Archive for April, 2011

A Qur’anic Creation

The modern age in Europe ushered in a battle between two concepts, a battle that continues to this day: science vs. religion. These two frameworks for understanding the world have been even more at odds in recent decades in the United States. Famous individuals like Bill Maher attack religion on cable-network television and in large-production films. School districts are virulently attacked for considering teaching children the concept of intelligent design instead of the theory of evolution. Religious individuals pull their children out of schools that teach Darwin’s “Godless” theory. This is all at the popular level; at a scholarly level there has been a flurry of books published taking one position or another, including: Dawkin’s The God Delusion and McGrath’s Dawkin’s GOD: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life.

From the Islamic realm there have been a number of attempts to grapple with science, empiricism and scientism. The core issues are intellectual framing and worldview. What I mean by this is that Islam places emphasis, even centralizes, the role of God in the world and in an individual believer’s life while modern science and Modernity in general have raised the human being to a level almost, if not completely, on par with the Divine. God is something that is no longer important once humankind is at God’s level. Livingston illustrates this nicely in his article on the Muslim reformer Shaykh Tahtawi: “Galileo…had divorced God’s caring hand from the operations of the universe…Newton had gone a step further…reducing the universe to a self-operating system…Laplace would take the mechanistic logic to its end, declaring himself to have no need of that hypothesis when Napoleon asked him where God fit into his cosmology.”[1] On the contrary, Islam centralizes and elevates God and this is true historically of Muslim thinkers. “The great Muslim thinkers were masters of many disciplines, but they looked upon them as branches of the single tree of tawhid…Everything was governed by the same principles, because everything fell under God’s all-encompassing reality.”[2] This is the major gap between science and religion in the Islamic quarter. Contemporary thinkers such as Sayyed Hossein Nasr have attempted to turn back to traditional sciences and have made it a project to challenge the philosophical underpinnings of modern science.[3] This binary is often called the sacred versus the secular and is often couched in pitting spiritual matters against empirical matters. These two realms are totally incompatible in the modern scientist’s perspective; God simply cannot be directly experienced empirically. The world’s most famous atheist propagator, Richard Dawkins, writes that “the theist’s answer is deeply unsatisfying, because it leaves the existence of God unexplained.”[4]

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30

04 2011

Failure

O’ My Lord ,
If I fail to become wealthy enough to afford a glamorous car
If I fail and never get into graduate school
If my name never shows up on a google search
If I never own a coach purse or gucci watch
If I never get to travel abroad and brag about the number of countries I’ve visited
If I never make a post on facebook that hundreds of people “like”
If I never get skinny enough to fit in a size 0
If I never get to satisfy all the different desires of my nafs
If I never get a wikipedia page dedicated to me
If I never get married to the perfect person
If I never reach any dunya related goal I have that satisfies the “I” … that’s fine

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24

04 2011

The Company Men (2010) – A Review

The Company Men is the story of how the human spirit, bent and twisted by corporate greed and consumerism, requires a shaking up in order to rediscover and reinvent itself. This movie cleverly paints how the endless desire for money, cars, and ‘stuff’ is never enough for three successful corporate execs.That is until their worlds are interrupted with reality — layoff.

For Bobby Walker, played by Ben Affleck, the stark reality of being unemployed results in disillusion, defiance, and finally a recalibration of values as he sells everything”:his country club membership, his Porsche, and even his home. It is only when he goes to work for his brother-in law, Jack Dolan (played by Kevin Costner) and begins spending time with his family that he regains his spirit and true sense of humanity. Bobby tells Jack,  “At my old job I was scared all the time; quarterly cost reports, young guys coming up, losing an account, who is getting ahead of me…”

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13

04 2011

The Price of Dignity in Libya

As the Anglo-American French coalition sustains its “humanitarian” military assault on Libya with a fiery downpour of missiles and CIA operatives alongside British special forces, and MI6 intelligence officers continue to work in Libya, “as part of a shadow force of Westerners” the mainstream body of activists residing in the United States of America have raised the Libyan flag in solidarity with calls for air strikes against Libya.

They (who is they?) continued to gleefully cheer even as missiles landed, greeting Libyan soil with 2,000-pound bombs dropped from American B-2s and therein possibly tainting the earth with depleted uranium. Emotive contentions used pre-Iraq invasion are now being recycled unashamedly in support of military intervention in Libya; the arguments, some stirring and others bitterly sensational, have overwhelmed conventional media outlets and social networks. Those bold enough to publicly admonish the so-called “humanitarian intervention” have been shamelessly branded Gaddafi apologists and supporters of genocide. Mouse-click couch warriors have more or less attempted to wipe out even the slightest cross-examination of the military tactics being used in Libya. This despite the lack of an endgame being provided by the Western Coalition engaging in warfare, and irregardless of the White House candidly having expressed ignorance in respect to the Libyan rebels and who they are.

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05

04 2011

Is Libya any different from Iraq and Afghanistan?

It’s a question that’s come up ever since President Obama decided to take military action in the current conflict in Libya.

I personally think so. Is it just because I’m an Obama supporter? Part of me suspects that may be it. “War” from the mouths of Democrats may just be more palatable. I was one of those people in the ‘90s who was happy when Bill Clinton took action in the Balkans and Somalia. I may not have been as supportive if it was George W. Bush making those same calls.

However, I do think that Libya is a different situation. I don’t see it as just a “third war” that America is now involved in.

Iraq and Afghanistan were a different process. It was a reaction to a direct conflict with America. The concepts are somewhat similar: We’re going into a Muslim-majority country to help exert Democratic rule. But, Libya is more organic. This dissidence is coming from its own people. They’re the ones who want to overthrow their ruler. This manifesto isn’t coming at them from an outside source.

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05

04 2011

Maternity Leave: The U.S. “Exceptionalism”

Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org/node/96432) recently published a 90-page report called: “Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave and Work-Family Supports in the US.”  The report outlines the almost unbearable difficulty new parents, particularly new mothers, face at work and at home under a system that provides almost no support for them.  Scarce or no parental leave contributes to postpartum depression, general health problems for mother and baby, and shortened duration of breastfeeding.  Furthermore, because for most mothers, maternity leave is unpaid, this problem leaves families under financial stress and lays an unfair burden on a new mother whose main focus should solely be taking care of herself and her new baby.

The United States is the only country in the world that does not offer a federally paid parental leave.  The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) actually only protects mothers for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and this is only if she has been employed for 12 months prior.  In contrast, central European countries are the most dedicated countries in the world with regard to maternal leave.  For example, in the Czech Republic, mothers are supported for up to 3-4 years by the state for each child.  Austria also has similar support, where mothers can choose between 1 and 3 years of paid leave.  Sweden’s model is unique, with shared leave of up to 16 months between mother and father.  The cost is shared between the employer and the state.  New parents can split the leave in any way they feel fits with their family needs, but the “minority” parent (usually the father) is required a minimum of 2 months out of the 16 months offered.  The list of countries with vastly superior maternity leave compared to the United States is long, and, unfortunately, our system is failing us.  Not only does it strain the new maternal-infant bond, but it adds costs to our healthcare system and contributes to loss of productivity in the workplace.  As Janet Walsh, deputy women’s rights director for Human Rights Watch stated: We can’t afford not to guarantee paid family leave under law- especially in these tough economic times.  The US is actually missing out by failing to ensure that all workers have access to paid family leave.  Countries that have these programs show productivity gains, reduced turnover costs, and health care savings.

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02

04 2011