September 22, 2006

Ramadhan/Singapore Slingers

I know there's a bit of confusion among American Muslims as to when Ramadhan starts. Here in Singapore, because the weather is often overcast, relying upon moon sightings to determine the start and end of Islamic months is not really feasible. As a result, MUIS (the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore), uses the method of counting days. (I believe the other countries in this area (Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.) follow the same method.) So, to let my American brothers and sisters in Islam know, we will start fasting on Sunday, the 24th. Ramadhan will be for 30 days this year and ends, insha'allah, on Monday, October 23rd. Obviously, Eid will be on Tuesday, October 24th. At this time, Singapore is 12 hours ahead of the East Coast (i.e., it's now about 3:30 p.m. here, Friday afternoon, which makes it 3:30 a.m., very early Friday morning back home), so adjust accordingly.

Singapore Slingers LogoSingapore Slingers
Singapore has joined the Australian National Basketball League, winning their first game in the team's history by beating the Adelaide 36ers, 98 to 91. I happened to catch about the last minute of the game on TV last night.

Singapore is the first Asian city/country to join the NBL and, insha'allah, hopefully won't be the last. A couple years ago, there was an episode of a local TV show that asked why Singapore didn't have a sporting culture. I had responded to that question by writing a letter to the editor of the Straits Times, although it was never published.

Singapore does have a small sporting culture, but you'd never know it by reading the newspapers. In S'pore, there are two main English language dailies, The Straits Times and The New Paper. The former is your typical, serious paper, similar in size and tone to any major American newspaper (e.g., Phoenix's The Arizona Republic); The New Paper is more of a gossipy tabloid. Of the two, The New Paper has the larger sports section, but focuses almost exclusively on European soccer, F1, and horse racing (there's a local race track and gambling is popular here). The Straits Times' sports section is 1/3 to 1/2 the size of The New Paper's, and covers mostly European soccer. Neither paper devotes any significant effort to covering local sports. The S League (the local soccer league) gets what little ink there is for local coverage; in the past few months, the Straits Times has only made a tiny effort at covering sports at the secondary school level (something that would get tons of ink back home).

Anyway, as a person who enjoys watching, participating in, and reading about sports, Singapore is very much a backwater compared to the US or even Korea. One of the ideas that I proposed in my Letter to the Editor was the creation of a basketball league wherein there would be a team from each of the major cities in SE Asia (somewhat similar to the way SE Asian countries send a national team every other year to compete in the Tiger Cup, a regional and popular soccer tournament). Perhaps in time, insha'allah, the NBL could continue its northward expansion to include other Asian cities in the league (KL, Manila?).

So, I've got a new team to watch and cheer for, although the name...ugh. The colors are OK (red, white and gold), the logo's OK (see above), but the name...dumb.

September 20, 2006

Worlds Apart

A TV program Milady and I have started to watch regularly now is Worlds Apart, a National Geographic Channel series that, ironically, doesn't play on Singapore's NG Channel but another called AXN. The series takes American families and places them in various countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I find the show interesting for several reasons. One, of course, is because the show gives a brief but interesting look at different cultures around the world. (I grew up reading NG and loved their stories about foreign cultures; it's one of the reasons why I became externally focused on life outside the U.S. instead of being so withdrawn and isolationist, like many Americans.)

Second, I find it very interesting to see how the Americans react, trying to adapt to the various cultures and (frequently) failing miserably. It's amazing to see how quickly these people undergo culture shock; for some, the breaking point is only a few days into the visit (the families stay with a host village for ten days at the most). This post is about some of my observations with regard to these reactions, especially as they relate to gender and family roles (father, mother, child).

Of the five episodes or so that I've seen so far, most of the men seem to enjoy their experiences abroad. I think this is for two reasons. One: The cultures these American men find themselves in are much more patriarchal than American culture. (You can really see how feminism has affected (afflicted?) American culture with some of the families being very egalitarian if not matriarchal. One wife warned her husband not to think that he could continue to enjoy his new-found independence when he returned to the U.S. She planned to rule the roost once more as soon as they got back home.) Two: In many of these societies, the men are required to do a fair amount of physical labor, and I think the American guys are enjoying the work, using their bodies. Many developed economies now rely heavily upon work that is sedentary in nature. I remember the first job I had that required me to sit at a desk for my entire shift: my body hated it. I had worked for a number of years prior doing jobs that required me to stand, walk around, or do heavy physical labor (e.g., delivering furniture). Now, as a lecturer, I have a job that requires both sitting (often preparing for classes on a computer) and standing, walking around a classroom during class. I think these guys are doing heavy work once more and saying, "Wow, this is fun again." (Of course, whether they would say that after years of labor would be another question.) The only guy who didn't seem to enjoy his experience was a black man from St. Louis on last night's episode. I think there were a number of things he didn't appreciate about Mongolian culture at first, although he seemed more comfortable toward the end of his stay.

Many of the women don't do as well away from home as their husbands. That's not to say that all of them have done poorly. So far that I've seen, two women seemed to have positive experiences: the wife of the St. Louis family mentioned above and another woman (from Massachusetts?) who went to Panama and looked like she absolutely loved her experience (her sister, who came to visit for the second half of the stay, was the complete opposite). However, some of the women have broken down and suffered from severe culture shock. This doesn't surprise me as it jives with my own experiences observing American and Canadian expatriate women here in Asia. Many (but certainly not all) of the expatriate women I've known haven't done well overseas, and most have gone back home within a year or so. (Many, but certainly not all, expatriate men seem to last longer overseas, frequently staying for a number of years if not getting married to a local woman, like me, and becoming a PR.) I think many of the wives (and two girlfriends) on the show are shocked not only by the patriarchal society they've found themselves in, with their designated gender roles, but that they have significant work loads of their own to do, whether it's butchering the animals that their husbands have just slaughtered, cooking the food over a fire (no doubt a first for many of these women), or wielding a machete to cut down small trees to build their own huts. For these women, the shock leads to a very sudden nervous breakdown although, to their credit, the women often recover quickly and cope well with the remainder of their stay.

