Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

sausage and the law

Mark Twain once said, "Those who respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made." But as a Muslim, I would actually argue that he was wrong on both counts. First, anyone who eats (pork) sausage should find out exactly what they are putting into their bodies with a quickness.

But in terms of the law (at least the shariah) I've had an interesting time trying to learn more about usul al-fiqh. Right now I'm in the middle of Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence by M.H. Kamali. Unfortunately I was only able to find it free online after ordering it on Amazon. The book goes into a fair amount of detail on how the ulema across different schools of thought derive legal rulings from the Quran and sunnah and the chapters are nicely organized according to various sources or principles. I found it refreshing because it gave me respect for some of the logical and linguistic nuance which goes into harmonizing different texts. It was also comforting to see that local customs, public interest, and avoiding harm are also considered in the shariah and allow it to be more flexible than many people realize.

In case you don't have time to read a 300 plus something book on usul al-fiqh, The Fundamental Principles of Imam Malik's Fiqh from Muhammad Abu Zahrah is organized in much the same way as Kamali's work except it is much more abbreviated and emphasizes the Maliki school's opinion.

Some other interesting pages:
Maxims of Islamic Jurisprudence from Al Majalla (an Ottoman law Manual) gives 100 different legal aphorisms which guide legal reasoning, from a Hanafi perspective.

The blog, Scholar's Pen: The Tools of a Mujtahid- A glance at the Hanafi Methodology gives a brief summary of some of the distinctive principles of the Hanafi school.

While The Principles and Codes of Law of Hanafi Fiqh by Hadhrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanwi is another large book, full of untranslated legal terms and is much less clear than Kamali's work.In fact, these last three sites are all a bit technical and would make much more sense after reading the first two pieces.

Planet Grenada: differences between schools

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

man bites dog: buddhist fundamentalists and muslim prisoners of conscience

I totally missed this story when it happened but it seems worth noting as an example.
An expatriate Sri Lankan woman who wrote two books about her conversion from Buddhism to Islam has been arrested while on holiday in Sri Lanka, apparently for causing offence to Buddhists.

Sarah Malini Perera, who was born in Sri Lanka but has lived in Bahrain since 1985 and converted to Islam in 1999, was arrested last week under the country’s strict emergency laws, according to the police.

They declined to give precise details of the 38-year-old writer’s offence, but suggested that her books were deemed to have caused offence to ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists, who account for about 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people.

For the whole story, see: Author Sarah Malini Perera held ‘for offending Buddhists’ in Sri Lanka

The same piece mentions that the Sri Lankan government denied a visa to Muslim (yes Muslim) singer Akon because the video for his song Sexy Chick included images of video "vixens" dancing with a statue of the Buddha in the background. Part of the backlash included a crowd of over 200 angry rock-throwing Buddhists attacking the offices of Akon's concert promoters, damaging property and injuring a few individuals. You can find more details on that story here.

Both these stories, especially taken together, totally invert the usual narratives we are spoon-fed about religion and the tolerance/ sensitivity and peacefulness/ violence of Buddhism / Islam respectively. I'm a little surprised (but not really) that they didn't get more attention. A few more accounts like these and the dominant narrative would begin to crack. If members of a "good" religion like Buddhism can be pushed to violence when their sensitivities are threatened and if even Muslims can be victims of censorship and exclusion for acting on their conscience then who are the heroes and who are the villains?

catholic church involved in terrorist cover-up

NPR: Cover-Up In 1972 North Ireland Bombing
The British government and the Roman Catholic church colluded to cover up the suspected involvement of a priest in a 1972 bombing that killed nine people and injured 30, a new report said Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

alianza afro latina islamica / casa a.l.i., inc.

From their website

Our mission is to give men and women released from incarceration or treatment facilities a place where they can live, keep personal property, have access to phone calls, job searches, public assistance programs, parole, and basic needs till they get on their feet.

We give our residents not only a respectable living environment but also guidance on how to conduct themselves, and how to deal with adversity and/or rejection in order to avoid rearrest or denial of employment.

