Monday, December 16, 2013

lorde's royals and the people's revolt

For some reason I find the minor controversy over Lord's song, "Royals" and whether it is racist or not really intriguing. I'm especially interested in seeing how different artists of color have engaged with the song through covers and remixes, with varying degrees of creative and political sophistication. (There are even a few white artists who add new levels of appropriation in the mix as well). Feministing: Wow, that Lorde song Royals is racist Feministing: A little more on Lorde, Royals, and Racism The Guardian: Lorde's song Royals deserves nuanced critique XXL: Five Best Rapper Remixes of Lorde’s “Royals”


(Ghetto from my head to my toe cover) by Vamsi ft. Ace

Monday, December 02, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday, November 02, 2013

tato laviera is dead

Hispanic New York: Tato Laviera, Prominent Nuyorican Poet, Is Dead This makes me sad. When I was in college I discovered Tato Laviera's poetry and it played a big role in my thinking about what it means to be Afro-Latino. I even organized an event to bring him to campus and got to spend a chunk of time with him. He's apparently been sick for a while with diabetes and unconscious. Rest in Peace. Inna illahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

no woman, no drive

For the sarcasm impaired, this is a satire.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

william copeland & joe reilly - twice in a lifetime

This is a sequel of my favorite song by Will Copeland and Joe Reilly (see "i've seen ethiopians knocking out rome")

A version of the same song also appears on Copeland's (aka Namaste Brown aka Ill Wizard aka Will See) new digital album: The Basics. (check the link to hear free samples, buy the whole album or individual tracks)

Friday, September 27, 2013

the ugliness of beauty pagents

It is surprising to me how ugly and political beauty pageants seem to be getting lately. First Nina Davuluri becomes the first Miss America of Indian descent (prompting a confused and ignorant racist backlash). And then Jakiyah McKoy wins Little Miss Hispanic Delaware, only to have her crown stripped from her because 1) some racist Hispanics don't believe a black little girl can represent "latin beauty" and 2) she apparently wasn't able to produce proof of her Dominican grandmother. For me, Jakiyah's situation cuts a little closer to home since I could totally imagine crap like that happening to some of my younger relatives. I also find it especially ironic that the issue should ostensibly turn on the identity of the grandmother (see y tu abuela donde esta? and y tu abuela, a’onde esta?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

bobby mcferrin & aziza mustafa zadeh

For some reason I thought I had posted this a long time ago but apparently not... it is a thoroughly "Grenada-esque" clip of Bobby McFerrin, Aziza Mustafa Zadeh singing Carmen.

latin cypher

Latin Cypher: 20 Spanish-Language MCs Everyone Should Hear Words By Isabela Raygoza

captain american in a turban

Captain America in a turban
Salon: Captain America in a Turban


I just found this tumblr with the comic adventures of Qahera, a sword-wielding, hijab-wearing, salty-mouthed, Egyptian super-heroine. There are only a few pages posted (with versions in English and Arabic) but I look forward to seeing what develops. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

it's a small world after all...

black-arab solidarity: what could it mean? by liz derias
 The Palestinian struggle is a black struggle by Susan Abulhawa
The Subjects of American Empire Are Joining in Solidarity by Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers

yasiin bey (aka mos def) demonstrates guantanamo bay force-feeding standard operating procedure

Yasiin Bey appears in a video launched recently demonstrating the Standard Operating Procedure for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Made by human rights charity Reprieve and Bafta-award winning director Asif Kapadia, the film shows US actor and rapper formerly known as Mos Def experiencing the procedure.

20 ramadan memes

20 Memes to Get You Through Ramadan This Year

Thursday, July 04, 2013

"somebody's watching me"

On the serious tip, I definitely think that "America the Beautiful" would make a much better national anthem than the "Star Spangled Banner". But this is starting to be a rising contender.

"oh say can they see..."

