Entries from June 2006 ↓

A Muslim Philanthropic Culture

SAFspace draws our attention to an interesting article about Toronto’s Jewish community and their philanthropy. She writes:

A colleague once told me of a hospital that had designed a state-of-the-art multifaith room with funds from donors of the various faith communities in Toronto. The walls of the room were etched with the names of donors, few of whom were Muslims. And yet, he said, Muslims were the ones who used the space most often. There is much to admire of those individuals who are able to recognize the worth of the communities within which they live and are willing to lend their support in whatever way possible. If only Muslims would compete with the ‘yahood’ in this way.

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There is no honour in killing one’s daughters

Living in the West, one is occasionally confronted by a disdain for Islam, an example of which is the women’s literature section of the local bookstore (be it Waterstones, Readings, or Borders). There are shelves groaning with oppressed women’s stories from the Muslim world. The genre of ‘lustful violent Muslim first-person female narrative potboilers’ is always oversubscribed: “Not without my daughter”, “My life as a princess”, “My life in the hareem”, “My feudal lord”, “Once I wuz a princess”, “Arab sex slave”, etc. There is always a wonderfully evocative cover that tempts the reader (typically a poorly educated, lower middle class housewife in the ‘burbs) with the ultimate part sexual, part travel fantasy about the desert world. Without exception, these tales are in part or complete fabrications. Frequently, the author cannot get the geography correct, or the names, or even the food, but no matter: there appears to be only one thing better than being ravished by an Arab man, and that is to read about it (in bad, Dan Brownesque prose).

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When Community Breaks Down

Tariq Nelson has an excellent piece on a social problem that will be familiar to many Australian Muslims: the pressure to conform that comes not from the broader non-Muslim community but from the Muslim community itself.

The regular, everyday Muslim, who is under pressure to toe the line set above by the movement leaders is forced into this double life. At work, he may meet a co-worker he talks to, laughs with and jokes with. He may talk about the Super Bowl or the Basketball game that was on TV last night with them.

However, he feels that he is doing this from a weakness in Iman, and feels bad because he is supposed to be angry at work. But he cannot let his attitude at work carry over to the Masjid because he has to put on his “game face” and pretend that he is the stoic angry individual that he is required to be.

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IQ Magnets in the Muslim World

Over the last few years, a number of different cities have emerged as creative or technological hubs of sorts. Bangalore, in India, springs to mind as one such example: a city that has transformed itself into a world-class centre for technological talent that is now attracting diaspora Indians back to India. New Zealand is another country that has benefited from one of its cities — Wellington — evolving into what might, for want of a better term, be called an IQ hotspot.

I recently came across an interesting essay by Richard Florida that was published on the excellent Cato Unbound site. Florida writes about the Wellington experience, using Bill Gate’s term IQ magnet to describe these sorts of cities: cities where smart and creative people gather, from across the world, to work, do business and learn.

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“My ummah will never agree on error”

It will surprise many to know that the most definitive proof in Islamic law is NOT the Quran, nor is it the Sunnah (the prophetic tradition), it is the consensus (ijma) of the body (or Ummah) of Muslims. Obviously the Ijma must be based on sound Quranic or hadeeth evidence, but where interpretation of these have differed, religious scholars turn to ijma for direction. Although the exact interpretation of what constitutes consensus has varied, this remains a profound statement by our Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him.

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A Weapon of Mass Detraction

satire n
The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topic issues. (Oxford English Dictionary)

In 1984, the film This is Spinal Tap was released. Presented as a documentary, it followed pedestrian rock group Spinal Tap as it struggled to regain its fan base while on tour and release its new album with minimal support from their record company. It was in fact a “mockumentary”; it was presented as reality but was simply a satirical take on rock n’ roll and all of its casualties.

For those unaware that it wasn’t real (understandable given how well the actors did their jobs), the film was a confusing, neutral kind of experience.

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John Stuart Mill and the “Books of Hate”

It was recently reported that the Attorney-General is seeking to ban books that glorify “suicide bombing, jihad and anti-Australian conspiracies”. The books in question were found at a Sydney Islamic bookshop by one of the newspapers and investigated by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to determine whether the books contravened some laws. Their assessment was that the books did not break the law; a decision which has prompted the Attorney-General to look at changing the laws to ensure that such books are banned.

One of the books — and the book which seems to have most irked the government — is the book, In Defence of Muslim Lands by Sheikh Abdullah Azzam. The book apparently carries an introduction from Osama Bin Laden. That the book was written in the 1980s, with the tacit approval of the West, to encourage young Muslims to travel to Afghanistan to fight the communists has yet to be mentioned. As has the fact that the book simply cites a series of earlier religious edicts, many of which relate to the Tatar invasion of Baghdad several centuries ago, and reach the less than staggering conclusion that when a Muslim country is attacked, Muslims should rise to the defence of their country. The problem, it seems, is that the late Sheikh Abdullah Azzam didn’t limit his ruling to those countries where the United States believed it was politically expedient to promote jihad but left it rather open; open enough to include countries such as Iraq or contemporary Afghanistan in its scope.

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Measuring Racism in Sydney’s Suburbs

Radar, one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s stable of blogs, carried out an interesting experiment recently. The author decided to dress as a Muslim woman and, accompanied by two Muslim ladies:

…venture into a socially conservative area of Sydney dressed in cloaks and hijabs. Deep within the heart of whiteness, we will record the reactions to our presence.

In other words, the author wanted to test what has become almost an article for faith for some Australian Muslims: that society, particularly its more “socially conservative” and affluent sections, are intrinsically racist and irremeedably opposed to us. In this case, the author and her two friends settled on the Sydney suburb of Chatswood as the perfect testing ground for the theory.

Whilst one can’t doubt the good intentions of the author, there are a number of very serious problems with this approach.

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How much Islam in Australian Islamic schools? part 2

This series of essays is not meant to be a witch-hunt against a school. We have enough professional scurrilous rumour-mongerers in our community, without an amateur lending assistance. I am not concerned with the quality of ice creams in the school canteen nor the he said/she said gossip mill, but rather whether our whole approach to religious education is correct.

Like all discussions on Islam the only good starting point in the sunnah of the man we claim to follow: Muhammad the prophet of Allah, may Allah bless him. For a transmission of deen there needs to be:

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Democracy, Secularism and Muslim Misconceptions

Any favourable mention of ‘democracy’ in an Islamic setting will invariably provoke an outraged response from some Muslims. “Democracy is shirk (polytheism) because it replaces the laws of Allah with man-made laws,” will be the essential argument. Ergo, any Muslim who suggests that the absence of democracy in the Muslim lands is a bad thing is therefore, in the minds of these Muslims, advocating the wholesale replacement of the shariah with a law that gives ascendency to the ‘laws of man’.

The typical knee-jerk opposition to the concept of ‘democracy’ is, in reality, born from a misunderstanding as to the meaning of the word rather than a real ideological opposition to it. This is because when a person says or writes ‘democracy’, many Muslims hear or read ’secularism’. These are two very different concepts and, despite what some may say, one does not necessarily imply the other.

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