05 January 2013

It chills my blood

When the hypocrites come unto thee, they say, "We bear witness that thou art indeed God's Apostle!" But God knows that thou art truly His Apostle; and He bears witness that the hypocrites are indeed false [in their declaration of faith]. They have made their oaths a cover [for their falseness], and thus they turn others away from the Path of God. Evil indeed is all that they are wont to do: this, because [they profess that] they have attained to faith, whereas [inwardly] they deny the truth - and so, a seal has been set on their hearts so that they can no longer understand [what is true and what false].~ the Qur'an 63:1-2, The Hypocrites

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.~ Exodus 20:7, the Third Commandment

It chills my blood to hear the blest Supreme rudely appealed to on each trifling theme.~ Cowper

It chilled my blood tonight as I travelled home in a train to find a misguided Muslim employ the name of God and the f-word in one sentence. I, too, once used the f-word unthinkingly, back in school, but there's a difference. How can one use it alongside that of God? This noise did perturb me no less, these gangs who take the name of God in vain. I don't understand this. Why does the establishment continue to cover for male disregard for modesty? Where a woman is appointed a reference of tradition while a man can do as he pleases. Instead of using missionary, poorly argued evangelical-style da'wah, why not just express it through good behaviour? Good behaviour cannot be separated from belief -- the Qur'an enjoins them together. What message are they sending to the non-Muslim travellers? I fear that non-Muslims who cross paths with this sort of behaviour will never look into Islam, Islam held ransom to cultural realisation than a rational, moral and personal commitment to the Undefinable and the Teachings. Again the again the name of God used in vain. God has said they will not be held guiltless. Indeed they do not realise "what is true and what is false". They may proclaim the name of the blest Supreme most loudly as they commit the lewdest acts known to man, but that doesn't make them believers. Not at all. My solidarity as a Muslim is with believers, I cannot make any excuses for hypocrites.

28 September 2012

When Haram Became Halal: Blessed are the Sheep

"Like a giant mass of wool, bloodied and filthy, they lay in trenches — slit open, stabbed or clubbed to death, while many still wriggled with some life left in them, soon to be buried alive." — Reporter for The International News, Pakistan

"I have watched the video and let me tell you that ever since I have seen those gruesome visuals, I haven't eaten or slept. Regardless of whether they were healthy or not, the way they were killed or buried alive is neither humane, nor Islamic." — Managing Director of Wellard (Australian live exporter)

13 September 2012

The New Breed

Another riot. Fundamentalism or what is being described as Salafist violence by coarse-bearded hypermasculine thugs in Libya is the new breed. The beard, once the symbol of philosophical and moral male enlightenment, is like something that might cut the world under the chins of criminals who have no knowledge about faith but claim much, rushing through and breaking laws and smirking. Some people wonder whether the beard will look good on them, but the answer is that the beard will look good only on those who are good.

The question is: where have these demons who corral women and prevent education of girls arisen from? The sickening tribalism, the brutishness, the sexism, it all comes together. Lao Tse once said that when there is no goodness there is morality. When there is no morality there is ritual. Ritual is the husk of true faith, and the beginning of chaos. These thugs who do not even know the rituals of Islam much less morality, who blashpheme against the name of God, and sodomise (with a knife) and literally beat to death their enemies spell the end of the beginning of the so-called change, which has empowered the most hypermasculine and violent, it is not surpising that the hegemonies of Saudi Arabia etc. fund and support these infernal elements. What is good for my tribe is good for me, what is good to retain my unmerited power is good for me, they say.

The Last Prophet, upon whom be peace, condemned such people, He is not of us who proclaims the cause of tribal partisanship (asabiyyah); and he is not of us who fights in the cause of tribal partisanship; and he is not of us who dies in the cause of tribal partisanship. In fact, the job of any believer is to stop a criminal from committing a crime. Too bad that those in a position to spread education for children, particularly disadvantaged girls, instead distribute guns to these morally vacant criminal males. The traditional establishment is weak and splintered, it has been weakened by the very same Puritans who claim to speak for Islam. We are left with mere rituals which, too, are impossible, after all we must eat meat every day and overcrowd animals. Out of these fires march hypermasculine male thugs, the new breed. Muslim men and women who think, who cry, who feel for others are trodden under. And what of children? What will they learn? Muhammad Asad once rightly lamented that we Muslims have made no use of the Great Gift given to us. That is not the fault of the Muslim meek, may they inherit the earth, but we have been convinced by uneducated leaders to not educate ourselves because if we did we would choose someone educated over them. So this facade of "revolution", a concept that has been damaging to our theology, is being used to replace one uneducated tribal leader with another uneducated tribal leader and the customary gang of male hypermasculine thugs.  

