Separation of Mosque and State

An old essay at eteraz's reminded me of a musing I had about the separation of Church/Mosque and state.

Separation of church and state is of course idea for a secular technocratic republic, such as we have seen the West evolve towards. However in a poostcolonial Islamic country, separation of mosque and state might be a disaster.

Turkey is an example of how poisonous the appeal of secularism has been. And the pan-Arab movement showed us how quickly ostensibly-Separated governments quickly lead to strongmen.

The end goal is a constitutionally-governed liberal state. The Constitution is the key. Why not let that document be drawn from Islam? As long as it is made flexible enough, it will suffice. When was the last time America executed someone for Treason? Or Habeus Corpus was formally rescinded?


Christians insist they worship same god as Muslims

Presented for your perusal without further comment.

A church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims.

In the Malay language "Allah" is used to mean any god, and Christians say they have used the term for centuries.

Opponents of the ban say it is unconstitutional and unreasonable.
There has been no official government comment but parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the decision to ban the word for non-Muslims on security grounds was "unlawful".

"The term 'Allah' was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed," he said.

Well, one comment: obviously, the ban is wrong and any muslim supporting it is an idiot.

via pixelisation.

UPDATE: Malaysia reversed the ban. Seems we are all the same mono in monotheist after all. All praise due to Ali Eteraz, even though I beat him to blogging about it :)


Benazir Bhutto killed

Benazir Bhutto is dead.

Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a presumed suicide attack, a spokesman for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) says.

Other reports said Ms Bhutto had only been injured and taken to hospital.

Ms Bhutto had just addressed a rally of PPP supporters in the town of Rawalpindi when the rally was hit by a blast.

At least 15 other people are reported killed in the attack.

Ms Bhutto has twice been the country's prime minister and was campaigning ahead of elections due in January.

Namaz Sharif might do well to consider leaving Pakistan for his safety.

UPDATE: Al-Qaeda claims credit:

Karachi, 27 Dec. (AKI) - (by Syed Saleem Shahzad) - A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the death on Thursday of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen,” Al-Qaeda’s commander and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location, speaking in faltering English. Al-Yazid is the main al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.

It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.

Why am I not surprised that the leader of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is named Yazid?


Suspicious things I've done in public

I am pretty sure I have taken notes on a pad, taken photos, and consulted maps while out in public. This means that when we go to Chicago this weekend to visit my parents, I'm "suspicious" according to the Chicago police:

In general, I'm a suspicious looking dude. First, airplanes, and now on the streets!

(via Sepia Mutiny and Boing Boing)


touching the untouchables

Artist Santiago Sierra has a new exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London, that is literally a pile of sh&t. But it's also a serious work:


The work is made of 21 modules of human faeces, each measuring 215 x 75 x 20cm. […] Workers of the sanitary movement Sulabh International of India are mostly scavengers who, by birth, have to undertake the physically and psychologically painful task of collecting human faecal matter, being charged with the blames of a previous life of bad deeds.

Yup, it's 21 monolithic blocks of sh&t. But the art forces the viewer to wonder how such an enormous pile of shi% could be assembled, and the physical reality of it in front of the eyes attunes their mind to the plight and working conditions of these laborers at the bottom of the bottom of India’s society, a depth which we simply cannot fathom from our everyday experience alone.

Like the Indian laborers in Dubai toiling on modern-day pyramids, the workers of Sulabh International are an exploited class whose working conditions are far worse than they need to be. Unlike the Dubai workers, they have much less recourse to assert themselves or bring attention to their plight, except perhaps via art such as this.


haraam isn't just spiritual harm

posted as a public service announcement, without further comment -

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that at least 70 percent of the antibiotics used in America are fed to animals living on factory farms. Raising vast numbers of pigs or chickens or cattle in close and filthy confinement simply would not be possible without the routine feeding of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying of infectious diseases. That the antibiotics speed up the animals’ growth also commends their use to industrial agriculture, but the crucial fact is that without these pharmaceuticals, meat production practiced on the scale and with the intensity we practice it could not be sustained for months, let alone decades.

Public-health experts have been warning us for years that this situation is a public-health disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later, the profligate use of these antibiotics — in many cases the very same ones we depend on when we’re sick — would lead to the evolution of bacteria that could shake them off like a spring shower. It appears that “sooner or later” may be now. Recent studies in Europe and Canada found that confinement pig operations have become reservoirs of MRSA. A European study found that 60 percent of pig farms that routinely used antibiotics had MRSA-positive pigs (compared with 5 percent of farms that did not feed pigs antibiotics). This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study showing that a strain of “MRSA from an animal reservoir has recently entered the human population and is now responsible for [more than] 20 percent of all MRSA in the Netherlands.” Is this strictly a European problem? Evidently not. According to a study in Veterinary Microbiology, MRSA was found on 45 percent of the 20 pig farms sampled in Ontario, and in 20 percent of the pig farmers. (People can harbor the bacteria without being infected by it.) Thanks to Nafta, pigs move freely between Canada and the United States. So MRSA may be present on American pig farms; we just haven’t looked yet.


The Brass Crescent Awards winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 4th Annual Brass Crescent Awards:

Do stop by the official site and check out the Honorable Mentions in each category, as well as the other nominees. Thank you all for participating and for making this the best BCA year yet.


CAIR membership

The Washington Times is being widely linked for a story about how CAIR's membership has "spiraled down from more than 29,000 in 2000 to fewer than 1,700 in 2006." based on tax documents obtained by the WT.

Ostensibly this is because CAIR does not suitably critique or condemn terror attack. Assuming its true, that seems to be a quantitative measure of the moderation of the American muslim community. However I find that explanation rather unserious, since CAIR has been at the forefront of every public condemnation of terror that American muslims have made.A casual google search or review of CAIR's website makes this obvious. The one thing muslims can count on is that no amount of condemnation of terror is ever enough to satisfy those who insist that muslims have such a duty to do so; in fact muslims do not have any such duty whatsoever.

If there is a decrease in membership, it is probably more due to the routine bad press that CAIR gets and the foolishness of some of the national figures at the national organization leadership. However, on a per-chapter basis, CAIR is a solid organization with good people who do good works. If you ignore the bloviating of the ego-driven leadership at the top, who of course are totally isolated from the daily activities of the independent regional chapters, you will see a very different picture of CAIR emerge.

Of course, such a picture does not mesh well with the inclination of some to distrust any gathering of muslims for any purpose. The subtext is that CAIR is a vehicle for domestic terror and treason, and every piece of (bountiful) evidence otherwise is dismissed as taqqiya. The foundation for that is, of course, the sentiment (dominant on teh right, but not wholly absent from the left either) that muslims cannot be trusted, their numbers should be limited, and their freedom of expression of faith curtailed and monitored.


Pharoah over ourselves

The indentured servant immigrants from India and Pakistan who comprise the majority of the laborers in Dubai are now being hit hard again, because their wages are pegged to the (declining) US dollar:

In the four years that it has taken laborers to climb more than 150 floors over Dubai's congested freeways and skyline, the U.S. dollar has fallen with equal steadiness. Its decline has helped trigger unprecedented wage strikes and a rock-throwing protest this fall by the foreign construction workers, who are paid in local currencies pegged to the dollar.
To build and tend their kingdom, the Emirates' 800,000 citizens imported millions of foreign workers, including 700,000 construction workers. Nearly one in five people in the kingdom is a construction worker; most are from India.

As recently as last month, some construction workers on the Burj Dubai and other projects made the equivalent of as little as $109 a month. Back home in India, where the dollar has fallen 14 percent against the rupee in the past 18 months, remittances that workers here sent to their families steadily lost value.

