Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Essaoira, Morocco

Catweasel in B&W, originally uploaded by oberknoppenfuhrer.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Liberally-Trained Mind, Revelation and Extremism

An excellent post at the blog Shar'i Perspectives

When one peruses the works of the likes of Ghazali, Hakim Tirmidhi, Ibn ʿAjiba, and others, it is impossible but to note that, in the western definition, these men were philosophers: lovers of truth, and brilliant expositors and users of the liberal arts.

They were not afraid to analyze, and they were not obstructed by their religious attachment to divinely-decreed morality to search for truth through rigorous and studied use of logic and rhetoric -- in the western tradition, two of the "the liberal arts", and in Muslim lands, some of the "ʿulūm al-āla" (the "propaedeutic" disciplines). In other words, their morality did not prohibit their minds and tongues to work according to established principles – they did not see scholastic pursuits and what they rigorously entail to be un-religious, or contrary to the will of God.

They were not literalists, and they were not fundamentalists. They were not blinded by the literal wording of the text, nor were they so small-minded to perceive that the text was meant to bolster their position. Rather, armed with the proper use of mind and tongue that all humans – regardless of religion or race – are apt to use properly and brilliantly, they read the scripture and looked at the world with both eyes open. Light did not cause them to flinch. Hatred was not allowed to burn. In short, their moralism did not obfuscate their divinely-endowed human methodologies of proper enquiry, nor did their usage of the liberal arts lead them to a haughty tossing of morality. Zandaqa, in their minds, was not the necessary result of intelligence. Sadly, this seems to be the opposite of what so many of today’s prayer-pulpit climbers and public screamers hold to be first principles.

Extremism has no greater enemy than a sound mind and a sound heart. A sound mind is ensured by no more that the liberal arts mentioned above (and if anyone were to question the inclusion of grammar – in its linguistic inclusive meaning – and rhetoric amongst the sciences of the mind, they should remember that the tongue, or language, is merely the interpreter and interlocutor of the minds – that of the speaker and that of his fellow in discussion), and balanced morality and ethics is ensured no better than through divine revelation. For though many a human mind has arrived to the same moral, ethical and at times even metaphysical conclusions of the revelation independently, nothing has ever been able to ensure their wide-spread acceptance and application amongst the particular individuals of humanity – from philosopher to stone cutter, from king to pauper – than organized religion when it truly reflects the will of the Creator. And it should not be forgotten that the instruction and preaching of morality also has bounds, and these bounds are also spelled out in the Word of God; but it should not be forgotten that the sound mind, informed by a mastery of the liberal arts, will ensure that all is kept in balance as well.

De-contextualization is the result of the shutting off of the mind. Treatises, articles and papers are closer to yellow-journalism and propaganda than they are to religious and spiritual commentary and guidance when any text, and particularly scripture, is attacked parochially-minded, intentionally close-minded anti-intellectuals.

The peppering, or more often dumping, of scriptural verses and quotes of the Prophet in written works are often seen as enough justification that the argument of the piece is true, and the lack thereof sufficient proof of its falsehood. Guidance from the texts has been confused with justification through them. It is interesting to note that much of what is touted as “Muslim literature” in today’s milieu is barely readable, though it be filled with such quotations, while anyone familiar with the works of scholars such as Ghazali and the others mentioned will find that, while certain of their works are obviously and necessarily replete with Qur’anic and Prophetic citings, they are not used to obfuscate a feeble mind and a lack of anything to really add to the discourse of humanity at all.

Intellectualism is not to be seen as an end in itself, and its dangers are many, when not bound by a strict and applied ethical and moral system. But without the sound and studied use of the intellect, no man should be given the right or freedom to speak or instruct a fellow man.

Revelation is the safe-keeper of the mind, and the sound mind is the proper interpreter of revelation. And whenever even one of the two has been abandoned, or abused (and both can be and often are often abused), mercy is lost. ((And We have not sent you save as a Mercy to Mankind)).

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What to do with charity?

Below is my response to the following question found at the blog other|matters

The question:
The concept of charity, and of giving charity regularly, is ever present in Islam, with charity encompassing meeting a fellow human being with a smile on one’s face and removing a rock from the road, to donating large amounts of money towards various causes.

In this regard, if you have a certain amount of money that you want to give as charity, is it better to donate it regularly towards one cause, through one or two select organizations you trust? Or is it better to divide and spread your money amongst different causes, different needs that you come across, depending on the need of the hour?

Some may argue that the latter allows for a true capturing of “giving with your right hand without the left hand knowing” - for who tallies the small amounts given here and there? Others may argue that in providing for others in a non-systematic way, Muslims as a community aren’t being effective - for how can small amounts given sporadically to random individuals, causes and organizations help as much as one large donation to an effective charitable organization can?

How should one ideally disburse money they want to give towards charity?

My answer:

This is a very important question, but I think the premise of the question should be more thoroughly examined. The premise seems to imply that “giving with your right hand without the left hand knowing” can only be done, or is primarily done, in a non-systematic fashion and only done according to "the need of the hour." Is this premise sound? Have the scholars of the Islamic tradition defined liberality and spur-of-the-moment giving as only done on the street somewhere to a passing person in need? Or can it be done at 2 a.m. by someone who at the spur-of-the-moment logs onto a Muslim charity's Web site to give or writes a check for the local youth center or makes time for the next day to drive someone without transportation to the store?

Beyond questioning the premise, however, I think the heart of the question revolves around something Henry David Thoreau said: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” In other words, as it pertains to the question, is it a mistake to do things "for others in a non-systematic way" making Muslims "(ineffective) - for how can small amounts given sporadically to random individuals, causes and organizations help as much as one large donation to an effective charitable organization?"

Although I have no real qualification to speak authoritatively and am only a lay seeker of understanding of our contemporary situation, I think it's important to look at charity beyond paper currency. Many times, individuals and social units, be they students or one-parent households, need not a $1000 check or a sea change in fiscal policy per se, but a good word for them at a potential employer, an extra coat for a child, or some extra cash for the electricity bill. These things could be handed out rather liberally, as they don't require a large amount of resources, be they paper or otherwise. A phone call to a friend hiring could take 20 minutes at most, but be a great act of charity perhaps because of the person giving up 20 minutes of his time to help one in need.

As the hadith of the Prophet, may God bless him and give him peace, states, “Doing justice between two people is sadaqah; assisting a man, or lifting up his belongings is sadaqah; a good word is sadaqah; every step you take towards prayer is sadaqah; and removing harmful things from the path is sadaqah.”

The Islamic tradition, by what I have been taught emphasizes, and as Thoreau touched upon, treating a malady by getting at its root. This, however, should be balanced with the imperative to spend of what we love in a liberal manner and in a non-systematic way perhaps. With regard to the former, as a nascent community, we should have multiple strategies with regard to resources that are elucidated in clear short-term and long-term strategies that reflect local needs and individual resource allocation concerns.

The long-term plan should take into account the educational, social, cultural and spiritual institutions we need to erect and maintain to ensure a viable foundation for our children, their children and so on to build upon. This institution building shouldn't just be understood in terms of brick buildings housing a prayer space, but in creating foundational pillars that include: reading materials for English and Spanish readers that facilitate Islamic literacy, think-tanks, social policy institutes, political advocacy organizations, synthesized curricula for Muslims of different ages and learning capabilities that bring together the very best from all applicable traditions and address our contemporary situation, hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, clinics, art schools, concert halls, madrassas, Sufi lodges, hotels, grocery stores, businesses, banks, parks, graffiti walls, basketball courts that cater to and are accessible to Muslims and people of other faiths. And I don't think we should build or create these to establish a parallel society or Muslim ghettos, but to allow Muslims greater opportunities of meeting the shared needs of Muslims and people of other faiths in a way that is guided by the high ethical standards established in the Islamic tradition and help capital to constantly flow throughout the community to address root issues such as racism, elitism, wealth monopolization to name a few that exclude so many capabile individuals from establishing financial and cultural security for themselves and their families.

Simply, we need strong roots to produce the sweet fruits of a functional community that understands itself because it is defined from within and therefore is able to contribute positively to the greater society. We should look at how the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) facilitated resource distribution at different times — be it in Mecca or Medina, be it as a leader with a small following or as a statesman at the helm of a thriving society. For example, what are the implications of the Ahl As-Suffah, or "People of the Bench" who were poor, but provided for under the auspices of the Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace). Did this "Bench" act as a social institution allowing for adequate services to be provided at one level and then a liberality of giving in a non-systematic way on another in the greater society?

And what about Muslim communities who came before us, but faced similar predicaments? How did Chinese Muslims allocate resources and find ways of properly channeling charity. Being a new polity, this Muslim community had to have addressed similar questions with regard to establishing themself as a viable community. We should definitely not be orphaned by modernity and feel cut-off from our noble predecessors. History does not begin or end with us.

The issue of creating appropriate means for a collectively defined end (healthy and indigenous Muslim-American community), requires that end building mosques in an autonomous fashion — for this group or that — but for the whole community that complement and supplement each other. The same goes for education and cultural institutions that architecturally and facility-wise accommodate and reflect the real needs of the whole community in terms of spiritual growth and the need for the creation of a true Muslim-American identity and culture. They shouldn't just reflect the whims of wealthy community members who have a monopoly on resources - paper and otherwise who can dominate the community with their own understanding of the Islamic tradition that may be either totally incorrect or unaware of the unique challenges Muslims in the US face.

Rather than looking at institutional vs. non-institutional giving, I think we should be looking at big-picture giving vs. small-picture giving.

With Zakat, which is not an institution in the sense as a school for example, wealthy immigrants who were able to become part of "white America" as opposed to "Black America" and begin true wealth creation when they got here and still do should find a medium to channel Zakat funds into predominately inner-city neighborhoods populated usually by poor African-Americans who have been the victims of "accumulated disadvantage" and thus unable to build true wealth unlike their fellow white citizens who have enjoyed relative ease in the US marketplace since the founding of this country. And we must remember that wealth and income are two different things as the gap between African-American income and white income has shrunk, while the wealth gap continues to enlarge. This is because US blacks have faced systematic injustice manifest in slavery, Jim Crow apartheid, discriminatory housing practices and loan redlining that have kept and still keep African-Americans out of the running for wealth acquisition because of higher mortgage rate loans and less home equity and inadequate education made worse by lower property tax revenues and poorly funded social programs.

These programs are important because they give Muslims with the resources a viable and continuous outlet for larger and better defined resource allocation. The limits created by effective and clearly explained strategies manifest in the short run by organizations or institutions that produce tangible results of community empowerment will allow Muslims to factor in how much is needed on the proactive level (institution building) and the reactive level — flash fundraising (crisis in some place needing immediate attention) and the helping of those around oneself at any hour of the day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tile works/ Emamzadeh Mahroogh

Tile works/ Emamzadeh Mahroogh
Originally uploaded by HORIZON.

The myth of Muslim support for terror

From the Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Those who think that Muslim countries and pro-terrorist attitudes go hand-in-hand might be shocked by new polling research: Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.

The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "never justified," while 24 percent believe these attacks are "often or sometimes justified."

Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world's most-populous Muslim countries – Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are "never justified"; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.

Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?

Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims. Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of Islam around the world, that's an understandable polling result.

But these stereotypes, affirmed by simplistic media coverage and many radicals themselves, are not supported by the facts – and they are detrimental to the war on terror. When the West wrongly attributes radical views to all of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, it perpetuates a myth that has the very real effect of marginalizing critical allies in the war on terror.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"American Muslims have bought into the American dream"

alt.muslim interview with Paul Barrett, author of the recently published book American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion

American Muslims, before the terrorist attacks of September 2001, were largely an ignored group within American society. Yet even though American Muslims had nothing to do with those terrible events, they were later looked upon with intense scrutiny. Slowly, a picture was painted of them that resembled the worst of stereotypes from across the Muslim world - though in reality, most Americans would be hardpressed to identify Muslims from among them. As years went by and tensions became more visible in Europe, fears of terrorism were supplemented with those of domestic unrest and separatism. Even then, very few comprehensive studies of the American Muslim landscape were made available to understand exactly who this community was. Some statistics revealed a prosperous, well educated group that is decidedly more secular than Muslims in Europe. Yet despite this, an influential American Islam has emerged - as has been seen through noted convert scholars like Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and others - that appears to be stripped of traditional cultural influences from the Muslim world. Is the American Muslim experience largely a happy coincidence? Is it fostered by the lack of a single dominant immigrant identity? Or is it a result of the structure of American society itself. Paul Barrett, an editor at BusinessWeek, spent much of 2004 researching the American face of Islam through detailed interviews with seven of its adherents from various walks of life who explain their stories and journeys in great detail. The result is his new book, American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion, published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In it, he finds a generation secure in its identity as Americans and Muslims, confronting the problems they find with confidence, and determined to find - despite their diverse demography - an equilibrium that will bring about the best that their religion has to offer. It's a situation often envied by others in Europe, prompting British MP Shahid Malik, of Dewsbury, England, to comment recently, "America doesn't know how good it's got it." alt.muslim's Zahed Amanullah recently spoke to Paul recently about his book and the conclusions he reached.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A World of Praise: Dar Al-Hamd

New institute for the study of the Qur'anic sciences. Courses include Tajweed, Qira'at, Tafseer, Tahfiz, Maqamat, Inshad, Adab and Asbab an-Nuzul.

Check it out here

Monday, February 19, 2007

A little piece of my thoughts

This is a response I wrote to Sahar Ullah's excellent essay at the blog other|matters called Personal Reflections on Naked Eyes

Our visual culture is truly fascinating. So much baggage we are forced to carry, especially those of us who are young and forced to negotiate varied and sometimes seemingly contradictory identities. I’m 21 and have been through several phases with each being an internal maturation but outwardly to those around me a dangerous spiritual stasis.

In these times of personal development and transition, everyone has something to say, but not something to live. I hope we can get, as you said Sahar, beyond our “good Muslim, bad Muslim” dichotomization and just explore who we are, the spaces we inhabit and our relationships with people around us, be they Muslim or not. I appreciate guidance and wisdom more than direction and judgement. And surely to God is our return.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Book Review: Technopoly

This is a review of Neil Postman's book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology I wrote recently for a Web journalism class.

Challenging the polarizing effect of one-eyed prophets — technophiles on one side and technophobes on the other — Neil Postman in his book “Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology” attempts to present a seemingly radical, yet pragmatic path for human societies and cultures at-large to most appropriately understand and possibly admit new technologies. Viewing technology as a cultural appendage and therefore value-laden tool that shapes cultural customs and institutions, from politics to the arts, Postman makes it clear that as much as technology enriches the human experience, people the world-over, especially Americans, more thoroughly must challenge technological innovation with a “hostile eye” in order to “moderate the din made by the enthusiastic multitudes” that cheer on technological growth without second thought. These multitudes are thus unable to acknowledge that “technology giveth and technology taketh away” because they only see in the frenzy of horizontal technical “progress” what “new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo” (5, author’s emphasis).

Postman, a well-known American cultural critic, in his book draws from several technological advances in the past 400 years, but most specifically from those of the past 50 such as the television and the computer, to trace how technology throughout the centuries and decades has ascended from seemingly benign origins to a place of unchecked dominance that controls entire facets of human life and cultural production. This ascension, the author contends, happened because of societal inattention to how technology affects the way we think, the symbols we think with and the communities, or the “arena(s)” where thought and symbols are explored.

Therefore, Postman writes that as much as Technopoly is a cultural state and state of mind, it more importantly “consists in the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfaction in technology, and takes its orders from technology" (71). And as technology facilitates societal access to more and more information, this supply of information requires control mechanisms to help cope with this overabundance of information. Thus, Technopoly occurs when a society’s defenses against the overabundance of knowledge break down and institutional life is overwhelmed and unable to cope with this superfluity of information.

Postman’s book does well with anecdotal evidence to support his thesis that technology has insidiously established itself supreme over a culture of lay users who are held in constant awe by an array of experts that dazzle with technological sophistry and reign over culture through their “knowledge monopoly.” This, consequently, makes any critique or questioning almost blasphemous for the common user. And because our culture does not pause to question technological advance and technological advance does not pause to tell us what it will do, we continue to live in a “society of spectacle.”

Although the World Wide Web has “busted up” many “knowledge monopolies” and allowed for greater free speech and democratization, we continue to live in a world of uncritical technical growth. Web tools continue to be viewed as awe-inspiring and as journalists explore new ways of storytelling, they perhaps are forgetting in the disarray of change and advance that it is necessary to sometimes pause and challenge a particular online journalism practice.

Challenging new technological tools and thus journalistic practices is necessary in our nascent online journalism age. We must not accept everything blindly, but with a critical eye as to whether or not it will empower journalistic values and democratic institutions to allow for a more positive human experience. As journalism remains the “fourth estate,” or the watchdog of government and society, it should be the watchdog of technological growth as well with journalists being at the forefront not of accepting new technologies, but of critiquing them with acquired technical skills families cannot attain because of the limits work, school and important social networks create. Journalists should read “Technopoly” and take heed of its important warnings and be cognizant of how technology can be most effective and most destructive.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Families of Abraham

There is an interesting new exhibit at the Charlotte, NC, Levine Museum of the New South called Families of Abraham

A description:
Nearly half of humanity - Jews, Christians, and Muslims - claim the same spiritual ancestor, Abraham. Beginning December 15, Levine Museum of the New South invites visitors to explore what these faiths have in common through Families of Abraham, an exciting new photographic narrative exhibit.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are sometimes referred to as the "Abrahamic religions," because of the role Abraham plays in their holy books and beliefs. Today three billion people - half the world’s population - call him father, patriarch, spiritual ancestor. And while modern Judaism, Christianity and Islam share Abraham's faith in one God and many ethical teachings, each religion each speaks in its own distinctive voice.

This new exhibit explores these similarities as well as the distinctive voices found across the three faiths.

Led by project director and curator Eleanor Brawley, a team of eight local photographers followed eleven different Jewish, Christian and Muslim families from the Charlotte area for a year, documenting daily life and faith practices. They captured Holy Days across the three religions, as well as family milestones and moments from the families' every day lives.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

note: music does accompany this video so those who do not listen, please remember to turn down your volume

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SunniPath: Lesson with a Living Master

Click here to register

New Documentary: SHADOW COMPANY

Very important new documentary that examines the increasingly blurry line between soldier and mercenary in modern warfare.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Identity search: to be Muslim in America

From the Denver Post

An excerpt:

As Colorado's Muslim community grows and matures in a post-Sept. 11 world, scenes like this are becoming more commonplace. A new generation of Muslims with feet firmly in the U.S. is pushing greater engagement with the wider community through service projects and interfaith work.

Below the surface of such gestures, Muslims in Denver and across the country are in the midst of an identity struggle with profound implications.

That debate - which centers on issues ranging from the role of women to coping with assimilation - is one in which "progressive" and "conservative" are loaded terms and a scarf worn on the head is a dividing line.

Whereas the old guard of U.S. Muslims dwelled on events in the Middle East, the next generation is more interested in understanding American culture, said University of Denver religious studies professor Liyakat Takim.

"There is tension between conservative and more liberal or reform- minded Muslims focused mostly on openness to America," he said. "The differences are healthy. It shows the community is thinking and evolving.

"Muslims," he said, "are going through a process of transition from being Muslims in America to being American Muslims."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Holy Land Hip Hop

From the University of Chicago's newspaper Chicago Maroon

The Middle Eastern Studies Students’ Association hosted University graduate student Rami Nashashibi in a talk on the emergence of hip-hop as a vehicle for political expression in the Palestinian territories. The talk, moderated by Professor Martin Stokes, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the U of C, was held Wednesday in Pick 016.

The presentation highlighted Nashashibi’s research in the Palestinian territories and in the South Side of Chicago. Nashashibi studied the influence of African-American hip-hop on Arab–Israeli musicians.

Central to Nashashibi’s work is the concept of “ghetto cosmopolitanism,” the process by which segregated communities circumvent marginalization by forging nontraditional global networks. The concept attempts to explain the recent emergence of several Arab-Israeli hip-hop groups and their rise to global popularity.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Orthodox rabbi, hip-hop mogul join forces to fight Islamophobia

Found at Akram's Razor

The article is from the Israel newspaper Haaretz

Marc Schneier, an Orthodox rabbi in New York, and hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons have joined forces to produce a short film to combat negative stereotypes of Muslims.

The film, which will be shot in the coming weeks under Schneier's direction, will also feature the legendary Jewish hip-hop group the Beastie Boys.

NY Times publisher: Our goal is to manage the transition from print to internet

From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz

An excerpt:

Given the constant erosion of the printed press, do you see the New York Times still being printed in five years?

"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," he says.

Sulzberger is focusing on how to best manage the transition from print to Internet.

"The Internet is a wonderful place to be, and we're leading there," he points out.

The Times, in fact, has doubled its online readership to 1.5 million a day to go along with its 1.1 million subscribers for the print edition.

Sulzberger says the New York Times is on a journey that will conclude the day the company decides to stop printing the paper. That will mark the end of the transition. It's a long journey, and there will be bumps on the road, says the man at the driving wheel, but he doesn't see a black void ahead.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Homeschooling - seeing "every opportunity as a chance to learn"

From the insightful blog Educating the Muslim Child

Although many people may think it strange that people homeschool, I find it is the best way to really allow your child to see the world through their own eyes and to look at every opportunity as a chance to learn something. I have really found this to be true. One day my daughters and I were going to a doctor appointment when the oldest questioned, “How do they make glass?” I told her I really didn’t know the process, but I believed it was made of sand. A few days later, I found a nice video online from a glass manufacturer that provided an online tour that explained the process. I let her watch the video and for the most part I didn’t have to explain to her what was going on. However, there were a few things that I did help explain. After watching the video, she exclaimed, “That’s cool. Now I want to know how heating and air conditioning work in our house.” No, I’m not kidding - still have to show her that video (yes, I actually found one!) Then, yesterday we were at the doctor for an ultrasound for the middle child (looking at her kidneys). Oldest pipes up, “hey, what are kidneys anyway?” Guess I’m on the lookout now for that information. Masha’Allah, she keeps me busy!

One other thing I’d like to mention is our recent trip to a local school supply store. While looking for supplies, I found that they sold a stethascope for $4.00 - I was shocked as I was certain they were more expensive than that. After we got home, we spent the rest of the day listening to each others hearts, listen to our body digest our food, and listening to breathing (not only in our lungs but in the airway). The kids absolutely love it! Sometimes you can really find an inexpensive and easy opportunity to make learning fun.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Iraq’s Shadow Widens Sunni-Shiite Split in U.S.

I think the issue is more limited than it's made out to be in the article, but the writer does bring up some interesting points.

It's from the New York Times

Here's an excerpt:

Though the war in Iraq is one crucial cause, some students and experts on sectarianism also attribute the fissure to the significant growth in the Muslim American population over the past few decades.

Before, most major cities had only one mosque and everyone was forced to get along. Now, some Muslim communities are so large that the majority Sunnis and minority Shiites maintain their own mosques, schools and social clubs. Many Muslim students first meet someone from the other branch of their faith at college. The Shiites constitute some 15 percent of the world’s more than 1.3 billion Muslims, and are believed to be proportionally represented among America’s estimated six million Muslims.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Georgia Mayor Converts to Islam

From HAhmed

This was reported by TIME magazine.

MACON, Ga. — Mayor Jack Ellis has converted to Islam and is working to change his legal name to Hakim Mansour Ellis.

Ellis, 61, a Macon native who was raised Christian, said he became a Sunni Muslim during a December ceremony in the west African nation of Senegal.

Ellis said he has studied the Quran for years and that his new religion was practiced by his ancestors before they were brought to North America as slaves.

"Why does one become a Christian?" Ellis said Thursday. "You do it because it feels right. ... To me it's no big deal. But people like to know what you believe in."

Name-changing by Ismaic converts is a common practice that is considered commendable, though it is typically not required. Ellis said he would keep his last name at the request of two daughters.

Ellis, whose mayoral term expires this year, said he hasn't calculated how his religious conversion might affect him politically. He said he is proud to live in a country founded on religious freedom.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Books of note...

Those looking for arguments counter to the ones espoused by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, please check out the list below:

  • The Words: the Reconstruction of Islamic Belief and Thought
    • The Words forms the first part of the Risale-i Nur Collection, an approximately 6,000-page Qur’anic commentary. In this commentary Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s main concern is how to save and strengthen one’s religious belief when confronted with the current prevalent materialist philosophy. It does not explain when or why a verse was revealed, but rather the truth that it represents. Subjects discussed are God, resurrection, prophethood, destiny, ego, worship, and how the truth of these matters is revealed through nature. The author also analyzes naturalist and materialist philosophy, as well as scientific theories and findings, and refutes them based on evidence that is clearly apparent in nature itself.
  • The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
    • "Collins, a pioneering medical geneticist who once headed the Human Genome Project, adapts his title from President Clinton's remarks announcing completion of the first phase of the project in 2000: "Today we are learning the language in which God created life." Collins explains that as a Christian believer, "the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship." This marvelous book combines a personal account of Collins's faith and experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of more general topics of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution." — Publisher's Weekly
  • Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe
    • "New England biologist Denton continues the assault on Darwinian science, especially the theories of evolution and natural selection, that he began in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Here, Denton takes a page out of the work of 19th-century natural theologians like William Paley and 19th-century anti-Darwinian scientists like Robert Chambers to contend that, far from being random and without direction, the laws of nature operate by design. Moreover, says Denton, the design of the laws of the universe inevitably lead to one conclusion: "The entire process of biological evolution from the origin of life to the emergence of man was somehow directed from the beginning." Denton marshals a dizzying array of scientific evidence to bolster his conclusions." — Publisher's Weekly
  • God the Evidence: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Postsecular World
    • "Glynn considers the recent trend away from the atheism that tends to characterize most scientists (as revealed by surveys) to what he calls a post-secularist perspective, an openness to the role of the divine. In clear, crisp prose, he examines the work of physicists who again see purpose in the design of the universe (the anthropic principle), the role of religion in the work of some contemporary psychologists (most notably M. Scott Peck), the relation between religious faith and bodily health, and out-of-body or near-death experiences (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Raymond Moody), and the disastrous effects of value-free sociology." — Library Journal

Muslims are now getting the same treatment Jews had a century ago

Written by Maleiha Malik for the Guardian's comment is free...

Migrants fleeing persecution and poverty settled with their children in the East End of London. As believers in one God they were devoted to their holy book, which contained strict religious laws, harsh penalties and gender inequality. Some of them established separate religious courts. The men wore dark clothes and had long beards; some women covered their hair. A royal commission warned of the grave dangers of self-segregation. Politicians said different religious dress was a sign of separation. Some migrants were members of extremist political groups. Others actively organised to overthrow the established western political order. Campaigners against the migrants carefully framed their arguments as objections to "alien extremists" and not to a race or religion. A British cabinet minister said we were facing a clash about civilisation: this was about values; a battle between progress and "arrested development".

All this happened a hundred years ago to Jewish migrants seeking asylum in Britain. The political movements with which they were closely associated were anarchism and later Bolshevism. As in the case of contemporary political violence, or even the radical Islamism supported by a minority of British Muslims, anarchism and Bolshevism only commanded minority support among the Jewish community. But shared countries of origin and a common ethnic and religious background were enough to create a racialised discourse whenever there were anarchist outrages in London in the early 20th century.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

U.S. Muslims look to athletes as faith ambassadors

From the Chicago Tribune

Farrukh Saleem acknowledges he has a problem.

"I'm beyond a sports fanatic. I need help," said Saleem, who will hunker down in his Potomac, Md., home this Super Bowl Sunday with his six-year-old son and root for his beloved Chicago Bears.

Saleem, 36, attributes at least some of his sports fever to a youth spent watching Muslim superstars like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who became heroes to countless Muslim-American children.

"It can be a struggle growing up Muslim in America," said Saleem, whose family emigrated from Pakistan shortly before he was born. "So when you see other Muslims doing and succeeding at the sports you love, that can't help but give you a lift."

In their primes, Ali and Abdul-Jabbar gave the small population of Muslim Americans, comprising mostly immigrants and their children, figures who validated their identities and proved Muslims could succeed in America.

Today, there are more Muslims in U.S. sports than ever. But despite calls for better understanding between the Islamic and Western worlds, few Muslim athletes have emerged as ambassadors of the faith like Ali and Abdul-Jabbar. That leaves Saleem wondering about his children: "Who are going to be the role models for them?"