Dismantling the Justice System
I don't always agree with the New York Times, but today's editorial is spot on. Our government is setting about gutting basic rights and freedoms that have formed the fabric of our justice system since the beginning of our nation. This is going on largely unopposed. Either people don't care, don't know, or think, "it's not me they're coming after, so it's ok." At risk of quoting a poem that is so oft-quoted it is almost cliched... first they came for the jews and I was silent. Then they came for the catholics and I silent. Then they came for the gays and I was silent. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out. Today, the government is aiming at Muslims. No one is speaking up (except a few on the far-left). Tomorrow it will be Latinos (under the guise of attacking illegal immigration), will anyone speak up then? When they get to average Americans, who will be left to speak up?
According to the Times: "In a breathtaking afterthought at the close of debate, the House voted to triple the number of terrorism-related crimes carrying the death penalty. The House also voted to allow judges to reduce the size of juries that decide on executions, and even to permit prosecutors to try repeatedly for a death sentence when a hung jury fails to vote for death."
Again, people may say, so what, they are terrorists. But, as the editorial points out. "These would make it easier for prosecutors to win a death sentence in cases where a defendant had no intent to kill - for example, if a defendant gave financial support to an umbrella organization without realizing that some of its adherents might eventually commit violence."
As someone who sponsored an orphan through an organization that turned out to be siphoning off monies to fund jihadist campaigns, this is really scary. I had photos of the girl that my donations fed, clothed, and sent to school. I had letters from her, thanking my family for supporting her and wishing us happy holidays. Apparently, all this was accomplished for something less than the $30 a month I was paying. The rest of the money went to causes I neither support, nor knew about. But if the Times is correct, I could face a death sentence for my support of an overseas orphan! Scary indeed!!
for the whole editorial.
Rosa Parks and the end of an era
Memorial services for Rosa Parks have been going on all over the country, and rightfully so. As an individual Rosa was a remarkable person. As a symbol of the civil rights era, she along with all the brave souls who fought to enshrine equal rights for people of all races in this country, deserve recognition. While it is good to reflect on where we we came from, what we overcame, and how far we've progressed it is also important to remember that the fight is not over.
Every once in a while, I overhear a teenager saying something like "What's the big deal with all this racism stuff? If anyone is racist, it's black kids." There seems to be a broad lack of knowledge among our younger people about the conditions that led to the civil rights movement, the upheavals around bussing and desegregation, the ongoing systemic forces that work to keep certain groups disadvantaged, and the extent to which individual racism is still a major problem in our country.
It's probably too much to ask of the public school systems, which are increasingly teaching as to produce an obedient, unquestioning, 100% attendant work-force. I'm sure my own consciousness was raised not by my teachers, but by the nightly news where I saw my nieghbors in the supposedly liberal Boston rioting simply because their kids were going to sit next to black kids in schools. Not to mention the horrific images coming out of South Africa.
As a Muslim, I am at the receiving end of racism from time to time. But more often, I am reminded of the priviledge white people are accorded, whether it's an exemption from automatic "random" searches at the airport (I only get randomly searched about half the time I fly), or the interest people take in white converts to Islam (as opposed to African American converts, who make up a much greater number. Even Latino converts get more press than our black brothers and sisters.), whether it is the welcome that immigrant communities give white converts, especially women converts, making them spokespeople for the community, or the benefit of the doubt I get from your average American.
I try to teach my kids about racism and the effects is has had and continues to have on our world. I hope others do to.
So much going on!
My article on the Compassionate Care Network -- a low-cost health care program started in Chicago by some Muslim doctors to provide consistent healthcare to uninsured patients -- is in Islamic Horizons this month.
The Carl Buddig School of Writing is up at Long Story Short
. Click on the humor button.
My article on Religious Diveristy in Indianapolis in NUVO
should hit the newsstands and NUVO's website in a couple days. I can't wait to see what photos they got to go with it.
My poem, Ramadan Plans, should be up today or tomorrow on Circadian poems
The Islamic Writers Alliance
(of which I am the Publications Officer and Acting Director) has announced the winners of their first poetry contest. (Ok, I announced the winners of the first poetry contest since I was the head judge). Congratulations to:
Grand Prize Winner Corey Habbas for her poem Olives Under Stones
And Runner's Up:
2nd place: The City of NAFS
by Nicole Najmah Abraham
3rd place: Consider Love
by Maryam Razvi Padela
4th place: To You on our Eighth
by Saaleha Bhamjee
5th place: Relics
by Maryam Razvi Padela
6th place: Statical Moment by Emily Correa.
