Saturday, July 28, 2007

An Open Letter to As'ad Abu Khalil

An open letter to As’ad Abu Khalil (aka Angry Arab)

by Farid Esack, Islamabad, Pakistan

July 23, 2007

Farid Esack here (that Muslim guy from South Africa). I am still around in Islamabad --my last few days, and I am still enjoying it as my two-month sojourn here draws to a close. Islamabad is not quite Pakistan, certainly not Karachi, where I lived for eight years as a madrassah student. But then, it is the best that this country can offer “Distinguished Visiting Scholars,” a title conferred upon both of us by the International Islamic University and which we graciously accepted by coming here, business class, and getting paying paid a princely sum by the standards of the people who clean our toilets, folks who have to deal with the consequences of our shit.

I just got in from Karachi and Lahore, and on my way to class I stopped at the office of Faruq Terzic (the tall Bosnian guy), who moaned about your blog. I am not really into blogs and was somewhat irritated at how he was curious and upset at what you had to say. Normally, I pay very little, if any, attention to what people have to say about me and would rarely, for example, read news reports on something that I have said or done. So I was kind of annoyed that he was so defensive about the International Islamic University. “OK,” I argued with him, “if you are so pissed off with As`ad Abu Khalil, why don’t you write to him?” Then he read some of your stuff to me, and I was troubled enough to come to my room here -- the same place that you fled from 10 minutes after your arrival -- and read your blog for myself.

Please allow me to be a bit blunt here: Although I’m not in the business of spending my time critiquing fellow left academics or intellectuals, I still live in a -- possibly bygone -- world of comradeship. After going through and reading the posts for myself, I couldn’t help but think how sadly irresponsible and utterly unprincipled you are. Going on and on about the supposed pathetic state of Pakistan by focusing on your lack of comfort at some hotel, your aversion to lizards, etc., may be just foolish and a sheer waste of time (I keep thinking to myself if I know any left/revolutionary intellectual that would do this?), but the clear condescension displayed toward your audiences and the Muslim nature of the events/peoples was utterly contemptible. Again, what befuddles me is how can someone so well-versed in the politics of social change and grassroots activism write so irresponsibly. Where is the accountability to any sense of “real activism” on the ground?

It was rather disturbing to see you post publicly what a fellow activist had reportedly told you in confidence about strategies for approaching audiences here.

Your posts could damage the legitimacy this whole program in the eyes of the IIU students and faculty. I know for a fact that Junaid Ahmad tried hard to manage the situation for you here in Islamabad as best he could. But nothing Third World is good enough for the great As’ad Abu Khalil! How any character with leftist or progressive pretensions can speak of what essentially amounts to the “backwardness” of Pakistani society in a manner comparable to the worst of the neo-cons is beyond me.

You ramble about the advice given to you before your visit by a comrade (Junaid) -- who it now turns out was rather mistaken in viewing you as such -- about what of your ideas you should preferably not highlight was simply intended as such. Wherever I go, I identify some of the local activists and ask for advice on how to approach my audience. It is something that I learned in my days in the trenches of the struggle against the apartheid -- accountability and comradeship. And no, it is not synonymous with Stalinism, but instead simply understanding that there is something more to our struggles than blowing of steam and ego trips. If I do not like the advice offered by my hosts, particularly if it is offered months ahead of my visit, then I would simply call off the trip. Why go along with the supposed comradely advice for months and wait until you have collected the reimbursement of your business-class ticket to another exotic Third World destination and your honorarium? And as soon as you get into your $145-for-five-hours hotel you rant about how your style was cramped?

Ah the great jetsetter visits the Third World and becomes even more illustrious as he pisses on his own people.

At the end of the day, you have to decide whether you want to be a Christopher Hitchens/Irshad Manji lone ranger who just wants to be a contrarian for contrarian’s sake, or whether you want to have some purpose, some accountability to real people in real movements that you say you support. If you want to be contrarian, then that’s fine too, but you should choose your battles and not piss in the containers that feed you. Activists like Junaid are in the vanguard of actual struggle involving real people and real institutions -- however inadequate these may be -- who provide intellectuals like you and me some space to speak to our people, “our” people as being not citizens of the Empire but its victims.

As’ad, my brother, we who for many reasons, have “made it to” and “made it in” the world of power need to reflect a bit more on the supposed backwardness of the “Third World.” People here die of undereating because some of us who have made it to the “First World” die of overeating. There is a connection here. Let us not piss on people who pay the price for our comforts and for our “development.” They are our people.

Farid Esack, a visiting professor at Harvard Divinity School, is the author of Qur'an, Liberation and Pluralism and On Being a Muslim: Finding a Religious Path in the World Today. A former national commissioner on gender equality appointed by President Nelson Mandela, Esack was active in the struggle against apartheid in the United Democratic Front and the Call of Islam. His current major field of research and activism is the response of Islam to AIDS; he founded Positive Muslims, an organization working with Muslims who are HIV positive in South Africa.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ya Imam Ali (AS)

Everything submits to Hu and everything exists through Hu. Hu is the satisfaction of every poor, dignity of the low, energy for the weak and shelter for the oppressed. Whoever speaks, Hu hears his speaking, and whoever keeps quiet, Hu knows his secret. On Hu is the livelihood of everyone who lives, and to Hu returns whoever dies. (Imam Ali (AS) Nahj-ul-Balaga, sermon #108)

The above video is of Abida Parveen, one of the more talented singer/musician of Pakistan, she appears to be singing at a concert in one of the so-called "five star" hotels, to a mostly so-called "educated" upper middle class audience - most of whom well... (see for yourself) ...

This genre of Islamic music, when performed with a more intune audience, is very dynamic, and there is often an interactive call and response relationship between the singer and the listeners. The audience is usually seated on a carpeted floor and there is a verbal acclaim throughout the performance.

The song itself is a beautiful rendition of a famous poem by Amir Khusro, based on the well known hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings on him and his Famiy) "Man Kunto Maula Ali-Un Maula, whoever accepts me as a master, Ali is his master too." This hadith is recognized as authentic by both Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.

Imam Ali (AS) was born on the 13th of Rajab.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lal Masjid interviews

The first video is of women students at the Jamia Hafsa - they talk about a sense of peace and tranquility (sakina, sukoon) and barka, even while the puppet regime's (la) army was bombing the masjid. And they clearly state that they were never held against their will - nor did they have a "huge amount" of arms. The puppet regime had repeatedly stated that their was a huge amount of arms inside the masjid - this is nothing more than a rehash of the "weapons of mass destruction" nonsense that Busharraf learnt from his master.

The liberals/progressives/moderates etc. have been deliberately asking the wrong question about "why Lal Masjid was allowed to accumulate a huge amount of arms"? They have asked this wrong question to 1) provide an underhanded justification for their support, and lack of outrage over the Lal Masjid massacre, and 2) to continue their Islamophobic campaign, and to provide a pretext for egging on the puppet regime to slaughter even more Islamic groups in the country (maybe even ultimately inviting the US neo-cons to bomb and invade the country).

Fact is that there was no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and there were none in Lal Masjid.

Why then was the Lal Masjid attacked, and over a 1000 martyred? The second interview, of a mother of one of the women students tells it like it is: "... by evening the Americans will be given a gift (by Musharraf) and the Americans will give Musharraf a palace of gold..."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Against Islamophobia

A selection from a conference sponsored by the Stop The War Coalition late last year. Featuring Salma Yaqoob , Yvonne Ridley and Moazzem Beg.

Click here to listen

And subscribe to the ihsan podcast.

See also Stop The War Muslim Network

Islamophobia has increased dramatically, encouraging racist violence and media stereotypes. The right wing press have sought to demonise Islam and whip up fear of ‘mad mullah’ bogeymen like Abu Hamza.

This has been helped by a racist agenda from the government with the ‘clash of civilisations’ rhetoric accelerating after the 7/7 bombings. While the governments’ own reports blamed the war for increased terrorism, Blair and John Reid blamed Muslim parents and community leaders.

Since then we have seen a race to the bottom in which high profile politicians and political commentators fall over themselves trying to outdo each other in attacking us. As well as the increased attacks on Muslims in this country the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are continuing and the threat to Iran is ever present.

Muslims need to find new ways to organise themselves effectively.

This is one of the reasons why we need to build on the idea of having a Stop the War Muslim activist network. A space where we can share ideas, hold an open debate and organise to build on the successes we have already had through the anti-war movement. A network that can enable us to help build the anti-war movement within the Muslim community and that enables Muslims to better build the wider movement.

This is not about working in isolation from non-Muslims but organising so that we are better able to unite ourselves and unite with non-Muslims alike. It is this unity that will make us stronger and more effective campaigners against oppression.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Lal Masjid massacre

Ghazi Abdul Rasheed Embraces Martyrdom Along With His Mother; Around 1000 Students Massacred; Tyrant Forces Begin Cover Up Operation Amid Fake Bomb Blasts

Jul 11, 2007

By Ahmed Jan

Islamabad: The Pakistani nation and the Ummah has sunk into grief after the confirmed reports that Ghazi Abdul Rasheed has been martyred by apostate regime forces. According to the reports Ghazi Abdul Rasheed was holed up inside the basement of the Jamia Hafsa Madrassah and was commanding the resistance from there. While wounded due to bullet shot on his leg and the commandoes arrived and asked him to surrender. It is reported that the commandoes were in direct communication with Musharraf at that moment.

