Michelle Oooooohhhhh!!!


In the telegraph’s article, Michelle Obama: the real power behind the presidency

Barack Obama would not be where he is today without Michelle Obama. She helped him understand his race and his country. She showed voters that he is a loving father and that he is a mortal man, one who does not pick his dirty socks off the bedroom floor, rather than a messiah.

Above all she is Mr Obama’s closest confidante, the one person to whom he unhesitatingly defers. It is that which makes her the power behind the throne, even if she did not push her own political passions. And she shows every sign of doing that as well.

Jamerican Muslimah wrote “The Chinese calendar says it’s The Year of the Ox. I beg to differ. Michelle Obama has shown us all that it’s:The Year of the Black Woman.

Jamerican Muslimah is not the only one to take notice, time and again she’s come up in conversation. There are those detractors who do not find her attractive, but overall the media is captivated by her style. She is a striking woman, tall with brown skin and together Michelle and Barack Obama make a stunning couple. The Root just published an article titled “Michelle, Our Belle”. The article explains:

There’s a reason that blogs like SweetBee’s and “Michelle Obama Watch” have sprung up in the past year. Michelle Obama has made it cool to be smart, to say when you’re proud or disappointed in your country, and she’s made it cool to be a black woman.


One of my friends emailed me and asked if Michelle in the White House as first lady made the Angry Black woman moot. I wrote her back stating that the stereotype was definitely weakened and the idea that an education and career were liabilities for Black woman received a severe blow. Still, the prevalence of negative attitudes towards educated Black women in the American Muslim community is disturbing. I really hope it chips away at some common perceptions. Last year, the negative views of educated and professional Black women became apparent in a number of discussion spanning several Muslim blogs. I received a number of negative comments myself when I weighed in on the discussion of mail order brides here. Common perceptions are that Black women emasculate men, have too much baggage, and are not good Muslims.

Since I read much of the vitriol while abroad, I worried about the environment that we were creating to foster and nourish young Black women with aspirations and talents. I also wondered about the reception I would receive upon my return. And I often wondered if the lack of support I received from the Muslim community was due to the ambivalent attitudes towards Black women and power. But upon my return I found that my training and talents were appreciated, but that I would just have to work on finding a more nurturing environment that could help me develop my skill set.

And then there was Michelle O. and election night. Not only did the world’s perception of the Black man change that night, but the world’s perception of Black women. I’m not saying all is right with the world and that the Black community has done away with gendered racism, nor am I saying that all Black women should be committed to the idea of the Black family. But like much of Black America we fell in love with the idea of Barack and Michelle being in love. Something about her strength assured us that he was a strong man. Other weaker man would have shrunk in fear at the thought of approaching such a formidable woman. Other men with less confident notions of their manhood would have shied away from such public displays of adoration. So, here’s to Michelle O, who has single handed got us educated gals with high aspirations lifting our heads up once again.
Did I forget to mention their adorable daughters?

I just had to remind you how cute they were, in case you didn’t get enough.

Renewing the Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students of Sacred Knowledge

When this first came out September 2007, I was so excited about the possibility that we could move beyond polemics where so called sufis attacked so called salafis and vice versa. I also hoped that we would move beyond nasty name calling and disrespect those who have worked tirelessly to develop the American Muslim community. There have been men and women responsible for not only inviting tens of thousands into the Deen, but helping many become better human beings, and thus Muslims. These scholars come from various persuasions and in the past they have often been very heated disputes over theology, political views, practice, legal understandings, etc. Often these scholars are referenced, but many people who claim to respect, and some claim to even follow, these scholars resort to name calling and attacking whole communities for being in the wrong geographic area or on the wrong rung of the socio-economic ladder, or for having a particular orientation.

In light of the growing tensions between Black and indigenous Muslims versus immigrant Muslims, once again resurfacing polemics involving the salafi/sufi divide, Usama Canon reminds us all to remember the importance of pact of non-aggression that a number of Muslim leaders signed. By signing this agreement, they said no to bolstering their stances by dogging out their brothers and sisters. After it was published, a number of bloggers and organizations expressed their support, others had reservations about the implications that this would short circuit open discussion. Often, people had a problem with the working. Whether or not you agree with the wording, I think it is important to think about the spirit of this pact. It is essential that we step up our etiquette towards our brothers and sisters. If we Muslims are supposed to be careful about what we say, it is absolutely imperative that we as Muslim bloggers be cautious about what we write. What we post and your comments are here for posterity. There are fodder for those who wish to capitalize on our weakness or use some quote out of context to prove a point. But more important than dawah or the American Muslims’ public image, what we say, read, and write has a bearing on our own souls.

