Wednesday, May 30, 2007

born in the fist of the revolution: a cuban professor's journey to allah

by Julio Cèsar Pino:
Are there many Muslims in Cuba? Why would a Cuban want to become a Muslim? These are the two questions I am most frequently asked when introducing myself, or in the case of old friends, re-introduce myself by my Muslim name, Assad Jibril Pino. The answer to the first query is a simple yes. Several thousand Muslims reside in Cuba, most of them descendants of Lebanese immigrants. However, the second question always makes me pause and ponder before I reply, even though I have heard it hundreds of times. It is a loaded question of course, because it presumes that religion is the product of ethnic identity, and that Muslim and Cuban only belong together on the restaurant menu of a Miami luncheonette: "I’ll have Moros y Cristianos, with a side of croquetas."

To see the whole account of Pino's conversion, check out Born in the Fist of the Revolution: A Cuban Professor's Journey to Allah

9/11 video response from mostly harmless

I'm starting to notice and appreciate the fact that other folks out there who I don't necessarily know about are occasionally interested in the stuff I post and are responding on their own blogs. For example, on Mostly Harmless I just found This One's for the WAAGNFNP and Planet Grenada which is (in part) a response to an Immortal Technique/Mos Def video I posted earlier. The author, who goes by The Constructivist, shares some other political music videos on 9/11 , Katrina, globalization and related issues.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

latino conversion to islam: from black consciousness to arab influence

The following article is from another blogger on my blogroll, Khalil al-Puerto Rikani and definitely fits in with the themes I tend to cover in here. In this case, I thought the article was thought-provoking enough and short enough to quote in full.

I have been thinking about several things in relation to dawah and Latino conversion to Islam. This had led me to some unanswered questions. Chief amongst them is, “Under what factors and environment does Islam thrive? I will give a brief description of the history of Latino conversion, as I see it and raise a few questions with which I hope any and all of you can give some insight.

Latino conversion seems to have occurred in basically two phases. The first is the 1960s till the mid-1990s phase. The second is the mid-1990s till present.

The first phrase of Latinos who converted to Islam were mostly Caribbean Latinos with a strong African identity. Conversion to Islam was a continuum of the Civil Rights/Black Power movement. Latinos in the 60s and 70s were at the forefront of these movements. Latinos in New York came to “Black consciousness” with lead to “Islamic consciousness.” This process was one which may or may not have passed through an intermediary phase of “Latino consciousness.”

The first Latinos who became Muslim in New York were mainly Puerto Ricans who had been part of such groups as the Nation of Islam, Malcom X’s (Malik Ash-Shabazz) group, The Five Percenters, Black Panthers, and the Young Lord Party (originally part of the former Chicago-based gang the Young Lord Organization). Due to the close proximity of Puerto Ricans to African-Americans-culturally, politically, racially, and more important demographically Latinos became informed about Islam. This is and important point that cannot be over looked. Puerto Ricans actually lived next to African-Americans in many (not all) places of New York City, such as Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx.

For them Islam was a natural development and product of the era of struggle from which they came. Besides the political factor, history played a big role in informing these early Latino Muslims about a Muslim past coming from two lines of Puerto Rican history- namely Africa and Spain.

The second part of the first phase was basically looking towards the movements of the 60s and 70s and had converts who looked toward that era with a sense of pride and honor. Those who converted may or may not have participated in the then defunct organizations. Hip-hop (which Puerto Ricans were co-founders) was also a factor, and direct descendant of the Civil Rights/Black Power and the wider Black Consciousness movements of the 60s and 70s, that played a big role in the conversion of Latinos.

During the mid-90s, with the explosion of cyber space and the internet, many Latinos got connected to others people around the world. Latinos were now in communication with Muslims on the ‘net. This included Muslims both in the United States and abroad. This lead to people have more access to Islam due to this new medium. The technical age still continue till the present tend to be a principal medium and factor which has lead to many Latinos in the country.

After September 11, 2001, many Latinos wanted to learn more about Islam. This led many to go out and speak to Muslims and/or go to the internet. This phase also saw a greater diversity in the ethnic, nation, and racial background of Latinos converting to Islam. We also saw the hegemony of Puerto Rican Muslims and New York Latinos being broken down. There was also the rise of places such as Union City, New Jersey that saw great amount of Latinos converting to Islam.

