Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Meal With A Muslim Day 2011 – September 16

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 29, 2011

Last year we celebrated the first international Meal with a Muslim Day. Won’t you join us this year?

Have a meal, or coffee.

Initiate dialogues, not hate.

If you’re a Muslim, find a non-Muslim. If you’re a non-Muslim, find a Muslim.

Spread the word, and invite him or her out for some coffee or a bite to eat and a chat (breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a quick coffee) on September 16th. If that date isn’t convenient, another day is fine. Ramadan has finished by then. Some Muslims may choose to invite their neighbours early, for Iftar. Iftar is the breaking of the fast during Ramadan.

Tell him or her that you’re doing it for the second international Meal with a Muslim Day— a day designed to open up human conversations between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors.

The rules: eat and drink what you want and talk about what you want. If you feel comfortable, ask each other some of the ‘hard’ questions and listen respectfully to what they say.

Josef and Santi

Yes, I know it’s late notice. I had good intentions of publicising it early this year and it crept up on me. Nevertheless, you’ll be surprised at who you can find if you ask around. I managed to find someone at the last minute. Here’s the story of My Meal With a Muslim last year.

Watch the video below where Santi (non-Muslim) and Josef (Muslim) explain their reasons behind this idea. (A positive response to that “burn a Qu’ran” pastor.)

And please spread the word! The facebook event is here http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=257460320941310

Please spread the word!

Respond

Please spread the word! What do you think?
Please subscribe (top left) 🙂

Please share this article:

Posted in Islam, Sociology | 5 Comments »

Why Do We Support A Morals Police?

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 10, 2011

A fascinating article reminded me of Saudi Arabia’s morals police. The rest of the article lists some nutters in our own society lest we feel too self-righteous. However, Saudi’s morals police are state sanctioned. How come we make official outcries over torture and human rights violations in countries like China, yet remain remarkably quiet on our Saudi ally?

The religious police in Saudi Arabia are employed in direct order of command from King Abdullah. They are tasked with enforcing Sharia as defined in Saudi Arabia. In addition to having the power to arrest anyone engaged in homosexual acts, prostitution, fornication, or proselytizing of non-Muslim religions, they can also arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, enforce Islamic dress-codes, Muslim dietary laws (such as the prohibition from eating pork) and store closures during the prayer time. They prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film). They also actively prevent the religious practices of other religions within Saudi Arabia. (Wikipedia)

western music

At the time of writing, various Middle Eastern governments are nervous that democratic protests in Egypt and Tunisia might spread to their countries. (Jordan has already had protests.) I wonder what it would take for something like that to happen in Saudi? I wonder what it would take for our Governments to stand up for justice there?

In May of 2007, a 28 year old man in Riyadh named Ali Al-Huraisi had a run-in with the Saudi CFPVPV. Because they believed that he possessed alcohol, they broke into his house, arrested his entire family, handcuffed him, and then beat him to death. In August 2008, a member killed his own daughter for converting to Christianity. These are just two examples of what is an extremely conservative and brutal organisation– I say again: Sanctioned by the Saudi Government.

Why do we consider these people allies?

Respond

? What do you think?
Please subscribe (top left) 🙂

Sepultura | Under Seige
“Religious domain is all I see
Suffocate the scum with mediocrity”
(Saw these guys live in 1991)

Posted in ethics, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Gun Nuts and Peaceniks

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 9, 2011

Right now the major news in the USA is the tragic shooting attempt on an Arizona congresswoman. At the time of writing she is badly wounded, but 18 other people were also shot. Six are dead, including a nine year-old girl. I offer my condolences to my US friends; this is sad and wrong.

As an outside observer, I want to offer a few thoughts, partially based on the Twitter and Facebook commentary I’m seeing.

A Culture Of Blame

To me, it’s strange that many immediately jumped to a political motive. For example, a friend tweeted “I wish the sheriff would just name Rush and Beck and Fox News [as responsible].” Sure, Gabrielle Giffords, the target, is a politician. However it may be a little premature to jump in and reduce this to GOP vs Dems. As Lavika tweeted, “Many are choosing sides & using their vitriol to numb pain. Vitriol on behalf of ‘good’ is still vitriol, btw”. To me, the shooter looked a little mentally unstable on paper. This is not to say he wasn’t politically motivated, but there may be a lot more nuance to this story. Lavika also tweeted: “Mental health care, especially youth mental health, is very political; they have no voice, they can’t get care, but they can get guns.”

