The “culture” argument

Krista from Muslimah Media Watch examines the potential consequences of the kneejerk defensive reaction many Muslims have of associating every “good” practice with Islam, and every negative one with culture. She argues that doing this merely swings the racism/prejudice ball another way. Further she says this argument presupposes that Western culture is free from any bias in these matters.

There are a number of reasons why this makes me squirm. First, and most obviously, it perpetuates racism against Arab and South Asian communities, justifying such racism because of their supposed inherent sexism. As usual, any alternate, non-oppressive stories from those communities are silenced, as are forms of resistance coming from those communities, as well as any external forces (such as economic issues, war, etc.) that may be exacerbating gender-based oppression and religious dogmatism. Non-Western cultures are painted as unchanging and firmly rooted in the past, incapable of “progressing” the way that Western cultures apparently do, and therefore never worthy of being examined on the same level as European-influenced cultures.

I’m also not comfortable with what this says about white/Western cultures. In this dichotomy, the West is imagined as culture-free, a place where people can let go of the constraints of their home countries in favour of an ostensibly “pure” Islam that can only be found through a disavowal of centuries of traditions (many of which have likely served to preserve Islamic beliefs and practices in many parts of the world.) Westerners (particularly white ones) who enter Islam are assumed to come in with no baggage at all.

I am sure that neither of the women quoted here had any intention of feeding into systems of racism and white supremacy, but I do think that those of us who identify both as Muslim and as white have a responsibility to recognise the ways that our voices may be interpreted when speaking for the community. In a social context that privileges white voices, is easy to become positioned (or to position ourselves) as “experts” on Islam, or at least as people qualified to speak about Islam and Muslims, and we need to be accountable for what we say.

Read the whole article here.

Interest-free student loans (proposal)

Check out this initiative by a group of Muslim students in Canada towards working to introduce interest-free student loans:

Inspired by emails sent by Muslim brothers/sisters who wanted to avoid haram and get out of interest-based loans, we decided that it is about time someone started showing the Canadian community benefits of interest-free banking by using student loans as a starting point. Being involved in the RBC Challenge as part of our Masters program gave us a great channel to push this idea forward.

We are trying to figure out a business model that is completely interest-free and at the same time provides a win-win situation. There are still a number of kinks to figure out and that is why getting feedback from the community is so important. The survey results will help us immensely in putting together a value proposition for RBC.

If you’re a resident of Canada, do fill out their survey. May Allah SWT reward this group of young Muslims for utilizing the tools at their disposal to help the community around them and earn His pleasure.

Muslim reaction to controversies

Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoon controversies and other similar episodes raise questions on Muslim attitudes towards free speech. Should Muslims be more open and accepting of provocative material like the cartoons or is the outrage totally warranted? Many insiders and outsiders alike agree that Muslims should adapt to the concept of free speech, which would mean everything is open to be derided, mocked or satirized, while others are quick to disagree. Hamza Andreas Tzortzis examines Muslim reactions towards these controversies and offers a critique of the very notion of free speech, which, according to Hamza, is not without its own controversies.

Read the entire piece here.

Topi tip to CookieMonster.

Talking in the masjid – Women

Inner Reflections Transcribed writes about a consequence of segregation and audio/video feeds to the women’s area of masajid:

But over at the women’s side – whoa, it was a proper melee! The women were sitting in their own wee huddles, nattering away about everything and anything. The children were making music of their own in their wee corners. And it made me wonder why this was the case?

If the Imam was in sight, would these women sit and talk as they were? Most probably not. They’d even tell their children off for making a racket

I would MUCH prefer to be able to SEE the speaker when he is speaking rather than have audio projected into a room. The voice which fills the room acts like background noise and when there isn’t any chance you can offend the speaker (since he can’t see you anyway) by actively tuning out, then talking over him isn’t given a second thought. Ruining the speech/talk for other members of the congregation?

On the topic of speaker, if you do happen to be in the same room, then to be able to SEE the speaker helps a lot. Having designated seating for women at the back of the hall, where everybody infront resembles ants, or the only view is the back of peoples heads does nothing for me.  On top of which, from such an angle the speaker looks like a fat blur distracts and causes my concentration and attention span to dwindle and deteriorate fast. Yes I used to sit near the front of the lecture hall at Uni for exactly the same reasons.

Are mosques, and MSA’s going to change things around so women have a clear and equal view of the speaker? Or are we to be relegated to spots where a pair of binocular’s and/or a good pair of ears are required?

This is a situation that’s unique to Western Muslim societies, and it will be a mark of maturity of the community to actively address it and solve it to the satisfaction of all parties.

Dr. Wadud in England

Another event that has got the bloggers blogging is Dr. Amina Wadud’s attempt to lead Friday prayers again, this time in England.

UmmahPulse has an investigative piece on the people organizing it and the actual event.

Despite attempts by the organisers to whip up controversy with the help of the local (Oxford Mail) and national media (The Times), the event was a total flop – hardly anyone attended. An evening news report broadcast on the ITV Thames Valley programme (17.10.08) commented on “the media far outnumbering the congregation” and “the historic moment being underwhelmed by the turnout from both sides of the debate, with the majority of Muslims in Oxford having simply decided to ignore the event”.