I would add that we have been as adept if not more in breaking laws as the ancient Israelites, from our cruel treatment of animals to how we have not contributed invidually or collectively to improving ethics or even how the object of the state has come to supervise over the lives of men and women which are not given by the state but by God (good on Asma Barlas for charging this exploitation of whole populations, particularly religious and ethnic minorities, as blasphemy; this is ironical since the very same forces that charge religious minorities and certain individuals with blasphemy are in fact themselves the blasphemers as they privilege the state over God consciousness and forgiveness), which lie in the dust to be stepped on, for the last hundred years or so. How sad indeed. Yet it is my great hope, and this can be achieved through the hardwork of ethical teachers and those who have actually read the Qur'an, for God has dedicated His book to "to those who think". I fear for the next generation of Muslim children but know one thing: change will be slow but come insha'Allah. So start working right away, from your own family to the family across the road. Spread the Word by being good and seize His grace that falls as gentle as the rain. The harsh do not feel it because it is not for them and I'm glad that their punishment has already begun even though they may feel powerful and push others around.

13 June 2012

New Cold War and the Arab Spring

 Peter McKay sums it up and in The Daily Mail at that:
"But the so-called Arab Spring — of which the Syrian civil war is part — is a far more complex event than credulous innocents in the West imagine.

"It’s not simply uprisings by ground-down peasants against tyrants who repress them. It’s about a transfer of power to rival clans and/or religious groups. And about a continuation of the old, U.S.-Russia Cold War stand-off."

12 June 2012

Brand Obama

Have we?
Because political debate has become so debased in our media monoculture ... race, gender and class can be used as seductive tools of propaganda and diversion. In Obama's case, what matters, as Fanon pointed out in an earlier era, is not the intermediary's "historic" elevation, but the class he serves. After all, Bush's inner circle was probably the most multiracial in presidential history. There was Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, all dutifully serving an extreme and dangerous power. - John Pilger

A few years ago in the children's section of a bookshop I came across a familiar figure, Brand Obama, making us all believe in a change that never happened, being marketed to children. Brand Obama appropriated the semiotic language of King and X and delivered nothing. Almost like a storybook character who never existed. Cynthia McKinney powerfully said that Obama signified the loss of "innocence" of African-Americans who were now part of a corrupt system. I think that is partly correct, for there are African-Americans opposed to Obama on moral grounds and have not been seduced by ethnocentrism. The preoccupation with white privilege, from the standpoint of a coloured person, can obscure our own power at times. Obama illustrates that. The excuse-making and defence of Obama has gone on too long. Rather than addressing racist attacks against Obama as racism, people ignore that and react with homage to another kind of power, that of position rather. It is better to argue as a coloured person on the right to position and status as an equal member of humanity rather than climb that false, foolish Renaissance ladder of "the chain of being".

Obama, who has become a global celebrity, was molded easily into a brand. He had almost no experience, other than two years in the Senate, lacked any moral core and could be painted as all things to all people....Celebrity culture has leeched into every aspect of our culture, including politics, to bequeath to us what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. Junk politics personalizes and moralizes issues rather than clarifying them. “It’s impatient with articulated conflict, enthusiastic about America’s optimism and moral character, and heavily dependent on feel-your-pain language and gesture,” DeMott noted. The result of junk politics is that nothing changes – “meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.” It redefines traditional values, tilting “courage toward braggadocio, sympathy toward mawkishness, humility toward self-disrespect, identification with ordinary citizens toward distrust of brains.” Junk politics “miniaturizes large, complex problems at home while maximizing threats from abroad. It’s also given to abrupt unexplained reversals of its own public stances, often spectacularly bloating problems previously miniaturized.” And finally, it “seeks at every turn to obliterate voters’ consciousness of socioeconomic and other differences in their midst.” - Chris Hedges