The piece is called "Surveilance 2010" by the artist Will Varner

will varner surveillance 2010 window blinds camera usa flag

Thursday, May 09, 2013

race in cuba: the eternal black problem

Race in Cuba: The Eternal 'Black Problem' When it comes to race, Cuba is far from the utopia that black intellectuals like to think it is. As part of The Root's series exploring the island's color complex, Cuba's best-known novelist weighs in.

the afro-iranian community

The Afro-Iranian Community: Beyond Haji Firuz Blackface, the Slave Trade & Bandari Music at the Ajam Media Collective takes an interesting look at a little-known branch of the Black diaspora. (I think the only other time I've heard more than a passing comment about black Iranians was in the context of discussing the slaves belonging to the founders of the Babi and Bahai faiths.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

juan cole: terrorism and the other religions

Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions. Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States.

As for political violence, people of Christian heritage in the twentieth century polished off tens of millions of people in the two world wars and colonial repression. This massive carnage did not occur because European Christians are worse than or different from other human beings, but because they were the first to industrialize war and pursue a national model. Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined. The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and that still meant something in the first half of the twentieth century, at least. The Swedish church is a national church. Spain? Was it really unconnected to Catholicism? Did the Church and Francisco Franco’s feelings toward it play no role in the Civil War? And what’s sauce for the goose: much Muslim violence is driven by forms of modern nationalism, too.

I don’t figure that Muslims killed more than a 2 million people or so in political violence in the entire twentieth century, and that mainly in the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 and the Soviet and post-Soviet wars in Afghanistan, for which Europeans bear some blame.
Compare that to the Christian European tally of, oh, lets say 100 million (16 million in WW I, 60 million in WW II– though some of those were attributable to Buddhists in Asia– and millions more in colonial wars.)
Belgium– yes, the Belgium of strawberry beer and quaint Gravensteen castle– conquered the Congo and is estimated to have killed off half of its inhabitants over time, some 8 million people at least.

Or, between 1916-1917 Tsarist Russian forces — facing the Basmachi revolt of Central Asians trying to throw off Christian, European rule — Russian forces killed an estimated 1.5 million people. Two boys brought up in or born in one of those territories (Kyrgyzstan) just killed 4 people and wounded others critically. That is horrible, but no one, whether in Russia or in Europe or in North America has the slightest idea that Central Asians were mass-murdered during WW I and looted of much of their wealth. Russia at the time was an Eastern Orthodox, Christian empire (and seems to be reemerging as one!).

Then, between half a million and a million Algerians died in that country’s war of independence from France, 1954-1962, at a time when the population was only 11 million!

I could go on and on. Everywhere you dig in European colonialism in Afro-Asia, there are bodies. Lots of bodies.

Now that I think of it, maybe 100 million people killed by people of European Christian heritage in the twentieth century is an underestimate.

As for religious terrorism, that too is universal. Admittedly, some groups deploy terrorism as a tactic more at some times than others. Zionists in British Mandate Palestine were active terrorists in the 1940s, from a British point of view, and in the period 1965-1980, the FBI considered the Jewish Defense League among the most active US terrorist groups. (Members at one point plotted to assassinate Rep. Dareell Issa (R-CA) because of his Lebanese heritage.) Now that Jewish nationalsts are largely getting their way, terrorism has declined among them. But it would likely reemerge if they stopped getting their way. In fact, one of the arguments Israeli politicians give for allowing Israeli squatters to keep the Palestinian land in the West Bank that they have usurped is that attempting to move them back out would produce violence. I.e., the settlers not only actually terrorize the Palestinians, but they form a terrorism threat for Israel proper (as the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin discovered). 

Even more recently, it is difficult for me to see much of a difference between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the Hebron massacre.

Or there was the cold-blooded bombing of the Ajmer shrine in India by Bhavesh Patel and a gang of Hindu nationalists. Chillingly, they were disturbed when a second bomb they had set did not go off, so that they did not wreak as much havoc as they would have liked. Ajmer is an ecumenical Sufi shrine also visited by Hindus, and these bigots wanted to stop such open-minded sharing of spiritual spaces because they hate Muslims.

Buddhists have committed a lot of terrorism and other violence as well. Many in the Zen orders in Japan supported militarism in the first half of the twentieth century, for which their leaders later apologized. And, you had Inoue Shiro’s assassination campaign in 1930s Japan. Nowadays militant Buddhist monks in Burma/ Myanmar are urging on an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.

