Friday, September 30, 2005

it's just the mood i'm in...

Politics (n.): Formed from the Greek "poly," meaning "many" and "ticks," meaning "small blood-sucking insects"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

even more su-shi love

Monday, 5 September 2005
A Sunni teenager who died while saving Shia victims of last week's Baghdad stampede has been praised as a "martyr" by Iraqi politicians. Witnesses say Othman Abdul Hafez drowned as he tried to pull yet another Shia pilgrim from the River Tigris, having saved up to seven others.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said his actions were a "message to the whole world" about religious unity in Iraq.

About 1,000 people died in the stampede during a Shia religious procession.

The incident was apparently triggered by rumours of an imminent suicide attack on the ceremony.

Hundreds died either by being crushed, suffocated or by drowning after they were pushed into the river.

"The Shia dies as a martyr next to the Sunni while celebrating rituals, and the one of them sacrifices himself trying to rescue the other," said Mr Jaafari.

"This is a message to the whole world that the real problem is not between Sunnis and Shias," he added.

Politicians from both Sunni and Shia communities attended the teenager's funeral on Saturday.

"He represented Iraqi unity and we are proud of him because of his message that Iraq is one country, one nation and one religion," said Falah Shensel, a Shia National Assembly member.

Relatives of stampede victims are still searching for loved ones
Many of the dead were women, children, or the elderly, hospital sources said.

The 19-year-old, from the staunchly Sunni district of Adhamiyah, responded to calls to help the stricken Shia pilgrims broadcast from a local mosque.

Witnesses said he was a strong swimmer and saved many struggling Shias before himself succumbing to exhaustion.

His actions belie predictions that the stampede - blamed on Sunni-led insurgents - may exacerbate sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shias at a time of sectarian divisions over the drafting of Iraq's new constitution.


i love sushi... or is that su-shi?

Here is an entry from a blog called Coming Out Swinging which discusses some encouraging baby steps towards Sunni-Shia unity.

the space of multiculturalism

Suprisingly, Islam-Online recently featured a piece called The Space of Multiculturalism by David Theo Goldberg which explores how different ideas about race and culture interact, especially in modern cities. But in capsule form:

what might “the multicultural” mean? Two versions are currently on offer. The first is a “descriptive multiculturalism” that at best grudgingly describes the increasing heterogeneity in most post–1945 societies as a result of global political economic changes and (in societies like Britain, France, the Netherlands, even Canada) the rapid migrations following the demise of formal colonial regimes in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.

The second is a “normative multiculturalism” that insists on cultural diversity and a proliferation (even relativism) of values at the expense of ideas of national cohesion and unified norms. This entails an acknowledgment, occasionally even celebration, of descriptive diversity on the ethno–racial register. It places “ethnic and identity politics”, claims for right and restitution, and cultural sensitivity at the centre of the political agenda.

“The multicultural” has been caught in an oscillation between these two understandings: description and prescription. It has come to represent the contest with the values, long considered settled, of presumed homogeneity. The scope of multiculturalism has thus remained confined by the historical period after the “birth of the nation”, and of the homogeneous kinship and familiality presumed to have arisen from it.

Multiculturalism, in short, is assumed to be what happened to nations once their essential purity was challenged by the influx of racial others. This is the stuff of histories racially conceived. Consider the longstanding requirement, only now eroding, that eligibility for German citizenship be restricted to those with “German blood”; or the purging of those deemed non–white from apartheid South Africa by restricting them to “homelands” or relocating them from urban to segregated residential spaces to maintain the fantasy of “original white” space.

The nature of the world is changing. And it seems like you either work with a realistic understanding of how things are different. Or you ignore reality and get swallowed up in the wave.

why we have to get the troops out of iraq

Why we Have to get the Troops Out of Iraq by Juan Cole from Informed Comment. 'Nuff Said.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"i guess, michael jackson was right, you are not alone"

Have any of you seen Enemy of the State? It's the Will Smith/Gene Hackman movie where an evil conspiracy within the government makes use of some amazingly intense technology to keep people under surveilance and mess with folks' lives. Well, If you check out Google Earth you can download a free program which lets you access a virtual globe of the earth made from satellite images which has a frightening amount of search and zoom capacity (the resolution varies depending on the part of the world but when it is good you can make out the painted white lines in a parking lot). When I checked my house I was half-expecting to see my mom wave. The program also comes with a wealth of information which helps to distinguish and identify all kinds of landmarks.

al-qaeda suspects convicted in spain

Also in the LA Times, 18 Al Qaeda Suspects Are Convicted in Spanish Trial

in bleak projects, emerging culture

A recent article from the LA Times In Bleak Projects, Emerging Culture gives a glimpse of how African Muslims in France are defining a religious identity for themselves through hip-hop. (thanks for the heads-up to George Kelly)

"I realized that my Islam of the ghetto was just a ghetto of Islam," Malik said. "There's a disconnect, a kind of phantasmagoria of Islam. The so-called reformers are trying to invent something in reaction to the West…. We have to put things in another context. Otherwise, we would be in the Middle Ages."