It should be noted that the living conditions for these workers are a century behind, reminiscent of 1900s-era American labor, which is ironic given that they are working on 21st-century projects like Burj Dubai:

"I work here, and I can't save anything. I'll ruin my family," said Ram Chandra, 33, a mason from the north Indian state of Rajasthan.

Chandra spoke in Sonapur, outside Dubai. Though its name means "City of Gold" in Hindi, Sonapur is a bleak, sand-blown labor camp housing 50,000 construction workers. Men sleep 10 to 12 to a room in tightly packed rows of concrete barracks. Chandra sat with four other workers perched on cots or squatting on the concrete floor. They wore sleeveless T-shirts and shorts or faded towels worn like the wraparound dhoti skirts commonly found in India.

Other barracks had laundry strung from bare beams. A sewage tanker made its evening rounds of the camp's septic tanks, filling the air with a gurgle and reek.

What bothers me most about this is that Dubai's wealth is built on a service industry that caters directly to the Asian middle class. Wander the ultramalls of Dubai (including the airport) and you find mostly Asians - especially Indians - shopping till they drop.

The workers themselves can exert pressure by striking, since any work slowdown impacts Dubai's image, and an article in the Washington Post is assuredly far more negative press than Dubai's elite would like to see. But a boycott of Dubai shopping districts by Asians would have a complementary, and force-multiplying, effect.

Can we restrain ourselves? For our own sake?


the Islamphere grows up

This is the 4th year for the Brass Crescent Awards, and it seems that the Awards have achieved a kind of critical mass. We received over 300 unique blog nominations during the nomination phase! Not only that, but in two days of voting, there have been more votes cast than in the entire two week voting period last year. These statistics suggest that this is the year that the BCA really arrived as a phenomenon worth taking note of.

However, there's a more subtle form of recognition that I think also speaks volumes about the growth of the Awards, and that is the attention the Awards are drawing from muslims online. For one thing, this year even larger blogs such as 'Aqoul have taken notice of their nominations and are urging readers to vote. Other bloggers like Dal Nun Strong are smartly leveraging their nominations to welcome new readers and invite them to peruse a selection of their best work. And don't miss Naeem's hilarious post on how he should have been nominated for all categories. These are all great examples of publicity for the Awards and perfectly reasonable, positive strategies for nominee blogs to pursue.

Of course, there's the other kind of publicity as well. Ijtemaa.net has a fairly harsh post and even harsher comment thread about the perceived idoelogical bias of the BCA. Abul Layth at Seeking 'Ilm is even more explicitly hostile in his disdain for the Awards, though that doesn't stop him from urging readers to vote for certain nominees "so that a Sunni blog will win." Both Ijtemaa and Abul Layth succumb to the takfiri impulse in their disdain for some of the BCA nominees, particularly Ali Eteraz who ably and masterfully defends himself with far more grace than his detractors muster.

And what would a muslim social event be without an accusation or two of Shi'a conspiracy? :) I don't believe for a minute that Deenport or Ijtemaa.net sanction such nonsense, but roaches do crawl out of the woodwork of even the nicest houses from time to time.

All in all, the BCA are attracting a lot of heat and light. And that's good, because just like the Carnival of Brass, the main purpose of the Awards is to create more awareness of the diversity and talent within the Islamsphere. If the sole achievement of the Awards is to get muslim bloggers talking about muslim blogs they disagree with, then it's already a success, because sectarian or ideological silos are harmful to the online Islamic community as a whole.


teddy bear fiqh

the saga of the teddy bear from hell continues. The decision to arrest Mrs. Gibbons is not without controversy within Sudan:

Sudan's top clerics have called for the full measure of the law to be used against Mrs Gibbons and labelled her actions part of a Western plot against Islam.

A Muslim youth organisation, the Ramadhan Foundation, called for Mrs Gibbons' immediate release.

Spokesman Mohammed Shafiq said: "This matter is not worthy of arrest or detention and her continued detention will not help repair the misconceptions about Islam."

However, since the hardliners are in control, the outcome was predictable: she's been charged with "insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs". The British government is not the only one outraged on Mrs. Gibbons behalf:

The Muslim Council of Britain reacted angrily to the news, saying it was "appalled" and demanded Mrs Gibbons' immediate release.

"This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith," said Secretary-General Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, in a strongly-worded statement.

"We call upon the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, to intervene in this case without delay to ensure that Ms Gibbons is freed from this quite shameful ordeal," said Dr Bari.

The Sudanese ulema's rationale for throwing the book at Mrs. Gibbons reeks of paranoia and insecurity:

Earlier, the Sudanese Embassy in London said the situation was a "storm in a teacup" and signalled that the teacher could be released soon, attributing the incident to a cultural misunderstanding.

But Sudan's top clerics have called for the full measure of the law to be used against Mrs Gibbons and labelled her actions part of a Western plot against Islam.

"What has happened was not haphazard or carried out of ignorance, but rather a calculated action and another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam," the Sudanese Assembly of the Ulemas said in a statement.

This jibes well with Meph's analysis at 'Aqoul, who describes the Sudanese government thus:

the existing government in Sudan has always been prickly, obstreperous and wont to childish displays of inferiority complexes. This is partly rooted in deep insecurity and partly a hangover of the cynical anti-Western propaganda campaign the National Liberation Front employed for years in order to divert attention from its own lack of a political agenda and rally support for the war in the South. They need to be SEEN to be doing something as opposed to actually feeling strongly about the case. The overreaction stems from the government’s lack of touch with the national zeitgeist (the streets of Sudan have hardly been awash with protestors, and those that have showed up have strong affiliations with the government) as well as the miscalculation of how their display of standing up the big guy will be perceived in the West. Instead of coming across all Iran like, principled and not bowing down to the hegemony of the West (which is how the Sudanese government likes to perceive itself) the real perception is of a joke of a regime that really has no perspective.

Meph has actually lived in Sudan and observes that it's unlikely that the teacher's sentence of lashes will be carried out if convicted, as well as providing some context to the fracas:

there has always existed an uneasy truce between the highly Westernised elite that chose to send their children to the school and local government authorities who resented the very existence of such an elite and their access to the admittedly exceptional education the school offered. Were it not for the ironic fact that high ranking government officials mostly sent their children to the school, the co-existence would have been much more challenging.

There were several instances where expat teachers were be vaporised due to public displays of drunkenness. Parents who lapsed in their fee payments sometimes resorted to the local authorities to plead their case against the exorbitant unregulated fee structure and sometimes, managed to keep their children at the school by bullying the school administration which comprised mainly of British expats eager not to incur the wrath of the temperamental government. This background is important when judging the actions of the government as totally randomly barbaric.

The behavior of the Sudanese authorities may at best be characterized as pointedly barbaric, rather than randomly. Clearly, the very existence of the school itself - providing superior education and heavily used by government officials themselves - is the thorn in the side of the ulema, and Mrs. Gibons is simply a proxy for their ire.


I don't believe in god

not the God who is a hypothesis, or the god who is a gene, or the God who is a hole, or any of the other Gods that those who freely choose disbelief continually insist is equivalent to the God in which I have, simply, faith.

I don't want to prove God. I don't need to prove God. However, many anti-theists (a distinct subset of atheists as a whole) seem to want to, and need to, disprove God. But all of these boil down to utilitarian descriptions of God - a functional God, one whose existence is defined by human semantic constructs such as Occam's Razor, or limited by human concepts of logic and reason (proof of negatives, the immovable stone, etc), or by linear time and space (creation and causation), or even by morality (why won't god heal amputees?). I agree; none of those gods exist, and I don't believe in any of them.