Men and women are given spacious living areas where they don’t feel as if they are in a shelter environment and have to be up at the crack of dawn to leave the facility in search of employment.

Our intake and residential program is six months long with the reserved option of extending that period for three months if necessary for a total maximum of nine months. We also provide them with transportation for them to go to and fro to the places they need to. We residence to ensure their success.

Our After Care Director sees to it that after our residents leave our homes they are not left without a support group to assist them if they encounter difficulties.

Residents successfully completing the program are eligible to return if they encounter difficulties or are unable to maintain gainful employment and stable residence, but only on a case by case basis.

As Afro-Latinos and African-Americans ourselves we have firsthand experience with the effects that lack of decent community assistance programs can have on our neighborhoods so we know our market.

We will be also taking the burden off of government by providing a valuable service and lifting part of the financial burden recidivism, homelessness, and unemployment create.

Our approach is more holistic in the sense that we also provide mentoring through our volunteers and staff, some of whom in the past were incarcerated or underwent treatment at a substance abuse facility but have successfully made the transition into responsible, gainfully employed adults and can now show our residents how they did it in order to have a positive impact on their lives.

I haven't researched them carefully but perhaps when it comes to zakat, or at least sadaqa we could consider organizations like these which have a local impact rather than sending money overseas.

the holiest night of the year for a nuyorican muslim

Killing the Buddha: Better than a Thousand Months by Ashley Makar

sometimes you can't tell the difference between the onion and the real news...

The Daily Show: FOX Failed To Mention Co-Owner Is One They Accuse Of 'Terror Funding' As a part of its typical fear-mongering, Fox News did a story described links between Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and an unnamed Saudi sponsor by means of the Kingdom Foundation... but it turns out that the Saudi in question, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is actually one of the largest shareholders of Fox News' own parent corporation. What!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

latino muslims in america: the rebirth of a community

IslamAmerica: Latino Muslims in America: the Rebirth of a Community by Aaron Siebert-Llera

This paper represents the beginning phases of research originally intended as part of the author's PhD thesis in Sociology at Northwestern University. Aarón/Haroun now attends Loyola Law School in Chicago. His mother is Mexican and his father is Jewish. He converted to Islam two years ago, and considers himself part of the growing community of Latino Muslims in America.

"refudiating" islamophobia: park 51 / cordoba house / the (not-really-at)-ground zero mosque

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Obviously by now, much ink has already been spilled over the whole controversy about the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. But perhaps someone out there might benefit from a round-up of some of the articles and a summary of some talking points.

1. First, it isn't at Ground Zero. The proposed location is several blocks away in what used to be a Burlington Coat factory. You can't see it from Ground Zero and Ground Zero can't be seen from the proposed location.

2. It isn't a mosque. It is a cultural center. The plans include a swimming pool, a basketball court, an auditorium, a performing arts center, a fitness center, a bookstore, a food court and even a culinary school, along with space to pray.

3. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf isn't a radical. He is an mainstream Muslim with an extensive amount of experience in interfaith activities and has written several books on the compatibility of Islam and the West in a pluralistic democratic context.

4. If Ground Zero is to be considered "hallowed ground" what's up with the two strip clubs within three blocks of the site?

5. If this is really about respect for 9/11 victims what about the national opposition to all the other mosques in the US?

6. There already is mosque in the area which operates without causing a problem.

7. That part of the city has had historical Muslim-American presence even before the Towers went up.
One of the first Arab-American enclaves in New York City was located on Washington St. in lower Manhattan - the very area in which the World Trade Center was later built. Founded by Arabic-speaking Christians and Muslims from Ottoman Syria in the 1880s, it was called Little Syria.


The African Burial Ground, discovered in 1991, is six blocks away from the proposed Muslim community center. Scholars continue to debate the religious identity of the hundreds buried there, but the fact that some of the dead wore shrouds and were interred with strings of blue beads, frequently used as Islamic talismans, suggests Muslim were among the enslaved people who helped build Manhattan into a bustling city.

