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prayer at shifaa

To the Muslim readers of Miscellany101


eid-ul-fitr-wishes-in-english-1

Believers in One God are non-believers to most Americans


According to this poll, Muslims rank lowest of all religious denominations and lower than atheists.

Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).

Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part.

This is the result of the active marginalization of Muslims by main stream media, pundits, politicians.  Way to go America…..

GAZA…..again


It should come as no surprise the Israeli government is on another blood lust for Palestinian land and souls.  Gaza, the open air prison that rivals Guantanamo Bay is being relentlessly bombarded because of Hamas rockets fired on Israel.

Israelis look at a crater caused by a rocket outside a shop in Ashdod, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israelis look at a crater caused by a rocket outside a shop in Ashdod, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Since this latest “provocation” by Hamas a total of ONE Israeli has been killed and that AFTER the Israeli retaliatory strikes whereas scores of Palestinians have been killed or murdered.  Numbers are irrelevant and there are no equivalences…..you don’t slaughter innocents in retaliation…unless you’re the Israeli government.

What’s newsworthy and drawn me to post is the latest attempt at a cease fire advocated by Hamas.  Here are the “terms

First – Opening all the crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Second – Opening Rafah crossing, the link between Gaza and Egypt, on a permanent basis, 24 hours per day with international guarantees it will not be closed.

Third – A maritime corridor to Gaza.

Fourth – Allowing residents of the Gaza Strip to pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Fifth – Israel will release the prisoners who were freed as part of the “Shalit” deal, and Israel will abide by the previous agreement reached by prisoners and the Israel Prison Service with Egyptian mediation in 2012.

 

Hold your breath if you think Israel will accede to these conditions; they are too busy trying to acquire the land they want Palestinians to leave with threats of military invasion of Gaza if they don’t go.

Gaza after an Israeli strike on July 8, 2014

Gaza after an Israeli strike on July 8, 2014

And if you’re counting on the Americans to broker peace there forget that one too.  Obama’s shameless pandering to the Israelis was no more evident than at the “iftar” meal he held for Muslims at the White House earlier this week, where the Israeli ambassador to America was also present.  There Obama asserted there is  justification on the part of Israel for its slaughter because of the destruction being rained down upon it by Hamas rockets. Hardly…The Israeli Ambassador, Ron Dermer, was delighted by Obama’s stand, tweeting,

.@WhiteHouse for Iftar dinner. Appreciate strong statement there by President Obama about Israel’s right to defend itself.

— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) July 15, 2014

As in your face as one can get; being invited to a party being held for someone else and then humiliating them the honorees, but that’s Israel.  That’s what they’ve been doing and allowed to do for decades. It was bad enough to get get Tariq Ramadan to write

It was supposed to be an evening where the American President showed respect to a religious community, to the millions of American Muslims who have been fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan.

It was supposed to be a political expression of respect. It ended up being a political instrumentalisation of (voluntarily) trapped Muslim leaders listening to President Obama justify the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, declaring Israel has the right to defend itself. One wonders what is the relationship between the Iftar celebration and Israel ? What is the US administration’s implicit-explicit intention in putting the Muslim leaders in such an embarrassing situation? To test their loyalty or rather their capacity to compromise or betray? They obviously remained silent.

The Israeli ambassador, Mr. Ron Dermer, also invited (why?), was actually the first to speak. One must remember what he said about Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims : Palestinians have “a cultural tendency towards belligerency” that is “deeply embedded in the culture of the Arab world and its foremost religion”. This is the man who was invited to celebrate Iftar with the Muslims meanwhile his Government is destroying Gaza. From the White House he tweeted, triumphantly : “@WhiteHouse for Iftar dinner. Appreciate strong statement there by President Obama about Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Obviously Muslim leaders didn’t tweet. It was enough of an honor for them to be invited to the White House and to have met the President. An honor, truly, dear Muslim leaders? Ordinary Muslims (and proponents of justice and dignity from other religions) in the US and around the world, as well as Palestinians, might think differently.

That just about sums it up.

 

 

I hope no one is surprised by this


I fully expect this however, I’m sure the writer of the article is approaching this from a Eurocentric view.  Saudi Arabia, the oil drenched monarchy is an anachronistic, despotic backward society so full of irony that it is hardly recognizable from it’s glorious Islamic past.  It touts itself as the guardian of the two mosques in Mecca and Medina with all the attendant pomp and ceremony yet denies its citizens and the Muslim expatriate community that lives there the basics one comes to expect from “society” of freedom of thought, association, human dignity.  Is it any wonder that those most affected by this encroachment on their life choose to abandon what they consider responsible for their plight

 In this country known as the cradle of Islam, where religion gives legitimacy to the government and state-appointed clerics set rules for social behavior, a growing number of Saudis are privately declaring themselves atheists.

The evidence is anecdotal, but persistent.

“I know at least six atheists who confirmed that to me,” said Fahad AlFahad, 31, a marketing consultant and human rights activist. “Six or seven years ago, I wouldn’t even have heard one person say that. Not even a best friend would confess that to me.”

A Saudi journalist in Riyadh has observed the same trend.

The idea of being irreligious and even atheist is spreading because of the contradiction between what Islamists say and what they do,” he said.

The perception that atheism is no longer a taboo subject — at least two Gulf-produced television talk shows recently discussed it — may explain why the government has made talk of atheism a terrorist offenseThe March 7 decree from the Ministry of Interior prohibited, among other things, “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

The number of people willing to admit to friends to being atheist or to declare themselves atheist online, usually under aliases, is certainly not big enough to be a movement or threaten the government. A 2012 poll by WIN-Gallup International of about 500 Saudis found that 5 percent described themselves as “convinced atheist.” This was well below the global average of 13 percent.

