Saturday, March 10, 2007

Race Issues in Islam

Another good read in the New York Times elucidating some of the race issues that affect Islam in America. More specifically, by telling the story of the relationship of an African-American Imam and an Asian immigrant Imam and the dynamics that have taken place since September 11 that have shaped their understandings and dealings of each other.

African-American Muslims and immigrant Muslims from Asian and Arab countries have not particularly gelled in America. Apart from racial and cultural differences, these two groups have found it difficult to unify in the face of socio-economic disparities.

Also, while many African-American Muslims are converts or trace their Islam back to their West African forbears, and thus have a less continuous transmission of Islamic practices and proficiency in Arabic language as their immigrant counterparts.

Personally, I have witnessed the tension between these groups of Muslims. The Black Muslims often feel that the Asians and Arabs harbor an elitist attitude towards them while being wary of the newcomers "radical" and "extremist" tendencies. The Asians feel that the African Americans should respect their scholarship and tradition, while working harder to learn Arabic and the Qur'an.

Come to think of it, racial undercurrents in the Muslim Ummah are by no means limited to the situation in America. In the greater Muslim world and within the walls of the local masjid, racial issues weaken the unity and brotherhood that is the Islamic ideal (not to mention Sectarianism).

Persians think they are better than Arabs and want to be white. Arabs resent Persian and Iranian progress. Turks do their own thing and wish they were accepted as European (ain't gonna happen). I suppose some of that is due to the fact that Turks once ruled over Arabs, who subsequently sided with the British to overthrow them. Imagine if Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran came together in some sort of Islamic NATO (uh oh, hold on, I think that's some intelligence agents knocking on my door...).

Furthermore, the Desi Muslims have adopted alot of the Hindu caste thing, so don't bother being Black if you want to marry one (Let's not even get started on the Ismailis). On top of that, the Arabs don't like how the South Asians pray and celebrate, so come Ramadan time, things get as friendly as oil and water. Philipinos and Malaysians seem to be more open minded, but I'm not sure how they relate to the Indonesians and vice versa. Berbers and Arabs have fallen out in the past, and don't see eye-to-eye even now. The Bosnians I've met have been cool, but if their Eastern-European heritage is anything to go by, they probably have race issues as well.

Oh, did I mention the intra-racial Muslim problem. In Somalia, if you're not from the right tribe or clan, you will have problems with your Muslim brother. And in Arabia, you have that Umayyad-Abbasid, white Arab-dark Arab disconnect. In addition, just about all of them look down on the Palestinians. Jordanians don't want them, neither do the Syrians, the Saudis, or the Egyptians. Heck, I'd rather be a African-American Muslim with that level of rejection.

Who knows what the solution is to the racism problem in Islam. How can we present Islam as a a unifying, peaceful, and egalitarian force in the world if Muslims continue to divide along racial lines? Perhaps, the more we are profiled, humiliated, killed, mocked, discriminated against, and roundly beaten in all forms of human endeavor by non-muslims, the greater sence of commonality and unity we will develop. Its sad that it has come to this.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Behind the Sunni-Shi'ite Divide

A probing article providing some insight into the Sunni-Shi'ite rivalry in Iraq and beyond. I found it sad, dispiriting, and embarrassing that Muslims continue to slaughter fellow Muslims. Some will say religion or Islam is at fault... but is it really?

Islam explicitly forbids killing Muslims without reason, and also outlaws sectarianism. Yet, the killing continues as well as the division. Muslims are at fault for not following their Religion.

The secularists and atheists suggest that Islam and religion in general should be banned. Naturally, implementing universal atheism would be quite a tall order, indeed. What we should do, is ban sectarianism. From this point onward, no Muslim should be allowed to identify himself as Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Ismaili, or Salafi. The use of these terms, along with Takfiri, Safavi, Wahabbi, Deobandi, and others should be criminalized except for historical and academic purposes.

God's Law is God's Law. If we don't want to follow it in its entirety, why should we follow it at all?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mutaa Marriages

An interesting story about the increasing use (and abuse) of temporary marriages in Iraq. In Islam, polygamy is allowed up to a limit of 4 wives per spouse, under the condition that the man is able to support the entire family and treat each wife fairly. Whether a person thinks polygamy is right or wrong, it was (and still is) a practical solution to a common social problem - the death of men in war.

In mutaa marriages, the man pays the temporary wife for the privilege only for the duration of the marriage. The mainly Shiite practice is said to lessen the hardship of women that have lost their husbands or potential mates to war. Children produced in such marriages are the responsibility of the father whose abandonment is discouraged upon pain of death.

Without much analysis, I feel that the practice is wrong. It smacks of prostitution. Paying a woman for sex is prostitution, no matter which way you slice it. As an anti-sectarian Muslim male, I nonetheless believe that those in this situation should adhere to the spirit of the Sharia by marrying fully (the Sunni position).

