August 28, 2005

Muslim Pick-Up Lines

I found the following pick-up lines on the blog of an Internet friend (we met on Beliefnet long ago). These are cute.

  1. "OH MY GOSH! I just saw part of your hair, now you're obliged to marry me."
  2. "Our parents engaged us when we were little, they must have forgotten to tell you."
  3. "I'd like to be more than just your brother in Islam."
  4. "To watch you pray is a sin of its own."
  5. "Will my platinum VISA cover your dowry?"
  6. "You can't play basketball with a jilbab on, marry me, and we will go one-on-one our entire life."
  7. "Muslims are supposed to have many children, and I am willing to do my part..."
  8. "Will you help the cause of the Ummah by helping me fulfill my deen?"
  9. "Wanna pray in jamaat? shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet?"
  10. "Assalamu 'alaikum; so what time does a hurain (beautiful person from Jannah) like you have to be back in paradise?"
  11. What school of thought do you follow because I thought about you all through school
  12. Can I have your wali's phone number?
  13. So, read any good Surahs lately?
  14. Do you believe in the hereafter? Oh you do? Then you know what I'm hereafter.
  15. Would you like to see my collection of Bukhari's?
  16. Lets get married so I dont have to lower my gaze everytime you walk in the room.

August 24, 2005

One more comment regarding Izzy Mo's "Society for Caucasian Muslims" post

Izzy Mo wrote: "This is John, better known by his Muslim name Yahya. He was raised in a moderate Christian family and converted to Islam after he took a class in World Religions. He recalls to us in our April 23rd meeting this story. 'So, after being a Muslim for about two years, I figure it's time for me to be married. You know, fulfill the other half of the deen. I'm looking around for potential spouses, letting everyone know I am interested in marrying a good Muslima. I was so rejected. There was even a nice Pakistani sister who I seemed to have a lot in common with but her father flat out rejected me. "Convert someone from your own community." I thought this was my community.'"

"Convert someone from your own community." Actually, this is what John and Juan, our African-American and Hispanic brothers, would be told. White American Muslim converts, both male and female, tend to be sought after by non-American (and sometimes even American) Muslims. (Heck, I had a black American brother - a friend - tell me that he wished he had a sister so that he could have her marry me. I was very honored by that comment.)

The problem is, I've heard lots of black and hispanic Muslim brothers complain, in person and over the internet, about how difficult it is for them to find spouses among the immigrant community (which, of course, represent about half of the American Muslim population - a very significant number). In looking for my own wife, I had very few problems. I did initially try the internet matchmaking option, and got tons of responses to my ad. (I quickly realized that I didn't need to hunt for women to write to; why should I bother? They all wrote to me first.)

And so I understand why Izzy wrote the above, but this problem tends not to be ours (meaning, us white Muslims).

August 23, 2005

My Response to Izzy Mo's "Society for Caucasian Muslims"

I've been meaning to respond to izzy mo's take on what a Caucasian Muslim Society might be like. She wrote: "I remembered an article about Caucasian Muslims printed in Islamic Horizons which stated that out of all the various ethnic groups in our umma, Caucasian Muslim never started a group specifically for Caucasian Muslims. There's Black groups, Latino groups, Indian groups, even Vietnamese and Native American groups, but no White, Anglo-Saxon or Caucasian groups."

I haven't read the article in question, but I would agree that there probably aren't any Caucasian Muslim groups in the US. (If there are any, they're probably very small in size.) Actually, I suspect that most American whites tend to think that we, as the current majority ethnic group/race in the US, don't need to create organizations specifically for Caucasians because it's assumed that we can join these groups anyway. (And, historically, those Caucasians who did create organizations specifically for whites have been criticized publicly over the past few decades due to discriminating against people from other races who wanted to join. So the general attitude by most whites now I think is, why bother?)

The funny thing is, here in Singapore, there is a "Caucasian Muslim" group, known as the Euro Club, which is affiliated with Darul Arqam - The Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore. Despite the name, the Euro Club is really for any Muslim (of any race) who comes from Western countries. Most of the members I know come from either Australia or New Zealand; I also know two Europeans, and then there's me, the only American in the group that I know of (although there may be more).