There is no god. Save Allah!


teddy bears are haram

The entire concept of "an insult to Islam" is itself the closest thing to an insult that can exist, if an eternal divine revelation can be insulted (which in my view, it can not). Case in point:

The Sudanese police arrested a British schoolteacher and accused her of insulting Islam after she allowed her 7-year-old pupils to name a class teddy bear Muhammad, Sudanese officials said today.
According to BBC, Ms. Gibbons, 54, asked a seven-year-old girl to bring in a teddy bear and for her classmates to pick a name for it.

“They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammed,” Mr. Boulos said.

When it came time to vote, 20 out of 23 children choose Muhammad, one of the most common names in the Muslim word.

The article notes that if convicted of this "crime", Mrs. Gibbons faces punishment including lashes. The article also gets to the nub of the matter, somewhat unintentionally:

In Islam, insulting the Prophet Muhammad is considered a grave offense, and the law of northern Sudan, where Khartoum is located, makes this a crime.

Where is it written that "insulting the Prophet" is a "grave offense" ? Is it in the Qur'an? Hadith? Upon what jurisprudence is the law of Sudan based? Far from this law being based in Islam, it's actually invented without a single source of Islamic law to justify as source. The law of Sudan is, in effect, bida'a.

That is all beside the point, however. No rational person can consider naming a teddy bear "Mohammed" to be an insult. Especially given that Mohammed is the single most common name in the muslim world.


hate crimes in the US

John Burgess links to the 2006 hate crimes report by the FBI and argues that muslims are not the most-persecuted group in the US.

Contrary to what many of the world’s Muslims believe—and contrary to the picture that groups like CAIR seek to portray—Muslims are not the target of most hate crimes in America.

The FBI has issued its statistics for 2006 on hate crime in America. Crimes directed against Muslims, simply because they are Muslims, amounted to 156 incidents; those against Jews, 967; against homosexuals and bisexuals, 1,195.

Well, great!

Note, however, that he does ascribe to CAIR the belief that muslims are the most victimized by hate crimes. I take serious issue with him on that claim. I don't think I have ever seen a single CAIR publication assert that muslims are the "principal" target of hate crimes in the US. Can anyone point to a source from CAIR that says otherwise?

That said, muslims ARE a persecuted group, as the FBI statistics clearly demonstrate, and the only reason that the FBI even has any record of that persecution is because of work by groups such as CAIR to document it. Assuming that there is no under-reporting of cases against muslims, and using the US census data from 2001, we see that Jewish Americans outnumber Muslim Americans by 6 to 1. Thats about the same ballpark as the hate incident ratio as reported by the FBI.

I think any reasonable discussion of hate crimes in the US needs to take these issues into account. Rather than use the hate crimes statistics to bash CAIR, whose regional chapters are independent organizations that do good work, it would be nice to see someone use those statistics to rebut those who argue that there is no such thing as Islamophobia in the West.

mob justice, sadly thwarted

This man, Afazuddin Ali, is a coward, a blasphemer, and a pervert:

Afazuddin Ali, 36, has five children - three of them daughters.

A few months ago Ali married his eldest daughter, telling his wife Sakina that Allah had ordained him to do so.
"He is a deeply religious man and will never lie in the name of Allah," Sakina told a court in the northern district of Jalpaiguri.

"I agreed to his marriage with our eldest daughter when he invoked divine sanction," she said.

Let's also add that his wife is an ignorant buffoon. His neighbors, also muslim (as it should have been noted in the article), were not impressed by this "deeply religious" man's sudden communion with the divine:

"We didn't know she was married so when we confronted his wife, she told us about the bizarre marriage six months ago," Sheikh Ramzan, a village leader at Kasiajhiora, said.

"We wanted to smash his head, we were so angry."
Ali and his wife have not returned home because they fear a fresh attack from angry villagers.

If Allah wills the man to marry his daughter, surely Allah would provide protection from the mob? Oh ye of little faith!


CAIRO by G. Willow Wilson

Willow is a good friend of mine; I guess I was predisposed to enjoy anything she would have written. Still, her new graphic novel CAIRO (inked by M.K. Perker) was a great read on its own merits. The story is unabashedly ours, ie it's rooted with pride in Arab and Islamic mythology, and also pays homage to the pre-Islamic Egyptian mythos as well. The Qur'an and the faith of Islam are not the subject of controversy or debate or analysis; they simply exist and are as factual as the sky, which is how it is in practice. The lack of needless navel-gazing, and letting the story exist in that context without any need to explain it, was so refreshing that it sets a kind of bar in my mind for any other fiction set in similar settings. There are no clumsy apologetics, or appeasements, or anything intended to set someone's mind at ease. The world is presented to you; take it or leave it. Assuming you take it, you are treated to a fun story that is part Aladdin and part Indiana Jones.

The story has an ensemble cast, and truth be told none of them seemed out of place. However, I suppose I am naive. Willow writes at her own blog that the inclusion of an Israeli character was a difficult one, and explains why she went ahead anyway despite the very real risk of alienating the Arab audience:

I want so much for tenderness to be universally understood, and it isn’t. I want not to have to separate the people I love to keep them from hurting each other. At the very least, I want the space to pretend, in fiction, that this is possible. But I may not even have that.

My husband wanted to know why I needed an Israeli character. Without her, the book is a shrine--a sometimes paradoxically irreverent shrine--to Islamic, Arab and Egyptian mythology, fit for all but the most hardline bookshelves. As one reviewer observed, the only unequivocal image in the entire book, the only symbol that is not polluted by shades of grey, is the Qur’an. Without the Jew, the book is kosher. I told him I didn’t need an Israeli character. But I did need the Israeli who was one of my most steadfast friends through my conversion; and the Israeli who held my hand while I was getting a large, pretty but idiotic Arabic tattoo in the days leading up to it, who joked that speaking Arabic would help me learn Hebrew; and the Israeli refusenik who was one of the first people to read a draft of the book, who was robbed of his Nobel peace prize by the tree woman from Africa. I needed those Israelis, and Tova was--is--for them.

As a privileged son of Western liberalism, I simply accepted the character without a second thought (my main beef with the story was the "mission" of the main character, prior to getting caught up in the events). In reality, including Tova was an act of courage. This book builds bridges, and does so within a firmly muslim context. That is exciting and fresh, and for that alone, deserves a place on your shelf.



Afghanistan's own 9-11.

59 Schoolchildren Killed in Afghan Blast

By FISNIK ABRASHI – 21 hours ago

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Dozens of schoolchildren and five teachers were among those killed in a suicide attack in northern Afghanistan earlier this week — the country's deadliest since the fall of the Taliban — the government said Friday.

The 59 schoolchildren had lined up to greet a group of lawmakers visiting a sugar factory in the northern province of Baghlan on Tuesday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives.

"The education minister has ordered that no children should be ever again be used in these sort of events," said Zahoor Afghan, an Education Ministry spokesman. He said the children ranged in age from 8 to 18.

In all, the explosion claimed the lives at least 75 people, including several parliamentarians, and wounded 96. It was the deadliest attack in the country since the toppling of Taliban regime from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

not to contradict Tariq bhai, but these aren't even people. They are Reavers, and they will burn in hellfire.

More importantly, it behooves us all to remember who kills the most innocent muslim blood in this world. Not secret Jewish cabals, or neocon conspiracies, or colonial designs; none of these bogeymen of the modern ummah are to blame.

The Reavers. The Reavers alone are the enemy of the Ummah.

And the dominant organizing principle of a western muslim political movement must not be focused on nonsensically unrelated issues like Israel-Palestine or Iraq withdrawal or Iranian nuclear capabilities. Nor should it chase after "reform" or "moderation" or "dialog". No; the dominant principle of a Western muslim polity should be to promote foreign policy that destroys them.

