Monthly Archives: July 2005

Make Dhikr, Not War!

Culled from hadith literature: Abu’d-Darda’ reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said:”Shall I inform you of the best of your actions and the purest of your property and the highest of your degrees and what is better for you than spending gold and silver and better for you than encountering the enemy and striking their necks and their striking your necks?” They said, “Yes, indeed!” He said, “Remembrance of Allah Almighty.” [Tirmidhi] The Prophet was asked, “Which of the servants of Allah is best in rank before Allah on the Day of resurrection?” He said: “The ones who remember him much.” I said: “O Messenger of Allah, what about the fighter in the way of Allah?” He answered: “Even if he strikes the unbelievers and mushrikin with his sword until it broke, and becomes red with their blood,truly those who do dhikr are better than him in rank.” [Ahmad, Tirmidhi, & Bayhaqi]

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Quote of the Day

From the classic 1980s movie Uncle Buck.

Miles: You have much more hair in your nose than my Dad.
Buck: How nice of you to notice.
Miles: I’m a kid – that’s my job.

 

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Condoleeza Rice: “Stop making excuses for terrorists”

In an interview with Jim Lehrer (he offers his own erudition, referring to Muslim experts) Rice offers her astute analyis on why terrorists are committing attacks, “they’re doing it because they want to create chaos and undermine our way of life.” So much for everyone else, including Robert Pape who has suggested that the primary reason is not that “they hate us” behind such attacks, but rather American foreign policy directed towards the Muslim world. Convenient, then, for Rice to take the Bush “they hate our freedom” line and completely dismiss any opinion that counters her’s or the administration’s no matter how well documented or scholarly. C&L has the video.

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Omid Safi on Irshad Manji

From an email Prof. Safi, co-Chair of the Progressive Muslim Union, sent out…full email below:

Dear friends… Some of you might have seen this compilation of comments on Irshad Manji, but for those who have not, here it is again. where to begin about Irshad Manji? Let me send you three items. =20 The first two are good essays by folks on a Muslimwakeup, and the last something that I had written. As you can imagine, I am quite fed up with her, and frustrated by the way that she pitches herself to everyone from Fox News (which is quite infatuated with her) to very right wing Zionist organizations (Daniel Pipes is a huge fan of hers as well). What is perhaps most frustrating is that she does have a few random insights here and there, but the whole framework is so flawed in my opinion, and at the end of the day a ceaseless attempt to bring the spotlight (and financial rewards) on her and her alone.

1) Here is what I consider to be a very astute critique of Manji, from our own Tarek Fatah: http://www.muslimwakeup.com/main/archives/2003/11/thanks_but_no_t.php

2) Here is another important critique, one that directly gets to Manji’s agenda in her discussion of Palestinians/Muslims. http://www.muslimwakeup.com/main/archives/2004/02/a_multifaceted.php 3) This is a post that I had written myself on November 3rd to the Network of Progressive Muslims. It was in response to attacks from more conservative Muslims who grouped us along with Irshad together in “progressive” ranks, and I wanted to distinguish our own collaborative work from hers. ******************************

I think to most of us it is obvious why Irshad is not a progressive Muslim. I am not sure that she uses that self-designation either, although I know that she likes the “reformer” label. Recently, she has of course joined the ranks of those who are calling for ijtihad. =20 I do agree, however, that in the perception of many folks out there we all get labeled together with Irshad. Part of what is so sad about things is that on one hand much of the corporate media seems to enjoy anointing one person as the flavor of the month (Akbar Ahmed, then Khaled abou El Fadl, then Soroush, then Shirin Ebadi, then Tariq Ramadan, etc.), and in their thinking there is basically room for one “nice Muslim” out there, and they have slotted Irshad there. I would prefer to see a whole spectrum of voices. Irshad also doesn’t mind using (and being used by) the Muslim-bashing force of Fox News, etc. I do get asked all the time to differentiate between our approach and Irshad, and this is something that I find to be helpful in telling people:

1) Irshad presents herself as a voice out in the wilderness. (She has even managed to alienate the Toronto queer community, who have openly said that she doesn’t speak for them.) We on the other hand are trying to not invent something out of scratch, but begin by creating a sense of networking, of fellowship, among existing communities and individuals. It is not about having one person on a podium, it is instead about bringing communities together and working on transforming them.

2) This point to me is key: all of us are working to identify, challenge, and resist problematic practices and interpretations in Islam and Muslim societies. That is fine, and necessary. However, I also believe that it is imperative for us as Muslims to identify areas in Islam that are deep reservoirs of wisdom and compassion for us. I don’t see Irshad doing this. When one doesn’t talk about what it is that keeps one a Muslim, spiritually nourished from the broad spectrum of the tradition, then it becomes very easy to side with the Muslim-bashers. Take a look at who sponsors most of Irshad’s talks, and this points takes on even more urgency.

