Thursday, March 30, 2006

School time in Hebron, Palestine

click here for rest of story

War criminal Tony Blair did not talk about this terror... wonder why?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tony Talks Terror Across the Tasman

During his recent visit to New Zealand, British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke of climate change, closer bilateral relations and the strong historical ties between Britain and New Zealand. But not of Iraq.

And who could blame him. Even when visiting Australia, a most willing partner in the Iraq expedition, both Blair and visiting US Secretary of State Rice faced anti-war protests.

Australians getting nervous about their role in the Iraq war, hoping it doesn’t make them a target for terrorist attacks. Australians can well understand Kiwi elation at the release of a hostage from Iraqi kidnappers. Australian Douglas Wood came close to execution on a number of occasions.

Add to this reports from the Washington Post that 25,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian clashes since the bombing of a Shia Muslim shrine on February 22. Coalition forces claim they are needed to maintain security and order in Iraq. The record shows they are failing miserably.

It seems unbelievable that Mr Blair can have a completely different rhetorical focus on either side of the Tasman. His message to the Australian Parliament focussed on the fight against terrorism through the promotion of common values.

This message was especially poignant with news of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian convert, facing a possible death sentence. Rahman has since been released from custody.

Mr Blair message of common values was especially relevant to conservative politicians on either side of the Tasman. He suggested preaching is most effective when you show your message is identical to the true beliefs of your audience.

Hence: “… we have to win the battle of values as much as arms. We have to show that these are not Western, still less American or Anglo-Saxon, values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.”

Those who seem to treat us with scepticism are not the enemy. Often, their scepticism is a product of how they perceive our actions.

“Ranged against us are the people who hate us; but beyond them are many more who don't hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness. These are the people we have to persuade.”

Blair correctly isolated “Islamist extremism” as our immediate enemy. Yet these extremists are just as much enemies of Muslims as they are of non-Muslims. Most victims of Islamist-inspired terror attacks are Muslims. At least 10% of victims of the London attacks were from Muslim backgrounds, including a 21 year old British woman with the surname Islam.

At the same time, Islamist extremists are seeking Western recruits through convincing mainstream Muslims in the US, UK, Australia and other Western countries that Muslims are second class citizens because of their faith.

The overwhelming majority of Muslim citizens are sensible enough to reject this propaganda. Although in Australia, there are times when the rhetoric of Liberal backbenchers (and, in recent times, senior ministers including the PM and the Treasurer) must make Aussie Muslim wonder whether extremists might have a point.

In New Zealand, editors of conservative pro-Creationist magazine Investigate have attributed sinister political intentions to Muslims in at least on eof their editorials. The magazine’s March edition claimed Islamic political theory only recognises God as ruler and that "there are only two states in the world: Muslim and infidel". It then suggested that Muslim migrants "don't respect the nation-state model. Where there's a conflict of allegiance, the nation state will always lose."

Conservatives wishing to score short-term political points would do well to consider Mr Blair’s message and understand that their Islam-bashing rhetorical gymnastics serve the cause of the very “Islamist extremists” Blair calls upon us to fight.

Further, their antics lead Muslims in Australia and elsewhere to “question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness” in the very manner Blair identifies.

Writing in The Australian, Greg Sheridan described Blair’s speech as a ringing endorsement of the neo-Conservative policies dominant in the Bush administration.

Yet Blair’s speech should be read as a warning to pompous neo-Cons who constantly lecture us on the supremacy of “Judeo-Christian tradition” and the need to do away with pluralism and multiculturalism.

These same people are usually found spurting out hatred for all things even remotely related to Islam, openly marginalising Muslim communities living in Western countries and projecting images of nasty Muslims joined in a huge conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation.

Tony Blair is in effect saying that certain basic values are universal to all peoples, cultures and religions. And his claims are not empty rhetoric.

At the recent Commonwealth Day service held at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney, one of six affirmations read by clerical representatives stated:

“The Commonwealth believes in democratic political processes, international peace and the rule of international law.”

How appropriate that these words were read not by a bishop or a pastor but rather by Sheik Fehmi Naji el-Imam AM, Secretary of the Board of Imams of Australia.

(The author is a Sydney lawyer and occasional lecturer at the School of Politics at Macquarie University. iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au)

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Immigrant Rights

This was posted on a messageboard that I co-moderate focused on social justice. I thought it gave a good basic overview of the controversy over immigrant rights happening in the U.S. of A right now.

Not only was the march on March 27th hugely successful, but there have been similar rallies all across the country. High school students have walked out in solidarity with friends and family effected, this exercise in free speech and democracy by the largely latino immigrant community has been educational and empowering to many youth as well as adults. If anyone has any information on the participation and/or reaction of any Muslim communities, I'd be glad to read about it.

The Attack:

Less than three months ago, the leadership of the House of Representatives, in a vicious act of "drive-by" legislating, rushed through a bill that experts consider to be the most anti-immigrant piece of legislation in the United States in 80 years.

Here are some of the lowlights of the Sensenbrenner bill, HR 4437:

11 million undocumented immigrants would be declared "aggravated felons" for having come to this country to do back-breaking work at low wages in order to feed their families. Priests, nuns, health care workers and other helpers would be threatened with jail time for assisting the undocumented. Local police would have to enforce federal immigration laws, undermining community policing strategies meant to build confidence between police and immigrant communities.

Day labor sites would be shut down by federal law, overruling the hard work of activists and enlightened local communities attempting to solve problems caused in part by Congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform.

Seven hundred miles of walls would be built between the United States and our friendly neighbors to the south, an act that has touched off a diplomatic crisis with Latin America.

The bill has been sent to the Senate and is expected to reach the
senate floor as early as Tuesday, 3/28.

For more information about the specifics of this bill, check out these links:







Over the past week, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets all over the country in protest of, and resistance to, this bill.

Here's some links:

Saturday's Immigrant Rights March: Who kicked the sleeping giant?

Record crowd of 500,000 protests proposed federal crackdown

SF activists on hunger strike for undocumented immigrants

Immigrant Rights Protests Spread -- New Chapter in Civil Rights Movement

Immigrants Rising

A Day Without Latinos' in Milwaukee

Over 500,000 Protest Anti-Immigrant Law in Downtown Los Angeles

Hunger Strike and Week of Actions to Stop Anti-Immigrant Bills

Catholics organizing against HR 4437

Justice For Immigrants


1) make a simple call to the senate…

Call Senator Frist:

I OPPOSE Senator Frist's decision to bypass the Judiciary Committee and put his enforcement-only bill on the Senate floor!

I SUPPORT reform that provides legalization, protects the rights of workers, and unites families.