Here’s a step in the right direction, and I hope that we begin to articulate a higher standard of ethics in our conduct towards each other:

Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students of Sacred Knowledge

Hold fast to the Rope of Allah, all together, and be not divided. (Qur’an, 3:103)

Surely, those who have made divisions in their religion and turned into factions, you have nothing to do with them. Their case rests with Allah; then He will inform them of what they used to do. (Qur’an, 6:159)

In light of the Divine Word, we recognize that the historical nature of Sunni Islam is a broad one that proceeds from a shared respect for the Qur’an and Sunnah, a shared dependence on the interpretations and derivations of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), and a shared respect for the writings of a vast array of scholars who have been identified by their support for and affiliation with the Sunni Muslims and have been accepted as the luminaries of Sunni Islam – as broadly defined.

Likewise, detailed discussions in matters of theology are the specific domain of trained specialists, and proceed on the basis of well-defined principles and methodologies, which are beyond the knowledge of the generality of Muslims.

Our forebears in faith, with all the dedication, brilliance and sincerity clearly manifested in their works, have debated and discussed abstruse and complex issues of creed and practice, and have failed in most instances to convince their opponents of the veracity and accuracy of their positions.

The average Muslim is only responsible for knowing the basics of creed as they relate to a simple belief in Allah, His Angels, Scriptures, the Prophets and Messengers, the Last Day, and the Divine Decree.

Recognizing that the specter of sectarianism threatens to further weaken and debilitate our struggling Muslim community at this critical time in human affairs, and recognizing that Allah, Exalted is He, has given the Muslim community in the West a unique historical opportunity to advance the cause of peace, cooperation, and goodwill amongst the people of the world, we the undersigned respectfully:

Urge Muslims to categorically cease all attacks on individual Muslims and organizations whose varying positions can be substantiated based on the broad scholarly tradition of the Sunni Muslims. We especially urge the immediate cessation of all implicit or explicit charges of disbelief;
Urge Muslim scholars and students of sacred knowledge to take the lead in working to end ad hominem attacks on other scholars and students; to cease unproductive, overly polemical writings and oral discourse; and to work to stimulate greater understanding and cooperation between Muslims, at both the level of the leadership and the general community;
Urge Muslims in the West, especially our youth, to leave off unproductive and divisive discussions of involved theological issues that are the proper domain of trained specialists, and we especially discourage participation in those internet chat rooms, campus discussion groups, and other forums that only serve to create ill-will among many Muslims, while fostering a divisive, sectarian spirit;
Urge all teachers to instruct their students, especially those attending intensive programs, to respect the diverse nature of our communities and to refrain from aggressive challenges to local scholars, especially those known for their learning and piety;
Urge our brothers and sisters in faith to concentrate on enriching their lives by deepening their practice of Islam through properly learning the basics of the faith, adopting a consistent regimen of Qur’anic recitation, endeavoring to remember and invoke Allah in the morning and evening, learning the basics of jurisprudence, attempting to engage in voluntary fasting as much as possible, studying the Prophetic biography on a consistent basis, studying the etiquettes that guide our interactions with our fellow Muslims, and the performance of other beneficial religious acts, to the extent practical for their circumstances;
Finally, we urge the Believers to attempt to undertake individual and collective actions that will help to counter the growing campaign of anti-Islamic misinformation and propaganda that attempts to portray our religion as a violence-prone relic of the past unsuitable for modern society, and by so doing justify indiscriminate wars against Muslim peoples, occupation of Muslim lands, and usurpation of their resources.
Saying this, we do not deny the reality of legitimate differences and approaches, nor the passionate advocacy of specific positions based on those differences. Such issues should be rightfully discussed observing established rules of debate. However, we urge the above measures to help prevent those differences from destroying the historical unity and integrity of the Muslim community, and creating irreparable divisions between our hearts. Further, we do not deny the urgency, especially in light of the situation in Iraq, of efforts to foster greater cooperation between diverse Muslim communities. Hence, this document should not be seen as negating any statements, or declarations designed to foster greater peace and harmony between diverse Muslim communities. However, we feel, as Sunni Muslims, a pressing need to first set our own affairs in order.