 As for Christianity, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda initiated hostilities that displaced two million people. Although it is an African cult, it is Christian in origin and the result of Western Christian missionaries preaching in Africa. If Saudi Wahhabi preachers can be in part blamed for the Taliban, why do Christian missionaries skate when we consider the blowback from their pupils?

Terrorism is a tactic of extremists within each religion, and within secular religions of Marxism or nationalism. No religion, including Islam, preaches indiscriminate violence against innocents.
It takes a peculiar sort of blindness to see Christians of European heritage as “nice” and Muslims and inherently violent, given the twentieth century death toll I mentioned above. Human beings are human beings and the species is too young and too interconnected to have differentiated much from group to group. People resort to violence out of ambition or grievance, and the more powerful they are, the more violence they seem to commit. The good news is that the number of wars is declining over time, and World War II, the biggest charnel house in history, hasn’t been repeated.

Monday, April 22, 2013

wise words in the wake of the boston bombing

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize — and specifically to kill — but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

Among these: Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Lawrence Michael Lombardi and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Chevie Kehoe and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and Justin Carl Moose and Bruce and Joshua Turnidge and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Jeffery Harbin and Byron Williams and Charles Ray Polk and Willie Ray Lampley and Cecilia Lampley and John Dare Baird and Joseph Martin Bailie and Ray Hamblin and Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. and John Pitner and Charles Barbee and Robert Berry and Jay Merrell and Brendon Blasz and Carl Jay Waskom Jr. and Shawn and Catherine Adams and Edward Taylor Jr. and Todd Vanbiber and William Robert Goehler and James Cleaver and Jack Dowell and Bradley Playford Glover and Ken Carter and Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf and Chris Scott Gilliam and Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder and Buford Furrow and Benjamin Smith and Donald Rudolph and Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles and Donald Beauregard and Troy Diver and Mark Wayne McCool and Leo Felton and Erica Chase and Clayton Lee Wagner and Michael Edward Smith and David Burgert and Robert Barefoot Jr. and Sean Gillespie and Ivan Duane Braden and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Cody Seth Crawford and Ralph Lang and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout and Randolph Linn.

Ya know, just to name a few.
- Tim Wise

See also:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

game of thrones vs. brave new world

Here's where I'm "at" as a Muslim in regard to homosexuality: I accept the orthodox ruling that homosexual acts are forbidden. (Being straight, this isn't really any sort of special challenge) The Quran and hadith are abundantly clear on this point, more clear than the Bible in fact. For example, Bible-believers who want to argue that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not really about homosexuality actually have some ammunition in passages such as:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them, when I saw it [Ezekiel 16:49-50]
while in the Quran the men of Sodom are addressed differently saying: "Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay you are an extravagant people." [7.81] or again "What! do you indeed approach men lustfully rather than women? Nay, you are a people who act ignorantly." [27.55] 

At the same time, I also don't really have much of a visceral reaction ("ick response") to homosexuality either. And much of the time I find "natural law" type arguments unconvincing.

That said, the following thoughts recently occurred to me as a way of framing some of these issues: Suppose you are in a society where blood is thicker than water and people locate a great part of their identity in their biological families; e.g. Lannister, Stark, Capulet, Montague, Hattfield, McCoy (And many "traditional" stances assume this as an axiom). Then marriages don't just involve the couple getting married but they have political implications for both families (and so "arranged" marriages make a certain amount of sense). Furthermore, one of the important functions of marriage in such an environment is to create concrete natural connections between families through children (a new grandchild, cousin, etc. common to both sides).

But, in a really fundamental way, gay marriage can't play that role. Even when the gay couple "has" children, at least one family, possibly both, aren't getting a new blood relative. (and the child is possibly disconnected from some of its biological relatives). So from a traditional perspective, gay marriage is ultimately incomplete. Instead of being about families being joined, gay marriage is more fundamentally about the sex lives of the individual couple.

To be fair, people's feelings about marriage and family have been changing for a while now in various ways (e.g. towards greater individualism, increasing divorce rates, changing attitudes about adoption, limits on parental rights etc.) which probably has softened the ground for gay marriage. New reproductive technologies have allowed for surrogate mothers, sperm donors, egg donors to all be distinct from "mom" and "dad". Gay marriage is just one more thing bringing us one step closer towards Huxley's Brave New World where biological lineage and reproduction are separated from family and emotional relationships.