8. I'm sure that some of the outrage is heartfelt and sincere. But a large portion of it is artificial and stoked by Pamela Geller. The local NYC Community Board voted overwhelmingly to support the project.

Details on the Above:
HuffPost: "Ground Zero" Mosque: AP Fact Check
HuffPost: Park 51: The Ground Zero Mosque Is Not a Mosque
Daily Beast: My Meetings With the Man Behind the Mosque
NYT: For Imam in Muslim Center Furor, a Hard Balancing Act
NYT: Vote Endorses Muslim Center Near Ground Zero
NY Daily Post: Islam has long history downtown: Why the 'Ground Zero mosque' belongs in lower Manhattan
WSJ: For Strippers Near Ground Zero, It’s Business as Usual Amid Mosque Uproar
HuffPost: Just How Far Is the "Ground Zero Mosque" From Ground Zero?
HuffPost: Quietly, Another Mosque Operates In Shadow Of Ground Zero
HuffPost: Pamela Geller, 'Queen Of Muslim Bashers,' At Center Of N.Y. 'Mosque' Debate

More General Thoughts:
Daily Beast: The Mosque Litmus Test
HuffPost: Ground Zero Mosque: American Intolerance on Full Display for Muslim World
Juan Cole: Palin on the Ground Zero Mosque vs. the Founding Fathers

Wikipedia: Park 51
Wikipedia: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Park 51 Website

why they want obama to be a foreign-born muslim

An excerpt from Why Republicans Need Obama to be a Foreign-Born Muslim By Rachel Kiernan

What needs to be addressed is why so many in this country want to believe that Obama is a Muslim, even when they criticized Obama for following a “radical” black Christian leader. This is true in spite of the fact that Obama was raised by his Christian mother and grandparents, having barely known his father. It speaks of the very essence by those who fear an America which no longer looks like they. This manufactured phobia of all things Muslim and of all things non-white (think “white slavery” and the anti-Hispanic establishment) is a response by those who feel that they have lost control over their own lives and power to those who traditionally have been the most disenfranchised and powerless.

This goes beyond those who wish that Obama was a Muslim and a foreigner. This is a manufactured crisis by those who wish to divide the country into two camps by whipping up hysteria against Muslims, blacks, Hispanics and anyone who does not look and pray as they.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

obama muslim myth on the rise

third party for african-americans (in ny)?

Race-Talk: A third party: The choice for the African-American masses by Frederick Meade describes the reasons behind the creation of the state-wide third party, the New York Democratic Freedom Party. (Primarily, a perceived neglect of African-American interests on the part of the Democratic Party, even post-Obama).

see also: top ten reasons why van jones should give up on obama and the democratic party and come home to the greens

islam and the secular state

I recently picked up Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im's Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari'a so it was an interesting coincidence to also find a podcast over at the Muslim Voice's site which included an interview with the author. (see Islam's Reformation in the Sudan). An-Na'im's perspective on the secular state is influenced by the ideas of the earlier Sudanese reformer, Ustadh Mahmoud Mohamed Taha whom I've mentioned before in the second message of islam.

You can find more of Taha's writings and thoughts here.

recovering luqman the wise

Magari Aziza: Recovering Luqman the Wise brings together some interesting materials and insights on the person of Luqman, one of the pious people of African descent mentioned in the Quran.

is there islam in latin america?

Muslim Voices: Is there Islam in Latin America? by Rosemary Pennington, Program Coordinator for Voices and Visions is a graduate student in the School of Journalism at Indiana University.

There has been a lot of research and reporting on Muslim populations living in the United States and Europe. That work often centers around issues of identity and integration. And these issues are often portrayed as being unique to the “West.”

What that scholarship and reporting, has often overlooked is that there are Muslim populations in other non-majority Muslim regions. That includes Latin America.

A Social Science Research Council funded project at Florida International University’s Latin American & Caribbean Center is working to educate English speaking scholars and reporters about the Muslim populations in the region.