The kids have been a mixed bag. According to the Worlds Apart website, they will accept families that have children between the ages of 6 through 18. Perhaps not surprisingly, the children who have adapted the best are the younger ones, the pre-teens. They're still in child learning mode and take the new cultures in stride. Chop down that tree with this machete? No problem. Climb up this tree to get some betel nuts? The boy struggles for a while, learning how to climb, but perseveres and makes it all the way to the top. The teenagers (mostly girls) think more like adults. They're not terribly interested in learning or adapting, but trying to make the time pass as quickly as possible so they can return home to their friends. I'm more optimistic for the younger kids, that they will have learned deeply-ingrained life lessons from the trip: a respect for other cultures and countries, less arrogance in a belief of American and/or Western superiority, an understanding that people around the world have different values and ways of living. The teenagers I have less hope for.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is how the Americans react to native food. It's not just that the Americans are exposed to foods that they would almost certainly never eat back home (e.g., armadillo), but that the native peoples slaughter and butcher their own foods, sometimes using body parts in very practical ways (the Mongolians packed a sheep's stomach with a home-made cheese that, as a container, would keep the cheese fresh throughout the upcoming winter). Of course, the slaughtering and butchering has come as a shock to many of the families. (It wouldn't surprise me if many Americans - and kids in particular - have no idea where the meat they eat comes from.) One woman (the woman who came to visit her older sister's family in Panama), who ran a vegetarian restaurant back home, reacted strongly when her brother-in-law speared a wild pig that had been caught for a celebratory feast. Still, there have been some amusing moments. In Mongolia, a young black boy looked askance at the idea of eating a sheep's eyeball, but gladly ate the eyelid. "Tastes like chicken."

I've thought about how Milady and I would fare if we were on a show like Worlds Apart. I think, for the most part, that both of us would do decently in that type of situation. Granted, life in Korea and Singapore is much, much more modern and sophisticated than the places where these families are sent. Most of the living conditions on the show are very primitive. And I think food would be an issue for both of us to a degree. As Muslims, we would find some of the foods offered to be haram, not only due to the issue of pork, but also because, for every animal I've seen slaughtered on this show, the killing has been done in a non-halal manner. On the other hand, Milady is more gastronomically adventurous than I am. :) She likes her "spicy beef lungs," and I say "yuck." ("Tastes like chicken," I'm sure.) I walk by the big container of decapitated fish heads (used for "fish maw soup") at the grocery store, and I say "yuck." I see the back half of a fish (that's been chopped in two) sitting in a small bucket of water at my mother-in-law's place, and I say "yuck." But I wouldn't be surprised if Milady could slaughter (in a halal manner), prepare and eat most halal food that would be offered to her in another country without batting an eye because I think she's more down-to-earth than many of the women I see on Worlds Apart, and I love her for that.

BTW, according to the website, Milady and I wouldn't qualify for the show because we don't have any kids yet (insha'allah). However, that didn't stop me from suggesting to two of my sisters that they try to be on the show. Now that would be a hoot. ;)

September 15, 2006

Juan Cole on Pope Benedict's Erroneous Speech About Islam

I came across some excerpts from Pope Benedict's recent speech a few days ago, primarily on red blogs that were cheering the Pope's statements about Islam, neither (the Pope and the bloggers) knowing that what the Pope had said was, in fact, erroneous. I hadn't had the time to write about these errors, but I've found that Professor Cole at Informed Comment has already done so. What follows is his entire post on the matter; he has done a very good job in correcting the Pope's errors. So much for papal infallibility. ;)

Pope Benedict's speech at Regensburg University, which mentioned Islam and jihad, has provoked a firestorm of controversy.

The address is more complex and subtle than the press on it represents. But let me just signal that what is most troubling of all is that the Pope gets several things about Islam wrong, just as a matter of fact.

He notes that the text he discusses, a polemic against Islam by a Byzantine emperor, cites Qur'an 2:256: "There is no compulsion in religion." Benedict maintains that this is an early verse, when Muhammad was without power.

His allegation is incorrect. Surah 2 is a Medinan surah revealed when Muhammad was already established as the leader of the city of Yathrib (later known as Medina or "the city" of the Prophet). The pope imagines that a young Muhammad in Mecca before 622 (lacking power) permitted freedom of conscience, but later in life ordered that his religion be spread by the sword. But since Surah 2 is in fact from the Medina period when Muhammad was in power, that theory does not hold water.

In fact, the Qur'an at no point urges that religious faith be imposed on anyone by force. This is what it says about the religions:

' [2:62] Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians-- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.'

See my comments On the Quran and peace.

The idea of holy war or jihad (which is about defending the community or at most about establishing rule by Muslims, not about imposing the faith on individuals by force) is also not a Quranic doctrine. The doctrine was elaborated much later, on the Umayyad-Byzantine frontier, long after the Prophet's death. In fact, in early Islam it was hard to join, and Christians who asked to become Muslim were routinely turned away. The tyrannical governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj, was notorious for this rejection of applicants, because he got higher taxes on non-Muslims. Arab Muslims had conquered Iraq, which was then largely pagan, Zoroastrian, Christian and Jewish. But they weren't seeking converts and certainly weren't imposing their religion.

The pope was trying to make the point that coercion of conscience is incompatible with genuine, reasoned faith. He used Islam as a symbol of the coercive demand for unreasoned faith.

But he has been misled by the medieval polemic on which he depended.

In fact, the Quran also urges reasoned faith and also forbids coercion in religion. The only violence urged in the Quran is in self-defense of the Muslim community against the attempts of the pagan Meccans to wipe it out.

The pope says that in Islam, God is so transcendant that he is beyond reason and therefore cannot be expected to act reasonably. He contrasts this conception of God with that of the Gospel of John, where God is the Logos, the Reason inherent in the universe.

But there have been many schools of Islamic theology and philosophy. The Mu'tazilite school maintained exactly what the Pope is saying, that God must act in accordance with reason and the good as humans know them. The Mu'tazilite approach is still popular in Zaidism and in Twelver Shiism of the Iraqi and Iranian sort. The Ash'ari school, in contrast, insisted that God was beyond human reason and therefore could not be judged rationally. (I think the Pope would find that Tertullian and perhaps also John Calvin would be more sympathetic to this view within Christianity than he is).

