Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why I Would Have Problems Voting for John Edwards

Q: The PATRIOT Act is two years old. There has been criticism of John Ashcroft for enforcement of legislation you authored. Shouldn't those who wrote the legislation take responsibility?

EDWARDS: There are provisions, which get no attention, which did good things. The reason we need changes is because it gave too much discretion to an attorney general who does not deserve it. The attorney general told us that he would not abuse his discretion. He has abused his discretion. We know that now.

[source: ... Scroll down to "Patriot Act..."]

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Lord's Prayer in Urdu

I have to admit, I have always thought that the opening lines of the "The Lord's Prayer" often repeated by a lot of Christians (or is just a Catholic thing?) have a very elegant sound to them--especially when chanted gently and in unison by a bunch of people--kinda like the "Ameen" one hears at the end of the Fatiha in congregations with enough Malikis in it (who tend to say it out loud, unlike most Urdu speakers, who usually follow the Hanafi school of Islamic practise):
Holy Father, who art in heaven
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On Earth
As it is in heaven...
So, don't ask me how, but I stumbled on this a littel while ago and have been meaning to post it here; it's a page with the The Lord's Prayer in Urdu, together with a translation of "Ave Maria", the Catholic prayer to Bibi Maryam, The Virgin Mary, the formulation of the Trinity, and a couple of other things:

Here's the prayer itself:

I have never actually heard it being chanted in Urdu. I wonder if it sounds anywhere near as sonorous; Urdu is a rather mellifluous language generally, so maybe it does...maybe some of the folks who were pillorying me on a list I am on for (they thought) being averse to any mention of Christianity and Pakistan in the same breath can help with that...

[First posted on "Urdu ke Naam"]

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HIjabi Cheerleader! I Kid You Not!!

A little while ago, when someone forwarded a picture of a female Iranian swimmer clad in a blue body suit complete with cap and added a humourous note to it, I was one of the people saying that one really shouldn't make fun of a person who was wearing such odd garb either out of religious conviction, or out of necessity born of pressure from her society and community--and most probably the institution, sporting or academic or what have you, that she was part of.

And it is in that context that I offer the following:

The girls in this picture are dressed the way they are dressed because society--and their school's uniform regulations--makes them dress the way they are dressed:

but take a look at this one, particularly the lady in the middle of this picture:

Is that a black abaya-clad person at the same event holding pom-poms?

I can make a lot of comments and pontificate, but would anyone else care to?

[The pictures, by the way, are taken from here.]

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Giving One's Life in the Holy Land

I am not big on reading newspapers (though not for the same reasons as you-know-who), and newspapers from societies where the press does not operate very independently are even further down on my list. But following a link from something else, I happened to run into this story (click on the graphic to see a clearer version of the graphic if the one on this page is blurry):

[I am not sure if the story is still available online, but click here to check, if you want to.]

Now I was in a rather odd mood when I first to saw this story, because I have to admit that on the one hand, it is a very, very sad, depressing almost, thing to read. But on the other hand, an couple of couplets from a "naat", a peaen to The Prophet, very popular in Urdu-speaking communities came to mind and wouldn't go away for quite a while. Of course, from just a short newspaper story, I don't know what the real particulars of the case are, but the spirit of these lines echos through my mind; it evokes a kind of religious, or spiritual fervour that is very, very different from the kind that is so common today. It evokes a gentler, deeper, more spiritual attachment to things we hold holy than the type of car-burning, Kalashnikov-toting one so often in the news today. Here are the lines I am talking about:
hum madinay main tanha nikal jayaingay
aur galiyon main qasdhan b-hatak jay'eingay

hum wahaan jaa kay waapas naheen aayaingay
d-hoondthay d-hoondthay loag th-hak ja'eingay
in quick-and-dirty translation:
we will venture out into The City (of Madina) all alone
and lose our way in the streets, on purpose

we go to that land, and will not return
try and try as they might, folks will tire of trying to find us
That spirit of unselfishly loving something, even the very dirt of a a place you hold holy, with all one's spirit, and of not wanting or expecting anything in return--no virgins or Houris, no looking forward to rivers of honey, no glory for one self or one's community, no status as a martyr or a Shaikh--seems so far from the folks so often associated with faith today, be it Muslim militants, telegenic Shaikhs and Imams, evangelical pastors, or Bible, Qur'an and Geeta-spouting politicians and pundits.

Like I said, I don't know the particulars of this case; but I'd like to think that if something like this happens, it is in this spirit...

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Allow Me to Join in this Call

I'd like to call upon Muslims and organizations of Muslims to join this call from the Turkish press:
"It is true that Benedict XVI made disagreeable statements about Turkey and Islam. However, the Pope is visiting as our guest..." "no matter what he has said in the past, we have to be supremely hospitable towards Pope Benedict, not only for our own esteem and image but for inter-religious peace as well."
[More at: ]
If we count ourselves as having any loyalty to the faith we claim to, then a guest, anyone who is an official guest in one of our communities, and particularly one who is so honoured by the faith community we believe The Prophet said is the closest to ours, should be an honoured and respected guest.

Now who will stand up and be counted?

So after I said that, someone on a progressive Muslim list I am asked about my use of the word "Ummah" and what responsibility it was of Muslims outside of Turkey to be nice to the Pope while he was visiting that country. My own response to that would have run to something like saying that it was at least as much as some of us felt to protest his famous speech. But then, a nice gent by the name of Akber Choudhry stepped in and said the following--I couldn't have said it better myself:
There are other transnational concepts like 'Ummah' in use today: 'Christendom', 'la Francophonie', 'Western', 'Slavic', etc., so it is not a big deal. We all know what it means :).

One should not forget that Cardinal Ratzinger (before becoming pope) said: Turkey should find its identity in the Islamic world (ummah) and not in Christian Europe (wonder why he did not mention Italy? or France? etc. :).

Also, by your logic, the Pope is just the representative of the Vatican state then?

I had the privilege to visit Istanbul recently, and I would advise anyone to please go visit Turkey, and particular Istanbul, to understand this critical issue at this point in history:
1. Istanbul sits in Europe (on the old Greek province of Thrace). The Ottoman Sultans' seat of government was here.
2. The Ottoman sultan was also 'sultan-i-room' - King of Rome - the Byzantine Empire (the Russian Orthodox became independent due to the conquest of Byzantium by Muslims).
3. The patriarch of the Orthdox Christian Church (technically still head of all Orthodox Christian denominations) sits in Turkey.
4. Turkey has just said, 'enough is enough' on the EU accession talks
5. pan-Islamism fervor is on the rise in Turkey, primarily due to the 50-year failed talks with Europe.

