Wednesday, February 28, 2007

race and the human genome Race and the Human Genome by Hisham Aidi is a brief overview (from 2001) of some of the racial implications of modern genetics research.

the party of lincoln

So I guess he was a white supremacist...

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
-Abraham Lincoln, (September 18, 1858)

black presidents (part six)

It is likely that with the possible exception of occasional updates on Obama's candidacy, this will be the last entry in this series on Black presidents. I'd meant to comment on the topic of the current post especially after I realized that some folks were finding their way to Planet Grenada by trying to learn more about this subject anyway...

but Sondjata over at Garvey's Ghost already beat me to the punch with his entry: On These So Called "Black" Presidents

I'd heard this claim before because some of the Afrocentric bookstores I would frequent carried J.A. Roger's book "The Five Negro Presidents". Basically, the claim is that several of the past U.S. Presidents (not counting Bill Clinton) had some amount of African descent and were therefore only "passing" as white. (The candidates are Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge).

Personally I would not want to dismiss these claims without really looking at the evidence but in some cases the racial identification seems more rooted in negative campaigning in a racist society than on solid genealogical information. Furthermore, as Sondjata's post underlines, the fact that anyone could consider any of the candidates "Black" just reveals some of the extremely bizarre implications of the one-drop rule and the American construction of race.

See also:
5 Black Presidents by Dr. Leroy Vaughn
DiversityInc: Obama Wouldn't Be First Black President by Aysha Hussain

black presidents (part four)
black presidents (part five)

al sharpton and strom thurmond

From an old Boondocks:
Huey to Ceasar: Y'know, love him or hate him... you can't deny that there is a powerful message for all of us to learn in the long life of Strom Thurmond.

And that is...?

That you can really, really, really, really, really hate Black people... And it's basicaly ok with everyone...

In related news: Al Sharpton recently learned that some of his ancestors were owned by Strom Thurmond's ancestors. Strom Thurmond's biracial daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams says: It's not that bad.

Monday, February 26, 2007

blacks and browns urged to unite for immigration

By James Wright, Contributing Writer
February 26, 2007
WASHINGTON - A coalition of Blacks and Latinos is necessary to effecting changes in immigration laws, a nationwide advocacy group has determined.

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), which operates under the umbrella of the Center for Community Change, held a summit on the campus of Gallaudet University from Jan. 30-Feb. 1 to discuss strategies on how to bring together the two largest minority groups to create fair, comprehensive immigration reform policy. There were workshops, speakers and visits to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
(full story in the Louisiana Weekly)

dead white males (part one)

This was originally going to be a St. Valentine's Day post but time ran away from me...

I was in high school when I first heard about Allan Bloom's book "The Closing of the American Mind". This was my first introduction to the "cultural wars"... the epic struggle between the Canons of Dead White Male civilization and Political Multi-Post-Cultural-Relativistic Correctness. By default I tended to cheer for the second camp but as I grew older I tended to soften up on this a little.

I once saw Mortimer Adler (one of the pioneers of the University of Chicago's Great Books Program) on C-Span defending his curriculum against the standard criticism. Why aren't there more works by women? What about people of color? What about the works of the Buddha or Confucius? Aren't those "great books" too? Adler's basic response was that by excluding non-Western voices he wasn't really making a judgement call. The point isn't that Shakespeare and Plato are really greater than Rumi and Confucius. The point is that books of the Western canon don't just exist in isolation, instead they reflect and respond to one another and participate in what he called the Great Conversation.

As Adler puts it:
"What binds the authors together in an intellectual community is the great conversation in which they are engaged. In the works that come later in the sequence of years, we find authors listening to what their predecessors have had to say about this idea or that, this topic or that. They not only harken to the thought of their predecessors, they also respond to it by commenting on it in a variety of ways."

And rightly or wrongly, Adler argued, non-Western and non-dominant voices were historically excluded from participation in that Conversation.

The corollary, of course, is that there could be other "canons of Great Books" which serve as milestones for those other conversations. Latin America, Africa and her Diaspora, the "Orient", Confucian civilization, etc. Instead of being bothered by Adler's Dead White Male canon, I should just figure out which conversations are "mine" and then swim the depths of those particular oceans of ideas.

For example (and this is where the Valentine's Day connection comes in) if I'm going to be an educated member of the Muslim community, I should probably try to be more familiar with the canons of the Muslim conversation. And so on the fourteenth I was thinking to myself that I should get around to reading at least one version of the great "Oriental" love story of Layla and Majnun. I already read Romeo and Juliet in high school, but even that work is somewhat derrivative of the former. In some ways, Layla and Majnun is also reminiscent of the Song of Solomon in the sense that both texts can be read literally as being about physical romantic love, or metaphorically as beaing about spiritual divine love.