In conclusion, having called our brothers and sisters to act on these points, we, the undersigned, pledge to be the first to actively implement them in response to the Divine Word:

Do you enjoin righteousness on the people and refuse to follow it yourselves and all along you are reciting the scripture!? Will you not reflect? (Qur’an 2:44)

We ask Allah for the ability to do that which He loves. And Allah alone is the Grantor of Success.

Signed,

Abdelrahman Helbawi
Abdul Karim Khalil
Abdullah Adhami
Abdurraheem Green
Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
Abu Aaliyah Surkheel Sharif
Abu Eesa Niamatullah
Aisha Faleh AlThani
Asma Mirza
Cheikhna B. Bayyah
Dawood Yasin
Ebadur Rahman
Faraz Rabbani
Fuad Nahdi
Gul Mohammad
Haitham al-Haddad
Hamza Yusuf
Hasan al-Banna
Ibrahim Osi-Efa
Jihad Hashim Brown
M. Abdul Latif Finch
M. Afifi al-Akiti
Mehdi Kader
Mokhtar Maghroui
Muhammad Alshareef
Muhammad Ash-Shaybani
Muhammad ibn Adam
Omar Qureshi
S. Abdal-Hakim Jackson
Shamira Chothia Ahmed
Siddique Abdullah
Suhaib Webb
Tahir Anwar
Talal Al-Azem
Tanveer Hussain
Tawfique Chowdhury
Usama Canon
Usama Hasan
Walead Mosaad
Yahya Rhodus
Yasir Qadhi
Zaid Shakir

Thank You!!

I just wanted to say thank you to all the well wishers who have shared kind thoughts and words of encouragement upon news of my recent nuptials. Even folks I clashed with in the past dropped a kind word. I apologize if I offended anyone by not responding on my blog or in email. I have spent very little time in front of the computer largely because my computer set up is not ergonomic. I hope to respond to each and every one of you and send off those belated thank you cards to those who sent gifts.

In light of this major milestone in my life, and in blogging, this is a time of reassessment and reevaluation. I am focusing on positive endeavors and working towards taking my writing to the next level. I pray that Allah guides us and purifies our intentions. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

President Obama Pledges New Start with Muslims

On the other side of the coast, I had the pleasure of watching the inauguration live. I’ve written before about the special significance this election has for me. But this is not just my moment, millions of other shared in the joy that America has delivered on its promise. I was moved during a number of moments during the ceremony. One of the things that moved me was the acknowledgment of America’s past and the representation of people of color. I felt that my faith and identity were acknowledged, where even the prayers were inclusive. It was a moment of hope where people of all faiths were able to feel part of. And can I say that the three special ladies in President Obama’s life looked absolutely stunning!! But this post is not about my admiration of Michelle Obama’s style or my adoration of those beautiful young ladies. Rather, this post is about a hopeful message the President gave about renewing the relationship between America and the Muslim world.
The Washington post reported on it in today’s article, Obama pledges new start with Muslims

President Barack Obama promised a new start with the Muslim world in his inauguration address on Tuesday.

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” said Obama, who became the first black president of the United States.

The first Muslim to be elected to Congress, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, said Obama’s words were an important signal of good will to Muslims in the United States as well as the rest of the world.

“I do believe it could undermine recruiting for al Qaeda,” he told Reuters, because “their message depends on trying to demonize the United States as a country that is somehow hostile to Islam and the Muslim world.”

Ellison said Obama’s outreach would make it hard for al Qaeda to sustain its anti-American message.

Many Muslims are already excited about Obama, he said.

“If you were to go to Damascus, or Cairo, or Jerusalem today, you could find an Obama tee shirt. People are excited about the possibilities for what this means around the globe.”

I’ve read elsewhere that there was a letter published Tuesday signed by a few hundred Muslims with advise on building a positive relationship with Muslims throughout the world. I’m sure you all remember Arsalan Iftikhar’s Letter to Obama on the Muslim World :

First of all, as one of more than 66 million Americans of all races, religions and ethnicities who voted for you, your electoral victory was one of the proudest moments of our collective lives.

As our American political history witnessed the magnitude of our nation’s first African-American president, our society was also able to collectively (and finally) exhale, knowing that the mailbox at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. would now read “Obama” instead of “Bush.”

With hardly a moment’s rest, as you transition toward Inauguration Day, our nation (and the rest of the world) will not wait for long before seeking your leadership on many pressing global issues.

