As I continue my extended procrastination session of checking email, I thought I’d put down some of my half developed thoughts about life back in America.
Theory and Praxis:
About ten years ago, I really struggled with the difference between Islam as an ideology and the ways Muslims lived it. I also began to doubt the ability of our generation to practice the spirit of this tradition. I never lost faith in the Message, but doubts about practice really wrecked havoc. The reality is that praxis and theory are intertwined, thoughts shape behavioral patterns and behaviors shape thought; belief influences practice and practice informs belief. I sat at a conference organized about a year and a half ago discussing African Muslim intellectuals and the archive. When Professor Butch Ware, now of University of Michigan, moved me as he talked about his research as a believer who practices his faith. Much in the same way, I admire and respect Sherman Jackson, and other scholars have are critically engaged with this tradition while at the same time embodying it. Initially, when I began my academic journey, I had hoped to build both worlds. By picking and choosing, operating within a framework that was not my own, I was loosing out. My strength as a young academic came from my own insights gained from my lived experiences as a Muslim and epistemological frameworks that were not entirely Western or Eastern. So, this leads to another one…
I’ve been gone for a year and a lot has changed since I’ve been away. A lot has changed in me and it reflects in the lifestyle changes I’ve made and my way of being in the world. What it really came down to was making a choice, to not be a fence sitter anymore. It was easy to be non-commital, but committing to something and failing was my worst fear. I kept trying to find a comfortable space without all the anxiety of being forced to grow. Over the years, I saw my potential for human development and fall ridiculously short as I regressed. I saw the same pattern in people I knew and cared about, and I saw the damage left in the wake. Before I left for Egypt, I wrote about my desire for inner grounding and personal transformation. I wrote with urgency to friends asking for prayers and well wishes as I knew this was make it break it time. And yes, sometimes we are broken only to be repaired and retrofitted to became a stronger edifice. My mentor told me that when we turn to or Lord for guidance on making decisions, it will be evident that the choice has been made when we have only one option to take. After about ten years of straddling both worlds, and one year in societies deeply infused with Islamic values and practices, during the final month before I left that world, I made my choice.
I received my ballot in the mail, and I cannot tell you how excited I am about being able to participate in this event. I am the first to admit that I’m not into politics too much. But I don’t buy that balderdash that some Muslims send out about it is haram to vote. Minus those fundamentalists (yes I will use the word), who cannot have something to say about this election? I was a skeptic at first, growing up the idea of a Black man in the White House was something we joked about. It was a dream, of course. I also thought maybe it was a set up, after two disastrous terms people would blame a Black man or a woman for not being able to clean up Bush’s mess. Regardless, l recognized this was a historic moment. I was abroad as the campaign picked up, and my perspective on the primaries and elections was filtered through Arab media and the majority of my interactions have been with Arabs and African Muslims living in Cairo. I realized that the entire world was electrified by Obama. Especially considering America’s dark history of slavery, Jim Crow, and institutional racism, Obama’s candidacy is truly phenomenal. He’s not Nelson Mandela, but Obama’s candidacy is nearly as symbolic. They see it, much in the way that I see it, Barack Obama’s candidacy symbolizes that America is truly a place where you can rise based on merit.So, it was strange coming back to the states and listening to our media. It was like the neocons lived under a rock somewhere, insulated from the rest of the world. I felt like I came home to a different country, but there still seems to be some sane people. Most of them are voting for Obama.
Blogistan: The Fate of Muslim Bloggers
Over the past year, Blogistan has lost some of its steam. But since I’ve been back, the entire map of blogistan has been redrawn as we lost so much territory. People are writing less, dissension has grown, ugly battles and physical threats have tarnished what could possibly develop into a republic of ideas, where scholars and lay people can discuss ideas democratically. I was saddened by the loss of several really amazing blogs, especially Sunni Sister and the numerous blogs that have gone to restrictive access. I know that commentors are not always civil, some get veiled death threats, and others bloggers are just socially ostracized. Before the whole string of shut downs and privatization, I thought about making a public call to all my sister bloggers. I still believe that blogging can change the future of writing. I think that it is one of the few ways that Muslim women can get their voices heard on the minbar. I hope that we can develop better standards to develop ideas and work towards positive change, or at least get us to think deeply about issues and reevaluate our institutions and traditions. What are some of the blogs that you miss?