This trip of the pope is very profound. Unity between the Orthodox churches and conciliation with the Catholic Church will make Turkey an aberration in the continuum of Christendom, in which Turkey is just an aberration. On the other hand, Turkey is the wedge that pushes into the EU and divides the Catholic and Slavic communities - with the latter having bitter memories of Turk occupation. The accession of Bulgaria to the EU on 1 January 2007 is symbolic - for if Turkey is not admitted fairly soon, there would be little rational reason for it not to - as Bulgaria (Bulgaristan) was just a poor province of Turkey some time ago, and is still economically inferior to Turkey.

The dilemma is that a rejected Turkey, flexing its muscle sooner or later (20-50 years), might leave NATO and thus be the vanguard of a new Islamic alliance once again pushing into the heart of Europe - a Europe already demographically compromised by Muslim migrants.
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Women's Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equity -- Follow-Up

I posted a notice about a "Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity" a little while ago. Here are some comments from a couple of attendees.

First the first reaction of Pamela K. Taylor, Chair of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America. Please do read it, even if you aren't a fan of her organization; it is really an interesting comment:

She ends that post with the comment: "It struck me that the Muslim commmunity has put a lot of effort into interfaith dialogue in the past twenty years, maybe we need to start putting a similar effort into intra-faith dialogue...When the Christians started interfaith dialogue, it meant Baptists sitting down with Methodists. Or Protestants sitting down with Catholics. I think the Muslim community really needs similar dialogue."

My comment on that was:

We have an expression in one Muslim community I am part of:

Sau Bismillah!

[which roughly translates to: A hundred times Bismillah--meaning that I can't say say enough times that please you should say a Bismillah and start this! Or something like that.]

She's since posted a follow up:

The other comment I have found from an attendee is from Farzana Hassan-Shahid, President of the Muslim Canadian Congress. It is here.

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Racial Profiling...Diallo was a Muslim, Too

I wish I could write a long and beautiful article about this, so it could be read and re-read and circulated and published.

When we found out that a Muslim would sit in Congress for the first time come January, my comment was that in "Keith Ellison, we non-African American Muslims have seen the victory of a brother (the pun is intentional) as our victory. It is wonderful, joyful, and so on. But my prayer was that maybe, just maybe, Muslim activists, maybe even including a lot of people who (like me, I will admit) really got in touch with our progressive side after 9/11, will now also consider the issues and problems of our African-American brothers and sisters as our issues and problems."

Because it really is amazing. Since 9/11/2001, American Muslims, and a lot of organizations with "America" and "Islamic" in their name, in particular, have talked and talked about "Profiling". Just this month, there was a major brouhaha about a group of "Imams" being pulled off a flight. But I have always been fascinated by the complete lack of any acknowledgement that the issue affected anyone in the US before the above date. Even quite a few Muslims, in fact.

My favorite reference is to racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike. It was something that affected mainly African Americans and got so serious that the Federal Government had to step in and monitor the New Jersey State Police and formal policies had to be adopted banning the practice. And guess what the second largest ethnic group of Muslims in the US is? South Asians or Arabs? No. African Americans, right after South Asians.

And yet just last month, I heard the executive director of a group of American Muslim lawyers say that we didn't get engaged in things like human and civil rights before 9/11 because they didn't affect our community.

Why do I raise this today? Why do I keep coming back to this point? Let me put it like this: while I am a South Asian with rather light skin, when African American History Month swung by, m
y six year-old son casually informed his First Grade class that his "dad's an African American." I don't remember using the phrase at home. But he knows I was born in West Africa--just like another Muslim who lived in New York during the period my son was born in the same city.

Amadou Diallo. A West African-born person. A Muslim in America. A name that is today on the lips --or at least at the back of the minds--of everyone who follows news from New York. A name I sometimes think about. What if I had been born a few beds down at Sokoto General Hospital, and in a different family, with slightly different-coloured skin?

And I also think about whether I saw any activism by our "American Muslim" organizations around that case. Either when Amadou was shot. And shot. And shot. Or today, when another African American had died in a hail of gunfire, did I hear a peep out of "our" organizations? This brother--and I WILL use the word--wasn't a Muslim. But if American Muslims haven't learnt in the last 5 years the lesson that standing up for human rights and civil rights is not something you only do when your own community is under threat; what have we learnt?

We keep saying that Islam is a religion of peace, it believes in the sanctity of every life equally. "You kill one human being, you kill all of humanity," we quote The Prophet as saying. But do we practise what we preach? Even when it comes to communities that we claim as our own? We soak in, and bask in, lectures about how Muslims have been in the US since the days of Columbus and definitely since the days of slavery. Slaves that, like Amadou, mainly came from West Africa. We sit with smug smiles at discussions of influences of West African Muslim music on American Jazz & Blues.

But does that pride, and our concern about racial profiling, extend to today's African American brothers? When a woman died here in Fremont California, the victim of what we all suspected was a hate crime, I got several emails in the first few hours. But I just searched my Gmail account. I am still waiting for the first mail on this topic, on any of our American Muslim lists.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Rumi. And Hafez. And Khayyam. And Of Whence They Spake.

Also posted on the blog Urdu ke Naam, with the title "rumi-o-hafiz-o-khayyam ka dhaik-ha hai kalaam".
All the positive feedback on my post yesterday has been very gratifying.

Readers might also want to read this.

It is my desire to bring the poets and qawwals of South Asia to as wide an audience as "Rumi-o-Hafiz-o-Khayyam". We all read these elders, and we all need to. But especially in this day and age we (all of us; Muslims and not, Sufi-leaning or not, Westerners and not) need to reconnect with the living tradition they represent--especially in South Asia. We need to connect with the zawiya, or angle, facet, of Islam that was, and still is, rooted so deep in the lands from where all we hear nowadays is "Deobandi", "Taliban", "Maududi", "Terrorism", and on and on.

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If one is going to commemorate Thanksgiving, the following ceremony seemed to be the most appropriate I have seen in a while--and it is not even in the US...

[On a side note, the first name of the chief is very, very intriguing.]

A blessed season (mubarak/mabrook, we say in Muslim communities) y'all. I have always been intrigued by this most American of holidays--about the only one that is purely and and uniquely an American holiday.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Blast from The Heart (Do Not Read If...)

Also here with the title "ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee! !حاءے كمبخت تو نے پي هى نهين".

Strong Disclaimer:
This post is written purely "for myself". I know some will be touched by it--in whatever way--but if you're put off by either metaphysics, tasawwuf (Sufism), abstractions, or weird, personal transliteration schemes, PLEASE, PLEASE, do not read on. I really don't want to get into detailed discussions of any kind.
There are moments when one just wants to let go; to be lost in something. Something deep. When that happens, I often find myself gravitating to Qawwali, the Muslim mystic musical art form of "Sama" in its South Asian incarnation.

There's one piece, in particular, that I have been promising myself I will translate, render, if you will, into English and post, but just haven't had the energy and bandwidth to sit down and apply myself to the task.