SENATOR BILL FRIST: Washington, D.C. 202-224-3344 or Nashville, TN

Senator Feinstein also needs to hear the same message: 415-393-0707

If you are outside of California, call your senators…you can find their phone numbers at
Senate Phone Numbers

If you are not in the SF Bay area, I'd suggest checking your local imc (indymedia.org) or other social justice centers; there's a good chance there is organizing against this bill going on in your community.

If you are in the Bay area, tomorrow, Monday March 27, there are several events to check out.

First of all, the
Hunger strike that has been happening all week at
the Federal Building in San Francisco
for more info) …will
conclude with a march at 11 am from the Federal Building (450 Golden
Gate @ Larkin) to Dianne Feinstein's office (Market and Montgomery)
and a Press event/rally at noon at Market and Montgomery.

The Hunger strikers will be joined at noon by the Latino War Resisters march, which began in Tijuana, and concludes on Monday at Dolores park; the schedule of events and a link for more info is below.

The schedule for the Latno War Resisters March on March 27th will be as follows:
7:30 am Fruitvale BART, Oakland
8:05 am Blessing at St. Elizabeth's on 34th Ave.
10:30 am Rally at Laney College (BART across Bay)
12 noon Montgomery & Market, SF - Join Immigrant Rights Hunger Strike
3:15 pm Brief stop at Mission High School, 18th & Dolores
5 pm Dolores Park - Culminating Ceremony

The March for Peace is a 241-mile march which aims to ensure that the Latino voice for opposition to the war is heard across America. Fernando Suarez del Solar, Pablo Paredes, Camilo Meija, and Aidan Delgado will lead marchers in a quest for peace, which started from Tijuana, Mexico, on March 12th.

More info: Guerrero Azteca

The joining of the hunger strikers against HR 4437 and the Latino vets against the war is an obvious and inspiring connecting of issues. This is a great space to come out against the war and for justice for immigrants. Lots of immigrant communities plan to turn out for the march that begins at Mission high at 3:15. Those of us who are descendants of European immigrants should turn out, too!

Thank you for reading this long email!

Against War! For Immigrant Justice!

Beyond Chutzpah

The recent publication of the relatively mild critique of the Israel lobby (pdf) by two academics: Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, has kicked up a storm in the United States.

The influence of the lobby is, no doubt, very significant with regards to US policies towards Palestine. However, to bring this issue up for discussion is considered taboo, not only in the so-called "respectable circles" (sic) of Harvard and Chicago - but also amongst solidarity activists who have made important contributions in other arenas.

On the other hand, Angry Arab does have an important critique of the Walt/Mearsheimer papers that is worth reading:

..." And my doubts are confirmed on page 40 when the authors state that "the Lobby's influence has been bad for Israel." This shows yet again how the debate on Israel is framed in the US, by those who champion Israel, and by those who are seen as critics of Israel. It is a manifestation of the center of debate on Israel. That even for critics of Israel, the concern or the center of attention is not the victims but the oppressors and occupiers. This is the Tikkun magazine (editor's note: this is Michael Lerner's mag., the liberal zionist): that occupation should be mildly opposed on grounds that it hurts the occupation soldiers and the "soul of Israel and Zionism." And how could anybody argue that the Lobby has been bad for Israel. It has been great for Israel: and you may measure that from every possible perspective. But it is not palatable to argue in the US that something is bad for the Palestinians. Who cares about the plight of the Palestinians."

In his book Beyond Chutzpah, Norman Finkelstein has discussed important concerns about not only Israel, but also the misuse of anti-semitism to stifle discussions about Isareli human rights violations, and the creation of a far worse than aparthied conditions in Palestine. Khalil Bendib, the Muslim American political cartoonist, interviewed Finkelstein in October of last year.

Uncompromising in his methodical truth-telling approach, Professor Finkelstein exposes a number of sensitive truths and taboos from which much of the left still shies away to this day, such as, for example, how class dynamics within the American Jewish community directly affect the struggle for peace and justice in Palestine. His detailed and unflinching critique of the abuse of the term of New Anti-Semitism helps deflate a boogeyman fabricated and manipulated by Israel apologists, opening up, by the same token, a proverbial can of worms from which many of his fellow left thinkers have long run away and abdicated their responsibility. During the program, we will also listen to selections from The wall by Palestinian oud player Wasim Qassis. The selections include the sound tracks of the films The Last Moon, Women in Struggle and The Stolen Youth.

You can listen to this interview by clicking here (web stream) or on the ihsan podcast (click for info. on how to subscribe).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Clear violation of Koran

A 41-year-old Afghan father lives overseas for 15 years. He has a custody battle with his wife who lives in Afghanistan. He returns to Kabul to fight a custody battle. A relative with a personal vendetta claims the father has converted to Christianity and dobs him into the authorities.

The father is charged with the ancient crime of apostasy. For poor Abdul Rahman, his apparent choice of religion is being used as a secondary means to deny him custody of children. It's amazing what people are prepared to do to pursue personal vendettas.

But for a small group of radical Afghan mullahs, this case has become the latest rallying cry for religious chauvinism and defiance of the West. Some mullahs haven't quite figured out that the Taleban lost the war.

Islamic legal tradition (or sharia) cops plenty of flack in the press and from politicians. Australian Government ministers, keen to deflect attention from the Saddam kickback scandals, tell us people supporting sharia should be deported.

But what people don't mention is that the alleged law of apostasy doesn't exist in sharia. And if it does, there is little consensus on its application among Muslim legal experts.

Paranoid commentators claim the Koran teaches Muslims to kill anyone abandoning Islam. In fact, the cardinal principle in the Koran is expressed in a verse which, translated into English, says: "Let there be no compulsion in religion."

In other words, the Koran teaches that religion is a matter of choice. You can't force someone to believe in a certain religion, let alone kill them for abandoning it.

In the early days of Islam, Muslims were a small group living under siege in a small city-state, surrounded by enemies always ready to drive them out of existence. In such dangerous circumstances, a person's Muslim identity was closely linked to their loyalty to the state.

If a person abandoned Islam and wished to remain in the city-state, they were effectively committing treason.

A person who left Islam could leave the city-state or might face trial for treason. If convicted, they could face a death sentence which wasn't mandatory and could be replaced with a lighter punishment. Today, even in the most civilised Western countries, treason is punished by a mandatory death penalty.

From some isolated historical incidents, a minority of medieval Muslim scholars concluded that leaving the Islamic faith (or apostasy) is punished by mandatory death sentence. Most Muslim legal scholars dispute this view. It isn't the practice of the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries to kill people who leave Islam.

One Australian Muslim scholar, Professor Abdullah Saeed of the University of Melbourne, recently co-authored a book on the law of apostasy. He states that the original intention of the law was to punish treason, not to forbid peaceful conversion.

A Swiss Muslim scholar, Professor Tariq Ramadan who teaches at Oxford University, goes further. He argues all forms of capital punishment should be stopped in Muslim countries. He says that corrupt police and judges mean that enforcing capital punishments will make sharia an instrument of injustice.

In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, the government recognises six official religions. People switch faiths all the time especially after they get married.

During a recent visit to Indonesia, I met a woman whose Muslim mother married a Dutch Protestant man. The woman was brought up as a Muslim but converted to Catholicism after marrying a French Catholic. Her sister married an Australian Protestant Christian and converted to Anglicanism. Neither sister has spent any time in an Indonesian prison, nor have they been put on trial.

So why can people convert so easily from Islam in most Muslim countries but not in Afghanistan?

One factor is that ordinary people in Afghanistan aren't known for their high literacy rates or their general knowledge of Islamic law. Only 14 per cent of women in Afghanistan can read and write.

Muslim minorities in Western countries often claim discrimination and prejudice. Yet what they experience pales into insignificance compared to the plight of Abdul Rahman. Muslims have no reason to support those calling for Rahman's execution, an act which would represent a clear violation of the letter and spirit of the Koran.

* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and occasional lecturer in the School of Politics at Macquarie University.

(First published in the NZ Herald on 29 March 2006)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The giant awakens! 10,00,000 march in Los Angeles!

A million marched in Los Angeles today for immigrant rights.

Los Angeles has a growing majority Latino (primarily from Mexico and Central America) population, and, today they, along with other immigrants, made history with a humongously huge march in defense of all immigrants!

The usual corporate media image of Southern California, and especially Los Angeles is that of blonde blue eyed dudes surfing the ocean (Whites constitute only about 25-28% of Los Angeles) - almost completely ignored (unless it is a negative potrayal) are the majority population of this area that has brown skin, black hair, and brown eyes. Espanol, in large swats of this city, is *not* a "second language," it is the first and primary spoken language.

This, and other immigrant solidarity marches around the US was to protest HR 4437 - this possible new "law" would criminalize undocumented working people in the US. It would make any visa violation a felony, potentially resulting in immediate arrests of 8-12 million individuals. For Social Workers, such as myself, this potential "new law" could lead to me being punished with heavy fines and jail time. (And here I was thinking being a Muslim would land me in jail, these guys have bigger plans than just going after Muslims and Arabs.)

CasadeMaryland writes:

HR 4437 dramatically expands the definition of “alien smuggling” to include simple acts performed by people who come into contact with the undocumented. Under this new definition, a nurse who is providing services to a patient, a teacher who gives a ride to her student, or a social worker that provides emergency shelter to a domestic violence victim would be criminally liable for providing basic social services, to an undocumented immigrant, punishable by heavy fines, or jail time for the individual, as well as penalties for the agency.

The "law" would even further increase the powers of local police who would be made responsible for turning over undocumented workers to the immigration authorities (i.e. Homeland Security). Since White skin is given a free pass, as the only kind who are regarded as "American" without having to prove their status, this would mean the cops would have an even greater authority to do all kinds of racial profiling.

Today's stand against these kinds of darconian measures are important not only as a pro-immigrant statement, but these huge demonstrations are also reflective of the tidal wave of demographic change that the United States is going through. No doubt, it will cause the reactionary elements to become even more militaristic, with even more authoritarian "laws" so as to protect an image of America that is rapidly fading. Check out some of the images below of what is emerging...

Friday, March 24, 2006


One Maghrib, Jibreel was speaking to the Prophet
whilst Ali comforted him in his lap,
not departing until after the last sujud was done

And when he returned,
and he looked up to see Ali's anguish
at having missed salah, his perfection shattered,

Muhammad called upon The Constrictor
for the sun to return
and for the evening shadows to shorten...

a man or a woman
who is mad with love for their beloved
deserves to have time turned back

like Superman did for Lois Lane
even if it means
every law in the universe is broken

this world is but shadow built upon shadow
and we too can shorten them
with Allah's grace

by looking for signs of Asma al-Husna in everything
and asking for the impossible
even as we look solid night in the face

Dubai Chalo (Lets Go Dubai!)

The recent port controversy has resulted in the usual apologetics from some Muslim groups/individuals, and from some well-intentioned liberals.

The apologetic goes like this: The UAE (and most notably Dubai) is this great pro-Western area of the "Arab/Muslim world" that Americans should have no fear off... it is supposedly this wonderful "progressive" Muslim area, that has the look and feel of Disneyland (OK - well, maybe just Miami). Therefore, fear Dubai not, it is everything that the "west" wants, indeed, the city is constructed in the very image of America.

Ignored, and lost in all of this is the sordid history of Dubai - where workers from all over South Asia, and parts of East Asia (especially Phillipines) have little or no rights. Throughout 60s, 70s, 80, 90s, and now - Dubai has imported hundreds of thousands of workers, promising them much higher wages for their labor. During the 70s and 80s - workers would leave Karachi by the shiploads for the promised land of Dubai. Once there, they would find construction jobs paying dismal wages, but much higher than what they would earn in Pakistan. Sounds familiar? Not all that different than what immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America face in the United States.

A couple of days ago, thousands of mostly South Asian construction workers in Dubai went on strike - protesting dismal working conditions, terrible wages, and lack of medical care.

The builders, who are working on towers next to the tower, are demanding better wages, overtime pay, improved medical care and better treatment from their foremen.

Pay for the workers ranges from US$7.60 per day for a skilled carpenter, with labourers getting $4 per day.

Foreign workers are key to the construction boom in the Gulf region. Millions of migrant workers have flooded in, outweighing the local population.
Prestigious projects, like the recent $ 4.1bn airport expansion in Dubai, rely mainly on workers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. These workers are cheap, usually earning less than $300 a month.
The UAE and Dubai have a per-capita income of over $20,000 making the area one of the richest in the world. This per-capita income statistic is skewed towards those who are actually "citizens" of UAE - and they constitute less than 20% of the population, the rest are non-citizen imported workers.

So, what is going on here? Sure, we should be concerned about the underlying anti-Muslim and anti-Arab tone that the port controversy took on.

BUT "Muslim" is NOT the name of a tribe, state, or country. This means, that as Muslims, we should not be running to apologize and gloss over the oligarchical and monarchical nature of "states" such as UAE, and Dubai.