Until then, the Ummah will live in fear from within.


an Astrodome proposal

After 9 years, I moved from Houston to central Wisconsin this past July, but there will always be a part of Texas - and Houston - in my blood from now on. So I stay abreast of local news and politics from Houston as best I can, mostly via Charles Kuffner. His ongoing coverage of the travails of the Astrodome redevelopment project has been fascinating, and dispiriting as well. The recent news that the Texans and the Rodeo are pretty much opposed to any hotel concept on the Dome site really bodes ill; as Charles puts it, any new plan needs to be "1) commercially feasible, 2) politically viable, and 3) not in conflict with the bidness of the Texans and the Rodeo." Otherwise, it seems that the demolition of the Dome is inevitable.

A crazy thought occurred to me. The old Compaq Center in downtown Houston was sold to Lakewood Church (of Joel Osteen fame) and is now fully renovated as a megachurch. Why not attempt something similar with the Astrodome, by making it into a mosque?

Houston has several public personalities who are also muslim who could rally the community and marshal outside support and resources to such a task. Notably, city councilman M.J. Khan, Mustafa Tameez, and retired basketball legend Hakeem Olajuwon. More to the point, Houston has an estimated muslim population of 250,000, and native Texan-style Islam is vibrant and growing - especially among the Latin community. A megamosque would become a focal point of Islam in Texas and serve as a valuable icon of outreach to the rest of the spiritual community. In addition to serving as home to the annual Eid al Fitr feast, the megamosque could also compete to bring the ISNA and other important annual conferences to Houston. While the megamosque would need to be an independent entity, it could certainly have relationships with existing muslim organizations like the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the Katy Islamic Organization, etc. The potential for charity and disaster relief work and coordination is also immense.

This could all just be a pipe dream with no pragmatic reality. Still, it fires the imagination.


falafel: the fifth column snack

I'm amazed.

Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.

How stupid! everyone knows that the real food of terror is nihari.

The article raises the bogeyman spector of a secret Iranian terror infrastructure here in the US:

According to Israeli-born Youssef Bodansky, director of the conservative-backed Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Iran already had a terrorist network in place here in the early 1980s.

It “included safe houses in major cities, weapons, ammunition, money, systems to provide medical and legal aid, false identity papers, and intelligence for the operatives,” Bodansky said in a widely circulated 1993 Associated Press report. It was “large and spanned the United States.”

The FBI was unable to find any of it.

Maybe because those clever Iranians hid it in Syria, next to the Iraqi WMD?

to Baraka

As an article of faith, God burdens no soul more than it can bear - this we are told in the Qur'an. So by that measure, Baraka must be a strong, strong soul indeed. Keep her in your prayers.


Pakistan roundup

It's been only 24 hours since President and General Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan, which amounts to martial law. The Islamosphere has responded admirably to the constitutional crisis. Here's a brief roundup.

First, the video of Musharraf's televised address to Pakistan is available online:

Chapati Mystery has transcribed the full text of Musharraf's remarks, for both the Urdu and English portions. Sepoy notes that the official printed transcript differs a bit from what was actually said. He also notes that there are a number of surprising things in the speech, including a total absence of mention of India.

Sepoy also blogged the Provisional Constitutional Order when it was first announced, as part of his ongoing Tick Tock series about Pakistani democracy. His summary analysis was rather bleak:

Next up? Martial Law. More bombings. And the eventual drain of all that capital that had accumulated in the country in the past 8 years. Zimbabwe, here we come. Unless, US and China can come to their senses and do some actual diplomacy. The status is bleak. Let us say that Musharraf resigns and leaves. The Supreme Court declares an election date, the new government solves the Baluchistan issue, the US redeploys significant troops to Afghanistan (and keeps them there), the Pakistani military combats within cities and mountains of Pakistan. War. Chaos. Uncertainty. And this, my gentle readers, would be the best case scenario. A more likely option is a military state somewhere between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe circa 2005 and Gandhi’s India circa 1976. I must be proven wrong.

Start here for the first post in his Tick Tock series.

PKpolitics has been updating extensively, in real time. They are probably the best source for the latest news. Zack of Procrastination blog also chimes in. He's equally cynical, and notes that he also has been suspicious of Musharraf from the start, casting a parallel between Musharraf and Zia ul Haq:

On October 12, 1999, I told everyone who would listen that Musharraf was not taking over for the sake of Pakistan or for saving the country from the corrupt politicians like Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto. He did not act when the country was in peril, but when his own position as Army Chief was threatened. I have always considered him a power-hungry army general in the mold of General Ziaul Haq.

Ziaul Haq sowed the seeds of Pakistan’s current troubles with his Islamization and jihadi policies and today Musharraf is reaping its rewards and acting like Zia II. Having grown up in Zia’s Pakistan and now watching Musharraf’s Pakistan from afar, both these generals look to be the worst nightmare for Pakistan.

Sepia Mutiny offers a roundup of their own. In addition to summarizing the most important events, they link to detailed legal analysis by Anil at Dorfblog, a pocket guide to surviving martial law by Manish at Ultrabrown, and an interview with Lawyer Aitezaz Ahsan, while under arrest, speaking furtively from the police station toilet.

Finally, Ali Eteraz already has launched a new website devoted to Pakistani Politics (PakistanPolitics.net) and written a piece at the Guardian about the PCO. In a nutshell, he advises to take Musharraf at his word, with the litmus test being the January elections. He also notes,

Disengaged western audiences, pumped full of the current pro-democracy intoxicants, will almost universally decry Musharraf's behaviour. I decry it too, precisely because I am a disengaged westerner and I have that luxury. However, the story in Pakistan is not so straightforward.

For that matter, I have to agree. The Supremem Court of Pakistan has been playing politics with as much vigour as Musharraf has - Musharraf's charge of judicial activism by the Supreme Court, including releasing confirmed terrorists and reopening extremist madrasahs, has substantial merit. Musharraf's argument that democracy is Pakistan is young also bears repeating, in is English remarks addressed to the West:

I request you all to bear with us. To the critics and idealists against this action, I say please do not accept or demand your level of democracy which you learned over a number of centuries. We are also trying to learn, and we are doing well. Please give us time. Please also do not demand and expect your level of civil rights, human rights, civil liberties which you learned over the centuries. We are trying to learn. And we are doing well also. Please give us time.

Well, we can give him until January.

And I'd like to reiterate that there's no better way to promote these excellent posts or blogs than by nominating them for a Brass Crescent Award.


Musharraf declares state of emergency in Pakistan

General Musharraf. Not President... General.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 3 — The Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency tonight, blacking out all independent news media and confronting Supreme Court justices who are deliberating on the recent vote to re-elect him.

Witnesses said that police forces had surrounded the Supreme Court building, with justices still inside. Earlier, the justices were ordered to sign a provisional constitutional order enabling the emergency decree, with the government leaving implicit that any failing to do so would be dismissed. Still, a panel of at least 6 of the court’s 11 justices, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhrythis, rejected the order, according to Pakistani news reports before the blackout.

The six gathered at the Supreme Court building. Cellphone transmissions were blocked around the building.

The police also blocked access to the Parliament and to the homes of Supreme Court justices. Cellphone transmissions were also blocked at the justices’ homes.


rising against Pharoah at last

via Sepia Mutiny comes this long-overdue news:

The boom has been possible due to plentiful investment from oil-rich neighbors and armies of non-unionized south Asian workers whose fear of deportation, until recently, kept them from voicing discontent over low wages.