One commentator writes “We have no idea what motivated the shooter and whether it had anything to do with politics.”

man with pistol

Us and Them

Given the immediate politicization of this attack, I’m also continually amazed at the polarization in US politics. Either you are a Democrat or a Republican, there is no other choice. This leads to an “us and them”, “black and white”, “right and wrong” circling of the wagons that I believe is deeply unhelpful. How can political progress be made when the other side is always characterised as the enemy? In places like New Zealand, Australia, most of Europe… In fact, every other decent Western nation I can think of, there are multiple political parties. This leads to a) more nuance b) more choice and c) the need for co-operation between various political groups.

What if you are “left” on some issues, but “right” on others? In the US there is no party that fits you. Congresswoman Giffords, who was attacked, is a perfect example of exactly this. As a former republican, she characterises herself as a “blue dog” democrat. In other words, she had to make a hard choice as neither party truly represents her views. There aren’t any other political options.

Is This Terrorism?

SquintingInFog tweeted “Why is this not an act of terrorism? Apparently white people are lone wackos, brown people are terrorists”, and, “If shooter were Muslim, it would be called terrorism, even if he acted alone & was psychotic”.

My answer: If it was ideological, then yes, it’s terrorism. Welcome to another “terrorist attack” by a non-Muslim US man, born and bred within Uncle Sam’s bosom.

We Have A Right To Kill

I’m writing this in a country where hunting is popular. We have a lot of guns here in New Zealand. But we don’t allow handguns (except for target shooting, a minority pastime). We certainly don’t allow people to carry them around in public. Even our police do not carry weapons on their person. So to hear about a “right to bear arms” frankly sounds bizarre to us. It sounds as silly as “the right to buy cars” or the “right to chew gum”. (Don’t laugh, gum is banned in Singapore.) Yes, we are legally allowed to buy hunting guns in New Zealand. And that’s how I’d prefer to phrase it. Maybe the USA would benefit from leaving the word “right” out of the equation? The word “right” gives the purchase and use of an item a moral gravity that I just don’t think is warranted. It makes carrying a gun seem somehow holy, instead of fearful and potentially lethal. I can’t compare the right to own a killing weapon with the right to life or the right not to live in poverty. (I’d like to hear more about the right to a fair wage, having just read Nickel and Dimed.) At least I’m not the only one to see a need for handgun control.

Hope

Turning from the killing in the USA, I want the whole world to know about the peace activism in Egypt— by Muslims, no less. Regular followers will know I write from time to time trying to understand Islam and its relation to the West. Egypt has recently had some horrible attacks on Christian churches. What is wonderful is this story of a Muslim initiative where Muslims attended christian churches in order to shield christians against extremists.

I have no idea how we would “shield” minorities in our countries from attack. But isn’t it a wonderful thing to consider? Perhaps a cadre of straight people could walk with gay people seeking marriage equality. Or upper middle-class people could walk with Wal-Mart staff seeking to establish a union. Any ideas?

Respond

What do you think?
Please subscribe (top left) 🙂

Please share this article:

Pink Floyd | Us and Them

Posted in ethics, hardship, Islam | Tagged: , , , , , | 34 Comments »

Conversation with an Imam

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 23, 2010

You may recall Santi was the initiator of Meal with a Muslim day a couple of months back. At the time he made friends with Kamal al Khatib, a local Imam in Southern California. Recently he’s been posting short clips of a conversation they had in the mosque.

Here’s the second one where they discuss the concept of love in Islam, among other things. Note: Where the Imam is referring to “narrations” I believe he is talking about the Hadith, traditions about Mohammed outside of the Qu’ran.

Here are the first and third conversations (so far).

Like me, Santi is an agnostic. I’d read and been taught that “love” is not one of the attributes of Allah talked about in the Qu’ran. Here, the Imam uses the traditions about Mohammed to add some light.

Respond

What is your impression of “love” in Islam? Does this change anything for you?