More on the canon(s) later...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure

It's just been on my mind. It poses an interesting challenge:
"'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
-Marianne Williamson

Thursday, February 22, 2007

obama's islamic past

Examiner: Can a past of Islam change the path to president for Obama? raises the question of whether Obama's connections to the Muslim community (through his father, stepfather and brother) will turn out to be political liabilities.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

shakira and wycleff at the grammys

A friend recently put a YouTube clip of Shakira and Wycleff at the Grammys on her blog, which I thought was rather Grenada-esque and so I decided to "steal" it. (Actually I wonder how much consideration to give the fact that she was introduced as a "Latina superstar" as opposed to an "Arab superstar"?)

In any case, what follows is my own weak attempt to justify the sudden increase in the booty-shakin' quotient on this side of the blogosphere...

For a while now, I've been thinking about doing some kind of "deep" post about the cultural significance of Shakira, but honestly how deep I can make her. But in "Let Us Be Moors": Islam, Race And "Connected Histories" (the same paper which I use for the opening summary of Planet Grenada, Hisham Aidi makes a noble effort. He writes:

In the past two years, Islam and the Arab-Muslim world seem to have entered even more poignantly into the Latin American imagination, gaining a presence in political discourse and strongly influencing Hispanic popular culture. This Arab cultural invasion of Latin America, which has reverberated in mainstream American culture, is often attributed to the Brazilian telenovela El Clon and Lebanese-Colombian pop icon Shakira.


Through the Latino back channel, the impact of Shakira in bringing Arab culture to the MTV audience has also been considerable. The Lebanese-Colombian singer was bombarded with questions by the media about her views "as an Arab" on the September 11 attacks, and advised to drop the belly dancing and the Arabic riffs from her music because it could hurt her album sales, but she refused. "I would have to rip out my heart or my insides in order to be able to please them," said the songstress, and expressed horror at hate crimes against "everything that's Arab, or seems Arab." [18] During the run-up to the Iraq war, Shakira's performances took on an explicitly political tone, with her dancers wearing masks of Tony Blair, George W. Bush and Fidel Castro. Backdrop screens flashed images of Bush and Saddam Hussein as two puppets playing a sinister game of chess, with the Grim Reaper as the puppeteer. She also undertook a highly publicized tour of the Middle East (though her concerts in Casablanca, Tunis and Beirut were postponed), during which she visited her father's ancestral village in the Bekaa Valley.

Interesting... but honestly if I find more serious discussion of Shakira's significance online, I'll probably add some links. I promise this won't just turn into fan site.

happy singles awareness day

Happy Singles Awareness Day!

And from last year's post:
happy v.d. (I hope people realized this was Will Smith from the song "Just the Two of Us")

Looking back at old posts reminds me... Planet Grenada is almost 2 years old... wow.

Monday, February 12, 2007

compass for a sea of scholars

I have written about a similar topic before but it has been on my mind again recently...

Shortly after becoming Muslim, I realized how common it is for Muslims to speak in extremely confident and extremely vague terms about what "the ulema" or "the scholars" have to say about this or that topic. At the same time, it was also very clear that in reality "the ulema" display a diverse range of orthodox opinions on a great many questions. The situation can definitely be confusing to a beginning Muslim.

One of the more beneficial talks I attended as a new Muslim was one which stressed the importance of finding a regular methodology for resolving the various fiqh issues one is faced with from day-to-day. One of the presenters even went as far as saying that pretty much given ANY action, there was at least one scholar who would argue that any action was halal. So if you just look to what "the ulema" say indiscriminately it would be possible to be lead by your ego and follow no law at all just by following the "easy rulings" of every scholar.

For practical decisions, one solution to this problem is to follow one of the traditional schools of fiqh (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, Hanbali). I would say that seeing this presentation was one of the significant moments which really got me thinking seriously about following a madhab.

I would suggest that there is a similar problem when it comes to broader spiritual questions. If you want good general advice about spiritual/religious/moral/ethical issues from an Islamic perspective, where do you go? In the sea of varied scholars with varied opinions, who are the reliable sources? This is the question which inspired the current post:

According to a well-known hadith:
"Allah shall raise for this Umma at the head of every century a man who shall renew (or revive) for it its religion" (Sunan Abu Dawud)

The Arabic term for this figure is the Mujaddid and through the years Muslims have expressed a wide variety of opinions about the identity of the Mujaddid or reformer for any given century.