Monday, April 01, 2013

a muslim meditation on easter

RNS: Between Good Friday and Easter: A Muslim Meditation on Christ and Resurrection by Omid Safi is an interesting reflection on the Easter holiday. Safi's take on the subject strikes me as surprisingly "Christian". Over the years I've had my own thoughts on the subject, but have tended to put my energies into trying to make sense of the docetism of "they neither killed him, nor crucified him".
see also: good friday
the cross and the lynching tree
muslim easter hymn
day after day after day
easter memories

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"con los teroristas"

Given the lyrics it was pretty much ineviteble that the meme would "evolve" in this direction:

 Harlem Shake (al qaeda edition) is a collection of clips of "terrorist-looking" people moving and dancing to the Harlem Shake song, but doesn't really follow the "rules" of the meme (unlike the other examples). I doubt that the scenes were originally filmed with the intention of making a 'Harlem shake video'. 

Harlem Shake (Terrorist Version) and (Terrorist Version 2) seem to be from a Dominican comedy group and features a number of "terrorists" standing in a basement around a "hostage" tied up to a chair.

Harlem Shake (Al Qaeda) - or not features three "terrorists" out in the woods with three "captives" on their knees and I'd guess that it was put together by frat boys. Both of these last two examples are oddly homoerotic but it doesn't seem uncommon for the meme. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

tahajjud to end violence and inequality in chicago

In 2012 there were 506 homicides in Chicago, and there have already been 48 homicides in the city this year.

Many of us are heartbroken by these violent deaths, yet we feel helpless and hopeless when it comes to finding a way to prevent them. But there is something that each and every one of us can do: Pray.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said "prayer is the weapon of the believer." Taking this power of prayer seriously, we are asking everyone to commit to make the Tahajjud (night vigil) prayer on the early morning of Thursday, February 21st.

In the Qur'an God has said:

"And during a part of the night, pray Tahajjud beyond what is incumbent on you; maybe your Lord will raise you to a position of great glory." Sura Al-'Isra [17:79]

How to pray Tahajjud:

Tahajjud is performed two rakat (cycles) at a time, reciting out loud. This prayer is preferred in the last third of the night (approximately between 2-5am) and can be prayed individually or in a group.

We ask that you petition God to end both violence and inequality. We understand that the violence in Chicago, and in many other cities, does not happen in a vacuum, but that it is fueled by concentrated inequalities from education and policing to healthcare and jobs, problems that especially plague the south and west sides of our city.

What: Tahajjud to End Violence and Inequality in Chicago
When: Thursday, February 21st, 2-5am
Where: Anywhere (including the comfort of your own home)
Who: You!
For a more general treatment see:

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

the grand (hip-hop) chessboard: race, rap and raison d'etat

The Grand (Hip-Hop) Chessboard: Race, Rap and Raison d’État by Hishaam Aidi is a fascinating survey of the ways in which hip-hop (and in another era, jazz) has been a voice of resistance, but has also been used by different governments as a form of "soft power".

the foundations of an american muslim antipoverty movement

This talk was part of an antipoverty conference organized by the Muslim group, United For Change. Clips from other talks are available here.

tons and tons of free left-of-center books

A centralized location for your leftist literature is a huge trove of books from Adorno to Zizek; Dabashi on Islamic Liberation Theology, Said's Orientalism, the new Malcolm X biography by Marable, books on the Panthers, post-modernism and post-pocolonial studies, plenty Fanon, Freire and Foucault, seasoned with heaping doses of Nietzsche and many others. Enjoy.

gun murders vs terrorism

Gun Murders vs

From Juan Cole's Informed Comment

recent blogs on women and spirituality

Naila Amat-un-Nur: The Role of The Divine Feminine And How It Translates Into Women’s Wisdom: Past, Present And Future

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore: Five Short Meditations on the Virgin Mary

zero dark thirty feeding islamophobia?