3) It comes back to the “multiple critique”, the perpetual commitment to speak out for justice and against injustice no matter who it is against. Irshad actually does raise some valid points about areas in which we as Muslims do struggle. My problem is that she does not carry out the multiple critique by also directing the critique against the Empire. There is hardly a serious engagement in her presentations with the imperialistic agenda of the United States anywhere. Here I see one of the greatest ironies of her putting quotes from Edward Said on top of her webpage, while ignoring the very underpinning of Said’s project, namely the commitment to resisting US hegemony, as well as critiquing Israeli abuses. Either she doesn’t know Said, or is only name-dropping.

4) This issue is key for me: the Palestinian/Israeli issue. I think that we must approach this issue through the framework of a human rights issue, and I simply do not see Irshad acknowledge the suffering and humanity of Palestinians. Look at her gushing over Israel today as “…Israel is one mother of a pluralistic place.” [The group that sponsored her, the VanCouver Hillel, proclaimed her as a “Muslim friend of Israel.” =20 http://www.vancouverhillel.ca/JWB_Muslimfriend.html ] Whatever word I think of to describe Israel today, pluralistic is not it. As I told the Toronto Star, the only person on TV that sounds more Zionist than her is Daniel Pipes! No wonder she has become the darling of so many Zionist groups in the US. To see Daniel Pipes’ support of her, see http://www.danielpipes.org/article/1255 [where she is being proclaimed as “voice of moderate Islam.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see her receive massive amounts of funding from some of them.

5) I do believe that any criticism has to be both firm and loving. =20 This is especially the case when one is conducting a critique of one’s “own” community. I have listened to Irshad very closely on multiple occasions, and read her book and website closely. When I listen to her address the shortcomings of Muslims, I never get the sense that it is motivated by a love and compassion for the people that she is addressing. Instead, it always come across as condescending and self-righteous. Her statements like “I give you permission to think freely” certainly do not help. I believe that people are very perceptive, and they can tell–especially in person–when someone is motivated by a profound sense of concern and compassion for the integrity of their soul (before God and humanity), and when someone is merely pointing an accusatory finger. in love and solidarity, Omid

******

I hope something in the above is useful.

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First Annual Brass Donkey Awards

Haroon Mogul of Avari/Nameh has innagurated the First Annual Brass Donkey Award that will select the worst on the web regarding Islam and Muslims. In Haroon’s words the award is:

“[Y]our opportunity to finally call out the most outrageously ill-informed, moronic, ungrammatical, racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic garbage, which litters many corners of the web and occasionally makes a stink in our respective comment boxes, the genetic lottery winners who boldly and anonymously declare, on our websites, in CAPITAL LETTERS, that we Muslims are “a race of pigs” who should be “nuked and then pissed upon…””

The categories from Brass Donkey Award (BDA) are listed below.

 

1. Most Lopsided BlogThis category honors the blog that has the least reason to exist, by providing us the kind of imbalanced information that renders the blog perfectly perpendicular to reality. (You cannot walk on it, but you can bang your head into it.)

2. Least Interesting Post This category honors the most poorly-written post ever, which no one can get through, at least not without the aid of caffeine, nicotine or adrenaline. (Must we have proof you finished the post, to confirm it really wasn’t worth concluding?)

3. Post Most Likely To Have Been Posted By an Uncle This category honors the most redundant post; alternatively, it highlights the excessive use of bad analogies, similes and/or metaphors. (In other words, the type of post you could take to your masjid on Friday and make into a sermon. Shudder.)

4. Most Annoying Commenter Basically Flanstein.

5. Most Incendiary Blogger The blogger who most relies on imperialistic rhetoric, whether that be right-wing, Islamist, Maoist or Capitalist, who is so flammable that he ends up pissing you off, and in fact only gains attention by inverse proportion to his education.

6. Worst Group Blog The blog that brings together a number of luckless personalities, who need to come together to do what anyone else, on her own, could easily do. In other words, an argument for monarchy, tyranny, or perhaps autocracy.

 

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“The Backpack, Accessory to Murder”

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Noah Feldman on the Iraqi Constitution

 

“For the Iraqis, the elephant in the room is the relationship between government and religion: can Iraq be a democracy and an Islamic state at the same time? When I worked as an adviser to the Iraqis who drafted last year’s interim constitution, this fraught question occupied the authors until almost the last minute. Leaked portions of the new constitution, still open to debate and revision, show that the matter remains as tricky as ever.”