Grand Prize Winner: Khuloud Faraj won the grand prize with her poem The Boy Warrior
Runners up were:
*If Spring Will Be There Tomorrow
by Khuloud Faraj
by Sumaiya Ahsan
by Sumaiya Ahsan
Iran's new President Ahmadinejad has recently called for the destruction of Israel, and has marched in the streets with thousands of Iranians who rallied behind his call. This must seen for what it is: hateful bigotry and deceptive manipulation.
Anti-semitism is a big problem in the Muslim community, and we need to clean it our house. While I have issues with the way Israel was created, and with the ongoing occupation/usurption of what little is left of Palestine, the day to day humiliation and abuse of the Palestinian people, that in no way justifies the kind of sweeping anti-semitism that I often see in majids or in the proclamation of the leaders of Muslim communities.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political reality that has little to do with the Jewishness or Muslimness of its inhabitants -- that is, there is nothing about Israel's actions in Palestine that stems from the Jewish faith, identity, or Jewish values of its citizens, just as the Palestinian reactions to discrimination and occupation are a reflection of the nature of resistance movements, rather than particularly Islamic values, identity, or creeds. The conflict has its roots not in religion, but from the experience of the holocaust, from centuries of oppression in European lands, from historical colonial interests who couldn't care less about Jews or Palestinians. Until the Muslim world can accept the basic humanity of Jews and the sanctity of their faith, and until Zionists can accept the basic humanity of Palestinians (and by extension all Arabs) and the sanctity of Islam, I don't see much hope for a solution to the problem.
Beyond this anti-semitism, however, is the callous and cynical use of the issue and of Islam to galvanize the population of Muslim countries behind corrupt rulers and focus their attention away from problems at home.
The ayatollahs who control Iran with an iron grip, are using the pain of the Palestinian occupation in order to divert people’s attention from pressing matters at home. They talk about wiping out Israel, but in reality since coming to power all they have wiped out are Iraqis and fellow Iranians. After a reign of terror that killed thousands and drove many more into exile, they have used torture, arbitrary arrest, vigilante justice, and murder to silence fellow Muslims in Iran. Steady and high rates of unemployment, a drug addiction problem that affects some 2 million Iranians, as much as 40% of the population living in poverty. These are some of the real problems facing Iran.
Before President Ahmadinejad postures as the self appointed guardian of the Palestinians, he should take care of his own. He insults Islam (as do many "Muslim" rulers) by usurping it to serve his own political interests, and divert attention from problems at home. With friends like the Iranian ruling ayatollahs, the Palestinians do not need enemies.
We see the same use of Israel, and "the West," throughout the Muslim world to divert attention from more pressing problems at home, and to rally citizens behind unpalatable rulers. As long as there is a worse enemy, a bigger threat to their Islamic identity (whether it be in the form of Israel and the Jews threatening the Palestinians, or America and Western permissive culture threatening the Islamic way of life), the mass of Muslims will overlook their discontent with their own corrupt governments, in preference to defending against these outside threats.
At the same time, I hope the US government does not take advantage of Ahmedinejad's speech to make Iran into another Iraq. While the Iranians posture about pan-Islamism and display their racist, hateful view of the world, President Bush and the American government has not done much better. While Iran misuses Islam to oppress its people, the United States abuses "democracy" and "freedom" to advance its agenda. Next-door Iraq serves as a window of truth where both Iran and the US have cooperated to destroy a nation. Central America is still reeling from America's "defense of the democratic world." Let us not forget Irangate.
As an American Muslim, I know that people will use these irresponsible comments to smear Islam and Muslims. I cringe every time some idiot makes stupid, hateful, bigoted comments in the name of Islam, because it makes it all that more difficult for me to live with my neighbors, and to present the beauties of this religion that made me adopt it as my own. These comments belie the Golden Era of Spain where Islamic and Jewish philosophers thrived, working together, where our communities co-existed without hatred and animosity. That is the promise of Islam that I want to live -- the tolerant, inclusive Islam that respects people of other faiths and helps them to flourish as much as it helps Muslims to flourish. It makes me ill that our community has fallen upon such narrow-minded times when it has such a glorious potential.