Beyond The Middle East

“I think Latin America has been one of the forgotten regions because of the Spanish and the Portuguese,” says Project Director Maria Logrono. She says most scholars who study Islam learn Arabic or Persian or focus on a traditional region in which to study the religion. “Most scholars approach the Middle East in area studies, not thinking about the larger geographic borders of it.”

Logrono says English-speaking media often ignore the Muslim populations in Central and South America until something bad happens.

“I guess we can say journalists have approached Islam in Latin America,” Logrono says, “But I think they have approached it only when there’s conflict and tension.”

Logrono says there is certainly tension in some parts of Latin America, especially where Islam chafes against Catholicism, but that’s not true of every country in the region or every Muslim group, either.

“The Muslim populations that you have in Latin America are, and this is especially the case of South America, mainly migrants and converts,” Logrono says. “When it comes to integration … what we have noticed is that Muslim migrants have integrated very well.”

Creolization Of Islam

In fact, there’s some debate whether a kind of “Creole” Islam has begun to develop in places like Brazil and Cuba.

“Scholars working on Islam in Cuba will tell you, ‘Yes, there is actually an attempt at Creolization of Islam, or creating a Cuban Islam,’ in which something as unthinkable as eating pork may be something that Muslims in Cuba are considering.”

Logrono and her project staff have been working on a short documentary for the last year about Islam in the region. It’s limited in scope, focusing on Argentina and Brazil, but Logrono hopes it will give viewers a taste of what life is like for Latin American Muslims.

“We went and filmed communities and their gatherings and their practices and their histories to show the diversity of Muslim communities in Latin America,” she says. “Because we couldn’t accomplish all Latin America…what we tried to do is take two of the most representative places but obviously trying to open questions for debate and, hopefully, for future research.”

You can find more find more information about Logrono’s work as well as view photos and the documentary at the project’s website.

12 week plan

I've mentioned Billy Wimsatt (Upski) before. Now he has a 12 Week Plan to help coordinate progressive political efforts in preparation for the November elections.

Huffington Post: The 12 Week Plan: A Road Map to Not Getting Our A**es Kicked on November 2

islam and homosexuality

Over at the Goatmilk blog there has been an interesting set of discussions on homosexuality and Islam. The original articles are framed in terms of whether American Muslims should support the right of same sex marriage in the US. Mahdi Ahmad and Sister A take the "No" position while Sabir Ibrahim and Michael Muhammad Knight argue "Yes." The negative argument emphasizes the sinfulness of homosexual acts according to Islamic principles. The more nuanced affirmative argument says that yes, homosexual acts are sinful but the US isn't run according to the Shariah and Muslims should embrace a model of American society which allows space for many different groups (racial / political / ethnic / religious / sexual) have a right to co-exist.

What I found surprising is that much of the discussion in the comments section wasn't about the above arguments as much as about whether homosexual acts were really prohibited in the first place. For most Muslims, the fact that homosexual acts are prohibited in Islam is fairly uncontroversial. In order to argue otherwise one basically has to ignore any kind of mainstream fiqh, take a radically skeptical attitude towards the hadith which clearly speak negatively towards sodomy (whether homosexual or heterosexual) and then radically reinterpret the multiple Quranic statements addressing the people of Lot along the lines of: Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay you are an extravagant people.

In the course of participating in those discussions I found some interesting resources:

First, a blog called Eye on ‘Gay Muslims’ with the subtitle "Principled, compassionate Islamic perspective"

Second, a paper The Effeminates of Early Medina by Everett K. Rowson gives some insights and descriptions into the role of the mukhannathun or so called 'effeminates' during the time of the prophet and the later generations.

And thirdly, the paper Ibn Hazm on Homosexuality: A Case-study of Zahiri Legal Methodology which, as the title explains, looks at how the Zahiri (Literalist) school derives its ruling on homosexuality. I think the paper is interesting on two counts; first, it is a good example of how "literal" doesn't necessarily mean "strict" or "harsh", and second, the paper argues that Ibn Hazm himself was a chaste homosexual.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ramadan mubarak y'all

Seekers Guidance: The Fiqh Of Fasting In the Hanafi Madhhab by Ustadha Naielah Ackbarali

more responses to wyclef

First, Former Fugee Pras Not Backing Wyclef In Haitian Presidential Bid, Slams Jet Use and also Sean Penn 'Very Suspicious' Of Wyclef Jean's Haitian Presidential Bid

But finally, on Savior's Day (with Wyclef in attendance) Farrakhan cautions the singer/candidate that people will try to get their claws on him in order to serve their own agendas:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

even a stopped clock...