As a Muslim, my solidarity does not lie with the "emirs" "kings" and "queens" or the Big Businesses who are the favorites of the Bush White House. I would hope I can live in the way that Imam Ali (AS) instructed:

“None are more disgusted by equity, more importunate in demands, less grateful upon bestowal, slower to pardon withholding (favor) and more deficient in patience at the misfortunes of time than the favorites. Whereas the support of religion, the solidarity of Muslims and preparedness in the face of the enemy lie only with the common people (also translated as masses) of the community, so let your inclination and affection be toward them.”

This means that while I would take serious issue with the racist nature of the "port debate" in the United States, by no means would I then make the UAE/Dubai out to be some kind of a wonderful paradise that it is obviously not. And when workers struggle for rights, I would stand with 'em here in the United States, or there in Dubai, as a Muslim.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An Invitation

The significance of Imam Husayn's (as) struggle is not limited just to the Shia, or even for that matter, just to Muslims.

The struggle, the cause, and the principle that Imam Husayn (as) invited to was for all people, of all ages, and of all times.

Imam Husayn (as) did not limit his invitation to men. His caravan included women, including his own sister, Zainab (as), and his own wife, the wife of the late-Imam Hasan (as), and the wives and mothers of his companions.

Imam Husayn (as) did not limit his invitation to adults. His caravan included not only his own children, including an infant, six month old Ali Asghar, a four year old Sakina, but also the children of his own brother Imam Hasan (as), who had been left in his care, and the children of his sister Zainab (as).

Imam Husayn (as) did not limit his invitation to the young and able. His caravan included the aged Zahir, Burair, John, and Majmaul. John, the liberated slave of the sahaba Abu Dharr al Ghifari (ra) is recorded to have been 90 years old at the time.

Imam Husayn (as) did not limit his invitation to the chiefs or the slaves. His caravan included the chiefs of many tribes and clans, such as Zohair al Qaine. Before the confrontation began, Imam Husayn (as) had set free all his slaves and urged them to escape and save their lives. Between 10 and 15 of the martyrs were liberated slaves, who preferred death over life.

Imam Husayn (as) did not limit his invitation to even his own partisans. His caravan included even men from his enemy's forces who defected to the Imam's side, welcoming certain death. One of the commanders of the enemy, Hurr, who had himself prevented Imam Husayn (as) from entering Kufa and from accessing water, realized the truth and along with nearly 30 men joined the Imam's side on the night before the final battle. Hurr, much like his name, chose to die 'free.'

Imam Husayn (as) did not limit his invitation to Muslims either. His caravan included some Christians, such as the recently wedded Wahab ibn abi Wahab and his wife and mother. It is irrelevant whether they were Muslims or Christians by the time the battle at Karbala ended, but both Wahab and wife gave their lives for this cause. In India, there are even some Hindus who claim that one of their ancestors was martyred along with the Imam (as).

What is this cause that the Imam invited everyone to? What is this cause that others have sought be part of and place themselves in? Were not the idols of the Kaaba destroyed during the time of the Prophet (saww)? Had not Islam come to primacy in all of Arabia, and quickly spreading throughout other lands?

The cause of Imam Husayn was against a greater danger: the idolatry of the taghut (tyrant), and the idolatry of the nafs (inner base desires or weaknesses).

The tyrants, who place themselves as gods above the people, whether the tyrants be in the clothes of unbelievers, like firaun (pharaoh), or in the clothes of muslims, like Yazid, were idols of a different form. The tyrants who subjugated people to their whims and their agendas, and deny the people their fundamental rights to justice and freedom.

An even greater danger than the tyrants, was and is the idolatry of our own nafs and its' weaknesses. Not only the base desires of tyrants, who take themselves to be gods and become oppressors (from their own homes to positions of leadership), but the base desires of the people who allow the tyrants to oppress them. Whether they allow this due to their weakness for the luxuries, consumerisms, and distractions offered by the tyrants, or due to their weakness in being afraid of resisting (in all the multiple forms) and putting at risk their property, wealth, family, lives, time, security, passivity or whatever they may cherish above the truth of their times.

This being the danger, what did Imam Husayn (as) accomplish?

The shahada of Karbala is in the blood of Imam Husayn (as), his family, and his companions.
The shahada of Karbala is in the words of Bibi Zainab (as), Imam Zayn al-Abideen (as), and the other survivors and witnesses.
The shahada of Karbala is in the love in our hearts, and the knowledge in our minds.

This shahada is a call to awakening. A call to resistance. A call to resistance against the tyrants over the people, the tyrant within our souls, and the weakness of our souls that prevents us from doing so. The supreme form of this resistance, as demonstrated by Imam Husayn (as) and his caravan, layed down their lives, the lives of their families, their wealth, and their own souls.

The shahada at Karbala awakened the Muslim ummah from its slumber. For the next 12 years, the Ummayyads were confronted with one rebellion after another. From then till now and till the Rise, the religious people realize that their faith cannot be manifested solely by sitting quietly in the corners of the masjid, or even by circling the Kaaba, while their bodies and souls are enslaved to oppressors and their own nufus.

Imam Husayn (as) was forced to leave Medina because Yazid offered him two choices, through his governor: Give allegiance to Yazid, or surrender. Obviously Imam Husayn (as) could not accept either. But after Karbala, Yazid did not have the courage to ask Bibi Zainab or Imam Zayn al-Abideen (as) the same question. The situation was now different. In fact, none of the subsequent Ummayyad or Abbasid rulers had the courage to ask the same thing from the Imams of the Ahlul-Bayt (as). This and other changes in the administrations allowed the later Imams (as) to tailor the movement according to the needs of the times.

When news of Karbala reached Medina, and the people were shocked and asked why Imam Husayn (as) and his people were killed, a delegation was sent to Damascus to inquire about the situation. When the delegation returned, the leader of the delegation, Abdullah ibn Hanzalah (also known as Ghasil al-Malaikah) said "Whether you rise up or not, I will make an uprising even if I have to do it alone with my sons." Abdullah did rise up, along with his eight sons, and was martyred near Harrah. Similarly, there were the movements of Al-Mukhtar, the Tawwabun, Abdullah ibn-Zubayr, Zayd bin Ali and others against the Ummayyads, each with varying degrees of sincerity.

It is this spirit and activity that we must inherit today. As it is said "Everyday is Ashura, Everyday is Karbala": the meaning of this is that the tyrants in the lands, and in our souls are still present. Indeed, today there are thousands of Yazids.

While there were always be central figures who will embody this invitation, the perfection of which is our Imam Mahdi (as) - May Allah hasten his rise, the movement is of the people.