So I just got home about 11 pm tonight (technically yesterday at this point) after attending, I guess, what you'd call a political meeting. After the meeting, I got into a rather refreshingly intelligent conversation with a relatively new friend. By the time I got home, and had checked in on the kids, and sat down to dinner, like I said, I was in a mood that was definitely leaning towards mu'arfa, irfan, tasawwuf, the metaphysical, or whatever you want to call it. So I turned to one of the only two bookmarks I have in the Real Player on my Mac at home.

And the first through, I just got lost listening to this piece. By the end of it, I was definitely close to a "haal", the Sufi version of what our US brothers and sisters would call "being in the zone", "the flow", and so on. And I am not even a formal Sufi. For a traditional "desi" like me (a South Asian), that is a title reserved for some attainment in the metaphysical realm. I am just someone who, I will admit, has an inclination in that direction and, frankly, have been too chicken to formally step on the "tareeq", or Way.

The piece just captures the mood I am in perfectly; the frustration with Naseh, The Preachy Folks, and their obsession with preaching and obsessing with enjoining moral conduct; the reference to the Wine of Truth's greatest bartenders (others use the word "cup bearers", but let's get with the 21st of Our Lord, The Prophet of Divine Love, shall we?) being exactly in Karbala, Najaf, and Samarra; and, of course, the frustration with folks who interpret the references to Wine, and Love in "our" language as moonshine (how else do I translate "t-harra"?) and carnal lust...

So then I looped back and transcribed the parts of it that I think really should be brought to the Rumi- and Hafiz- and Khayyam-in-English-reading public. I am going to try and do the translation some time later. But if you care to, and understand Urdu and/or the languages around it in the linguistic geography (like Hindi and Dakkani and Awadhi and...), do take a read to the following...and/or just watch this space for a translation.

The piece is almost universally referred to as "ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee!" (Oh! You Unfortunate Wretch! You have not Imbibed!) Here are my selected excerpts. First the prologue, itself one the most deliciously intense tongue twisters in the Urdu language:
samajh samajhna samajh kay samjhoe
samajh samajhna bhee aik samajh hai

samajh samajh kay bhee joe na samjhai
mairee samajh main woe na samajh hai
and then the Qawwali itself, sung at the link above by the person who people who connect with the art on a very unvarnished, unapologetic level, as about the greatest proponent of that form in the 20th Century; Aziz Mian:
lutf-e-mai tujh say kya kahoon, nadaaN
(aray) ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee!

x x

bathla'ey dhatha hoon thujhay maikhaanon ka patha
batha-o-kazmain, khurasan, saamara

khurshid mudha'a maira burj-e-sharaf main hai
aik saaqi karbala main maira, aik najaf main hai

x x

mairay shairon kay haqeeqath main na maanee samjha
badha-e-haq koe thoo angoor ka paanee samjha

thoo nahee jaantha arbab-e-thariqath kay usool
thayray bayhoodha sawaalaath sar-a-sar hain fizool

thoo nahee jaantha paymana kisay kehthay hain
thoo nahee jaantha maykhana kisay kehthay hain

isthaylaahaath-e-thasawwuf kee nahee thujh koe khabar
fakar kee raah main jahaan miltha hai jahaan kaif-e-nazar

kot-chashmi say thujhai k-hotee k-haree lagthee hai
mai-e-irfan bhee thujhay laal paree lagthee hai

ha'ey kambakhth thoo nay pee hee nahee!

x x

ahl-e-daanish nay thairay zehen ko kaisa samj-ha
baadha-e-shair koe jis dhum thoonay t-harra samjha

mai-e-tauheed kee main thoe wazahath kee th-hee
thoo na samj-hay aray nadaan yay qismath thairee

rumi-o-hafiz-o-khayyam ka dhaik-ha hai kalaam
jaam-o-meena kay libadha main thareeqath th-hee thamaam

naseha thuj-hai naseehath kay siwaa kaam nahee
jaam main gharq na kardhoon thoe maira naam nahee!

x x

(yay) Allah ki inayath hai kay main saif zubaaan hoon
Aur naasay, thairay liyay main koh-e-garaan hoon
I should put that last couplet in my email signature...once I have a translation, I guess...

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Well, Duh...Ideology is al Qaeda's Achilles' Heel: Study

The following turned up on a few lists. Speaking from the point of view of a person, as I was saying (was it yesterday or the day before?), of someone who's lived through an "Islamization" or two, when people on "that" side of the "Islamic" shop got control of a government, my first reaction to the subject line is exactly that: Well, whop-dee-friggin' Duh!

Of course the assumption that the US government could do something about it is a whole other problem, now isn't it?

And I have snipped most of the article out (you can read it by following the link), but that last paragraph is a wonderful example of how a very interesting concept can then lead to really, really evil policy recommendations and policies...divide and rule, y'all! divide and rule!!

The News Release from the Rand Corporation itself is here and you can read the full two-part report beginning here.

[And apropos of a whole other kind of fundamentalism, the heading below is an example of why the US predilection for using "sentence case", meaning no capital letters for most words in headings makes things so ugly. Tell me, honestly, shouldn't the word "study" have an initial capital letter?]
Ideology is al Qaeda's Achilles' heel: study
Thu Nov 16, 2006 7:40 PM ET

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could discredit al Qaeda in the Muslim world by challenging its violent Islamist ideology and muzzling its leading proponents, an independent report released on Thursday said.

The 364-page study, published by the RAND Corp. think tank, described al Qaeda's Islamist ideology of violent resistance as a "global revolutionary creed" akin to the Marxism-Leninism philosophy that the West defeated with "a robust political warfare" campaign during the Cold War.


Such operations could also exploit ethnic differences by emphasizing al Qaeda's Arab core in non-Arab Muslim countries, and highlight the elevated socioeconomic status of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, scion of a wealthy Saudi family, and his second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian physician.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Pakistani Activists React to Change in Rape Laws (Hudood Laws)

The following is a statement from an organization that's done a lot of very interesting work over the last couple of years or so. A necessary reference point in the discussion. And even if you dismiss them as excitable expats, the Aurat Foundation and Sungi are not names to sneeze at, being very respected social voices from "on the ground" in Pakistan--the latter, for example, being one of the most important groups working on the ground in the aftermath of the quake last year.:

Politics in the name of Women

ANAA stands with its civil society partners, Aurat Foundation, Sungi and many others in expressing their opposition to the Women's Protection Bill (WPB). The Bill is being wrongfully used by the Government of Pakistan to gain political mileage in the guise of championing women's rights. Our opposition to the Bill is based on the following reasons:
  1. The reason ANAA supported the prosecution of rape under the Pakistan Penal Code instead of the Sharia Courts was because the former has never historically prosecuted the crimes of adultery and fornication. This basic difference has been eliminated by introducing the new crime of "lewdness" into the Pakistan Penal Code.
  2. The Amended Women's Protection Bill actually introduces a new crime under Section 496B of the Pakistan Penal Code. This new crime entitled "lewdness" would punish anyone engaging in consensual sexual relations outside of a marital relationship. Absent evidentiary requirements, the creation of this new crime now creates new opportunities in which citizens merely accused of "sexual relations outside marriage" can be thrown in jail and face a five year prison sentence as well as !0,000 rupee fine.
  3. While the new Bill allows rape cases to be tried under the Pakistan Penal Code and removes the supposed evidentiary requirement of providing four adult male witnesses, the creation of the new crime of "lewdness" under the PPC effectively eliminates any cumulative gains.
  4. Ultimately, the new bill uses the already confusing mixture of Sharia and Civil law effective in Pakistan to achieve political gains while ignoring the reality that under the new legal regime private citizens face prison charges for mere accusations of sexual impropriety.
  5. The Bill does not repeal the entire Hudood Ordinance which has been the demand of ANAA as well as all other civil society and human rights organizations in Pakistan. In doing so, the Bill fails to follow the recommendations of the National Council of Women or the Council of Islamic Ideology which have both recommended a complete repeal of the Bill.
For these reasons, ANAA renews its demands to the Government of Pakistan to stop playing with the lives of the citizens of Pakistan by introducing laws that pretend to change the status quo while effectively not doing anything to change the status of women in law and society. For questions please contact

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A Conversation with People Who Study Faith...any Faith

I seem to have struck up a conversation with "Julie Unplugged", a blogger focused on religion, based out of Cincinnati. Her blog is here. And you can read more about--and from--her here.

The conversation started here, and then she picked something up from one of my websites (more about it later) and discusses it here.

Especially with respect to the first post of hers that I commented on (the one about Reza Aslan in his own words), in a conversation across cultural, religious and social chasms, it is interesting to see what it is that causes people to stop and think and realize that they had not been getting the right picture up to that point.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pakistanis Talk about the Pakistani Rape Laws

Folks interested in the issue would do well to read this. It has a detailed description of the process--and has a discussion taking place between Pakistanis with different points of view--and some others stopping by.

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New York Times Covers the Change Pakistani Rape Laws (Hudood Laws)

The New York Times covers the attempted change (what else can I call it?) in Pakistani Rape Laws (part of what is known as the "Hudood Laws"):

Pakistan Moves Toward Altering Rape Law, New York Times, November 16, 2006

I haven't read it yet, so can't comment on it, but I'd like to point folks back the post on this blog from yesterday where I'd like to start a discussion on the laws:

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Empowering Muslim Women; A New Global Movement?

The following is billed as an effort to "Launch a Global Movemet to Empower Muslim Women. It is interesting to see that female Muslim leaders with very varied points of view will be represented in this effort, at least as it starts off. I have seen at least one such effort here in the SF Bay Area (on a more focused topic) evolve and ... but let's not pre-judge this effort.

A last note is that while the headline says "empowering Muslim Women", the formal name, again, refers to it as an "Islamic Initiative". Hmmm....meaning what? That this will be Shariah-compliant? Whose interpretation of Shariah? Folks might be familiar with my thoughts on this; if our Muslim brothers and sisters are going to repeatedly identify their efforts as "Islamic", then why the complaint when the "other" side of the Muslim world is also identified as "Islamic Terrorism", or "Islamofascism"? But we digress. Let's see how this effort evolves:
DATE: November 8, 2006

Daisy Khan, Executive Director, ASMA Society New York
P: 212 362 2242 direct; e-mail:
Faisal Shah, Press Coordinator, ASMA Society New York
P: 917-492-8690; e-mail:
Web Page is here.
PDF is here.


Manhattan, New York - Over one hundred Muslim women religious leaders, human rights activists, scholars and artists from around the world will meet in New York City on November 17th to 19th to launch WISE: The Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity to empower Muslim women to play a greater role in their societies worldwide.

Top leaders will attend, including Baroness Uddin, the first Muslim woman to enter the British House of Lords, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General Dr. Nafis Sadik, Saudi municipal candidate Fatin Bundagji, Malaysian Islamic Feminist Zainah Anwar, author of Standing Alone in Mecca Asra Nomani," Afghani Presidential candidate Dr. Massouda Jalal, Nigerian advocate in the Amina Lawal stoning case Nogi Imoukhuede, President of Islamic Society of North America Ingrid Mattson, Dubai' Comic Writer Rima Khoreibi who introduced the Muslim World to their first female heroin and Pakistan's Mukhtaran Mai, author of the much anticipated In the Name of
Honor: A Memoir.

"This is a historical and critical event in the history of Islam," said Daisy Khan, Executive Director of The American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), the chief organizer of the event. "WISE will provide a much needed platform for diverse Muslim women to discuss global Muslim
women's issues, assert our rights through the use of and in accordance with Islamic law, and build a coherent movement that empowers and connects Muslim women everywhere."

On the agenda is the formation of an International Shura Council of Muslim Women. A Shura Council is an advisory council that interprets Islamic law for the political and religious leaders in its region of authority. Also under discussion will be the creation of a global fund to provide scholarships for Muslim women to be educated in Islamic jurisprudence thereby qualifying them to serve on the Shura Council of Women.

The leaders will discuss the major obstacles facing Muslim women and create strategies to address them. They will discuss how to increase women's religious & political leadership via faith fueled activism, challenging local customs that impinge on women's rights and develop effective methods
to change negative perceptions about muslim women.

A selection of non-Muslim women faith leaders will also participate in the WISE meetings as supportive partners. They include Sister Joan Chittister, prolific advocate of women's rights and American Benedictine nun, Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, leader in the ecumenical interfaith movement in the U.S., Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt, founder of Sister Fund and author of Faith &
Feminism: A Holy Alliance , and Devorah Zlochower, director and instructor of Talmud and halakha, Drisha Institute.

The events of WISE will also feature the theater debut of 7WOMEN, 7HEAVENS, Portraits of Muslim Women, a play that juxtaposes stories of seven Muslim women in abrasive, funny, and soothing dialogue with themselves around personal struggles with faith, community, and relationships. The world premier will take place Saturday, November 18 at 8:30pm during the WISE
conference and is open to the public.

Sponsor: The ASMA Society, a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 founded in 1997 in New York City, is an Islamic cultural and educational organization dedicated to fostering an American-Muslim identity and building bridges between American Muslims and the American public. ASMA's philosophical objective is to strengthen a culturally American expression of Islam based on tolerance and
on cultural and religious harmony and to foster an environment in which Muslims can thrive within a pluralistic society.