 

[Link]

 

Article in full below.

 

Foundering?

By NOAH FELDMAN

When a constitution succeeds, its framers come to be regarded as visionaries. They are seen in retrospect to have predicted future difficulties and dealt with them ingeniously, by building a machine that would run of itself. From the inside, though, constitution drafting is not so philosophical and frictionless; it does not take place under the aspect of the eternal. The immediate politics of the moment dominate, along with the lurking fear that if the constitution is not ratified, national collapse may follow.

In Baghdad today, as in Philadelphia in 1787, constitution writing means horse-trading, improvisation, dispute and deferral. As Iraq’s constitutional process nears its first deadline — a draft text is supposed to be approved by the interim parliament by Aug. 15 — the members of the constitutional committee are certainly feeling the heat. They are busily bargaining with one another, staging walkouts and issuing ultimatums, and gambling that the public will embrace their new design for a unified state. All the while, they are trying to avoid the fate of their colleagues who have been assassinated.

Under these tense circumstances, deferral is understandably the order of the day. The less the constitution says about controversial issues, the greater the likelihood that it will be ratified. Even in peaceful Philadelphia, after all, the framers kept the word ”slavery” out of the Constitution, preferring euphemistic denial, as in the provision stating that ”the Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight.” Guaranteeing the slave trade for 20 years was a classic instance of the constitutional punt. Such dubious compromises bought the United States more than 70 years, even if they ultimately failed to avert civil war.

For the Iraqis, the elephant in the room is the relationship between government and religion: can Iraq be a democracy and an Islamic state at the same time? When I worked as an adviser to the Iraqis who drafted last year’s interim constitution, this fraught question occupied the authors until almost the last minute. Leaked portions of the new constitution, still open to debate and revision, show that the matter remains as tricky as ever. Equality for all citizens is guaranteed, but Islamic law is also prescribed for marriage, divorce and inheritance. Of course, some elements of Islamic family law might mandate gender inequality; to address that possibility, one draft reportedly provides that religion would trump equality if the two conflict.

These tentative efforts to reconcile Islam and democratic equality ensure that future Iraqi legislators and jurists will have to figure out just what it means to treat Islam as ”a source of law” or, perhaps, ”a main source.” At this time, it is simply not possible to work out Iraq’s religious identity without alienating either clerics or secular rights organizations.

Meanwhile, the specter of a national breakup bedevils the Iraqi negotiators, just as it did the drafters in Philadelphia. Kurdish autonomy, politely relabeled ”federalism,” may be the greatest stumbling block to reaching a constitutional deal. Many Arab Iraqis will experience an initial shock when they look closely at the de facto self-government that the Kurds have negotiated for themselves. Meanwhile, ownership of disputed Kirkuk and its oil fields cannot be assigned without calling ratification into doubt. As in the U.S. Constitution, ”secession” itself will go unmentioned — allowing politicians to claim in the future that the omission either allows or prohibits Kurdistan from establishing itself on its own.

But the bottom line is that Arab Iraqis, like Northerners who objected to slavery but cared more for Union, have no choice but to acquiesce in vague language that opens the door to Kurdish demands. The Kurds have a substantial military force and a strong friendship with the U.S.; who is going to take their self-government away from them? Anyway, federalism always entails tension between a central government and states’ rights. So Iraqis must gamble that their precarious arrangements do not lead to secession and civil slaughter.

A constitution that acclimates a people to living with contradiction pretty much guarantees unintended consequences. The Philadelphia framers decided to leave out a bill of rights, since they worried that listing some rights might imply the nonexistence of others. But when the states’ ratifying conventions insisted on specific guarantees, the first Congress went to work. Today the 10 amendments (originally plotted as 12, with our First as the less impressive Third) seem more like universal principles than a political afterthought.

For the Iraqis, the unexpected results lie in the not-too-distant future. But to get there, to arrive in a world where courts resolve difficult questions of interpretation in ways the original authors could never have imagined — this would be a tremendous accomplishment for the Iraqis, not to mention the coalition that unleashed at once the powers of democracy and anarchy, as if to see which would prevail. If a future Iraqi Supreme Court ends up declaring Iraq either an Islamic republic or a secular democratic state, it will matter little that neither outcome was intended by the equivocal, beleaguered, brave and human founders. Such a decision would, either way, signal that the constitution had done its crucial work of moving the basic question of who is in charge out of the realm of violence and into the realm of constitutional politics and its handmaiden, constitutional law. When Iraqis end up expending their energies in their own version of a contentious confirmation battle, their founding fathers and mothers will look like geniuses.

Noah Feldman, a professor at New York University School of Law, last wrote for the magazine about church and state in America.

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