At one point, I thought to myself that a good goal would be to go to
some traditional sources and with a list of mujaddids I felt comfortable with, and become more familiar with the ideas and biographies of the people identified as mujaddid for all 14 centuries. To be honest I didn't get very far. Part of it was due to motivation but to be fair, some of it was ultimately due to the fact that translation of Islamic works into English is an uneven process. And texts which are of interest to English-speaking Muslims are not necessarily going to the same as texts which are of interest to Western scholars.

In any case, the whole concept of mujaddid is what reminded me that in a lot of ways there are some healthy similarities between what I would call traditional or orthodox Islam and the best aspects of Roman Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy). Just the idea that in century after century there were always saint-scholars who were reminding the community of basic truths about the religion, passing down, preserving and reforming a traditional orthodox faith. This sense of continuity is especially pronounced in the case of candidates such as Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (founder of the Chisti order) or Abdul Qadir Jilani (founder of the Qadri order) or a prominent Naqshbandi like Ahmad Sirhindi because the Sufi orders themselves each have specific silsilahs or chains of master-disciple relationships which trace, in "apostolic" fashion, from the current head of a given branch of the order all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad (saaws). Even for Sunnis, most of these chains typically go through Ali ibn Abu Talib (ra) but occasionally (in the case of the Naqshbandis) through Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra).

In any case, I would just suggest that going to these major touchstones like the mujaddids or through shaykhs with a verifiable lineage seem like a reasonable way to navigate through the uneven sea of "the ulema".

Saturday, February 10, 2007

too much laughter?

In yesterday's jummah khutbah, the imam was enouraging moderation in all things... including laughter. He was saying that too much laughter can have a bad effect on the heart. On one level, I agree that in principle a certain kind of flippant and heedless attitude is a bad thing, but out of all the various challenges and ailments facing the ummah in the here and now, I'm asking myself how high does laughter rank? Thoughts?

say hello to...

Confessions of a Funky Ghetto Hijabi a blog by Chelby Marie Daigle, a Nigerian-Canadian Sunni Muslimah. Maybe she'll join Third Resurrection?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

barack's black dilemma

In These Times: Barack's Black Dilemma by Salim Muwakkil is yet another overview of Barack Hussein Obama's candidacy. The passage which stands out the most for me is the following explanation of Obama's popularity among whites:
...his unusual ancestral narrative may also fuel the fervor of Obama’s white support, in that his lack of slave history elicits no feelings of historical guilt among whites. They love Obama because he doesn’t hate them, as they suspect blacks should. Another theory making the rounds on black talk radio proffers that some whites see Obama as a way to redeem America in the eyes of a world angered by the Bush administration—the multicultural Obama’s calming presence serving as a necessary balm.

I've often thought that a similar factor might help explain why as a group CAribbean Indians in the US seem to be better off than African-Americans with a longer lineage in this country. Of course, there was still a history of slavery on the islands but perhaps the white American can say "At least they were never OUR slaves". Just a thought.

For a more critical view of Obama which focuses more on how he is perceived by non-whites, check out: Obama's charm lost on America's black activists by Tony Allen-Mills from the TimesOnline.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

ashurah 1428

I started this post a few days ago but unfortunately I let myself get distracted and it ended up being "late". But if you are still interested:

Tarjuma-e-azaa, is new group blog of folks discussing the theme of mourning for Muharram 1428. And on her own blog, Brown Rab Girl Fish reflects on on Derrida, Hussein and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in It's Muharram.

RxPG News recently put out a story Muharram India has got Indianised over the years which was surprising (at least to me) about how even the Hindus in India were celebrating some form of Ashurah.

And in Grenada's past we also have:
more muharram posts

Finally, some general articles you might find topical are:
Islam Online: Al-Husayn: the Shiite Martyr, the Sunni Hero
Abu Ismael al-Beirawi: Lessons from the tragedy of Karbala

Friday, February 02, 2007

black presidents (part five)

Just when you thought it was over, something else happens:
For Lack of a Comma, Biden Gets in Trouble

In a recent interview, Joe Biden was gushing over the attributes of Barack Obama and (according to some) ended up insulting every other African-American who ever ran for President:
BIDEN: I mean you got the first, sorta, mainstream African-American.


BIDEN: Who's articulate and bright and–and clean and a nice-looking guy.


BIDEN: That's a storybook, man.

To be honest, this whole Biden gaffe issue is being exaggerated. I don't think he really intended to say that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Shirley Chisholm and the rest were inarticulate, stupid and dirty. It is just being spun that way. That's not to say that Biden couldn't have been more tactful... but the comment wasn't as offensive as first portrayed by the initial reports.