I’ve had the honour of working on several online initiatives alongside MuslimMatters these past couple of years. In particular, the website Ijtema.net, which, since its launch back in 2007, has aimed to promote the ‘best of the Muslim blogosphere’.
Our initial approach to achieve this goal was to act as a type of human filter of the Islaminet: our team of editors would link to Muslim-authored content that we found interesting, in the hope that our readers would too. I guess that they did, as we were nominated for a BCA last year under the category “Best Group Blog” – though we were beaten by some unknown entity called “MuslimMatters.org”. Anyone ever heard of them?
However, as the number of Muslim blogs we followed became greater and greater, and the spare time of our editors became less and less, we knew we could not sustain our efforts for much longer. We decided to close the site, albeit temporarily, and focus on a new, hopefully more efficient strategy.
That eventually led to the launch of the Muslim Bloggers Directory – a freely accessible, categorised collection of links to Muslim blogs, vlogs, and other multimedia channels, with a custom search engine allowing visitors to search through the actual content of listed sites.
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.
At sister-in-law M’s house I would try to help her to clean up the breakfast dishes as it’s expected to show closeness and warmth by helping to clean up with fellow sisters or family that you want them to think you’re close to (and I am close to my in-laws I’m not just SHOWING help). But she would try to push me aside and take my sponge saying “A’yb go rest.” Meaning: you are shaming me as my guest by working in my house. Now normally an American would back off and go rest feeling that you tried and you backed off gracefully and the host is happy to be hosting you. But as an Arab this is WRONG! You are to grab that sponge back, forcefully if need be, and force your hostess to get out of your way, while you clean her dishes. She will hover and try to fight back for the sponge but if you’re determined enough she will feel a close bondness towards you because you are doing something good for her and helping her out. But be prepared for the consequences that if you do this once you are expected to do this every time. At M’s house the first four times I let her beat me and I went and sat and then i didn’t see her for a long time while she took all morning to clean the kitchen by herself. I was bored and regretted giving in. I talked to my husband about this and he told me what was expected of me to fight them back. So I tried it first at my husband’s sister’s house.
Marc takes a look at the place Traditionalism occupies in contemporary Muslim circles, the authority it tends to legitimize and makes a case for developing an equivalent indigenous to North America. He brings up some very pertinent questions in a sharp analysis:
There is a peculiar handshake between the parties of tradition and authority. Those who are seated are or have seated themselves as the key masters and gate keepers of tradition grant themselves a great deal of authority. An authority, that once imbibed by the target audience, is not easy to regurgitate. It’s authority rises from the idea that tradition cannot be made but rather bestowed. Those that wish to belong can only do so as long as there are invited. It is precisely this type of exclusiveness that many of the traditionalists are offering American Muslims. Ensconced in the robes of this vernacular, calls towards Traditional Islam continue to rise. But we must ask ourselves: to what, for what, and by whom are we being called?
Let me state again for the record that I am not against the idea of tradition. In fact, I have talked, written and in general, worked towards the formation of a viable Muslim culture in America in my own small way.
He then contends that the Traditionalism many look up to today in America is out of touch with reality because of an unfortunate mismatch in defining prerequisites:
And yet, one of the claims of tradition is that it is supposed to be grounded. Grounded in some sort of existential, historical narrative. So what, precisely, is the current trend of Traditional Islam grounded in? The theme of being out of touch is central to my critique of Traditional Islam [not to be confused with the intellectual tradition of Islam]. At least in the way it is marketed and packaged. By disarming its adherents of any means of agency, a homegrown, authentic articulation of Islam, driven by a healthy, grounded American Muslim culture, can never develop. Part of this syndrome is due to the fact that many of the institutions of Traditional Islam are out of touch with the development of such a culture. In fact, it may not even be an agenda point.
Br. Naeem has an interesting back and forth with his nafs:
You feed your anger instead of feeding the poor.
Your eyes wander recklessly, showing no control, like some wild boar.
Your tears flow more freely for a cheesy film than for your egregious faults.
In the hierarchy of your love, Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw) lie somewhere between your children and their breakfast cereals.
When did you ever once discipline me?
When did you ever muzzle my cravings?
When did you ever throttle my insatiable appetite?