Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Paula Zahn’s attack on the Council on American-Islamic Relations

January 23, 2007

Here’s the letter I wrote to CNN’s Paula Zahn just now:

I’ve tried giving your features on racism a chance, but today was the last straw. The way that you attacked the well-spoken representative from CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) was highly objectionable. You also allowed the other two panelists to attack her, sadly leaving the impression that Muslims as a whole should accept “terrorist” stereotypes against them since they are not “vocal” enough in “condemning” terrorism.

CAIR and many other Muslim groups and mosques have done an excellent job of explaining that the vast majority of Muslims are NOT terrorists NOR do they support terrorism. Why should Muslims bear any additional burden in swearing off terrorism than the rest of us? Why shouldn’t all white southerners “be more vocal” about swearing off domestic terrorism because of Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma City?

I’m sorry to say, Paula, tonight you were as guilty of what you say you are trying to expose. You owe CAIR and all American Muslims an apology. I’m posting this same letter on my blog and will avoid watching your sensationalist and racist show in the future.

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The Sepoy Mutiny, the Pope on Islam, and President Bush on Torture

September 15, 2006

Check out this BBC article my mom e-mailed me about the 1857 Indian Mutiny against the British. Through archival research, the author found that the mutiny was much more about religion than about nationalism or anti-colonialism, as I had always thought. Turns out that the soldiers all believed the British were trying to convert the nation and curtail religious freedoms, and Hindus and Muslims banded together in mutiny. The narrative about the bullets being greased with pig fat was just too simple – this incident merely triggered religious fears about the British. It is interesting to think about this in the context of today’s secular India, which is plagued by communalism and violence between Hindus and Muslims…

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about the Pope’s comments on Islam and only have a brief thought – the Pope shouldn’t have used a quote about Mohammed that has become the flashpoint for all the controversy. As a recognized world leader, it’s fine for him to call for reform among Islamic extremists and support moderate clerics, but to equate Islam with violence, or to ignore centuries of scholarship about the spiritual dimensions of Jihad – and its misuse by terrorists – was just wrong. Unfortunately, this was my fear when Pope Benedict was elevated to become the Pope, based on his strident comments as a Cardinal. One can only hope that he apologizes sincerely and uses his pulpit to promote genuinely positive interfaith dialogue as his predecessor did…

Was it me, or did President Bush seem like he was unraveling just a little bit in today’s news conference? He yelled a lot, didn’t give any straight answers, and generally appeared a little bit on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Why did he mention McCain so much if the Senator opposes his proposals? Why wouldn’t he give a straight answer to David Gregory about the danger posed by his proposal to US soldiers captured in combat? And, he raised the specter of Middle Eastern countries using oil as “economic punishment” – revealing that Bush’s foreign policy has never been about liberty and democracy; it’s about protecting our consumer culture – ironically at the price of liberty, democracy, and international human rights…

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Hate Crimes and War Crimes

July 30, 2006

Friday’s shooting at a Seattle Jewish center was particularly disheartening to me and shook my interfaith optimism… Deep down, I can’t help but wonder if this type of attack is actually demonstrating how violence around the world can come to affect us here at home.

I was elated to read that Seattle law enforcement is treating the shooting as a hate crime, based on the shooter’s comments to the 911 operator and the victims. The whole thing is reminiscent of the anti-Muslim and anti-Indian harassment and crimes (and even murder) that occurred across the country after 9/11. This isn’t just a Jewish issue – all of us from all faiths should step forward to condemn this type of attack because it is wrong, and the next hateful attack could be on any one of us.

I only hope that publicity about this horrible crime will change the minds of those on the right (and some on the left) who are opposed to hate crime legislation. We need to reinvigorate the debate about why it’s important to treat crimes targeting certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups differently (and more harshly) than other crimes. Punishing hate crimes preserves America’s ideals as a pluralistic and tolerant society that welcomes people of all backgrounds.

Today’s tragic attacks by Israel in Qana, Lebanon cost the lives of at least 56 innocent civilians, including 34 children. It is past the time for President Bush and Secretary Rice to intervene and force a cease-fire. All I saw on Meet the Press this morning were excuses, excuses, and more excuses on all sides. These innocent children were being shoved back and forth – “It’s Israel’s fault,” or “It’s Hezbollah’s fault,” or “human shields,” or “disproportionate response,” or “It’s tragic, but…”

None of this matters – they were children, they were hiding because their families couldn’t get them out of the city… and did I mention that they were children? It does not matter what nationality they were or whose fault it was, it’s time we stop the violence and bring all parties to the table. Israel’s actions today are disproportionate and against international human rights standards.  Granted, Hezbollah can be called guilty of the same.  We as Americans should use our clout for peace, stop the slaughtering of innocents, and stop Israel from radicalizing another generation of young Muslims through its disproportionate use of force against civilians, this time in Lebanon.

Kid Oakland on Middle East violence

July 28, 2006

I have been struggling with how to respond to Seth’s comments about Lebanon and all the news since then.  I’ve come up with nothing good so far.  I did find Kid Oakland‘s powerful essay on all the Middle East violence, and it really articulates how I’ve been feeling.  For now, this passage (and the whole blog entry here) will have to do; hopefully there will be more later:

[T]he net sum of the actions in Gaza and Lebanon and Iraq send one clear message to the world as a whole. The United States, Great Britain and Israel in acting out military strikes that coldly inflict “collective punishment” on civilians in the Middle East do not value the lives of those civilians. That is the message we send to the world.

veiled4allah really makes me think

March 5, 2006

While kicking around the internet tonight I found a great blog called veiled4allah.  I meant to spend two minutes there reading whatever it was that was linked to by some other site, but I ended up spending quite a while there reading everything.  Very thoughtful, intelligent and interesting perspective from a Muslim woman that I rarely (if ever) get from the mainstream media.

Qawwali Music and Islam in the Media

February 14, 2006

Last night, Ushi and I went to an amazing Qawwali concert at Stanford by the Farid Ayaz Qawwal Ensemble from Pakistan. Qawwali music is a beautiful art of the Sufi tradition of South Asia. The ensemble group sings in a chanting fashion, climbing ever higher into sheer bliss while contemplating God and his unity through this powerful expression. The performance was truly ecstatic, with the singers becoming almost trance-like as the night progressed, swept up into a state of devotion that was infectious to all of us in the audience. Everyone was clapping along, and my heart sang…

After the concert, I was so jazzed I couldn’t sleep, and ended up lamenting the fact that the mainstream media presents Muslims and South Asia in such a negative light, especially with the recent cartoon protests around the world. (Ann Coulter appears to have gone totally off the deep-end into a pool of hatred and racism this week, for an example from the conservative side.)

The concert reminded me that the Islamic tradition is so diverse, with Sufism being a mystical strain that particularly appeals to me and my Hindu sensibilities. Here is just one verse from one of the Sufi poems featured in the qawwalis of the ensemble (by Sachal Sarmast, translated by I.A. Adni):

Struck by the love of manifestation,
the absolute consented
to be imprisoned in the finite.

I encourage all of you to listen to some of the qawwali masters, like the Farid Ayaz ensemble and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan… (Oh, and P.S. – A.R. Rahman, the legend himself, was in the audience at the concert last night!)