Posts Tagged ‘islam’

Islamic Literature

I recently read “Minaret” by Leila Aboulela as part of a book club. While discussing the novel, we brought up the notion of a Muslim voice in American literature.

The book deals with Najwa, a girl forced to leave Sudan as her father is executed for corruption after the fall of the government. She settles in England and leaves behind her life of short skirts and infatuation with Western culture and embraces hijab and the stricter aspects of Islam.

The book had a clear message: Najwa had a fulfilled life because she devoted it to her religion. She’s very vocal about this throughout the story, and her views of others is shaded by whether or not they’re practicing Muslims.
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10 2011

“Contradictions Collapse”: Moral Dignity and Spending

“You only look smart.

You read about consumerism using Starbucks receipts as a bookmark.”[1]

In response to a question posed to me on a DePaul University radio show called Writing Our Story[2] faith I considered how my personal spending habits links me to worldwide suffering.

I believe there is often an inverse relationship between how much we spend and the amount of exploitation we are responsible for perpetuating. This is an important notion to consider in the context of the ideals that Muslims place on themselves.
Many active Muslims call for believers to detach from extravagant stuff and call for establishing Justice in their lives.

Within our frames of understanding, do these lead to a:

“Contradiction” from the Merriam Webster’s online dictionary: “a situation in which inherent factors, actions, or propositions are inconsistent or contrary to one another.”

Let me make this a little more straight-forward. Some measure their frugality by the amount of money they spend on items.

  1. Instead of purchasing high-quality food they purchase processed or genetically modified foods.
  2. Instead of buying long-wearing, sustainable clothing they purchase their clothing at large department stores.
  3. Instead of buying high-quality, sturdy furniture they purchase flimsy pieces.


One of my contentions is that this frugality might actually plunge us deeper into systems of exploitation.[3]

  1. When one chooses cheaply-made foods over organic, fair-trade options one is buying into items that may use slave-labour or crops harvested by under-paid, migrant workers. Mass-produced, factory-foods are also ecologically unsustainable (especially meat products). Multi-national corporations run the food-game and this leads to damaging effects to all who……eat……or starve.[4] This is all said without considering health-effects.
  2. My inverse-relationship theory is weak in the clothing department primarily because many expensive, “high-end” brands also use exploitation to produce their garments. But, generally speaking, affordable, cheap clothing and footwear is made in sweat-shops. In some cases, children and women are being overworked and underpaid…for those sweet kicks.
  3. The furniture sold in the US is often made of rather cheap material. This leads to a high turn-around rate. We no longer repair our items—furniture, appliances, electronics—we just toss them and upgrade! I wonder how long the earth will take that.


In general terms I want to say that we should begin thinking about a few things. Perhaps our framework of buying cheap to be zahid (detached) needs to change. When we get suckered into buying cheap items that are produced by over-worked fellow humans, fall apart in no-time and destroy the earth, are we really being true to Islamic teachings because only paid 20 bucks for the shoes in our closet?

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08 2011

Attention America: We are Americans Too

Pamela Geller vs Imam on CNN Sunday Morning June 6, 2010

Note: I refer to we or us, sometimes in the context of ‘Muslims’ and at other times in the context of ‘the West.’ I do so not because I see any diametric opposition (clash of civilizations) between the two but because I consider myself a part of both.

First, let me get something off my chest.


We (Muslims) don’t. Really, we don’t. We really don’t.

In fact we are you. Believe it or not, we (Muslim Americans) are Americans too. We eat and sleep like you. We have families like you and we have similar concerns like you. We worry about the state of the economy when it is down. We worry about job security, about education, and about the future of our children. We attend mosques just like other Americans attend churches, synagogues, and other places of worship. And I assure you, in those mosques we engage in worship and social activities, just come by anytime. Mosques, contrary to what disinformers of Islam claim are open and welcome to the public, even to the pesky FBI agents who come around incognito looking for a smoking gun.

And let me tell you something else. We think the world sucks post 9/11 too. We’re not happy and we hate the terrorists who carry out acts of violence as much as you do. Perhaps even more because Muslim Americans died in those attacks just like any other Americans and on top of that the extremists who commit such egregious acts have hijacked and dishonored our religion.

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10 2010

Islam and Consumerism II: A Muslim Affluenza?

A Muslim Affluenza?


In my last blog entry, I mentioned that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consumerism as:  “the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable; also: a preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods”[1]. I would like to add another definition to the mix: “affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”[2].

Affluenza is a play on the two words affluence and influenza. It symbolizes the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses”—matching (or exceeding) the same level of material wealth (affluence) and status as your neighbors, co-workers, friends, etc.—but frames it as an illness, a virus. It is the title of both a television documentary and a book that challenge our materialistically-inclined society. In fact, it can be said that we spend (sometimes until we are in massive debt) to feel a quick, fleeting happiness in purchasing a new item.

This condition crosses lines of status, race and religion. The religious perspective, however, is what I am interested in exploring further. More particularly, how does Islam view this conception of life?

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09 2010