Please subscribe (top left) 🙂

Posted in agnostic, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Conversation with an Imam

Paradise Now: A Powerful Movie

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 16, 2010

Yesterday I asked if Muslims would find the movie “Four Lions” funny? Well, at least some Muslims do:

Humour allows us to conquer our own fears of terrorism and terrorists, and allows us to feel brave. We see the human weaknesses of our opponents, instead of buying into the myths of an invincible robotic terror machine. The fear created by the myths – whether perpetuated by the bin Laden’s or the Bush’s of this world – is itself part of the terrorisation process. If we can defuse the myth, we can get down to tackling the criminals at the heart of the violence and destruction…

explosion NYC

…In a global Gallup poll of 50,000 Muslims across 35 countries, the results showed that of the seven per cent of Muslims who said the 9/11 attacks were justified, absolutely none quoted the Quran to support their view. Again, it is politics, not religion.” From Can Terror Be Funny? at AltMuslim. More Muslim commentary here and a good US-based review here. (Some spoilers in these.)

On to another movie on the same topic, much more serious and equally important. Released in 2005, I think Paradise Now is one of the most thought-provoking movies made. (Along with “Dead Man Walking”, “Milk”, “Food Inc”, “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Lord of War”.) Don’t worry, it’s not boringly didactic.

The movie follows Said and Khaled, two Palestinian friends who are recruited to be suicide bombers. This may be the last 48 hours of their lives. Drama, humanity, evil, love, romance, tragedy, comedy, it’s got it all. The movie is not really about the Israel/Palestine question, it merely assumes this as the background to the question of whether killing others in protest is valid. Perhaps even realism, not just humour, can take some of the scariness away. The film is not simplistic, and without giving away too much it portrays both the terrorist and pacifist points of view well. Both men and Khaled’s girlfriend have doubts, but I won’t tell you how it ends.

I was stunned by it.

Independent trailer for Paradise Now:

Respond

Have You Seen It? What do you think?
Please subscribe (top left) 🙂

Please share this article:

Posted in ethics, hardship, Islam, life, Meaning of Life, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Dying for a Laugh

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 15, 2010

Or, How to Curse Really Well.

One of the disadvantages of being born in a country with no large wildlife is the lack of good swear words. “You’re a Kakapo’s bum” doesn’t compare with the exotic combinations of “Elephant”, “Donkey” and “Mother” which pepper Urdu and Hindi.

Well, I suppose the early Maori may have cursed about the Moa or the Giant Haast Eagle? “Your father is a Moa’s toenail. Now cook the man some eggs.”

laughing seal

My knowledge of Hindi was vastly improved by a work colleague who taught us how to swear in his language. This was mainly to tease another co-worker, by threatening to phone her mother and use these words in the conversation. She was a good Indian girl as far as her distant family were concerned, “Don’t you dare tell my parents about my boyfriend”. I think we did try out one or two phrases on a cab driver when we were drunk.

Boy, those cultures can really swear! Think of a body part, multiply by a large animal, insult its intelligence, give it a foul disease and have sex with it. That’s what a real insult is, none of this mild Anglo-Saxon rubbish. Perhaps even in their blasphemies the English are too polite.

Except the guys in Four Lions are also English. My knowledge of Pakistani swearing, which seems just as gleefully vile as Hindi, expanded by watching this film. Some time ago I listed top ten spiritual movies. I’ve discovered a few more, and this one would definitely make it into the list. Not because it’s spiritual as such, but because the story takes place within the current political and social climate of westernised Islam and offers wicked social commentary. Better than that, it’s hilarious.

Four Lions is the story of four English men wanting to martyr themselves for their faith. Unfortunately most of them are incredibly inept. At first I was concerned their failure and stupidity could appear racist, but it’s clear that other characters are also mentally challenged, for example the dim white girl who flats next door and the bumbling English authorities who deal with the group. I wonder what different Muslim communities think of this film? There are some poignant human moments too, and the social commentary is deeper than it first appears.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, so all I’ll say is: It’s funny— see it!

Four Lions Trailer

Guess what? There’s another fantastic movie about suicide bombers, I posted that here.

Respond

? What do you think?
Please subscribe (top left) 🙂

Posted in humor, humour, Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

My Meal with a Muslim

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 27, 2010

As per my recent posts, last Thursday I met Sarah and Fariha for coffee after work. (Names changed as New Zealand is a very small place). I hadn’t thought I could find someone to meet in such a short space of time, but an internet acquaintance set it up, thankyou Sarah. Sarah is an atheist, with Muslim and Hindu parents who decided not to push either faith on her. Her mother is a “liberal” Muslim, so Sarah also has a lot of knowledge about Islam. When she told me her friend is Bangladeshi, I expected someone with a foreign accent. I was surprised to meet a second-generation Kiwi, intelligent, articulate and funny, working in a respected profession in the city.

Funny— we don’t think of Muslims with a sense of humour, do we?

