Sunday, November 20, 2005

Will they now shut up?

Since 9/11 many Islamic associations have been the target of a sustained smear campaign carried out by members of the neocon right as also Islamophobes such as Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer and the rest of their pathetic ilk.Slander, innuendo and calumny have been used to vilify these associations and in particular ISNA.Now comes the news that after a thorough investigation ISNA and numerous other associations have been cleared. A link to the relevant article is provided below.

I know that it is too much to expect these purvryors of hate to apologise but will they atleast shut up?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Five questions from a Bigot

Dennis Prager, whom I believe has a syndicated radio show, had an op-ed published in the LA Times in which he 'asked'Muslims five incredibly fatuous questions. Juan Cole of Informed Comment has torn him to shreds;his rejoinder is a must read.Reproduced below is most of it.

Informed Comment
Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Muslims and the 5 Questions

Somebody named Dennis Prager wrote a frankly bigotted op-ed for the LA Times asking "Muslims" 5 questions. The questions are fairly easy to answer in themselves, but the stupidity of the whole framework is what is objectionable. Why is it that our media personalities cannot think their way out of a paper bag? Why don't high school civics courses alert them that there might be a problem with stereotyping everyone that you categorize as belonging to a particular group?

Prager begins his "questions" directed, apparently at all 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, by referring to the recent riots in France. He is thus framing his questions with the implication that those Muslims are all trouble-makers and have something to answer for. But the alienated in-between young African- and North African-French are mostly not very involved in religion and a lot of them couldn't tell you how to pray to save their lives.

Prager's first question is why "Muslims" are so "quiet" (implied is: "about terrorism emanating from other Muslims"). Of course, Muslims have been anything but quiet about terrorism and all sorts of Muslim leaders and groups have repeatedly condemned it. Muslims haven't been "quiet." Prager hasn't been listening.

Moreover, the mere assertion that an act was done in the "name of Islam" would not necessarily connect it to Islam in the eyes of other Muslims. All kinds of crazy things are done in the name of Judaism and Christianity and Buddhism. Why didn't the American Buddhists demonstrate when Aum Shinrikyo let Sarin gas loose in the Tokyo subway? Did American Catholics demonstrate against Franco's policies in Spain? Why should American Catholics even feel responsible for those things? Why should Indonesian or Bangladeshi Muslims demonstrate about something that happened in distant Jordan, which had some local context they don't even understand? People who are actually Muslims don't take seriously small groups of cranks who do bizarre things in the name of Islam.

And let's turn the tables on Prager. Let's ask why he is so quiet.

Let's take the following item:

' Jewish settlers began attacking Palestinians as they returned home yesterday from the funeral of an Israeli soldier, shooting dead a 14-year-old girl and wounding several others in the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians said.

They said the settlers began attacking shortly after the funeral in Hebron's Old City, throwing stones at houses and cars, and breaking windows.

Nizin Jamjoum, 14, was standing on the balcony of her home when she was shot in the head and died, said her brother Marwan, 26, who was injured.

At least six Palestinians were hurt, including one who was stabbed, Palestinians said.'

Has Prager ever joined a demonstration against the fascist actions of the far rightwing Israeli settlers who are stealing Palestinian land every day and from time to time killing them? Does he care about Nizin Jamjoum or her family? Nizin was a little girl. Her parents doted on her. They fed her and raised her. She played with brothers and sisters. She said cute things that made everyone's dimples come out. And then an armed colonist shot her dead, in the head. Her cranium was crushed, her brain oozed out the back of her little head. Does Prager care?

Then he asks, Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

Prager is not only stereotyping an ethnic group, he is profoundly ignorant. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a much more violent group than Arafat's Fateh, was led by Christian George Habash. In fact, the PFLP had to hire Eastern Orthodox priests to minister to its fighers. Christians in the Middle East, whether Palestinian Christians, or Maronite Christians in Lebanon, have been just as much parties to the violence in the region as Muslims. And, of course, Israeli Jews haven't exactly been pacifists.

Then he asks, Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

Well, gee, Dennis. Let's see.

There is the legacy of European colonialism, which ruled most of the Muslim world with an iron fist and established modern bureaucratic practices that were authoritarian, which the post-colonial states inherited. (If you want to understand the Pakistani military, you have to understand the colonial British Army of India).

And, the Russians invaded Muslim Central Asia in the 19th century. They first subjected those peoples to Tsarist absolute monarchy, and then to Stalinism. Vladimir Putin and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan both have authoritarian tendencies, and it is because they both come out of the old Soviet system. You want to blame Islam for this?