Last year, Malik published an autobiography titled "Allah Bless France!" It resembles to some extent "The Autobiography of Malcom X," a figure whose journey from crime to extremism to tolerance had a profound effect on Malik. The title offers an unabashedly patriotic response to a notorious extremist pamphlet titled "Allah Curse France."

"I'm black, I'm from the neighborhood, but I am French," Malik said. "And this is the country I love."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Here is a new website on "race, law and culture" called One of the more interesting posts is called Racism Phobia and it discusses why so many people seem to be more comfortable with the "poverty card" than the "race card".

I'M saying he's a gold digger

It's not exactly Chomsky or Cornel but it is still an interesting commentary on the intersection of race and class in America. This is the new song by Legendary K.O. inspired by both Kanye West's Gold Digger and Kanye's off-the-cuff post-Katrina commentary.
Download the song here
Read the lyrics here


Sunday, September 25, 2005

chickenbones and katrina

Also, even though I already put up a link to their homepage, it is probably worth pointing out that Chickenbones Journal has recently been including a lot of pieces on Katrina and New Orleans. Not just the latest news but also survior accounts, more "big picture" ethical/historical essays and poetry. (That's where I found the Rootswork blog)

a cyberhoodoo webspace

I just found a blog called rootwork the rootsblog which the author describes as a cyberhoodoo webspace with "timely observations on politics, literature, culture, struggle and the hoodoo way". Even though we are coming from significantly different "places" I really feel an affinity for how the political commentary is tempered by spiritual and cultural concerns.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

as ramadan approaches

Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo, Cuba are doing what they can to resist their conditions. Many of them are going on hunger strikes. The Baltimore Sun by way of Common Dreams

and god said...


the light of muhammad (saaws)

This entry is a bit more theological than most. If Sunday School was a traumatic experience you might want to skip this one. Currently I'm reading And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety by the late Annemarie Schimmel. I still have a few hundred pages to go but so far the most interesting chapter to me is the one on the concept of the light of Muhammad (saaws). And like several other ideas recently discussed on Planet Grenada, this is a concept which resonates both with certain Judeo-Christian sources and Islamic ones.

If we begin with Genesis, we can note that after mentioning the heavens and earth and the dark formless void, the first thing specifically created by God's speech is light.
And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

And some are tempted to think of this as referring to physical light, made up of photons, subject to Maxwell's equations on electricity and magnetism. Just as some insist that creation took six literal 24-hours days and that there were plants and water before there was a sun and moon (as described in Genesis). But if we assume that the Bible was intended as a book of spiritual and moral guidance instead of assuming it should be read as a science textbook, then maybe we can be encouraged to read the words a bit differently.

For comparison, we might want to consider another description of the origin of things. For example, in John's Gospel, chapter 1 we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [...] The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. (John 1:1-5,9-10)

So in both beginnings, in Genesis and in John's gospel we have God's "word" bringing light into existence. Only if we read further in John, it is clear that the "light" and the "word" referred to are identified with Jesus(as) himself. We will be coming back to this later.

Then, for a third example from the Bible we can consider the following passage on the personification of Wisdom, from Proverbs 8. This differs from the first two in that it is in the first person, from the perspective of Wisdom. But there are clear similarities in how the Word is described in John's gospel and how Wisdom describes herself here:

The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first,
before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the sons of men.
(Proverbs 8:22-31)

So here Wisdom is the "first of his acts of old, before the beginning" "beside him, like a master workman".

Putting all these pieces together suggests that perhaps Light/Word/Wisdom are really just different names for the same entity which was created by or proceeded from God at the beginning of time and was intimately involved in the creation of what came after. And from a Christian perspective, this entity is also identified with Jesus. Mainstream Christians don't necessarily speak in these terms, but I think a strong case can be made for this idea from the Bible. (And I would point out that the passage in Proverbs, at least using the revised standard version, is quite explicit that Wisdom is a creation of God, not God Himself.)

In Islamic religious thought, the idea of the "light of Muhammad(saaws)" is much more explicit.

It is related that Jabir ibn `Abd Allah said to the Prophet : "O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, tell me of the first thing Allah created before all things." He said: "O Jabir, the first thing Allah created was the light of your Prophet from His light, and that light remained (lit. "turned") in the midst of His Power for as long as He wished, and there was not, at that time, a Tablet or a Pen or a Paradise or a Fire or an angel or a heaven or an earth. And when Allah wished to create creation, he divided that Light into four parts and from the first made the Pen, from the second the Tablet, from the third the Throne, [and from the fourth everything else]."

And this first creation, the "light of Muhammad", from which everything else was made, has shined through the lives of all the previous prophets, including Jesus(as). But for Muslims this light is especially identified with Muhammad (saaws).

It is common for people to paint a stark contrast between how Muslims view Muhammad and how Christians view Jesus. Muslims believe that Muhammad was "just a man", a mortal human prophet, a teacher. While Christians say that Jesus is God. And that contrast is absolutely valid and appropriate. Islam teaches very clearly that Muhammad was not divine nor equivalent to God in any way. At the same time, if we consider the honor and respect Muslims lovingly give to Muhammad, especially Muslims from a more Sufi-tinged traditional background, I think there is a shade more room for dialogue and common ground (with Christians) than is generally acknowledged.