Project Collaboration: ASMA Society will collaborate with Cordoba Initiative, a not for profit 501(c) 3 founded in 2004 in Aspen, Colorado. Cordoba Initiative is multi-faith initiative whose objective is to heal the relationship between the Islamic world and America/the West

WISE has been supported by The Ford Foundation, Sister Fund, Henry Luce Foundation, Danny Kaye & Sylvia Kaye Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, William & Mary Greve Foundation, Marshall Family Fund.

Venue: The Westin New York at Times Square: 270 West 43rd street, NYC, NY 10036

Schedule: Start on November 17th Fri at 5pm and end on November 19th Sun at 5pm
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pakistan Reforms Rape Laws?

This just in; while people like me, who do not accept Gen. Zia's "Islamization" as being a valid implementation of Sharia (Zakat on 2000 rupees in your checking account?!!) and therefore cringe at characterization of laws he put in place as "strict Sharia laws", this article provides a general outline. Can can anyone throw any light on the details?
Pakistan votes to amend rape laws
Pakistan's national assembly has voted to amend the country's strict Sharia laws on rape and adultery.

Until now rape cases were dealt with in Sharia courts. Victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime - if not they faced prosecution for adultery.

Now civil courts will be able to try rape cases, assuming the upper house and the president ratify the move...
More at
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Afghanistan, 11/06, and the Value of a Classical Education

Sarah Nathan, quoted as an "Afghan Analyst": "I don't think anyone could have foreseen the sheer ferocity..." of the Afghan attacks this year...!!!!

WTF-!? This is what happens to the quality of the people who run and advise our governments when people don't get a proper education. This "expert" on Afghanistan has not so much as read her Kipling!!

I mean, I won't even go into the echos of Madame Rice (or should that be "Mademoiselle"?) talking about what else people had not foreseen...she obviously hadn' t read her Tom Clancy...

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Muslims, the 2006 Elections and the Clash of Fundamentalisms

A little late, but let's get the discussion going. Hopefully, by now the apple cider foam has subsided.

The celebrations are on. But here are a few morning-after thoughts:
  • On the First Muslim in Congress: Keith Ellison, we non-African American Muslims have seen the victory the victory of a brother (with a pun intended) as our victory. It is wonderful, joyful, and so on. My prayer that maybe, just maybe, Muslim activists, maybe even including a lot of people who (like me, I will admit) really got in touch with our progressive side after 9/11, will now also consider the issues and problems of our African-American brothers and sisters as our issues and problems. Just last week, I heard the executive director of a group of American Muslim lawyers say that we didn't get engaged in things like human and civil rights before 9/11 because they didn't affect our community.

  • On the Clash of Fundamentalisms: Whatever else happens, we have to remember that we now do have a Clash of Fundamentalisms in the world today. What we have seen yesterday is the American people--to give them credit--trying to reign in one side of that insanity. But we--especially we moderate, progressive, and traditional Muslims (and I count that as three groups, not one)--have to make sure that that is a step towards ending the insanity and try to reign in the extremists on "our side". As I have taken to saying, in a situation where even Reza Aslan can't bring himself to call Maududi and Qutub a part of the puritanical manifestation of the Islamic Reformation he himself is the clearest chronicler of, we have a LOT of work to do.

  • And a quick reminder to EVERBODY, Muslim or non-Muslim, Democrat and other, courtesy an American journalist who has been one of the few voices really making a difference:
Blame for Iraq Extends Far Beyond the GOP
By Matt Taibbi, Posted November 5, 2006.
It's dangerous to allow history to be written that it was "the
Republicans" who got us into Iraq -- a lot of America's mushy moderate
media and political establishment thought the invasion was a great
idea at the time.
  • And on a more general note, from Muqtedar Khan's Ijtehad comes the following:
Do we now know what Americans want? Like the Democrats they have a clear craving for a new direction but only a vague vision of what it might be. While it is clear what the voters have rejected -- Republican hubris, crony politics and power mania – it is not obvious what they have voted for, except change...This election was about change. Americans are seeking a new leadership, certainly new direction, but perhaps not a shift in values.
[Full article at:]
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

COMMENT: In Spain, dismay at Muslim converts holding sway (CSM)

I have again been lax in posting; though podcasting has taken off. Here are a few rapidfire comments.

First...someone posted the following story from the Christian Science Monitor:
In Spain, dismay at Muslim converts holding sway
'New Muslims' have gained prominence as mediators between politicians and Islamic groups, but now they face new scrutiny.
By Geoff Pingree and Lisa Abend | Correspondents of The Christian Science Monitor
November 07, 2006 edition
They are a voice for moderation; there's dismay at what they do... hmmm... I guess it's fortunate that we don't have this problem in North America... ;) [y'all know I am being sarcastic, right?]

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Monday, November 06, 2006

The Muslim Vote, Hijab, Niqaab, and a Poetic Take on the Clash of Cultures; iFaqeer Podcast November 06, 2006

Here's a new podcast that covers US Elections, Muslim block votes in USA and Canada, Hijab, Veils, Niqaab, and a South Asian/Muslim poet of the Clash of Culture, and Civilizations.

This program is now listed on the iTunes Music Store; just search on "Azad Karachi Radio"; or just "Urdu". And as always, you can also access the program in one of the following ways:
  • Subscribe to either the text version of this blog or the Podcast using the following the following URL/link for our RSS feed:
  • Listen to the streaming version of this program using the Odeo player from any iFaqeer blog or Azad Karachi Radio blog page. Just take a look in the righthand column of the page!
  • At Yahoo! Podcasts.
  • At Odeo.
If you are in Pakistan or elsewhere where you have difficulty accessing the Blogspot domain due to censorship, etc., please use:

Formally speaking, the iFaqeer Podcast is a service of Azad South Asia, a collaborative media effort initiated by yours truly and Cemendtaur. Please leave comments, and provide feedback, suggestions, and other input by posting comments on our blog pages or via email at

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Listing the Podcast at Odeo

This is post is an effort to "claim" My Odeo Channel (odeo/6a700ab672a5ffb6), so I can provide better service.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reza Aslan at Stanford and a couple of other points; iFaqeer Podcast, October 25, 2006

With Azad Karachi Radio re-launched, I am also restarting the Podcast series associated with this blog. This time, I discuss Reza Aslan's speech at Stanford's Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and a couple of other issues.

Uploading this program has delayed it by a day or so, but now the audio file for directly downloading and listening to the program is here.

This edition discusses various issues that have been addressed on this blog--including upcoming ones.

You can subscribe to either the text version of this blog or the Podcast using the following the following URL/link for our RSS feed:

Just copy and paste that address where the software you use to subscribe to PodCasts (for example iTunes from Apple, iPodder, etc.) asks you to put addresses of Podcasts you are subscribing to manually.

As mentioned above, you can listen to this program using the Odeo player on our pages. We are listed at Yahoo! Podcasts and Odeo.

Again, to reach us via email, drop a line at Otherwise, just leave comments on this page.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What Does a Muslim Moderate Sound Like?