18 April 2012

Ziauddin Sardar and Originality

I hold much agreement with Ziauddin Sardar - his largely stimulating, healthy reading of Islam; and also disagreement over other issues, e.g. his promotion of Amina Wadud, poster woman of the "Progressives", whose convoluted activism is best expressed through one of her blog titles: If Music is Haram, then Allah Made a Mistake. Rather than contextually pointing out that music can be both positive and negative in straightforward language, the "Progressives" feel a need to provoke. Although I very rarely listen to music these days, mainly while driving on weekends, I had a similar experience years ago when a fellow Muslim passenger on a bus, on learning of my faith, felt the need to "educate" me while I had my headphones on. When I refused his advice, quite out of adolescent zing and a somewhat stubborn streak which has been a fault many a time, he started to chant prayers next to me. It appears to me that this provocation and coercion is the hallmark of the "Progressives" and the Puritans respectively. The "Progressives" openly ridicule "tradition". The "Progressives" and Puritans are both out of touch and have not made any serious contribution to the regeneration of traditional ethics. The self-righteousness and judgement is astounding. Compare this to Muhammad Abduh's critique of the contemporary practice of polygamy in the language of traditional ethics by arguing that polygamy had been a sound practice among early righteous believers but had degenerated into a corrupt practice of lust devoid of justice and equity toward women. He didn't write an arrogantly worded treatise, but used his critical mind which had been given to him and to all human beings as a result of God's grace. Abduh showed that as a consequence of this social change and lack of moral integrity in men, polygamy was only permissible in certain circumstances. Now compare this to how Puritans and "Progressives" have warred over polygamy, one justifying it on unreasonable grounds, the other ridiculing the former for "backwardness", all in all a failure to humbly and critically engage with the issue. Abduh's critique of the traditional establishment can be vindicated by the high level of sexual harassment against women in Egypt, which the traditional authorities have failed to address and stop. Abduh may have stood outside the traditional establishment but he was wholly traditional in the sense of the ethics of Islam as imparted by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

This brings me to my point of contention with Ziauddin Sardar. In an interview he was asked: "Among the next generation of Diaspora Muslim public intellectuals, Tariq Ramadan's ideas are perhaps closest to yours. Notwithstanding 9/11, why do you think it has taken a quarter of a century for your ideas to resurface in the public sphere?"

Sardar answered: "Well, better late than never. When The Future of Muslim Civilisation was first published, I remember my friend Jerry Ravetz saying, dont expect anyone to understand it; it will take decades for many of the ideas in it to filter down. I think it is the job of reformers to be ahead of their time. Moreover, I am asking Muslims to transcend centuries of historical baggage and overturn deeply entrenched obscurantism. I have always seen this as a multi-generational task. Sometimes you need a crisis for certain reformist ideas to come to the fore. I think the total failure of the notion of Islamic state and the Islamic movement, as well as intellectual movements such as Islamisation of knowledge, has generated a sense of crisis. 9/11 has given this crisis an urgent spin to this crisis. So the time is now ripe for many of my ideas to come to the fore. Indeed, it is gratifying to see how so many of my ideas sometime with acknowledgement, mostly without acknowledgement have now been embraced in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and in various European Muslim circles. But I do not believe that Tariq Ramadan and others have still caught up with the true import of my ideas."

Do I sense some unhealthy competition with Ramadan? I have not read Ramadan and not extensively read Sardar either. But what is the point in claiming originality? There is very little originality in this world, particularly theology. Ramadan humbly acknowledged the influence of Muhammad Asad in 2010 whose thinking was growing on him, and Asad was inspired by the scholarship of Abduh in his best critiques and by reactionaries like Maududi in his worst (which he fortunately swiftly discarded) and Abduh by those before him. In fact, Abduh, too, walked the misleading path of "Revolution" with Al-Afghani once before turning away toward "the Straight Path". The exact call for Muslims to transcend "centuries of historical baggage and overturn deeply entrenched obscurantism" was originally made by Muhammad Abduh, not Sardar. Muhammad Abduh was himself inspired by Muslim thinkers of the past, that era of learning which came to a tragic end in the tenth century or so. Abduh made this call after surveying what had happened in between. It also was not Abduh who was brilliant in himself but all good was from God, for all scholars have imperfections and the best learned men are open to sincere inquiry of their understandings. The roots of honest understanding come not from us but rather the Qur'an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that propelled Muslim men and women to seek knowledge and be fountains of good behaviour and piety and which indirectly paved way to that era of learning called the Renaissance in Europe. It was there in Europe that Abduh sat in the libraries and read great books and he realised the dearth of knowledge in Muslim lands. He saw his task to inculcate that tradition of learning and of Islam. He correctly saw that God was the Teacher and how it all connected with the world, of what Islam truly meant. It is possible Sardar had a similar experience but he was not the first. Back to Adam!