The martyr is remembered through the relaying of the messenger.
The messenger is heard through the blood of the martyr.
The warrior shows depth of seriousness with an infant in arms.
The child shows expanse of courage with a sword too heavy to carry.
The elder is reignited through the passion of the youth.
The youth is steadied through the patience of the elder.

The invitation extended to us by Imam Husayn (as) is to offer resistance against the unjust and oppressive system(s), that exist physically in our lands, mentally within our minds, and spiritually within our souls. The invitation is to attend to all this simultaneously, rather than one at the expense of the other. The invitation is to be present with the whole of our beings and selves.

This is not a call for a mere overthrow.
This is not a call for a mere inner purification.
This is a call for revolution.

Trip with New York Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof-Application Deadline April 10

Below is a link to a contest to accompany New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof in a trip in the developing world in the summer of 2006. The winner will get to write on the New York Times blog. The deadline to enter is April 10th, 2006. It is, in my opinion, a great opportunity for a college student, especially one interested in journalism or development issues. Please pass this on to those whom you think might benefit.


He talks a little bit about this trip at the very end of an interview which you can listen to here:


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Arbaeen, 1427

"The first Majlis of Arbaeen was held in Kerbala at which Hazrat Zainab (daughter of Fatima Zahra and Imam Ali ) and all the surviving family attended. It was at that time that one of the companions of the Prophet Jabir Ibn Abullah Ansari visited the grave of Hussain(AS) who later narrated the whole story of Kerbala to many of his listeners in Madina and many other towns he visited. The message of Hussain(AS) was spreading from town to town and from country to country.

Hazrat Zainab was organising gatherings in the city of Madina to tell the assembled ladies in the majlis the events of Kerbala and these participants spread the message to all corners of the town and in Makka and other cities of the province of Hejaz. This method was so successful that the Governor of Madina wrote to Yazid about it and on the orders from Yazid, Hazrat Zainab was escorted back to Damascus. She lived there for a while then she was moved to Egypt on the orders of the monarch because even in Damascus her speeches in private gatherings were successful in spreading the story of Kerbala. Hazrat Zainab stayed in Egypt for few years but then she was brought back to Damascus where she was martyred." (from a biography of Imam Zainul Abideen (AS)

Amal for Arbaeen

Peace be upon the wali of Allah and His favourite.

Peace be upon khaleel-lillah and the one chosen by Him,

Peace be upon the pure person of Allah and the son of His pure person.

Peace be upon Hussain (A.S) who was mazloom (oppressed) and shaheed (martyr).

Human Studies

Tasneem Project [TGP] is an attempt to define a Muslim identity with a postcolonial sensibility, through a process of learning independent of all forms of authority. The result is an approach called Human Studies. This essays defines its perimaters.

There was a time in my life, even after my children were born, where the responsibilities of family did not hold me back from doing what I wanted or going where I pleased. Summer always brought with it an irresistible passion to roam. Then in October 1995, everything changed. My then three-year-old son, Joel, was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder. To a greater or lesser extent, I have been his primary carer ever since.

It is a role that changed my life in ways I never anticipated. In becoming Joel’s advocate, I suddenly found myself having to deal with doctors, speech and language therapists, social workers, occupational therapists, educational psychologists and local government administrators and the abundance of professionals who ‘support’ families and work with children with autism. As the person closest to Joel, I wanted to be the best advocate that I could. I had an advantage in that I am a natural outsider. I thus perceived no barriers to becoming an expert on autism, at least as it pertained to my own child. I recognized that learning about the cultures and wider agendas surrounding how different agencies functioned was just as important as listening to what they claimed to be doing. Indeed, there a multitude of skills that surround information competence in a topic, communicating such information and educating as well as learning from others. These skills took years to develop.

I initially spent around 18 months intensively studying autism. By the time I’d done, I was a walking encyclopaedia – probably not unlike many doctorate students after a year or more of intense reading. It helped enormously in the early years, but it took a period of education otherwise when Joel was in middle childhood to internalize this learning into a more family friendly, intuitive working knowledge. It was during this period of teaching Joel at home that I had a religious experience which changed my life. It was not a powerful emotional experience, but rather a sudden realization, in which I looked beyond Joel as a child with autism and saw within him the transcendent, the rûh of Allah:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is [enclosed] in glass, the glass [shining] like a radiant star: [a lamp] lit from a blessed tree - an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west - the oil whereof [is so bright that it] would well-nigh give light [of itself] even though fire had not touched it: light upon light! (Al-Qur’an, 24:35)

Along with my studies of world religions and Sufi anthropology (Chittick, 2000), this experience helped me come to better understand my own experience of rûh as ‘watching the ten thousand things rise and fall’ (Feng and English, 1972). In this state of looking and listening, with the mind resting at peace, I am Allah seeing the world with human eyes, hearing the world with human ears, touching the world with human hands, tasting and smelling the world with human taste and smell, listening to the heart of a human with a human heart. This is not a vision, but a description of what I know, who I am. I acknowledged Allah as being that which experiences my human experience when I first came to the Qur’an, and so I invoke this meditation on returning to its teachings. Bismillah reminds me of this experience.

What is clear is that these experiences, in themselves, are only a starting point. I grapple with them, still, unsure how to proceed. My lack of constancy concerns me. At the same time, I have found the discernment and the exploration of the meaning of these experiences made easier by study, particularly investigations relating to what is first required to understand and fully embrace Islam. This is a work of spiritual and ethical preparation not unknown in the Abrahamic faiths (Armstrong, 1993), and in the Tasneem Project, part of this preparation has included the study of people and human activity. I use the term ‘human studies’ to describe the interdisciplinary nature of this research and the epistemological proximity of my own everyday experiences and religious intentions in defining what is valid and relevant data.

Among these intentions are the study of Islam as a living phenomenon and the global political context framing Muslim discourses. Muslims are people, live in families and communities, have collective identities (Madood, 1998), and the human processes of class and kinship are evident amongst Muslims as they are in non-Muslims. Although the global political context of Muslims has often defined the way we have been studied by European scholars (Said, 2000), an issue discussed at greater length in the chapter 7 (work in progress), an awareness of Western biases has arguably gone some way to reframing academic research of Islam and Muslims in recent years. Moreover, as a white, middle class convert, I value such data in making sense of Muslim discourses originating in different social and ethnic communities.

The study of human activity in itself is also a necessary prelude to asking religious questions such as ‘what is a Muslim?’ Otherwise, how can there be any surety that what I mean is the same as what others mean? Through self-deception, I might be asking this question for reasons which have little to do with Islam. I could allow the intense emotions invested in such a question to distort the meanings of what looks like an answer, and consequently find only the answer I expect, instead of the one I really need. I may even find myself having my question answered for me by manipulative social pressures (Winn, 1983). Indeed, anthropologists have argued that there is no one ‘Islam’, but many ‘islams’ (Varisco, 2004).