Huffington Post: Lou Dobbs Opposes GOP Push To Repeal The 14th Amendment Over Immigration

see also:
us deports lou dobbs

hialeah haikus

For a while now I've been wrestling with the idea of writing poems about Miami and by a happy coincidence I found out that a local bookstore was having an event tonight to promote a short volume of poetry called Hialeah Haikus. For the moment, these are a few of my favorite.

left side of face hurts
big mistake at Mami's house
Che Guevara shirt

we buried pancho
now, like Cuban Highlander
gramps is the last one

"el de la barba
quien carajo es, primo?"
Citizenship Test.

University of Wynwood: Hialeah Haiku, 2nd Printing Book Release and Reading

sarah palin, the fourteenth amendment and alaska

I plan to say something in another blogpost about the recent mean-spirited talk about repealing the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (or specifically its provisions which grant citizenship to all those born "in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof", even the children of undocumented aliens). But for now I want to focus on a different part of the Fourteenth Amendment:
Section. 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

The above was written in the wake of the Civil War but now it certainly makes me think of Sarah and Todd Palin's involvement in the openly secessionist Alaskan Independence Party.

From one perspective my objection is moot since a long time ago the Congress voted to indefinitely remove the restriction in order to help heal the wounds created by the Civil War. But even so, I would argue that the principle is a serious one and should be given more attention than it seems to have gotten. I mean, I can understand what it means to be a Muslim patriot or a Christian patriot or a Buddhist patriot or even an atheist patriot. And I can understand what it means to be a left-wing patriot or a right-wing patriot or a liberal patriot or a conservative patriot. But I don't believe one can be a secessionist and a patriot. Instead of seeking what is best for the United States, the Palins and the AIP seem the political equivalent of South Park's Eric Cartman ("Screw you guys, I'm going home".)

Alaska Sounds like Aztlan -- Secessionists Go Mainstream
The Constitution Party: Delusional Religious Fanatics Pushing for Christian Tyranny
Wikipedia: Alaskan Independence Party
Alaskan Independence Party: The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

if he was president...

Some of you may have heard that former Fugees-member Wyclef Jean is considering a run for President of Haiti. For those of us who like his music and are moved by his lyrics it is tempting to assume that he would be a wonderful choice.

But some are questioning that assumption by pointing to some of Wyclef's connections to right-wing elements of the Haitian polticial scene.

To cut to the chase, no election in Haiti, and no candidate in those elections, will be considered legitimate by the majority of Haiti’s population, unless it includes the full and fair participation of the Fanmi Lavalas Party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fanmi Lavalas is unquestionably the most popular party in the country, yet the “international community,” led by the United States, France and Canada, has done everything possible to undermine Aristide and Lavalas, overthrowing him twice by military coups in 1991 and 2004 and banishing Aristide, who now lives in South Africa with his family, from the Americas.


Fanmi Lavalas has already been banned from the next round of elections, so enter Wyclef Jean. Jean comes from a prominent Haitian family that has virulently opposed Lavalas since the 1990 elections. His uncle is Raymond Joseph – also a rumored presidential candidate – who became Haitian ambassador to the United States under the coup government and remains so today. Kevin Pina writes in “It’s not all about that! Wyclef Jean is fronting in Haiti,” Joseph is “the co-publisher of Haiti Observateur, a right-wing rag that has been an apologist for the killers in the Haitian military going back as far as the brutal coup against Aristide in 1991.

(For more see: Wyclef Jean for president of Haiti? Look beyond the hype by Charlie Hinton, with editing assistance from Kiilu Nyasha)