Catholic Muslims: The Pope and the Qur’an

Catholic Muslims: The Pope and the Qur’an

Pope Francis released an encyclical today discussing the environment and humanity’s responsibility to be good shepherds of it. Quoth Rod Dreher:

What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future. [Emphasis is Dreher’s]

110307-F-PO994-001There are of course many, many similarities between the religions of the world. One of the most striking, to me, is the Catholic doctrine that, “Man is not saved by faith alone. Faith must be combined with good works.”

This is also a central tenet in Islam. There are stories of the early sahabah (companions of the Prophet), who, during Ramadan, would want to stay at the mosque all day and night praying, such was the fervor and zealousness of their faith. But Prophet Muhammad admonished them to get out of the mosque, to attend to their families and businesses and lives. Not to just sit around and be all religiony. Read more about Catholic Muslims: The Pope and the Qur’an

Muslim or Black in America

Muslim or Black in America

I think, if there’s one thing I will like about President Obama’s term coming to an end, it is that perhaps the extreme right-wing of this country will go back to their classic culture wars tropes – wars on the poor, black people and a little misogyny thrown in for good measure. Actually a lot of misogyny if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. (Yes, the Left has its own classics so shut up).

Eight years of people screaming about creeping shari’a law. Eight years of the President supposedly being a Muslim and facilitating the rise of militant Islam in the USA. Eight years of not understanding what the hell the President Obama’s speech in Cairo meant. Eight years of people posting stupid bullshit taking the President’s tolerance completely out of context while throwing their hands up in the air saying, “No really I don’t hate Muslims!”

Did you hear that [insert geographic location] was bombed the other day? Whodunit? Too late – almost every single Muslim in the USA already thought, “oh please let it not be a Muslim!” How relieved I was when the Oklahoma City bombing was found to be done by a non-Muslim. Praise Jeebus!

But I was struck tonight, after reading another half-assed attempt to tar and feather Islam and President Obama, that this ain’t shit compared to what blacks in this country have and continue to endure. Read more about Muslim or Black in America

Prophet human

Prophet human

Or… God Uppercase

Removing the Middleman Vol 1I just started reading Rashed Hasan’s new treatise, Removing the Middleman: Deciphering Faith Without Ritual. The book is intended to be an examination of accepting faith without being bound to ritual. Just in the foreword, he makes an assertion which I think is worth contemplating and with which I think many Muslims fail to engage:

It is important to note that some Muslims who lack knowledge or proper understanding of the essence of God or prophethood tend to elevate Prophet Muhammad to some level of divinity while vehemently opposing any notion of divinity to Prophet Jesus, who is showered with divine attributes by his followers.

I could not agree more. I was once told by an unkel that Prophet Muhammad could not make mistakes. When I asked him how this was not making equals with Allah, he replied that that the Prophet was an exception. A friend once told me that he saw no reason to even recognize the birth of Prophet Isa (Jesus) because, “we have our own Prophet”. This despite the fact that the Qur’an even recognizes the significance of the Virgin Birth, though our story of Prophet Isa’s life is vastly different. Read more about Prophet human

American(ized) #Islam

American(ized) #Islam

Culture and religion, no matter how universal we may want to view the latter’s principles, are inexorably tied. Islam strives to be a religion sans culture, stressing its universality. Due to its founding in the Arabian peninsula, it makes sense that Islamic practice is fundamentally mixed up with tied to the cultures of the Arab world.

But that has not prevented the religion from being adopted in unique ways by non-Arab Muslims around the world. In fact, less than 20% of the world’s Muslims hail from the Middle East. Nigerian Islam and Bangladeshi Islam may share the same underlying principles but their expressions will be different because culture cannot be subsumed under religion.

Region Population Percent of total regional population Percent of world Muslim population
South & Southeast Asia 1,005,507,000 24.8 62.1
Middle East-North Africa 321,869,000 91.2 19.9
Sub-Saharan Africa 242,544,000 29.6 15
Europe 44,138,000 6 2.7
Americas 5,256,000 0.6 0.3
World Total 1,619,314,000 23.4 100

(Source: Wikipedia – Islam by Country/Region)

It stands to reason that American Islam should also have its own character. I’ve written before about the need to find a new way to educate Muslims, that is not so reductive. Richard Mouw, writing in First Things, touches upon a separate complaint that others have brought up:

I read recently that some young Muslims in the United States are complaining that what goes on in their mosques is not “American” enough. They say that the patterns of worship and religious education seem designed to preserve the connections to the countries from which their Muslim communities emigrated, while these young folks want their faith to guide them in their lives in America. Shouldn’t their leaders be doing more, they ask, to help them understand how their faith applies to the country of which they are now citizens?