Many during this period coming to Islam live near or at least know one Muslim. In New Jersey, Latino share neighborhoods with Arabs. During this period many come to learn about Islam not through African-American but through into action with foreign Muslim (mostly Arabs).

Okay, well this is my analysis and I would like to hear what you all have to say about this. My main question is “Does Islam thrive more when Latinos are exposed to Arabs (and other foreign Muslims) as opposed to exposure to African Americans (Muslims)?” What are the main factors you think lead to conversion in our times? Perhaps you can help out by simply telling me how you or a Latino friend became Muslim (please include your city.)

blogroll updated

So I finally got around to updating my blogroll. Some authors moved over to new blogs and so I changed my links to follow them. Also, I got rid of blogs which have not seen any activity for several months (while holding on to a few which were I liked, nevertheless). Later on, I'll probably start to add new blogs which I think fit into the Grenada mix. Enjoy.

Monday, May 28, 2007

welcome to mercy magazine

Just thought I'd give a heads up about a new publication:

Mercy Magazine: A Western Muslims' Guide to Reviving Their Faith

Mercy is a start-up non profit Islamic Magazine published by the North American Foundation of Islamic Services. Mercy is a Western Muslims’ guide to reviving their faith and to achieving excellence in both their spiritual and community spheres. Mercy aspires to become a distinguished companion to the active Western Muslim, nurturing the soul and mind, and reviving, reforming and renewing both the Dīn & Imān in its three aspects: education, organization, and action.

They are probably still looking for subscriptions and advertisers. They seem pretty sound. Check them out.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

the years of rice and salt (part two)

I finally finished The Years of Rice and Salt. It is not a bad read. As the book went on, you get a better sense of how history progressed differently in Robinson's universe. Also, there are characters who spell out some of the political, religious, anthropological and literary ideas which seem to have inspired the work as a whole. I think I understand why the novel got more interesting in the second half but I still wish the flow were more even throughout. Firstly, it makes sense that close to the point of divergence (the Black Death) the world of the novel would be very close to our own and that differences would only be more evident as the centuries passed. Secondly, as a way of depicting the progress of human thought, the more intellectual characters (historians, activists and social scientists who pontificate about past events, human nature and the state of society) tend to be clumped later in the novel. I would say that the second half of the novel was more interesting but also more didactic and that the book might have been more effective if some of the ideas were introduced earlier, or perhaps illustrated through plot and action.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

the years of rice and salt (part one)

So I'm in the middle of reading The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. The book is a work of alternative historical fiction with an intriguing premise: What if the Black Death had been more total in its impact, rendering the Christian West only a marginal actor in subsequent world history? Chinese and Islamic civilizations become dominant in the world. The Americas are primarily settled by the Japanese (but Native American cultures are able to continue in a stronger form than they do in our world). An ex-alchemist plants the foundation for classical chemistry and physics in Samarqand. And so it goes.

To be honest, I'm a little bit disappointed with the novel at the moment. I love the premise, but the book doesn't really seem to make the most of its setting(s). To provide continuity, the novel follows the souls of a small group of associates (a jati) as they reincarnate through multiple times and places through the centuries. But instead of fleshing out the broad trends and events of this alternate history, the novel focuses on the personal development of these souls across lifetimes. The result (so far) is a story which could just as easily been set in our own past. Hopefully, as the story goes on and as the histories diverge more, Robinson will give the reader a greater sense of how this other world differs from our own.

Wikipedia: The Years of Rice and Salt

Sunday, May 20, 2007

from cross to crescent

From Cross to Crescent: Why Latinos are increasingly converting to Islam by Anthony Chiorazzi is another typical human-interest story on Latinos and Islam. This article stands out because it offers a glimpse of Islam in Cuba:
Islamic prayers mingled with the bustling sounds of traffic as he prostrated himself in prayer in a little mosque in Havana, Cuba, recalls Diego Santos, a Cuban-American who traveled to the communist state not long ago to visit his family.

A recent convert to Islam and a writer who prefers not to use his real name, Santos says that Islam in Cuba—like in America—is becoming more visible and that during his stay he found no attempt to repress it. In fact, after jum’a, Friday prayers, Santos talked openly in Spanish about Islam with fellow Muslims while strolling down the crowded streets of old Havana, even passing the government offices of the Cuban Community for the Defense of the Revolution, which has a notorious reputation for being the snitch center for Cuban rule breakers. "Nobody was hiding their Islam in Havana," says Santos.

