Friday, March 30, 2007

dua in Islamabad (Urdu)

Monday, March 26, 2007

US Soldiers indiscriminately fire upon and kill Iraqi civilians

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Chebi Mosque in the 3-D Virtual Reality, Second Life.

If al-Majîd could awaken the womb
of an elderly woman
then surely it is only a small miracle

to transform an illusion
made of ones and zeros
into a sacred house

Monday, March 19, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Of ignorance and hubris

I STUDIED law at Macquarie University in the early 1990s when the dominant teaching methodology was critical legal studies. The "Crits" encouraged us to approach the law in a critical manner, and to critique both the policy and process of formulating legislation.

Not all lecturers were Crits. My commercial law lecturer was a socially conservative professor who regarded the Crits with disdain.

"How can students with no background in law be expected to criticise it? Surely you must learn the law before criticising it?" he would rhetorically ask.

Australian law is a complex beast. Hence, this characteristically conservative warning against critical hubris was difficult to ignore. Now, we find many alleged conservatives ignoring my lecturer's advice when they critique the complexity of religious cultures of more than one-fifth of the world's population who describe themselves as Muslim.

The three books reviewed give some idea of what happens when the critique of Islamic theologies and Muslim cultures is based on minimum understanding and maximum hubris.

Hanifa Deen sits on the cultural fence. A descendant of Pakistani-Muslim hawkers who arrived in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century, Deen grew up in Australia. She has written extensively on Muslims in both Australia and the Indian subcontinent.

Her previous book, Broken Bangles, dealt with the lives of women in Pakistan and Bangladesh. After that book, Deen became curious about the plight of Dr Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi medical doctor and writer whose 1993 novel, Lajja ("Shame"), caused controversy across the subcontinent. After being charged with the offence of "injuring religious sentiment" and threatened with violence, Nasreen went underground before escaping to Sweden.

Nasreen's case happened barely a year after the fatwa issued by Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie for the allegedly blasphemous The Satanic Verses. For many free-speech campaigners, Nasreen was seen as a Bangladeshi Rushdie. But as Deen's book illustrates, Nasreen started out as the heroine: not of Western free-speech campaigners but of a certain faction of Indian politics interested less in freedom and more in perpetrating violence against Indian minorities.

Nasreen's plight was manipulated by far-right Hindu extremists associated with the group responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The media mythology around Nasreen's flight from Bangladesh relied heavily on Indian sources as fanatical as the Bangladeshi mullahs who threatened her life.

A frequent theme of Nasreen's work is the oppression of women in Bengali-speaking cultures. Yet Bengali women's groups view her abrasive man-hating style as counterproductive. Feminists working under difficult conditions tell Deen of being suddenly forced two steps back by Nasreen's work after their years of struggle to take a step forward.

Eventually, Nasreen's abrasive style led to her falling out with her European sponsors. Deen has travelled across the Indian subcontinent and Europe, interviewing Nasreen, her family, her supporters and detractors. Deen's book provides important background on how the Taslima Nasreen myth was made and unmade.

This is a book that should have been published at least five years ago, when those intoxicated by the Nasreen myth were beginning their collective hangover.

Unfortunately, Deen's book suffers from detail overkill. At times, she provides less detail on what her informants told her and more on what was on their dinner menu.

Superfluous detail of menus and travel itineraries also feature in Peter Manning's otherwise well- intentioned and enlightening book. Manning is no stranger to the Australian media, having worked in print, radio, TV and online. His book represents the discovery of his own (and no doubt so many other media practitioners’) tendency to treat anything related to Muslims and the Middle East as a giant incoherent blob known as “them”. This entity is necessarily hostile to another confused and confusing entity known as “us”, which can include any combination of Australia, the United States, other Western countries and Israel.

Manning explores this simplistic bipolar paradigm that, he argues, is the source of so much blatantly biased and ignorant reporting. What Manning describes as “the basics” of journalism – “accuracy, fairness and comprehensiveness” - have been absent from the reporting of “them”. This absence was even more noticeable after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Apart from analysing news stories and working with Arab and Muslim media activists, Manning travels to the Middle East to discover the reality behind “them”. He soon discovers the gulf between “us” and “them” to be more a figment of the imaginations of both sides.

