Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Muslims “Get” Globalization, But Does It Get Them?

From YaleGlobal Online

The last half-century has seen an unmistakable rise in income levels and life-expectancy in Muslim-majority countries, but their citizens have a negative impression of globalization. International business consultant Mehmood Kazmi attributes this antagonism to the widening chasm of misunderstanding in Muslim-Western relations. With a history of cultural domination over the West followed by resource exploitation under colonialism, the Muslim world views the liberalization of financial, trade and information flows with suspicion. Globalization of the media has allowed biased perceptions to travel rapidly to the masses, opening the way for further misunderstanding. For example, Kazmi questions why US distributors decline broadcasting English-language Al Jazeera, while Muslim countries broadcast CNN, BBC and other western news channels. While economic and social benefits can often placate the critics of globalization in many developing countries, the author argues that the burdens of cultural sensitivity and political inequity may need to be prioritized before the Muslim world welcomes globalization. For understanding and relationships to improve, the exchange of ideas must go in two directions. – YaleGlobal

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who are the Awliya?

Answered by scholar Sidi Hamza Karamali

In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

The word "waliyy" (pl. awliya') means "a friend of God." Allah Most High describes these people in Quran, saying, "Lo! The friends of Allah have no fear, nor do they grieve. [They are] those who have believed and are godfearing." (10:62) In the light of this verse, scholars explain that a "waliyy" is someone who believes in Allah and then acts according to his belief by fulfilling His commands and avoiding His prohibitions.

A famous classical commentator of the Quran, Imam al-Khazin, made the following remarks about this verse:

"The word "waliyy" is linguistically derived from "wala`", which means closeness and giving victory. A "waliyy" of Allah, then, is someone who draws close to Allah by performing everything that has been made obligatory for him. He is busied by Allah [from everything else] and his heart is drowned in direct experience of the light of Allah's majesty. Whenever he looks [at anything], he sees it as something that points to Allah's omnipotence; whenever he hears [anything], he hears it as something that reminds him of Allah; whenever he speaks, he speaks praises of Allah; whenever he moves, he moves to obey Allah; and whenever he exerts himself, he exerts himself in something that draws him closer to Allah. He never slackens in the remembrance of Allah, and his heart beholds none except Allah. This is a description of the "awliya'" of Allah. Whenever a servant of Allah fits this description, Allah is his friend, gives him victory, and helps him: Allah Most High says [in a verse in Surat al-Baqara], "Allah is the friend of those who believe."" (Tafsir al-Khazin)

‘Little Mosque’ Defuses Hate With Humor

From the New York Times

TORONTO, Jan. 15 — When it comes to producing a funny television show or movie in Canada, producers here have a reliable stable of topics: French-English relations, urban-rural dynamics and anything that involves a bumbling politician or the United States.

But Islam — something of a third rail of comedy throughout the Western world — did not make the list, which is one reason the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s new situation comedy, “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” is attracting such attention here. “It is a risk doing a sitcom about what can be considered a very touchy subject,” said Kirstine Layfield, executive director of network programming at CBC.

But last Tuesday’s series premiere attracted 2.09 million viewers, impressive in a country where an audience of one million is a runaway hit. The CBC had not had a show draw that size audience in a decade, according to the network.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Muslim sitcom debuts in Canada

Found at Deenport. Click here to read the whole article.

I'm with a group of surprised camels, a 300lb chicken shwarma and a bemused comedy writer in a wintry, wet Toronto square.

We're here for the launch of CBC's new sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, which depicts a Muslim community trying to assimilate in a small prairie town.

It has little in common with the sugary, 1970s American pioneer family drama Little House On The Prairie, jokingly appropriated in the show's title. By contrast, Little Mosque addresses head-on post- 9/11 fears and prejudices.

It's generating lots of publicity in Canada, with or without the camels, largely for breaking new ground as the first Muslim comedy to air on mainstream North American television.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Utility of Islamic Imagery in the West

Click here to read the article.

The long history of encounters between Western civilization and Islam has produced a tradition of portraying, in largely negative and self-serving ways, the Islamic religion and Muslim cultures. There is a lot of literature cataloguing (and sometimes correcting) these stereotypes.

It is not my intention to rehash this corpus here, though I do rely upon some of the more important works. What I want to do instead is focus on a particular dimension of these encounters, and examine why the West has consistently constructed and perpetuated negative images of Islam and Muslims. My focus will be on the utility of Islamic imagery in Western civilization.

Most people seem to be familiar with stereotypes and negative imagery of Arabs and Muslims-indeed, some are so firmly entrenched that the consumers of these images are unable to distinguish them from reality.

At the same time, many people have an idea how these images come about (books, television, speeches). But by looking at the cultural history of Islamic-Western encounters from the perspective of utility, I am able to locate the correlations between imagery and political economy. Western image-makers, including religious authorities, political establishments, and corporate-media conglomerates, conceptualize for their consumers images of Muslims and/or Arabs in sometimes amusing and other tunes cruel or tragic ways. Upon closer examination, these images seem to serve essential purposes throughout the history of Western civilization. At times these purposes are benign, at others quite sinister. Often, there are tragic consequences for Muslims resulting from the socio-political climate fostered by images. Focusing on the dimension of utility can help to reveal some
ties between imagery and action.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Jesus and Muhammad (upon them be peace)

From Sidi Mas'ud Khan's Web site This is a wonderful piece that directly addresses two of the most important issues facing Muslims in the United States and Europe — interfaith dialogue and the rise of material philosophy as the default orthodoxy of US and European academics. It is written by one of the most luminous and eminent scholars of our age Shaykh Naeem Abdul Wali who studied at the blessed feet of two of Istanbul's greatest — Shaykh Mahmud Effendi and Shaykh Ihsan Khoja.

“If you would trust in God as is His right to be trusted He would give you your provision as He gives it to the birds, they leave their roosts hungry and return satiated”, said the final universal Messenger, Muhammad. Similarly the author of the Gospel of Mathew has his closest brother, Jesus saying to the crowds around him, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” A little later he addressed them as, “O you of little faith?”

The word faith originally meant something akin to placing one’s trust in someone as when we say we have ‘faith’ in a friend or in an ideal. As Karen Armstrong said, “Faith was not an intellectual position but a virtue: it was the careful cultivation, by means of rituals and myths of religion, of the conviction that despite all the dispiriting evidence to the contrary, life had some ultimate meaning and value”.

It is the disease of the modern age that this understanding of faith being something inherently holistic that renders the heavenly dispensations perplexing to the children of modernity. The Quran states, “It is not piety that you turn your faces to the east or west, but piety is a person who believes in God… These words are quite significant in their Arabic original, unfortunately their fecundity being lost in the English translations. For clearly they indicate that their must be an engendered personification of an abstraction, an idea of ‘piety’, or bir, and that the locus of this accident is man. Bir, piety as the great Quranic exegete as-Suyuti said: “is the doing of good, in all its manifest realities”. Reflexively the author of Acts has Peter saying when asked to describe Jesus as, “…he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him”. This is of the prophetic legacy and largesse.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Middle School Girls Gone Wild

This is from the New York Times. Truly unbelievable.

It’s hard to write this without sounding like a prig. But it’s just as hard to erase the images that planted the idea for this essay, so here goes. The scene is a middle school auditorium, where girls in teams of three or four are bopping to pop songs at a student talent show. Not bopping, actually, but doing elaborately choreographed re-creations of music videos, in tiny skirts or tight shorts, with bare bellies, rouged cheeks and glittery eyes.

They writhe and strut, shake their bottoms, splay their legs, thrust their chests out and in and out again. Some straddle empty chairs, like lap dancers without laps. They don’t smile much. Their faces are locked from grim exertion, from all that leaping up and lying down without poles to hold onto. “Don’t stop don’t stop,” sings Janet Jackson, all whispery. “Jerk it like you’re making it choke. ...Ohh. I’m so stimulated. Feel so X-rated.” The girls spend a lot of time lying on the floor. They are in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.