Indigo Jo of Blogistan criticizes it and provides textual basis for mainstream scholars’ opposition.

As for the proof of the invalidity of the prayer of anyone who “prayed” behind Wadud, here is a collection of opinions by some modern scholars of Islam who are not ranting extremists (PDF, I’m afraid); I also wrote a few articles tackling not only the “prayer” itself but the media response to it and some of Wadud’s other antics ([1], [2], [3]). I wonder if she is aware (or if she cares) about Hargey’s well-documented deviations, such as believing that the hadeeth contain so many forgeries and fabrications that they should not be used to derive legal rulings, but rather that Muslims should use the Qur’an alone?

Shahrzaad asks a question on her blog and set off a response by Achelois.

So if muslim women can be the jurisprudent, i’d like to know why not the prayer leading then?

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We need to hear from another woman and not a man what lies for us in religion. Blogosphere is not our khutbah place. We need to connect with women in the real world. At least I need that. I want to hear what a Muslim woman like me thinks about politics, religion, feminism, marriage, child-bearing and child-raising. I want to know what God says about women. I want to know what lies in Heaven for women. I want to know how God feels about lesbians. I want to know what should be done to men who rape their wives. Sorry but the khutbahs don’t tell me all that. I want to do more than swap recipes and talk about fashion with women.

But I wish I could look forward to it as a day when the entire family can go out and meet like minded people; where we can spend a good hour or so praying and talking about what is important to both men and women in Islam.

 

Therefore, I feel that it is important for women to be included in Friday sermons.

In a similar vein, Progressive Muslima wonders why something supposedly as relatively inane as this excites traditional conservative Muslims while more serious social issues don’t rally them.

Also, I find interesting that some Muslims who had intended to attend the prayers in Oxford were told they would no longer be welcome in their own mosques if they did so. I wonder if adulterers, wife beaters, child abusers, “honor” killers and folks who force their children to marry receive the same intimidating visits from these “concerned” Muslims.

Tips for waking up for Fajr

Pearl of An-Noor compiles the following 12 tips to help the believer be consistent with Fajr prayers.

1. To supplicate to Allah with the following رب اجعلني مقيم الصلوة و من ذريتي ربنا و تقبل دعاء

ربنا اغفرلي ولوالدي وللمؤمنين يوم يقوم الحساب

By the blessings of this du’a, Insha Allah you and your children will be granted the ability to be punctual with your prayers.

2. If it’s convenient then to take a nap in the afternoon which is also a sunnah and aids in causing a person to wake up for Fajr.

3. To have dinner early and to not overeat. Mawlana Thanwi (RA) has written that when a person eats, there comes a moment where a question arises in his mind should I continue eating or quit? The moment this question arises, a person should stop eating.

4. To not drink water before going to sleep unless there is a dire need to do so and if so, then to drink a small amount.

May Allah give us all the strength and dedication to pray Fajr on time every day.

Powell on Muslims in America

So, Colin Powell seems to have excited a section of the Muslim blogosphere with his comments:

“Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is?”

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

Cookie Monster, currently blogless, has the following to say:

I believe what he said can actually – over time – marginalize anti-Muslim sentiment and make it very hard for people like Ann Coulter and Daniel Pipes to spread their ideas. These statements can cut into the base of anti-Muslim sentiment by challenging the assumptions of Muslim-basher sympathetics and winning them over to a more accepting worldview. But this can only happen if establishment politicians, people with a similar place in society like Powell, unequivocally echo his statement, and it would really help if non-liberals were at the forefront. Lay liberals are more tolerant than their lay Republican counterparts, and it is the latter who make up the majority of Muslim bashers. If Republicans, or individuals with deep ties to the Republican base can echo Powell, then- over time, again- we may see anti-Muslim rhetoric pushed further away from the mainstream in much the same way we’ve seen racist sentiment fade over time.

I don’t believe anti-Muslim sentiment will ever die out, but I do believe it can be marginalized. The more mainstream figures like Powell make these statements, the more tougher the job of the typical, loser Muslim-basher gets.

Of course we don’t depend on Powell or anyone for that matter to give us honor or anything like that, I don’t think anyone would say that. What Powell and others would do ‘mainstream’ our existence here as practicing Muslims and debilitate the ability of the Muslim-bashers to undermine our da’wah and impugn our very presence here in America.

Islamic Economic SYSTEM as an alternative

The Islamic Revival blog has a transcript of a very lucid speech going over the basics of the economic system prescribed by the Qur’an and Sunnah. The speaker briefly goes over the key principles behind the Islamic system and translates them into the practices of today.

It is important to show Islamic economics as much more then Islamic finance and Banking. What is known as Islamic banking and Islamic finance is about individuals or groups attempting to generate profits in the current system without breaking the shariah rules such as the prohibition of Riba. However today I’m going to focus on the Islamic economic system as a whole which is much wider than this and is the true alternative to the Capitalist system.

Although no Islamic state exists today, we have the economic system of Islam derived from the Quran and the Sunnah and over a thousand years of history of its implementation. Based upon this we must initiate thinking amongst the ‘left’ and the right’ and to demonstrate to them how Islam is not just a religion like the others but is a comprehensive ideology able to deal with the current crisis’s that humanity is faced with.

Read the entire speech here.