Thursday, October 27, 2011

"it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."

Lately I've been reading an economics textbook so that I can better understand the issues behind the housing market and the recession while at the same time reading a book on the Simple Living movement. The juxtaposition is particularly-thought provoking. I'm especially mulling over the paradox that if more people stopped to smell the roses and rejected consumerism in favor of a more authentic definition of quality of life, then the reduction in spending would potentially be bad for "the economy" according to conventional assumptions, at least in the short term. It reminds me of the line from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

For some other off-the-beaten-track "solutions" you might want to check out the latest episode of Rap News from The Juice Media "featuring" Ron Paul, Peter Joseph (of the Zeitgeist Movement) and Jacque Fresco (of the Venus Project). At some points their ideas literally sound like something out of Star Trek (I'm not kidding... the Roddenberry estate should definitely be getting money from the Venus Project) but they are still interesting to consider.

The Zeitgeist Movement
The Venus Project
Wikipedia: The Zeitgeist Movement
Wikipedia: The Venus Project

Sunday, October 23, 2011

muslims and condolences

I was intrigued by Ify Okoye's piece How Muslims Don’t Express Condolences. I both did and didn't identify with her comments. Like her, I find myself a bit tongue-tied by death and not sure how to comfort the survivors in my life. Unlike her, I don't feel like it has been a life-long condition or even one I would necessarily attribute to the Islamic norms Ify mentions in her blog. Instead, I think my issues are more related to the lingering effects of my own father's passing several years ago. Theologically I think I have come to terms with what happened, but emotionally it can still be difficult to find the energy to reach out to others... something for me to work on.

piri thomas (1928-2011)

Piri Thomas' Official Website
NPR: Piri Thomas, Poet And Novelist, Remembered
Democracy Now!: Author Piri Thomas Dies at 83
LA Times: Latino writer Piri Thomas dies at 83

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the golden calf and occupy wall street

File:Charging Bull statue.jpg

The Golden Calf and Occupy Wall Street
Rev. Jennifer Butler
Executive Director, Faith in Public Life

As the #OccupyWallStreet movement continues to flourish as a national symbol of outrage at economic injustice and inequality, faith leaders are bringing a new dimension to the demonstrations in New York. I'm an ordained Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister, and I traveled to Wall Street last weekend with a lay Catholic friend dedicated to fighting for economic justice. Our other passenger was an inanimate object that spoke volumes -- a statue of a golden calf -- a powerful symbol of idolatry in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions.

On Sunday, we joined hundreds of people for an interfaith worship service at Judson Memorial Church and march to reflect on the condemnation of greed throughout Scripture. The calf was displayed in the sanctuary during worship and carried at the front of our procession through Lower Manhattan. In church and in the streets, the cheers and prayers were overwhelming. Photographers and TV crews flocked to us. Apparently you don't need to know your Exodus to understand a symbol of idolatry.

People know deep down that greed has been idolized for too long in our nation, with disastrous economic and spiritual consequences, and our effort struck that chord. Americans have wised up to the fact that bad actors on Wall Street -- and their servants in Washington -- have segregated a grossly unjust concentration of our nation's wealth in the hands of the people whose recklessness and greed caused our economic collapse. And we know from experience that working hard and playing by the rules doesn't bring the security that it used to. And we're outraged. We recognize a great sin and injustice in our midst.

This awakening has scared the hell out of the defenders of the status quo, and they're going on the attack. Karl Rove calls us "left-wing crazies," and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor described us as a "growing mob" at a recent religious right conference. Turn on Fox News at any time of day and you'll see pundits throwing around terms like "anti-American" and "class warfare."

What they may not realize is that there's no turning back. Not when the nation has realized an unjust truth. Not when the inspiring and sustaining power of faith is directed toward building a more just economic order. We're not going to forget what we've seen and go back to our homes and our churches like none of this ever happened. We finally, truly understand that greed really is a pervasive sinful force that must be confronted, not a necessary thing that leads to prosperity.

The faith community's movement for economic justice didn't start in Zuccotti Park in September. In addition to overcoming Jim Crow, Martin Luther King Jr. worked to end poverty for people of all races in all places. Since the Tea Party has taken over Washington, we've organized to protect the poor and the vulnerable from immoral budget cuts and confronted politicians who pay lip service to the Gospel but pursue an economic agenda inspired by Ayn Rand. We're working to hold predatory banks accountable, not only on Wall Street, but in cities across the country.

Scripture is replete with examples of people backsliding into sin after progressing toward righteousness. It would be foolish to believe that we are ushering in a golden age free of greed. But the occupiers are helping to end the era in which it is celebrated and rewarded with obscene wealth and power. And it's fitting that the faith community is part of it.

See also: Occupy Wall Street, The Golden Calf And The New Idolatry by Donna Schaper

immortal technique at occupy wall street

Monday, October 17, 2011

muslims and occupy wall street

Some brief reflections from the Huffington Post on how Muslims are connected to the Occupy Wall Street movement:
Should Muslims Occupy Wall Street Too? by Dr. David Liepert
From Tahrir to Wall Street: The Role of Religion in Protest Movements by Nuri Friedlander

being muslim in cuba

Every Friday, Pedro Lazo Torres, clears the furniture out of his second-storey apartment in a potholed Havana suburb and lines the floors and balcony with carpets. For Havana’s Muslims, he is Imam Yahya, and the home that he shares with his wife and two adult children, is their place of worship. “You can be a Chinese, Cuban or Russian Muslim and the laws are the same for everyone,” Yahya told CNN. “The cultures can be different, but someone who embraces Islam must accept what Allah orders, it’s that simple.”

There are about 1,500 Muslims in Cuba, but no mosques. That’s why, at the end of each week, Yahya, dressed in an immaculate white cap and tunic, welcomes people for Friday prayer. Women head inside, sitting on the living room floor, while men tend to kneel on the shady balcony.

Most Muslims in Cuba are international college students from countries like Pakistan and Indonesia. Three medical students from Guyana were among those gathered at Yahya’s house for Friday prayer.

Cuba is traditionally Catholic, but many don’t actively practice the religion and others adhere to Afro-Caribbean beliefs like Santeria.

Yahya was introduced to Islam by exchange students and converted more than a decade ago.

Cubans are generally very tolerant of religions, Yahya told CNN. But Muslims do sometimes encounter some of the same prejudices found in other countries.

“Sometimes even friends say things jokingly, like ‘terrorist,’” Yahya said.

Muslims in Cuba also face some unique challenges. Pork, for example, is the most popular meat here. “Pork has the problem that it’s very attractive,” Yahya said. “Just like all things that are bad.”

The faithful say they have to be flexible. Before Friday prayer, they perform ablutions, or cleansing of the body, in Yahya’s small bathroom. But the water supply is often turned off in Havana and adherents have to scoop water out of buckets filled in the shower for these kinds of emergencies.

Noalia Gladys Carmen Perez, who wears a headscarf, told CNN she and other adults have encountered some resistance to their faith.

“I’ve had good reactions, people who greet with you respect, and people who don’t like it,” she told CNN. “They’ll say, ‘It must be so hot,’ [and] comments like that as a form of criticism.”

Headscarves have never been an issue in schools, in part because Islam is relatively new in the country. However, few can pray at work, either because their schedules or social norms won’t allow it.

Many also find it hard to adopt certain Muslim customs here in the touchy-feely tropics. In Cuba, men and women usually greet each other with a kiss.

Ibrahim Kinsan, a physical therapist, says most of his co-workers are women. “Now I’ve converted to Islam, but I can’t just turn into an alien,” he told CNN. “Most of them greet me with a kiss and that tradition isn’t going to disappear.”

Many Muslim countries have offered to donate the money for a mosque, but Yahya wants the gesture to come from Cuba. The country inaugurated its first Russian Orthodox Church in 2008.

“I think we could see something similar for Muslims in the near future,” he said.

From Repeating Islands

Saturday, October 15, 2011

spun and mixed by iraqis

From the Hip-Hop Diplomacy blog: An Embrace of the U.S., Spun and Mixed by Iraqis gives a brief glance at how American culture, Islam and urban resistance come together in the lives of some Baghdad hip-hop heads.

talib kweli at occupy wall street

Tabil Kweli attends Occupy Wall Street on Oct 6, 2011. Kweli preforms an exclusive new rhyme titled "Distraction" and by request "Thieves In the Night." He also speaks heart-felt words in support of Occupy Wall Street.

eighth annual brass crescent awards 2011/1432

Nominations were recently announced for the Brass Crescent Awards (for the best contributions to the Muslim blogosphere). You can check out the website to vote or just to get turned on to some new blogs you may not have seen before. Polls close end of day Monday, November 7, 2011! 9 pm (Mon) PST, 12 am (Tue) EST, 5 am (Tue) GMT

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

wham! bam! islam!

A trailer from WHAM! BAM! ISLAM!, Isaac Solotaroff's documentary that will air on PBS's Independent Lens on October 13th (check your local listings). WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! ( tells the story of Naif Al-Mutawa and his venture to create the first team of superheroes from the Muslim world called THE 99. Following the tumultuous journey of THE 99 from concept to reality, from international acclaim to censure by cultural gatekeepers, Al-Mutawa doggedly pursues his vision to bring new heroes to Muslim children while re-introducing Islam to the West.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Sunday, October 02, 2011

occupy wall street (assorted links)

Occupy Wall Street seems to be the most "official" site connected to the demonstrations in New York City. Occupy Together is a related site attempting to help coordinate events in other cities across the country (and several outside the United States as well). The NYC General Assembly seems to be a (the?) major deliberative body behind the NY demonstrations and they have also issued a Declaration of the Occupation of New York which is the most explicit statement I've seen on the reasons behind the protests. For a history of the events leading up to the protests there is A Report from the Frontlines: The Long Road to #OccupyWallStreet and the Origins of the 99% Movement

Adbusters: Occupy Wall Street
Twitter: Occupy Wall Street
Truthout: Occupy Wall Street (Watch Live)
Reddit: Occupy Wall Street
The Guardian: Occupy Wall Street
Wikipedia: Occupy Wall Street