The answers are never easy, never simple and never one-sided. We must unreservedly condemn the Iranian president's bigotry -- and Muslims must take concrete steps to counter the anti-semitism that is so rampant in our communities -- but at the same time we, Americans non-Muslim and Muslims alike, also cannot remain silent about Israel's continued occupation of Palsetinian territories and the their treatment. Nor should we allow the American government to continue posturing as a deliverer of freedom while occupying Iraq, especially given its history of contributing to the downfall of countless democratically elected regimes that did not serve our financial interests.
I just got back from seeing the movie North Country. An excellent film, it is a must see for everyone, but especially for those young women who think sexism is dead in America (like many teenagers I talk to these days.) It is raw, emotional, gritty, and has some very disturbing scenes, but hell, life is disturbing.
I am so impressed by the women whose lives this movie was based. Just as I am so impressed by women such as Mukhtar Mai
, who is challenging tribal "justice" that sentences women to be raped for the alleged crimes of their brothers or fathers. I am so impressed by women such as Shirin Ibadi
in Iran and Asma Jehangir
in Pakistan, Amina Wadud
here in the US, who are working for women's rights in those countries. These women face real dangers to their lives, to their livelihoods, and still they stand up for what is right.
I have had opportunities to stand up for women's rights -- this summer I was honored to be given the opportunity to be the first women in some 1400 years to deliver a sermon and lead the Friday prayers for a mixed-gender congregation in a mosque, I've been blessed to be co-chair of the Progressive Muslim Union which is advocates for women's rights (among other things) -- but what little I have done pales in comparison to what these women do and live every day. My hat (scarf!) is off to them.
Miers... going, going, gone!
It was with great relief that I heard of Harriet Miers decision to withdraw from nomination from the Supreme Court. Aside from her very conservative leanings and the fear that she would take her stands spoon-fed from the Republican establishment, there was the very worrisome precendent of nominating a non-judge to the Supreme Court. While a competant lawyer obviously knows a lot about the law and I'm sure the justices study the lawbooks for many if not all of the cases that come before them, it seems like one of the qualifications to be nominated for the Supreme Court should be that one has served as a judge at some level, at some point in one's career. You don't necessarily have to be a sitting judge, but should have some experience in the matter.
Of course, there is a great deal of speculation about whether the nomination was ever for real, or more of a ploy to soften up the Senate for whoever is nominated next. A switch and bait kind of deal, or, perhaps more accurately, a "this guy is so much better than the last, let's just say yes" sort of hope. I certainly hope the Senate isn't so easily confounded. Either way, I doubt the President will be nominating the kind of civil rights hawk judge I'd like to see on the court. :(
Ramadan... going, going, gone!
It's already the last ten days of Ramadan. It seems like every year I have less and less time during Ramadan, or maybe it's just the kids have more and more things to do. Band has cut into family iftars as the time to break fast falls in the middle of band rehearsal three nights a week, and in the middle of competition on Saturdays. Soccer games, school conferences, karate class... everything seems to happen at dinner time. Of course, I'd rather have them home and us be busy, than not to have them around. I'm already imagining how I'm going to miss Tasneem (my oldest) when she heads off to college.
Even so, I am feeling this year the same ambivalence that I always feel at the end of Ramadan. On the one hand, I'm ready for fasting to be over. I'm tired of being hungry during the day. My tongue has developed a permanent fuzzy feeling. I'm missing coffee terribly. (Thank goodness I haven't had any caffeine withdrawal headaches -- one good thing about Ramadan, you learn if you have any addictions!) On the other, I don't want it to end yet. I haven't managed to accomplish half the things I had hoped I would this month. I will miss the extra camaraderie Muslims feel during this month -- the good times shared with friends over dinner.
I suppose it's a bit like watching your kid grow -- you're excited to see them moving on to new things, but at the same time you want to freeze them just the way they are.
Say no to Torture!