As for the Quran, it constantly appeals to reason in knowing God, and in refuting idolatry and paganism, and asks, "do you not reason?" "do you not understand?" (a fala ta`qilun?)

Of course, Christianity itself has a long history of imposing coerced faith on people, including on pagans in the late Roman Empire, who were forcibly converted. And then there were the episodes of the Crusades.

Another irony is that reasoned, scholastic Christianity has an important heritage drom Islam itself. In the 10th century, there was little scholasticism in Christian theology. The influence of Muslim thinkers such as Averroes and Ibn Rushd reemphasized the use of Aristotle and Plato in Christian theology. Indeed, there was a point where Christian theologians in Paris had divided into partisans of Averroes or of Ibn Rushd, and they conducted vigorous polemics with one another.

Finally, that Byzantine emperor that the Pope quoted, Manuel II? The Byzantines had been weakened by Latin predations during the fourth Crusade, so it was in a way Rome that had sought coercion first. And, he ended his days as a vassal of the Ottoman Empire.

The Pope was wrong on the facts. He should apologize to the Muslims and get better advisers on Christian-Muslim relations.

Can You Say "Propaganda?"

I got a real big kick out of the Fox News Commercial that blowhard Bill O'Reilly promoted during his interview with Arianna Huffington. The "Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan Thank America" is such pompous propaganda that I couldn't help but laugh at it. It also makes me wonder about the intelligence of those Americans who willingly, blindly suck up such drivel (i.e., those people who watch Fox News). Speaking of which, I looked around the Fox News website, trying to find a copy of the video by itself, but it's not there. Could it be that Fox is too embarrassed (or cynical) to put their nonsense on their own website?

Huffington had a great response for O'Reilly: When asked what she thought of the commercial, she said, "I want to know who is paying for it." O'Reilly, of course, said that the "Iraqi Kurdistan government" paid for the ad, with a little help (I'm sure) from their American neo-con friends.

Click on the title link to go to the Quicktime copy of the interview; also, Crooks and Liars has a WMV copy plus additional comments.

September 14, 2006

On Jihadis and Iran

Another interesting article (an op/ed piece, actually) out of WaPo today, by David Ignatius on the makeup of Jihadis and Iran (all emphases are mine):

[Marc] Sageman [a former CIA case officer stationed in Pakistan who later became a psychiatrist] argues in his book, "Understanding Terror Networks," that we are facing something closer to a cult network than an organized global adversary. Like many cults through history, the Muslim terrorists thrive by channeling and perverting the idealism of young people. As a forensic psychiatrist, he analyzed data on about 400 jihadists. He found that they weren't poor, desperate sociopaths but restless young men who found identity by joining the terrorist underground. Ninety percent came from intact families; 63 percent had gone to college; 75 percent were professionals or semi-professionals; 73 percent were married.

What transformed these young Sunni Muslim men was the fellowship of the jihad and the militant role models they found in people such as Osama bin Laden.
The terrorist training camps in Afghanistan were a kind of elite finishing school --

Sageman likened it to getting into Harvard. The Sept. 11 hijackers weren't psychotic killers; none of the 19 had criminal records. In terms of their psychological profiles, says Sageman, they were as healthy as the general population.

The implication of Sageman's analysis is that the Sunni jihadism of al-Qaeda and its spinoff groups is a generational phenomenon. Unless new grievances spawn new recruits, it will gradually ebb over time. In other words, this is a fire that will gradually burn itself out unless we keep pumping in more oxygen. Nothing in Sageman's analysis implies that America should be any less aggressive in defending itself against terrorism. But he does argue that we should choose our offensive battles wisely and avoid glamorizing the jihadist network further through our rhetoric or actions.

Sageman's focus on the generational arc of violence got me thinking about my recent trip to Iran. The revolutionary intensity hasn't disappeared there, but it is certainly further down the curve than is the Sunni world. When I attended Friday prayers at Tehran University, I was struck by how old the people shouting "death to America" were. I would guess the average age was well over 40. The generation of the Iranian revolution is getting long in the tooth. The only sure way to ignite revolutionary zealotry in the younger generation would be for America to go to war with Iran -- something I dearly hope we can avoid.

... As I explained in an earlier column, Tehran is a city of crazy drivers who nearly collide at every intersection. But the police are quite strict about requiring seat belts -- something I don't often see in the Muslim world. Even fatalistic taxi drivers buckle up. ...

Now I submit to you: A nation that is wearing seat belts is probably not a mortal enemy of the United States.

... unless we make big mistakes, we should not find ourselves condemned to a permanent war, much less a clash of civilizations.

Assalamu 'alaikum, Teach!

From the teacher every boy wishes was his to the teacher every Muslim student prays won't be theirs. From the Washington Post:

A substitute teacher was charged with disorderly conduct Monday after she allegedly lashed out at a group of Gaithersburg high school students for using words in Arabic while practicing a commemorative speech to mark the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Montgomery County police say Carol J. McVey, 49, began screaming at the group of Gaithersburg High School students and one of their teachers for saying "assalamu alaikum" -- a greeting that means "peace be with you" -- while they rehearsed the speech in a classroom. The students were working on a speech that they intended to deliver at a memorial service at Kingsview Middle School that day.

Police said McVey, of Olney, began yelling at the students and their teacher. "Islam doesn't mean peace, it means killing everyone for peace," she told them, according to a charging document.

The students and one of their teachers left the classroom in fear after the outburst, police said, and McVey followed them down the hall, where her alleged tirade intensified. "Because of you our families died in New York!" she allegedly yelled, threatening to go to the principal's office to ask that Kulsum Malik, the teacher who was with the students, be told to leave, the charging document said. Police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said she didn't know whether Malik or any of the students working on the speech are Muslim.

When McVey reached the office of Assistant Principal Laurie Bricker and began yelling again, Bricker asked her to leave. As the administrator was telling McVey to go, McVey began to argue that it was Malik who should be asked to leave, police said. As an officer assigned to the high school began escorting McVey out, she allegedly resisted, saying she wanted to get Malik's information in order "to report her," according to the charging document.

On her way out, McVey "yelled at a Hispanic teacher about the inappropriateness of speaking to students in languages other than English," police said.

McVey was also charged with resisting arrest, disrupting school activities and trespassing, which are all misdemeanors. She was released on her own recognizance.

