|You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.|
What is Your World View? (updated)
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Tuesday, January 31, 2006
One such interview is from Splendid online magazine:
Splendid: The book [Said the Shotgun to the Head] seems to touch on themes of enlightenment, particularly a thematic thread of pyramids. Does this allude to the way they were built (i.e. out of flesh) in the ancient Egyptian sense, or is there something more?
Saul Williams: The idea is simply that I'm dealing with ancient folklore surrounding the matriarchal essence and nature of an ideal society. That's all it has to deal with. So then we're learning about balance...balance, balance, balance. There's a Native American saying that if we're not careful, we'll end up exactly where we're heading. The whole idea is that, if thinking of God is male has led us to the state that we're in, and I would argue that it has, then maybe we should re-approach how we think of things. Get ourselves out from between this rock and a hard place. Re-imagine the world. Don't simply think of your god as this angry man who punishes you, but of this nurturing mother who loves you.
A previous Grenada entry, islam and the divine feminine touches on this idea and points out how there are feminine aspects to God "even" in Islam. One fact which we can briefly point out is that "Rahman" and "Rahim" the names of God which are used over and over again at the beginning of all but one sura of the Quran have a root RHM related to the word for "womb".
Splendid: The book tends to take a more utopian point of view when it comes to God as the eternal loving mother...
Saul Williams: That is the point of the book right there, to have that love and compassion with the harshness. That's why the book initially started off as a poem called "Kali-flower", an allusion to the Hindu goddess of destruction and creation, the goddess who says everything must be destroyed in order for things to be rebuilt. Buildings have to fall, because that's the only way people are going to wake up. It's no different than Malcolm X saying, "You don't have a revolution unless you have bloodshed."
I don't have much more to say about the above, except that it is a good example of the freshness Saul William's wordplay; breaking words down and putting them back together like legos. Also, the larger point is dead on... any kind of change will involve sacrificing something old in exchange for something new... whether you are talking about the political world or your personal life.
V: So, you mentioned Kali. Did you study different religions?
S: Yeah, on my own. I’ve just always been interested by it. I guess my latest interest has been in just spirituality, and spiritual practice. And in searching for the spiritual practice that suits me best, I’ve often pulled from different religious practices. I find that a lot of what suits me comes from Hinduism and Buddhism, as many of us do. I think we pull from the East a great deal. It’s almost like we had a team of experts in the field of spirituality, and we sent them to the East and said, “Okay, you guys, work on that.” They did a great job. We can benefit ourselves by looking to the East for greater understanding and depth of our spiritual connection to reality.
A fact which I keep thinking back to is how, between Muslims, Christians, Jews, Bahais and all their offshoots and everything in between (e.g. Nation of Islam, Five Percenters, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mandeans, Samaritans, Gnostics, Druzes, Kairites, Noachides, Rastafarians, Hebrew Israelites etc.) in a literal sense more than half of all Earthlings worship the God of Abraham. They may disagree about all sorts of other people and concepts, but they all look back and acknowledge that there was a special covenant between God and Abraham which has some relation to their spiritual life today.
And then the other kind of deep fact is that a large chunk of the other half follow religious traditions rooted in India (Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, etc.)
And so India and Iraq (where Abraham was born) have an odd kind of near-monopoly in terms of being the sources of human spiritual life.
In his Pop Matters interview he says:
The biggest influences on my work, in that context, would have to be Hafiz and Rumi. Hafiz was a 12th century Persian poet whose name in Arabic means "One who remembers." He knew the Koran by heart, he knew his poetry by heart; he was a spoken word artist, if you will. Poetry has always been recited aloud, but besides that, the lightheartedness and spiritual nature of Hafiz's poetry has always been something that I've aspired to. And then there's Rumi; I've been deeply influenced by him. His work is very inspiring. There are tons of poets, moving chronologically from the past to the present, that have inspired me.
The same set of questions tend to run through my mind when I hear non-Muslims say they are into Hafiz or Rumi. First I wonder if as non-Muslims do they have the background to understand the religious references? Do they respects Hafiz and Rumi as products of Islamic civilization which can be part of an argument for Islam's validity? And then I actually have to ask myself the same questions. Do I really understand Hafez and Rumi? Are they really a part of Islamic tradition or are they rebels who are really outside of it? I tend to think that non-Muslims who think Rumi is "cool" are not recognizing the extent to which he was a practicing orthodox Muslim and so they might be misreading him somewhat, seeing what they want to see. But then again, I certainly couldn't claim to be a scholar on the subject. I actually have met at least one person who become Muslim by way of an interest in Rumi. So if we are concerned about dawa or even just about improving Islam's image in the West, it would be beneficial if someone could make and present a coherent argument pointing to the connection between Rumi, Hafiz and the other Sufi poets to orthodox Islamic spirituality.