But the greater willingness to privately admit to being atheist reflects a general disillusionment with religion and what one Saudi called “a growing notion” that religion is being misused by authorities to control the population. This disillusionment is seen in a number of ways, ranging from ignoring clerical pronouncements to challenging and even mocking religious leaders on social media.

“Because people are becoming more disillusioned with the government, they started looking at the government and its support groups as being in bed together and conspiring together against the good of the people,” said Bassim Alim, a lawyer in Jeddah.

“When they see the ulema [religious scholars] appeasing the government,” he added, “people become dismayed because they thought they were pious and straightforward and just. “

I believe people started being fed up with how religion is really controlling their life and how only one interpretation of religion should be followed,” said activist Fahad AlFahad.

Together, the appearance of atheists, a growing wariness of religious controls on society, as well as the continuing lure of jihad and ultraconservatism signal a breakdown in the conformity and consensus that has marked the Saudi religious field in the recent past. It is becoming a more heterogenous and polarized faith scene.

The mosques are full but society is losing its values. It’s more like a mechanical practice, like going church, you have to go on Sunday,” said a former employee of state media. “We no longer understand our religion, not because we don’t want to. But because our vision of it, our understanding of it, has been polluted by the monarchy…[and]…by the official religious establishment that only measures religion by what the monarchy wants and what pleases the monarchy.”

The growing skepticism about religion and clerics is more visible nowadays because of social media outlets, including tweets, blogs and Facebook pages.

Here are three illustrative tweets from Saudis:

— Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahad has been tweeting nonstop abt God. I pity his disconnectedness from today’s public. It’s not the 1980′s. Pathetic

— Because our illusion that our version of Islam is the only correct one needs to be washed away

— Could the ulema issue a fatwa against domestic violence? I mean the fatwa committee has prohibited playing Resident Evil 

At the same time, however, there is a countervailing trend in that some young Saudis are joining radical Islamist and jihadi movements, a trend reinforced by the war in Syria.

“When the Arab Spring started, young religious people were asking about Islam and democracy,” said Saud Al Sarhan, director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. “But now they are just asking about Islam and jihad, after what is going on in Syria.”

This attraction towards militant ultraconservatism is also apparent in the activities of unregulated religious vigilantes. Even as the government’s own religious police have come under stricter controls, these bands of young religious “volunteers” attack social gatherings to stop what they deem as prohibited activities, including music, dancing and gender mixing. In one famous incident in 2012, these “volunteers” raided the annual government-sponsored cultural festival known as Janadriya, where they clashed with security forces.

It is still dangerous to publicly admit one is an atheist because of the dire punishment one can face from a court system based on sharia, which regards disbelief in God as a capital offense.

In addition, conservative clerics who have considerable sway among Saudis, use the label ‘atheist’ to discredit those who question their strict interpretations of Islamic scriptures or express doubts about the dominant version of Islam known as Wahhabism.

That is what happened with 25-year-old Hamza Kashgari who in 2012 tweeted some unconventional thoughts about Prophet Muhammad, none of which indicated he did not believe in God. Still, he was called ‘atheist’ and to appease the religious establishment, the government jailed him for 20 months.

Also, Raef Badawi, in his early 30s, was accused of being atheist because he called for freedom to discuss other versions of Islam besides Wahhabism on the website “Free Saudi Liberals.” Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July 2013. His lawyer, Waleed Abu Alkhair, a human rights activist who also has been jailed, said Badawi told the court that he was a Muslim but added that “everyone has a choice to believe or not believe,” the BBC reported.

A Riyadh resident who has extensive contacts with young Saudis because of his job in higher education said that he “tries to warn young people that they are living according to an Islam constructed by the government, and not according to the Islam given us by God.”

Increasingly, he said, some youths “are going to ignore religion and become atheist, while others are going to understand the game.”

American diversity


2nd largest religionIf you ever needed proof of the ethnic and religious diversity of America….and perhaps something that scares the pants off of many who maintain their privilege you need look no further than this map provided by the Washington Post.

Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of us identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic and about  2 percent as Mormon.

But what about the rest of us? In the Western U.S., Buddhists represent the largest non-Christian religious bloc in most states. In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha’i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.

Another perspective of from the tragedy of last year’s Boston Marathon


RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON IN A HIJAB

Leanne-290Like many participants in the Boston Marathon on Monday, Leanne Scorzoni will be running to honor the victims of last year’s bombing. But Scorzoni will also be running in a hijab: she converted to Islam after the attack, and wants her participation to emphasize that Boston’s Muslim community was also hurt by the bombings.

Scorzoni has never run the race before, but the thirty-two-year-old Boston native has watched from the sidelines for decades. Scorzoni was raised in nearby Danvers, and every year her family would arrive at a spot near the corner of Clarendon and Boylston Streets at about 8:30 a.m. sometimes bringing pots and pans to help cheer on marathoners.

Last year, Scorzoni staked out the same spot near the finish line and waited to be joined by a friend of hers named Sam. Unfamiliar with Marathon Monday tradition, he arrived late and, at about 2:30 P.M., he asked where the nearest bathroom was. Scorzoni was reluctant to give up her view of the race, but eventually agreed to guide her friend through the crowds. When the bombs exploded at 2:50, the two were browsing at a nearby Banana Republic on Newbury Street, approximately four blocks away from the finish line. The store’s loud music muffled the blasts, but when Scorzoni turned on her cell phone, she found dozens of texts from friends and family, asking where she was and if she was O.K.—she had been standing less than two blocks away from the initial explosion. Scorzoni doesn’t believe a divine power carried her away from the attack that killed three people and injured more than two hundred and sixty: “It was because my friend had to pee,” she said.