“The cost of living here has increased so much in the past two years that I cannot survive with my salary,” said Rajesh Kumar, a 24-year-old worker from the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh who earns $149 a month.

The laborers ignored the threat of deportation and refused to go to work, staging protests at a labor camp in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Industrial Zone and on a construction site in Al Qusais residential neighborhood. They demanded pay increases, improved housing and better transportation services to construction sites. On Saturday, workers threw stones at the riot police and damaged to police cars.
Companies, however, do not want more workers to leave as they struggle to find enough to complete existing projects following an overwhelming response to a government amnesty program to persuade illegal laborers to leave.

In June, the government offered, no questions asked, a free one-way plane tickets to illegal workers hoping to leave. They have since been swamped by 280,000 workers who, fed up with a rising cost of living and low wages, were ready to go home.

As amardeep at SM notes, these workers need permission to leave. This is the very essence of indentured servitude... or slavery. The monuments that the Dubai ruling class have built on the backs of their labor are, regrettably, partially funded not just with western money and Arab cash but also with wealthy Desi (Indian and Pakistani) travelers who fly through Dubai in transit and spend vast sums of money on gold and jewelry.

A fitting show of solidarity would be a boycott of Dubai's glittering wares by all Desi travelers, until the enslaved masters gain some measure of recompense and basic rights. But the chasm that separates upper class Desis from lower class Desi immigrant laborers may simply be too vast for this to be realistic.


The Brass Crescent Awards

It is that time of year again for the Brass Crescent Awards, the annual celebration of the best of the Islamsphere:

What are the Brass Crescent Awards? They are named for the Story of the City of Brass in the Thousand and One Nights. Today, the Islamsphere is forging a new synthesis of Islam and modernity, and is the intellectual heir to the traditions of philosophy and learning that was once the hallmark of Islamic civilization - a heritage scarcely recognizable today in the Islamic world after a century's ravages of colonialism, tyrants, and religious fundamentalism. We believe that Islam transcends history, and we are forging history anew for tomorrow's Islam. These awards are a means to honor ourselves and celebrate our nascent community, and promote its growth.

The nomination phase is now open, so vote for your favorite blogs in each of the following categories:

BEST BLOG: This category honors the most indispensable, Muslim-authored blog there is. Period.

BEST NON-MUSLIM BLOG: Which blog writen by a non-Muslim is most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue with Muslims?

BEST DESIGN: Which blog has the most aesthetically pleasing site design, appealing to the eye, evoking Islamic themes, and/or facilitating debate and discussion?

BEST POST OR SERIES: Which single post or group of posts in the Islamsphere was the most original and important, above all the others?

BEST IJTIHAD: What blog post provided the best rebuttal to arguments of extremist ideology, and in so doing expose how those who commit evil in the name of Islam are actually profaning the faith?

BEST FEMALE BLOG: The woman's voice in Islam is equal to the man's, and in the Islamsphere we seek to make sure the female perspective is highlighted and given its rightful due. Which Muslim woman's blog has done the most to explore the role that women play within Islam and society?

BEST WRITER: Who is the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophically wise among us? This category is intended to highlight a blogger who may not post daily, but when they do post, they really make an impact.

MOST DESERVING OF WIDER RECOGNITION: Which blog is a true diamond in the rough, one that everyone should be reading but who most just haven't heard of (yet)?

BEST GROUP BLOG: Which multiple group blog in the Islamsphere has the best diversity of writers and the most interesting debate on Muslim issues?

BEST MIDEAST/CENTRAL ASIAN & BEST SOUTH/SOUTHEAST ASIAN BLOGGERS: The Islamsphere is truly a global phenomenon. In Iraq, despite the chaos and uncertainty, there is a sea change of free speech and expression, the vanguard of which are blogs. There are also bloggers in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Jordan, and most other countries that host Muslims, all of whom have their own perspectives on faith, culture, and politics.

As always, I am honored to co-host the Brass Crescent Awards with my friend Shahed Amanullah of AltMuslim.com. Shahed has worked tirelessly to create the voting mechanism and design the graphics for the Awards this year and every year. However, as usual, please note that neither altmuslim.com nor City of Brass are eligible for any Awards.


Nonie Darwish vs the meanies

Nonie Darwish has a compelling life story, and if you don't know who she is, then her Wikipedia biography is worth your time. Her personal history, including a father who was assasinated by Israel and then indoctrination as a child by Gamel Abdel Nasser to hate Jews, is the foundation upon which she has constructed her world view and her opinion of Islam. That opinion is well summarized in this interview with Reform Judaism Magazine:

Q. What was the Muslim response [to 9-11] in America?

A. The response was defensive, dishonest, and two-faced. The Muslim establishment engineered a massive public campaign in which Islamic scholars, distinguished clerics, and Arab intellectuals attempted to calm Western fears by painting a picture of Islam as totally benign. When asked about the roots of Islamic terrorism, they denied it had anything to do with the Koran. And when quoting from the Koran, they conven­iently ignored passages that encourage holy war against infidels.

Also after 9/11 many Muslims in the West reinterpreted the meaning of jihad as an inner struggle for self-improvement. Yet this “inner struggle” business is hogwash, a PR ploy for Western consumption only.

I have no condemnation or anger with Nonie Darwish for her beliefs. Her problem is that she is fundamentally (and probably permanently) incapable of understanding mainstream Islam, as a result of her personal history. So, I view the following with more pity than disdain:

Last week, on October 18, 2007, our hero Darwish spoke at the all-female Wellesley College as the guest of Hillel on campus. She was not treated as a hero; then again, maybe she was, maybe her treatment is precisely how heroes are greeted on American campuses today.

About 80-100 students came. Far more Muslim than Jewish students came and “so many” of the Muslim girls were wearing head-scarves.

According to Darwish, the female students in head-scarves did the following: As she spoke, they made exaggerated, “mean girl” faces at her. They rolled their eyes, practiced “disbelieving” facial expressions—did everything but stick out their tongues. And they continued to talk to each other in loud whispers while Darwish spoke: “How can she tell such lies!” “I was never, ever indoctrinated against Jews!” “Can you believe what she is saying?” “We do not call Jews pigs and apes, how can she lie about her own people?”

In addition to the “mean girl” faces and the continual loud whispering, one by one, at least four to five head-scarved girls, got up to leave the room during Darwish’s speech. This meant that each girl took two minutes to move to the end of her row, physically causing the other students to get up or twist aside, causing the entire room to look at the departing student, not at their invited guest—and then each girl did precisely the same thing when she returned two minutes later, presumably from a bathroom break.

They quadruple-teamed Darwish and did not stop until Darwish ended her lecture. Twenty to thirty minutes of soft-core, well-choreographed, goon squad behavior. “They are Hamas-trained” says Darwish.

I applaud the girls at Wesley who engaged in this restrained show of opposition to Darwish.

It should be noted that supposed defenders of the oppressed women in Islam such as Nonie Darwish predictably flock to Western audiences to preach the innate evils of Islam. There is no small amount of irony in this; Darwish is lecturing at Wellsley, the premier girls' college in the United States. The muslim women at Wellsley are the exact opposite of the women to which Darwish imagines herself the saviour of - these are highly educated, provided-for girls with every possible freedom and privelege that the West has to offer. That they do not tear apart their hijab after hearing Nonie speak down to them must be truly vexing indeed; for all Nonie Darwish sees is oppression, whereas the simple concept that a hijab might be - when freely chosen - a symbol of strength and empowerment is utterly beyond her comprehension. Again, Darwish's fundamental inability to comprehend this is most likely due to her tragic personal story, and not to any innate character flaw. Still, that hardly means that she should be feted as a "hero" when her purpose is essentially to do nothing more than harangue liberal muslim girls who are proud of being muslim and proud of their culture and faith, about what oppressed fools they are.

