Thursday, September 20, 2007
  One week down/Interfaith Fast for Peace
It hardly seems possible, the first week of Ramadan has drawn to a close. One quarter done. Already the kids are excited about Eid... and presents. This year, my mom is going to be in town during the last ten days of Ramadan and for Eid.

It should be interesting sharing this time and the various rituals of Ramadan with her. Maybe we'll even convince her to fast part of a day with us! She really hasn't been around much during Ramadan before, though we have shared a few Eids with her, much as we have shared a few Christmases with her and my dad.

One worthwhile event that will be taking place during her visit is the Interfaith Fast for Peace in Iraq. The organizers description of the event is:

We call on all Americans to join in fasting from dawn to dusk on Monday, October 8, to call for an end to the Iraq War. On this day, people of faith in local communities across our nation will act as catalysts to transform the meaning of the day from one of conquest to community and from violence to reverence.Just as Isaiah called the People Israel to hear the Yom Kippur fast as God’s call to feed the hungry, just as Jesus fasted in the wilderness, just as Christians through Lenten fasting and Muslims through Ramadan fasting have focused on spiritual transformation, just as Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and others drew on fasting to change the course of history, so we call on all our communities of faith to draw now on fasting as a path toward inner spiritual transformation and outward social transformation.Ending this war can become the first step toward a policy that embodies a deeper, broader sense of generosity and community at home and in the world.

For more information on how to participate in the fast go to:

Friday, September 14, 2007
  Lots of Good News!
Muslims for Progressive Values is now officially incorporated in California. Yay! One step closer to our non-profit status.

I'm one of many converts featured on a video in YouTube:

But best of all, this just came in my inbox from the ACLU. Perhaps sanity and traditional American freedoms will reign after all!

Courts Rebuke Bush Administration on Spying Laws

Two federal courts handed down stunning victories for civil liberties last week, starkly rejecting White House abuses of power through the Patriot Act and broad use of secrecy claims to dodge public accountability.

In the only legal challenge ever brought regarding the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the amended Patriot Act, a New York federal court struck down the current rules. The NSL statute has permitted the FBI to issue secret demands for personal records without court approval. It also empowers the government to gag recipients from even discussing these NSLs.

Not only did District Court Judge Victor Marrero rule that this gag power violates the First Amendment and the fundamental separation of powers, he also found that, because the gag provisions could not be separated from the entire amended statute, the Patriot NSL statute must be struck down in its entirety. This is an historic affirmation of principle that extends beyond even the requests made in the ACLU’s legal brief!

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. rejected broad claims of government secrecy in our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over documents related to the Bush NSA wiretapping program. This ruling strikes another blow to the administration's sweeping and often unfounded secrecy claims and compels the Department of Justice, the FBI and the NSA to provide additional explanations for their withholding of many documents about the program, and the legal justifications for the program in particular.

Learn more about the NSA and NSLs on the ACLU website.

The Fight to Shut Down an Unlawful Passenger-Tracking System

The ACLU is demanding the shut-down of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) illegal Automated Targeting System (ATS) program. The ATS program violates a congressional mandate barring DHS from assigning risk levels to ordinary Americans through secret criteria and computer algorithms intended to calculate whether ordinary Americans are “security risks.”

The program “violates every American’s right to privacy," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. "The judgments about Americans calculated by ATS will be stored for years, and we have no idea how they may be used in the future. The benefit to the government is extremely questionable, but the consequences for Americans are simply dangerous."

In multiple recent appropriations votes, lawmakers have forbidden DHS from developing or testing any program that uses algorithms to calculate the security risks of ordinary Americans whose names are not already on a watch list. ATS ranks citizens using unknown but inevitably imprecise algorithms and draws from databases with known errors. In addition, security officials have said they cannot determine who will be a threat from the characteristics ATS uses.

The program was approved without public or congressional consideration. The government tracked cargo using a similar system, but Congress has repeatedly banned the use of such tracking techniques for human beings.

Learn more about the ATS program.

What a great start to Ramadan!

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Today is both the beginning of Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah.

Ramadan is a time of rededication to piety, a time to live in humility and simplicity, with sincerity in faith and compassion for others. It represents both the renewal of the soul's commitment to God and purity, and the promise from God to bless those who strive in the path of righteousness, maintaining high personal morality and reaching out to their neighbors, particularly those in need, with mercy and generosity. It is a time of joy and hope, of communal closeness and closeness to God.

The start of the Jewish New Year also represents a time of hope and renewal. It is a time of reflection upon the past year, of atonement and the casting away of sin.

The coincidence of these two holy times serves as an occasion to acknowledge the similarities between our faiths, and to celebrate the diversity of human outreach to God. Although the holy days are different -- one being a month of fasting and the other ten days of reflection and atonement ending in Yom Kippur -- the human desire to connect with God and to live good lives is the same no matter what one's faith, ethnicity, nationality, or race. The world would certainly be a better place if we took more time to consider our innate sameness, and focused less on cultural differences.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
  Bin Laden commentary
Ali Shehata has put up a video response to Bin Laden's latest tape. I whole-heartedly agree with his sentiments. We do not accept Bin Laden as a spokesperson for Islam or for Muslims. I think the Merrit study which he mentions is vitally important -- only 1.5% of the Muslims surveyed thought Bin Laden spoke for them. Proof that it is indeed a tiny minority who subscribe to those view. Not to mention that of that tiny minority, even fewer are going to actually do something about it. Anyway, the important part is that Muslims are speaking up against Bin Laden and his followers. In all the forums that we can.
It hardly seems to have been six years already since 9-11. The memory of it -- of watching that second plane crash into the building, of seeing people plunge to their deaths, watching the towers collapse -- still brings tears to my eyes, and disbelief that anyone could perpetrate such an evil deed.

I have written a piece on why this is so totally contrary to the teachings of Islam for OnFaith:
I just wish there were some way to get this message to the people who really need to hear it.

The deaths, perpetrated in such a horrific manner, were awful, but some days I think even worse was the damage done to the American way of life. The resulting culture of fear and intolerance that has taken over Washington and certain segments of the American populace. The willful and wholesale abandonment of key American principles such as habeus corpus, innocent until proven guilty, freedom from unwarranted searches and/or wiretapping,
disavowal of torture as an interrogation tactic and profiling as a police methodology, the reaffirmation of secret evidence and national security playing a trump card in any sort of check and balance process, have gone far further in advancing the goals of the terrorists than the horrible loss of life and property six years ago.

I hope and pray that America can get back on track. That we can stand up and say, no matter what you do, we won't abandon our values. But I fear that day will be long coming.

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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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