For more information on the Light of Muhammad from a Muslim perspective: Check out The Light of the Prophet by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi. From the Living Islam, Islamic Tradition site: The First Thing That Allah Created Was My Nur and The Light of the Prophet And finally, Haqiqat al-Muhammadiyya by Nuh Ha Mim Keller

Friday, September 23, 2005

unusual churches

And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance. Thus have We made fair seeming to every people their deeds; then to their Lord shall be their return, so He will inform them of what they did. [6.108]
For me this is one of the more interesting verses of the Quran. It is remarkable that a relgion as iconoclastic as Islam would still caution Muslims against making fun of other folks' idols. There is alot of wisdom in that. Firstly, if you are rude to people and lack common courtesy you will probably turn people away from Islam rather than attract them. As they say, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But secondly, we don't always know what is really in the other person's heart and mind just by outwardly looking at their religious practicies. So just as we get upset when people accuse Muslims of worshiping the moon or worshiping the black stone in the Kaaba, we should be slow to make unwarranted assumptions about others. And that's true whether you are talking about other religious groups (e.g. "Zoroastrians are idolaters, they worship fire") or individuals (e.g. "She doesn't wear hijab. I'll bet she sleeps around too".)

On that note, here is a blog I found recently on unusual churches.

Given what I just said, I'm not going to make fun. I'm certain that some of the groups listed are more tongue-in-cheek and meant to be funny, while other groups listed are probably sincere. But for the moment, I'm not going to guess which is which. I'll just say that I've never stopped being surprised by the amount of religious diversity which exists in the world.


Behold! the disciples, said: "O Jesus the son of Mary! can thy Lord send down to us a table set (with viands) from heaven?" Said Jesus: "Fear Allah, if ye have faith."

"And behold! I inspired the disciples to have faith in Me and Mine Messenger. they said, 'We have faith, and do thou bear witness that we bow to Allah as Muslims'".

They said: "We only wish to eat thereof and satisfy our hearts, and to know that thou hast indeed told us the truth; and that we ourselves may be witnesses to the miracle."

Said Jesus the son of Mary: "O Allah our Lord! Send us from heaven a table set (with viands), that there may be for us - for the first and the last of us - a solemn festival and a sign from thee; and provide for our sustenance, for thou art the best Sustainer (of our needs)." (Quran: 5:111-114)

From my perspective as someone coming from a church background, one of the most striking aspects of Islam, especially when I was first learning about it, was how old Judeo-Christian elements were rearranged in "new" ways which were fresh yet familiar. Joseph and his brothers. Moses and Pharaoh. Noah and the flood. In some cases, like the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary the similarities are fairly clear. In the case of something like the non-crucifixion of Jesus the differences are quite radical.

The miracle described in the above provocative passage from the Quran seems to fall somewhere in the middle. At once, it is reminiscent of Christ (as) feeding the multitudes, Moses (as) calling down manna from heaven, and even of the "daily bread" mentioned in the Our Father. But an argument can also be made that it refers to the Christian celebration of the eucharist. Heavenly food. A solemn festival. For the first of us (followers of Christ) and the last of us (the later generations of Christians). I might even suggest that from a spiritual perspective the Quran is actually evoking all of these associations at once. Just as there are other examples in Islam of entire worlds of meaning being compressed and represented by simpler elements. (allahu alim)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

why the devil has more vacation-time than santa: reason number 5,012

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, said on Wednesday that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for U.S. President George W. Bush's support for Israel's Gaza pullout. [...] Yosef also said recent natural disasters were the result of a lack of Torah study and that Katrina's victims suffered "because they have no God," singling out black people.
Associated Press

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

bean soup times

The Chicago-based satirical journal,Bean Soup Times, published and edited by Toure Muhammad, Sr. is kind of like a "Black" version of the Onion. As one review puts it: "No, it's not the Onion but an Afrocentric variant with a similarly edible name." I've seen it in print for a while now, but just today I "discovered" it online and felt like sharing:

No Limit soldier, Iraqi veteran share awkward moment in local liquor store
Gangster gets Folk Art Festival ad all wrong
Despite pay gap, 75% of white men still angry
Closet Pagan smirks every time Bible-thumping friends talk about putting up Christmas tree

black looks

Check out the blog:
Black Looks: Musings and Rants of an African Fem

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

reality television

Bush's Bird on Badmash

jose padilla and the death of the republic

Padilla and the Death of the Republic By Tom Gorman is a reflection on what Jose Padilla's continued imprisonment means for American democracy.

a god with whom i am not familiar

A God with Whom I am not Familiar by white anti-racist activist, Tim Wise is an interesting theological exploration on God's justice in the aftermath of Katrina.