Back in Los Angeles, Santos attends meetings of the Los Angeles Latino Muslim Association (LALMA), an organization working to help inform the Latino community about Islam. Santos says as a Cuban-American that he has been well embraced by the Muslim community in America because his conversion confirms Islam as a universal religion. Santos hopes that more people will understand that Islam is for everyone whether they live in Europe, America or even Cuba.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"i like a little salt on my cracker"

I haven't given y'all a dose of Paul Mooney in a while...

The last I heard (and posted...) in the wake of the Richard's rant, Mooney vowed to stop using the "n-word". I'm not sure whether the current Mooney excerpt comes before his promise or after, but in any case it is not for the linguistically faint-hearted. (It is also brief, but rather Grenada-esque, including comments on Arabs, 9/11, and Afro-Latinos along with Mooney's typical material).


Paul Mooney and Planet Grenada

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

when is a bigot not a bigot?

You may have heard about the recent minor controversy involving the Rev. Al Sharpton and his comments related to Mormons during a debate between him and Christopher Hitchens at the New York Public Library. Hitchens is the recent best-selling author of the anti-theistic God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and he debated Sharpton on the existence of God.

Hitchens point is that religion in general (and thus Mormonism in particular) plays a negative role in society. In fact, one of the sections of his book is even called: Mormonism: A Racket becomes a Religion. More specifically, Hitchens is the one who, in the debate with Sharpton, first mentions Mitt Romney (a Mormon) and his candidacy for President, along wth the fact that until quite recently the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints officially supported a number of clearly racist doctrines.

So is Hitchens in trouble for his scathing barbs against Mormonism? Not as far as I can tell. Instead people seem to be all over Al Sharpton for making a relatively mild and light-hearted political swipe at Mitt Romney ("As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways") What kind of sense does that make? It is ok to dismiss an entire belief system as a racist poison, but it is unforgivable bigotry for a former Democratic Presidential candidate to suggest that a current Republican candidate won't win?

To be honest, I think that at least two things are going on. First, folks like to salivate over anything which even smells like hypocrisy. So especially in the wake of Al Sharpton's role in the recent Don Imus controversy, the white public will definitely derive a special satisfaction from the idea that Sharpton himself could be caught making insensitive comments.

Secondly, as a Presidential contender, it is probably in Romney's political interests to win points and publicity by positioning himself against a controversial figure like Sharpton. But ironies abound. The religiously conservative Romney attacks the clergyman but leaves alone the blatantly anti-religious, anti-Mormon intellectual.

If you would like to view Sharpton's (and Hitchens') comments in their original context you can check out Al Sharpton and Christopher Hitchens at

the gospel from outer space

For a number of different reasons I've been thinking a bit about fictional belief systems and mythologies these days (e.g. Kurt Vonnegut's Bokononism). I've also been thinking about liberation theology. The two sort of come together in the following excerpt from Slaughterhouse-Five:
The Gospel from Outer Space

It was The Gospel from Outer Space, by Kilgore Trout. It was about a visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Tralfamadorian, by the way. The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.
But the Gospels actually taught this: Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. So it goes.

The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being of the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again:
Oh, boy -- they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!
And then that thought had a brother: "There are right people to lynch." Who? People not well connected. So it goes.

The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things he said in the other Gospels.
So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn't possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that, too, since the new Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.
And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privileges of The Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity. God said this: From this moment on, He will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections!

Reminds me a bit of the previous discussion on Cornel West and Constantinian Christianity in islam and the passion (for social justice)

Monday, May 14, 2007

blogroll woes

Man, I really need to update my blogroll. I just added a few new blogs (mostly from Black Muslim women) but I should probably take some time to redesign the whole thing from scratch.

spanish immigration ploy: hire mothers

I just heard this story on the radio and thought it would be suitable for Planet Grenada:

NPR: Spanish Immigration Ploy: Hire Mothers
In order to aquire agricultural laborers without encouraging illegal immigration, Spanish farmowners have begun a guest worker program which targets Moroccan mothers in order to pick fruit. In general, they don't drink, don't smoke, or go go to the discos and when the work is done they will have a strong incentive to go back home. This is in contrast to "las rubias" (the blondes) from Eastern Europe who tended to spice up the local nightlife for young Spanish men.