Splendid: Your interpretation of religion is so much more human that what we're taught -- so much so that you almost feel sorry for those bound by religion, a bunch of sheep in a herd or something akin to a mob mentality.
Saul Williams: They become literalists, sure. But your beliefs can empower you, even if they're completely dogmatic. I think what's most important is that you have a daily practice in your life of prayer, meditation, something, so that even if you have dogmatic beliefs, you have that daily practice to open yourself up to being loving and compassionate to other people. Then everything's cool, even if you're not trying to find the [...] holy grail.
The US military is clearing the way for executions of condemned terror suspects to take place at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The army has just changed the rules governing the location of military executions. The new regulations are primarily aimed at service personnel sentenced to death at a military court martial.
Previously executions could only take place at a military jail in Kansas but now death sentences can be carried out anywhere, including the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.
The army has confirmed the new rules will also apply to any Guantanamo detainee sentenced to death at a specially convened military tribunal. The move worries anti-death penalty campaigner David Elliot. "The death penalty should not work in a sequestered manner where the public can not see what's happening," he said.
None of the 10 terror suspects charged with war crimes, including South Australian David Hicks, are facing the death penalty, although it could be sought in future cases.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Here is the abstract:
African American and European American participants were interviewed about two syndicated comic strips written by and featuring African Americans: Jump Start, a comic strip that portrays African Americans in a normative middle-class family narrative and focuses only occasionally on racial issues, and The Boondocks, a comic strip that focuses frequently on racial issues. The African American groups interpreted the comic strips through the terministic screen of race cognizance, through which racial politics and oppression were highly relevant. Almost all of the European American participants, however, interpreted the comic strips through the terministic screen of Whiteness, through which racial politics and oppression were not relevant.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
The following story appeared last year in the Sun-Sentinel under the title "Some S. Florida Latinas converting to Islam for emphasis on family, women's roles" by Tal Abbady. Alot has already been written about Latinos (especially Latinas) becoming Muslim. I've even posted similar articles on Planet Grenada. But personally I thought that this was well-written and more interesting than most, especially in describing the relationship between Latino culture (in this case the women interviewed were Cuban and Dominican) and Islam.
Miami, USA - Melissa Matos slips into an easy communion with her newest circle of friends. At regular meetings, they invoke their families' native towns in Cuba or the Dominican Republic, or recipes for arroz con pollo. English is interspersed with Spanish. And, posing no incongruity to the women, hijabs, or Muslim head scarves, frame their faces.
When she converted to Islam in May, Matos, a Dominican-American raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, expected the passage to be lonely.
"I said to myself, `Great, I'm going to be the only Muslim Latina in the whole world,'" said Matos, 20, a student at Florida International University who recently joined a group of Latina converts to Islam.
Scholars say Matos is part of a growing number of Latin women converting to Islam for its emphasis on family, piety and clearly defined women's roles, values converts say were once integral to Hispanic culture but have waned after years of assimilation.
The women are among 40,000 Hispanic converts to Islam in the United States, according to the Islamic Society of North America. About a decade ago, Latino converts began forming Internet groups such as the Latino American Dawah Organization and the women's group Piedad that trace Hispanics' ties to Islam back to the Spanish Moors.
Grass-roots leaders say the number of converts grew sharply after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, bucking a trend of thought among Americans that links Islam to terrorism.
Sofian Abelaziz, president of the Miami-based American Muslim Association of North America, said one indication of the conversions is the demand for Spanish-language copies of the Koran, which spiked after Sept. 11. In the past two years, the group has filled orders for 5,500 Spanish-language Korans for schools, cultural institutes and prisons around the country, out of 12,000 orders total.
Matos and other converts say the recent media spotlight on Islam was their first exposure to the faith and spurred further learning.
"[Before] I picked up the Koran, my attitude was, `There's something wrong with this religion,'" said Matos, 20, of Miramar. A friend gave her a copy of the Koran. "But then I saw it was filled discussions of grace from God, of the protection of things we talk about as human rights, of a universal brotherhood. ... This is a religion that encourages thinking and contemplation," she said. In May, Matos converted by reciting the shahada, a prayer in which converts attest to their belief in Allah and Mohammed in front of Muslim witnesses. Islam now circumscribes her life. She is studying Arabic, prays five times a day, wears a hijab and follows Islamic dietary laws.
"There is no conflict between my Dominican heritage and Islam. I grew up in a culture where you have a family you love and you take care of one another, and Islam complements those values," Matos said.
Matos' conversion rattled friends and family members who linked Islam with Taliban-style oppression, but scholars say Latina converts are practicing a confessional Islam that offers strong moral guidelines.
