Wouldn't it be nice if we had a Representative Government?

Last night a couple of friends and I began discussing religion and politics.  This of course, was after my wife made us into human pretzels with a torturous yoga session. (did I mention my wife was a Yoga Instructor?)  Eventually, after my long winded rant about the merits of Islam versus other religions (more on that later) and other candid stuff about my feelings on religions in general (still debating with myself as to whether or not I want to make that public 🙂 ), we eventually got to the current state of affairs in politics, the Obama Administration, and of course the Health Care “debate”.

For those paying attention to my periodical rantings, facebook and twitter messages, and even my brief return to radio, you may have noticed that I have been largely silent concerning politics since the election of President Obama.  After the night of the election I had resolved to “stay out of it”.  I was just too burned out following the 2008 election’s overdose of coverage, commentary, and who could forget CNN John King’s “magic map”?  It got so bad that I began to use my professional analyst skills (I’m certain I mentioned somewhere about what I actually do for a living) and started making my own predictions even at the county level in some states as to who was going to go red or blue and why.  It was over the top.  In fact, on election night, I had three phone lines constantly ringing with friends and family calling to get my view on how things were going to turn out, the only one I got wrong was Rhode Island, go figure…. eitherway, after that night and season that even had me volunteering and knocking on doors, I just decided to turn the TV off and stay away from politics for awhile.  That was until this summer’s retarded tea parties, town halls, birthers, and the idiots terrified about Obama’s education message to children, I still can’t believe people actually took their kids out of school for that! 🙂

It’s a longstanding joke in my circle of family and friends that if I stopped watching CNN, that I would have no need for cable, and they are true.  Lately, the only time I even turn on the TV outside of the fact that it also by computer monitor, and portal to the world of my Xbox 360 addiction, is to watch DVR episodes of my wife’s shows that “we” watch “together” such as “What not to wear”, “Say Yes to the Dress”, “Suze Orman”, “The World’s Strictest Parents”, “18 and Counting”, “Divine Design”, “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares”, and of course “Hell’s Kitchen”, I have had to not only get thicker skin, embrace my feminine side, etc. etc. etc. but learn to just sit and obey. She will never watch my shows like “24”, “True Blood”, or “Real Time with Bill Maher” but this has nothing to do with the discussion, I’m just noticing….

Anyway, my friends and I started talking about this health care “debate” and I made it no secret that I think the whole thing is a joke and I am completely and thoroughly pissed off simultaneously with both the President and the Democratic Party.

I find it amazing but not shocking that the Democratic Party can literally have the White House, House, and Senate, yet somehow, can’t pass a single thing the way they promised, or deliver on anything Obama campaigned on, and the Health Care thing for me is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Maybe I saw it all coming and maybe that’s why I registered Independent (not that I can foresee voting Republican anytime soon), but the Democratic Party is just inept plain and simple.

Guantanamo?  Still open, Iraq? Still there, Afghanistan? Hell, send 30k more troops and never actually catch OBL, why not?  Public Option?  Nope, let Benedict Arnold, I mean Joe Liberman decide, Pass any significant legislation that the majority of Americans want that will actually help?  What do you think they are in Congress for? Their not there to actually represent Americans, but the corporate lobbyists.

I mean think about it…the whole 60 votes needed thing is a rule that the Senate made up themselves, not what the Constitution mandates, so if you had a few errant Democratic Senators and a traitor or two…cough Joe Liberman cough..just change the rules to simple majority.  I know, that’s a very Republican thing to suggest.

Republicans, love them or hate them, at least managed to get the things done that they wanted to.  President Bush told us all to our faces on national TV even with the Sith Lord Cheney pulling the strings that he in fact was the “decider” and the Republican led Congress did whatever they wanted to and could care less about the American people thought and surely not what Democrats thought.  However, timid Democrats get in power and you have a silent President who seems too afraid to push the agenda that he had us knocking on doors in the cold for that he promised, a Congress that seems almost certain that unless they play nice with Republicans that peace on Earth will never be achieved, and even with the majority of the country supporting the agenda, somehow that’s just not enough motivation to get er done!

I’m just so fed up.  I really wonder what are they there for? I mean the overwhelming majority of Senators are accomplished millionaires, have been in office for decades, and some old as dirt, you would think they had nothing to lose.  I seriously wonder why?  Why is it so easy for them to be bought and what does the money actually do for them?  Campaign contributions? I mean why is it so important to be re-elected each time, your a millionaire for pete’s sake, what else do you need?  Do you crave attention that much?  Go home, retire and spend time with your grandkids if your not really interested in Representing Americans interests.  Let’s just be honest for a moment.  Americans are too lazy and too easily fooled into believing that we actually have a Representative Government. We allow for the insanity to continue, where’s Susan Powter when you need her? (throwback joke)  We need to stop the insanity!  Either we actually put forth the effort and hold our REPRESENTATIVES accountable, or we stop complaining like I am and just accept that in the end it all boils down to money and our politicians have been bought long ago, even our messianic President (yes I said it).