elena mary costello tzintzún

My favorite Latino/a blogger, Elena Mary Costello Tzintzún, is running for office! She is trying to get named as a representative for the Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio region for the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (roughly, Institute for Mexicans Abroad). So check her out, and if you like what you see, think about giving some support (writing a letter, including a link, a blog entry, etc.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

recent changes

Most recently, I've added avari/nameh to my blogroll. And on the side I also added a section called Grenada's Molten Core which consists of my favorite Grenada entries which exemplify for me why I started blogging in the first place. Many of them explore (explicitly or implicitly) the idea of being a modern-day Moor and the connection between Afrolatin and Islamic elements. Other entries just focus on one or two specific issues which interested me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

"jerusalem is ours"

A qiyamah-worthy picture of Ricky Martin wearing a kaffiyeh which reads "Jerusalem is Ours". And here is the July AP story which goes with it. The story is a few months old but was alluded to in the last entry on the United States of Islamexica.

It reminds me of an older entry on the soccer player Ronaldo's visit to Palestine. Maybe if enough Latin celebrities keep visiting the Middle East, Islamexica will come into existence sooner than we expect.

you say it like its a bad thing...

The United States of Islamexica is a weird article by Julia Gorin who seems oddly frightened of a world where different groups of brown folks figure out how to get along.

For a collection of interesting articles on issues of astronomy and Islamic practice, you might want to check out
According to them, the new moon will be born on October 3, 2005 but still very difficult to see in most of the world. It should be visible on October 4 in North America and so the first day of Ramadan is likely to be October 5.

until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes

On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa Conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson: That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil. - Haile Selassie I

The above is just an excerpt from a larger speech delivered by Haile Selassie I to the UN in 1963 which was later set to music and turned into the song "War" by Bob Marley.


I heard on NPR the other day that the two current top-selling reggae albums right now were by Matisyahu (a white Hassidic Jew) and Willie Nelson (more well known as a country singer). As a friend of mine would say: "interesting times".

From a certain perspective, its not surprising or deep that Willie Nelson, long-time marijuana advocate would cover a reggae song. Besides, many reggae songs definitely have a "country" or rural feel. But Matisyahu's very existence as a performer raises some more thought-provoking questions. For example, is Matusyahu's music a form of cultural appropriation? If he simply sung secular dancehall party music the issue might be alot simpler. But since he also performs more in the spiritual tradition of Rastafari-influenced reggae things get more interesting. Rastafarianism is, loosely speaking, a form of Christianity which sees former Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie as the fulfiller of certain Biblical prophecies. At the same time, Rastas tend to emphasize the Old Testament of the Bible and speak often of Babylon, Zion, the themes of captivity and exodus, and they incorporate other "Jewish" ideas into their practice, language and theology.

So on the one hand Matisyahu could be seen as a white guy playing black music. Or a Jewish guy playing Christian music. Or more circularly, a Jewish guy who is reclaiming a musical form popularized by Black Christians but ultimately inspired by Jewish spirituality in the first place. Any of those answers is probably too simple by themselves. Maybe we can only say he's an ordinary guy playing good music, and leave it at that.

Wikipedia on Matisyahu
Matisyahu's official website

Thursday, September 15, 2005

it's a small world after all

Not particularly "Granada-ish". But it has been on my mind for a while, like the Damocles stuff.

Area Applebee's A Hotbed Of Machiavellian Political Maneuvering
Marxists' Apartment A Microcosm Of Why Marxism Doesn't Work
Both are older stories from The Onion

For long-time I've noticed something funny. The political attitdes I have when it comes to national/world issues necessarily don't always match up to my political attitudes when it comes to the smaller levels. For example, a benevolent dictatorship or oligarchy actually works out pretty well at the family level, but I wouldn't want to run a country that way. A bowling league should be run differently from knitting club. Student government should be run differently from a life boat. And so on. Man is a political animal, but we all hunt in different habitats.

the crayon people

The Crayon People is an interesting site with news for people of color (arab, asian, black, indigenous, latino, south asian). It is a bit weird that the groups are "segregated" the way they are. i guess they imagine a neat box of crayons where each color is individually wrapped. It reminds me of how when I was little I liked melting crayons on the radiator with my friends.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

the second message of islam

thanks to George Kelly, I found out about this page of links (books, journals, and articles) focusing on Islam and Africa. There is a good amount of interesting material there. Some of it on the scholarly side, dealing not just with "theology" but with culture and politics. And in multiple languages too (English, Spanish, French and Portuguese),

Right now, the piece which stands out the most for me is a pamphlet called: An Introduction To The Second Message of Islam, which briefly summarizes some of the ideas of Sudanese reformer Mahmoud Muhammad Taha. His basic idea seems to be that in the past, Muslim societies were only ready to implement a certain portion of the Quran. But in more recent times, after certain developments and changes have happened, we are able to understand and apply the Quran in a deeper way and we are ready for the "second message of Islam" which for Taha happens to include a vision of freedom, equality and democratic socialism.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

damocles revisited

This is more a personal comment than anything else. For reasons I don't plan on getting into, I think about the story of Damocles alot in my life. It tends to form a big part of my perspective when it comes to small-scale politics (PTA, local school board, that type of stuff). But I have to do some soul searching. For a long time, I think I've had a good understanding of the nature of the "sword", at least in my own small pond. But now I'm not so sure. Things should be clearer tomorrow.