Consider the young Muslim who engages in a jihad against a world he considers utterly evil. He has no idea how to influence others because he is ignorant about people and himself. He seeks to invoke zealotry in others because he has concluded that zealotry is the only way he can transform himself. He declares this truth half-consciously in his performance of zealotry. Yet he has failed to grasp that there is something of the zealot in the futurity-driven lifestyles he considers inimical to his own. He thinks he has stepped outside history, beyond it, but through his ignorance he has become a victim of it.

What is required is personal knowledge, which includes knowledge of self and identity (Ornstein, 1991; Augoustinos and Walker, 1995; Crossley, 2000), knowledge of the relationship between the individual and wider social processes, such as class (Savage, 2000; Bauman, 2004) and gender (Connell, 2002), as well as the complex relationship between history, society and knowledge systems (Achebe, 1958; McClintock, 1994; Potter, 1996). However, the pursuit of both self knowledge and knowledge of Muslim communities in my spiritual and ethical preparation is not without its problems.

Chief among the difficulties is the range of disciplines which have been co-opted into what is ‘human studies’ as defined here-in, and the various ways they define the subject of their studies. Broadly speaking, the biological human sciences are assumed to conceptualise the subject in a reductionist way, whereby the basis of human life is the gene. They are said to share with the humanities assumptions about human inequality that are frequently used to justify the status quo. Social sciences, by contrast, tends to view humans as members of a Society, which can be changed to raise the collective quality of life on the Marxist principle of ‘each according to its need’. However, the demise of Marxism on the global stage along with the growing popular prominence of the humanities and Darwinian biological sciences, as well as the increasing academic interest in poststructuralism, has seen social sciences increasingly problematized in recent decades, along with the way in which the human subject is defined. (Fuller, 2006).

At this point, I want to highlight the concept developed in my essay on methodological pluralism, that of an emancipatory framework of analysis. This framework acknowledges the validity of data produced by different academic disciplines in their own terms, and consequently their definition of the human subject has a similar validity. However, both the data and the underlying assumptions of each discipline are then analysed in a way which privileges those at the very margins of society. For example, neurophysiologic conceptions of human identity can help extend the circle of what is human, by defining neurological differences as cultural difference. People with autism, who continue to be amongst the most marginalised individuals in Britain, employ precisely this argument in advocating for their rights (Dekker, 1999).

Human, as defined here-in, is thus not simply another meaning machine to add to the multitude of lifestyle beliefs peppering third-way Britain. It has a destination – praxis, and this praxis includes personal transformation under the guide of al-Qur’an. It is driven by the observation that others have been similarly transformed, at the time of the Prophet (Lings, 1983), as exemplified in the lives of the Saints, both ancient and modern, and their followers (Attar, 1979; Geaves, 2000), as well as those who have pursued a more rational exploration of Islam (Sardar, 2004). My path is as yet uncertain, but not its defining ethic (Bauman, 1993), the fate of the other, an ethic explored and articulated more fully in chapter 3 of part 2.

Human studies is therefore an analysis of various subject disciplines that seeks to propel me towards several clear paths of action. One is knowledge of Islam as a living religion. The second is self-knowledge. The destination of both is al-Qur’an and subsequently Muslim praxis. Yet there is a third path, indicated by and subsequent of the other two, which is necessary if I am to be a knowing reader of the Quranic text. That path is hermeneutics, the “science of interpretation which deals with the relationship between the author… and text.” (Esack, 1997, p.xi). However, unlike Esack, the hermeneutic of the Tasneem Project is defined largely by the writings of Hans-George Gadamer (2004).

Gadamer’s model proposes a problem centred methodology surrounding the dialogue between reader and text, with the aim of building a fusion of horizons (Horizontverschmelzung). The notion of ‘horizon’ employed here is derived from phenomenology, according to which the ‘horizon’ is the larger context of meaning within which any particular discourse is situated. Part of the role of human studies is to articulate these horizons, by illuminating the Quranic context which is ‘Islam’ and the context of the reader (me), in this instance a white, middle class, male, heterosexual, European, graduate educated, carer of a child with autism.

In order to define ‘Islam’, my starting point is the life of a man who achieved international fame as a Muslim scholar in his youth, only to doubt everything before returning to a deeper, more complete understanding of the Muslim faith (Watt, 1997).

His name was Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali.

Achebe, C. (1958/1993) Things Fall Apart (Heinemann International Literature)
Armstrong, K. (1999) The History of God (London: Vintage)
Attar, Farid al-Din, & Arberry, A. J. [Trans] (1979) Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya (Memorial of the Saints) (London: Routledge
Augoustinos, M. and Walker, I. (1995) Social Cognition: An Integrated Introduction (London, Sage)
Bauman, Z. (1993) Postmodern Ethics (London: Blackwell)
Bauman, Z. (2004) Work, Consumerism and the New Poor (London: Open University Press)
Chittick, W. (2000) Sufism: A Short Introduction (Oxford: One World)
Connell, R. W. (2002) Gender (Cambridge: Polity)
Crossley, M. (2000) Introducing Narrative Psychology: Self, Trauma and the Construction of Meaning (Milton Keynes: Open University Press)
Esack, F. (1997) Qur'an, Liberation and Pluralism (Oxford: Oneworld)
Feng, Gia-Fu and English, J. (1972) Tao Tse Ching: A New Translation (London: Wildwood House)
Fuller, S. (2006) The New Sociological Imagination (London: Sage)
Gadamer. H., Weinsheimer, J. and Marshall, D. [Trans.] (1975/2004) Truth and Method: Second, Revised Edition (London: Continuum)
Geaves, R. (1996) Sectarian Influences Within Islam in Britain (Leeds: University of Leeds)
Geaves, R. (2000) The Sufis of Britain (Cardiff: Cardiff Academic Press)
Lings. M. (1983) Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (London: Islamic Texts Society)
Madood, T. (1998) 'Anti-Essentialism, multiculturalism and the recognition of religious groups', Journal of Political Philosophy 6:4 p.178-199
McClintock, A. (1994) Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (London: Routledge)
Ornstein, R. (1991) The Evolution of Consciousness (London: Prentice Hall)
Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality: Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction (London: Sage)
Said, E. (2000) Orientalism (London: Pantheon)
Sardar, Z. (2004) Desperately Seeking Paradise (London: Granta)
Savage, M. (2000) Class Analysis and Social Transformation (London: Open University Press)
Varisco, D. M. (2004) Islam Obscured: The Rhetoric of Anthropological Representation (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan)
Watt, W. M. (1997) The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazali (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service)
Winn, D. (1983) The Manipulated Mind (London: Octagon Press)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Muharram Impressions: Forty Days in Four Paragraphs