Bethlehem, the subject of classroom Christmas carols, shocks him into recognising that the basis of the Christian “us” is inherently Middle Eastern. He also discovers that the most vocal critics of Israel are frequently Israelis themselves.

At times, Manning's analysis and choice of words seems clumsy, if not simplistic. Perhaps this is deliberate, enabling his message to be accessible to the widest possible readership.

Notwithstanding, this is hardly the work of a blindly pro-Muslim sycophant. At the height of the Hilaly affair late last year, Manning defended media reporting of the saga.

Manning's wide travels and broad exposure to many different Muslim cultures is apparent in his book. It’s certainly absent from Melanie Phillips’s confused and confusing polemic, which she describes as "an attempt to piece together" a "complex jigsaw puzzle, and to show how the deadly fusion of an aggressive ideology, and a society that has lost its way has led to the emergence of Londonistan".

Phillips claims her book "is not drawing any conclusions about whether or not Islam is intrinsically a religion of violent conquest". She acknowledges that "hundreds of thousands of Muslims have no truck whatsoever with terrorism". Strangely, she also places Britain's Muslim population at about two million. If hundreds of thousands of Muslims have no time for terrorism, simple arithmetic says at least one million do.

Phillips suggests that if radical Islamists are to be defeated, Britain and the West need to turn back the clock and return to their Judeo-Christian heritage. The whole idea of a “Judeo-Christian” culture in the West seems strange, given that a distinguishing feature of pre-1945 European Christendom was anti-Semitism of varying degrees of virulence. It seems the only role the Judeo could play was second-class citizen to the Christian. As it happens, Phillips describes anti-Semitism as "the oldest hatred, a hatred that is global and doesn't ever go away".

Her chapter entitled “The Human Rights Jihad” blasts the EU for imposing a human rights treaty on asylum-seekers containing provisions that don't sit comfortably with Britain's common law tradition. She then condemns judges for establishing and following precedents when dealing with asylum cases.

Perhaps at this point, it would be useful to reintroduce my old commercial law tutor, who would probably recognise Phillips's complete lack of understanding of how the common law works.

Phillips’s book is saturated with inaccuracies and wild claims. Perhaps her stand-out point is where she describes radical Islamism as "the dominant strain" in the Muslim world. Yet only three out of 50-plus Muslim-majority states are known to be theocracies Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Few British Muslims migrated from these countries.

It’s unfortunate that as crucial a topic as the spread of political Islamist ideology in Western Muslim communities has been handled so shabbily. We know there are people seeking to blast their way into a demented form of martyrdom and take many of us with them. It's clear Melanie Phillips has little chance of finding them.

Irfan Yusuf is associate editor of AltMuslim.com. This review was first published in the Canberra Times on 17 March 2007.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

Saturday, March 17, 2007

got orders?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Gritamos fuera Bush de Latinoamérica!

La presidenta de la Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini, quien abrió el acto denominado “por la unión latinoamericana, Bienvenido Comandante Chávez, fuera el imperialista Bush”, en el Estadio Club Ferrocarril Oeste de Buenos Aires, sostuvo que “el sueño de la unidad latinoamericana y el socialismo del siglo XXI vienen con fuerza y caminando. Gritamos fuera Bush de Latinoamérica”.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Interview with Imam Zaid Shakir: The Seeds of Malcolm X Have Matured

Brother Adisa Banjoko is doing a two part interview with Imam Zaid Shakir for the Sand Francisco Gate. Part one is posted and linked below. It is a pretty good interview, and I think I agree with the assessment that Imam Zaid is one of the better scholar and minds of our times, although I am not sure about the comparison to Malcolm X. I there are a lot of gaps or connections missed particularly in his political articulations, that not only someone like Brother Malcolm, but any politically astute person would not miss. It does seem that these have become more pronounced in the post 9/11 years, so perhaps they indicate some maneuvering in response to the climate or perhaps not. Perhaps it is a reflection on the constituency and base that Zaytuna has come to represent in the mainly young upward bound professionals. Either way, personally, I would find that positioning to be not only unjustified, but the exact opposite of what is needed at the moment...

It might be helpful to read a previous post to help guide through this... it sets the stage for a lot of the missing gaps here...

Anyway, here goes:
ZS: For so long we have been focused on what going on overseas. At the end of the day, we did not make those messes over there. At the end of the day we’re not going be able to fix it.