Playing catch-up, and having just returned from a lecture by Reza Aslan at Stanford's Abbasi Program on Islamic Studies, I found the following in the draft folder from the days of the discussion on the Pope's much-discussed speech. It's sort of a continuation of an earlier post, which you might want to read, too:

In case anyone is wondering what a discussion between someone like Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan and/or Ayan Hirsi Ali on the one hand and a moderate Muslim on the other sounds like, please take a listen to the last hour of this program:

During the program, Fawaz Gerges points out that the protest in Cairo, at or near Al-Azhar, was organized and attended by the Islamists. And points to Islamists saying (Kamal Saeed Al Habibi) that they had thought of the Pope a leader in the fight against secularism, and worked with him, for example, during discussions on family planning at WHO conferences and the like. But now they have their doubts.

And the Vatican correspondent, even though he explicates and explains what the pope was trying to do, still says the same thing I was saying at the time, or that Fawaz G or Reza Aslan (see below) were saying: it wasn't smart to use that quote to make his point. And says that the University professor has yet to come to terms with being the Pope. Terrible failure of sensitivity" is the phrase he uses. He hopes that what will come out of this is that Pope will come up with a better vocabulary.

And FG also points out that people in the Muslim world are following this closely: and while this was what the rabble rousers and the mob instigaters are capitalizing on (ain't capital-ism great?!), the masses in the Muslim world are not thinking if this speech; they also remember very clearly his not including Islamic civilization in his list of civilizations in his first speech as Pope--and, not least, his opposition to Turkey and Bosnia's entry into the EU.

And at this point, even Brian Lehrer, the host, is taking jabs at Irshad, who seems to be the only one "defending" the Pope's speech in an unqualified manner.

Reza Aslan points out that unqualified, unsympathetic, un-well-thought-out, really, critiques of Islam make it impossible to reach out to Moderate Muslims--not the fanatics, who will never listen anyway.

Vatican Correspondent Guy says the Vatican is wondering "Where is all the goodwill we earned by being against the Iraq War and calling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon?" My answer tot hat is: See under "Tet Offensive" and "Holy Father, please stop feeding the bears." Especially since Gerges says that the speakers at Al Azhar said "Let's do this peacefully; and we'll keep up the dialogue."

And Reza A points out that violence broke out over this issue in Gaza and Somalia--the two most lawless places on earth.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Az Karachi asth, Radioyay Azad; Relaunching Azad Karachi Radio

About a year ago, I had started podcasting. I, we, rather, started two podcasts. One was in English and was, well, podcast, via the RSS feed for this blog while the other was in Urdu and podcast as "Azad Karachi Radio".

To which a lot of people go..."Say what?!" Are you talking about the political independence of Karachi, a la Singapore?

Well, let's explain.

Both of the members of the team working on the podcast count the city of Karachi as our emotional, intellectual and social wellspring. And thus the idea is to have an Azad--the word, say, Gandhi would have used, for "free"--voice that has a Karachi accent and speaks with the spirit of that brave city.

Thus the title of this post: Az Karachi asth, Radioyay Azad.

That phrase is my uneducated way of saying "From the heart of Karachi, this is Azad Radio". PaRhay lik-hay koe Farsi kya hai, پڑھے لِکھے کو فارسے کیا ہے؟ , as the old line of poetry went; educated people should be able to grasp complicated ideas in literary language--which, before Europe became ascendant, was Farsi, from Istanbul to Rangoon, if not further.

Another reason--and this might be a very personal eccenticity of mine--the phrase from Persian pops into my head is that, growing up abroad, my father used to listen BBC Urdu (as well as English and Hindi) regularly. And if you didn't turn the radio off fast enough at the end of most Urdu broadcasts, the next thing you heard on that wavelength was "Az London asth, Radioyay BBC" (From London, this is BBC Radio). So in my head, Urdu, Radio and the traditional roots of Urdu come together in that one sentence. And it took me decades to actually learn what the words exactly meant.

So, to paraphrase the call sign of BBC's Persian Service, az Karachi asth, radioyay azad. Cemendtaur and I are reviving Azad Karachi Radio with Program 4, a year after the last one went online.

This program restarts the discussion with Cemendtaur joining the team live and in studio. This program congratulates celebrants on Ramzan, Eid and Diwali, with some thoughts on the spirit of the season; discusses the first anniversary of the earthquake in South Asia and the role of the blogosphere in helping remember those in need; and throws out some political thoughts on matters of social concern, also discussing the
recent exchange between a seminarian (madarasa student) and Gen. Pervez Musharraf that made the rounds on the Internet.

The audio file for directly downloading and listening to the fourth program is here. You can now also stream the podcast using the Odeo (odeo/5e510de8d8638707) player from any Azad Karachi Radio blog page.
Just take a look at the top righthand corner of the page!

The new edition of the podcast is at:

And the main Blog is at:

The podcast is aslo available on Yahoo! Podcasts at:

and on Odeo at:

Though the directories might need a little time to register the new edition--they hadn't at the time of writing this.

You can subscribe to either the text version of this blog or the Podcast using the following the following URL/link for our RSS feed:

and copy-pasting that address where the software you use to subscribe to PodCasts (for example iTunes from Apple, iPodder, etc.) asks you to put addresses of Podcasts you are subscribing to manually.

If you are in Pakistan or elsewhere where you have difficulty accessing the Blogspot domain due to censorship, etc., please use:

Formally speaking, Azad Karachi Radio is a service of Azad South Asia, a collaborative media effort initiated by yours truly and Cemendtaur, out of Silicon Valley. You can reach the team at or leave comments on either this blog or at Azad Karachi Radio.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th; Lost in Translation

I have recently started paying more attention to, a site that aggregates blogs that are by, or related to Pakistanis and Pakistan. (Basically, I added a feed from it to my Yahoo Widget for reading feeds.)

Here's something that jumped out at me today:

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Disasters Know No Boundaries

We often talk of the "earthquake that hit Pakistan", but this picture is an important reminder that disasters know no boundaries:

MSNBC Picture

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Flashback: 10/8/2005; Earthquake in Kashmir


According to the netizen’s reference of choice, the Wikipedia, the recent earthquake hit South Asia 08:50:38 Pakistan Standard Time (03:50:38 UTC/ 09:20:38 India Standard Time) on Saturday, October 8th, 2005. It was Friday night here in California and, as a lot of us are wont to do, before I turned in to sleep, I happened to glance at Yahoo! News headlines. There was mention about a quake in Pakistan. It seemed like a pretty serious natural disaster—though, at the time, we had no idea quite how serious.