"People might ask, `Why would women convert to a religion that is so traditional in its gender roles?' But that's part of the appeal. There's a recovery of dignity," said Manuel Vasquez, religion professor at the University of Florida. "Second-generation Latinas are caught between the morality of their parents and the morality of the larger mainstream society. Islam offers a clear code. Women ... know they are respected, taken care and protected from the negative influences of secular society. It's a kind of empowerment they don't experience in a culture that is constantly sexualizing them, and Latinas are particularly sexualized."
The converts may be fashioning a form of Islam that meets their needs in a country that allows them to do so.
"It's a comment on our society, on the fragmentation of American family life," said Leila Ahmed, a Harvard University professor who has written extensively on gender in Islam. "We have to bear that this is happening in America, where there is freedom of choice. These women are not converting in order to go and live in Saudi Arabia. We also don't know how permanent these conversions are in a country where people convert two or three times in their lives."
Like many converts, Matos calls herself a "revert," a reference to the Muslim belief that everyone is born in a state of submission to Allah. Being Hispanic and following Islam now are inextricable.
"When I meet with [my group] we speak in Spanish," she said. "We'll talk about what it was like back in Cuba or the Dominican Republic. And yet we're all wearing hijabs. It reminds me of the universality of Islam."
Religious leaders say the Latina converts assimilate easily into Islam.
"What they see in Islam is what their parents used to practice: that respect for elders, the care and protection that husbands are obligated to give their wives," said Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, director of the Darul Uloom Islamic Institute in Pembroke Pines. "Many converts tell me, `This is how my parents grew up.'"
When a Hispanic Muslim friend slipped a copy of the Koran into her hands, Marie Hernandez found "a total way of life."
"I started reading about the life of the Prophet Mohammed, and I was convinced that this is the true prophet of God," said Hernandez, 22, of Boca Raton. "This is the message I have to follow."
Islam also was a powerful antidote to a troubled adolescence, during which Hernandez left home for two years.
Conversion meant the end of partying, very little television and waking up at 5 a.m. for her first prayers. It also meant reconciling with her Honduran-born Catholic parents and becoming a Muslim wife. She met her husband, an Egyptian, through a meeting arranged by her imam. They have a 20-month-old toddler, Fatimah, named for the Prophet Mohammed's iconic daughter.
"At first my parents thought it was weird, and they were scared," Hernandez said. "They thought I might get too extreme in my worship. But now we have a beautiful relationship. Part of being a Muslim is to honor your parents, and I started treating my dad the way I should have."
A strong draw for Hernandez was the idea that for Muslims, Islam is the culmination of all religions. In the Koran, Jesus is venerated as a prophet, and entire passages are devoted to the Virgin Mary -- a ubiquitous figure in Latin American culture.
"It's important to know that Jesus and Mary play a role in Islam. Most Latin Americans are Catholic because that's all they know, that's what their predecessors were," said Hernandez, who cooks tamales to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
Converts say they are evidence that Latino identity is in flux.
"One reaction Latinos have with regard to Latinos who come to Islam is, `You're leaving your religion! You're leaving your culture!' But Latino culture is evolving," said Juan Galvan, president of the Texas chapter of the Latino American Dawah Organization.
"It's quite possible that Islam will one day be inseparable from Latino culture just as Christianity is."
Roraima Aisha Kanar, 52, is from a family of Cuban exiles who fled Cuba in 1959 and settled in Miami. Dissatisfied with Catholicism, she converted to Islam 30 years ago.
"My mother was devastated. I couldn't go to the beach and wear a bathing suit. I had to be covered and not wear makeup. I couldn't wear low-cut dresses. I felt like telling her, `Do you mean to tell me that's what's important in life?'" she said. "I think Latinas who convert are looking for a culture that we'd always had and then lost: strictness in the family, respect towards the elderly, moral and spiritual ties and the importance of having God in your life. Our grandparents had values similar to that. As converts we're just coming back to our roots."
After her conversion, she grew apart from her nightclub-hopping friends. She married a Turkish man with whom she has three children.
For Kanar, wearing the hijab, which some see as a sign of subjugation, is liberating.
"I lived through the '70s women's-lib movement," said Kanar, who works in accounting and owns a real estate business. "As a woman you wanted to be accepted as a person with a brain and not just a sexual object that had to be looking pretty to men all the time. I saw covering as something that would give me a lot of self-esteem. It did."
Kanar says she has straddled her Latino heritage and Islam comfortably.
"As soon as you speak to me you forget I'm wearing a hijab. I'm Cuban, and I speak with my hands. I love Celia Cruz. We don't go to Calle Ocho and we don't celebrate Christmas. We eat Spanish food, and though we won't have pork, we can do a nice lamb. What does it mean to be a Cuban, really? I feel Cuban, but I'm a Muslim Cuban."