Muslims here in America. WE didn’t make those messes, we’re not going be able to fix them. If the people who are there, living that reality can’t fix it…Or, are extremely challenge to fix it…What are we going do from half way around the world?

That depends on how we define "we," doesn't it? For many, if not most, of the problems overseas, the US is and has been responsible. The same government that we vote for, and pay taxes to. We ARE responsible for what this government does, and as such have a responsibility AS MUSLIMS to check the government and hold it accountable, regardless of whether it is interfering in Palestine, Somalia, and Egypt OR whether it is Venezuela, Haiti, and Korea. The reason that people there haven't been able to fix their problems over there is due to continued interference by the US in their internal affairs from propping up puppet regimes, to instigating coups, sectarianism, funding/support of particular ideologies...It would be very naive to ignore this aspect...

The reason I say that though, is that our efforts to continually try and expend our resources and expend our spiritual, moral and political capital addressing those issues- we leave our own issues unresolved. By leaving our own issues unresolved, we create vulnerabilities for ourselves that impinge on our ability to do anything meaningfully for the brothers and sisters over there. So we can’t empower ourselves because we’re so busy trying to address the situation of powerless Muslims in other places.

I think he is right on the need to address issues here, but the framing of this quite interesting. The vague answers leave out important questions leading to an earlier point. What are "our own" issues? Are those issues uniform ACROSS the Muslim community? Universal healthcare for example... Are the interests of the working class and indigent half of the Muslim community going to be the same as professional, and particularly "doctor" class of Muslims? "National Security" and the collaboration by many in the Muslim leadership with enforcement agencies versus the fallout and brunt borne by the community in terms of infiltrations, informants, and bogus entrapment and setup cases? One can't call to the need to address issues here without recognizing that people stand at different places on those issues within the Muslim community, and also recognizing issues and mechanisms of accountability and representation of the Muslim community and "leadership."

As far as the issues over "here" rather than overseas, he misses a critical relationship between the two that even tripped out hippies were able to make in the 60s. The issues that we choose to address and confront here in the US will and do have a direct impact on the actions of the US overseas. Particularly in the current stage of neo-liberalism that we live in, it is the monies being taken out from social programs here (food, housing, welfare, healthcare, etc), that are directly being re-channeled to policing and military here and abroad. This is why when groups like the CIOGC join the struggle for universal healthcare, they are not only addressing issues relevant to Muslims and non-Muslims here, but also to the reality and ability of US interference in countries across the world. This kind of analysis and ability to make political connections is what has been missing from ideas put forth by Zaytuna, and it is not a simple mistake or overlooking, but comes directly out of a limited political analysis that has been put forth that says such things as (paraphrasing) "it doesn't matter whether you live in a capitalist or socialist system but rather whether you are a good Muslim or bad Muslim within that system." The system that we live has a direct impact on the causes and various relationships between social justice issues, and an accurate assessment of the system directly affects how we respond to issues within that system.

Lastly, I think it is important to not equate the weight of issues that we face "here" versus the issues faced by peoples overseas as a result of US actions and policies. I know that indigenous African American Muslim community in the US have been burned many times by the prioritization of issues overseas by immigrant Muslims, and that grievance is certainly valid. But when we extend beyond that to issues affecting Muslims in the US in general, we must not fall into the trap of equating those issues with the realities of wars being waged on people in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, Mexico, Haiti, etc. End of the day, even the underclasses here in the US, have a certain level of privilege as citizens of and within the Empire, and this privilege comes at the expense of the lives of people across the world. It is because of this position that we have a certain amount of responsibility and obligation to the people of the rest of the world (and the oppressed here) about the issues that we address and the manner in which we choose to confront them. WE WILL AND HAVE, WITHOUT A DOUBT, faced situations where we have to choose between decisions that benefit us (as citizens of the Empire) at the expense of people across the world, and at those moments we have to decide whether issues "here" take priority over issues "overseas." We can't live in the royal palace of the modern firaun (pharaoh) and pretend that our position and responsibilities as such as the same as of those who are being crushed underfoot outside the palace.

It is these interconnections that Brother Malcolm was able to make that I find sorely lacking among the Muslim leadership today...