Were Nonie Darwish genuinely concerned with the plight of women and reform in Islam, she would work with the reformists in the Arab world - the emergent Muslim Left - and try to change things where it mattered. Instead she chooses the easy lecture circuit to harp at and condescend to muslims in the West. I suppose the latter is more fulfilling to her personal sense of victimhood, and probably more lucrative besides.

(via Jim Henley via Whiskey Fire)

Facebook and free speech

Some of Facebook's resident jafis create a group called "F$%k Islam". What is the correct response?

A. Join the group and engage them in respectful debate
B. Ignore them, because what they crave is publicity
C. Create your own group called "F$%k Facebook" and demand that the other group be censored immediately.

In related news, I have coined a new term: MALI. It stands for Muslims Acting Like Islamophobes.

I am tempted to create a group called "muslims who demand that Facebook delete the groups F^&K Israel and F%^K Christianity" just as a social experiment. However, I have enough jihads on my plate right now.


defining a Muslim Left: part I

Introduction: Eteraz on Islamic reform

Ali's series on Islamic Reform at The Guardian has been, in my opinion, nothing less than a tour-de-force. I've linked the series below; they really are mandatory reading for anyone interested in discussing Islam in the context of politics and policy.

  1. The Roots of Islamic Reform
  2. The Islamic reformation
  3. An Islamic counter-reformation
  4. Beyond Islamic enlightenment
  5. The making of the Muslim left

The Falwell muslims

In his latest entry, Ali identifies what he terms the Muslim Right - evangelical religious supremacists who follow the roadmap of the Christian Right, seeking to utilize the mechanisms of democracy as a vehicle to further their agenda and polemic. These are essentially the muslim analouge of Falwell and Dobson; they are not violent and they are much more numerous in the UK than in the US. Dal Nun Strong and Tariq Nelson have both done real yeoman's work in identifying and rebutting these "Falwell muslims" on their respective blogs. However, their efforts are largely isolated since the Islamosphere is loosely organized and does not have much of a platform for articulating the counter arguments within the broader media environment.

Principles for a muslim Left

To try and address the problem, Ali calls for the emergence of a "Muslim Left" which would explicitly affirm the following principles:

  • separation of mosque and state;
  • opposition to tyranny (even if the tyrant has liberal values);
  • affirmance of republicanism or democracy;
  • an ability to coherently demonstrate that the Muslim right represents merely one interpretation of Islam;
  • a commitment to free speech and eagerness to defeat the Muslim right in the marketplace of ideas;
  • commitment to religious individualism and opposition to left-collectivism, specifically Marxism;
  • opposition to economic protectionism;
  • opposing any and all calls for a "council of religious experts" that can oversee legislation (even if those experts are liberals); and
  • affirming international law.

Strategies for a muslim Left

To be effective, Ali argues that the muslim Left must utilize the following strategies:

  1. Popularising the slogan "theocentric, not theocratic" to counter claims of religious treason that will be hurled by Islamists;
  2. An alliance with supporters of old-school Muslim orthodoxy who despite their conservative values are not the same as the Muslim right because they do not like to politicise their faith. These Muslims, by virtue of doctrine and history, have always supported separation of mosque and state, and still do;
  3. Having the confidence to call their solutions truer to the ethos of Islam than the ideas of the Islamists, without engaging in apostasy wars;
  4. An alliance with Marxists and neo-Marxist Muslims without getting sucked into their collectivist phantasmagoria;
  5. Opposing any and all punishments, fines and stigma for "apostasy," "heresy," and "blasphemy". This includes opposition to all "sedition" crimes;
  6. Accepting that the enthronement of the left through democratic means might require the intermediate step of the Muslim right succeeding as well, due largely to its head-start;
  7. Supporting arts, literature, agnosticism and atheism without engaging in derogatory or insulting gestures. The battle against Islamism isn't a fight against Allah or Prophet; it is against an ideology;
  8. Supporting Muslims' right to express their piety with beards, hijab, niqab in order to draw the moderates among the pietists away from the Islamists; and most importantly
  9. Opposition to all imperial western behaviour. Also, rejection of any and all alliances and support from the western right.

An intrinsic conflict

I am in large, broad agreement with essentially all of this (with some exceptions, addressed shortly). I agree that the mainstream conservative Right is now a hostile entity, emphasized by Ali in the last point above. However, it must also be noted that the mainstream liberal Left is not automatically a natural ally for our putative muslim Left, either.

Part of the conflict arises from the basic principles, which come into conflict with the mainstream of liberal political thought. For example, the issue of "opposition to leftist collectivism specifically Marxism" is problematic. What aspect of Marxism specifically do we mean? The central tenets of Marxism, ie the dignity of the working class and the conscience that keeps capitalism fettered, remain core principles of modern liberalism. Likewise, the warning against "economic protectionism" is also somewhat vague and opens us to conflict with the liberal mainstream. The free vs fair trade debate is a critical one. The final and "most important" strategy prescription that Ali makes is to reject the Western Right, but it's worth noting that embracing the principles above would put the Muslim Left in de facto alliance after all.

The Fallwell Left

More important than matters of domestic policy and social justice however is tolerance. And on this score, the Left is just as hostile to muslims as the Right. The mainstream Left remains deeply skeptical of religious faith, with secularism as a core value. Ali notes that the muslim Left will need to make concrete and sincere alliance with old-school muslim orthodoxy, but this also entails defending the orthodox (muslim and christian alike) against the secularist assault. An example is the overt hostility to expressions of faith in the public sphere, which do not violate the concept of separation of church/mosque and state but still elicit a pathological response from the warriors of secularism on the Left. In Europe, the fault line lies firmly upon hijab, which Ali mentions above as an expression of piety. The zeal with which the secularists pursue their agenda is no less supremacist than their analouges on the right.

Dubai Ports World

Beyond the conflict with secularism lies something even uglier; outright xenophobia. The best example of this was the Dubai Ports World fracas. While President Bush argued forcefully in support of the deal, Democrats seized upon the issue as a means to burnish their security image, a gross example of political pandering at the expense of the muslim community. Leading the charge was none other than Hillary Clinton, who claimed the deal would "surrender" our ports to "foreign governments", even though 80% of US ports are already operated by foreign-based firms (including Chinese). There were Democratic voices in support of the deal, including former Presidents Bill Clinton (heh) and Jimmy Carter, the latter of whom took the trouble to answer a question I posted to him on Daily Kos regarding the matter:

Answer to azizhp: In an interview on CNN, I publicly supported the DPW as
soon as the issue arose. My agreement with President Bush on the issue was highlighted that evening by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. There was no
threat to U.S. security, and it was a false and demagogic issue

(emphasis mine). Eventually DPW sold its stake to an American-based firm to defuse te issue, but the damage was done.

And the DPW issue is not an isolated incident. Via 'Aqoul, there was another display of Democratic xenophobia, this time with Senator Charles Schumer leading the crusade against another Dubai-based firm buying a stake in the NASDAQ exchange:

Saying the deal gives him pause, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., pressed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Thursday to thoroughly review a proposal by Borse Dubai to buy a nearly 20% stake in the Nasdaq Stock Market.

"I believe that the acquisition of such a large stake in a U.S. exchange by a foreign government raises some serious questions," the senator wrote to Paulson.

An outdated political axis

It should be noted that if one wishes to critique Dubai, there are plenty of legitimate avenues to do so; for example, the fact that the engine of economic prosperity runs off the back of indentured labor. Man-made island chains, 7-star hotels, and the tallest building in the world, all are gleaming Pharonic monuments to economic disparity. Dubai is a "gulf" state indeed, but there is little critique of Dubai on this score from the liberal mainstream.