Friday, January 27, 2006
Thursday, January 26, 2006
The man who accepts Western values absolutely finds his creative faculties becoming so warped and stunted that he is almost completely dependent on external satisfactions, and the moment he becomes frustrated in his search for these, he begins to develop neurotic symptoms, to feel that life is not worth living.
He also broke down the word dis/oriented and through some slightly creative etymology said it meant "to turn away from the East". We are lost and we to turn back to the Eastern spiritual traditions to find our bearings again.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Monday, January 23, 2006
I really don't want to get into the whole issue of "Progressive Muslim" right this minute. I've commented on the subject before. I'll just say that it is mildly annoying to me that the term "Progressive Muslim" seems to have been hijacked by a group of people who are often neither. So instead of refering to orthodox Muslims who are concerned about racism, classism, sexism and other forms of oppression in society, the term tends to be applied to Neoconservative "cultural Muslims". Go figure.
In any case, I would like to do my part to take the term back. For instance, the Progressive Faith Blog-Con is for people of faith who identify as progressive in the first sense but not necessarily the second. Check it out.
Narrated Salim from his father:
No, By Allah, the Prophet did not tell that Jesus was of red complexion but said, "While I was asleep circumambulating the Ka'ba (in my dream), suddenly I saw a man of brown complexion and lank hair walking between two men, and water was dropping from his head. I asked, 'Who is this?' The people said, 'He is the son of Mary.' Then I looked behind and I saw a red-complexioned, fat, curly-haired man, blind in the right eye which looked like a bulging out grape. I asked, 'Who is this?' They replied, 'He is Ad-Dajjal.' The one who resembled to him among the people, was Ibn Qatar." (Az-Zuhri said, "He (i.e. Ibn Qatan) was a man from the tribe Khuza'a who died in the pre-lslamic period.")
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Jesus is born in a shanty-town shed, a far cry from a manger in a Bethlehem stable. His mother Mary is a virgin, though feisty enough to argue with the angels. Gun-wielding authorities fear his message of equality and he ends up hanging on a cross.
"We wanted to look at the gospels as if they were written by spindoctors and to strip that away and look at the truth," director Mark Dornford-May told Reuters in an interview.
"The truth is that Christ was born in an occupied state and preached equality at a time when that wasn't very acceptable."
Yet another retelling/revisioning of a familiar story is A Huey Freeman Christmas which gives more than a few nods to its Charlie Brown predecessor, both in terms of music and storyline. Huey's teacher wants him to direct the school Christmas play, but Huey insists on complete creative control ("I want it in writing"). And even after getting helped by Quincy Jones, Huey still has a few obstacles and hurdles to overcome before he will be able to realize his visionary play "The Adventures of Black Jesus".
p.s. The above link should display the actual episode but the quality may vary with the speed of your internet connection. There is also a searchable archive to several other Boondocks episodes including one called Don't drop the soap. (or "A Date with the Health Inspector") Don't miss the scene where two white gangstas, reminiscent of certain politicians (and voiced by Charlie Murphy and Samuel Jackson) hold-up a convenience store owner who looks surprisingly like a certain Iraqi dictator on the grounds that he has a gun.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
But if you want to see an example of how the truth can be as strange as fiction, here is the real life story of a Black Klansman. (Although I wonder if the story was written as it was because of the Chappelle sketch)
Allah's Apostle said, "Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, "O Allah's Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?" The Prophet said, "By preventing him from oppressing others."
To recognize evil in its own time and to act upon it when it is unsafe to do so is an enormous privilege. Such recognition and action is really for one’s higher self. Thus when I lodged a complaint with the South African Independent Broadcasting Authority against a local Muslim radio station for promoting hate speech against Jews, or when I regularly denounced Muslim anti–Semitism in my writings I did not do Jews any favours. I do not recall ever looking back to see how my interventions were being received by them – or even if they were aware of them. I acted thus so that my own humanity not be diminished by my silence when some part of the human family was being demeaned. This is the African notion of ubunthu – ‘I am a person because of my connected to other persons; I am because you are’. If something lessens your worth as a human being then it lessens mine as well. To act in your defense is really to act in defense of my ‘self’ – my higher present self or my vulnerable future self.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The Simon Wiesenthal Center took the comment as anti-semitic and are asking Chavez to apologize. But local Latin American Jewish organizations, as well as other American Jewish organizations are defending Chavez and are accusing the Simon Wiesenthal Center of rushing to judgment by charging Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, with making antisemitic remarks.
So then that raises the question of whether the Simon Wiesenthal center is speaking in the interests Venezuelan Jews or speaking as an American organization which disagrees with Chavez's political stances?