The Seeds of Malcolm X Have Matured Pt. 1
on SFGate.com

Photo credit: H.A. Sellars for Zaytuna.org

Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute is regarded as one of Americas leading intellectuals on Islam and the West. His ability to discern where the truth is and speak it is quite inspirational. His understanding on subjects regarding deep theological, political and moral issues is amazing.

Imam Zaid is often compared to Malcolm X. Something that, before I sat with him on several occasions I didn’t fully agree with. These days however, I must admit that Imam Zaid Shakir is the closest thing that America has seen to Malcolm X in many decades. I firmly believe that Malcolm X’s evolution would have lead him to a place much similar to where Imam Zaid now stands. He’s devoutly Islamic in his approach, yet remaining culturally just and flexible in his words and actions. Indeed the seeds of Malcolm X have matured into something amazing.

To be in his presence can make you uneasy. He’s a very cordial and very fun person to be around. Its hard to find someone who is equally smart and personable. But his intelligence can intimidate to say the least. I valued my time with him and found internal conflict in knowing if I was asking the right questions.

In the first section of this two part interview, we talk about the direction American Muslims should he headed in for 2007. We also talk about the Presidents State of the Union Address and the execution of Saddam Hussein. This was conducted at the beginning of Black History Month. Leave it up to a Black man like me, to post it late…But then again, better late than never. Enjoy.

AB: As American Muslims look forward in 2007. What should they have at the front of their minds in terms of achievement?

ZS: I think number one thing Muslims should have at the front of their head, are the requisites of this society, and how Islam can address some of the needs of this society. For so long we have been focused on what going on overseas. At the end of the day, we did not make those messes over there. At the end of the day we’re not going be able to fix it.

AB: When you say “we” you mean-

ZS: Muslims here in America. WE didn’t make those messes, we’re not going be able to fix them. If the people who are there, living that reality can’t fix it…Or, are extremely challenge to fix it…What are we going do from half way around the world?

The reason I say that though, is that our efforts to continually try and expend our resources and expend our spiritual, moral and political capital addressing those issues- we leave our own issues unresolved. By leaving our own issues unresolved, we create vulnerabilities for ourselves that impinge on our ability to do anything meaningfully for the brothers and sisters over there. So we can’t empower ourselves because we’re so busy trying to address the situation of powerless Muslims in other places.

So, I think that’s number one to put at the top of the agenda for 2007.

Secondly, I think we need to develop a moral agenda. Recently I read that you, like myself were reading Jimmy Carter’s book. Not the controversial one on the Palestine situation, but “Our Endangered Values”. I think as Muslims we need to develop a moral agenda. We need to see ourselves as apart of the moral consciousness of this country. Because we can’t constantly condemn the policies of this country, but then not bring our voice to bear in trying to direct the country on a different path in terms of its foreign and domestic policy.

So instead of reacting constantly to the contingencies that are created by foreign and domestic policy we need to develop a positive proactive agenda and introduce that into the mainstream public discourse of this country. I think that we have not done that as Muslims to date.

AB: Recently President Bush gave his latest state of the union.

ZS: I can’t listen to Bush. I can’t listen to him for more than ten seconds. Within ten seconds, he’ll tell a lie and I’ll turn it off. I tried to listen twice, and both times I had to turn it off. I’ll have to read the transcript.

AB: One of the things that was noted is that he never once mentioned Louisiana or Katrina.
ZS: He didn’t once mention the word VETERAN either.

AB: So what do you make of where his Presidency is at and where it is headed?

ZS: You know I think that his staking his presidency as a security presidency. He’s staking everything on this so-called “surge” in Iraq- which is just the most recent in a line of surges and other policies. If he doesn’t succeed I do not think he will be judged favorably by history.

You can only spin and distort the truth for so long. To constantly try to go back and establish a link between Iraq and 911. To constantly go back to “If we don’t fight the terrorists there”- there were no terrorist there to fight in Iraq until we got there.

To the credit of the American people, they are starting to put two and two together and see that it equals four- not six. As they’ve been told. I think people are waking up and its becoming increasingly difficult to pull the wool over their eyes.

AB: I was watching Cheney speaking to Wolf Blitzer. One of the ironic things I did not see was them discuss the execution of Saddam Hussein. But I did not see all of the interview. What are your thoughts on how the American media handled his execution?