Bush is pressuring Senator McCain to rewrite his ammendment against torture -- which passed both the House and the Senate, the later in a vote of 90-9 -- so as to exempt the CIA, according to a report in The NY Times
. In a private meeting with McCain, Bush, Cheney, and CIA Director Porter, urged McCain change the ammendment so that it "shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense and are consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and treaties to which the United States is a party, if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack."
In other words, it's ok to torture people so long as they aren't Americans, and we think they maybe have some information we want.
The problem is -- aside from the fact that torture is simply inhumane and unjustifiable treatment of a fellow human being -- torture produces unreliable results. People enduring torture will say whatever they think will make the torture stop. That includes fabricating terror cells, naming innocent people that they know are innocent, giving details about plots that never existed, etc.
It's like profiling -- that doesn't work either, but police are still eager to use it.
Coupled with Bush's claim that he can strip an American of his or her citizenship rights (check the case of Jose Padilla
- American citizen held for three years without charge, without access to a lawyer, without trial by jury of his peers all enshrined in the 5th ammendment), one wonders if our own Government might soon be in the business of torturing Americans, calling them enemy combatants.
As a Muslim, I quake a little, wondering if someday someone I know will be hauled in, and in sheer fear of what the government might do, finger me. Pretty much every American Muslim I know feels this same insecurity, this same fear that the goverenment may suddenly decide he or she need to be detained for whatever inexplicable reason, and that life will be competely and totally changed forever. Can you imagine trying to get a job with "detained for three years for questioning regarding suspected terrorism links" on your resume? Captain Yee
, is a prime example of this. He lost so many months of his life, and his reputation was smeared through the mud,and no doubt there are many who still believe he was guilty despite the fact that the military dropped all charges against him.
Anyway, the point of this entry was to encourage everyone to write their Senators and Representatives to stay tough against torture, and to write Bush, Cheney and Porter letters telling them torture is inhumane, unnacceptable, unjustifiable, and on top of all that it doesn't work.
My cat, Narvik, is somewhat of a miracle. We adopted him from the humane society 1) because he was the friendliest cat there (that should tell you something about him!) and 2) because when I asked if they knew why he was limping and if they had checked out the cut on his leg, it became very clear that if I did not walk out with him right then and there, the poor fellow was going to be euthanized because of what appeared to be a fairly benign cut (and he'd already wormed his way into my heart). Turns out he had a broken hip. He was probably hit by a car. Anyway, I declined the thousand dollar surgery my vet strongly recommended, and he made a full recovery. I was told he'd never run. Wrong. Never jump. Wrong again. Never climb. Three strikes, you're out.
Recently, we've added another cat to our household. Silvalen. He and his brother (who was later hit by a car) just showed up at our house one day. I was afraid Narvik would run them off. Instead, he has adopted Silvalen. It started by Narvik letting Silvalen eat from his bowl, then it moved to playing together, hunting lessons, and now they curl up together, groom one another, and generally love on one another as much as possible. I was quite surprised by this, since father cats are usually run off by the mother, and don't take much roll in fathering. It's quite clear that Narvik is the dominant one of the pair, and that Silvalen would follow him around literally all the time.
In case you are wondering, yes, all our cats have names of Scandinavian towns. This is a result of our first cat, a big orange tomcat who we adopted. He was the neighborhood stray and all the kids at the busstop insisted his name was Malmo, which is, of course, a large city in Sweden. We thought that was much more interesting than Fluffy or Spot, and so all our kitties ever since have been named after northern towns: Trondheim, Torneo, Pello, Narvik and Silvalen.
So what the heck is orienteering?
One visitor recently sent me an email asking what is orienteering. (It's listed as one of my hobbies.)
Orienteering is a great sport, and I highly recommend it to any one who likes to be out of doors, who likes to solve problems, and who likes a physical challenge coupled with a mental workout.
Describing orienteering is almost as challenging as doing it! Some basic information: orienteering clubs around the world (such as Indiana CrossRoads Orienteering
,which is my home club)organize meets in different woods. Some do so on a weekly basis, others on a monthly or bi-weekly basis. Each time you go, the experience is different because you are in a different forest, running different courses. Of course, local clubs will use the same woods from season to season, but often they try to vary the starting points, so that the competitors use a different part of the woods than they did the last time they were there.