That's not to say that it isn't a difficult call, full of contradictions and hyporcrisy. Some in the West think prostitution is wrong, some think it should be legalized. Others lambaste Muslim men for divorcing their women. Catholics are against divorce all together. Others say divorce is one of the most important achievements of womens equality (Muslims have enjoyed this matrimonial recourse for 1400 years).

The Prophet Muhammad is smeared for allegedly marrying polygamously during the later part of his life (his first wife was 11 years his senior and his boss). Yet, in the Western culture, losing one's virginity in gradeschool is not uncommon, while having multiple girlfriends is seen as a sign of manlihood (studs, mac-daddy's).

Unlike the previous Western conflicts such as WWI and WWII, where most of the troops who perished were unmarried young men, many who have died in the "War on Terror" and in Iraq have been married 20 to 30-something men with young families. Should these women spend the rest of their lives as lonely widows? Should they pay for sex or remarry? And if they remarry, to whom? A new study shows that more than half of American women now live alone. Perhaps some sort of mutaa-like marriage could be of comfort to them, or maybe they prefer their independence or turn to lesbian relationships.

Its a strange world we live in where stable families are being outnumbered by single-parent homes, childless singles, gay marriages, and mutaa relationships. I don't know, call me old-fashioned but I don't see too many positives in this trend.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Little Mosque On The Prairie

I caught the first episode of Zarqa Nawaz's CBC sitcom, "Little Mosque on The Praire." My initital impressions are that it is funny, but uneven, mildly cheesy, but earnest and realistic in portrayal of Muslim issues. It will improve over time, I think, a good show.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rogue IDF Command Strikes Again

It was only a couple of nights ago that it was reported that Abbas and Hamas were close to agreeing on a unity Palestinian government aimed to ease the suffering of the Western economic blockade on the long-suffering people of Palestine.

After a military operation of considerable intensity, in which upwards of 50 Palestinians were killed, including unarmed women, the IDF, which had withdrawn from the Northern Gaza strip, including the town of Beit Hanoun, shelled a civilian compound there, killing 18 members of a family killing a mainly women and children.

As could be expected, the unity government talks have been postponed, while Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal called-off the truth with Israel and seemed to instruct his followers to attack American targets.

It is clear, through this action, and past one such as the Qana bombing, that there exists a powerful contingent within the Israeli military which does not want a cessation of hostilities between Israel, the Palestinians and its neighbours and seems willing to engage in military terrorism to destroy the prospects of peace.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dawkins and Religion

Richard Dawkins, the renowned evolutionatry biologist and atheist was on the CBC last night for a big discussion about his anti-faith documentary: "The Root of All Evil." The guest audience of Muslims, atheists, Christians, Jews, secularists, and philosophers were prodded and queried about Dawkins film by host Avi Lewis. They also got to put questions to Dawkins directly as he was connected to the show by satellite link.

To be honest, Dawkins came accross as erudite, knowledgeable, rational, and well-prepared. Unfortunately for the people of faith, they were roundly beaten by Dawkins and his ally in the crowd, a U of T philosophy professor. Even at weak points where, for example, one of the recurrent atheist slurs against religion was presented; that the catholic church is responsible for AIDS deaths in Africa, the response of the faithful was sadly inadequate.

One of the scenes in Dawkins film is of an interview between him and a Muslim man. I'm sure this brother was chosen to portray Muslims as "fundamentalist" and irrational as he was shown in an angry diatribe against the Western world's "slutty" women.

Alia Hogben, notable anti-Sharia campaigner as the president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women agreed with many of Dawkins points vis-a-vis "fundamentalism." The anti-fundamentalist brigade was bolstered by a contingent of new-age, gay-marriage advocating body of "moderate faith," individuals, whose leader kept repeating the silly "God is Love" mantra whenever she got close to the mic.

Also in the audience, Ali Hindi, the notorious Canadian imam. He responded to Dawkins very good point about the need for evidence and proof in determining the existence of anything, such as the theory evolution or the existence of God. Hindi responded as well as he could, considering his halting English, that the reason people believed in Jesus, and hence God, was the Jesus character, his life, and the miracles that he performed. Hindi's delivery was lacking, but he was getting to the crux of the matter. What proof is there that God exists?

Let me play the atheists advocate for a moment and engage in a little gedanken experiment. Let's assume that God does not exist. We will limit our system to life on earth, to make things a little easier. In terms of life, evolution takes God's place. It is responsible for creating our forms, our appearance, our behaviour and shaping society. Humans, therefore, have developed religion as a natural evolutionary response to our environment. It appears that we need it to survive just as we need to apply violence in the pursuit of food, protection, and the propagation of the species.

So in a way, "fundamentalist" Islam is very useful in a evolutionary perspective. There are 1.2 billion Muslims on this planet. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Muslims have the highest population growth rate of just about any people around. Muslims have the lowest rate of AIDS and other STD's. These are facts. Its obvious evolution is doing its job and Muslim DNA is the beneficiary. Maybe evolution is the root of all evil!

Back to faith: Dawkins uses quite a funny analogy to describe belief in God. He invents a myth of a teapot in space. Everyone is told that there is a teacup in space, and that it must be worshipped. Eventually, as the generations pass, everyone believes that this teapot is real, and people that doubt this are ridiculed. What he is saying is that God is a myth, much like the teapot, and like a number of other gods which we no longer believe in or worship. Fair argument.

What proof is there that God does in fact exist? For me, the proof abounds, though it is not scientific in nature. In Islam, these proofs are termed Ayat. They include Prophecy (i.e. correctly predicting the future), Revelation (The Holy Scriptures, the Qur'an, etc.), human history, and current events.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), predicted many things about the future 1400 years ago, including the current conflicts between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Qur'an, a miracle in itself, lyrically and numerically coded, asks its reader to observe scientific phenomenon that could not have been observed at the time of its revelation (i.e. underwater waves and multidimensional space).

It is also interesting to note that most of the major geopolitical events of the current decade are a direct and indirect consqequences of the 9/11 attacks. I doubt Dawkins program would ever have been made if it weren't for Bin Laden. The simplistic view and ensuing conclusions of that event was that religion is bad and Muslims are bad. However, it did manage to get everyone talking about religion, and it did get us talking about God. On one of the Bin Laden tapes, he remarked to his buddy the stories of people who came to him of dreams of the attack, months and years before it took place (eg. Prophecy).

Maybe God is not as loving as people say. Perhaps He is capable of love as well as hate, unity as well as divisiveness, creativity as well as destruction. Maybe He is the God of the Old Testament, Allah in the Qur'an. He can reward as well as punish. If God is real, why should we try and define him and limit him? Why do we pick and choose what we want to believe in and follow, like the Christian leader on the CBC program. Life is full of shades of gray, but God, and the concept of God, is absolute. You either believe in Him, His revelations and commandments, fully, thoroughly, and without prejudice, or you don't believe at all. God is a black and white concept. Most people characterize this type of thinking as "fundamentalist," but in reality, it is just logic.

In the end, Dawkins is somewhat right, the proof is in the pudding. The ultimate proof will come when we die. The penultimate proof is what happens in this life. Will the prophecies come true or will science trump religion? Will Jesus return? Will the temple be rebuilt? Will Armageddon take place? Will Muslims conquer Rome? It seems to me, that the answers to these questions are close at hand. God Willing, we shall see...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Pope and the Last Crusade?

Well, in a move widely expected by "God's rottweiler," the leader of the world's billion strong Catholic community has called our Prophet, Muhammad (SAWS), "evil and inhuman." This speech, echoing the musings of an 14th century priest critical of Islam.

Germany's seemingly Islamophobic strongwoman, the leader of the ruling party Christian Democrats, and herself the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, has jumped up to defend the Pope's views. All of this talk has upset the hypersensitive Muslim masses, including the leading cleric and prime minister of Turkey, who has asked for the Pope's full apology ahead of his planned visit to the country.

Pope Ratzinger, together with Chancellor Merkel, have been hostile to the idea of Turkey's membership in the EU. The Turkophobicity of Europe is a well-known fact, especially in the Eastern states whose people came under Ottoman rule in the previous millenium. At least now we know where the Pope really stands, despite apologies given.

Some Muslims have urged calm in light of the slurs which have been characterized as "old as Islam itself." Muslims have been pictured with placards deploring Christianity's "hyprocrisy." It is often interesting how non-Muslims often remark that Islam was "spread by the sword," and that religion should never be a justification for violence (Merkel), yet completely ignoring the Christian and Western world's bloody and conquest-filled history.

So, if we follow their logic, Muslims are cruel and inhuman for defending their religion and land from invaders. Meanwhile, German forces are marching with guns to disarm the inhabitants of Lebanon and NATO forces are killing Afghans in the name of democracy. Right.

The problem with these two particular Germans is that they lack the sneaky British tact of statesman as Tony Blair. While Blair hopes to co-opt Muslims stealthily, by bringing nations such as Turkey into the EU club and keeping his enemies close, Merkel and Ratzinger just cannot keep their contempt for Islam and Muslims to themselves. Way to go guys ;-)

So, it is as the Prophet predicted it: Christians and Muslims are at war again. Perhaps, this crusade will be the last. I surely hope and pray it is. I urge our Iranian brothers and sisters to prepare for the Christian onslaught. Peace be upon you all.