowa the two groups come from different economic classes. "Immigrant Muslims, who came to the United States in their largest numbers after some very unfair immigration laws were rescinded around 1965 are, for the most part, very well educated," he says. "They are for the most part members of the middle class and the upper class. You know, they're not poor people. And certainly African-American Muslims have always had a social justice agenda."

That agenda that involves challenging the status quo-rather than simply working to succeed within it. It is this different attitude about life in America that has led to some tensions between the two different communities of Muslims. Many black Muslims believe their immigrant counterparts came to the United States with a negative impression of African-Americans, and that until very recently, they had little interest in changing that impression. "You know, what people basically know about each other is what they see on television," says Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, who oversees the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem. "And many of the (19)70s and '80s television shows that project buffoon-like imagery, or 'pimp-daddy' type imagery of African-Americans -- those television programs are all overseas. So people, as far as they know, that's what African-Americans are like."

It is a problem that Imam Abdur-Rashid says was not always acknowledged on the immigrant side until after September 11th, 2001, when many innocent immigrant Muslims were targeted as terrorists, either by the U.S. government or by average, native-born citizens. Since then, immigrants have been turning to their African-American religious brethren for guidance, according to Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, a predominantly immigrant group. "Immigrant Muslims have learned a lot from the African-American experience," he says. "The struggle through [the] Civil Rights movement has given us a rich experience that African-Americans had in this country. And we are proud of that, and we are learning from that."

What many immigrant Muslims and their children are learning is that collective protest can be powerful. Recalling a rally he attended at an immigration center a couple of years ago, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid says he was struck by how familiar the speeches were. "I marveled as I stood listening to young people -- Muslims who are of Southern Asian and Arab descent -- they were giving speeches and what have you. And their cadence, their method of delivery was African-American," he says. "I watched a young lady of Pakistani descent who stood up and led the crowd in chants of 'No Justice, No Peace,' and yes, that only comes about as a result of this unique social dynamic."

Both Imam Talib Abur-Rashid and Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America say that 'unique social dynamic' between native-born and immigrant Muslims is creating a new, progressive, and multi-cultural American approach to Islam that is unlike anything found in the Middle East or Asia.


america's muslim ghettos

America's Muslim Ghettos by Salam Al-Marayati is a brief Washington Post article suggesting that the Muslim community's relative isolation from the mainstream contributes to terrorism and radicalism and so a solution would be to foster a sense of inclusion and belonging.

revolutionary spanish lesson

This has got to be one of my favorite Martin Espada poems. Sometimes you just get in one of those moods....

Revolutionary Spanish Lesson

Whenever my name
is mispronounced,
I want to buy a toy pistol,
put on dark sunglasses,
push my beret to an angle,
comb my beard to a point,
hijack a busload
of Republican tourists from Wisconsin,
force them to chant anti-American slogans
in Spanish,
and wait for the bilingual SWAT team
to helicopter overhead,
begging me to be reasonable

by martin espada

This week someone did me the incredible honor of telling me that my work reminded them of Martin Espada. I was just in a bookstore this afternoon looking through an anthology of his work and I found a piece of his which I don't think I've seen before but I really liked and thought I'd share.

For the Jim Crow Mexican Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts Where My Cousin Esteban Was Forbidden to Wait Tables Because He Wears Dreadlocks

I have noticed that the hostess in peasant dress,
the wait staff and the boss
share the complexion of a flour tortilla.
I have spooked the servers at my table
by trilling the word burrito.
I am aware of your T-shirt solidarity
with the refugees of the Americas,
since they steam in your kitchen.
I know my cousin Esteban the sculptor
rolled tortillas in your kitchen with the fingertips
of ancestral Puerto Rican cigarmakers.
I understand he wanted to be a waiter,
but you proclaimed his black dreadlocks unclean,
so he hissed in Spanish
and his apron collapsed on the floor.

May La Migra handcuff the wait staff
as suspected illegal aliens from Canada;
may a hundred mice dive from the oven
like diminutive leaping dolphins
during your Board of Health inspection;
may the kitchen workers strike, sitting
with folded hands as enchiladas blacken
and twisters of smoke panic the customers;
may a Zapatista squadron commander the refrigerator,
liberating a pillar of tortillas at gunpoint;
may you hallucinate dreadlocks
braided in thick vines around your ankles;
and may the Aztec gods pinned like butterflies
to the menu wait for you in the parking lot
at midnight, demanding that you spell their names.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

national poetry slam

Just got back from Albuquerque tonight. I had an amaaaaaaazing time. I will probably share over several different entries. But now, I must sleep.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

sepia mutiny

I just "discovered" an interesting Southeast Asian blog called Sepia Mutiny

judge not, lest ye be judged...