So, how do you DO orienteering? To begin with, you are given a map of the woods with your current location, 8-15 points, and the finish area marked on it, each of which you have to visit in order.
The points, called controls, will be on features such as a small boulder, the end of a ditch, a knoll, (a very small hill), a stream bend, a ruin, a path-fence junction, etc, and are marked with an orange and white flag and a punch. Each punch has it's own shape, and you punch into your score card with it, as proof that you've visited that control. By the end of the course, you should have a punch code for each control. It's a race, so the idea is to run as much as you can. The catch is, the course is not marked in the woods -- you have to choose the best way to get from point to point, and then navigate your way to the various points with the map and compass. If you get lost, you have to find your way back on course. The person who completes the course fastest wins! (The starts are staggered, so there's a good chance you won't see anyone else on your course, and perhaps a handful of other orienteerers on other courses as you make your way through the woods.)
It's great fun and a wonderful intellectual challenge while being a good workout. Gets the brain and the body going at the same time. One of the great things about orienteering is that you can do it at many levels of competition. Most local meets offer 3-4 different courses of various levels of difficulty, from the very easy which stays exclusively on trails, to the moderate which will include both trail running and cross country navigation, to the very hard which is almost exclusively off-trail. While some people are extremely competitive, and participate in national and international competition, many participate on a purely recreational basis, taking the course at a leisurly stroll. The easy courses are easy enough for kids to do alone (I started when I was about ten, and my kids participate now.) and the hard courses are real brain game as well as requiring decent fitness. Orienteering can also be done on skis (ski-orienteering is a winter olympic sport), on bikes, in canoes. There are even events for people with limited mobility. Adventure racing often includes an orienteering segment, and for those who like a real challenge, there is the rogaine, a 12-36 hour orienteering event.
If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, you can hook up with a local club through the United States Orienteering Federation
. In other countries, you can try the International Orienteering Federation.
Finished my article on religious diversity in Indianapolis for NUVO. It was one of the more challenging assignments I've had. A lot of searching for different sorts of congregations (and trying to make sure I didn't leave out anything, knowing that I was going to have to leave out a lot), mapping and calculating distances and driving directions, as well as a ton of phone calls and background research. I had expected it to be hard to reach the mosque people (it wasn't), since I know many mosques are understaffed, or not staffed at all, except by a handful of volunteers. I didn't expect it to be difficult to reach the pastors and priests, and it was. I guess they are as overscheduled as the imams are!
At any rate, the job reminded me again of one of the main reasons I love being a writer -- the opportunity to learn. One of the things we wanted to do with the article was give a sentence or two about each denomination/religion to explain the most basic concepts or how it differed from other Protestant denominations. Let me tell you, I now know more about the history and theology of Protestantism in America than probably 95% of the American population. I've long thought that the main benefit of school is that you are given deadlines to complete research/learning. Without those deadlines, it is so easy to put things off. Journalism gives you the same sorts of deadlines, which is great for those of us who are inveterate procrastinators. (like me...)
Of course, it feels great when you've handed in your work and no longer have that deadline looming over you. Deadlines do have their downsides, but at least they get us off our duffs. Now if I could only get a fiction deadline to work towards...
My poem Drive Thru Iftar is up at Muslim Wakeup
now. It's getting some interesting comments... dance class? Flute and trumpet lessons?!? Haram Alaik! (Akin to God Forbid! for all y'all that don't speak Arabic) I reminded the commentator that authors write not only from experience, but also from observation. Given the threats to Muslim authors around the world it bears repeating -- authors do not have to directly experience everything they write about. That's why it is called fiction! Or, reporting.
I can write about domestic violence, for instance, even though my husband does not beat me. I can write about honor killing, although I'm still very much alive, and have never lost a family member of friend in this manner, thank God. I can write about prostitution and human trafficking, though I have never been on the giving or receiving end of such transactions. I write about Catholics, though I am not catholic; about blacks though I am not black; about Southerners though I'm a Yankee. I think you get the picture.
Perhaps more importantly, writers may tackle a subject purely with the intention of exposing it to light -- calling attention to it so that people can evaluate their priorities, their feelings about the subjecct matter, and, if it is a problem, come up with strategies to combat it. (This is, in fact, largely what Drive Thru Iftar was doing.) Writers do not have to have the answer; sometimes it is enough to pose the question.
