Archive for November, 2010

Just a Thought

Sometimes a breath is all you need
To pray or meditate.
Ponder,
Or reflect.

What will you think about?
What to do?
Where to go?
Who to thank?

Would you take this moment to think further?
What is your goal?
What is the purpose of your life?
When you decide to do this or that –
Do you think about its effect?

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30

11 2010

The Trail of Tears

Map of United States Indian Removal, 1830-1835

by Sadegh Tavakoli and Hossein Sohrevardi

“The Trail of Tears,” the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their ancestral lands east of the Mississippi to the Indian Territories in present day Oklahoma, is remembered as one of the darkest chapters in American history. Although this incident is most closely associated with the Cherokee, it has also come to more general refer to a period of history of forced expulsion of Southeastern and Northeastern Native American tribes after the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. To better understand what lead up specifically, to the death of 4,000 Cherokee Indians in the winter of1838-9 one must look at the dynamics and historical interaction between European (and later white American) with the Native Americans.

The history of Native Americans during the “founding” and development of America is the oldest and darkest stain upon this country. The Europeans discovery of America and the subsequent colonization of this continent came at the expense of millions of natives in this land. From its very inception, the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492 and the enslavement of native islanders for presentation before Queen Isabella of Spain foreshadowed the centuries of violence and injustice to come. There are scattered incidents of peaceful, positive coexistence such as the famed “First Thanksgiving,” although some of the reports about that incident seem to be exaggerated. Unfortunately, injustice against Native Americans has been a recurring theme throughout American history, one that is being redressed even today as can be seen by a recent court settlement between the US government and three hundred thousand Native Americans.

Prior to the American Revolution, the British Proclamation of 1763 prevented colonial expansion east of the Appalachian Mountains and angered colonists. As the American colonies matured into the United States of America, the rewards of Democracy, the government of the people, by the people, for the people as Abraham Lincoln made public in his Gettysburg Address exactly 100 years after the Proclamation, ironically did not improve the conditions of those people who were most entitled to the land, the Native Americans. The early 1800s saw the rapid expansion of the US either through the direct purchase of lands or through treaties and forced removal. Read the rest of this entry →

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24

11 2010

Islam and Consumerism IV: Consumerism, the Qur’an, and Power

[src:http://conspiracygrimoire.com/]“Yes I know my enemies.
They’re the teachers who taught me to fight me.
Compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission
, ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite,
All of which are American Dreams…”

Power. Power is one of the primary pieces of the puzzle that Muslims tend to overlook in their discourse in the United States and in their conversation amongst their own communities. Typical narratives and public speeches involve subordinating community interests and Islamic principles for the sake of “integration”, “assimilation”, and other largely hollow phrases. On the other end, some of us speak revolutionary slogans in the masjid for a few weak fist-pumps and a takbir or two. We lack real, solid engagement.

Real engagement with issues involves first implementing real action. That is preceded by creating a foundational worldview. We live in a time where we have so bowed to the power structures that surround us that we can hardly think for ourselves; we can hardly create sentences or thoughts without relying upon buzzwords and empty, often worn out, slogans. “To lack power does not only mean losing the will to struggle and the desire to become alive, ‘but that you become a carbon copy and shade of another human being…’”[1] We have lost the power to think for ourselves, create our own way of life and grapple with contending worldviews.

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22

11 2010

Muslims as Artists

From muslimswearingthings.tumblr.com, a photo of two Pakistani policewomen.

It’s been pretty heartening seeing things like the Muslims Wearing Things blog (http://muslimswearingthings.tumblr.com/) and Reza Aslan’s newest book “Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East” pop up.

I’ve always thought that the best way for Muslims to make strides is through our artistic talent and showing the different faces that Muslims have.

The Muslim clothing blog popped up after NPR’s Juan Williams made his comments about “Muslim garb” as a way to prove that there is no such thing as a certain Muslim look.

Aslan describes his book as a collection of fiction and non-fiction poems and short stories written by authors in Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and other parts of the Middle East, both in the past and from the present.

“It’s like a new kind of history book … it’s written by the poets and writers,” he said recently on The Colbert Report. “The best way to reframe perceptions … is through the arts.”

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18

11 2010

Does your Life Matter?

Tomorrow if you were to pass away, would there be anyone to miss you?

I don’t mean just cry for you – of course your loved ones would be sad – I mean have you done anything in this life where there would be anyone to remember you?

Recently my friend’s grandmother passed away and my friend and I talked a bit about how her grandmother taught many people how to read Qur’an and pray. My friend was surprised at the number of people who showed up at the funeral talking about her grandmother and what a positive influence she was.

Naturally to my friend she was a grandmother and the loss is very great, but to all these other folks, her grandmother also meant something. She left the gift that keeps on giving – sadaqa jaariya, if you will.

This got me thinking about my life and if I were to die tomorrow – what would I be leaving behind?

Hazrat Ali says,

“Treat people in such a way and live amongst them in such a manner that if you die they weep over you and when you are alive, they crave for your company.”

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16

11 2010

ZEITOUN: The Story of an American Household

ZEITOUN: The Story of an American Household and their Ordeals through Hurricane Katrina

The heart aches and weeps from the senseless injustices.