For about six months, I have been working on a project called WikiPakistan (, a “Pakistan Information Database” hosted on WikiCities, a system run by the same foundation that runs the WikiPedia. (The WikiPedia is a free and “Open Source” encyclopedia based on the new “Wiki” technology for developing Web sites.) Up to that point, this project had been moving rather slowly, with me trying to get people interested and entering information in between holding down a Silicon Valley day job, managing two kids both of whose parents have professional jobs, and trying to keep my blog up to date. But as I read the news about the quake, I realized that this was exactly the kind of situation that this project could address. I created a page on the site devoted to the quake. Then I sent an e-mail to several mailing lists I am on and to friends informing them and inviting them to contribute, and went to sleep. By then, it had a couple of news links, a couple of links to technical information about the quake, and some empty sections for links to personal accounts, organizations working to provide relief, governments’ response, and some other useful links. It was 2:08 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, and about 2:00 p.m. in Pakistan when I made my last edit that night. It had been a little over five hours since the earthquake hit.

By the next morning, of course, the world was buzzing with news, views, interviews and information about the quake, relief efforts, statistics, and the like. Over the next few days, I fell into the routine of following what I could from mailing lists, e-mails being sent around, news sites, and the like and adding information to the wiki site. Very soon, others joined in—not least, people on the ground in Pakistan...
You can read the whole article from a year ago in the November 2005 edition of the Siliconeer Magazine.

The Wiki pages are also still around and live, if a little stale. Please stop by and update things if you get a chance: . A page has been set up for updates a year on at:

The All Things Pakistan blog at has a couple of posts (at least) that are worth reading on this topic--including one that went live at exactly the moment of the 1-year anniversary of the event; one about "Zalzala Khan", a kid born during the quake, so to speak, and nicknamed after the event; and a picture of the day that is just amazing (the one reproduced above).

PS: The team at is coordinating blogging about the anniversary at:

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Benazir Bhutto Comes A'Visiting--and Imran Khan and other Pakistani Pols

Especially living in the US or another country with an active democracy, one often thinks--okay, maybe only once in a while--that whatever their foibles, one should try to engage with Pakistani politicians. After all, the press and opinion makers often say that the only way to really set up a prosperous Pakistan, where the people can achieve their aspirations and we can see the dreams we have for our country fulfilled is to let democracy take its course and let the people actually lead the "democracy opposition" (a phrase from the WSJ or the IHT of day or two ago) to play their part.

And then you see, for example, a report in the Community section of The Pakistan Link of October 6, 2006 about Benazir Bhutto's recent visit to the SF Bay area. (You've got to give her this: she's the only Pakistani politician that does come around here regularly. The world beats a path to Silicon Valley and wants to adopt IT; the Pakistani government and industry waxes eloquent about wanting to become a powerhouse in the field. But actually come here and engage? Naaah. But I digress.) The report is by Ras H. Siddiqui, who is at this point the elder statesman amongst Pakistani journalists in Northern California. It's titled "Benazir Criticizes Waziristan Peace Treaty" and provides a very interesting view of the event and Ms. Bhutto (or Mrs. Bhutto-Zardar, as it calls her at one point), amongst other things saying that she:
"has been Prime Minister of Pakistan on two occasions. She is Chairperson of the PPP, the largest political party in that country and if a recent International Republican Institute (IRI) survey is an indicator, she is still the frontrunner to Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s slot. But that is only possible if General Musharraf holds “free and fair” elections next year in the country."
I attended an event just like this one at the same venue a year or two ago and what struck me most was the part where she pointed out, as Ras Saahab reports this time, that:
"many people in Pakistan are still living in misery. She said that the stock market had done well in the country but that most people there did not have the resources to invest in it and that their poverty is increasing."
and that
"We should use our current influx of cash towards debt servicing and health, education and sanitation, she said. She spoke about power outages that have become the norm in the country, increased unemployment is a problem and..." so on
Here's my comment back to Ras Saahab:

What you relate about her assessement of the situation in Pakistan is similar to what I heard last time she was here. And it was impressive. Just what I would like the leader of a left-leaning party to focus on.

Imran Khan speaking at
OPEN Silicon Valley's Annual event in 2005
[Photo by Author/Blogger]
And it's not just her; I had the honour of listening to Imran Khan in the Bay Area, too. And my reaction to him was the same: They get the problem. It's not that they are dumb. Their take on what's wrong in Pakistan is spot on.

But. But in the case of BB, I lived through both her Prime Ministerships. And the only good thing I remember is that the ban on fax machines was lifted and there was SOME loosening of the social screw that Zia had put in place...on the other side side of the balance sheet--namely what difference did this female leader of an ostensibly left-leaning party make? did women's rights make any headway? and she quotes Transparency International, but what of the record of her administration--the picture is not at all much to write home about.

In the case of Imran Khan, I have a friend who was a "polling agent" for his party in the first election. And the way they ran that campaign was beyond incompetent. And his talking a good talk about the corrupt politicians and then working with a lot of them (the way he got his seat in Parliament was to get the other Khan Niazi--his own family name, too--running in Mianwali to bow out of the race) also left a lot of disullusionment in its wake. [And I know there will be those who object to my lining up IK with BB and oldline corrupt politicians. But from the point of view of the common citizen, incompetence, or cluelessness, if you will, and corruption really don't differ in what they do to us and our nation.]

And I don't mean to pick on BB or IK. I could go on and on about Nawaz Sharif (anti-terror laws...oddly relevant today) and even the MQM.

Where am I going with this? I am not sure. I can only say that there are those of us "out here" that do want to engage with the politics of our home country--in the most high-minded, and noble sense of that word, politics, if that spirit can still be invoked. We see Michael Shakashvili in Georgia, a returned expat, get elected. But we're thinking, how can we engage? Main manje kithhay d-haawan, they main keRay paasay jaawan, to quote my favourite Punjabi saying. Or, to quote the Shahid Nadeem play, dhasso kiththay jaaway jhalli? kina bu'a kharkaaway jhalli?

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Different take on the AQ Khan Affair

This is a little dated, but I'd missed this one:

As usual, the folks at The Daily Show say things that only a humourist can. The "He said sorry." The "Pakistan didn't sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." The hypocrisy of "Godfearing nations full of very religious people" (both Western and Muslim?) wanting nuclear weapons (of course, he didn't, but citizens of Islamic Republics do well to remember the proscription against weapons that have long-term environmental effects) goes on and on.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Subhaanilillahi! Maadallah!

I am not a fan of Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan or Ayan Hirsi Ali. You can google me on that--or search this blog . But we--yes, me included--critique these folks morning, noon, and noony night, to quote the children's story character, for saying, na'uzu billahi min zalik, that "Islam needs reform" or that the Qur'an "has ambiguities, inconsistencies, outright contradictions and -- gasp! -- the possibility of human editing." (An exact quote. See:

But when the Mercury News, a newspaper with a much, much better record than most US papers (not to mention being our local paper in Silicon Valley), reports that:
"In the seventh century, when most people were illiterate and uneducated, moon sightings were the simplest way to determine the lunar calendar, said Muzammil Siddiqi, a member of the influential Fiqh Council of North America, the body of Islamic scholars that allowed the astronomical calculations."