A few months ago, a friend from Arizona asked me, "How do you feel being a minority?" Meaning, in a country where 77% of the population is Chinese, 14% is Malay, and 7% is Indian, the remaining 2% or so is mostly white (in three years here in S'pore, the number of blacks I've run across could probably be counted on both hands and feet). The irony is that I've felt like a minority since my reversion to Islam five years ago. Going to masjids, regardless of the country I've been to (US, Switzerland, Korea, Singapore), there is rarely any other white Muslim praying there with me. Years ago, I used to worry a little as to how I might be treated by the other Muslim brothers; after all, white Americans hadn't always treated black Americans that well (and likewise, Americans haven't treated the rest of the world that well either). But all of my worries have been for naught. In fact, instead of being treated poorly, I am treated very well. I am frequently the object of attention, the great curiosity: a white male American Muslim. Whodathunkit? And there are also times when I feel I'm a type of ambassador for American Muslims in these countries that I visit. People are curious as to how Islam is practiced in America, how big the Muslim population is, and so on. I try to be honest with them, telling them about both the good and bad. But the conversations tend to be interesting, and I hope we all will profit from the encounters.

One thing that I do enjoy about Islam, though, is the lack of emphasis on skin color, especially during salat. In the masjids I've been to around the world, there's very little segregation between different communities like you might find in American churches (white churches over here, black churches over there). I like the fact that in most places I've been to, there is a rainbow of skin colors, meeting Muslims from around the world (perhaps 20 nationalities so far). When the Qur'an talks about being a universal message for all mankind, I can believe it because I've seen so many diverse people who are Muslims. Alhamdulillah!

(Insha'allah, I hope to post a second comment to Izzy Mo's post later.)

August 17, 2005

The US and the Nation Brand Index

I came across the Nation Brand Index today while breezing through a local newspaper article. Simon Anholt, author of Brand America, has started doing a survey of how people around the world look at specific countries, as if each country is its own brand. The following is what he wrote regarding the United States, and part of his conclusion. I have a few comments at the end.

The United States

It has been pointed out many times – in the first Nation Brands Index, amongst others – that America’s brand image has suffered severely as a result of the unpopularity of the current administration’s foreign policy. This is not an unfamiliar situation for the USA as the country has faced international opprobrium for its foreign policies more than a few times during the last century.

Two questions spring to mind in this context: firstly, is the effect of these spells of unpopularity iterative, or cumulative? In other words, does Brand America fully recover its prestige after each unpopular overseas engagement, or does the ill-will gradually build up? If cumulative, Brand America may be truly in deep trouble. The second question is whether we are witnessing for the first time some symptoms of this political harm beginning to leach out into other areas of the nation brand. I addressed these questions in my last book, Brand America, and will not go into detail here. The second NBI, however, does provide some new evidence.

The US scores extremely poorly on the ‘heritage’ side of the culture axis, ranking last of the 25 countries in the survey. One is tempted to assume that this is a deliberate slight on the part of our respondents, a kind of protest vote. Still, there is a question on the ‘governance’ axis that offers a much clearer opportunity to express disapproval of US foreign policy:

"Please rank how much you trust the following countries’ governments to make responsible decisions which uphold international peace and security"

Here, America comes in nineteenth, certainly a very low ranking, but not twenty-fifth. The governments of South Korea, India, Egypt, Turkey, Russia and China are still rated by our panel as being less responsible (South Korea, as I mentioned in the first NBI, being probably the victim of a certain amount of confusion with North Korea).

In some ways, I find the low culture score of Brand America more disturbing than the low governance score. One could argue that a degree of unpopularity is the unavoidable price of being the world’s only military superpower. However, the culture score is associated with the maturity, prudence, wisdom, cultivation, humanity and intelligence of the nation. Such a low score for Brand America hardly provides a positive context in which to evaluate America’s political and military acts.

Perhaps this poor showing in serious culture is only to be expected, since successive administrations have dismantled much of the machinery of cultural diplomacy that helped to The Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index – Second Quarter, 2005 win the Cold War, and now serve so well as a foil to many of the country’s currently negative brand attributes.

All things considered, American brands are still doing well. However, there are worrying signs at the margins. As I mentioned earlier, in the 2004 Interbrand/Business Week survey of the world’s top 100 global brands, no less than 57 are American owned. The number has fallen slightly, from 63 two years ago, but the survey still evidences the most staggering domination of the global ‘brandscape’ by American firms. Germany is in second place with a mere 9 billion-dollar global brands, followed by France (as we have seen), Japan and the UK.