The next day, Scorzoni says, local F.B.I. agents visited her at her job at Massachusetts General Hospital, where they asked about a photo she had uploaded to Facebook of Sam, who is Muslim and from the Middle East. Shaken by the bombing and the encounter with the F.B.I., Scorzoni regularly checked in on her Muslim friends in the days after the bombing. As the media began to sort out the background of the Tsarnaev brothers, local reports also began to surface of sporadic verbal and physical attacks on Muslims, and of hate mail being sent to mosques, including the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in Roxbury, which the Los Angeles Times originally reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had attended, confusing it with the Islamic Society of Boston, located in Cambridge. Scorzoni read about the letters on the center’s Facebook page, but she also saw the many comments of support that came from across the country.

Leanne ScorzoniScorzoni was raised Catholic, but she abandoned the Church in 1999, shortly after family members publicly announced that local priests had sexually abused them. “I was eighteen; I was angry. I was just like, I’m not doing this anymore,” she said, adding that she would often belittle friends and family members over their religious beliefs.

Years later, one of her relatives who had been abused told Scorzoni that he had gotten over his anger toward religion and that she needed to do the same. When she moved back to Boston, in 2011, she remembered seeing many ads for the I.S.B.C.C. on public transportation around the city, and later found out that the center was two blocks from where she lived. She first visited the I.S.B.C.C. in the summer of 2012; on her way to the grocery store, she asked a woman who was leaving the mosque if anybody could visit. “I was thinking it was like Mormonism, where only Mormons can go in,” she said.

Scorzoni went into the center’s bookstore, where she met Sam for the first time and engaged in a three-hour discussion about religion with the shop’s owner. As she began to make new friends at the mosque, she would observe prayer services and occasionally sit on prayer rugs and meditate. The I.S.B.C.C. thus became a special place for her: it was she where she began to feel comfortable again with being in religious surroundings. In Islam, Scorzoni found “more of a sense of ritual and meditation and contemplation I wanted in my life.”

Five weeks after the bombing, she called Suhaib Webb, the imam of the I.S.B.C.C., and told him that she was ready to convert. She walked to the mosque in jeans, a shirt, and flip-flops; after the ceremony, she and Sam celebrated just as casually, eating watermelon and chicken fingers on the mosque’s steps.

The I.S.B.C.C. has been a visible force in the local Muslim community’s efforts to support victims of the bombing. Last Friday, the I.S.B.C.C. organized a khutbah, or sermon, in remembrance of victims, and, on Tuesday, Webb spoke at a night of “Remembrance and Hope” at the Old South Church. Scorzoni was also in attendance and, at one point during the evening, runners were asked to stand. “Everyone started clapping, and all the runners just started crying, and soon everyone was crying,” she said. “Everyone in the church prayed for all of us, not even just the runners—prayed for the city.”

While she regularly attends services and will wear a hijab on Monday, Scorzoni also carries what she describes as “white privilege,” which many other Muslims do not have. She works part-time teaching English as a second language; many of her students are young Muslims living alone in the United States or working seventy-hour weeks to support their families here. She knows that the Tsarnaev brothers, who lived in the United States for almost a decade, also had better upbringings than many other Muslims in the area, and thinks that their actions left lingering scars for those who dissociate from their radicalism.

“I just see it as the same way there’s good Catholics and you have the Westboro Baptist Church,” she said, referring to the extremist group that often stages protests against the gay community. “It’s just such a helpless anger, when you curl your hands into fists and you just want to say, ‘You’re forcing everyone else to go five steps back from where they’ve come from.’ These two kids just cheated other people out of their livelihood, their spots—people who could’ve made their own lives better.”

Two other I.S.B.C.C. members will join Scorzoni on Monday to run in the marathon. Officially, Scorzoni is running to raise money for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. But, when people ask Scorzoni what they can do to help, she tells them to go to the marathon and show that the tradition will continue, uninterrupted.

On Monday, when Scorzoni crosses the finish line, her family will be there to cheer her on, as will Sam and other friends from the I.S.B.C.C. “I believe we are moving away from, ‘Hey, look, a Muslim doing something normal,’ ” Scorzoni said. “Now we see a myriad of cultures and religions here, as it should be.”

 

 

Lies, damned lies and statistics


The following article is not so much about statistics as it is about the how and why Islam has become popular in America but in reading it what angered me is the use of a statistic…the number of Muslims in America.  The statistic of 1,349,000 Muslims in America as of 2012 is hilariously funny and pathetically short of the real numbers.  I understand however why the number HAS to be that low for it makes it far more comfortable for people to fathom and tolerate a religion that has been so beguiled and vilified.  In other words it keeps the mass hysteria and panic down, for now, to a minimum.  But all one need do is look up the numbers for themselves to see that the number of Muslims in America is much greater than 1.3 million with figures ranging from the equally pathetic 2 million to 7 million and all of these numbers are merely guesses because such data is not allowed to be collected in a government sponsored census for reasons of privacy and freedom from suspicion of suppression of religion.  These are my pet peeves; the article below is about how people come to adopt and practice Islam in an increasingly secular country.  I hope you enjoy it

 

Though Will Caldwell was born, raised and college educated in Georgia, he is uncomfortable praying there.