suheir hammad on katrina

a prayer band

every thing

you ever paid for
you ever worked on
you ever received

every thing

you ever gave away
you ever held on to
you ever forgot about

every single thing is one
of every single thing and all
things are gone

every thing i can think to do
to say i feel
is buoyant

every thing is below water
every thing is eroding
every thing is hungry

there is no thing to eat
there is water every where
and there is no thing clean to drink

the children aren't talking

the nurses have stopped believing
anyone is coming for us

the parish fire chief will never again tell anyone
that help is

now is the time of rags
now is the indigo of loss
now is the need for cavalry

new orleans
i fell in love with your fine ass poor boys
sweating frying
catfish blackened life thick women glossy
seasoning bourbon
indians beads grit history of races
and losers who still won

new orleans i dreamt of living lush within your shuttered eyes a closet of yellow dresses a breeze on my neck writing poems for do right men and a daughter of refugees

i have known of displacement
and the tides pulling every thing
that could not be carried within
and some of that too

a jamaican man sings
those who can afford to run will run
what about those who can't
they will have to stay

end of the month tropical depression turned storm

someone whose beloved has drowned
knows what water can do
what water will do to once animated things

a new orleans man pleads
we have to steal from each other to eat
another gun in hand says we will protect what we
what belongs to us

i have known of fleeing desperate
with children on hips in arms on backs
of house keys strung on necks
of water weighed shoes
disintegrated official papers
leases certificates births deaths taxes

i have known of high ways which lead nowhere
of aches in teeth in heads in hands tied

i have known of women raped by strangers by
of a hunger in human

i have known of promises to return to where you come from but first any bus going any where

tonight the tigris and the mississippi moan for each other as sisters full of unnatural things flooded with predators and prayers

all language bankrupt

how long before hope begins to eat itself? how many flags must be waved? when does a man let go of his wife's hand in order to hold his child?

who says this is not the america they know?

what america do they know?

were the poor people so poor they could not be seen?

were the black people so many they could not be counted?

this is not a charge
this is a conviction

if death levels us all
then life plays favorites

and life it seems is constructed
of budgets contracts deployments of wards
and automobiles of superstition and tourism
and gasoline but mostly insurance

and insurance it seems is only bought
and only with what cannot be carried within
and some of that too

a city of slave bricked streets
a city of chapel rooms
a city of haints

a crescent city

where will the jazz funeral be held?

when will the children talk?

tonight it is the dead
and dying who are left
and those who would rather not
promise themselves they will return

they will be there
after everything is gone
and when the saints come
marching like spring
to save us all

From the artists network of refuse and resist

"9/11 was like being black twice"

Four African-American Muslims sit around a kitchen table discussing the intersection of race, religion and terrorism at Negrophile

that was kanye west, not cornel west -- kanye west

This piece from Negrophile (a transcript exerpt from an episode of CNN "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer) raised all sorts of questions for me like: Which Black voices does white America listen to? But mostly, I just really liked the title.

Monday, September 12, 2005

intelligent design

Good news. My blog evolved. I'm no longer an insignificant microbe but i'm actually a large mammal.

It's weird though... before sitting down to blog I just got some bad news which doesn't bode well for my living situation (not like homeless bad... but i just won't be a happy camper for a while). So being a large mammal is good news, but it might have tasted better under different circumstances.

under suspicion

Neocon Pundits Malign American Muslims by Louay M. Safi is another piece from the alt.muslim site. It points to some disturbing criticisms coming from certain individuals and organizations against Muslim organizations. What is really disturbing is that the Muslim organizations which are the targets of these accusations are the tamest and most mainstream (some of them even endorsed Bush in the 2000 presidential election). The accusation which really frustrated was me was one which came out a while ago against Tablighi Jamaat. They are literally the largest Muslim organization/movement of Muslims in the world and the members I've met are some of the gentlest people I know. The Muslim turnout to their annual convention is bigger than Hajj (the required pilgrimage to Mecca). Imagine... a Muslim "Mecca" which isn't Mecca! (If that is hard to believe, just consider the fact that the group started in Southeast Asia, a large percentage of their members are based there, and the convention takes place there.) But if a group as mild and as apolitical as Tablighi Jamaat should be under suspicion as some kind of terrorist sanctuary, then the US may as well lock up all the Muslims in concentration camps right now and make us wear green crescents on our arm when we go out in public. (If anyone from the government is reading this, that was an example of hyperbole.)

But when the Islamophobes accuse even the mildest Islamic groups of terrorist associations, then the implication is that all Muslims are suspect.

moorish past finds new life in a storied city

A useful piece, geared for the tourist, from the NYTimes (courtesy of George Kelly) on modern-day Granada and its Hispanic-Moorish past.

how progressive is the progressive muslim movement?

How Progressive is the Progressive Muslim Movement? by Aamir Siddiqui.

To be honest I didn't like this article at first. But after thinking about it a little more I decided it is a mostly fair description of some sectors of the so-called Progressive Muslim movement. But at the same time, I'm not sure I see myself in his descriptions. I think it goes back to the recurring ambiguity of whether "progressive Muslims" are more interested in reforming Islam or are they more interested in reforming society as Muslims commited to justice, anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

i knew i forgot something...

where is osama bin laden?

9/11 poetry

The most beautiful 9/11 poem I've read or heard, by far, has got to be First Writing Since by Suheir Hammad. Another deep piece, with a good amount of historical perspective is A moment of silence before I start this poem by Emmanuel Ortiz. I've mentioned both poems on Planet Grenada before, but due to the anniversary they could bear some repeating. I also found a 9/11 poem on the LADO (Latino American Dawah Organization) website called Pharaoh is just a Leaf which is a bit rougher than the other two but still kind of interesting.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

the mystery of iniquity (original sin)

from Sahih Bukhari
Volume 2, Book 23, Number 441:
Narrated Abu Huraira :
Allah's Apostle said, "Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magianism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?"

Sometimes the first part is rendered "Every child is born in a natural state of righteousness (fitra)" and it is probably one of the most common "proof-texts" for the fact that Muslims don't believe in original sin.

Contrary to a widespread impression, Original Sin is actually not the claim that babies born today get punished for the sins of Adam and Eve. The central core of the doctrine is actually the idea that as a consequence of what Adam and Eve did, people born today are inclined towards sin. That human nature is so fundamentally twisted and perverted, that we can't help but live sinful lives. That's a part of why many Christians say you need to be "born-again" (apparently you didn't get it right the first time). In contrast, Islam teaches that we are born whole, unmutilated, naturally inclined to submit to God's will. Or at the very worst, neutral.

In past conversations I've had with Christians on this subject, this is the point where they typically ask: If there is no original sin, then why is there evil in the world? Good question. One of the oddest statements on this topic ever made has got be the words of Anne Frank: " spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."

I would give the example of a family where everyone on some level loves one another or at the very least is well intentioned towards each other, but nevertheless baggage accumulates, and misunderstandings develop. Family members acting out historical events in the past behave in ways which continue to hurt their own loved ones. No one wants to hurt the other, but in spite of that fact, they do.

immaculate conception

Sahih Bukhari
Volume 4, Book 55, Number 641:
Narrated Said bin Al-Musaiyab:
Abu Huraira said, "I heard Allah's Apostle saying, 'There is none born among the off-spring of Adam, but Satan touches it. A child therefore, cries loudly at the time of birth because of the touch of Satan, except Mary and her child." Then Abu Huraira recited: "And I seek refuge with You for her and for her offspring from the outcast Satan"
The connection is interesting to me. While Islam doesn't have a doctrine of Original Sin, there are some provocative statements in Islamic sources which evoke the idea of the Immaculate Conception. For the catechetically-impaired, this is not a reference to the virgin birth of Jesus, which is also found in the Quran, but it specifically refers to the idea that Mary was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. I realize that it (believing in the immaculate conception without believing in original sin in the first place) may sound paradoxical but I plan to explain it in a further entry

So in Roman Catholic theology, Mary and Jesus were born purified from sin, while in Islamic teachings Mary and Jesus were born without "the touch of satan"

This idea is also echoed in the Quran (3:35-36). When Mary's mother was pregnant, she dedicates her unborn offspring to God, thinking that she would be a male priest who would serve in the Temple
When a woman of Imran said: My Lord! surely I vow to Thee what is in my womb, to be devoted (to Thy service); accept therefore from me, surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing.So when she brought forth, she said: My Lord! Surely I have brought it forth a female-- and Allah knew best what she brought forth-- and the male is not like the female, and I have named it Marium, and I commend her and her offspring into Thy protection from the accursed Shaitan.

And again, Mary is protected from Satan's influence. I want to follow up on the idea of Original Sin momentarily, but for now I'll just end by saying this sort of similarity is actually not uncommon. Considering that Islam (especially orthodox traditional Islam) and Christianity (especially Catholicism) are two different religions, there are many different points where their features echo one another in intriguing ways.

Friday, September 09, 2005

insignificant microbe?

Wow... so I've been try to stretch my blogging legs a little... checking out what other folks are writing... trying to get on different blogrolls or rings... adding bells and whistles... the last tweak I've made to my blog is joining the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem where different blogs are categorized by their "status" in the blogosphere (probably some mystic calculation involving number of links, frequency of visitation, etc.) anyway it turns out I'm an "insignificant microbe" in the great scheme of things. ouch. Hopefully, that is just some default setting which everyone gets at the beginning and that some day I will evolve. I'm at least hoping I'm a fish. We'll see...

dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres - after world blog day

For the past week or so I've been thinking about writing an okay-i-missed-world-blog-day-so-let-me-make-it-up-later post. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that Planet Grenada can already be an odd hub for different communities. (Progressive, Black, Latino, Muslim) So this may be a bit of a cop out but I'd like to firstly like to point out that if folks are feeling like exploring something new, they could just click on a button they haven't clicked before.

However to stay in the spirit of World Blog Day I'll still highlight five blogs

Brown Rab Girl Fish is a cool blog on the Progressive Blog Alliance roll. I like her emphasis on race, culture and politics. And she has some really good "funky-ass" links. (Along with Left End of the Dial she is probably my favorite blogger on that blogroll)

For some south of the border bloggin' check out Elenamary - de aquí y de allá - Irish Xicana in Ohio Ponders who keeps a nice roll of blogeros y blogeras.

Negrophile is an award-winning Black blog who has some nicely written stuff and a good set of black blog links.

Anarcho Akbar a Muslim blog with a real political slant. I think he's still figuring stuff out (as am I from a certain point of view). Seems really thoughtful, interesting.

Abdul-Rahim Borges When I started blogging, I thought to myself... I didn't want to be the kind of personal self-absorbed blogger who has entries like "Tuesday I had Fruit Loops". I don't want to say this cat is like that. But I think it is cool that he is able put in "alot" of stuff about his day-to-day life and still make it interesting. He's really young. A sincere struggling Muslim. Also with some "Latin" content on his blog which I like.

Check 'em out.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

mercy and wrath

Sahih Muslim
Book 37, Number 6626:
Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: When Allah created the creation as He was upon the Throne, He put down in His Book: Verily, My mercy predominates My wrath.

mother and child

I was thinking more about the idea of how Allah's mercy in Islam might be associated with a "feminine" side and found the following hadith:

Sahih Muslim
Book 037, Number 6635:
'Umar b. Khattab reported that there were brought some prisoners to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) amongst whom there was also a woman, who was searching (for someone) and when she found a child amongst the prisoners, she took hold of it, pressed it against her chest and provided it suck. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Do you think this woman would ever afford to throw her child in the Fire? We said: By Allah, so far as it lies in her power, she would never throw the child in Fire. ' Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Allah is more kind to His servants than this woman is to her child.

do you know what it means to lose new orleans

originally published on Sunday, September 4, 2005 by the New York Times Do You Know What it Means to Lose New Orleans? by Anne Rice

so was there a burqa competition?

I honestly don't know what to say. Maybe the folks at Qiyamah Forecast will pick-up on it and give it a funny caption (they've actually been kind of dormant for a while but I have a hard time believing it is because there is not enough qiyamah-worthy stuff going on in the world) How could they have missed the Crowning of the First Muslim woman as Miss England I sort of want to say its a good thing, and then I sort of don't. What do y'all think?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

prison islam

The movie South Central was on BET tonight. It's been years since I've seen the whole movie from beginning to end. All I caught was the scene where Ali (the presumably Muslim inmate) defends Bobby (the main character) from being raped by the Aryans.

Ali: We all know Bobby here a man. He a man, so nobody punking nobody here. Am I right, Buddha? Buddha, do you, or do you not recognize this is a man standing here?

The scene also reminded me of a fact which I've mentioned here before. Without any exageration, one of the most humane and sympathetic portrayals of Muslims on tv has been the HBO series Oz, where all the Muslims are inmates in a prison! (And South Central probably comes in second.) Instead of being stereotyped as fanatical single-minded violent terrorists, the prison Muslims which appear on film and tv are often shown as principled (invariably African-American) men striving to live righteously in an overwhelmingly negative environment. Occasionally overzealous, but generally sincere. Even when they are flawed, they still are more Malcolm X than Detroit Red.

I say all of this as a preface to a recent article from alt.muslim:

Rehabilitating Islam's Prison Image by Shahed Amanullah which goes into some of the real-life positive changes which Islam is bringing about in the lives of inmates.

chuck d on katrina

Chuck D on Katrina: Hell No We Ain't Alright courtesy of Adisa Banjoko at Holla at a Scholar. I wonder how much time it takes most rappers to put a decent song together. Maybe we'll be seeing a Hurricane Katrina benefit album, with Kanye and Chuck D but heavy on groups from the dirty, dirty...

Monday, September 05, 2005

what's up with blog spam?

There is a Philip K. Dick short story (I'm blanking on the name right now) about how in the future there will be so much economic pressure to sell things and companies will go to greater and greater lengths to present ads to consumers such that privacy and peace and quiet virtually disapper. If I remember right, it gets so bad that the main character ends up leaving the planet just to get away from the commercials. In fact, that was probably the inspiration for how in the film Minority Report (also based on a Philip K. Dick short story) the computerized billboards gave people retina scans and personalized their sales pitch to each potential customers. Well... we are quite that bad... yet. But we are getting there...

As for the here and now.... I'm happy to get supportive comments on my blog. I'm even happy to get critical negative comments on my blog (hey, at least folks are reading it). But gettings ads which are disguised as comments are starting to annoy me.

black orpheus

I rememeber back in college I was taking a class on Philosophy, Race and Racism. One of the readings included the introduction to a famous collection of negritude Poetry called Black Orpheus. The author (Jean-Paul Sartre) was pretty deep. He was saying that the French language was made for French people. White French People. For centuries upon centuries the language was designed to express, reflect and support their history, their experience, their ideas, their feelings and emotions, their point of view. And so when Black people use French to talk about their own lives, they are using French for a purpose it was never meant for, so the the language can't help but break and crack and come out as poetry. I like that.


Another book I am currently grazing through is Wickedary (the link is to an online version) by Mary Daly. In fact, I was thinking about it alot when I wrote my decolonized tongue entry. It is hard to explain but Wickedary is basically is an attempt to remake the English language according to feminist principles. New words are created. Old words are given new meanings, new spellings, new etymologies. My words can't really do it justice. Check it out.

islam and the divine feminine

a brief exploration of the feminine side of God in Islam, especially through the words of the Sufis. It takes a kind of syncretic approach which gives me reservations but it definitely makes interesting reading.

jesus and the virgin mary in islam

Jesus and the Virgin Mary in Islam is a brief summary of some of the Quranic verses on the subject by Juan Galvan from LADO (Latino American Dawa Organization).

the once and future goddess

In a roundabout way, this is part of a follow-up on the Mary stuff I was blogging about earlier:

These days I'm grazing through a couple of related books. One is called the Once and Future Goddess by Elinor W. Gadon which looks at religion from the Paleolithic period to the modern day and highlights and describes different forms of Goddess worship.

The general claim is that while many ancient humans worshiped a male (Judeo-Christian) God, a Sky Father who is distinct from creation, and who reinforces a male-dominated patriarchal social order, originally a more prevalent and older kind of religion worshiped a female Goddess, an Earth Mother who is more intimately related to creation. The world comes out of her. She represents, among other things, the sanctity of human reproduction, and presumably affirms either a matriarchal or an egalitarian social order. I remember many years ago having a conversation with someone who was telling me that way back in the day before folks completely understood the birds and the bees, the fact that women could produce new life was a pretty amazing thing and so societies tended to be matriarchal. (I happen to think its still pretty amazing.) But then later on when men figured out they had something to do with it too, some of the wonder and amazement went away.

The book tells the story of how Goddess worship has existed in different civilizations around the world, and was often suppressed by the male God worshippers. But then the book also goes into how Goddess worship has managed to survive, resist and re-emerge in modern times. And Gadon actually mentioned the Virgen de Guadalupe (along with the cult of the Black Madonnas, and Marian devotion in general) as forms of Goddess worship within Christianity.

I get the feeling that Gadon would probably lump Islam in as a patriarchal male God worshipping religion but as a Muslim, I would have two main responses.

Firstly, I find Islam to be very clear when it comes to saying that God is ultimately beyond the capacity of human language to adequately describe. He is not like anything in creation, so in particular, orthodox Muslims would insist that God is neither male nor female. Anyone who says differently is standing on shaky theological ground.

Secondly, since we can't help but use human language and images to talk about God, it is worth noting that some of the theological imagery and language which comes up in Islam is POWERFULLY feminine.

For example, every sura of the Quran (except one) begins with the widespread Islamic invocation "Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim" (In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate) and these common names for Allah (ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim) are both etymologically related to the concept of womb.

If you are interested, a really good resource for further information about this feminine aspect of God is the book The Tao of Islam: A soucebook on gender relationships in Islamic thought.

In any case, it definitely seems inappropriate to set up "Allah" as a male God in competition with the "Goddess". Instead, there is only one Supreme Being. Muslims try to approach that Supreme Being by following Islam, while in modern times, certain neo-Pagans are trying to approach that same Supreme Being in a very different way.

constantine: screenplay

I mentioned the movie Constantine when I blogged on the Da Vinci Code a while back. But since Manrilla had mentioned recently it I felt moved to include a link to the screenplay (at least an early version of it). I was hoping to find a script of The Prophecy as well, but no luck for the moment.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

"i don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"

nabbed from Left Side of the Dial

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

National Geographic, October 2004

the power of live television...

wow... i just happened to be flipping channels last night and caught Kanye West's speech during the Hurricane Katrina benefit on television. Not the most eloquent but his heart was in the right place. I wonder what the teleprompter wanted him to say... I also hope that instead of stopping with off the cuff comments on a national "open mike", someone like him pushes the music industry to be more conscious in general.

Transcript of remarks
More on Davey D's hip-hop site

Friday, September 02, 2005

the manrilla blog

I've already borrowed material from this blog before, but I just now put him on my blogroll and also wanted to introduce y'all to how cool his blog is with the following two entries:
Why are we Muslim?
The Changing Mood of Islam in America

Thursday, September 01, 2005

news from izzy mo

A couple of Katrina entries from Izzy Mo's Blog (the author is a Muslim woman from New Orleans who managed to get away to Atlanta)
How You Can Help
Hurricane Katrina

more on miss katrina

Negrophile on Hurricane Katrina:
"What I wouldn't pay to hear a Fox anchor ask, 'Say, Bob, why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?'"

finders keepers, loo... looters are black.

Note, the "subtle" difference in how the two actions are described.

A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.(AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen)

from Daily Kos