See also:
Spiegel Online International: Moroccan Immigrants, Spanish Strawberries and Europe's Future by Daniela Gerson in Cartaya, Spain

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

liberative theology of islam

For a nice but general overview of Islam as a liberation theology, you can check out Liberative theology of Islam by Asghar Ali Engineer, a former member of the Dawoodi Bohra community.

the way of sufi chivalry

Another continuation of the greater jihad: a muslim art of war:

The Way of Sufi Chivalry by Ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami (translated by Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi). The Arabic term translated as "chivalry" is futuwwah. In Arabic, fata literally means a handsome, brave youth. But the book goes on to explain that based on its use in the Quran, the word came to mean "the ideal, noble and perfect man whose hospitality and generosity would extend until he had nothing left for himself; a man who would give all, including his life, for the sake of his friends." (the term is used to describe Abraham in the Quran [21:60] when he destroys the idols of his people.)

Al-Sulami's work doesn't have a martial emphasis, but instead focuses on spiritual attributes associated with the concept of futuwwah.

Also if you are interested in the subject, a Naqshbandi page in a similar vein discusses Spiritual Chivalry or Futuwwah.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

the hankyoreh

This piece is old but never-posted... it resonates somewhat with the open-souce religion article. The Bible isn't exactly a Wiki but apparently some folks are still willing to engage in some pretty radical re-evaluations of the text.

The Hankyoreh: Scholar ignites controversy over comments regarding Old Testament is an article about well-known Korean philosopher and critic Do-ol Kim Young-oak and his arguments against the literal interpretation of the Bible and in support of doing away with the Old Testament. It seems like a repetition of the ancient "Heresy" of Marcionism.

Grenada's past:
alan moore and organized religion
moore organized religion

open source religion

Recently I received a comment on an older post about "Natural Islam" and Anarchism and I started to think again about what the overlap between Islam and Anarchism can look like. It made me want to check out Daniel Sieradski's (Jewish) Orthodox Anarchist blog, which I hadn't read in a while. A few clicks afterwards I came across the provocative phrase "open source Judaism" and the more general concept of "open source religion". From there I started reading a little about Yoism which calls itself "the world's first open source religion". After browsing their homepage a bit I realized that I sort of knew one of the founders of Yoism! (We were in the same organization at one point).

Yoism seems an interesting novelty but I'm not sure how "deep" it is. The founders are basically secular folks looking for meaning who decided to take their favorite quotes from various philosophers and scientists and scenes from their favorite South Park and Simpsons episodes, stick them all in a blender, and call it a religion. Their main religious text, the Book of Yo, is a work in progress (and is literally a Wiki).

In spite of converting from one religion to another, I think that due to my upbringing I still have a traditionalist bias when it comes to certain religious issues. Ideally religion is supposed to be something transcendent which guides and inspires humans with certain values, even when prevailing social currents point in other directions. But a religion like Yoism fundamentally incapable of doing that because it naturally sinks to the lowest common denominator. It can't help but be a product of the egos of its members.

But I really don't mean to be totally dismissive of this approach. For a moderate, reasonable example of an "open source" approach to religion (specifically Islam) you could read Open Ijtihad from Ideant (a blog by Ulises Ali Mejias... a pretty thoughtful guy in his own right and husband to Asma Barlas).


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

bin laden

I'm not going to say I endorse the song "Bin Laden", but I've blogged about Immortal Technique and Mos Def here before so I figured I would put the video up and invite comments.

I'm baptized by America and covered in leeches
The dirty water that bleaches your soul and your facial features
Drownin' you in propaganda that they spit through the speakers
And if you speak about the evil that the government does
The Patriot Act'll track you to the type of your blood
They try to frame you, and say you was tryna sell drugs
And throw a federal indictment on niggaz to show you love
This shit is run by fake Christians, fake politicians
Look at they mansions, then look at the conditions you live in
All they talk about is terrorism on television
They tell you to listen, but they don't really tell you they mission
They funded Al-Qaeda, and now they blame the Muslim religion
Even though Bin Laden, was a CIA tactician
They gave him billions of dollars, and they funded his purpose
Fahrenheit 9/11, that's just scratchin' the surface

immortal technique: two interviews
3500 years ago...
final call interview with immortal technique
a revolution in the middle east
immortal technique and adisa banjoko
mos def's piece on assata shakur

soliloquies of a stranger

Say hello to Soliloquies of A Stranger The life of an African American, Muslim, Muhaajirah (Expat), from the hood, in an Inter-Racial Marriage. It Doesn’t get any stranger than that!