He has felt that way since a clear summer evening in 2007 at a nondescript gas station off a nondescript interstate somewhere between Savannah and Macon. He was on his way home to Saint Simons Island from Emory University, where he had just finished his junior year. Caldwell had pulled his red Mini Cooper into the rest stop because the sun was starting to set and, since he had converted to Islam one year earlier, this meant that it was time to pray.

In the empty field next to the gas station, he found a discrete corner, laid out his mat and began to recite the holy verses, first standing, then bent forward, then on his knees with his head to the ground. He noticed two people looking at him, secretively peering out from behind their truck. Uneasy, he rushed through the ritual, folded up his mat and got back in the car to leave. As he pulled away, he could see in his rear view mirror a cop car pulling into the parking lot. The people who had been staring were flagging down the police officer and pointing at Caldwell. He drove on at an intentionally moderate pace, and the cop did not follow, but he has not risked praying publicly in the South since.

Caldwell is soft spoken. He pauses thoughtfully before talking and sometimes between sentences. He wears a plaid button down shirt, slacks and small, round wire-framed glasses. His wide-set green eyes gaze out earnestly from his creamy white face. One quickly gets the sense that he is a kind and spiritual person. Perhaps this is his fatal flaw. After growing up in the Episcopal Church, Caldwell rediscovered his spirituality in Islam and decided to convert. Now, less than a hundred miles from where he was raised, onlookers see Caldwell’s prayer as a potential threat. Why might this be?

“The political context we are in is so charged with anti-Muslim rhetoric that it’s almost impossible, I would say, for that conversion not to have some kind of political ramifications even if the convert in no way intends it,” says Brannon Ingram, a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University, who specializes in Islam and Sufism. In July of 2013, Fox News correspondent Lauren Green interviewed religion scholar Reza Aslan about “Zealot”, a book he just had written about Jesus Christ. She repeatedly questioned his credentials and asked him to explain how a Muslim could write about Christianity. In 2013, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press study found that 45 percent of Americans believe that Muslims face “a lot” of discrimination.

Negative sentiments about Muslims most often link to an association of Islam with radicalism and terrorism. A 2007 document by the New York Police Department entitled “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” says, “Jihadist ideology is the driver that motivates young men and women, born or living in the West, to carry out an ‘autonomous jihad’ via acts of terrorism against their host countries.” Because of these beliefs, the police instated surveillance over New York City’s mosques and Muslim communities using informants, neighborhood mapping, photos and video footage. When the American Civil Liberties Union caught wind of this policy in June of 2013, they sued the NYPD.

Muslim converts have received extensive media attention. Katherine Russell, the widow of one of the notorious Boston Marathon bombers, began practicing Islam after meeting her husband. Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the “White Widow” after her husband’s 2005 suicide bombing in London public transit, is among the suspects implicated in the Nairobi mall massacre in September 2013. She, too, is Muslim convert. Nicholas Brody, a main character of the popular television show “Homeland”, becomes a Muslim while he is imprisoned by al-Quaeda in Damascus, Syria. Once back in the United States, he collaborates with his captors to plot and execute terror attacks.

Karen Danielson, DanielsonDirector of Outreach at the Chicago chapter of Muslim American Society, says that any event that brings Islam into the public consciousness — for negative or positive reasons — generates interest. “After 9/11 for example, there was a large influx of converts. Sometimes people come forward hostile, but then even they end up converting because of what they discover,” she says. “They investigated, they read the Quran, and it answered a lot of questions that they had before.” Danielson herself found Islam in 1983 when she was a young adult. She has worked in community building for Muslims ever since and has interacted with hundreds of converts and support groups.

Despite their powers of attraction, these terror-infused portrayals are very problematic for converts, says Iqbal Akhtar, a professor of Islamic Studies at Florida International University. New Muslims are forced to view themselves as outsiders in their own culture and are not given the opportunity to reconcile the different parts of their identities. “Even if in day-to-day interactions you can pass for being American or not being differentiated, you live in a society where the media is constantly defining the Muslim as an ‘other,'” says Akhtar. “All these things fit into how you define yourself.”

Converts to any faith seem increasingly abnormal as the United States gravitates farther away from religion. According to a Pew Research study, the number of Americans who do not affiliate with a religion has gone up by 5 percent in the past five years, from 15.3 percent in 2007 to 19.6 percent in 2012.

IRAQI-AMERICAN MUSLIMS CELEBRATE IN DEARBORN OUSTER OF HUSSEINYet the number of Muslims in the United States is increasing. In the seven years that followed the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Muslim American population grew from 1,104,000 to 1,349,000, according to the 2012 census. And in a study of that same time frame, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 40 percent of Muslims in the United States were not raised with the faith, but joined it as adults.

This anomalous increase in religious practice may be because conversion to Islam is quick and very simple. “It really just requires reciting a formula called the shahada in front of a number of witnesses,” says Ingram. He translates the verse to mean, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.” And that’s it. There’s no training, no test. You just recite the creed. Ingram attributes the successful global spread of Islam to the ease of this process.

The difficulty for many converts comes in the change of daily customs, rather than in the change of faith. In 2005, at the age of 36, Jennifer Gauthier converted from Catholicism to Islam in order to marry to a Muslim man. The pair has since moved to Alexandria, Egypt. “I would say the greatest challenges I face are more related to Islamic cultural traditions rather than what I understand from the Quran,” she says. “My dad and I have had many conversations about Islam and Catholicism and have found many overlaps.” She says it made a big difference that she already felt comfortable with the idea of one god.