One Night

"Do not say that you are Shi'a," says the gaunt young howza student sitting upon the impromptu minbar, "say that you are muhibb(lovers) of ahl al bayt (as)." We all know why. To be a Shi'a of ahl al bayt, that's heavy stuff, a title earned not simply claimed. We are lovers, heavy-hearted with the shame at our failings. We are little kittens longing to be lions, to be Shi'a, to "live like Ali (as) and die like Hussain(as)." "Death with dignity," said Imam Hussain (as), "is better than life in humiliation." So we complete our daily tasks in our professional 'fields' and for an hour or two, 10, 20,30, or 40, maybe more (for the highly devoted) days out of the year we can hide in our lil cabin, from Massa Dollar's ever watchful gaze and imagine ourselves free.

One Morning

I stood in the room full of women. I'd just finished a highly emotional ending to a long and heartfelt majlis in rememberance of the Sayyid as shuhadaa and the martyrs of Karbalaa, rememberance of our duties to Allah (swt). The women raised their right hands and slowly began to hit their chests. Just as they all fell into rhythm, the collective heartbeat steady and strong, a small Salvadorian woman in black salwaar kameez said, "Ya Hussain." I nodded. It was time, so I began. My friend, the tall Romani with the bright blue eyes, she never hits her chest when she leads the latmiyya. I always do, because though it disturbs my voice, I want to be a part of that heartbeat. My baby is in her sling, listening to mama's loud strong voice.

" Our children are all born for you
Courageous men and lives were made
In hopes they might be sworn for you."

I say it again, hitting the chest harder, making my voice stronger. For an hour or two after the majlis I contemplate having a few more children. In hopes they might be sworn for him. Then I remember, I have enough. It must be powerful if it can make me think of having more.


The Iranian woman tears open her mahntoe*, white flesh quickly turns red and the heartbeat, drumspeak of the ummah can he heard throughout the world. Chest beaters we are, and proud. We want the world to know the power of this message, so we walk the streets from Beirut to Karachi carrying black banners at once prideful and penitent. Grown men cry and women beat their chests in militant fury. An Indian man in San Jose, CA stands in the tiny masjid parking lot cuts himself in an act of solidarity with his beloved Imam. Hussain bled on this day, so he will bleed on this day. I sit in a Houston apartment and say through unrestrained sobs to the woman who offers me water, "I can not drink today, I can not drink when my Imam died thirsty." She understands; it's good to be with those who understand. I think his bloodletting is gruesome, extreme, but I can't hold it against him, our luxury feels shameful. It is, after all, such a tiny amount of time each year that we allow ourselves to see how gruesome our submersion in consumerist gluttony really is. For a few moments we are free from the yoke of capitalism, we've liberated ourselves from the shackles of caste. We are on the battlefield standing fearless beside our Imam. We are not weak. We are not oppressed. We are lions. We cry our hearts out, wipe our tears and come out of the darkened room to drink strong hot chai with rich creamy milk. We get into our luxury cars and drive to our 2100 sq. ft homes in the 'burbs.

It's good to be a lion, if only for a few hours.

*Mahntoe is the long sleeved overcoat worn by Iranian women. It is usually spelled manto.

Monday, March 13, 2006

ESPN News Feature on Girls' Basketball Team at W.D. Muhammad School in Atlanta, GA

Taqwa Films's blog has the following link to a 7-minute piece on ESPN News about the girls' basketball team at the W.D. Muhammad high school in Atlanta.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Iraq, Iran, Palestine and War

Once again we'll be marchin' on March 18th - doing the protest thing against the war: Year 3 of the United States' invasion of Iraq. Probably a few tens of thousands will show up again in New York City, and San Francisco, including myself.

A majority of US people say that they want the troops out, and/or that the war was/is not worth it... etc. Most readers of this blog have probably heard of those polls. That all is nice - but unless the anti-war "movement" finds a way to tap into the discontent, and channel it into a force that holds the so-called "elected officials" accountable - the US may well be heading into yet another war - and another, and another... Until either the US goes bankrupt, or there is no more planet left to blow up.

Click here to listen to an anti-war teachin on Iraq, Iran and Palestine. (web streaming)

or click here to listen/subscribe to the ihsan podcast.

Umar Lee has an interesting critique of the anti-war movement and activists.

Most of the people that I ran into at these gatherings not only were not religious; but had an extreme hostility to anyone and anything religious. Now I am not setting myself as some pious Muslim because I am not; but to be in a crowd that loves to laugh and joke and poke fun of everything religious as the Muslim that I am made me feel uncomfortable.

The anti-war movement will be real when it is madde up of people who are plumbers, laborers, warehouse orkers and truck drivers. It will be real when the meetings are full of people drinking American beer or soda and not latte and they are eating burgers and chicken wings and not tofu and really bad hummus. That is when you know that you will be having a movement that can shake the nation.

Also check out The Dark Side of Liberal Imperialism.

Islamophobia has been rampant in the U.S. since September 11, even within the antiwar movement. In this regard, the October 2005 Progressive magazine marked a new low. Promoting Sasha Abramsky's story, "Our Al Qaeda problem," the magazine's cover featured a cartoon of a sinister, dark figure in a turban, waving a scimitar over the head of a tiny white figure who is trying desperately to defend itself with two little knives.

Abramsky describes his liberal credentials and then proceeds to regurgitate every racist scrap of Bush administration rhetoric about how Muslims "hate our freedoms"

It's the job of the Left to speak out against racism, to fight Islamophobia at every step, and unmask the real imperialist interests hiding behind the war on terror. Anti-racism is necessary for building the largest and most multiracial movement. You can't fight against war while actively promoting the government's main ideological justification for war.

And Dr. Jess Ghannam's article on the Hamas victory in Palestine.

Clearly the biggest loser was US foreign policy in the Middle East and Arab World, specifically the current incarnation in the Bush Agenda (there is no significant difference between Democrats and Republicans in this area). This was
a huge affront to American interference and dominance in Palestine and the
region. The entire Arab World and Middle East are now looking to Palestine as an
indication of what can happen if genuine democratic elections are held.

After the elections politicians, like Senator Diane Feinstein, are saying that maybe certain people (aka “Arabs”) may not yet be ready for democracy. This form of virulent racism is just a cover for US policy makers who are anxious about what will happen in the Arab World and Middle East if genuine democratic elections are promoted. What will happen, and this is almost a certainty, is that governments will be elected that will reject American neo-liberal intervention and policies. What will emerge will be a new formation of Pan-Arab Nationalism and cohesion and this is one of the biggest threats to US foreign policy in the region.