Monday, January 16, 2006
I am conviced that capitalism has seen its best days in America, and not only in America, but in the entire world. It is a well known fact that no social institution can survive when it has outlived its usefullness. This, capitalism has done. It has failed to meet the needs of the masses.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
From Beyond Vietnam: a Time to Break Silence, a speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City. He would be assassinated a year later to the day.
Su piel era negra, pero con el alma purísima como la nieve blanca...
-Evtuchenko (según el cable), ante el asesinato de Lutero King.
Qué alma tan blanca, dicen,
la de aquel noble pastor.
Su piel tan negra, dicen,
su piel tan negra de color,
era por dentro nieve,
No había ni una mancha
en su blanquísimo interior.
(En fin, valiente hallazgo:
El negro que tenía el alma blanca,
Pero podría decirse de otro modo:
Qué alma tan poderosa negra
la del dulcísimo pastor.
Qué alta pasión negra
ardía en su ancho corazón.
Qué pensamientos puros negros
su grávido cerebro alimentó.
Qué negro amor,
¿Por qué, no
por qué no iba a tener el alma negra
aquel heroico pastor?
Negra como el carbón.
You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry… Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong…with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a Democratic Socialism.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech to his staff, Frogmore, S.C. (14 November 1966)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
AlterNet: Swimming With the Sharks by Howard Karger discusses more contemporary predatory lending institutions (legal loan sharks).
Of course, both are prohibited in an Islamic economic system.
"if money is the root i want the whole damn tree"
I'm not sure what is the best way to think of this. Either the Afro-Brazilians have wanted something like this all along, but were so disempowered by the racial climate that they didn't believe they could achieve the goal in spite of their numbers? Or perhaps racial consciousness is so low in Brazil that they didn't even conceive of a desire for greater representation? Or maybe something else entirely different?
Saturday, January 14, 2006
And from the Washington Times: Hugo Chavez suggests the formation of a regional "Bank of the South" that would help reduce foreign debt in Latin America, and offer no-strings loans in competition to the U.S.-backed IMF.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Thursday, January 12, 2006
JERUSALEM - Israel has suspended contact with evangelist Pat Robertson for suggesting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
The decision, announced Wednesday by Israeli officials, does not affect other Christian groups that also consider it their spiritual duty to support Israel as fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Israeli leaders see the Christian allies as tireless lobbyists in Washington and elsewhere. The evangelicals also funnel millions of dollars each year to Jewish settlers in the West Bank and — before last year's pullout — the Gaza Strip.
(Okay, I'm not going to stop doing links cold turkey. I'm just going to try to cut down a little, and comment more.)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Recently, I've been thinking about the direction which my blog has been taking. When I started out, I had a pretty clear idea of what my blog should NOT be like. I noticed some Muslim blogs emphasized information on fiqh or hadith-of-the-week type of stuff, which always struck me as strange because it is more natural for me to get that kind of information from a book (even an online book) when I'm interested in it. I also didn't feel like competing with the newsbloggers. I'm not a professional (nor even an amateur) reporter and don't have the resources to do what they do first-hand. At the other extreme, I didn't want to write the kind of self-indulgent, navel-gazing personal blog full of entries like "Tuesday, I had Fruit Loops. Tomorrow Captain Crunch". (For some reason, alot of the Xanga and livejournal users are in that genre). For me, the ideal blog would be as personal and honest as a diary and as timely and current as the news. And it should have content which is interesting and hard to find in a book. (On the other hand, maybe I should write a book based on the issues brought up in the blog?)
I'm not going to make any claims on how good Planet Grenada has been at avoiding the above-mentioned mistakes. I've been starting to feel like my blog has been a little link heavy. I can pass information along for people to read themselves, but I should probably put in more context and commentary. Copy-and-paste less, and "pontificate" more. I really appreciate the way Umar and certain other bloggers share their opinions and experiences and put themselves out there while they are commenting on current events. I could probably stand to get more personal without entering into Fruit Loops territory.
On the other hand, Third Resurrection is getting off to a good start. The members are great. InshaAllah, we'll keep it going for a while and will be a positive experience.
What do y'all think? What's your ideal blog like? If you have a blog, what are you tring to accomplish with it?
tuesday i had fruit loops
When I first started practicing Islam, I don't think I knew enough to call myself any label (Like the S-word or the W-word) but I definitely came in on the the birthdays-and-non-muslim-holidays-are-bidah tip. My folks probably thought I had developed some Grinch-like tendancies. I think that now, I'm probably mellower than I used to be, but I still don't like to make a big deal about holidays or my birthday.