I mean just imagine an America where the priority in passing legislation like the Health Care bill was what the American people actually want, instead of the current model of let’s do what’s in the best interest of the healthcare industry.  You know the industry that has already factored in how much they are prepared to seemingly lose in order to make it look like progress, making sure that in the end they benefit anyway.  Imagine an American politic that wasn’t afraid to call out BS like the Republicans uniformly opposing rather than suggesting any bill alternatives, because they figure it’s best to try and tank any effort in hopes to use failures as talking points to their advantage in later elections, I mean we all know that ideology and politics are what they were elected for right?  The most important thing to imagine is a President who actually made us believe in the change he promised, not by lofty speeches, but by the actual passage, orders, and declarations that would carry these promises into effect.  I’m still waiting on prison reform and whatever happened to a health care bill that rewarded and paid for preventive medicine?

Michelle Duggar for Beatification?

This morning I had a funny conversation with my wife about the possibility of beatifying Michelle Duggar that I felt I had to share with my readers, you know take a break from my serious “sky is falling” type rants.

Like most mornings I picked up my iPhone (shameless plug) to check out the headlines on my various news apps.  It’s a habitual morning routine like grabbing a cup of coffee, that I just have to do to get the day started.  Besides, I wouldn’t know what’s going on with the world if it weren’t for my Huffington Post, CNN, AP, etc. news apps!  The AP app had a “breaking news” alert when I checked the phone, so I clicked that app first.  The “breaking news” this morning was that Pope Benedict has moved the process for Beatification one step closer for Pope John Paul II.

I thought this was great news and applauded the efforts, eagerly sharing it with my wife who listened politely, yet seemed a little more eager than usual to respond.  Little did I know that her response would make for good Saturday morning jest! Granted, as a Muslims what ultimately happens  with beatification doesn’t affect us one way or the other theologically speaking, but since it’s feel good religious news, I like to have an opinion nonetheless.   I began the discussion naming the virtues and recalling the actions identifying how great a Pope John Paul II was and commenting on how many Muslims liked him, and even threw in reference to the positive decrees about Islam given by the Church under his leadership among many other things, when my wife cut me off mid sentence in my praise fest of the late great Pope by saying one of the funniest things I have heard in a while:  “Why should he get to be a saint, what did his job really amount to other than praying all day!”

Of course, this was a simplified tongue and cheek response, but my wife went on to discuss how she doesn’t get how all these “men” can be viewed as saints when their primary job description entails praying and preaching.  Already laughing at her response, she kicked it up a notch by adding that if anyone should be nominated for sainthood it should be Michelle Duggar!

I’m thankful that I wasn’t eating or drinking at the moment or I would have choked.  Her response to my praise of Vatican and Catholic Church politics was so funny to me, that I told her that I had to blog about her conversation right away as it was way too funny not to share, she laughed.

My wife continued to make point by point arguments stating the virtues of Michelle Duggar and how the raising of now 19 children makes her more of a saint than an old guy praying and preaching.  Of course, there was a feminist slant in her tone (or so I think) but her overall point was that raising children is real work, preaching…well, not so much…

Just for the record, the Duggars are a common discussion topic in our household.  Although, our theological positions vary greatly with the Duggar family (obviously) we still absolutely adore them.  We watch their show religiously.  I frequently hold Jim Bob Duggar in high esteem for his patience, I have to admit there is a side of me that envies Jim Bob’s patience with 19 kids, whereas I can barely hold it together with 5!  He’s always smiling and thanking God for his family.  Those two just seem to be the very definition of saintly patience, kindness, and humility.  Therefore, bringing Michelle Duggar into a discussion about the Pope is perfectly natural in my house, as the Duggar family in general have been brought into just about every discussion we have had past already, from grocery shopping, to child rearing, to being better parents.

Personally, regardless of my wifes attempts to convince me otherwise 🙂 I still believe that Pope John Paul II should be made a saint.  Nothing against Michelle Duggar who should at least be nominated in our humble opinion.

Franklin Graham tells CNN's Campbell Brown "Islam is Evil" surprise, surprise,…

CAMPBELL BROWN

President Obama’s War Doctrine; American Terrorists in Pakistan?

Aired December 10, 2009 – 20:00   ET

I woke up to an email mentioning these comments this morning, and at first I was going to ignore the video link and go on about my day.  I already believed that Franklin Graham was the type of guy who talks out of both sides of his mouth concerning “Christianity” and quite frankly, while I admire his father, I think of him as nothing more than one of the leaders of the white Evangelical movement, who believe in a form of Christianity, I’m culturally unfamiliar with.