And therein lies the crux of any attempt to define a muslim Left solely in relation to the traditional left-right political axis. In doing so, we become constrained by the same stultifying left-right narratives that so hobble mainstream political discourse. Exhibit A is today's New York Times piece on Ali's reform series, where they (wrongly) describe the concept of a muslim Left as "centered on Western political liberalism." But who can blame them for that perception, when Western political conservatism is so explicitly rejected in its formulation? The truth is that there are issues on which the muslim Left can, and even must, agree with the political Right. Of these, the most critical is foreign policy, to be addressed in Part 2 of this post.

my ethnic heritage

I am the proud son of immigrants from India. As such I am the ethnic heir to a mighty civilization, straddling the centuries and at the nexus of history. Behold the legacy of my forebears.


Empire State Building photos

I found a fellow on Flickr, "zmustapha" who has taken pictures of the Empire State Building lit green for Eid al-Fitr and already posted them an hour ago. See below; the original photos are here (in higher resolution).

The jafis are seething. I wonder if the color green will become the new symbol of dhimmitude? I am reminded of the Crusade against Crescents. If so, then what will the jafis say when they dye the Chicago River green for St. Pats? "the green waves of dhimmitude" ?

عید مبارک

Photo: APOD 2007 March 20, NASA

the Eid stamp

On September 1st, 2001, the US Postal Service issued a postage stamp commemorating the Islamic festivals of Eid al Fitr and Eid ul Adha. Ten days later, the twin towers fell. An enormous controversy arose, with a vocal xenophobic campaign arising to demand that the stamp be withdrawn and replaced with the images of the twin towers, but the stamp was saved, most notably because of the vocal and public support of the Bush Administration, especially President George Bush and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. And ironically, the stamp was indeed discontinued two years later by the USPS, but not for any reasons of domestic pressure from the jafi lobby, but simple apathy. It is a tale worth retelling every Ramadan.

Very few people, Muslim or otherwise, are even aware of the existence of the Eid stamp. visually, the stamp is iconic, simply beautiful. From the White House website, here is a description of the artistic process in its creation:

The Eid stamp, designed by Zakariya of Arlington, Va., features the Arabic phrase "Eid mubarak" in gold calligraphy on a blue background. English text on the stamps reads "EID GREETINGS."

Employing traditional methods and instruments to create this design, Zakariya chose a script known in Arabic as "thuluth" and in Turkish as "sulus." He describes it as "the choice script for a complex composition due to its open proportions and sense of balance." He used homemade black ink, and his pens were crafted from seasoned reeds from the Near East and Japanese bamboo from Hawaii. The paper was specially prepared with a coating of starch and three coats of alum and egg-white varnish, then burnished with an agate stone and aged for more than a year.

This beautiful, elegant work of art, intended to commemorate both the end of the Ramadan and the festival in which muslims honor the patriarch of all three major religions, came under immediate and vicious attack, after the attacks of September 11th. This was in hindsight rather inevitable, but it was obscene nevertheless.

The crux of the argument against the stamp was made in an editorial by Paul Weyrich, entitled "Why a tiny stamp deserves a huge backlash." Weyrich writes,

We are not at war with a gang of terrorists. Al Qaeda is not the Jesse James gang with Arabic surnames. It is not even that we are at war with Islam. Rather, Islam is at war against us.

The sooner Americans recognize this fact then the safer we will be as a nation.
Would our country have issued a swastika flag stamp in 1941? Would our country have issued a hammer and sickle stamp in 1955?

The answer is no on both counts. Actually, a flag stamp issued by our government featuring Nazi Germany's swastika or the Soviet Union's hammer and sickle would have been unthinkable.

That is why we raised the issue of the Eid. We wanted to encourage debate about what Islam really stands for and why we have good reason not to honor the religion. As a nation, we still need to have that debate.

This is very hard for most Americans to understand, but it needs to be said over and over again.

Islam at its core is hostile to the West and the values that comprise the Judeo-Christian tradition, including the emphasis on tolerance and peace that many in the establishment are now so eager to promote as being the true values of Islam.

There are many Muslims who are peaceful, but the fact is that the core of the religion itself is not peaceful.

Weyrich and his organization, Quixotically named the Free Congress Foundation, submitted a letter to various government officials making their case, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Of course, Muslim-American organizations responded, making the fairly obvious point that 9-11 had absolutely nothing to do with muslims, or Islam, or the stamp:

"I am writing to suggest that the current stamps be withdrawn, to be overprinted with the image of the Twin Towers and then reissued," foundation President Paul M. Weyrich wrote in letters to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

"I have no doubt a majority of Americans would find the altered stamps a more appropriate commemoration of Islam than the current celebratory version," he said.

But anyone who looks at the Arabic script on the Eid stamp and equates that with the terrorist attacks is "really playing into the hands of the terrorists," said Aly R. Abuzaakouk, executive director of the Washington-based American Muslim Council.

"Who dares to associate negativity with something that celebrates a religious festival?" he said. "The Eid has nothing to do with the terrorists, and we thank God that all of those . . . suspected to have done this have nothing to do with our community. They were not the known guys of our community. We have nothing to do with that."

It is incumbent upon muslim-americans to recognize however that the far more devastatingly effective response to the jafi zealots like Weyrich was not by CAIR or the American Muslim Council, but simply this:

CAPTION: Imam Yahya Hindi gives the opening prayer in the House of Representatives, November 15, 2001, the last day the House was in session before Ramadan. House Speaker Dennis Hastert listens with bowed head. (Associated Press).

and this:

Greetings From the President to Muslims Celebrating Eid Al-Fitr
The Festival of Breaking the Fast

This festival marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan, the holiest period of the Islamic year. Eid al-Fitr is a time to give thanks to God for the blessings of renewed faith, to perform acts of charity, and to share traditional food and good wishes with family and friends.

Islam is a religion that inspires its followers to lead lives based on justice, compassion, and personal responsibility.

During this joyful season, I encourage people of all faiths to reflect on our shared values: love of family, gratitude to God, a commitment to religious freedom, and respect for the diversity that adds to our Nation's strength. By working together to advance peace and mutual understanding, we help build a future of promise and compassion for all.

Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a joyous celebration.

Eid mubarek.


It's also worth mentioning that the US State Department has issued an entire booklet entitled Muslim Life in America, which documents the way in which Muslims have moved into the American mainstream, and integrated with their communities.

It's also worth mentioning that President George Bush has, on numerous occasions, expressed admiration for the faith of Islam, and affirmed the place of muslim Americans as valued members of our society. This is why, despite my often fervent and heated critiques of the Bush Administration's policies both at home and abroad, I cannot and never will hate George Bush.

And yet, in the end, the Eid stamp was indeed discontinued after 2002. The reason was straightforward; like any other special issue stamp, the decision was made based on the result of sales. And the Eid stamp simply did not perform well enough to justify its continued printing. It's probably safe to assume that the majority of muslims in America never even realized that there was an Eid stamp; if anything the controversy by Weyrich et al probably boosted sales, albeit briefly. If you will pardon the expression, the stamp simply failed to stick.

Until now:

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Postal Service today reissued the Eid stamp in the Holiday Celebrations series.

First issued in 2001, the stamp commemorates the two most important festivals in the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. On these days, Muslims wish each other "eid mubarak," the phrase featured in calligraphy on the stamp, which translates as "blessed festival" or "may your religious holiday be blessed."
The Postal Service produced 40 million 41-cent Eid stamps in sheets of 20 that are available for purchase at local Post Offices, online at www.usps.com/shop, or by calling 800-STAMP-24 on Sept. 28.