On refusal to surrender he was shot at point blank range and he embraced his greatest desire martyrdom. His elderly mother who was also severely wounded due to bullet shots has also attained martyrdom along with his two aunties and many other family members. His body has been moved out and is being taken to undisclosed location.

It is believed that he was martyred during the early phases of operation before noon when he was talking to the media on mobile phone and he said that the commandoes were already approached him and his martyrdom was certain, after which the communication broke off. But to give the fake impression of fierce resistance this news was revealed in the evening. Moments before his martyrdom some media persons received his mobile SMS that only three of his comrades were left putting resistance.

After statements of support for operation by the leader of secular and liberal Pakistan Peoples Party, Benazir Bhutto, there is dangerous smell of tension. While the Islamic forces are in the state of extreme shock, humiliation, frustration and anger, the liberal elements have welcomed the massacre. This is the defining moment for Pakistan. The War that was ignited by US across the western border has raged to the very heart of Pakistani society.

The Islamic political parties who had been completely ineffective during the week long crisis have announced three days of national mourning. They had been criticized by Ghazi Abdul Rasheed before his martyrdom for not taking clear and strong stance and their failure to recognize and support the true cause. The Islamic politicians seem ready to launch their election campaign in the name of the same martyrs whom they had abandoned in need.

more here

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Al Ajal Ya Imam

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lal Masjid Islamabad attacked


Lal Masjid was attacked today by the puppet regime of Mu(Bu)sharraf (la). The masjid was surrounded by thousands of armed para-millitary forces (rangers), who bombed the masjid, killing over a 1000 ( both women and men students)- including the leader of the masjid: Shaheed Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

It was expected by both Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa that the puppet regime (la) would at some point attack the students. However, what I find even more despicable than Musharraf are those liberals, progressives, enlightened moderates, and other "roshan kihyalists" who have been egging on the regime to impose the so-called "writ of the government." The writ of an illegal puppet regime - a regime that is part of the imperialist war on Islam, and Muslims.

Now, after these attacks and killings, we have articles by liberals and progressives, such as Beena Sarwar, and Pervez Hoodbhoy, who, instead of questioning, or condeming the actions of the puppet regime, are coming up with psuedo-analyses about the phenomena of "madressas" and "mullahs." In effect approving, if not outright applauding these despicable acts.

It was only a few days ago that Musharraf announced that he would be willing to attack Lal Masjid, if the media refrained from showing dead bodies. This comment was largely met by silence, with little or no sense of outrage by the NGO "human rights" community of Pakistan. You can well imagine the kind of complete hue and cry that would be raised if a maulvi, or an Islamic group made such a murderous statement. But, because the liberals/progressives count Musharraf as one of their own, they choose to stay silent (yeah, they pay lip service to "democracy" and so on... that basically means replacing one puppet with another even worse individual).

Those Muslims who were against the Lal Masjid, and in one way or the other called for these attacks, might want to remember a verse from the Qur'an:

"Have you not regarded those who claim that they believe in what has been sent down to you, and what was sent down before you? They desire to seek the judgement of the taghut, though they were commanded to defy it, and shaytan desires to lead them astray, into far error" (Qur'an 4:60)

see also : Lal Masjid: What Do They Want?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bakers without Borders and Co-optation Watch

Media Benjamin gets pied

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As someone who has kinda taken on the, often not so popular, role of writing about Co-opted Muslims (although most of the individuals I've focused on might be better termed Puppet Muslims) - I have to say that hearing about a group called "Co-optation Watch" brought a big smile to my face. I doubt it that many Muslims know who Media Benjamin is, or what the issues are with regards to Global Exchange - the organization that she heads up, and why would "Co-optation Watch" pie her...

However, in many ways, her story is not all that different from many Muslim leaders, intellectuals, scholars etc. who start out being strongly critical about imperialism. But just as they began to develop frameworks that might allow for a non-reactionary intellectual challenge to imperialism... they ended up getting co-opted in one way or the other.

But it does not end there - when a Muslim scholar gets co-opted s/he in turn becomes an instrument for empire-supporters, who then use the scholar to poison (or "moderate") movements. Unfortunately, a serious discussion on this phenomena has been very limited - not only amongst Muslim, but also amongst other (left/liberal) movement activists.

Muslims should take a look at the following two books to get a good foundational understanding of the issues:

Challenging The New Orientalism by M. Shahid Alam

How social movements in the US have been co-opted:

The Non - Profit Industrial Complex

And the debate on IndyBay on the pieing of Media Benjamin - lotsa comments - sometimes heated - but worth checking out