From an economic recessionary mess to a perpetually broken health care system with 46 million American neighbors as uninsured casualties, your soon-to-be administration will face some monumental domestic and foreign policy issues that will affect us for generations.

From an ill-conceived war in Iraq to an oft-forgotten war in Afghanistan, from global flashpoints from Tel Aviv to Islamabad, your diplomatic and political interaction with the Muslim world may decide the success (or failure) of your foreign policy legacy.

Your unenviable task will be to undo the catastrophic policies of George W. Bush and his fellow neoconservative ideologues, facing the specter of al Qaeda’s sinister terrorism while undertaking public diplomacy efforts addressing anti-Americanism around the world.

Similarly, since the tragedy of September 11, the global Muslim community has continued its own daunting task of undoing catastrophic damage caused by Osama bin Laden and his creepy terrorist cronies.

From global debates on religious extremism broadcast on BBC World Television to global interfaith outreach with the Vatican, we Muslims are in the midst of our own internal dialogue condemning terrorism and reclaiming the mantle of Islam from the rusted claws of dinosaur extremists.

Like the commentary by Nafees A. Syed stated, Candidates should seek votes of Muslim-Americans, they should seek the insight of American Muslims on policy issues. But Muslims will have to recognize that we can not only rely upon protest politics. We have to have Muslims willing to advise and work with administrations, if we are going to effect change. It is not just by voting that we are heard, but through collective organization, putting our money where our mouth is, and making sure our voice is heard. In essence, we have to think about civic engagement. We can’t condemn those Muslims who choose to work in government. We have to look at the effects we can have in city, state, and national government. There are Muslims who believe this to be diametrically opposed to their faith, but they must realize that by opting out of politics they have indeed supported secularization of their communities and societies. American Muslims need to live up to our promise as being able to speak on behalf of the voiceless and effecting change in the most powerful nation in the world. I believe the first step is by getting our communities together and establishing institutions that build solid foundations and encourage civic engagement. So many Muslims in America felt deflated after the devastating invasion of Gaza. But Islam is truly an optimistic religion, where we live our lives in hope and not in fear. This is an opportune moment to start anew, so that one day will can actually do something to make sure that America stands up and does the right thing.

It annoys me…

…when people just post a link to their blog in an effort to self-promote without having the respect to engage your ideas. The comments sections is just that, for comments on the post. If you want me to link to your site or for me to engage your ideas, please send me an email. After taking a look, I will then determine if it is noteworthy or related to some issue I address in my blog.

AmericanEast

Habib's Cafe
Hat tip to Tariq Nelson for pointing out the DVD release of AmericanEast, a film about Arab Americans. Because touches upon Islam in America, it should be of interest to all Muslim Americans. However Arabs and South Asians are viewed, it effects all of us. At the same time, this film clearly is about Arab Americans and recent immigrants and their struggles in America. Within the media, most people think Muslim equals immigrant. As Tariq Nelson notes, trying combat the stereotype that Islam is a foreign religion is like fighting an uphill battle.

Very few films in the West are going to show the nuanced lives of Muslim American men and women, who manage to balance their religious traditions and American culture. I haven’t seen the film, but often films about Arab or South Asians immigrants in the West depict Islam in a negative light. They often feature a story arch where a character liberates themselves by distancing themselves from their faith and practice. In very few stories have I seen Islam as being depicted as something that gives meaning, richness, or even frees a character. To me, that shows that many writers and filmmakers aren’t able to capture the spirit that has moved hundreds of thousands of Americans to convert to Islam. Nor are they able to articulate, with any creative license, the passion of a Muslim coming into a deeper spiritual awakening. Since I haven’t viewed the film, I’m not going to make any pre-judgments. Instead, I am going to look at this film as a step in the right direction.

Here’s a synopsis from the film website:

“AmericanEast” is a timely, poignant drama about Arab-Americans living in post-9/11 Los Angeles. The story examines long-held misunderstandings about Arabic and Islamic culture, and puts a human face on a segment of the U.S. population whom most Americans know nothing about, but who today are of particular interest to them, either from curiosity or suspicion. The story highlights the pressures under which many Arab-Americans now live by focusing on the points-of-view of three main characters.

I.