American faceSaba Safder, Scholarship Manager at the national non-profit Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim convert from Methodism, speaks to the challenging cultural adjustments. “In the beginning it was hard to fit in. Sometimes when I came to the mosque, my scarf may not have covered all my hair, or my sleeves may not have been as long as they should have been,” she said. “There were many times that women would correct my praying or how I dressed.”

Many converts also felt alienated because of their whiteness. DanielMooreIn theory, explains Ingram, Islam is meant to be a race-free religion. But in practice, he says, this is not the case. “In the popular imagination Islam is still very much,” – he makes air quotes with his fingers – “a brown person’s religion.” And this belief, he continues, is somewhat valid. “American Muslim communities can be very closely knit in terms of some ethnic background,” he says. “Not just immigrants from or descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, but even specific regions in India.”

As a result, when Caldwell enters a Muslim center for the first time, he says he gets one of two reactions to his whiteness. The first is suspicion. In a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he recalls, he could feel everyone’s eyes on him. Muslims sometimes suspect that he is an FBI agent, working for the aforementioned government surveillance, he says. “I just try to deal with it because I understand it.” he says. Others place him on a pedestal. Immigrants trying to assimilate into white American society take his race as a sign of their success. “Seeing a white person [practicing Islam] sort of validates their own religious existence. There’s a lot of embedded racial assumptions about that,” he says. “I don’t think it’s a desirable situation for me or for them, but it is the case nonetheless.”

Some converts are forming their own groups, one of which is Ta’leef Collective. Founded as a resource for new Muslims and prospective converts, Ta’leef runs classes, discussions and support groups. Its headquarters are in Fremont, Calif., but it opened a Chicago chapter in 2012. Ta’leef stays away from the media for fear that it will portray them badly. “Our concern is both one of how we are represented to the larger American population and how we are represented to other Muslim communities,” said Caldwell, who is a participant. “A lot of what we do would be controversial to other Muslim communities in the sense that it’s not a mosque but it’s a Muslim community. That doesn’t fit so well into the parameters of what they expect.”

New Muslims often especially need this social outlet after distancing themselves from their former lives. “I very rarely associate myself with the community I was raised in. I have strong contacts with my family, but many times I just feel like it is hard to belong,” says Safder. “There are too many media influences that give people a preconceived idea before seeing that I am still the same person.”

If not at home, how do converts find Islam? Danielson was in her first year at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. She intended to lead missions targeting Muslims. To prepare, she studied the Quran and was deeply moved by it. “It was through my personal reading of Quran that I had my own private conversion,” she says. “I felt like my questions were answered. The deep bigger questions about justice and life in general. What is the universe all about? What does everything mean?” She says she never found this type of spiritual guidance in the Bible and converted to Islam one month after.

Caldwell’s story of coming to Islam is strikingly similar. An altar boy in his youth, Caldwell looked up to his Episcopal priest and wanted to follow in his footsteps. While an undergraduate at Emory University, he learned that seminary students studied Greek but not Hebrew. In order to understand the Old Testament, he started taking Hebrew classes. These led him to Jewish studies classes. Judaism introduced him to the possibility of practicing other religions, but it was too connected to an ethnic and cultural history for him to fully embrace it, he says. “I guess in a lot of ways Islam is a natural place to look at that point.” He started reading the Quran and spent the summer and fall of his junior year in Jerusalem. He promised himself that he wouldn’t make any big decisions until he finished it. One month into his studies in Israel, he finished the Quran and converted to Islam.

Ingram has noticed a trend in why people like Danielson or Caldwell may gravitate toward the religion. “I’ve spoken to a few white converts over the years who said Christianity never made sense to me, the trinity never made sense to me, the idea of God being one and three at the same time never made sense to me,” he said. “Islam doesn’t have that problem. People are attracted to the comparative simplicity of Islam’s notion of God.”

Their strong connection to Islamic theology helps converts deal with stigma. “We know that Islam does not preach terrorism. We know Islam does not preach extremist radical thought. Those things are not linked to Islam. They’re linked to Muslims,” says Danielson. “Muslims are people. They have so many factors that motivate who they are. Yes, Islam influences them, but they have their economic condition and their political situation, too.”

Gauthier puts this idea concisely. “A saying I’ve heard often — and I think it applies to all religions — is ‘Don’t look to Muslims to understand Islam. Look to Islam itself,'” she says.

But, according to Danielson, converts need to change people’s preconceptions about Muslims. “We have to get our voice heard better. Islam should be understood better, and that’s a difficult position to be in,” she says. “First-hand knowledge of Islam and Muslims needs relationship building and a genuine commitment to long-term cooperation.”

I Have Figured Out Where the Lost Plane Is


….well not me, miscellany101 but rather Ted Vaill

For the past week, the Malaysian Airlines plane that took off from Kuala Lumpur headed for Beijing with 239 passengers and crew, including about 150 Chinese citizens, has been lost somewhere in the world, perhaps at the bottom of the sea. Or not.

Information I have received supports the theory that the plane is safe on the ground at an airstrip on a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and that the passengers and crew have been kidnapped by an extremist Uyghur group from Xinjiang Province, China. Their intent is to ransom the kidnapped passengers and crew and to call attention to the poor treatment of the Uyghur minority population by the majority Han Chinese in Xinjiang Province, China’s most westerly province, north of Tibet.

