French annulment

June 5, 2008

There’s a story which seems to have hopped over from the French blogosphere now making the rounds. Read the rest of this entry »


Rebel Sisters

May 1, 2008

I’m generally astounded that people manage to suggest with a straight face that what the Islamic world needs is its own Luther and its own Reformation. I usually assume it’s because they’re too busy listening to themselves to think about the difference between reform and Reformation. Ironically, they’re often the sort who elsewhere spew all sorts of bile on America’s most visible inheritors of the Reformation. So I was a little surprised to see someone who apparently is actually thinking about the fact that the Reformation is a Sixteenth Century-phenomenon, though one can only wonder what they imagine the Sixteenth Century to have been like – maybe they’ve been watching too much of the Tudors:

Clearly, this is a debate of importance not only to Muslims but to non-Muslims as well, and for a Westerner listening in, the best way to understand it may be to translate it into the language of European history. Irshad Manji sees herself as moving Islam into the 16th century; Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to move it into the 18th. It’s as if Luther and Voltaire were living at the same time.

Personally, I feel it’s more apt to “translate it into the language of” American suburban adolescence. Hirsi Ali’s approach is typical of the average 14 year old ex-Catholic, while Manji’s more nuanced critique is that of the 19 year old Liberal Arts student. (These ages are calculated for the New York suburbs, add five years and a heavy dose of embarrassing awkwardness in the embrace of High School antics during college for those from the Heartland.)

Muslim Country Music

April 18, 2007

altmuslim has a profile of Kareem Salama, an Egyptian-American country singer from Oklahoma. He quotes from the Diwan of Imam al-Shafi`i (Allah be pleased with him.) Let that sink in. Have you met any Egyptian-Americans who quote from the Diwan of Imam al-Shafi`i?
All Things Considered did a story two weekends ago about the fact that the most popular style of music on Kenyan airwaves is country. The most popular performers are Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. And the biggest hit of all time is “Coat of Many Colors!”

Kareem Salama: “There’s something reverent about country music” –

I’ve been kind of skimming this series – not paying much attention, and I might have mised this entirely had Umm Zaid not mentioned it. As travel writing it’s not bad. The first obvious criticism is that everyone knows that the Tablighi Jamaat is not a missionary organization in the sense that they aim to convert non-Muslims. They are trying to spread their message to (not-good-enough) Muslims. Which is not to say that it would be possible for a non-Muslim to have more than a minute of private conversation with a Tablighi without being pitched to – just that it’s not the stated goal of the organization.
He quotes Amanpour as saying people are worried about the Jamaat’s growing influence, and then blames her for saying it’s the secrecy of this incredibly open organization which worries people. He’s definitely hitting on something – the Tablighi Jamaat’s insidiousness lies in the simplicity and seeming innocuousness of their methods. Everything is done by word of mouth. On their official platforms they never say anything objectionable (at least not to any modestly pious Muslim.) They do have a relatively privacy-obsessed hierarchy, but as a group they do nothing but send people around the world in little groups for motivational speaking. The problems – and they are numerous and of various types – come from the effects of Jamaat participation on the participants. I’ve written at length on this elsewhere, and am not in the mood to discuss it right now. If I do a separate post on the subject, I will, insha’ Allah, update this one.
As an aside, of all of the commentators one could use for a single, vague, decontextualized soundbite about the Tablighi Jamaat, Chritiane Amanpur is certainly a weird choice. Personally I would have chosen last year’s unexplained comment by an American military spokesman at Guantanamo including “Jama’ah Tabligh” in a list of terrorist or terrorist-supporting organizations. (Which is somewhat accurate, but very far from the policy of, say, the State Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the administrators of countless prisons an other institutions which enable and endorse Tablighi activity all the time.)
Dispatches from Bangladesh. – By Nicholas Schmidle – Slate Magazine

In a very reasonable op-ed piece, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross points out the need for the Counterterrorism community to let moderate Muslims hear positive feedback. And for once “moderate” actually means moderate – he specifically cites Islamica and altmuslim. He also briefly touches on how to deal with individual policy differences without throwing away cooperation altogether.
Of course, the root of much of the problem is how much weight and credence is given to absurdly imprecise labels in American politics, public discussions of religion, foreign policy, and even in the Islamic world itself. What everyone should be looking for is shared goals. And we need to understand that you can work towards a shared goal without entering into some sort of unbreakable alliance. Work together for one thing, achieve it, and be satisfied. That goes for all groupings – political, religious, social, cultural, what have you. Those who insist that two groups (or even individuals) need to merge completely are as dangerous to the greater welfare as those who insist

Finding the moderates – Editorials/Op-Ed – The Washington Times, America’s Newspaper

Paul Barrett writes in Salon about this perennial question. I’m not sure if this is just an excerpt or summary of something in the book. (I’ll check.) Just like his book, he gets the part of the problem he covers basically right, but totally misses the bigger picture. Read the rest of this entry »