'``These are the same principles,'' Siddiqi said. ``If you have all this knowledge available, why would you wait until the last minute? You can tell them ahead of time and they can plan.'''
and that ISEB President Khalid Baig
".... foresees slowly introducing the scientific concept to the 300 mosque members, and one day using that new method."

"``The sighting of the moon has been a tradition since the Prophet Muhammad, so this will not be an easy thing to give up,'' Baig said. "

[The full article is at: . They do require you to log in/register on their site.]
We're okay with that?!

What can I say except, as the then very relaxed, Maliki Muslim community in West Africa that I grew up in--which, each year, stayed up late to hear the ailing Sultan of Sokoto say the magic words "Gobe Sallah", or "Tomorrow is (the Big Day of) Prayer"--would, in the local Hausa-Fulani dialect, say,

Subhaanilillahi! Maadallah!

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Comments on the Pope: StratFor/Friedman, Tariq Ramadan, Daniel Pipes, Progressive Muslim Groups

Before we move on to other subjects, here's a round-up of reaction about the Pope's speech that I found interesting:

George Friedman of StratFor, has a very interesting take on the whole thing, calling it "A Deliberate Move", saying:

"Let's begin with the obvious: Benedict's words were purposely chosen. The quotation of Manuel II was not a one-liner, accidentally blurted out. The pope was giving a prepared lecture that he may have written himself -- and if it was written for him, it was one that he carefully read. Moreover, each of the pope's public utterances are thoughtfully reviewed by his staff, and there is no question that anyone who read this speech before it was delivered would recognize the explosive nature of discussing anything about Islam in the current climate. There is not one war going on in the world today, but a series of wars, some of them placing Catholics at risk."

You can read the whole commentary at:

Tariq Ramadan, who has been referred to Europe Islam's Martin Luther King, weighs in with:

"...Throughout the Muslim world, religious leaders, presidents, politicians and intellectuals joined their voices with protesting masses angered by a perceived “insult” to their faith ... Whatever the judgements of these scholars and intellectuals, one would have hoped that they adopt a more reasoned approach in their critical remarks..."

You can read his commentary at:

Daniel Pipes, yes, Daniel Pipes; I said interesting, not necessarily "positive contribution to the discussion" weighs in with a predictable--but not-so-incendiary-as-you'd-expect op-ed, includiing some interesting (as promised) comments, including:
  • "First reflection: Benedict has offered elusive comments, brief statements, and now this delphic quotation, but he has not provided a much-needed major statement on this vital topic of Islam. One hopes it is in the offing...."
  • "In the Italian original, however, Benedict says only sono rammaricato, which translates as "I am disappointed" or "I regret."
You can read his whole piece at:

[To complete the picture in terms of academics and thinkers, and if you haven't already, please don't forgot to check out my post about Karen Armstrong's comments on the issue at: ]

The Progressive Muslim Union of North America "calls for calm in the wake of the Pope's Remarks":

The Muslim Canadian Congress says, "comments provocative, but Muslims should learn to turn the other cheek":

I wonder, is that their way of saying "We're all Catholic now?" [Sorry, that was too easy :-).]

The Canadian Muslim Union "is saddened by the remarks and quotes made by Pope Benedict regarding Islam and the Prophet Muhammed," saying:

"To have chosen to make such insensitive and provocative statements is at best short-sighted, if not irresponsible, considering current social realities and political tensions..." and while recognizing "that people have deeply held religious beliefs but also feels that no religion should be held above another in public affairs. Freedom of religion demands that government policy be framed in a secular environment," and while urging "the Vatican and His Holiness to pursue a new relationship with the followers of the prophet Muhammed based on mutual respect and compassion ... also urged offended Muslims to show restraint in the manner they show their offence and to avoid confrontation and violence."

And to amplify that last point, I would like to call attention to my post of a couple of days ago about respect for places of worship and people of the cloth. And to say to all who will listen that to this Muslim, at least, there is almost nothing uglier than some of the pictures on this page:

Reminds one of a cartoon that one saw during the cartoon controvesy:

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Islam 101: Muslim Conduct towards Churches and People of the Cloth

There have been reports of people attacking churches and at least one nun killed in Africa since the Pope's statement of a few days ago quoting Manuel II. (And other things have happened before.) I thought this would be a good time to cover the topic above in a little more detail.

As Muslims, we need to be very clear in our own minds, and not just for CSPAN and CNN and the purposes of daawa, that attacking Churches, specifically, is a direct violation of a direct order from The Prophet (Allah's peace be upon him and all the Prophets and Messengers before him). These orders are best understood from a charter he gave to the Monks of St. Catherine in the Sinai. The monastery itself has consequently been very highly regarded and respected by Muslims ever since. But the way the document is written, it is not just about that monastery, but also, in my humble opinion, captures how he wanted his followers to treat Christians in general and people of the cloth in particular.

And before people start challenging the theology of the Catholic Church, let us remember that the Councils of Nicea had already happened by The Prophet's time, and St. Catherine, while (according to the Wikipedia) an Orthodox institution, still follows the Nicean creed.)

In his own words,
"those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

"Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them."
"No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses."
and, at least one translation starts the last paragraph to say,
"Every help shall be given them in the repair of their churches. They shall be absolved from wearing arms. They shall be protected by the Muslims."
while others say
"Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants."
[My Arabic is not fluent and if anyone can take a look at the original Arabic text and help get a more exact sense of the text, please let me know. I think I am familiar enough with Arabic to make a judgement with some help.]

As to who, where, and when this is applicable, the document is very clear at the very beginning that "we don't rule such-and-such territory; it is the occupier's/government's responsibilty" is not an excuse we can fall back on:
"Any Muslim violating and abusing what is therein ordered would be regarded as violator of God’s testament and would be the breaker of His promise and would make himself deserving of God’s curse, be he a king or a subject."
"No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world)."
Too often, in the rush to take the Pope to task, or condemn cartoons in Denmark (and I have done by part of taking to task and critiquing the cartoons, though maybe for slightly different reasons than most), we forget to keep that in mind; that the tradition of The Prophet and his Khalifas (not to mention the Qur'an and the rest of our canon/qanoon) is that places of worship and people of the cloth are inviolate, whatever the circumstances. And whoever is doing the attacking--and I pray it is not someone who considers themselves a Muslim, for that points to another, much, much deeper problem in the Ummah today--if a Muslim community has any authority and influence in the area, it is our duty to protect them, plain and simple. And not for the image of Islam, or international relations or because I am a "friend of the West", but because if we take the words of the Qur'an and The Prophet seriously, we believe that Allah will take us to account on this issue on the Day of Judgement.

[PS: You can follow up on the document starting on the Wikipedia here or here: ]

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