That said, imagining Mr. Graham to actually have anything Christian to say in regards to Muslims was the furthest thing from my mind.  I realized nothing good could come of me clicking the YouTube link, yet my morbid curiosity got the best of me.  I wish I had better self control.

Now before I add my diatribe to the discussion about his comments, know that there are already many well-meaning Muslims who have already responded to these comments in a rational, pc, and calm way, therefore, I feel released of my obligation to be as kind.

Mr. Graham’s comments were vile, disgusting, and unbearable in the mind of the conscious and his words would not even be worth mentioning, nor worth the time to waste one key stroke, had it not been for the fact that he has millions of followers who listen to his drivel, many of whom shape public policy and enact laws that affect all Americans.

What should one say in response to one who boldly makes some of the ridiculous claims he has made?  I mean some of this stuff is so stupid that you have to wonder if a child was responsible for writing his anti Islam talking points.  For CNN to even give him a platform to spread his stupidity just highlights part of the problem Muslims face in the war of ideas, civility, and just plain ole common sense.  Every comment Mr. Graham made could be debunked by anyone who took 10 minutes to browse through a Complete idiot’s guide or Islam for Dummies book!

I believe what makes his comments so worth my 10 minutes this Sunday morning is due to the fact that right now somewhere in America he’s probably preparing to or delivering a similar so-called “Christian” message.  A narrative not based on what Christianity has ordinarily meant or espoused theologically, but one of the modern polity which has hijacked this theology to represent the views of a xenophobic group of whites, who despise any ideas or people who do not look, practice, or believe like them.  Some would call them “evangelicals”, others would call them “the Republican Party base”, and many others like my Grandfather a Minister of over 50 years would call them “Pseudo Christians”.  I believe he and his followers are all the above and then some.  This version of Christianity is rarely if ever taught from the pulpits of Christian congregations whose majority consist mainly of minorities.  This version of Christianity is mainly taught right where one should historically expect to hear messages and teachings that are intolerant and hostile toward those who don’t fit the bill in the looks and ideas department.

Why is this important and how does it relate to the commentary on Islam such as Mr. Graham’s?

It is important because we are ignoring the fact that the media is giving a green light and a platform to rhetoric that has at it’s core more in common with the hate speech of 40 plus years ago than the supposed loving message of Jesus the Christ (as).  By allowing these views to become mainstream, we have shown as Americans that while we have made many strides away from our past, we still have a long way to go.

Some may criticize me for bringing race into the discussion, and maybe it’s my cultural “sensibilities” that I have not overcome, but as a black American, what’s going on just seems crystal clear to me.  When I see masses of white Americans being intolerant to a group of people who just happen to be non-whites, I begin to see through the veil of religion.  I do not believe what people like Mr. Graham teach is Christianity.  I believe that Christianity is merely the tool in which they use to congregate and propagate their message.  If you listen very clearly, these messages sound no different than the message of white supremest groups and it’s been this way for centuries.

If you don’t believe race is a factor in this discussion, then explain how it is that  although all the Prophets of God regardless of whether you follow the Bible or Qur’an have been what we would call today men of color, yet from the very beginning, Europeans sought to completely remove this fact from the history.  Instead what we have seen in the West is religion devoid of any representation of people of color.  You have seen the paintings of the Renaissance and even the illustrations of today, that continually portray the Prophets of God (pbut), the people of their era, and even God Himself as Caucasian.  When people of color have been mentioned in the narrative, they have always been labeled as the cursed, the other, and villains of the people of God who just happen to be painted as white.  This produced and continues to produce a mentality among many who call themselves Christian in the West, yet another avenue in which to consider themselves either consciously or subconsciously as superior to those in the world who are of color and often have different faith traditions.  This has produced yet another form of supremist beliefs and rhetoric that is very similar to other forms of supremacy except now codified and sanctioned under the guise of religion.  This in of itself is lengthy discussion that I will revist another day, but how it applies today and with Mr. Grahams commentary, is that I believe these underlying issues and the roots of his religion, help one to understand how people like Mr. Graham come to the ridiculous conclusions they do about the minority group of the week, Muslims, and how these views have less to do with actual religion, but more to do with the age old unfortunate mental disease that produces racism.

This mentality I believe is the root cause of the hostilities between many in the West and Muslims in general.  I have yet to see any minority group in the West come out as strongly and passionate against Muslims as have those who think and believe like Mr. Graham.  Surely some have noticed who the majority group in attendance at these Churches, Schools, town halls, etc. are where anti-Muslim rhetoric is the discussion of the day.  Surely some have noticed who the largest consumers of anti-Muslim propaganda are.  Should we assume this all to be a huge coincidence?  Should we assume that it’s just coincidence that you rarely if ever hear of minority clergymen and women speaking with such hostility toward Islam?  Should we assume that it’s just a coincidence that we have yet to hear of one minority legislator from any country advocating against Muslims/Islam?  Why do you suppose this is?  One does not have to take my word for it, many of you may even label me a radical, racist, etc. for bringing all this up.  Maybe my experience is just different from some of you, however the Christianity I was brought up under, was taught, and know, spends more time talking about love and compassion for all, than talking about how evil others are based on their beliefs.  It’s not a teaching that spends a great deal of time mobilizing it’s congregation to be against the will, choice, or practices of others.  It’s not a political teaching at all.  Maybe some of this rhetoric does occur in some black, Asian, Latino, etc. churches, but I seriously doubt its common place.  But what do I know?