Finally, as should be obvious, I don't agree that flute and trumpet are forbidden in Islam. And while dance can in certain circumstances be a questionable activity, in others it is not only perfectly acceptable, but even recommended.
I was reading today about how the Hubble Telescope was focused on the moon
over the summer, exploring the mineral content of moon rocks at potential future base locations. Basically, if there is sufficient ilmenite, then a human base can harvest oxygen, water, and rocket fuel from the moon, avoiding issues with payload overload. The results are in suggesting that indeed, ilmenite is plentiful. They have also found evidence of water ice near the lunar poles, which could be of use.
This is all particularly interesting to me as a Muslim because I think about what would happen to Muslims if mankind did something to change the moon. What if we established very reflective base camps that changed how light reached the earth from the moon. It could throw off the whole calendar. Fortunately, it can only do so by a limited amount, since a lunar year is not going to be affected by such structures. On the other hand, I've read sf stories where the moon serves as the base for an enormous colony ship. What would the Muslim community do if we used the moon as a space ship? Or if we blew it up, to make it easier for us to mine it? Would we find a new way to calculate months? Would we rely on astronomical data on what we would have seen if the moon was still around? Given the amount of chaos our community experiences around moonsighting three times a year (the beginning and end of Ramadan and the beginning of Hajj), I wouldn't be surprised if we all just never fasted Ramadan or performed Hajj again. Ok, yes, I would be surprised, but the upheavals could be really ugly!
I sense the buds of a new short story...
Ok, except I still haven't figured out how to give different posts on the same day a title of their own. But none the less, wow! I never expected to be able to do this especially not in the course of an afternoon. It is amazing what one can do with just a little knowledge. Of course, it goes without saying that more often than not, what one does is harmful rather than beneficial. For instance, the idiot "mullah" in Pakistan who was reported by the BBC
as saying that cooking in daylight hours during Ramadan is forbidden. Uh, how does he think millions of dinner are served every night minutes, if not seconds, after sunset if they weren't cooked during the day? Not only that, what source did he use to derive this tidbit of wisdom? Worst of all, he threatened to burn down the tents of the refugees and ruin the pots of the aid workers if the cooking did not stop. These poor souls have suffered enough, and now they have to suffer the rantings, and perhaps attacks, of a fool? I suppose we should give him the benefit of the doubt -- he just survived a horrific earthquake, he is probably under tremendous stress, and coping with survivors syndrome
On a more positive note, I'm please to see that folks in Tennessee are going to be opening an Islamic public library.
From a recent letter I received in my inbox:
My name is Abdoulrahman Kattih, I am the director of the Islamic Education and Services institute. We are getting ready to launch an Islamic Public Library and education center in Chattanooga, TN. Our aim is to help everyone in this area better understand Islam and its practices. The center will offer educational and social services to both Muslims and non Muslims, and the Library will include a range of materials about Islam for Muslims and non Muslims, adults and children, a desktop, and a small theatre room to watch movies and presentations about Islam. Some of the materials we are seeking are:
- Books about Islam and Muslims.
- Islamic DVDs and VHS.
- Islamic Children's books and crafts.
- Audio tapes and CD's.
- Islamic software for the computer.
We are seeking your help in fulfilling the library with books, If you can donate any books to our project we will be so grateful, if every person that gets this email send us 1 book/CD or DVD we will have a full library in no time. Or you can make a direct donation through paypal to (firstname.lastname@example.org). A receipt will be issued for any donations. If you wish to learn more about our organization, please visit our website at http://www.2discoverislam.com/.
Figure out how the heck to give a new title to each post....
I decided to redesign the generic blogger template. Whether this works or not is another big IF. However, I'm feeling confident since getting my blog to host on my own website worked well. On the other hand, I could not get the photo hosting with Hello to work at all. There is nothing sadder than being a half-saavy user...
So, this is my first venture into blogging. Of course, I decided to go the complicated route, and host it on my own site, rather than bloggers, but we'll see what happens. I may end up just linking to bloggers site if I can't get this to work correctly. I had absolutely NO LUCK with wordpress; their directions simply did not fit what I was seeing on my host.
So, here goes. Nothing ventured, nothing lost... or won.