There was a blackout today. The power was out when I woke up and probably won't be back on before the end of the day. I'll try not to read too much into that.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Sean Muttaqi is a Muslim who takes a very atypical perspective when it comes to animals. He was a member of a political punk band named Vegan Reich which developed and catalyzed something called the Hardline movement
The Hardline philosophy was said to be rooted in one ethic (the sacredness of innocent life), but in reality the ethos rested on that base and on an idea of an immutable Natural Order. Put in more specific terms, Hardline can be described as a synthesis of deep ecology, straight edge, animal liberation, leftism, and Abrahamic religion.
And so when discussing the Islamic dietary laws and the concept of qurbani, Sean Muttaqi emphasizes the sanctity of life throughout:
Every Surah of the Qur'an came to Muhammad (sal) in response to certain events that were taking place of a period of many years. In the case of halal dietary laws, before their implement, many people were slaughtering countless animals, in very inhumane ways - wasting much of the food, and treating animals abhorrently. Living in a desert environment, vegetarianism wasn't a possibility and thus not a practical answer to this situation and problem. So what Muhammad (sal) said, and what the Qur'an says, is that one must treat animals fairly, and if one must kill to survive, they must do it in the most humane manner possible (and also, since only Allah can create life, the animals life must be taken in the name of Allah, as only Allah has the right to end such a life). Never is indiscriminant murder encouraged or even condoned. Far from that, what was encouraged was that less killing be done - and that when it must be (for survival) that one must share the meat with the poorer members of society, and to be less gluttonous in one's eating habits, so that less life must be taken.
Muttaqi has developed his ideas in some interesting directions. It is my understanding that he is no longer with Vegan Reich but is behind the Uprising Records label. And he also has a number of his articles still available on the Al Qadar website. (The articles are generally well-written and flesh out the ideas of the Hardline movement. They do a reasonable job of presenting basic Islamic principles in a way consistent with vegan politics.)
Interview with Sean Muttaqi
Al Qadar Website
One of the things which appeals to me most about Islam is that it has a certain eternal and ancient quality. If I wanted to sound all fancy I might say Islam is "transparent to its own particularity". It isn't just some Arab religion which started 1400 or so years ago. As Schuon puts it, Islam is about the meeting between God as such, and man as such. In some sense which is hard to explain to non-Muslims, Islam really is the first religion, the natural religion, din al-fitra, the religion of Adam, Noah, Moses and all the prophets.
In another sense, Islam is also the religion of Abraham especially. There are many examples of elements which appear in the story of Abraham found in the Bible (and are confirmed by the Quran and hadith) which are a part of Islamic practice today; for example circumcision, pilgrimage and sacrifice.
The idea of sacrifice is something which seems foreign to our modern secular sanitized pre-conceived notions of religion, but at the same time it is hits on something raw and primal which really forces us to vividly confront life and death. And it wasn't just limited to a few peoples here and there, but is widespread among many different religious groups in human history, the ancient Hebrews, the Aztecs, the Yoruba, the Greeks and Romans, and Hindus among others.
But in Islam, it is not claimed that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins." God is not like some Cosmic Shylock who demands His pound of flesh before he will allow Himself to forgive you.
The Quran says about the sacrifices:
It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right. [22.37]
And at once this very concrete and basic human ritual is not just seen in a superficially literal or superstitious way but is a symbol for something more which lies beneath the surface.
For more information:
The Fiqh of Qurbani by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Distributing Udhiya/Qurbani Meat to Needy Non-Muslims by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Philosophy of Qurbaani by Mufti Taqi Usmani
Zulhijjah: Eidul-Adha, Hajj, Sacrifice, etc. by Mufti Taqi Usmani
Monday, January 09, 2006
For a very long time I have had this problem with the way history is taught. Too many of our textbooks and professors teach history as if they were taking a droplet of water out of the river and presenting that droplet as the entire river itself. And they do so with little regard to those trillions of droplets that make a river possible. No one event, no one person, exists out of context. We are all part of some sense of continuum.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Edward Gibbon writes about the Ka'bah and its existence before the Christian era in his book, Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire:
Each tribe, each family, each independent warrier, created and changed the rites and the object of this fantastic worship; but the nation, in every age, has bowed to the religion as well as to the language of Mecca. The genuine antiquity of Caaba ascends beyond the Christian era: in describing the coast of the Red sea the Greek historian Diodorus has remarked, between the Thamudites and the Sabeans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all the Arabians; the linen of silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first offered by the Homerites, who reigned seven hundred years before the time of Mohammad.
Another interesting connection, which I first read about in Martin Ling's biography of the Prophet, but was reminded of by Sadiq M. Alam over at Inspirations and Creative Thoughts (He also has a lecture by Zaid Shakir on Hajj on his site).