(H/T as always to Rod Dreher for linking to Mouw’s article). Read more about American(ized) #Islam

From Prayer to Fasting to Kickoff to Happy Hour

From Prayer to Fasting to Kickoff to Happy Hour

This morning, I performed wu’du (ritual cleansing before prayer) for the first time in years. I don’t like wu’du much, it’s a little too messy. I’d prefer to wash my hands and face and just pray. No my feet aren’t caked in mud either. I can’t imagine that not giving myself over to the minutiae of wu’du will cause my prayers not to be accepted by God. Still, it didn’t seem all that bad after all these years.

Prayer, salat, namaaz, comes and goes for me. I fast during Ramadan. I give to charity. And I try not to sin (too much). I regard prayer as a way to calm the mind but it’s damn near impossible to hear the Creator talking back to me. So I keep trying. From time to time.

After finishing Fajr (morning) prayer, I opened up my email to find a link to an article titled, Practicing Islam in Shorts by Thanaa El-Naggar. It’s a really great article and well describes how I grew up. My parents always said they wanted to give us the tools to accept Islam on our own terms. What we did with it as adults was our business. “La-ikraaha fid’deen” – “Let there be no compulsion in religion”.


So as children, my sisters and I went to Islamic Sunday School and boy, did I hate it. Mostly because I was picked on for the being the youngest and quietest in my class. I had long sideburns. Kids can be cruel. I really enjoyed the history portions of class but I stunk out loud at reading Arabic. But mostly, as Naggar points out, I just hated the minutiae.

My Islamic studies teachers taught me how to how to obsess about the mundane—about all the things I’m doing incorrectly and therefore my prayers will not be accepted. They taught me guilt. They taught me fear. They taught me that being a good Muslim is difficult.

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The Moral Therapeutic Deism of ISIS

The Moral Therapeutic Deism of ISIS

Rod Dreher, in a characteristically brilliant post entitled When ISIS Ran the American South, reminds us that no society is too far removed, historically-speaking, from the brutality inflicted by the likes of ISIS.  There is a time within recorded memory, not ancient history, when Americans did unspeakable things to each other and made a religion out of their actions. Lest we forget, lest we start to navel gaze too much.

ISIS filmed that poor Jordanian pilot burning to death as an act of revenge and terror. We call those Islamist fanatics animals. But white people did this often, and sometimes even made a public spectacle of it. “The white men, women, and children present watched the horrific murders while enjoying deviled eggs, lemonade, and whiskey in a picnic-like atmosphere.”

By Fred Gildersleeve (1881-1958) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The whole post and the comments section are well worthy of your time. Of particular import is this comment:

I had to understand how all of this happened. How could Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians in the South NOT have put a stop to this when they had the social and cultural power to do so? Why did Southern Evangelicals become chaplains to the racist South? So, I investigated it and wrote a book about it. I had to get answers. What I ultimately found is that their main concern, initially, was that they protect their own way of life and their own prosperity. Racism was a way to do that for Southern whites and religion became useful when it was seen as was a way to give their impulse sanction. But, we still do this today. We still remake God in our own image and see Him as a means to an end – our own end of blessing our life. That is what Southern Christians (and non-Christians did – but you know like I do that everyone thought they were a Christian, or claimed to be. Almost everyone, anyway). They were the original Moralistic Therapeutic Deists. They devised a religion that worked for them and supported them in the construction of the society that they wanted. It was a mess. [emphasis mine]

It occurs to me that this is the very thing which ISIS is doing. Not simply that they are using my religion, but that they are constructing their very own religion. Years ago, while traveling through Morocco, I watched a BBC Asia interview of a Malaysian Islamic terrorist who was serving a long prison sentence. The interviewer held up a Qur’an and asked the man to point out what passage he used to justify his violent views. The terrorist declared that his justification lay not in the Qur’an. But that he and his ilk were following the teachings and orders of Osama Bin Laden and other ‘leaders’ who had called for violent jihad. It’s worth repeating the comment from above:

They devised a religion that worked for them and supported them in the construction of the society that they wanted. It was a mess.

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Satire, Charlie Hebdo and the Mindset of (some) Muslims

Satire, Charlie Hebdo and the Mindset of (some) Muslims

ou… la liberté d’expression est non négociable.

The offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper which has attracted controversy for lampooning Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, were attacked today, resulting in the deaths of 12 people and injuries to 3 others. From the New York Times:

Among the dead were four prominent cartoonists who have repeatedly lampooned Islamic terrorists and the prophet Muhammad, leading to speculation that the attack was the work of Islamic militants acting alone or in concert with extremist groups. A police guard assigned to protect the newspaper was among the first victims. A second police officer, who responded to reports of the shooting, was killed on the sidewalk outside the offices by the fleeing suspects, the Paris police said. The shooting of the second police officer was captured in a widely-seen video.

Speech has consequences. Sometimes it can get you in hot water with your bosses or friends and family. It can get you fired. Freedom of speech does not constitute freedom from criticism. If you say something stupid, you may deserve to be called out on it. If you say something offensive, you may deserve to be criticized. Criticized. Not to be murdered or even have your life threatened.

I care not for those who will point out the crimes of the West against the Middle East. As if that is justification for this barbarism. Firstly, the offenders-in-chief at Charlie Hebdo are just writers. Their weapons are words, not bombs. Words must be met with words. Not violence.


Secondly, I would venture to say that no one gets to throw stones because all of our houses are made of glass. I would wager that those self-styled jihadis have also laughed at jokes about Christianity, Judaism, Christ, Moses or the Dark Lord Cthulhu.

We make fun of everything – religion, sexuality, sports, gender, etc. We laugh, we get offended and then we go home to bed. Read more about Satire, Charlie Hebdo and the Mindset of (some) Muslims

Tribal Solutions to Ben Affleck’s Dust-Up with Bill Maher over Islam

Tribal Solutions to Ben Affleck’s Dust-Up with Bill Maher over Islam

Or… Infidels Have No Place at the Table

By now you’ve probably heard of or seen the clip of Ben Affleck angrily defending Islam against the invectives of Bill Maher and Sam Harris. Here’s the clip in case you missed it:

Did you watch it? I confess that I haven’t watched it, nor am I likely to do so because I can already tell it’s just… too much. I generally enjoy the rantings of my fellow Irishman Bill Maher on sundry topics but I have to hit mute any time he starts railing on Islam. I’ve watched Bill for years and he has consistently blanketed all Muslims with the same characterizations. That there may even be a portion of the population pushing back or that there may need to be more nuance than a single characterization of one billion people’s faith doesn’t pass muster with him.

Harris penned a defense of his appearance on his blog. It’s definitely worth a read. A couple excerpts of note:

Kristof made the point that there are brave Muslims who are risking their lives to condemn “extremism” in the Muslim community. Of course there are, and I celebrate these people too. But he seemed completely unaware that he was making my point for me—the point being, of course, that these people are now risking their lives by advocating for basic human rights in the Muslim world.

After the show, Kristof, Affleck, Maher, and I continued our discussion. At one point, Kristof reiterated the claim that Maher and I had failed to acknowledge the existence of all the good Muslims who condemn ISIS, citing the popular hashtag #NotInOurName. In response, I said: “Yes, I agree that all condemnation of ISIS is good. But what do you think would happen if we had burned a copy of the Koran on tonight’s show? There would be riots in scores of countries. Embassies would fall. In response to our mistreating a book, millions of Muslims would take to the streets, and we would spend the rest of our lives fending off credible threats of murder. But when ISIS crucifies people, buries children alive, and rapes and tortures women by the thousands—all in the name of Islam—the response is a few small demonstrations in Europe and a hashtag.”

Harris is right, of course, that there are dangerous people and interpretations of Islam that must be dealt with. I think he underestimates the degree to which ‘other’ Muslims cry out over atrocities committed in our religion’s name, in no small part because it’s not as sexy to cover on CNN or Fox News.

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Karma’s Not a Bitch, Your Dogmas Are…

Karma’s Not a Bitch, Your Dogmas Are…

Every once in a while, I like to put on Chris Rock’s comedy special Bigger & Blacker. If you haven’t seen it, do so. Rock talks about the breakdown of the family, the battle of the sexes, political scandals, gays, racism, healthcare, insurance, school violence, gun control, sex, etc. It’s a comedy special so you take it with a grain of salt but even though some of the references are old, the overall themes are still relevant.

The special was on Comedy Central last night and here’s a great quote from it:

It don’t make no sense to be a racist, sexist, or nothing, but…. it don’t. It doesn’t. It don’t make no sense ’cause whoever you hate will end up in your family.

That’s right, you don’t like gays, you’re gonna have a gay son.

You don’t like Puerto Ricans? Your daughter’s gonna come home with ”Livin’ la vida loca!”


The more dogmatic the person, the bigger the fall. No where does it come more into focus than in family life. In addition to the examples cited, I’d add religion or ethnicity to the mix.

Read more about Karma’s Not a Bitch, Your Dogmas Are…