Wednesday, January 26, 2011

islam, yoga and cultural authenticity

I've been thinking about adopting a new health regimen for a while which has gotten me thinking about Yoga and similar practices. As a result I've started to notice some interesting back-and-forth in the blogosphere about Yoga from different religious camps.

On the one hand there are some Muslims (and Christians and Jews) who view Yoga as problematic, especially because its more ritual elements (like chanting) arguably constitute the practices of another religion. On the other hand there are Muslims (and Christians and Jews) who either replace the ritual elements with content from their own faiths, or eliminate the chanting altogether and emphasize the physical aspects of yoga (stretching, asanas, breathing).
Malaysia clerics issue yoga fatwa
Indonesian clerics ban Muslims from practising yoga

Deoband intervenes: Muslims can do yoga

At least one Muslim (for example the author of the article Islam and Yoga) goes even further and argues that while syncretism between Islam and Yoga is "spiritually invalid", nevertheless there are many correspondence between Islam and Yoga beneath the surface.

On yet another hand (after all, we are discussing Indian religion) recently the Hindu American Foundation is concerned with the way in which some practitioners of Yoga seen to have divorced Yoga from its Hindu roots and so they have launched a "Take Yoga Back" campaign. (see the article: Is Yoga Hindu?) The article reminds me of similar questions about the way Sufism (or these days Rumi's poetry) is sometimes divorced from Islam.

And on yet another hand, the last point is reminiscent of questions of cultural appropriation which we have discussed before in white people and native religion.

The moral here is tricky I think. To the extent that Yoga is just a form of physical exercise with certain heath benefits it is acceptable to Muslims (and Chrsitans and Jews). But the more Yoga is connected integrally to Hinduism, the less acceptable it is for non-Hindus to follow. And to the extent that Yoga is a cultural practice of a specific group of people, we should be aware of its history.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

martin luther king in science fiction

Over at io9 is a pretty extensive list and discussion of how Martin Luther King has either played a role in, or has been represented in science / speculative / graphic fiction. From how MLK persuaded Nichelle Nichols to keep playing Uhura when she felt like quitting to the alternate future in the Boondocks where MLK was never shot. Check out: Martin Luther King In Science Fiction

Monday, January 17, 2011

another "palestinian martin luther king"

A Palestinian born in the Jabalia refugee camp of the Gaza Strip, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish overcame tremendous odds to earn his MD. As an OBGYN he practiced in both Palestine and Israel, frequently commuting between the two countries. In January 2009, during a three-week long war, an Israeli tank fired two shells into the doctor’s home, killing three of his daughters and his niece. Dr. Abuelaish was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his commitment to Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation. He is the founder of Daughters for Peace an organization that provides university scholarships as well as leadership programs on health and education to young women in the Middle East. On January 12 we sat down with Dr. Abuelaish after his public lecture about his new bestselling book, I Shall Not Hate, at the Los Angeles Public Library – a part of their ALOUD series. For further coverage of this conversation and Abuelaish’s bestselling book, you can access Ryan Bell’s piece Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish: the Palestinian Martin Luther King in the Huffington Post. See also: Our Enemy is Our Ignorance: An Interview with Dr Abuelaish

(To be honest, I have reservations about the term "Palestinian Martin Luther King". Although it is good to highlight the fact that Palestinians are making some creative, effective and powerful contributions to the peace process, I also don't want to take away from the specificity of what King did.)

muslims/arabs and the spirit of mlk

From Al Ahram Online: Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields" provides a nice counter-narrative to the dominant image of Muslims in the Middle East which somehow seems especially appropriate for MLK day.

In a similar vein, there is the story of Budrus, a West Bank village where the Palestinians used non-violent protest in order to save their land from the Israeli government. (A documentary film about the protest, also called Budrus was recently made and is catalyzing a number of discussions).

The Huffington Post has a brief article about the effort in the article, Civil Resistance to Bring Down the Walls by Ayed Morrar who is primarily responsible for organizing the protests.

Riz Khan on Al-Jazeera leads a discussion with Ayed Morrar along with several of the producers behind the documentary:



Finally, another discussion about Budrus can be found at the Sons of Malcolm blog (which is actually where I learned about the film and the non-violent protests in the first place.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

more from imam zaid

Imam Zaid Shakir delivers a one-two punch against Islam-haters and extremist Muslims in a pair of his recent articles.