In the Quran, an alternative name given for Mecca is Becca (3:96-97)
Most surely the first house appointed for men is the one at Becca, blessed and a guidance for the nations. In it are clear signs, the standing place of Ibrahim, and whoever enters it shall be secure, and pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) every one who is able to undertake the journey to it; and whoever disbelieves, then surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above any need of the worlds.
But then the Bible, in Psalm 84 also seems to contain a possible allusion to the same place:
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young-- a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob.
9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
I don't think Islam needs that kind of validation but it is still fascinating to me to see how certain ideas, themes and practices echo back and forth between Islam and the Bible.
I recently found out that in Chile and certain other countries, the day is also called La Pascua de los Negros. Some say the name is a reference to the idea that one of Wise Men was a black African.
But others say:
Es interesante notar que, en tiempo de la colonización española, especialmente en Cuba y Puerto Rico, este día era de asueto para los esclavos negros que salían a las calles a bailar al ritmo de sus tamboras. Esto origina el nombre de Pascua de los Negros con que el día es aún conocido en algunos países.
The period from December 26 (Boxing Day) to January 6 is also the origin of the 12 days of Christmas.
The Quran does contain a birth narrative of Jesus but doesn't mention the Wise Men. (Although, in 22:17 Magians are mentioned but not in reference to the birth of Christ). As far as I know, no authoritative Muslim accounts (i.e. Quran and sunnah) of the birth of Jesus include the Wise Men. But I wouldn't rule out the possibility that there is some obscure narration or a syncretic legend in the Muslim world which includes them... After all, if Muslims in Senegal celebrated Christmas this year then anything is possible. (I wonder if Christians in Senegal will be celebrating Eid? Just this morning I was hearing on NPR how African Christians were incorporating traditional African pracitices in the churches and they mentioned animal sacrifices)
Nevertheless, I would still argue that the story of the Wise Men suggests a different kind of similarity between Islam and Christianity.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
According to some, the three wise men symbolically correspond to Noah's three sons and represent all the people of the earth coming to pay their respects to Christ. (And so one is African, another Oriental, another European) But in other interpretations, the "Wise Men from the east" came from Persia and were likely to be Zoroastrian. In any case, if you take the Bible literally, they were Gentiles who had their own system of belief but were still able to correctly predict the birth of the Messiah. And so, in this way, the Bible is recognizing the validity of a pre-Christian non-Jewish religion. And so an argument can be made that from a Christian perspective, Zoroastrians (or whatever group the Wise Men belonged to) are People of the Book. (Allahu alim)
"It may be that in the future there will be more rather than fewer of us - the 2001 census suggested that mixed-race people had the youngest average age profile, and one in five of London's schoolchildren will soon be from mixed-race backgrounds. I know there can never be a box on those forms for every possible permutation of ethnic origin. But I also hope that as mixed-race people become more numerous and start to reach the higher echelons of British society, a more sophisticated understanding of ethnicity will evolve: one which allows people like me to be seen as a subtle shade of beige."
When I was younger, I would have felt more positively towards the above article. Now that I'm older, I think the article raises some good questions, but my attitudes towards racial/ethnic identity have in some ways gotten simpler. Now, alot of the identity questioning I engaged in seems like self-indulgent navel-gazing. We have more important questions to deal with in life other than which box to check.
Furthermore, Latin America with its long and extensive history of miscegenation already has developed a rich vocabulary of terms, in Spanish, Portuguese and even French, which can be used to describe different racial mixes. So centuries ago in certain parts of the New World, society had already "evolved" past seeing things in black and white and even beige, and had moved on to dividing people into mestizo, castizo, espomolo, mulatto, lobo, zambo, coyote, moreno, trigueno and many other categroies. But it wasn't at all clear that this richer and more detailed language did anything to limit or prevent the effects of racism/colorism/prejudice in these societies. So I would definitely question whether Mokades' train of thought does anything to significantly to make the world a better place.
At the same time, I don't think my attitudes would be what they are now, if I hadn't obsessed over these sorts of questions then. So ultimately I would settle on saying that on an individual level, especially in the case of people who come from any kind of a mixed-background a period of racial navel-gazing is useful, and maybe even necessary, but in the long run we need to look elsewhere to create a truly free society.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for Jose Padilla, once accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive ''dirty bomb,'' to be released from a military brig and moved to Miami, where he faces a criminal trial on lesser terror-related charges.
In some sense this is a good thing for Padilla because it ends his Kafka-esque status of being in a legal limbo. On the other hand, according to the Herald, Padilla is being released from military custody in order to prevent the Supreme Court from making a ruling on the administration's "right" to consider U.S. citizens as enemy combatants.