It wasn't just colonialism. Neo-colonialism has played a key part. Iran was a parliamentary democracy in the early 1950s. Then its prime minister asserted Iranian ownership of Iran's own oil. And the UK and the US objected to this step, and sent in the CIA to overthrow the elected government of Iran, and install an absolute monarchy for all the world like Louis XIV! Courtesy of Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill.

The political scientists now think that democracy is best sustained where the per capita income is at least $8000 a year. It isn't an absolute requirement, but it seems to help. There are a lot of poor Muslim countries because they are in resource-poor regions (arid parts of Africa and the Middle East).

Why bring ethnicity into it? Is that really the likely explanation? Prager could ask the same question about the Chinese. Why is only one Chinese-majority society (Taiwan) moving toward democracy? Does he think it really has something to do with being Chinese? Authoritarianism in East Asia used to be attributed to Confucianism, but then Japan and South Korea (and lately Taiwan) challenged that thesis. Things change. If we were in the 1930s Prager could ask what was with those Fascist Catholics.

Whatever the answer is to Prager's question, it has little or nothing to do with the religion of Islam per se.

Prager's number 4 is Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?

Prager's list is skewed to begin with. He lumps together localistic national liberation movements (Chechnya) and individual crimes of passion with the guerrilla movement in Iraq, and attributes them all to "Islam." In Prager's weird world, everything Muslims do is in the name of Islam.

I append below a list of the number of murders per year in a fair number of the world's countries, and have put the Muslim-majority countries in bold. They cluster at the bottom, not the top. If we wanted to think in Prager's warped way, we'd have to ask what is with those Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, that they are so murderous.

Prager's number 5 is Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

Countries governed by religious anythings have persecuted other religions. This is true not only for religious ideologies but also for secular ideologies like Communism and Fascism. Make an idea into an "-ism" and boom, you get gulags. Religion or no religion. You think Muslims were tolerated in Franco's Spain? And, by the way, why can't a Muslim guy marry a Jewish girl in Israel if the two love each other? Hmmm. Could it be that the rabbis are unsympathetic to young love? Prager doesn't seem to know that Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing was in fact part of the Christian Identity Movement, or that fanatical Christians have killed abortion doctors in the name of Christianity.

There is something seriously wrong with the questions themselves. They come out of a weird mindset that lumps Malaysians with Moroccans, Kyrgyz with Sudanese, and Uigurs with Moro Filipinos, all just because they have a common heritage in one of the great world religions; it isn't as if their actual local practices and beliefs are all exactly the same.

The questions are symptomatic of prejudice and sloppy thinking. They demean Americans by the posing of them. Muslims as individuals haven't done anything wrong, and don't have to answer Prager's silly questions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Community Reform: Muslim Mayor in New Jersey

Salaam alaikum,

However you feel about Muslims getting involved in politics, I thought this would be a great article to post since it evolves Muslims "putting their money where their mouth is."

Muslim triumphs over a smear to become mayor

Teacher will lead Prospect Park

Monday, November 14, 2005

BY WAYNE PARRY--Associated Press

The anonymous flier mailed to households in Prospect Park days before a new mayor was to be chosen was direct and devastating in its claims: A Muslim council member, one of three candidates for the post, was "a betrayer living among us" with ties to the 9/11 terrorists.

The mailing said Mohamed Khairullah "should not be living in our clean town" and "will try to poison our thoughts about our great country."
But the letter failed to derail his candidacy. The borough council chose Khairullah in a 4-0 vote Wednesday night, making him one of only two Muslim mayors in New Jersey.

"The people of Prospect Park are great people," said Khairullah, 30, a high school teacher. "I'm just happy to have this opportunity."
Arab-Americans and Muslims make up about 15 percent of the population in this half-square-mile borough in Passaic County. Hispanics account for about 40 percent, with Caucasians and African-Americans representing most of the remainder of the nearly 5,800 who live here.

The mayor's seat was vacated last month when Will Kubofcik stepped down because his family moved to Bloomingdale. The local Democratic Party nominated three candidates to fill the remainder of the four-year term, which expires next December. Khairullah, a Syrian native and former Saudi resident who was first elected to the council just two months after the 9/11 attacks, was one of the three nominees.

In the mailings, the anonymous author said Khairullah has made public comments "which show his ties to the people responsible for the horrible attacks of 9/11."

Khairullah called those claims baseless and disgusting, and said they endangered the safety of him and his family. He said the flier probably referred to -- and misrepresented -- comments he made at a pro-Palestinian rally in Paterson last year in which he said American Muslims need to do their part to effect change in the Middle East, either through political activism or economic boycotts.

"I just couldn't believe someone would stoop down to that level," he said. "It's one thing to attack me, but to attack me in terms that place my safety and the safety of those around me in grave danger is really low."
The mailing is similar to one that went out the night before the 2004 election to voters in Bedminster, accusing township committee candidate Zaheer Jan and his running mate of being funded by "foreign nationals, not local residents." Jan, who was born in India and grew up in Pakistan, said it was a scare tactic designed to make people fear he might have terrorist ties. He lost the election by 14 votes out of nearly 3,600 cast.

CONTINUED...Allahu akbar!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The more things change ......

There is an old saying that the more things change ,the more they remain the same.I discovered that this adage held true after returning to India in September this year.Having spent the better part of the last four years in North America, I found that my views had been tempered by life there and there was a subtle but distinct change in the way I had begun to view things.My sojourn in Canada had exposed my family and myself to the joys of a multicultural Ummah in what must be one of the most diverse countries in the world.For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Muslims of different nationalities,appreciate our cultural differences and like all good Muslims partake of the delicious food that other Muslims shared with us!

So it was with a new perspective and a renewed joie de vivre that I relocated to India a few months ago.Now is the time to make a difference, I said to myself.I am going to share the positive aspects of my life abroad with my Brothers here.Hopefully,the community here would have changed what with all the advances that India has made in the international arena.A greater exposure to the world outside must have convinced them that most of us here are living in a little pond.They must be ready to connect to the Ummah at large.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm is slowly turning to frustration.I find that little has changed and that petty differences continue to be the bane of the Ummah here.While Muslims are dying in Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya and while there are dark forces ranged against us in almost every part of the world, Indian Muslims are still fighting over things that are insignificant in the larger scheme of things. People have come to blows and discord has set in on whether or not one should wear a cap during prayer, are 20 rakahs preferable to 8 in taraweeh, is it permissible for the congregational dua to be read aloud etc etc. The situation in some mosques has become so dire that certain congregants have been thrown out because they were not wearing caps!And the most distressing aspect is that Muslims in India face enough challenges as it were, including the enmity of Hindu Fascists, discrimination in the job market, an abysmal standard of living and stark economic conditions.Instead of looking at the big picture the Ummah here is riven by dissension and in some cases actively egged on by certain members of the Ulema.

But all is not lost. There are islands of hope;people who have realised that there is a far greater danger that confronts us not only in India but in the rest of the world.Forces that are led by countries who are now paranoid that Islam poses a greater threat to them than communism and who are doing everything in their power to try to destroy us.It is these committed individuals that offer hope to the Indian Muslim community that things can and will get better.Every country has its distinct challenges but there are certain core issues that should unite all of us. After all we are one Ummah and if one part of the Ummah is hurt ,the rest will feel the pain too.Muslims in North America have taken the lead;hopefully Muslims in the sub-continent and elsewhere will rise to the challenge.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

American Muslims Stand Behind Sister Mukhtar Mai

Salaam alaikum,

Various Muslim groups have taken action to support their sister Mukhtar Mai. She was recently awarded by Glamour Magazine as one of their 2005 Women of the Year. This is what they had to say about her.

Mukhtar Mai is barely literate, yet Nicholas D. Kristof, the esteemed New York Times columnist, says of her, "There is no one person who has been more courageous—or more effective—in the struggle for women's rights in the developing world." With her stunning act of defiance and her ongoing activism, says Amna Buttar, M.D., of the Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Women, Mukhtar has "singlehandedly changed the attitudes toward rape and women's rights in Pakistan, and given hope to survivors." Mukhtar says, "It's because of the support of the world that I feel brave."

(There's also website for her cause right here.)

American Muslims, moved by their sense of justice and search for righteousness, have created a group called Muslims for Mukhtaran. The proud list of signature groups include ISNA (the big, bad, Salafi, fundamentalist, evil punching bag of, Women in Islam Inc., and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. It is wonderful to see Muslims combating violence, sin and injustice, even when it is against our own selves. We will keep you updated on this as current events progress.


We've been bad. Very bad. Neglecting our poor little blog. :-(

No fear, we shall be blogging again!

But for now, here's a little Eid card!

See it, it's right on the top. It says "may Allah accept your fasting." We hope and pray that Allah may accept our pleas for forgiveness, our fasting, our prayers, and our charity and good deeds for His sake and His sake alone. We all know that this umma can use all the mercy and help it can get. Ameen.

Sidi Hajj Gibril Haddad: Unenlightened Feminism and Praying for Show

Salaam 'Alaikum

Hosted at Mere Islam in PDF format. May be available in HTML or another format soon.

Unenlightened Feminism