On a brief private note, I will say that a few years ago a Turkish guy who lived in my building did something which was horribly offensive to me and I took it very personally and made me lose alot of respect for him on multiple levels. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth and actually even affected how I viewed other Muslims. Anyway, I had a sobering moment recently when I realized that I had recently been doing something very similar except worse. When you point a finger at someone, there are three more pointing back at you.

Monday, August 08, 2005

islam, past, present, and future: summary

I'm stealing so much content, that someone ought to cut off the right-click button from my mouse. Anyway, from The Manrilla Blog here is an entry called: Islam, Past, Present & Future: Summary describing a recent talk given by Prof. Sherman Abdul-Hakim Jackson at U Penn about the development and maturation of the community of Blackamerican (one word) Muslims. Read this, especially if you are one.

afro-cuban music loses two giants

And from the Black Entertainment Site, AFRO-CUBAN MUSIC LOSES TWO GIANTS: We remember Cuban vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer and jazz bassist Al McKibbon They say these things happen in threes. I suddenly wish I didn't have to fly in a plane tomorrow morning. (Keep me in mind as you do your duas, prayers, chants, invocations, and pouring libations).

ibrahim ferrer dies

From the BBC News, Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer dies
And an older piece on Ibrahim Ferrer from the AfroCubaWeb site
And Wikipedia on Ibrahim Ferrer
Inna Lilahi wa Inna Ilahi Rajioon

Sunday, August 07, 2005

al-ahram does a story on muslim hip-hop

The Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram recently published a piece called Hip-Hop Islam by Hesham Samy Abdel-Alim on how hip-hop has gone global and interacted with the Muslim world (where "Muslim" is used to include Nation folks and Five Percenters as well as Sunnis) From Mos Def and Public Enemy and Wu-Tang to more recent musicians from the Middle East, hip-hop is making connections.

christian reconstructionism

Christian Reconstructionism is movement which has been quietly but steadily gaining influence these days. They believe "that every area dominated by sin must be 'reconstructed' in terms of the Bible." More specifically they want society to be run according to their understanding of Old Testament law. So some of the leaders of this Christian movement have openly called for establishing the death penalty for actions such as sodomy, blasphemy, and being a rebellious offspring (And they endorse stoning as their prefered method of execution.) They even talk about legalizing slavery and flirt with Holocaust revisionism. The more hard-core end of the movement blurs into the racist and militant right-wing of the Christian Church but their ideas (not always under the label of "Christian Reconstructionism") are still influencing more mainstream Christians.

They are sometimes called the "American Taliban" by their critics but I'm not sure who should be more insulted by the label. The existence of groups like these help to show that just as there are also many different kinds of Muslims, there are also many different kinds of Christians. And instead of painting all "Christians" or all "Muslims" or "Buddhists" with the same brush, we should look examine why a particular set of conditions (whether economic, political, historical or social) might tend to produce different kinds of believers (from the deeply spiritual philanthropist to the deely troubled fanatic)

Here is a short, relatively "neutral" overview of Christian Reconstructionism from the Religious Movement Homepage.

To learn more about the mainstreaming of Reconstructionist ideas you can read Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence by Frederick Clarkson

Here is a categorized list of statements by Reconstructionist leaders on various subjects including "the Indian", "the Negro", "stoning" and "world conquest". (Links to more extensive critical discussions of the movement are available from the homepage)

And just to be fair, here is what the movement is about, straight from the horse's... mouth. The most prominent Christian Reconstrctionist organization is called the Chalcedon foundation and here is their website.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

intelligent design

On the Gene Expression blog yesterday. there were some thoughtful remarks on the whole "intelligent design" contraversy. (I didn't agree with the thrust, but the way the issues were laid out seemed useful to me).

And on Islam Online, last month there was a piece by Ahmed K. Sultan Salem called The Non-Science of Intelligent Design. Salem tries to walk the line betwteen asserting (since he is Muslim) that the universe actually does have an intelligent Designer, while still being critical of ID as a movement. Personally, I'm coming down to a similar position but I want to think about the subject a little more before inflicting my ideas on my readers...