I write all this to say that, I don’t believe Mr. Graham’s comments or those made by, advocated, or supported by others similar in station or ideology as Mr. Graham’s, to be those representative of Christianity in it’s purest theological form and or practiced by the majority of Christians.  I believe that once we look beyond the religion and the rhetoric, that we will find yet another iteration of the ideas that produced conditions in America’s past where humans drank from separate water fountains because of the color of their skin amongst other evils.

How else can you explain his text book anti-Muslim commentary?  He speaks as if one billion Muslims originate from the Middle East and we are all a bunch of savages.  He talks down to the Muslim world from a position of superiority.  In his world view as evidenced by his language, Muslims are just a bunch of Arab savages, just look at the “horrors” they are committing against themselves he goes on to say.  Nevermind, that the majority of Muslims don’t originate from these Middle Eastern countries, and nevermind that the majority doesn’t even practice or agree with the concepts he claims represent “true Islam”, because he said it and since he has “Muslim friends” it must be true.  Where have I heard this type of rhetoric before?

We would not be doing our due diligence if we ignored our history.  It was not long ago where blacks were considered savages and similar propaganda was spread by clergy and other leaders to codify those ideas as facts.  During this period religion was also used (see Hametic curse) as well as broad sweeping generalizing about black culture, history, practices, and ideas.  To put it bluntly as it’s been discussed in various circles since 9/11, Arabs have become the “new niggers” and by extension all Muslims in general, as evidenced by people like Mr. Graham who continually define Islam as an Arab religion.  This kind of rhetoric, tactics, and propaganda is almost identical to how the “niggers” of old were treated.  Just as laws against minorities were created and violence became commonplace against blacks and other undesirables, such is the case today with Muslims in general  as we see in Europe and the many attempts we see here in America.  When an entire people can be publicly discussed in a manner as if they are subhuman and rhetoric that discusses their beliefs as evil become the norm, should there be any surprise that laws are enacted that seek to regulate them such as the recent Swiss Minaret Ban?  Should we be surprised when Mosques are vandalized, Muslims or those who just happen to “look Muslim” are attacked, or in the case of one pregnant sister in Europe killed even in court?

We have to fully examine and be ready to challenge this rhetoric and combat these vicious statements and remind Americans in general that this speech is no different than that of a klansmen or Adolf Hitler.  Some may call that a little extreme way of looking at Franklin Grahams comments, but if we use history as our guide, we would see that what was merely waived off as trivial rhetoric often became institutionalized policy against entire groups of people based on both religion and ethnicity.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many Americans know to the number how many Americans have died or know where to get that info, how many know or care how many Iraqi’s, Afghani’s, etc. have died?  Could it have something to do with the fact that people like Franklin Graham have been repeatedly telling Americans not to care, since after all they are just Arabs, Muslims, etc. who believe in an evil religion and have evil practices.

The easiest way to propagate war, intolerance, etc. against a people is to convince others that they aren’t actually people after all.  We would be wise to not only look to history, but learn from it.

Related Commentary:

Franklin Graham says Islam is evil

Five Missing American's Apprehended in Pakistan….

I’m going to be brief for a change. 🙂  I’m not sure how big this story is at the moment as I just saw the AP article on Yahoo 5 minutes prior to this posting.  I’m certain Islamophobes and others will be all over this thing looking to once again stir the pot and fan the flames of anti-Muslim passions.

However, before they foolishly put their foots in their mouths, and rush to conclusions, remember that what is not being mentioned is that it was the local Muslim community in Northern Virginia who first notified the FBI weeks ago about these missing students.

The families involved notified the FBI several weeks ago expressing their concerns that their children were missing and may be plotting and planning something.  These families and several prominent Muslims have worked with authorities in locating them.

What I would like to add to this narrative thus far, is that I hope the media tells the other side of the story reminding readers, listeners, and viewers that American Muslims have done exactly what has been asked of us by working with the authorities immediately to prevent any incidents of terror.  Hopefully, we avoided another tragedy, and may God be with the families of these individuals, as this must be a very difficult time for them.

related Article:

Five missing Americans probed for terror links

Swiss Minaret Ban: A Large Pill to Swallow

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We have all heard the news by now.  The swiss voted and passed legislation that would ban the construction of minarets on Mosques.  Some are calling this decision racist, some are calling it a violation of human rights, some are calling it another sign that Islamophobia is spreading throughout Europe, and I’m calling it a wake up call to Muslims as we need to accept reality, wake up, and smell the coffee.

It’s time to deal with the reality that 57% of Swiss citizens have demonstrated with their vote that which we all know, that Muslims are not welcome in Europe.  Why are we acting surprised and outraged when we already know this?  It’s like being surprised when the Shaitan leads you astray, he already revealed his nature, why act shocked when he acts in accordance with his nature?

Why call for dialog and understanding, when there is no need for either.  Interfaith gatherings, speeches, and UN condemnations will not change the realities on the ground.  Europeans and the West in general have had enough.  What the Muslim world needs right now is a big can of wake the hell up and accept our role in shaping the opinions of the West.  As a group we appear more and more hypocritical with our demands for tolerance when we rarely show any in return.

This is not a popular position to express and I’m certain my Muslim brethren are going to be upset with me because of my views, but we have to stop being hypocrites expecting universal tolerance of our beliefs, cultures, etc. yet show little to none when the roles are reversed.

In many Muslim majority countries tolerance is a joke.  Muslim and non-Muslim minorities that face death, isolation, and bans daily.  It is almost comical to express outrage for the lack of tolerance the West or in this particular case the Swiss have for Muslim minorities when in some Muslim countries you can’t even build a Church, Synagogue, or Temple.  Yet, we are upset about minarets?  Come on brothers and sisters, let’s just be honest for a moment, tolerance goes both ways.

Europe has had a large influx of Muslim immigrants and for the most part they are able to build Mosques, proselytize, and practice their religion freely.  Thousands of Mosques dot the landscape across the Western world in majority Christian lands some so great in size that they rival those in Muslim countries.  Can the same be said of Muslim countries?  What Muslim country has displayed this level of tolerance toward a non-Muslim religious community?  Where do similar freedoms exist?

Justified or not, Europeans feel that their entire continent is under siege.  This is a common perception when you have immigration of this size.  Of course it is not right when immigrants are marginalized, criticized, or even attacked in some cases due to their ethnicity, religion, or culture.  But we can not pretend these emotions do not exist.  We have arrived at yet another point in history where immigration has caused waves of backlash.  However, our focus should not be limited to criticizing this backlash but working toward shaping, crafting, and executing solutions that prevent these reactions.  Many groups have had these challenges and faced mounting opposition to their arrival in a particular host country.  What can we learn from these groups?  This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Immigrants have been welcomed in the West for centuries.  In our young country, we found ourselves dealing with large immigration from Europe in the 20th century.  Many of these groups were met with similar hostilities as Muslim communities are today.  Yet, these groups persevered and became an integral part of American society and culture.  But these groups did that which many Muslim communities are unwilling to do:  Assimilate

Yes, I used the big, bad, evil word.  No one wants to seriously take up the discussion of assimilation, what it implies, and what it means for immigrant communities.  If we continue to ignore this discussion we condemn ourselves to a continued and increasingly terrifying reality where a Swiss minaret ban will be considered small compared to what is to come.  Whereas immigrant communities of yesteryear felt the need to assimilate to their new country, Muslim immigrants tend to reject the notion that this need exists.  Assimilation does not mean abandoning ones individuality or religious and cultural norms.  What assimilation implies is the need to work within those unique attributes, ideas, customs, and values finding common ground within the existing customs in ones host country in order to produce an environment that is mutually beneficial to both parties.  There is very little evidence to suggest that Muslim minorities accept assimilation as a necessity which is often one of the causes of frustration between the parties.  It is unthinkable to suggest that one should expect to be able to immigrate to another country and not have to accept that country’s customs and societal norms being able to benefit from all that country has to offer without giving up anything in return.  Yet, this is the attitude of many Muslim communities.  We are our own worse enemy in this regard.

To add insult to injury, while many Muslim communities believe that the status quo is perfectly acceptable and that the West should accommodate our wishes while we largely ignore theirs, we would never accept this if the roles were reversed.  This is where I believe most of the frustration on the ground lies and where I believe most of the support for legislation such as the minaret ban stems from.  It’s really difficult to wrap ones mind around the concept that it’s completely fair to be 100% accommodating to Muslims while Muslims don’t have to reciprocate at all in their countries.  This unbalanced ethos fuels and fans the flames of hate and discrimination toward Muslims and these facts are largely ignored in the media.  When a religious minority such as ours feels that it’s perfectly OK to come to a majority Christian country and demand prayer spaces, public foot baths, the adhan to be called from loud speakers, and other accommodations too numerous to name, yet won’t even attempt at similar accommodations toward religious minorities in Muslim majority countries, is it really that difficult to understand the frustration?