The Uyghurs (pronounced “wee-gurr”) are of Turkic ethnicity, and have a swarthy western, Caucasian appearance, and are much hairier than the Han Chinese majority. They are also Muslim, and have been regularly persecuted by the Chinese government, causing rioting and uprisings since the Uyghurs’ arrival across the Silk Route from Central Asia many centuries ago. I have visited Xinjiang Province, and have met many Uyghurs.

In recent years, the Uyghurs have carried their protests eastward to Beijing, and in the past year a Uyghur group drove a large SUV onto Tien An Mien Square in Beijing, killing and injuring many people before their SUV caught fire and exploded, killing all inside. Recently, several Uyghurs have been deported from Malaysia, which is also a Muslim country.

The Hijacking

The pilots of the Malaysian Airlines 777 are Zaharie Ahmed Shah, 53, a pilot since 1981 with over 18,000 hours of flight time, and Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, the co-pilot, with 2,783 hours of flight experience. Hamid is the son of a high ranking Malaysian civil servant, engaged to be married, and only recently started flying the 777. They seem to be steady, experienced pilots.

The Malaysian Airlines’ 777 airplanes have been known to have weak cabin door protections against unlawful entry to the cockpit compared to American aircraft. This could mean that a group of four of so terrorists could take over the plane relatively easily, bursting into the cockpit, disabling or killing one of the pilots, and then having the airplane’s communications systems shut down at 1:07 am, followed by the shutdown of the transponder at 1:21am. At the same time, others in the gang could go down the aisles collecting all cellphones, and warning that anyone who kept their cell phone or tried to use it would be killed on the spot. Perhaps they singled out one passenger to sacrifice to prove that they were serious.

They had the plane turn abruptly in the opposite direction back over Malaysia and Indonesia and on into the Indian Ocean, the third largest ocean in the world with 20% of the world’s water and a span of 6,200 miles from the tip of South Africa to Western Australia. There are a number of remote islands and archipelagos in the Indian ocean, and some of them have landing strips capable of handling a 777.

Diego Garcia

Typical of these are the Chagos Archipelago, a group of more than 60 tropical islands 310 miles due south of the Maldives, an island group south of India. The only inhabited island in the Chagos Archipelago is Diego Garcia, which not many Americans know has been developed over the past 40 years into a huge American military base, in cooperation with the British, who obtained the island from the French in the 1815 Treaty of Paris. In November, 1965, the UK purchased all rights to Diego Garcia and the archipelago from Mauritius for 3 million pounds, and leased the island to the U.S. for 50 years, with an option to extend it 20 years to 2036.

In 1971 U.S. Seabees arrived and began construction of a communications station and airfield, which today has grown to two parallel 12,000-foot runways for B-52s and other long-range aircraft to operate. There is also a huge port which can handle the largest American naval vessels, and a nuclear submarine base. It is rumored that the island is also a CIA dark site, and that “renditions” have happened there.

In recent years, it has been an important staging area for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and in dealing with Pakistan. The Chagos Archipelago is about the same distance from Kuala Lumpur as Beijing.

Where Is the Plane?

malaysia-airlines-flight-mh370It is quite possible that the Malaysian Airlines plane was forced down by its hijackers at one of the 60 unpopulated islands in the Chagos Archipelago which has a level stretch of land suitable for handling a Boeing 777, or a rough landing strip bulldozed out of the jungle. Even if the plane crash-landed there, it was not of concern to the hijackers, so long as the injuries were slight, since the plane was never intended to take off again. The passengers and crew were offloaded, the plane was camouflaged to avoid detection, and the passengers’ luggage was gone through thoroughly for valuables. The passengers and crew were taken to the shoreline, and forced to board a waiting ship. The hijacking entered a new phase.

The ship with its 239 or so passengers then travelled a circuitous path northward, away from Diego Garcia, (which is on the south end of the archipelago), heading for its next destination. The hijackers have no intention of going public with their plans until they get themselves in the best position to accomplish their objectives. Those objectives could be:

  • ransom money for each of the hostages;
  • publicity for the plight of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and an apology from the Chinese for treating them as they have over the centuries; and/or
  • independence from China of Xinjiang Province, and the establishment and recognition of a Uyghur state.

After the recent mass stabbing attacks in China which have been blamed on the Uyghurs, quite naturally in today’s world it’s possible to link this latest atrocity to Muslims in China without even blinking an eye, however because of stolen passports and flying planes this looks more to me like 911 all over again with all its attendant controversy and conspiracy theories.

 

Islam in America-The Source


I’ve always thought if you wanted to get information the best place is the source.  Islam is a diverse, multi-ethnic community that has been progressive, influential and peaceful force in America.  Here is one perspective of the religion in America

Now, don’t say you haven’t heard or don’t know.

Islam and the West-A history shrouded in mystery


It shouldn’t be……Islam has been a constant in the western world just as much as Christianity and the European empires of England, France and Spain, yet far too many people don’t know that about the Islamic religion.  I’ve posted on this blog before the lecture of one American Muslim scholar, Jerald Dirks that relates historical documents about Islam and Muslim interaction with Europeans and indigenous people of North America that dates anything written by contemporary historical scholars.  Here again I post his lecture

Now comes word of the reasons why Thomas Jefferson possessed an English copy of the Quran, which leads me to wonder has anyone asked themselves why would he want one?

Long before Europeans governed Muslim colonies, interest in Islam and its cultures ran high in Europe. Part of the reason was political. Three Muslim empires dominated large parts of Asia: the Ottomans in Anatolia, the Mediterranean and Arabia; the Safavids in Persia; and the Mughals in India.

These Muslim dynasties were not just powerful but were also admired for their refined arts and culture — music, poetry, gardens, ceramics and textiles. Moreover, books in Arabic offered knowledge of many fields to those who learned the language. Not just the sciences and philosophy but even Arabic literature enticed European translators. Thus, in 1704 a Frenchman first translated the “1001 Nights,” whose tales soon became an enduring classic of European as well as of Arabic letters.

Above all else, the religion of Islam itself seemed an especially compelling field of inquiry to a variety of European scholars and thinkers. How had a handful of Muslims emerged from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century to conquer so much of the known world? This was one of the great questions of world history, as both the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire and the English historian Edward Gibbon agreed. In addition, philosophers and freethinking Christians deemed the central tenet of Islam, the unity of God, more rational than the mystery of the Christian Trinity. Thus, many different Europeans attributed singular importance to Islam and the language of its revelation, Arabic.

What American Muslims have to say about suicide bombers


Don’t say you haven’t been told.

Saudi racism revisited


In an earlier post, I railed against Saudi racism because of its insidious and destructive as well as anti-Islamic nature. One point from the editorial that particularly caused my ire was this

…. in most Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia most foreigners rarely interact with locals and if they do, they communicate in a language, which is a mix of badly spoken Arabic and sign language. It could be termed gibberish.

I found this video on YouTube which completely demolishes the argument of the author of that piece.

I regretfully conclude however, that no matter how good the person in the video above speaks Arabic he will never be given the chance for full and equal citizenship rights in any Arab Gulf/Khaleeji country because he’s not a ‘true Arab’.  Doesn’t that sound too much like all the other racists ideologies we’ve fought and overcome in the past?!?

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hijab

What is offensive about this picture?


snorestop-hed-2013Evidently some in America don’t like the imagery of an American soldier hugging a niqaabi clad woman in this snorestop advertisement that’s appearing in California.  Too many of us are still in the business of deciding for others who they can and cannot mate with.  Perhaps that is the discontent many have with Obama; the thought that a white woman would actually have sex with an African man and produce a child that would be as competitive in the western world as any  white child is too fearful a thought for some.

America is too culturally diverse today to have such limitations placed on people and their choices. There are Americans embracing Islam and Muslim women/men are marrying them and many of them are in the US military. Neither act, accepting a religious belief and being American or in the service of your country  is mutually exclusive unless you’re a bigot who believes in really antiquated notions of racial superiority being diluted with co-mingling.

Meet the players behind the picture

Conversion


From this

to this Arnoud van Doorn

I felt ashamed standing in front of the Prophet’s grave. I thought of the grave mistake which I had made by producing that sacrilegious film. I hope that Allah will forgive me and accept my repentance.

 

Arnoud van Doorn has proven extremism is self defeating.  Who would have thought this producer of that once vilified film Fitnah which demonized and slandered Muslims would one day embrace them as his equal but his story is proof that our destinies are not solely ours and neither is the knowledge of our future.  My hope is van Doorn  will be a committed Muslim and citizen of his country who will effectively counteract the bigotry and racism of his countrymen.

Music and Islam


I’m a big fan of Tariq Ramadan who has done a commendable job of incorporating his very Western personality into his Islamic way of life and I have often quoted him here at Miscellany101.wordpress.com.   He wrote a piece indirectly about music, more directly about Yousuf Islam and there are several points he made that resonated with me which I wanted to share here.

For Muslim women and men around the world, his story embodies a powerful lesson. We hear of “Islamic chants” (anacheeds) that are supposedly “Islamic” because they express religious themes, or because they employ no instruments, or because they are based on traditional or Qur’anic texts. In this light, only such chants are permissible (halal) in Islam, the only form of creativity recognized. There are indeed scholars who hold such a position, but it is far from unanimous. In To Be a European Muslim (written in 1996) I dealt with these views and took a clear position on music in Islam. Not only is it permitted, but Muslim women and men must also reconcile themselves with art, with creativity, and with the imagination in all its dimensions. Guided by their ethical bearings, they must not allow themselves to be enchained by the adjective “Islamic” that ends up isolating them, suffocating them, and depriving them of their creative energy in the universe of art, of music, painting, sculpture and literature. Muslims are constantly justifying themselves; they feel obliged to describe everything as “Islamic” to satisfy and to conform to the norm. But our ethical concerns must not force upon us an obsession with the norms of “licit” and “illicit” (halal and haram).

Seen in this light, any song, any form of artistic expression that celebrates humanity, love, justice, the quest for meaning, and peace is, in fact, in full conformity with Muslim ethics and needs no further qualifiers. Meaning, hopes and human edification are to be felt and to be lived; they have no need of a normative framework that bridles and ultimately annihilates them. The expression of ultimate ethical causes in art transcends the narrow limitations of specific ways of belonging, and brings together the universal quality of all that is most precious to humans, who can feel themselves uplifted, broadened, vibrating, becoming more human, more peaceful; who can feel themselves being regenerated by a voice, a hand, a pen or a brush. Music can be a prayer, a painting a path, a song a story: as long as art speaks to mankind of its heart, its wounds, its hopes, tears, smiles and aspirations, it forms the universal language of humankind and can bring about by way of imagination, emotion and the heart what no dialogue of reason or of civilizations can hope to offer.

Eid al-Adha photos


There are some nice photographs of Muslims celebrating eid al-adha in 2012 the world over.  Photos like this one of Muslims in Lagos, Nigeria nigeriaare worth your attention.  Go here to look at the rest of the pictures that depict the diversity of the Muslim community.

Looka’ here


Found this article floating around Facebook and thought it a harbinger of things to come in America.  Women in western societies are accepting Islam absent male influence; they are deciding on their own to embrace a religion that many see as oppressive to women and women’s rights, yet in doing so making a statement that they want to decide their future, their relationships independently and in their own way.  That’s what western societies offer their citizens…the right to choose, and it seems so long as freedom of religion is not criminalized like other free choices that used to be available to women….the number of women who embrace Islam will most likely increase for the time being.

However, this young woman’s life choices seems to be a precursor to becoming Muslim.  Reading her story might make it easier for objective observers to see why women in America accept Islam

hijabi

I am an American non-Muslim woman who has chosen to wear the hijab. Yes, you did read that correctly! I am not conducting an experiment on what the hijab is like or trying to explore the lives of Muslims. I have made a permanent life decision to only show my face and hands while in public, and I love it!

When I was younger, I found the hijab to be beautiful, but unfortunately I thought that a lot of the myths about the hijab were true, and so I was daunted by it. When I started college I studied Arabic and made friends with the Muslim students in my classes. A few of the girls wore a hijab, and even though I liked the look of it and respected their right to wear it, I thought that it was oppressive.

Unfortunately, around the same time, I began to notice that some of the men at my university would openly speak about their female classmates as though they were moving pieces of meat. I would often have to hear stories that I rather wouldn’t about what these boys would like to do to this girl or that one, and I began to notice their looks. Before entering university, I would catch men looking at me in an inappropriate way from time to time, and I would just ignore it, but after hearing these conversations and feeling their many looks, I couldn’t just ignore it anymore.

I mentioned how I felt to some of my classmates, and often I got responses like “boys will be boys,” or “it’s just their biology, they can’t help their behavior.” At the time, I bought these responses, and I thought that my discomfort was just my problem. I thought that these people had a right to behave the way they were, and I had no right to try and stop them. When I got engaged, this all changed.

My fiance is my soulmate. We met in junior high and were friends for years before we began dating. He had asked me out a few times before then, and even though I turned him down, he always behaved around me in a respectful way. It was because of how he always treated me that I eventually agreed to go out with him. The day he proposed to me is, so far, the happiest day of my life. Once I made the decision to make a lifelong commitment to him and only him, it seemed obvious that no one had the right to treat me like their sex object. Whenever I would notice someone looking at me inappropriately, I no longer felt uncomfortable, I felt outraged! But I still had no idea what I could do about it.

couple

Finally, one day I saw one of my hijabi friends at school and ran over to say hi to her. She started to walk towards me, and for some reason I was just struck by her. She was wearing a scarf and an abayaa like she normally did, but in that moment she looked regal and powerful. In my mind I thought, “Wow, I want to look just like that.” I started researching the hijab, and I learned more about why Muslims wear a hijab, what makes a hijab a hijab, and how to wrap scarves. I watched youtube videos, browsed online hijab shops (including Haute Hijab) and the more I saw the more I was impressed by how these hijabi women exuded class and elegance. I wanted so much be like these women, and couldn’t get the hijab out of my mind. I even started dreaming about it!

There were many things I liked about the hijab. I liked the thought of having so much control over my body and how the outside world saw it, but what I also liked was how well it fit with my feminist beliefs. As a feminist I believe that women and men should be equals in society, and that the norm of treating women like sex objects is a form of unequal and unfair treatment. Women in American society are looked down upon if they don’t dress in order to be attractive for others, but I believe that women shouldn’t have to conform to some ridiculous and unattainable standard of beauty. The hijab is a way to be free of that.

However, the way the hijab best complemented my feminist beliefs was how it was about so much more than women’s clothing. As I understood it, the hijab is about how men and women should interact while in public. Men also dress in a non-revealing way, and both men and women are supposed to treat each other with respect. I was happy to learn that both men and women were expected to be responsible for their own actions, and impressed at how egalitarian the ideals of the hijab are.

At this point, I was certain that I wanted to wear a hijab, but I had a problem. I was afraid that wearing a hijab as a non-muslim would be offensive, and I was too afraid to ask my friends. I found one youtube video on the subject, and though it said that it wouldn’t be offensive, I still wasn’t sure. But eventually, after weeks of thinking about the hijab, I finally asked one of my friends. She told me that she wouldn’t be offended, and then pointed out that Muslims aren’t the only ones who wear headscarves, many Jews and Christians do as well.

I started wearing it off and on for a few weeks after that, and once I felt comfortable I always wore it when I left home. Soon after, I left for an internship in Jordan. I was afraid that the Jordanians would not like that I was wearing a hijab, but quickly after I got off the plane I found otherwise! When I told people that I was an American non-Muslim, they were excited to see that I wore a hijab. People often told me that they thought it was a very good thing that I was wearing it, and some people were touched that I would show such respect to their culture. Best of all, I will never forget the sight of a fully grown man jumping with excitement because I was wearing a jilbab! These memories will always bring warmth to my heart, and they give me strength back in the states when I have to deal with angry glares or awkward questions about my hijab.

Sometimes I will still catch men looking at me in a disrespectful way, but I take joy in knowing that though they may try, they still cannot see what they want to. Because of the hijab, I understand that my body is my right, and I will be forever grateful to the Muslim women who taught that to me.

 

 

Why are Egyptian Liberals Celebrating a Massacre?


This is an excellent question and one that has a conspiratorial answer even covered by the two people in the video below.

 

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