Mustafa (Sayed Badreya) is a widowed Egyptian immigrant and the owner of Habibe’s Café, a popular hang-out for Los Angelenos with Middle Eastern backgrounds. He is devoted to providing his children with a moral upbringing despite the pressures of contemporary American urban life. He also finds himself cast in the role of protector to his unwed sister Salweh, for whom, by family and tribal custom, he is responsible for finding a traditional suitor. But his respect for tradition comes up against his own aspirations to adapt to the American Dream when he decides to open a new restaurant with a Jewish partner – his friend Sam (Tony Shalhoub). This “unholy alliance” is unpopular amongst the habitués of his café and the insular Arab community in which Mustafa resides. It is one of several personal points of tension that gradually build against the backdrop of larger, national events affecting the Arab-American community and lead to the explosive denouement of the story.

II.

Salwah, Mustafa’s sister (Sarah Shahi), must also reconcile her traditional values and familial obligations with new American realities. Although she is grateful to Mustafa for bringing her to America when she was young, and allowing her to pursue an education, conflict arises between them when Mustafa insists upon fulfilling his duty of finding her a traditional, arranged-marriage partner from Egypt. The arrival of this arranged suitor, her older cousin Saber (Al Faris), throws her life into turmoil and makes her question her own beliefs and faith. Secretly, she is attracted to an American, Dr. John Westerman (Tim Guinee), a young and attractive non-Muslim. Any caution she feels toward him, however, is thrown to the wind by the abrupt arrival of Saber and a possible impending marriage that she does not want. She becomes sorely tempted to experience intimacy with the young doctor outside of marriage, a taboo. While she undergoes this internal conflict, her suitor Saber is staying as a guest at the home she shares with Mustafa and his children, and the incompatibility between this traditional man, her future “husband,” and Mustafa’s Americanized family is another source of irritation adding to the mounting tensions underlying the story.

III.

Mustafa’s friend Omar (Kais Nashif) is a struggling actor and Habibi’s Cafe regular, a young Egyptian man who supports his dream of becoming a movie star by working as a part-time cab driver for Mustafa’s ragged, one-car taxi company. Because of his Middle Eastern looks and accent, however, he is constantly cast in the role of a terrorist in American TV shows that portray only a shallow understanding of Arabs and their culture. When an opportunity for a non-racially-designated role arrives, Omar feels his chance for success — to be seen as an actor first and not a Muslim — has finally arrived. It is the break he has been waiting for on many levels: a chance at the financial freedom necessary to marry and support his pregnant American girlfriend Kate (Amanda Detmer), and a chance for him, and his future child, to be embraced as an American, in the same way that he has embraced America.
But misunderstandings and prejudices related to his Arabic background conspire against him once again and his opportunity is lost, pushing Omar to make a drastic, unreasoned decision that sets off a chain of events leading to a violent conclusion that affects the lives and conflicts of all the other characters – an explosive reminder of the simmering pressures under which Muslims live in the United States today. Will their American Dreams be shattered by a climate of distrust and suspicion, or will their hopes and aspirations be embraced by their fellow Americans?

You can check out the trailer here.

War of Proportions

According to this article, “870 Palestinians have been killed, roughly half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis have also died.”

That’s 67:1, or let’s be conservative and use the ultra conservative civilian casualty number for every one Israeli killed, it is acceptable to kill thirty three Palestinian civilians. For the children that have died, do they see the difference between state sponsored terrorism or terrorism by non-state actors? Do children care who broke the truce? Do they cry about who has the right to defend themselves as they shut in, starved out, and constantly bombarded?

I’ll let Jabotinsky’s words speak for themselves, because they seem to drive the spirit of Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians:

Settlement can thus develop under the protection of a force that is not dependent on the local population, behind an IRON WALL which they will be powerless to break down. ….a voluntary agreement is just not possible. As long as the Arabs preserve a gleam of hope that they will succeed in getting rid of us, nothing in the world can cause them to relinquish this hope, precisely because they are not a rubble but a living people. And a living people will be ready to yield on such fateful issues only when they give up all hope of getting rid of the Alien Settlers. Only then will extremist groups with their slogan ‘No, never’ lose their influence, and only then their influence be transferred to more moderate groups. And only then will the moderates offer suggestions for compromise. Then only will they begin bargaining with us on practical matters, such as guarantees against pushing them out, and equality of civil, and national rights.

I’m with the UN in their resolution which calls for a full Israeli withdrawal, unimpeded humanitarian access and intense diplomatic efforts for peace. Too bad the UN can’t do jack. Sigh….