What makes the Swiss minaret ban a tragedy is not that it was done per se, but that it was uncharacteristic of the Swiss people to behave in this way.  This legislation and vote was outside the norm they have established for themselves and those of Europeans in general where tolerance, equity, and justice toward all citizens is a goal routinely sought after.  The question we as Muslims should ask is what are the norms we have set for ourselves in our countries and if the shoe was on the other foot, how would we legislate, vote, and act?  Better yet, how do we deal with similar situations today in Muslim countries?

Our continued protests, declarations expressing outrage, and calls of injustice when incidents like this one occur actually adds to the appearance and suggestions that we are are thin-skinned at best, or secretly carrying out an agenda at worst.  In many ways, our reactions to these injustices against us and our collective silence toward injustices against others especially by Muslim hands, help fuel the paranoia that can result in unfavorable legislation.

People in our host countries wonder both in private and in the open when are the Muslims going to be just as equitable to others as they are asking for themselves?  They wonder when are the Muslims going to be just as vocal about injustices in their own countries as they are about cartoons they react to in outrage.  They mock our complaints as half hearted attempts to divert attention from our own inequities.

How often is the Muslim world in an uproar about Muslim women being raped and maimed throughout the Muslim world while doing simple things from going to get water in Darfur, to trying to get an education in Afghanistan?  How often is the Muslim world outraged and condemn rulings that will stone a female adulterer but let the male get away with a fine or rulings were 75 year old women can get lashed for not having a male escort?  How often does the Muslim world call for dialog, tolerance, and peace when Muslim and non-Muslim minorities are murdered, banned, and attacked?

These questions are routinely asked and levied against us as charges of hypocrisy.  As we are openly challenged about our silence and reactions to these issues.   It is stated that we only able to find our collective “voices” when cartoons are drawn, a Pope gives a ridiculous speech, or minarets are banned at which point we react swift condemnations.

For these reasons and many more, we have to understand that this ban is only the tip of the iceberg and we have to steer away from this path.  We are demanding respect from others when we don’t even respect ourselves or them in return.  We come to their countries and ask them to change and adapt to our views and not the other way around.  We ask of these Western governments that which we are not willing to do ourselves.  To them, we have a lot of nerve.

Can you really blame the Swiss?

The tragedy is not what the Swiss and others are doing, but what we as Muslims are NOT doing.  What this ban and many others in the works do is expose the fractured and disunited quagmire that is the worldwide Muslim community.  We are billion weak and selfish individuals who have forgotten the principles of our religion and opted in their place, isolated agendas that seek to strengthen a particular sect, culture, leader, or ideology.   We have neglected the universal principles, methods, and duties demanded in Islam toward all Muslims and all of humanity.  As a result of neglect, Muslim countries are some of the worst places to live where freedom in any form is a joke, tolerance is non-existent, and corruption is the order of the day.  This is why Muslims are fleeing Muslim countries in droves and going to non-Muslim countries in the first place.  We seek better lives and opportunities elsewhere because of our failure to provide them for ourselves.

This is why it is ironic when Muslims complain about the intolerance, lack of freedoms, or “Kufr” nature of the West.  If it were not for the West, we could barely practice our religion, let alone get educations, and have “simple things” like the freedom to speak one’s mind.

Is this a case of misplaced zeal on the part of Muslims?  In many ways, I believe so.  While it’s perfectly rational and just to question and speak out against bans such as the Swiss minaret ban, it is also perfectly rational to ask where is the zeal the Muslims have when wanting to improve the West, located when it comes time to criticize to the East?  Why aren’t the Muslim organizations, scholars, Imams, and other leaders routinely blasting Muslim governments for their disregard toward minorities and dare I say Human Rights?

If we focused most of our collective energy internally instead of externally even a quarter of the time, we would probably have a leg to stand on.  Right now, we look like hypocrites, and as this ban’s outrage intensifies we will just look like loud hypocrites.  Muslims, we to do better.  Call me crazy, but I just couldn’t see 1 million Swiss immigrating to Saudi Arabia, Egypt,  etc. and building Churches and demanding acceptance and tolerance.  We demand of others that which we wouldn’t even do ourselves.

This is a large pill but it’s time we swallow it and move on.  Either we can exist as hypocrites screaming injustice when we are offended in our host countries,  yet turning a blind eye to injustices in our countries, or we can work toward improving conditions in both the East and the West.  Have we become so cowardly that it’s easier to point the finger at others and never at ourselves?  There’s a lot of blame being hefted around and rarely are Muslims ever willing to accept any of it.  We have to first be willing to change ourselves before we could ever expect any aid from God or any change from others.

I know it’s radical for me to suggest that Muslims should do for self first by cleaning up our communities and lands prior to expecting others to change.  This may sound like a novel lofty concept or dream.  The problem is that change does in fact, involve work.  One has to wonder if we as Muslims actually have the will, courage, and dare I say faith to do what is truly needed to produce the type of change that is mutually beneficial to all parties.  Will we accept this challenge that will deal the death blow to the intolerance produced as a result of the failure to accept the views of both sides or will we reject it and condemn ourselves to more of the same.  The truth is that the choice is and forever will be ours.  In the end, we will be judged according to our actions not those of others.  What will those actions be?

Progressive Muslims a discussion

I decided to write on this topic due to recent allegations levied toward me yet again.  I have never felt a need to deal with this topic directly as I believed my writings to be evidence of where I stand on various issues.  However, in order to clear up a few questions and allegations considering this serious topic I figured why not give them what they are asking for? 🙂

One of the first things I want my readers, supporters, critics, etc. to know about me is that I do not believe in labels.  I do not believe that labels adequately define a person.  Labels are often tools both good and bad, used to categorize someone in a manner that helps the one levying the charge decide how to deal with that specific individual.  In other words, it’s a way of placing one in a box and marginalizing their unique characteristics.  For that specific reason, I try my best not to use labels.

However, if you are a blogger who likes to write on issues and topics of the day, unfortunately you often find that you have to speak in the vernacular of the day and the political climate in which you are commenting.  As such, I often use terms I despise such as “radical”, “extremist”, “terrorists”, “islamophobe”, “moderate”, etc. etc. etc.  These terms and many others I believe are ridiculous to a degree as they are very subjective and have no definite boundaries in their application.  To some, I could be labeled a radical, extremist, and a moderate all at the same time depending on who you ask.  The word “terrorist” like the word “terrorism” can often be defined through the eyes of the one who experiences terror.  For instance, the actions of Nedal Hassan could be considered no more terrorizing than having accidental “collateral damage” after an aircraft bombing campaign in Iraq, or having ones home bulldozed in Gaza, it all depends on who you ask.  The same thing can be said of the word “islamophobe”.  Are we really suggesting when we loosely levy that charge that accused has an innate fear of Islam or Muslims that causes them anxiety and unreasonable fears beyond their control?  Absolutely not.  While that may be true of a small percentage of those who are given that label, the truth is more likely that many who receive this title are manipulated by the propaganda they have been given by parties who have political, religious, and profitable agendas who know how to take advantage of the attacks carried out by Muslims, and spin them into something larger to suit their personal goals.

That said, this word “progressive” has also been used to label in many ways that are not necessarily characteristic of the actual definition of the word and it’s application is subjective.  Below is a list of the various definitions of the word “progressive” :

–adjective

1. favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, esp. in political matters: a progressive mayor.
2. making progress toward better conditions; employing or advocating more enlightened or liberal ideas, new or experimental methods, etc.: a progressive community.
3. characterized by such progress, or by continuous improvement.

–noun

10. a person who is progressive or who favors progress or reform, esp. in political matters.

As one can casually observe, the word “progressive” can have many meanings.  As it relates to politics and religion, it is often those definitions that are considered the most divisive such as “advocating liberal ideas” that are heralded as the normal expression of this word, while definitions such as “making progress toward better conditions” are often ignored.

We are quite aware how this word “progressive” is currently used by critics in both politics and religions as a slur to label one as a “liberal”.  I object to this definition of the term and personally believe that those who pick out this one definition out of many to characterize those whom they criticize as agents of propaganda and reckless.  Most people are “progressive” and if you are not, I believe you should re-evaluate your humanity.

However, as I mentioned earlier, we also know that unfortunately, as commentators we have to speak in the tongue of our audience.  Since this is the case, it really doesn’t matter what the word “progressive” truly means no more than the words “Jihad” or “Allahu Akbar” in this current political/religious climate.  What matters most sadly, is how the majority perceive things not what they actually are.

The term “Progressive Muslim” is often understood to define an individual Muslim or group of Muslims as those who advocate actions or ideas considered outside the Muslim “norm”.  This concept of a Muslim “norm” is subjective and it is very easy for some Muslims to hurl allegations toward other Muslims, if one group believes that their definition of Muslim “norm” is correct and another groups is wrong.  To simplify the discussion and not ramble another 3000 words or so on the subject, I will deal with the most common understanding of what a “Progressive Muslim” is understood to be by critics.

Most critics define a “Progressive Muslim” as one who seeks to change Islam in some shape, form, or fashion.  They believe that “Progressive Muslims” believe the Qur’an to be flawed in some way and that their ideas have no basis in Islam whatsoever, and therefore seek to add to that which has already been established.  Some ideas suggested as indicators of a “Progressive Muslim” are:

  • Muslims who accept women led Prayer
  • Muslims who believe in mixed gender congregational Prayer
  • Muslims who advocate changing or suggesting the change of the Qur’an
  • Muslim who believe there is something inherently wrong with Islam and that it needs reform
  • These are just some of the hot-button topics and ideas used as indicators of a “Progressive Muslim”.  Others include but are not limited to ideas concerning modesty (i.e. hijab), ideas concerning alcohol or other drug use, ideas concerning homosexuality, and other ideas that are thought up by the accuser as needed.