Mondoweiss: The reviews are in: ‘Zero Dark Thirty makes me hate muslims’

health and hamza yusuf

elevate culture


Elevate Culture is an organization dedicated to supporting the growth of a vibrant and authentic North American Muslim culture. The Cultural Imperative is Islam’s call for Muslims to be culturally relevant while staying true to Islamic values. Elevate Culture believes that until Islam is made culturally relevant, Muslims cannot reach their full potential. Our belief is that Islamic values do not serve to crush cultural values – they are here to refine them. Muslims are not meant to suppress culture – they are meant to Elevate Culture! EC wants to be with you as you unleash your creative force on the universe, God willing. Wherever you’re going, Elevate Culture is riding shotgun with advice, networking apps, and maybe some extra gas money. Check out their website for funding and networking opportunities!

Monday, January 07, 2013

defining legends (again, islam and afrocentricity)

Defining Legends: Analysis of Afrocentric Writings on Islam by Abdul-Haq ibn Kofi ibn Kwesi ibn al-Ashanti is an interesting e-book I've recently "discovered" responding to the basic Afrocentric critique of Islam.  (e.g. see islam and afrocentrism, afrocentricity and islam ii) In alot of ways the book covers ground I've seen before (Al-Jahiz, Chancelor Williams, Molefi Asante, Blyden, et. alia) But among the pieces which were new to me was a surprisingly graphic hadith:
The Prophet said on the authority of Ubayy Bin Ka'ab: "If anyone proudly asserts his descent in the manner of the pre-Islamic people, tell him to bite his father's penis, and do not use a euphemism" (from Sharh us-Sunnah of al-Baghawee in Mishkaat ul-Masaabih)
I was initially tempted to summarize the intended meaning here by means of a certain more colloquial English idiom but according to one explanation I was able to find online, the meaning of the hadith is better rendered as "He who is proud of his origins in a manner that is similar to the era of pre-Islam, let him stay next to his father's semen [i.e. let him remember that his actual origin is a flithy semen]." In any case it should be clear that Islam considers racism or ancestry-based supremacism as a gross offense.

The second piece I found really interesting was a reference to a book by Abu'l-Faraj Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Hasan Ibn ul-Jawzee, a late 12th century Hanbali scholar of Baghdad called Tanweer al-Ghabash fee Fadl is-Sudan wa'l Habash (The Illumination of the Darkness on the Merits of the Black People and the Ethiopians). Before now I was only aware of Al-Jahiz's "Book of the Glory of the Black Race" but apparently there have been several other medeival Muslim works on the virtues of Black folks (also mentioned in Defining Legends). I was not able to find any excerpts from Ibn ul-Jawzee's work itself but the chapter headings are:
a) Those who belong to the Sudan 
b) The Cause of their dark-skin 
c) The enlivening of Shem, the son of Noah, by Jesus the son of Mary 
d) The Kingdoms of the Black People and their extent
e) The collective moral excellence of the character of the black people
f) Things distinguished by darkness from amongst animals, trees and plants
g) The obviousness that there is no preference for light-skinned peoples over dark-skinned people based upon colour; indeed preference is based upon piety
h) The companions who migrated to Ethiopia
i) The deputation of Quraysh to the Negus (Najaashi) to retrieve the companions of the messenger of Allaah
j) The correspondence of the prophet with the negus (najaashi)
k) The arrival of the Ethiopians to the Messenger of Allaah... And their play with hiraab (lances) in the mosque during his presence 
l) Qur'aanic words of Ethiopian origin 
m) What the messenger heard of the Ethiopian language that pleased him 
n) The assignment of the call to the Ethiopians
o) The prophets who were black
p) The eminent king of Ethiopia
q) The distinguished black males amongst the companions of the prophet Muhammad
r) The distinguished black females amongst the companions of the prophet Muhammad
s) Prominent Black learned people
t) Poets and those who composed poetry amongst the black people
u) Groups of clever, intelligent and generous black males and females
v) The pious and ascetic of the black people
w) The famous black females
x) Those who preferred black concubines to light-skinned ones and who loved and died from their love of them
y) Qurayshees who were sons of Ethiopian women
z) Some exhortations and injunctions
aa) Some invocations and glorifications of Allaah, mighty and majestic
bb) Some transmitted supplications
Looking at the list I think I'm most curious about who is identified as a black prophet; Jesus, Luqman, Moses, Muhammad? (saaws). I'm also curious about how these medieval descriptions match-up with modern racial categories.