Friday, January 06, 2006
This is actually an issue I think alot about from time to time. What is the whole purpose of punishment and the criminal justice system (I'm still not sure how to diagram that last phrase). If the goal is rehabilitation then as a society, you want to do everything you can to help people get re-integrated in society when they get out. But if we aren't willing to do that, what was the point of letting them out in the first place?
Also see: pat robertson is evil: reason #873
Thursday, January 05, 2006
DELTONA -- A handful of angry residents Tuesday night denounced a city employee's recent use of an ethnic slur toward Hispanics and called for her to resign or be fired.
A group of about 15 to 20 people applauded and cheered during a City Commission meeting as three residents gave passionate speeches lashing out at city officials for not anticipating such a negative reaction to the term "spic" used in jest by public information officer Jeannine Gage at a media-only event last month.
During a "media appreciation day" at City Hall on Dec. 1, Gage jokingly announced a mud-wrestling match that would feature celebrity "hicks vs. spics."
Though the city gave Gage a written reprimand, residents who spoke Tuesday said that if she is not dismissed, they will start a petition for her removal.
(full story at Orlando Sentinel)
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
"Economics, as channeled by its popular avatars in media and politics, is the cosmology and the theodicy of our contemporary culture. More than religion itself, more than literature, more than cable television, it is economics that offers the dominant creation narrative of our society, depicting the relation of each of us to the universe we inhabit, the relation of human beings to God. And the story it tells is a marvelous one. In it an enormous multitude of strangers, all individuals, all striving alone, are nevertheless all bound together in a beautiful and natural pattern of existence: the market. This understanding of markets—not as artifacts of human civilization but as phenomena of nature—now serves as the unquestioned foundation of nearly all political and social debate. As mergers among media companies began to create monopolies on public information, ownership limits for these companies were not tightened but relaxed, because "the market" would provide its own natural limits to growth. When corporate accounting standards needed adjustment in the 1990s, such measures were cast aside because they would interfere with "market forces." Social Security may soon fall to the same inexorable argument.
"The problem is that the story told by economics simply does not conform to reality."
Basically Sen McGlinn was a Bahai scholar but was disenrolled from the Bahai faith for some of his political opinions. On top of that, the Bahai publishing house which distributed his works and certain other Bahai scholarly writings is receiving some flack from the Bahai officials as well. For more info, check out Dervish:
Blackwhite - Part One
Blackwhite - Part Two
Past Grenada entries:
bahais and divorce
WASHINGTON - A Pentagon contractor that paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles written by American soldiers has also been compensating Sunni religious scholars in Iraq in return for assistance with its propaganda work, according to current and former employees.
The Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations company, was told early in 2005 by the Pentagon to identify religious leaders who could help produce messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar Province to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency, according to a former employee.
From Common Dreams: (full story)
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
In the second half of the novel, Rice continues with more Smallville-ish moments where Jesus alludes to or has interactions with characters we know will play larger roles later in the story.
The other remarkable aspeect to the novel is the way in which Rice sticks literally to the most conventional elements of the story, from the Wise Men, to the star, to angels saying "Glory to God in the Highest", even to the length of saying it snowed in Bethlehem on the night of Christ's birth!
Given the job Anne Rice did with this first slice of the story, I think it will be interesting to see what she does with the later years.
see christ: the prequel
Monday, January 02, 2006
Kwanzaa, which traditionally showcases the inner strength, struggles and accomplishments of African-Americans, is quickly becoming a popular holiday for black Caribbean people, as well.
As they began dabbling in the celebration, they found they shared similar roots.
"We're all Africans. We've just been dropped off in different places," said Amanayea Abraham, a cultural consultant for the West Palm Beach-based African-American Cultural Arts Organization.
From BlackElectorate.com: Kwanzaa Gains Momentum Among Caribbean Blacks by Karla D. Shores
Sunday, January 01, 2006
I'm a little pressed for time today, so I will limit myself to a few brief comments:
First, I would point out that here there is an obvious but superficial similarity between Karenga's notion of imani and the Islamic concept of iman (also commonly translated as "faith" or "belief"). While Karenga seems to be talking about having faith in created things, the Islamic concept of iman is centered on the Supreme Being who is uncreated.
So, secondly, unlike two days ago when one could argue that Nia and Niyyah could co-exist and complement one another, I would say that here the two terms, iman and imani are harder (if not impossible) to reconcile. Karenga seems to be turning Blackness into an idol, but from an Islamic perspective idolatry is the one unforgivable sin.
So, thirdly, what we should do is start with God and an inclusive notion of justice and taking care of your neighbors and "kinfolk". That might allow for some general feelings of racial solidarity, but it shouldn't reach such extremes that race becomes an idol.