    To answer my critics directly, if by chance these indicators of ideas were in fact the true definition of what a “Progressive Muslim” is, then I hate to disappoint my critics, but I am not a “Progressive Muslim”.

    I do not believe in:

    • Women led prayer or women Imams
    • Mixed Gender congregational prayer
    • Changing or suggesting the change of the Qur’an
    • Believe that there is something wrong with Islam that needs reform
    • Nor do I believe in relaxed rules in modesty, drug usage, or gay Muslims, etc.

    I am not sure where these allegations that I am a “Progressive Muslim” come from.  What I do believe which will also “outrage” the critics and fuel their labeling and accusations, is that humanity is given the power of choice and endowed with that right from Allah (swt) to decide for themselves what they believe concerning these issues.  As such, I support others right to agree or disagree with my beliefs.  Furthermore, concerning many of these “hot button” issues I believe that within Islamic scholarship and sources there exists a mechanism to debate some of these topics legitimately amongst Muslims that shouldn’t result in slander, defamation, or violence.  For instance, the topic of modesty, mixed gender gatherings, etc. are an example of topics that can be discussed in an in depth scholarly fashion.

    My overall point is that Muslims should be able to disagree without being labeled with terms that do not adequately reflect their character, especially by other Muslims, we should know better.  If I’m a “Progressive”, “Liberal”, or anything else, the critics should provide evidence of such.  If not, accept that your accusations amount to nothing more than slander of the worst kind and you should seek to correct yourself and/or the record.  As Muslims we have to elevate our discussions and debates to a level worthy or the title “the best of mankind”.  If one were to judge the petty back and forth that is now being accepted among Muslims as legitimate debate where threats, accusations, and insults have become the norm, it should be of no surprise that we are looked at as a bunch of backward, uncivilized savages.

    I do advocate change, improvement, and reform within the Muslim community and world.  I do oppose maintaining the status quo.  I do not look at the Muslim world as a model of civilization and the best example of what Allah (swt) intends in Islam nor the best reflection and example of the Prophet (saw).  Anyone who thinks otherwise, I believe is terribly misguided. I believe that the Qur’an and the Sunnah already contain those mechanisms and ideas necessary to carry out these changes and believe that the Muslim world today is off the path of Islam.  I do not believe Islam has to be reformed, but Muslims need to be reformed.  When there exists one Muslim who is hungry, uneducated, and lives in fear especially of other Muslims, we need change.  When there exists an environment where Muslim women fear rape and abuse from other Muslims, we need change.  When there exists, entire communities of people both Muslim and non-Muslim who fear Muslims because of their beliefs, difference of ideas, or ethnicities, we need change.  When there exists a world where Muslims are not known for what they have built, lead, or achieved in the world, but for what they have destroyed, maimed, or killed, we need change.

    So while it may be OK with the staunchest critics to spend the most time criticizing other Muslims, the “West”, or the “Jews”, for their words and actions, or debating petty stuff like the length of ones beard, their clothing, or what scholar they can quote, I would rather advocate useful things like how to get more to embrace the beauty of Islam and how this embracing of Islam can be reflected positively in the everyday lives of all of humanity.  What good is it to be able to quote this or that scholar or ayah, dress or groom a certain way, belong to this school of thought or another, or even feel confident saying that one is Muslim, if none of these things stops the everyday suffering of Muslims, or builds one own community?

    Many have called my Kaffir, misguided, and other things, but would never have the courage to say something like that to those who govern them in their host countries.  It’s cowardice and a mockery of Islam in the highest degree when your deen is measured by your looks and your ability to quote text, while you ignore the oppression and suffering of Muslims by others who call themselves Muslim everyday.  The real issue is not what Robert Salaam or others say and believe but what is Islam and what does it look like in it’s human manifestation?  If I were a non-Muslim as some allege wanting to learn about Islam should my knowledge be limited to that which can be learned in a book or by ones words, or should I be able to look at Muslims and see how they live as my example?  If I were an outsider looking at the Muslim world as an example of what Islam produces TODAY based on the everyday actions of Muslims, what would I see?  What conclusions could I arrive to?  I’m certain, I would care less about about beards, thobes, hijabs, or scholars, but more about the lives  and conditions of everyday Muslims.  For some of you to sit back and ignore these things and consume yourselves with mockery and faux outrage based on words that are written or said, is foolish.

    Allah (swt) nor the Prophet (saw) are outraged when one speaks ill of them, draws cartoons, or hurls insults toward them or the religion that was revealed, what’s outrageous and insulting are the Muslims who don’t have the courage, ability, or will to first change the condition of themselves, and instead stand around pointing the fingers at others.

    May Allah (swt) have mercy on and guide the Ummah toward the realization and truth of Islam so that it may manifest a positive change in the lives of all mankind.