The strain and insanity have rendered the heart unfeeling, unstable, trying to shutdown, trying eagerly to avoid pain.

The body will not allow it, after all life goes on. Stuck in between, the mind unable to comprehend the madness, the paradox of this conflict is warped, broken, seeking eagerly to forget.

But it does not work quite that way. It is not that easy.

“Zoning out” is increasingly common. Confusion, dizziness, difficulty in memory retention and recall, the inability to focus and the crippling mind freezes to take hold. At times tasks, even simple and menial, become laboring or altogether impossible.The world as was once known has been shattered as has the trust in it. Confidence is lost in self and in all.

- A description of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder inspired by Dave Eggers book, Zeitoun.

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13

11 2010

Guantanamo Bay: The Forgotten Promise

[src: cbc.ca]The Guantanamo Bay prison camp, known as “Gitmo”, serves as a military prison and interrogation center for the United States, and it is located in Cuba. The detention areas currently consist of Camp Delta and Camp Iguana. As of January 2002, there has been an influx of “war on terror” detainees who have been transferred and re-located there. Currently, there are over a hundred prisoners from over 34 different countries. Despite international outcry and extensive criticism, the detainees continue to be held, based on “suspected” ties to Al-Qaeda. To put things simply, a country that boasts about its civil liberties and freedoms currently holds “suspected terrorists”, without any type of solid conviction or indictment, as the world watches helplessly. To further affirm the innocence of at least a few of the inmates, there have been many cases where detainees have been released years later. Furthermore, they have received no compensation. This includes three British Muslim prisoners, now known as the “Tipton Three”, and Mehdi Ghezali. All of the statements and complaints from these former detainees indicate serious accounts of torture, abuse, and harassment.

Furthermore, a US-based human rights organization, Amnesty International, has called the entire situation a “human rights scandal.” In fact, an article revealed that the U.S. military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 had based an entire interrogation class on a chart copied directly from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist torture techniques. These torture techniques had been used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, which many of them (confessions) later proved to be false.

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10

11 2010

The Eroding Seesaw

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Another election has passed and once again dissatisfied Americans voted the ineffective incumbents out, and those advocating for change in. It only took two years for the Democratic Party to lose the unprecedented political capital it inherited on the heels of the Bush presidency. When one “inherits” something, they did not earn it. The Republicans in 2010 followed the same blueprint to victory as the Democrats in 2008, namely, they were not the incumbents. When the Republicans bail-out corporate America and escalate wars, we vote the Democrat. Then the Democrats bail-out corporate America and escalate wars, we vote Republican. And the elaborate game of seesaw continues without interrupting the corporate elite and war profiteers.

Americans are dissatisfied with our nation’s political status quo. According to a Reuters Poll taken in October of 2010, 62% of Americans feel that generally speaking, the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Recent elections echo this sentiment. Those Americans who continue to vote, voice their dissatisfaction by voting Obama, Tea Party, or Ron Paul, all with the naive hope of tossing out the Washington elite and “voting ourselves back to democracy.” (C. Hedges) On the other end of the spectrum, a majority of Americans do not even vote in midterm elections, and voter turnout for presidential elections is significantly lower than in most “democratic” societies. The non-voting populace is portrayed by the Political Establishment, the Media and by “Establishment Cats” as being either; ignorant, complacent, unrealistic or unproductive.

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07

11 2010

Ramadan-Hitchens Debate

[src: http://www.jccyofrockland.org/]I am an American by nationality, a Pakistani by memory, and a citizen of the world by conviction. Islam is my faith and like millions of other Muslims in America and Europe–I am shaping the future of Islam in the “west.”  I recently had the opportunity to attend a debate between Tariq Ramadan and Christopher Hitchens titled Is Islam a Religion of Peace? However, I thought the question to be irrelevant—what is clear is that Muslims have “arrived” in the west, and that they are taking claim, molding and shaping a uniquely western identity. America is a nation built by immigrants (E Pluribus Unum) and the Muslim population is contributing to the debate of America’s future. Europe is aging (average-40) and the need to remain economically viable in the era of globalization requires an influx of immigrants, and this has bought Europe’s insecurities about its identity to the forefront. The question should not be whether or not Islam is a religion of peace, but instead, why are secular liberal democracies so concerned about the faith of their new citizens?

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04

11 2010

The Yasser al-Habib Controversy

The Yasser al-Habib Controversy: A Framework for Sunni-Shi’i Relations

According to the stereotypical narrative, the Ahl al-Sunnah and the Shi’a have been at each other’s throats since the development of the two intellectual and doctrinal trajectories in Islam. This stereotype has recently flared up yet again in a very public fashion.

“Shaykh” Yasser Habib, a Kuwaiti Shi’i, is recognized by some as a scholar of Islam. He recently made a handful of derogatory comments about A’isha, the mother of the believers and one of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (p), that have been taken as slander and seriously offensive to much of the Muslim world. In fact, his comments have led to the revocation of his citizenship and nationality by the Kuwaiti government. It is feared by many Shi’a communities that these comments will spark a renewed wave of misinformation and further alienation of their communities from the majority Ahl al-Sunnah communities.

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01

11 2010