ZS: I think that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. He got what he dished out to a lot of people. You know, I really have no opinion on that. I’m not one of these people who’s going to say Saddam shouldn’t have been killed on Eid (an Islamic holiday). All of this stuff. I mean, it wasn’t right. The way its presented in the media here as some sort of triumph and victory for justice.

In a technical sense, there are a lot of things one could point to as being irregular, as hypocritical. I mean he was given a trial. The judges were clearly prejudiced. They expressed several times how eager they were to see him die. He never got a chance to confront his accusers. I think here the thing about the media treatment here is that there is no analysis whatsoever about the events and circumstances surrounding the trial.

For instance, no one in the media is pointing out that what Saddam is being killed for occurred in the early 80’s. After that incident, we [The American gov’t] raised and elevated our diplomatic presence in Baghdad. We established more far reaching diplomatic, economic and military ties with his regime. After, those incidents occurred. Its pure hypocrisy.

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam in 1983

I think the mainstream corporate, grandstanding, cheerleading media is derelict in its duty. The media should point these things out. The media should point out the hypocrisy that has defined our relationship with Saddam Hussein and his regime for its entire history.

He bombed and sent scuds into Iranian cites. We said nothing. He burned a province to the ground. Scorched earth policy. We said nothing. He gassed Iranian troops with poison gas. He gassed the Kurds. We said nothing. We gave extended agricultural credits for him which freed up ten billion dollars. This gave him the money to purchase the weapons of mass destruction that we claimed to be the reason we had to take him out. Its just sheer utter unadulterated hypocrisy from beginning to end. The media should point this out. We should not look at this as some sort of triumph . But I am not one to have sympathy for Saddam. He killed a lot of Muslims. He is responsible for a lot of deaths. As they say, what goes around comes around. The way he killed a lot of people he did not afford them a dignified death. So, Allah t’ala created circumstances where he did not die a dignified death.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

the people are not being fooled!

Views on regional and international issues among 3,850 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). (Zogby poll)

When asked to identify two countries that pose the biggest threat to them, 85 percent of respondents said Israel and 72 percent said the United States. In contrast, only 11 percent identified Iran.

According to the survey, 61 percent believe that Iran has a right to a nuclear program, with only 24 percent agreeing that Tehran should be pressured to stop it.

Of the world leaders admired most by respondents, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was first, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came in third, despite the fact both are Shia Muslims and the latter is not Arab. French President Jacques Chirac and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came in second and fourth respectively.

(OK - this Chirac coming in fourth business --- shows that the people are not entirely foolproof. Chavez coming in second is like totally way cool! )

Despite the fact that Middle East democracy promotion forms the core of the Bush administration's rhetoric, 65 percent of those surveyed said they did not believe democracy is a real U.S. objective in the region. In fact when asked what they considered to be motivating U.S. policy in the Middle East, "controlling oil" (83 percent), "protecting Israel" (75 percent), "weakening the Muslim world" (69 percent), and "desire to dominate the region" (68 percent) were identified as extremely important factors.

Indeed the Bush administration has a job ahead of it to win over hearts and minds in the region. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed stated they had unfavorable attitudes -- 57 very unfavorable and 21 percent unfavorable -- towards the United States. More than two-thirds of those surveyed, or 70 percent, said their attitudes towards America were based on U.S. policy, while only 11 percent said they was based on American values.
more here

As Christian leaders from the United States, we traveled to the Islamic Republic of Iran ...

Our final day included a meeting with former President Khatami and current President Ahmadinejad. The meeting with President Ahmadinejad was the first time an American delegation had met in Iran with an Iranian president since the Islamic revolution in 1979. The meeting lasted two-and-a-half hours and covered a range of topics, including the role of religion in transforming conflict, Iraq, nuclear proliferation, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What the delegation found most encouraging from the meeting with President Ahmadinejad was a clear declaration from him that Iran has no intention to acquire or use nuclear weapons, as well as a statement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be solved through political, not military means. He said, "I have no reservation about conducting talks with American officials if we see some goodwill."

We believe it is possible for further dialogue and that there can be a new day in U.S. - Iranian relations. The Iranian government has already built a bridge toward the American people by inviting our delegation to come to Iran. We ask the U.S. government to welcome a similar delegation of Iranian religious leaders to the United States.

more here