Wikipedia on Intelligent Design and the Intelligent design movement

Friday, August 05, 2005

patrimonio lingüístico de orígen árabe en el idioma español

Similar list to the last one except from a Spanish-language Islam site called WebIslam

1000+ arabian something or other

This entry isn't super-deep but seeing them written out makes a strong point. Here is a list of over 1000 words which Spanish borrowed from Arabic.

the lottery by shirley jackson

The Lottery has been on my mind these days. It is a really good short story written by Shirley Jackson, and published in the New Yorker magazine in 1948. It later got turned into a play and when I was in 8th grade our drama teacher had us perform it as a class. (My Old Man Warner got rave reviews in the school I don't want to give away the ending so I won't say much more. It is about a lottery in a small town. The story is really short and you can read it in a reasonably quick period of time. But I'll probably blog on some related topics in a different entry.

sidi shaykh muhammad is in the us

Sidi Shaykh Muhammad Sa'id al-Jamal ar-Rifa'i ash-Shadhuli who is the head of the Shadhuliyya sufi order is currently visiting the United States. Alot of resources from this order are available online. You can find more about the Shaykh's visit and the teachings and practices of this particular sufi order from the Shadhiliyya Sufi Center Website You can also find other resources at the Sidi Muhammad Press

immortal technique, again

I just got Immortal Technique's album Revolutionary, Vol I yesterday and it's really good. I definitely recommend it. Minimal tight beats, clear delivery. It reminds me of some old KRS-ONE. Elenamary was recently blogging on political hip-hop and Immortal Technique in particular.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

rabia al-adawiyya

If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Lock me out of Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.
-Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya, 8th century Muslim woman saint from Basra (Iraq)

Rabia was one powerful soul. A former slave who is easily among one of the most charismatic figures in Muslim history. Given the stories which are told about her, she must have been a formidable woman.

It is related that Ibrahim ibn Adhan, a very holy person, spent fourteen years making his way to the Ka`ba because in every place of prayer he prayed two ruk`u and at last when he reached the Ka`ba he did not see it. He said to himself, "Alas, what has happened to my eyes. Maybe a sickness has come to them."Then he heard a voice which said, "No harm has befallen your eyes, but the Ka`ba has gone to meet a woman who is approaching." Ibrahim was seized with jealousy and said, "O indeed; who is this?" He ran and saw Rabi`a arriving, and the Ka`ba was back in its place.

Extensive set of links on Rabia from the Other Women's Voices site

too good to be true?

Sahih Muslim
Book 001, Number 0050:
It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira: We were sitting around the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him). Abu Bakr and Umar were also there among the audience. In the meanwhile the Messenger of Allah got up and left us, He delayed in coming back to us, which caused anxiety that he might be attacked by some enemy when we were not with him; so being alarmed we got up. I was the first to be alarmed. I, therefore, went out to look for the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) and came to a garden belonging to the Banu an-Najjar, a section of the Ansar went round it looking for a gate but failed to find one. Seeing a rabi' (i. e. streamlet) flowing into the garden from a well outside, drew myself together, like a fox, and slinked into (the place) where God's Messenger was.

He (the Holy Prophet) said: Is it Abu Huraira?

I (Abu Huraira) replied: Yes, Messenger of Allah.

He (the Holy Prophet) said: What is the matter with you?

I replied: You were amongst us but got up and went away and delayed for a time, so fearing that you might be attacked by some enemy when we were not with you, we became alarmed. I was the first to be alarmed. So when I came to this garden, I drew myself together as a fox does, and these people are following me.

He addressed me as Abu Huraira and gave me his sandals and said: Take away these sandals of mine, and when you meet anyone outside this garden who testifies that there is no god but Allah, being assured of it in his heart, gladden him by announcing that he shall go to Paradise.

Now the first one I met was Umar.

He asked: What are these sandals, Abu Huraira?

I replied: These are the sandals of the Messenger of Allah with which he has sent me to gladden anyone I meet who testifies that there is no god but Allah, being assured of it in his heart, with the announcement that he would go to Paradise.

Thereupon 'Umar struck me on the breast and I fell on my back.

He then said: Go back, Abu Huraira,

So I returned to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him), and was about to break into tears. 'Umar followed me closely and there he was behind me.

The Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be on him) said: What is the matter with you, Abu Huraira?

I said: I happened to meet 'Umar and conveyed to him the message with which you sent me. He struck me on my breast which made me fall down upon my back and ordered me to go back.

Upon this the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: What prompted you to do this, 'Umar?

He said: Messenger of Allah, my mother and father be sacrificed to thee, did you send Abu Huraira with your sandals to gladden anyone he met and who testified that there is no god but Allah, and being assured of it in his heart, with the tidings that he would go to Paradise?

He said: Yes.

Umar said: Please do it not, for I am afraid that people will trust in it alone; let them go on doing (good) deeds.

The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Well, let them.

If you stop to think about it, this hadith is pretty amazing. Some might try to downplay the significance of this message and say that other conditions for entering Paradise are implied but the import of the prophet's (saaws) words had to be radical and upsetting enough for Umar (ra) to strike Abu Huraira (ra) and knock him on his back and be worry that people would stop doing good deeds.

no god but God

The last quote from Ibn al-Arabi made me think about the question of what does Islam say we must do to enter Paradise. Some people seem to have a very narrow notion of what those conditions are while others seem to have a very expansive notion.

There are a number of interesting hadith which suggest the latter:

Sahih Muslim
Book 001, Number 0039:
It is narrated on the authority of 'Uthman that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said. He who died knowing (fully well) that there is no god but Allah entered Paradise

Sahih Muslim
Book 001, Number 0048:
It is narrated on the authority of Mu'adh b. Jabal that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Mu'adh, do you know the right of Allah over His bondsmen? He (Mu'adh) said: Allah and His Apostle know best. He (the Messenger of Allah) said: That Allah alone should be worshipped and nothing should be associated with Him. He (the Holy Prophet) said: What right have they (bondsmen) upon Him in case they do it? He (Mu'adh) said: Allah and His Apostle know best. He (the Holy Prophet) said: That He would not punish them.

Sahih Bukhari
Volume 1, Book 3, Number 131:
Narrated Anas:
I was informed that the Prophet had said to Mu'adh, "Whosoever will meet Allah without associating anything in worship with Him will go to Paradise." Mu'adh asked the Prophet, "Should I not inform the people of this good news?" The Prophet replied, "No, I am afraid, lest they should depend upon it (absolutely)."

That raises the whole question of what it means to believe that "there is no god but Allah"? Should we just tell ourselves "since I'm not worshipping sticks and stones, or Zeus and Odin, or Mary I'm okay" or is there more to it than that?

race relations: an islamic perspective

This is another very brief piece from the ISPI site called Race Relations: An Islamic Perspective by Inam-ul-Haq. In some ways, alot of it has been said before. But I think the most interesting part of the piece is the quotation from Ibn al-Arabi's poetry:
My heart has become capable of absorbing all forms
It is a pasture for gazelles and
A monastery for the monks
A house idols
Kaaba for the pilgrim
The tablet of Torah and the scripture of the Qur’an
I adhere to the religion of love in whatever direction its caravan advances
This true religion of love shall be my religion and my faith

More later...

a network of the just

Here is a paper entitled "A Network of the Just": A Muslim-American's reflections post 9/11/'01 from the International Strategy and Policy Institute, which is a kind of Muslim think-tank based in Chicago. Even though the paper was written in the wake of 9/11 there are some interesting comments about the immigrant Muslim perspective, and its call for a future "network of the just" is even more relevant today.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

rappers rhyme for change in senegal

Locally produced rap has been growing since the early 1990s. It is one of the top-selling genres in a country obsessed by Youssou N'Dour, the world-famous artist who sings rather than raps. Senegal is a centre of west Africa's vibrant home-grown music scene centred on the Mbalax style of dance music, derived from traditional beats and popularised by N'Dour. In the early '90s, bands such as Daara J recorded albums in Wolof, the most widely spoken African language in the former French colony. They became the voice of a generation eager for jobs and education but frustrated by corruption, inefficiency and a lack of opportunities.