And a 2004 interview of Elias Rashmawi on Palestine and the anti-war movement. Although a couple of years old - the issues and points raised are still very relevant.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" Cancelled in NYC Theatre


March 22, 2006, Democracy Now hosted a discussion with Katharine Viner, the editor of the play in London and James Nicola and Lynn Moffat, the two top directors of the New York Theatre Workshop.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Got Boot? Say Cheese!

The Political Economy of The Smiling Muslim (TM)

Excerpts from an article by Mulham Assir:

"Not only have the whites been guilty of being on the offensive, but by some skilful manoeuvres, they have managed to control the responses of the blacks to the provocation. Not only have they kicked the black, but they have also told him how to react to the kick... He is now beginning to show signs that it is his right and duty to respond to the kick in the way he sees fit." -- Steve Biko

Demonisation of Islam and the "clash of civilisations" supposedly instigated by Islam are propaganda measures meant to choke off inquiry into the causes of Muslim anger. President Bush's commission on public diplomacy noted in 2003 that in nine Muslim and Arab nations only 12 per cent of respondents surveyed believed that "Americans respect Arab/Islamic values." It recommended spending a few million dollars on ... propaganda.

There is, however, another kind of Muslim reaction in the Civilized World: the repeated walk to Canossa of "Muslim community leaders" who are expected to publicly repudiate every incident of "Muslim violence" on the planet. They are what might be called "Muslims on parole". They express regret, disavow "terrorism" (the freelance variety, not state terrorism, which is a civilised necessity leading to democracy) and actually attempt to explain Islam to the viewer. It is a debasing exercise that serves to enhance the Western audience's perception that religion is the root problem; almost never does it touch on the real causes of anger among the millions who happen to be Muslim: oppression, humiliation, demonisation, occupation, expropriation of land and resources, ethnic cleansing, colonialism.

The ignorant arrogance, bigotry and immorality of the Islam bashers should not be downplayed but the propaganda that sustains it from the top cannot dissimulate the fact that the Western world's clash is not truly with Islam. The Civilized World will clash with any people who: (1) inhabit a land rich in vital natural resources, notably oil, or coveted by land grabbers, or deemed a suitable strategic bridge for world domination; (2) reject so-called civilisers even when they bring the "democracy" gift; (3) have the temerity to contemplate trading in euros instead of dollars. Such people cannot avoid entering a collision course with the Civilized World. They may be Catholic for all the good it does them. Ask Chavez of Venezuela. He also refuses to react properly when being kicked.

How Muslim of him!

Read complete article here

Friday, March 03, 2006

Pakistan Welcomes Shahinshah Bush

Thursday, March 02, 2006

India Welcomes Raja Bush

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Common Cause and Escaping from Modernity

The way in which identity is discussed, as much as who we are and who we say we are, depends upon our life paths. Writing about identity in a peaceful village in West Yorkshire is bound to raise different concerns to the identity discourse of a Palestinian refugee, or a Chechnyan mother living under Russian tyranny. But despite the fault lines separating the minority who are able to cogitate in comfort over something as abstract as ‘identity’, and the majority for whom physical, psychological and spiritual survival is paramount, both live in a world increasingly dominated by a single logic.

Both identity discourses are forged under Empire. This dominion is quite different from the imperialism of old. It has not driven by princes or parliaments. Instead, the focal points of power are more diverse, more dynamic, more fragmented, but its logic is singular. In this Empire, wealth is created by “biopolitical production” (Hardt and Negri, 2001, p.xiii), in which economics, politics and culture increasingly overlap, and the production of goods and services is subservient to the production of social life itself. It seeks not to rule nations, but to pervade every level of social life everywhere.

Its origins might have been in the United States and Europe, but today Empire is global. It is the new absolute, having emasculated deity, leaving only a personal, literal, subjective God for the hungry spirit of humanity to chomp anxiously upon. Empire is ‘civilization’. All history points towards its fruition, which has already come about and will be forever more. Its mastery of everything is its potential to know everything, including human nature, which it defines and regulates without coercion, even though its boundaries are ravaged with war and violence. This is one of the great contradictions of Empire: it is perpetually soaked in blood, yet dedicated to peace.

Making sense of this Empire and working for its demise is part of my identity quest. As a cultural entity, it is primarily discursive and hence guns and bombs are useless against it. My common cause with suffering humanity is cultural subversion. I am here to help deliver Empire from its subjective gods and whims, reinstate Asma al-Husna as the ultimate expression of deity, and throw open the doors of mosques and synagogues and churches and Gudwaras and temples to those who are oppressed and marginalised through no fault of their own. Allahu Akbar!

The only way to resist Empire is to get out of modernity. The only way to get of modernity is to get modernity out of your head, and replace it with the local alternative. There are thus three stages to getting out of modernity. First, identify modernity inside my head. The second stage is to identify and develop the local alternative. The final stage is to become the local alternative, in thought and action.

What do I mean by the local alternative? This is the local religio-culture that modernist knowledge systems are intent on reshaping in their own image, such as Muslim culture. Like most local alternatives, modernity has succeeded in retarding Muslim development. Seeking to embrace Islam, it sometimes feels like stepping back in history. This is because modernity has abolished history and hence everything that is not modern feels archaic. Developing local alternatives returns them to a history that has a past, present and future, and abolishes the illusion of modernity’s infinitude.

Modernity justifies itself by appealing to an improvement in material conditions, but in reality it has delivered an appalling level of impoverishment and exploitation to the majority of people throughout the world. Its utopia is an economically and environmentally unsustainable embourgoisement that far exceeds the human need for food, clothing, shelter and security. For higher needs, see your local alternative.

Rose (1989) has attempted to explore the genealogy of the modern subject. He defines it as the autonomous subject of choice and realization, its universal logic manifesting itself uniquely in different social spheres, such as war, work, education, parenting and leisure. Once we were humans, now we are consumers. We are born, we consume, we die. Life is a playful distraction from the absurdity of death.

The Muslim subject is a descendent of Adam and Eve, whom God fashioned with Wrath and Mercy, and imbued with spirit, that their souls and the souls of their descendents might move closer to God through love of The One. The Muslim may experience a visceral fear of death and the pain of loss, but her/his existential understanding of death is defined in a life viewed within the path from Creation to Judgement.

Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2001) Empire (Harvard: Harvard University Press)

Rose, N. (1989) Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (London: Free Association Books)