My, my, what are they teaching the children in schools today? I think McVey (hmmm, a relative?) needs a little counselling on Islam before she's allowed back in a classroom.

Update: NBC Interviews Debra LaFave

Photo of Debra LaFave, from the NBC interviewAmerica's favorite sex offender, Debra LaFave, is back in the news, this time after being interviewed by NBC's Matt Lauer. A portion of the interview was broadcast on Today, and the full interview was scheduled to be shown on Dateline.

Some of the interview transcript (from Dateline's story, "Matt Lauer Sits Down with Debra Lafave"):

Why she garnered so much attention
LaFave: I don't know.

Lauer: I'll say it. Do you think it's because you're pretty?

LaFave: I think so. And sex sells.

How the affair began
LaFave: I think he just became very flirtatious and you gotta remember that at that period in my time or in my life, I didn't feel like an adult. I was crashing fast.

Lauer: I would imagine there are parents watching right now Debbie and they're saying, “Wait a minute. She just said that he became very flirtatious.” You know, a) is she blaming him for how this started? So the answer to that is?

LaFave: No.

Lauer: And b) She was the older one ... She was the teacher. She was the role model.

LaFave: I did. I crossed the line that never should've been crossed.

Her lack of consciousness during this time
Lauer: Did you and this student have open conversations about the fact that you two might be getting into very dangerous territory?

LaFave: You know, there was very little conversation, to be honest with you. You know, looking back, he was 14, you know what is there really to say to a 23-year-old ...

Lauer: ... At any point during sex with this student or after sex with this student did you say, “In the eyes of the law, I just committed rape”?

LaFave: No. I never said that.

How she thinks this may impact her victim's life
LaFave: I think he's gonna have a hard time trusting women one day. I'm sure he has to be living with the guilt of quote, unquote ratting me out.

Being bipolar
LaFave: I don't want to blur the lines between doing something as heinous as what I did, and being bipolar. But, yes, symptoms of bipolar [disorder] definitely contributed to my mind frame.

What she wants people to know about her
LaFave: That I committed a sex offense but I'm not a sex offender, even though I'm labeled as that. I made a really, really, really bad choice.

Lauer: You don't see yourself as a predator?

LaFave: It's hard. It is so hard because I lived 23 years of my life, you know, knowing who I was. I was a kindhearted person who loved children, who would never, you know, do anything to break the law. I was a good person. And then now everything has just changed. So it's just really hard for me to accept that.

Other quotations from the interview:

LaFave: He wanted it and, yeah, I gave it to him.
Lauer: Weren't you scared to death he would tell someone?
LaFave: Obviously not, because I did it again.
Lauer: And again.
LaFave: And again.

"She said that when she was 13 years old and in eighth grade, she was raped by someone she knew. Lafave said that [an] early, abusive relationship with an older boy forever shaped her view of sex. 'I kind of developed this idea that it was my role, in order to make a man, guy, boy happy, I had to do my part, which was pleasing him in that way,' she said."

(Personal comment: Yes, Debra, this is one of your roles as a woman; women should try to sexually satisfy (make them happy "in that way"), just as men should try to sexually satisfy women. But this satisfaction needs to be done among married couples only. You should have been trying to satisfy your newlywed husband, Owen.)

"I'm not trying to give excuses," she said. "All I'm being is truthful. I'm going to be the first person to say, 'Yes, it's my fault,' and I'm dealing with that."

Here is a short clip (run time: 1:44) from Lauer's interview:

Lafave is serving three years of house arrest and seven years of probation after pleading guilty to having sex with the boy in a classroom and her home in June 2004.

Additional Sources:
NBC News Exclusive: Lafave Interview
Lafave Tells NBC She 'Didn't Feel Like Adult'

Previous Posts on Debra LaFave:
Update: LaFave Charges Dropped
Desperate American Women?

September 12, 2006

MC Riz: Post 9-11 Blues

Hat tip to Muslim Apple for this video. I'm not into hip-hop that much, but this was amusing. Run time: 3:43.

Everybody do the Post 9-11 Dance
Look scared, shake your arse
While the bombs go blast
Everybody shake your
Post 9-11 thong
So the dossier was wrong
Jack some oil
Drop a bomb
Sing a song
Sing along
Bush and Blair in a tree
Shave your beard if you're brown
And you'd best salute the crown
Or they'll do you like Brazilians
And shoot your arse down

September 11, 2006

Recent Comments

I know I'm not "Comments Central" like some of the other blogs I visit. (Yo, people: Write some comments! Whaddyathink? I live in a vacuum or somethin'?) However, if you rely upon the script on the sidebar to see if there have been any recent comments here, I'm sorry to say that it hasn't been working very well for some reason or another. So I thought I'd put up this little post to let you all know what posts I've gotten recent comments at.

Two have come in at Regarding Gay Muslims and Irshad Manji. I also got a nice comment to my old post, Hijabis of the World, Unite! (written back in February). However, the most interesting comment came in for another February post, Join the Army! Become an Imperial Stormtrooper! I had wanted to write back a suggestion for Charlie here, but Milady nixed it. ;)

To be continued, insha'allah...

September 9, 2006

Regarding Sunnis and Shias, the Caliphate, Shariah, and the Separation of "Mosque and State"

"I've heard the Sunni and Shia division described as analogous to Protestant and Catholic; except that Sunni and Shia may even pray at the same mosque, because it doesn't make a day-to-day different, it just makes a difference in governance. Would you say that's a fair comparison?"

Roughly. To be honest, I've never been in a Shia masjid, and much of what I know is based on hearsay. I've heard that there are several differences between how they pray and how we Sunnis pray, but that the differences are relatively minor. Even so, there are some minor differences in how Sunnis pray (those who follow the Maliki school of thought have their arms hang at their sides while standing during salat; the rest of us cross our arms, right over left, when we stand). These differences don't invalidate one's prayer. Of course, Sunnis and Shias pray together at al-Masjid al-Haram, the Sacred Mosque located in Makkah, at al-Masjid an-Nabawi, the Mosque of the Prophet (pbuh) in Medina, and at other masjids worldwide.

"I think I understand what you're saying about proseletyzing. I am wondering how that plays into the idea we often hear about that (some) (which?) Muslims want to restore the caliphate, want a large Islamic state, want everything under sharia law, etc. It seems to me there's a difference between wanting to spread the religion, and wanting to spread religious rule. You've addressed the former; can you address the latter?"

Yes, there are some people who want to restore the Caliphate, although I think this is mostly a pipe dream at this time. (I've written about this topic on my own blog; see Bush Administration Misuses the Word "Caliphate".) Shariah is a much broader topic and would require a diary or three to explain. Some year maybe, insha'allah. ;) The thing to understand is that Shariah is a very large and comprehensive corpus of law. It covers many topics. What most Westerners worry about are the Hudud laws and their punishments for criminal behavior; however, these people haven't learned to differentiate between "Shariah" and "Hudud," the latter being a small subset of the former.

Some modern "secular" governments have incorporated parts of Shariah into their legal systems; e.g., Singapore. Here, Shariah is applied for Singaporean Muslims with regard to domestic issues (such as marriage, divorce, domestic disputes, burial, etc.). Also, Shariah with regard to Islamic finance is quickly being incorporated as Singapore embraces Islamic banking. So "Shariah" is not quite the bogeyman that many Westerners worry about.

"Related, but distinct: I've heard it said that Islam does not recognize a separation of church and state. Can you comment?"

That is essentially correct. Muslims don't really look at Islam as a religion per se; it's not just a part of our life to put away most of the time and bring out every now and then when we feel the need to be spiritual. Islam, for us, is a way of life, and many acts that we do in the course of our daily lives are a form of worship. As such, because government and politics play large parts of our lives, we don't believe that you can fully separate "church" from state. However, since the Prophet (pbuh) migrated to Medina, there has been a concern among Muslims that people of other religions need to be treated as fairly as possible and that they would not be judged necessarily under Shariah.

This is another huge topic and would require a dairy or three to cover with any justice.

Regarding "Reversions"

"As one of the people on here who's part of a 'minority faith' (buddhism) as far as numbers in this community; One thing I've found is that I end up being very careful with my language to avoid even accidently implying my religions 'supremacy'."

With my use of the word "reversion" (instead of "conversion"), I certainly didn't mean to imply any type of religious superiority. Please forgive me if I've offended in any way.

"I'm sure that 'reverting to Islam', instead of 'converting to Islam' in the context of Islamic Theology has subtleties that I'm missing, and after thinking it through I don't mind that you said it that way."

You're correct in that there is a theological undertone to the use of the word "reversion." In the Qur'an there are several passages that state that mankind was brought forth long before we were born where there was a dialogue of sorts between ourselves and Allah (swt). In one particular passage, it is said that mankind swore an oath confirming that Allah (swt) is the one God:

"When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): 'Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?'- They said: 'Yea! We do testify!' (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: 'Of this we were never mindful': Or lest ye should say: 'Our fathers before us may have taken false gods, but we are (their) descendants after them: wilt Thou then destroy us because of the deeds of men who were futile?'" (7:172-3)

In this regard, Muslims believe that through this oath we all became Muslims prior to birth. It is after birth where we may lose our innate sense of the oneness of Allah (swt) (such as through the teachings of our parents, teachers and others). In that sense, those people who come back to Islam (such as myself) are not "converts," but "reverts."

Another explanation, by Muhammad Asad:

"According to the Qur'an, the ability to perceive the existence of the Supreme Power is inborn in human nature (fitrah); and it is this instinctive cognition - which may or may not be subsequently blurred by self-indulgence or adverse environmental influences - that makes every sane human being 'bear witness about himself' before God."

Regarding Gay Muslims and Irshad Manji

"My first question is, just exactly how visible is discussion about gay/lesbian and related issues within the Muslim community, especially in the U.S. and Canada?"

To be honest, I couldn't really say. While homosexual behavior for either sex is considered a major sin in Islam and is condemned as such, I do know that there are gay Muslims and some people who support them (almost exclusively in the "progressive" Muslim camp). However, the vast majority of Muslims in North America (let alone around the world) do not agree with the progressives on this topic.

"The only lesbian Muslim voice I can think of off the top of my head is Irshad Manji, but I have no idea how she's been received, or how representative she is."

Irshad is widely condemned among orthodox Muslims, nor is she representative of us. At this point in time, I couldn't even say if she still considers herself to be a Muslim, although that's not for me to decide. (Allah (swt) will judge her concerning that matter.) The fact that Irshad is a lesbian is almost beside the point; she is a pariah to most Muslims because of her unIslamic thoughts and beliefs. The problem with Irshad, from our perspective, is that she tells you (the non-Muslim community) only what you want to hear; she doesn't say what orthodox Muslims actually think. In that respect, she and others like her cater to non-Muslim prejudices against Islam and Muslims.

"My second question might require the perspective of a gay or lesbian Muslim, but it would seem to me that salat, as you describe it here, would pose a special challenge for gay and lesbian worshippers. If there is open discussion about the issue in worshipping communities, does salat pose one of the challenges to dialogue on the subject?"

You're right in that I'm not really the person to ask; however, I will say that how we pray (with the sexes segregated) isn't going to change in 99.99999% of the masjids worldwide (or even in North America). Other than that, I really can't say.

Regarding "Progressive" Islam, Covering, and Gender Segregation During Salat

The following is in the series of comments I wrote at Street Prophets (see the previous two posts); however, this one has an additional response by the original poster and my follow-up comment (inserted in the appropriate part of the thread). Once again, original comments are in italics:

"It does seem to me that most of the Muslims here in the States are progressive."

I think this depends upon how you define "progressive." There are some Muslims, primarily in North America, who describe themselves as being "progressive." One of the other Muslim diarists here, eteraz, characterizes himself as such.

I myself would say that I am orthodox in my thinking, probably more conservative (regarding Muslim issues) than eteraz or people like him.

If you define "progressive" as in liberal American political thinking, though, I think that many American Muslims will fit that definition, at least partially. There are a number of political issues where we support the Democratic party; likewise, there are some issues that we are more conservative about. However, over all, I'd say that most Muslims vote Democratic than Republican.

Progressive, in any sense of the word. I was thinking in terms of faith as walking with God in love, not fear.

The Qur'an often talks about how we should fear Allah (swt). But the "fear" is not the normal human emotion of fear; when a Muslim talks of fearing Allah (swt), we mean that we love Him so much that we fear to displease Him in any way.

"I wish I knew more about the rules of politeness (as a woman) for covering the head, etc."

Most Muslim women cover their heads with a scarf (often called a hijab or tudung) for purposes of modesty. There is a Qur'anic verse that reads:

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss." (24:31)

As you can see, according to the Qur'an, only certain men are allowed to see a woman's hair. For example, I am allowed to see my wife's hair, as is her father and brother, but not my brother-in-law. Likewise, I would not normally see my sister-in-law's hair. Elderly women are allowed, per the Qur'an (24:60), not to cover themselves, although the Qur'an also suggests that it would be better for them if they did. And, of course, there are many Muslim women (especially younger women) who ignore this injunction altogether.

BTW, my wife's decision to wear a tudung is entirely her own. :)

"It also seems that the Prophet himself had great respect for the intellectual talents of the women that were close to him."

I certainly think so.

"The restrictions on contact between men and women at prayer are a stumbling block for me, since I personally believe that the soul has no sex, and that the soul is the part of me that prays."

"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" or something like that. ;) This is a contentious topic among the progressives, but I don't have any problem with it. There are two basic reasons why I support the separation of the sexes during prayer (salat).

First, prior to doing salat, everyone must do a ritual bathing called wudu. Under one school of thought, the Shafi'i (which I belong to), contact between any man and woman, no matter how coincidental, will nullify the wudu for each, which means of course that both have to do wudu once more before being allowed to pray. So the Shafi'i will not allow men and women to pray together if only to preserve a state of wudu during prayer.

Second, as I'm sure you're well aware, men worldwide are, uhm, visually distracted by women. :) The purpose of salat is worship. Salat is short and intense. The prayers last for, at most, five minutes, and all distractions from the mind need to be eliminated as best as possible in order to concentrate on the worship. A five-minute separation of the sexes certainly isn't that big a deal. :) Moreover, when doing salat at home, my wife and I will often pray together; we're just careful to avoid touching each other until after salat is over.

Book Suggestions about Islam

For those of us who would like to learn more about the Islam faith, could you recommend two or three books? I've been wanting to start reading, but there's so much out there, and I'm not sure which are accurate and which are caricatures. Thank you.

Of course, if you really want to learn about Islam, the one book to read above all would be the Qur'an. Although there are numerous translations available, I'd recommend A. Yusuf Ali's with commentary. (There are a number of different versions of this book available.) Yusuf Ali's translation is known for being quite readable and has extensive, very helpful commentary throughout.

Another book I'd recommend is Jeffrey Lang's Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam. When one of my sisters asked for a book explaining Islam, this is what I gave her. Lang is an white American revert to Islam, and a professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas. The book provides a good overview of Islam, although the writing gets a little academic in places (he is a professor after all ;) ). This was Lang's first book; he's come out with several others since then. I don't know that I'd recommend them (the second book, Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America was very similar to Struggling to Surrender; I didn't feel he covered a lot of new ground in this book. As for his third book, I haven't read it yet.)

Karen Armstrong has also written two good books about Islam; I'd recommend either: Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet or Islam: A Short History. Finally, for teenagers (and adults), I would recommend Paul Lunde's Islam: Faith, Culture, History. This is a quasi-coffee-table book and, like many DK books, is loaded with beautiful photographs.

Regarding Ijtihad

After writing my Salaam 'alaikum essay and posting it on Street Prophets, I've had a number of questions asked of me in the past few days. I've felt that a number of these responses should also be reposted back here, on my blogs. This first reposting is with regard to the some questions concerning ijtihad (the original questions are in italics):

"I have been advised that there is a significant tradition in Islam of "Ijtihad" or the individual Muslim's responsibility and authority to interpret the Qur'an."

Ijtihad is a much broader concept than just trying to interpret the Qur'an. As I mentioned in a previous comment, Islam is considered by Muslims as a way of life. We try to apply Islamic principles in all aspects of our lives. For us, the means are just as important - and perhaps even more important - than the ends. And so you have a major world religion that's created an enormous corpus of law that's known as Shari'ah.

Ijtihad itself is "the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal sources, the Qur'an and the Sunnah." But even here, ijtihad is not the first resort. The basis for Islamic law, called fiqh (pronounced "fee-kay"), is first the Qur'an, then the Sunnah (which includes the various collections of ahadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)), then qiyas or analogies, and finally ijma or consensus of the scholars. If there is no guidance to answer a question based upon the Qur'an or Sunnah, or through qiyas, only then is ijtihad supposed to be used. But even there, a consensus (or better yet, a unanimous opinion) is sought because Muslims recognize that there are differences of opinion. In such cases, it is better to avoid the extremes and follow the middle path. (Sort of like how figure skating and diving used to be judged: toss out the high and low scores and average or total the remainder.)

In which case, the question becomes, who should be a mujtahid (one who applies ijtahid)? The traditional answer is a scholar of Islamic law, or alim. Liberal Muslims (which I am not) argue that any Muslim should be able to perform ijtahid, but I strongly disagree with this. Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi'i (d. 819), who founded the Shafi'i school of thought, recognized the problem of individual laymen trying to perform ijtihad, who would come up with haphazard opinions. IMO, this is exactly the problem the liberal Muslims are recreating in that perhaps 99.99999% of Muslims worldwide are not qualified to be a scholar who can perform ijtahid.

I bring all this up because I'm trying to say that it is not an "individual Muslim's responsibility and authority to interpret the Qur'an." This is the irony that irritates me with the so-called non-Muslim "Insta-Experts" on Islam. It takes a Muslim years and years of education and training to get to a point where he or she can competently perform ijtihad, whereas these people have little or no education or training and yet they think they're qualified to express an opinion. To analogize, this is like deciding who to see when you have a medical problem: do you visit a qualified doctor or do you go to the person who has little or no education or training? (This analogy is applicable to both the non-Muslim "Insta-Experts" and the liberal Muslims.) What makes it worse from an Islamic perspective is that providing wrong advice compounds the problem (sin) onto the person who provided the faulty information. For example, if you asked me, say, if it were all right for you to have pre-marital sex from an Islamic perspective and I said, "yeah, sure, go ahead," and you did, not only would you accrue the sin of zina (sexual activity outside of marriage), but so would I because I gave you the wrong advice. So, once more, it's better to seek information from the qualified source.

"As you noted, different schools of Islamic thought would seem to offer more ot less authoritative jurisprudence (if that is the right word) on matters of Islamic law and teaching. How do individual Muslims approach this possible tension between individual interpretation and scholarly tradition at the practical human level, i.e. do non-scholarly or non-academic Muslims have rules of thumb on such matters, at the real, practical level?"

The basic, orthodox interpretations of the Qur'an, Sunnah, and life in general as a Muslim are well known and long established; after all, we've had 1400 years to work out most of the "bugs." Media for education are numerous. Most of the primary information is taught in classrooms or through various media (books, magazines, videotapes, the Internet, and so on). When answers to specific questions are needed, Muslims can go to numerous sources. Many people will ask questions of their imams or ustaz (religious teacher). In some countries with significant Muslim populations, there may be some sort of authority that can provide guidance. For example, here in Singapore, we can ask questions to MUIS, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. And there are numerous sources of information on the Internet who answer specific questions. Of course, with any of these sources (especially the last), it's to our benefit to seek out other opinions (similar to seeking a second opinion from a doctor). Even my ustaz, who is an imam at one of the most important masjids here in Singapore, has told us to go ask other people if we felt uncomfortable in any way with what he tells us.

The problem for many North American Muslims, IMO, is that they don't have a lot of the educational institutions that other, more developed Muslim communities have. They have the books and magazines and the Internet to rely upon - and these are a great help - but I think they lack in terms of the qualified imams and ustazs and educational facilities for both children and adults. Still, despite this very fragmentary approach to educating individual Muslims in their deen (religion), the nice thing from my perspective is that, after praying in Allah (swt) knows how many masjids in five countries and on three continents, and having met Muslims from perhaps two dozen different countries to date, I have found there to be a strong unity of beliefs, interpretations and practices of Islam worldwide.

September 7, 2006

Jesus Camp: American Evangelical Christian Fanaticism

I've come across the trailer for a new documentary, Jesus Camp, from a link at Daily Kos, and have looked up some more information about the film. The film has not yet been released, although it comes out in the US in 8 days (15 September). The trailer portrays in part how American Evangelical Christian fanaticism is mixing religion with militarism and right-wing politics, a brainwashing of American kids that anyone who isn't Christian (and, more likely, anyone who doesn't believe in their type of Christianity) must be defeated.

The following excerpt from a review at IMDB describes the film fairly well:

"Jesus Camp" revolves around a pentecostal minister who hosts a summer camp for children in North Dakota, and the sectarian Christian conservative families who send their children to this camp. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady wisely chose to avoid the polemical tone of most politically-motivated films, and instead opt to present a mostly unfiltered glimpse of this odd subculture. But through carefully selected images and the use of talk radio commentary as a framing device, they construct a subtle, yet damning narrative about a religious movement that isolates its children from mainstream culture, indoctrinates them into right-wing causes, and uses them as political props.

At Jesus Camp, the daily activities include standard camp fare such as spelunking and go-karts, but they also include speaking in tongues and smashing coffee mugs emblazoned with the word "government". Children learn that "science doesn't prove anything," and learn to consider themselves part of an Army of God. They are compelled to pledge that they will fight to end abortion. They are even pushed into publicly confessing their impure thoughts, and many of them cry and wail charismatically.

The camp director explains that she admires the way Islamic cultures raise children so devoted they will risk their lives for their faith. When we ultimately see several of the campers being placed by their parents on the steps of the Capitol with tape over their mouths, protesting abortion, the real purpose of this camp is driven home.

But the most touching scenes are the ones where the children are alone, and we see the ways that this indoctrination creeps into the most innocent elements of childhood. 11 year old Tori loves dancing to Christian rock, but frets that it's not always easy to dance for God instead of "dancing for the flesh." On an outing to the bowling alley, 9 year old Rachael feels compelled to walk up to strangers and awkwardly evangelize to them, without being prompted. A roomful of boys telling ghost stories after dark are interrupted by an adult who warns them about stories that don't glorify God.

No doubt some viewers will accuse the filmmakers of the dreaded liberal bias. But this is not a work of fiction, nor is it slanted reporting. These are real people and real events, captured on film. If the evangelical movement comes off badly in this film, the people on screen have no one but themselves to blame.

I've linked to a Youtube presentation of the trailer below (run time: 2:09). Some interesting quotations that I transcribed from the trailer:

"I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag..." (A boy and girl reciting a "pledge.")

"There are two kinds of people in the world: people who love Jesus and people who don't." (An adult woman.)

"I really feel that we're a key generation to Jesus coming back." (Levi O'Brien, a young boy attending the camp.)

"How many of you want to be those who would give up their lives for Jesus?" (An adult man; perhaps the most disturbing part of the trailer as you see perfectly innocent and naive children - especially the blond girl - who jump up and down, waving their hands, and not understanding in the slightest what the man is really asking of them.)

"We're being trained to be God's army." (A second young boy.)

"This means war! This means war! Are you a part of it or not?" (Pastor Becky Fisher, who runs the "Kids on Fire" summer camp, shouting.)

The official website has more information, including two additional videos.

One of the two videos has an interview with Becky Fisher. It's rather sad and typical (and wrong) to see how she views political conflicts in the Middle East (Palestine in particular) as dying "for the cause of Islam." She hopes to instill a fanaticism among the children to the point where they're willing to kill themselves "for the gospel":

"Where should we be putting in our efforts? Where should we be putting our focus? I'll tell you where our enemies are putting it, they're putting it on the kids. They're going into the schools. You go into Palestine, and I can take you to some websites that will absolutely shake you to your foundations and show you photographs of where they're taking their kids to camps like we take our kids to Bible camps, and they're putting hand grenades in their hands, they're teaching them how to put on bomb belts, they're teaching them how to use rifles, they're teaching how to use machine guns; it's no wonder, with that kind of intense training that [garbled], that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam.

"I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as, as they are, uh, over in, in Pakistan, in, in Isreal, and, and Palestine, and all those different places. You know, because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!"

September 5, 2006

Salaam 'alaikum (peace be unto you).

I posted the following essay originally at Daily Kos, and reposted it at Street Prophets. (Note: My essay has generated a large number of comments at both sites: 55 at Daily Kos and 15 at Street Prophets, to date. Check them out.)

Salaam ‘alaikum (peace be unto you).

PLHeart wrote a recent diary at Daily Kos entitled, “Why I Won’t Become a Muslim.” The diary, unfortunately, is filled with a number of errors and misperceptions about Islam and Muslims; however, I’m not writing today to call PLHeart out. More than enough people have already done that, and it appears that PLHeart him or herself accepts that his or her diary could have been better written.

My problem, as a Muslim, is that I see writings like PLHeart’s all too often. There is a tremendous amount of ignorance about Islam and Muslims held by a huge number of people. Much of the problem, IMO, is caused by a lack of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. People don’t necessarily want to learn, nor do they want to think deeply about what they’re told. (I’m a college lecturer; I know.) They often take the information they’re given at face value, and frequently react negatively when people tell them otherwise. (This problem affects more than just what people think they know about Islam; for example, this is a common problem with regard to science, especially the debate between evolution and creationism in its various guises.)

The point of this diary, then, is to try to provide some information and correct a few misperceptions about Islam. In particular, I’d like to talk about two of PLHeart’s topics: “tribes” of Islam and conversion (or, as we call it, reversion) to Islam.

In Islam there are no “tribes.” PLHeart’s so-called Sunni, Shi’a and “Wahaddi” (sic) tribes are not, in fact, tribes at all. Of course there are divisions among Muslims, primarily the Sunni and Shi’a, but they are not nearly as major as non-Muslims might think. Should a non-Muslim revert to Islam, there is no determination of whether this man will become Sunni and this woman will become Shi’a. Probably 99% of all Western reverts to Islam become Sunni. This is due to the fact that most masjids in Western countries are Sunni. A Sunni Muslim is one who follows the Sunnah, the tradition of Muhammad (pbuh). The Sunnah, which is made up of the instructions in the Qur’an plus the sayings (ahadith) and actions of the Prophet, is important to Sunnis in that we believe Muhammad (pbuh) was the best living example of how the Qur’an should be applied to our daily lives, bar none.

The Shi’a arose out of the dispute as to who should lead the Muslim community after the death of Muhammad (pbuh). The Sunnis believed that the leader should be elected; the Shi’a believed that people from Muhammad’s (pbuh) family, the Ahl al-Bayt, had the best knowledge about Islam and the Qur’an, and about how Islam should be practiced. Over time, the differences between the Sunni and Shi’a have deepened and there are mixed feelings among the Sunni about the Shi’a (for example, whether to even consider the Shi’a as Muslim), but on a practical basis this is not an issue for the vast majority of Muslims worldwide.

The Wahhabis or, as they prefer, Salafis, are a branch of the Sunnis. I wouldn’t quite call them a school of thought as they themselves reject the idea of being categorized into any of the four Sunni madhhab (school of jurisprudence). The Salafis were started by Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, who was reacting to religious conditions within Arabia during the 1700s. The modern belief among non-Muslims toward the Salafis is that they are puritanical, which is true to a degree as they are trying to rid Islam of any innovations in its practice (which itself is commanded in the Qur’an; e.g., 30:30). However, IMO, the Salafist threat to the West is overblown (as are most Western attitudes toward Islam and Muslims).

PLHeart’s diary, of course, was prompted in part by the recent so-called gunpoint conversions of the two Fox journalists. I’ve been amused at some of the writings from the right who argue that Muslims will consider anyone who has said the shahadah (the statement of belief) to be a Muslim regardless of whether the reversion is coerced or not. Of course, this is completely false. There are a number of conditions attached to the recitation to the shahadah in order for a reversion to be valid, one of which is sincerity: to become a Muslim, one must be sincere in his or her beliefs. One would have to be deluded to believe that any coerced “reversion” would be valid in any way. Likewise, as the Qur’an states:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” (2:256)

As Muslims, we know that any compulsion to believe in any religion will not make a conversion valid. A forced conversion will only create resentment in that person’s heart, which could in turn lead to resentment against Allah (swt). The gunpoint “conversion” by the Palestinians is unIslamic; few, if any, Muslims worldwide would consider the Fox journalists to be Muslims today.

While we’re clearing up misconceptions about conversion, let’s look at one other: that Islam is a missionary religion. We are and we aren’t. Yes, we do a type of missionary work, called da’wah, but that is mostly reactive in nature. As many people on PLHeart’s diary commented, people are far more likely to have a Christian come up to them, proselytizing, than a Muslim. (Ironically, just as I was writing this, I had three women from the corner church come up to my door to invite my wife and me to this Sunday’s service.) From my experience, most Christians who proselytize follow a proactive missionary strategy: they approach you directly, talk to you, and ask you to start a conversion process (such as what the ladies did). Muslims tend to follow a passive strategy (if you can call it that): if you approach us with a question, we will try to answer you; if you want to read the Qur’an, we will try to provide you with one. We don’t normally go out onto the streets to approach people. We don’t have missionaries riding around on bicycles. We don’t publish missionary tracts and leave them behind in laundromats. We don’t pass out inflammatory cartoon booklets. If you want to become a Muslim, that’s great. If you don’t, well, that’s fine too. (“Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.” 109:6) The only Muslim “missionaries” I have ever come across were, in fact, not interested in talking to non-Muslims. Instead, they wanted to meet other Muslims who may be backsliding, so that they could become more active in their faith. For me, I believe the accusation that Islam is a missionary religion is often a case of ignorance and psychological projection.

Wa salaam.

September 1, 2006


Someone was looking for Malaguena and gave me a hit when they visited my recent Velvet Knights post (the second video of four). Malaguena is one of my all-time favorite drum corps songs, and so I thought I'd add a few more videos that focus on this particular song. The first is the 1988 Madison Scouts (run time: 7:17), the second is the 2003 Cadets version (run time: 4:51), and the third is Blast's version (run time: 6:58). Now, if only I could find a CD here of Stan Kenton's recording...