In Qur’an defeats Muslim Barbarism Imam Zaid exhorts towards the importance of reading the Quran holistically and guided by the highest ideals:

Like all other scriptures, it is easy to take a Qur’anic verse out of context and distort its meaning to fit an ideologically defined agenda. However, such an approach not only results in semantic violence towards the text, its can become the basis of physical violence against innocent adherents of a particular religion.

The time has come for members of all faith communities to begin a push towards a higher ground that leads to a common ground. The hard work of fostering understanding will require honest and enlightened scholarship and leadership, coupled with a deep quest for truth, peace and justice. If we stop short of that, we are only cheating ourselves and jeopardising our collective security.


In Letter to a Would-be Mujahid Imam Zaid writes to a hypothetical terrorist, Muslim to Muslim, explaining why becoming a terrorist is not just contrary to basic Earthling morality, and a violation of Islamic principles, but also really really stupid.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

juan cole on white terrorism

In the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, here are some of Juan Cole's reflections on White Terrorism and the Tea Party's "Second Amendment" approach to political discourse.

adding islam to a latino identity

The NYT photoblog, Lens, recently published an interview with photographer Eirini Vourloumis along with her images from the life of Spanish-speaking New Jersey Muslims in the series Adding Islam to a Latino Identity

h/t to Seyfettin/Saifuddin

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

the emir of algeria and ibn al-arabi

I just recently bumped into the article God and the Perfect Man in the Experience of 'Abd al-Qâdir al-Jaza'iri which reminded me of how much I'd been neglecting my book idea. More generally, it made me want to learn more about Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri and the Algerian struggle against France.

the jihad of imam shamyl
sufi mujahideen

Monday, January 03, 2011

muslims probe problem of disaffected youth

The article Muslim Leaders Probe Problem Of Disaffected Youths makes an interesting point in the wake of the arrest of 19-year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud.
"Why do we in Muslim communities not have centers for at-risk youth?" said civil rights attorney Reem Salahi at the annual national convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council on Saturday (Dec. 18) in Los Angeles.

Speakers discussed the November arrest of 19-year-old Somali-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud, caught in an FBI sting after trying to blow up a bomb in a van parked near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Ore.

Salahi said Mohamud apparently felt isolated and found solace on extremist websites whose radical owners are "exploiting the grievances of young people and getting to them in very sophisticated ways."

Sunday, January 02, 2011

professor imam and the squadron supreme

Professor Imam
Speaking of comic books, I've recently started to get into the Squadron Supreme especially in their more recently rebooted incarnation. The characters aren't well known but the concept behind them is interesting. Basically they are Marvel Comic's revisioning of /parody of /homage to /commentary on the major DC Comic superheroes. Their names and costumes are different enough that the probably won't raise copyright issues, but their powers and back stories are similar enough that the intention is clear.

Both the original and the rebooted characters explore the dark side of the superhero concept. For example, an important storyline involving the original Squadron had them try to turn the U.S. into a crime-free utopian society and ended up creating a police-state.

Furthermore, I'm not sure if he's explicitly described as Muslim, but taking a leap based on his name, the original Squadron Supreme character Professor Imam may be one of the earliest Muslim superheroes in either Marvel or DC. I haven't yet seen him appear in the rebooted Squadron but I hope he shows up. It would probably allow for some good political stories.

In the rebooted version, "Superman" (Hyperion) is initially found by farmers but eventually Truman Show-ed by the U.S. government who want to make sure he grows up patriotic and compliant. Instead of there being a single token Black superhero, both "Batman" (Nighthawk) and "the Flash" (the Blur) are African-American and have numerous political arguments about their obligations to "the people". In Nighthawk's case especially, his parents were specifically killed by white supremacists, so as an adult he takes a by-any-means-necessary approach to fighting racist and genocidal villains both in the inner-city (primarily Chicago) and in Africa. These are definitely not your grandparents superheroes...

See also:
female, muslim and mutant
naif al-muwata on the 99
josiah x
in brightest day, in blackest night