I urge my fellow muslims and non-muslim friends alike to show your support for this beautiful stamp, and the expression of happiness and celebration that it represents, by making a point of buying Eid stamps this year. You can order them directly online.

And, of course, let us not limit our expressions of mubarak to stamps alone. Thank you for reading City of Brass this Ramadan and over the past 5 years. Eid mubarak!


the final fast

Today marks the 30th day of Ramadan by the Fatimid calendar, and as such is the very last day of fasting. It brings both a sense of relief and of anxiety. Relief in that I will get more sleep and actually eat a hamburger (mmm, Culver's!) tomorrow. But anxiety, in that another entire Ramadan has passed and I fell far, far short of my own expectations in terms of what I wanted to achieve. It's the procrastinator's curse that all the interstices of time that were yours to waste are revealed clearly in hindsight alone.

Still, it was a good Ramadan. Today's fast will be the easiest of all because even the discomfort it entails - to which we have long since acclimated - is a reminder of how much control over ourselves we have exerted to achieve. And regardless of my ambitions with regards to hifz-ul-Qur'an, completing 30 fasts in a row is something to take (humble) pride in.


four principles

I affirm the right of all people to live in freedom and dignity, and the freedom of the individual conscience: to change religions or have no religion at all. In doing so, I invoke the Qur'an:

"To you, your religion and to me, mine" (109:6)

"if they turn away from you, your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message." (16:82)

"There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256)

as well as numerous other verses that emphasize that the Prophet is not a "keeper", his only duty was to preach and deliver the Message, but whether the Message is accepted is solely between the individual and Allah (see: 6:107, 4:79-80, 11:28, 17:53-54, 24:54, 88:21-22, 39:41, 64:12, 67:25-26 for starters).

I also affirm the equality of dignity of women and men, again invoking the Quran:

"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female." (49:13)

"O Mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature his mate, from them scattered countless men and women. Fear Allah, through whom you demand your mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for Allah ever watches over you." (4:1)

"Never will I waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other." (3:195)

and finally, I affirm the right of all people to live free from violence, intimidation, and coercion, with the Qur'an:

"Fight in the path of God those who fight you, but do not aggress. Surely God does not love the aggressors. And fight them where you come upon them, and send them out from where they have sent you out, for persecution is a worse thing than fighting. And do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque (in Mecca) unless they fight you there, but if they fight you, then fight them back. That is the reward of the rejectors. Then if they cease, so God is All-Forgiving, Gentle. And fight them until there is no more persecution and the religion is for God. But if they cease, so let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers." (2:190-193)

"Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind." (5:32)

I imagine that my affirmations above won't meet with these folks' endorsement, however, since I am amd will always be utterly and implacably opposed to the suggestion that Islam needs to be "reformed" or the Qur'an needs to be edited. To those who believe that the solution to islamic extremism is less Islam, rather than less extremism, I only say, good luck with that. To your way, yours, to me, mine.

Alayk as-salaam, ya shere Ramadan

Eid is almost upon us, and despite the immense spiritual satisfaction of the fast, our thoughts are not immune to some anticipation that there are less than a handful left. Partly because of the sense of satisfaction that will come from having completed another Ramadan, but also because we are hungry. It's like graduating from college - the intellectual stimulation of the collegiate world is a bubble existence of its own, and at its close you will miss it, but there is also anticipation to get "out there" into the "real world" and start applying what you've learned. So too with Ramadan - but every year. The time of spiritual nourishment is almost at a close and it will soon be time to apply our souls to the task of living in the world beyond the one we construct for ourselves in Ramadan.

As such, the anticipation of Eid grows. Blogger Indscribe has posted some beautiful photos of preparation for Eid throughout the muslim world, from the middle east to asia and the west. A photo gallery at ABC News also provides a look at Ramadan and Eid preparation worldwide. There's a great story - and recipies - about the grand feast of Eid at NPR. Finally, there's an unintentionally hilarious story in the Arab News about Saudi men who take teh end of Ramadan very, very seriously - and annoy their housewives in the process.

On a more sober note, Andrew Lee Butters takes a look at Ramadan in Amman, Jordan for Iraqi refugees. Well worth remembering that the spiritual bounties of Ramadan are divinely guaranteed, but nothing else is in this world.


Republicans refuse recognizing Ramadan

There's no better way for the GOP to paint itself as a monolithically Islamophobic entity than the following:

Forty-one Republicans, more than 20 percent of the caucus, and one Democrat voted "present" on a resolution recognizing the commencement of Ramadan on Tuesday.

The 42 lawmakers make up more than 10 percent of the members voting on the resolution. There were zero "no" votes, and 14 members did not vote.

The resolution recognized "the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world," rejected "hatred, bigotry and violence directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide" and "[commended] Muslims in the United States and across the globe who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred, violence and terror."

In other words, one in five elected Republicans refuses to affirm that muslims in America are a valued piece of the fabric of America. The reasons given by some of the caucus for their passive-aggressive stance were mainly complaints about political correctness and invocations (hilariously) of the separation of church and state:

"This resolution is an example of the degree to which political correctness has captured the political and media elite in this country," Tancredo said.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said, "I voted 'present' because I read somewhere that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion."

Their dedication to the Constitution is as admirable as it is selective. But pray tell, why did not Messrs. Pence, Tancredo, et al vote No, rather than Present?

(incidentally, read loyal conservative blogger Rick Moran on how the hyper-religiosity on the part of the Republican candidates is a recipe for a rout in 2008.)


9-11 made us stupid

Tariq Nelson finds a gem of a video online: asking the American on the Street whether US muslims should carry a special ID, be incarcerated, or even converted to other religions:

It's played for laughs but it is worth mentioning that the idea that there should be muslims-only lines at the airport has been advocated by mainstream conservative pundit Mike Gallagher on Fox News. Also, conservative radio host Jay Severin argued on his nationally syndicated show that "Muslims in this country are a fifth column. . . . The vast majority of Muslims in this country are very obviously loyal, not to the United States, but to their religion. And I'm worried that when the time comes for them to stand up and be counted, the reason they are here is to take over our culture and eventually take over our country." And when radio host Jerry Klein suggested in satire that muslims be forced to wear distinctive armbands identifying them as such, his show's phone lines were instantly jammed - with listeners clamoring in support. Klein later took to the airwaves to chastize his own audience.

I think that the Islamophobia is really a symptom of a larger problem in the national psyche. In diagnosis, Thomas Friedman has a scathing opinion piece in the New York Times about the national reaction - his included - to the tragedy of September 11th. He argues it is time to move beyond September 11th:

I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

I had a very similar essay at my Nation-Building blog on the anniversary of the attacks this year, simply titled 9-12:

It's six years since 9-11. Everyone has their own stories about what they were doing that day when time stopped and a nation turned to CNN. It was a day that truly changed the world, like a catalyst. It is time now to accept the new world we have and stop worrying about why it is so. That also means letting go of 9-11 to some extent. What about 9-12? What world do we want to create?
For the sake of clarity it bears repeating: 9-11 was six years ago. America's war in Iraq, for all the good it has achieved in deposing a cruel dictator, has also done massive injury, for which we do bear responsibility and yes, blame. We did not act in evil intent, but we must accept the moral burden of responsibility for our actions, good and bad. We are no longer innocent victims but active participants.

We need a fresh outlook that takes the present situation into account as the facts on the ground, and free ourselves of all concerns about why we are where we are. It's time to lay 9-11 to rest and focus on 9-12.