Unlike American equivalents, Senegalese rappers rarely glorify violence or the ruthless pursuit of money but tackle issues from poverty, religion and sexuality to politics. "Each time the people go to the ballot boxes, it's because they're hoping for a true change. But sadly I always hear the same cry," says the opening line of Didier Awadi's song Le cri du peuple (The Cry of the People).

to read the whole article from The Austrialian
pickpocketed from Ginny's blog

islam and world peace: explanations of a sufi

The book (available online) Islam and World Peace: Explanations of a Sufi comes from the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship. I read this book a long time ago around the time I first became Muslim. It stood out for me because in a practical sense Bawa Muhiyaddeen is a Muslim pacifist. Even though he passed away in 1986, I've been hearing about him more these days. I think his message is appealing more and more to Muslims.

Here is the rest of their online library and here is the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship website.

ihsan: badshah khan

A recent entry on the Ihsan blog about Badshah Khan's Islamic Nonviolence. Badshah Khan was a Muslim from the Indian sub-continent who "fought" against the British along with Gandhi using the analogous methods to lead a non-violent Muslim movement.

the quran and non-violence

Whenever the issue of Islam and non-violence and Islam comes up, I almost always think about how the Quran describes the story of Cain and Abel, and how it differs from the Bible's account. Reading the Bible, I got the impression that Cain basically snuck up on Abel and hit him upside the head with a big rock. But in the Quran, it is described as follows:

[5.27] And relate to them the story of the two sons of Adam with truth when they both offered an offering, but it was accepted from one of them and was not accepted from the other. He said: I I will most certainly slay you. (The other) said: Allah only accepts from those who guard (against evil).
[5.28] If you will stretch forth your hand towards me to slay me, I am not one to stretch forth my hand towards you to slay you surely I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds:
[5.29] Surely I wish that you should bear the sin committed against me and your own sin, and so you would be of the inmates of the fire, and this is the recompense of the unjust.
[5.30] Then his mind facilitated to him the slaying of his brother so he slew him; then he became one of the losers

So instead of being surprised by Cain, Abel totally sees it coming and chooses not to kill his brother. This is not to say that Islam insists on pacifism (it obviously doesn't). Islam teaches that in this violent unjust world, sometimes aggression needs to be held in check by force. But what the above shows is that within the Quran there are also examples of non-violent resistance.

more on sherman jackson

I might as well be shameless. Why buy the cow... as they say in the dunya. Here is more on Sherman Jackson from The Manrilla Blog

might as well make it sherman jackson day

Here is Marqas at The Manrilla Blog blogging on Prof. Sherman Abdul-Hakim Jackson and providing quicktime audio of an interview with him. Here is a Planet Grenada entry from when Jackson's book, Islam And The Blackamerican: The Third Resurrection came out.

wandering into a place and beyond

a friend's blog I hope she keeps writing because I won't be seeing her for a long time and it would be nice to know what she is up to from time to time.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

azhar usman

Azhar Usman, is a Muslim stand-up comedian living in Chicago. His website features a bio, satire, poetry, and information about bookings.

native israelis

From Muslim stand-up comedian Azhar Usman:

Monday, August 01, 2005

robert karimi

It was around Ramadan
and i was wondering whether i should
fast every friday for 40 days
and give up something like liver or C-SPAN for Lent.
or kick it with my muslim self
and just make fastin’ a daytime thing.
givin’ up rum&coke, chorizo and getting busy for 4 weeks.
then i heard a voice:

I first saw Robert Karimi on Def Poetry Jam doing a piece called get down w/yr. muslim-catholic self (Karimi is Iranian/Guatemalan). I think his work is really interesting, but I tend to be cautious about certain religious boundaries and to be honest this piece didn't sit well with me. It's a little hard to explain, especially given some of my previous entries on different religions, but my "inner Taliban" is very resistant to the idea of mixing and matching between Christianity and Islam.

I think it is a beautiful thing to treat people of different religions kindly and graciously and be mad cool with them. It is also great to recognize the positivity which exists in other religious traditions and respect the good things which they teach and practice. But I found it difficult to really "feel" the kind of syncretism he suggests in that piece. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

I think my feelings are connected to the fact that in my own religious journey, I developed some relatively clear ideas about what "Christianity" is and what "Islam" is, and the two can't really be reconciled in my mind. And so a desire for integrity (sense of "wholeness") required me to reject one and accept the other. When I became Muslim I had a strong urge to make a clean break with Christianity. I actually look forward to the prospect of (inshaAllah) having a family and not lying to my kids about Santa Claus, and not putting up lights, and not hauling in some big dead tree into the house and instead getting to celebrate Ramadan, and Ashurah, and the two Eids.

Another reason for my reaction to Karimi's piece has to do with how I think the nature of religion relates to the nature of ethnicity. Off the top of my head, I would say that ethnicity is essentially expressed by a collection of practices. It is in the food you eat. In the language you speak and the way that you speak it. It's in the clothes that you wear. The way you walk . The music you listen to or don't listen to. And so on. There are definitely limits to how far I would want to go with this, but ethnicity is almost something measurable, akin to cultural literacy. It is something which strengthens and fades with the passing of generations.

Religion, on the other hand, is not just a collection of practices, it is a matter of conviction. A Muslim is a Muslim is a Muslim. Whether or not they speak Arabic (or Hausa, or Urdu, or Farsi, or Swahili, etc.). Whether or not they eat briyani or bean pies. Whether or not they wear a baseball cap and baggy sweats or a turban and a shalwar kameez. There is no such thing as being half-Catholic or one-quarter Muslim. There are certain groups which, out of a sense of inclusion, try to promote the concept of being a "cultural Muslim" (Al-Fatiha and PMU come to mind) but in my opinion that approach is a bit misguided. It just makes the word "Muslim" less meaningful reducing it to a culture rather than a conviction.

Moreover, as Paul Tillich says, religion is a matter of your "ultimate concern". Faith has to do with what you believe in absolutely and without reservation. And from that perspective, you definitely can't have real faith in more than one religion at the same time. "You cannot serve two masters". I imagine that somewhere along the line Karimi is going to have to decide whether or not he feels more comfortable calling himself a Christian or Muslim or something else entirely different. But of course, I'm not his momma so ultimately it really isn't any of my business.

I don't pretend to be the perfect Holier Than Thou type of Muslim by any means. But I think we're just at different places. I think part of my reaction is that here is someone who identifies as Latino and also has some connection to Islam, but nevertheless I don't identify with him as much as I would have expected at first.

It's totally possible that above I'm taking this issue more seriously (and literally) than he intended. I actually imagine that Robert Karimi was simply exercising a certain amount of poetic license to talk about some things which were on his mind and he doesn't seriously try to take out his praying carpet and say a few Hail Marys to the East. I'm sure he's a nice person and I can still appreciate the rest of the body of his work in a positive way. But the piece which he performed on Def Poetry Jam just seems like a convenient springboard for me to say certain things.

(And he probably feels the same way).

quicktime performance by Robert Karimi at "Poems Y Poemas A Night of Latin Verse"
Profile of Robert Karimi from the e-poets network
Robert Karimi's KaoticGood website
a more academic look at his work entitled: Border-Crossers and Zeroes: Violence and Identity in Elia Arce’s performances and Robert Karimi’s “Self-the Remix” by Gustavo Adolfo Guerra Vasquez

anthrax is safer than poetry


Please help feed some poor starving poets. You can order online from The Wordsmith Press

Twenty one poems by the 2005 Ann Arbor Poetry Slam team. There is a huge talent in this group of poets and their talents run the gamut of genres and styles. There is literally something for everyone here. From the hilariously surreal "The Girl in the White Bikini Torments Me," to the stoic and sweet sadness of "A Comb for Ebony," to the delightfully silly "this poèm is entitled 'Forsooth Thy Moon Majestic'" to the inspirational "There are No Poets," you'll find something to make you laugh or think or even wince a little in painful recognition. Proceeds go to get the Ann Arbor Poetry Slam team to the National Poetry Slam.

bryonn bain

Here is a link to Bryonn Bain's own website

urban renaissance: youth and spoken word

I'm in a poetic mood these days so I decided to share. This is a transcript of a radio show from a while back where a cool confluence of conscious folks (Walidah Imarisha, Bryonn Bain, Chinaka Hodge, James Kass, Tiger Walsh, Antonio Elmo Mims, Bill Hollman, David Yanofsky and Asheena McNeel) come together to talk about the future of spoken word, spitting poetry along the way. My favorite piece has got to be Bryonn Bain's, "I used to worship in the Temple". I've only read it so I have to imagine what it would sound like with Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" in the background.

anida esguerra

Anida is a Muslim (among other things) spoken word artist and here is a page which gives a taste of some of what she is up to lately. I'm just glad that people like her are out there representing with amazing amounts of creativity and energy.