What is most surprising, given this state of affairs, is the fact that our panellists now rank Germany higher than America as a desirable producer of branded products and
services, despite the fact that American brands outnumber German brands on the global marketplace by more than 6 to 1. This has changed in the space of three months since the first NBI, both in terms of satisfaction with products and how highly the country of origin is rated on those products. In these cases, the positions of these two countries have reversed.

It is also noticeable that only two of the new entries in this year’s Business Week Survey are American and the other seven are European: one is Swiss, one is Dutch, one is French, one is Italian, and three are German.

It looks as if American brands have a serious competitor on their hands: tiny in terms of numbers, but significant in terms of consumer preference.


The Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index – Second Quarter, 2005 respected political figures; neither is an especially prolific or prominent contributor of cultural offerings on the worldstage. Both, however, are large, beautiful, relatively remote countries with relatively small populations. They both have Any discussion about the brand values of nations, their importance in the modern world, and their impact on people’s decisions inevitably raises the question of whether there is anything that can be done to reverse a negative image.

The promotion of tourism, cultural relations, media personalities, branded exports, politicians, investment promotion and the people of the country all play in to creating the brand image of the nation. However, in the end, deliberate acts of communication, no matter how well performed or how well funded, can only work at the margins of perception, and one simple truth about nation brand emerges from the NBI: a reputation can only be earned.

People form their views about countries in the following ways:
a. By the things the country does, and how it does them
b. By the things the country makes, and how it makes them
c. By the way the country looks – or people think it looks
d. By the way other people talk about it
e. By the company it keeps
f. By the way the country talks about itself

There is a common misconception that nation branding is mainly about (f); in other words, that the image of a country can be built through paid-for communications, through attractive logos and clever slogans. Actually, this is one of the least effective and least reliable ways of communicating the ‘national brand’. Saying things is not enough: they either have to be said by respected independent voices – (d) – or better still, proven: (a), (b), (c) and (e).

Just as advertising cannot sell a product that does not deliver on its promises or that people don’t need, a country cannot build its reputation by singing its own praises, or spewing out endless information about its wonderful products, investment opportunities, people, places and achievements. In today’s world, information is virtually valueless because there is so much of it.

In the end, if a nation wants to change its brand image, it must learn to behave differently. However, before changing its behaviour, a nation needs insight into how it is really perceived by its various audiences and stakeholders. It also needs a firm understanding of how nation brands form and change. With this knowledge, a nation’s new behaviour will help build its new brand as effectively, efficiently, fairly, truthfully, usefully and predictably as possible.

JD: I find the last three paragraphs of the conclusion to be the most interesting. Of course, many (if not all countries) need to take these words to heart, but as an American, I think the US needs to take these paragraphs to heart more strongly than others. The US government's reaction to 9/11 was, in part, to create an "advertising campaign" in Muslim countries extolling the virtues of the US and American culture. And yet, Mr. Anholt here is quite plainly saying, this is the least effective means for winning over the minds of Muslims (or anyone else for that matter). If the US really wants to win over the minds of Muslims, *they* need to change their behavior - and this extends not just to the US government, but to the average American citizen as well. Otherwise, you're never going to convince non-American Muslims that the US has their best interests at heart.

August 9, 2005

New Posts on My Other Blogs

Just in case this is the only one of my blogs that you visit, I've made some recent posts to my two other blogs that you may find of interest. On my Learn about Islam blog is an article from the Wichita Eagle on Overcoming the Islamic Fear Factor. Take the short quiz and see how well you do.

The other recent post is on my Ang Moh in SG blog. The Hungry Ghost festival happened the other night, and I've posted one of my photos that I thought came out really well. Check it out.

And, of course, I hope to have more posts made on all three of my blogs in the near future, insha'allah. :)

August 1, 2005

Bad Writing

These were a hoot. :)

A Microsoft analyst has won an annual contest celebrating bad writing by comparing fixing carburetors to fondling a woman's breasts.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual."

The winner in the children's literature section was sent in by Shelby Leung of New South Wales, Australia.

"The woods were all a-twitter with rumors that the Seven Dwarves were planning a live reunion after their attempted solo careers had dismally sputtered into Z-list oblivion and it was all just a matter of meeting a ten-page list of outlandish demands (including 700-threadcount Egyptian cotton bedsheets, lots of white lilies and a separate trailer for the magic talking mirror) to get the Princess Formerly Known As Snow White on board."