We three got along well socially and could have talked about general topics the whole time, but I decided to ask what it’s like growing up as a Muslim in New Zealand. I felt the purpose was to share about Islam and non-Islam and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Fariha talked about her grandparents being some of the first Muslim immigrants in New Zealand, and helping start the first mosque in Daniel Street (now still owned by the community, but not a mosque). I mentioned my view that all New Zealanders are decended from immigrants and that should inform our thinking. It’s something I think us whiteys need to think about more.

I’m reasonably educated about Islam for a Westerner but I learned new things. I understood from what was said that both women are part of a smaller Shi’ite sect. For me, I associate Shiite with Iran, it’s weird to find people from the Asian subcontinent who identify as Shiite, which we discussed. Fariha referred to “the fundamentalists”, indicating that she felt some distance between her faith and the extremists.

I found out I can go to the mosque, as a non muslim. If I do go I want to have a friend there so that I know how to behave. I can’t go to Mecca, even as a tourist, although Sarah was unsure about that. “How would they know?” Both women love the fact that in Mecca everyone is dressed in white and racial and ethnic barriers are dropped. They love the idea of the one-ness of so many different peoples. Fariha hasn’t been on Haj and Sarah said she couldn’t, as a non-Muslim. Sarah said she’s been told there’s no such thing as a non-practicing Muslim, so you either are or aren’t. Hence, she is not a Muslim. However Fariha disagreed, saying there’s a bit of leeway, for example Fariha does not always pray five times a day.

Muslim women

Not Sarah and Fariha

I offered Fariha the opportunity to ask me questions, but it didn’t happen. Being a second generation New Zealander, no doubt she already knows a lot. She said she’d attended a Christian school growing up and had participated in chapel services. She was quite ok with that as Islam “developed from Christianity and Judaism”.

We didn’t talk much about difficult topics. They did agree with my suggestion that “a good outcome of the absolute horror of 9/11 is that it opened up the existence of Islam to many people in the West who had ignored it”. I mentioned I’d read a book by a woman of Pakistani descent which says Arab Muslims tend to look down on non-Arab Muslims. Fariha said she thought that was “probably the case”. She also could understand it “to some degree” as “the Quran was first given to Arabs”, and socio-politically most servants and menial workers in Saudi are foreigners.

We talked about head-coverings, and she said it “isn’t in the Quran”, but in the Hadith. She doesn’t wear a head-covering. She also said such head coverings are a sign of status, these women are copying the Prophet’s wives, something I didn’t know. (My older post on head-coverings here).

They agreed there is a lot of discussion and disagreement within Islam on some topics. Fariha said she was “speaking for herself, personally, not for the whole of Islam”. She said Imams (Mullahs) are “not like priests”, there is much more ability to disagree, it’s much more equal, which I didn’t know. This struck me like the “congregational” Christian way of running their churches; in theory there is no priest-equivalent as they view all believers are priests. We briefly discussed Sufism, and Fariha said she thinks Islam is a bit more about the group experience, than about “personal spirituality”, although that is there too.

Conclusions

Overall, the meeting was worthwhile in my view. I don’t know if Fariha thought so, but I think she did. She expressed at the start that it was nice of me to make the offer, and afterwards emailed Sarah that she enjoyed it.

Santi, who initiated Meal with a Muslim day, is thinking about hard issues, he’s raised some areas to think about. I think a real challenge is to meet with those Muslims who are “fundamentalist” and despise the West. On our side, it also requires the Western “fundamentalist” Islam-haters to be willing to meet. I don’t know how this could happen. Perhaps each side’s “moderates” can work on their more extreme bretheren? I also think that Muslim to non-Muslim dialogue needs to be an ongoing discussion, there are other questions I want to ask. At this point, Sarah, Fariha and myself have no further plans, and I do think “Meal with a Muslim Day” should be proposed as a one-off occasion each time with no further expectations.

One thing that has stayed with me is that when I think about Islam, I am thinking about a person— an intelligent, attractive neighbour whose humanity I want to support. I think this alone makes the experience worthwhile, to personalise beliefs into people rather than “other”. Though I doubt it is an issue for Fariha, I hope and believe the same is true from the other direction.

Can Muslims accept, flourish in and support Western-style “live and let live”? I think so, and I hope so. There is work to be done by both sides, but by such small actions maybe we can improve one part of this confused world.

What Are Your Thoughts?

?

Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Please share this article:

Posted in agnostic, god, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Make Babies or Islam Takes Over?

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 10, 2010

Great local pizza and a bottle of chianti last night. At dinner I picked up a newspaper:

“European Christians must have more children or face the Continent becoming Islamised, a Vatican official has said.” I note that with their view on contraception, the Vatican is particularly keen on making babies anyway.

This ties in serendipitously with my recent posts. Quoting from a longer article on Snopes, who declare such claims “mostly false”:

babies!

“The falling fertility rates in large segments of the Islamic world have been matched by another significant shift: Across northern and western Europe, women have suddenly started having more babies … Immigrant mothers account for part of the fertility increase throughout Europe, but only part. And, significantly, many of the immigrants are arrivals from elsewhere in Europe, especially the eastern European countries admitted to the European Union in recent years.”

In short, the best demographers can do is make broad guesses about population trends based on current conditions and assumptions about how (and how much) those trends might be influenced by societal changes. Or, as summarized by [population expert] Walker:

“The human habit is simply to project current trends into the future. Demographic realities are seldom kind to the predictions that result. The decision to have a child depends on innumerable personal considerations and large, unaccountable societal factors that are in constant flux. Yet even knowing this, demographers themselves are often flummoxed. Projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality.”

See also my humorous White People Need More Sex.

Frankly, the question of Islam and its relation to modernity is complex; I’ve read various commentators, both Muslim and not, both extreme and moderate. I particularly enjoyed Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam Today. I’m not attracted to conservative Islam and I want to concentrate on other interests, perhaps I’ll write more fully in the futuretime.

This morning Romy sent me “Burn a Quran Day“, a tragical church parody ad:

I love it! For any Muslims watching, please remember this is a joke— a parody made by people who do not support burning of sacred books.

Also in the newspaper, thought reading machines are closer to reality. This is cool, and brings hope for severely disabled people, let alone the science fiction utopias of the future. Naturally there may be negative sides; if it becomes possible to read thoughts from a distance then Government spying on your brain may be possible one day. It may become impossible to have mental privacy— would any of us truly want our spouse to read our thoughts? All science brings with it the potential for both benefit and misuse, so concentrating on the positive, it’s a wonderful advance. Looking forward to the day when I can type at the speed of thought.

Even if a bigger Muslim population eventuates, if we encourage all peoples to live together in peace, there is hope. Please remember and publicise the 1st International Meal With A Muslim Day, next week. I’m not sure I can find someone in time, but at least if I can raise awareness, I’ve done my part.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Respond

? What do you think?

Please share this article:

Posted in god, humor, humour, Islam, Science, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 7, 2010

Ironically, I’ve just written a post about how we need to talk to each other if we want less religious conflict. I want to share this:

Santi Tafarella writes:

In response to the “Burn the Quran Day” Florida pastor, I’ve decided to promote a counter day:

The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day

Or coffee.

Initiate dialogues, not bonfires.

And so The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day is hereby declared for the following date:

Friday, September 17, 2010.

Spread the word, find a Muslim, and invite him or her out for some coffee or a bite to eat and a chat (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) on September 17th.

Tell him or her that you’re doing it for The First International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day—a day designed to open up human conversations between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors.

The rules: eat and drink what you want and talk about what you want.

For full details please go here:

http://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/instead-of-burn-a-quran-day-how-about-an-international-have-a-meal-with-a-muslim-day

Posted in agnostic, Islam, personal development, Sociology | 5 Comments »

Islam Interfaith Talk: There is Hope

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 27, 2010

I was profoundly moved by this video featuring Eboo Patel, an American Muslim. Please watch it.

While the talk is particularly aimed at the interaction between Christians and Muslims I think everyone needs to watch this, particularly those concerned about Islam in Western countries. My friends in the USA will find this particularly timely.

Seeing we’re here, I’ll add a couple of other useful links:
* Snopes debunks the myth that “Muslims will take over Europe by 20XX”.
* How many Muslims have condemned terrorism? A lot. Take a look at this list.

I wanna be honest: I don’t find Islam attractive or compelling as a religion. However, I do believe we can work together and live together in peace if we will actually listen to each other. Please share this post with those who need to hear this message.

Finally, here’s a useful video from Time Magazine about the current controversy over a Muslim center in New York. Can you see that these are ordinary, well-educated American people? Check out Somewhere, Over The Rainbow.

Also see International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day.

Respond

? What do you think?

Please share this article:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Posted in Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »