Happy New Year

Happy new year, everyone.

Hope next year is better than this one.

See you in 2005.

Nerd Quotient

I am nerdier than 84% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Via Asma Mirza.

Tsunami Tragedy

The death of more than 50,000 people due to the tsunamis caused by a 9.0 earthquake is beyond words. All I can say is that we should all help as much as we can in the relief efforts. Here are some charities:

The Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog has links to more relief efforts.

The death toll has been increasing and disease is a real danger as well.

One of the world’s largest relief efforts is under way to help the millions of victims of the Asia quake, which killed more than 50,000 people.

International disaster assessment teams have fanned out to the affected countries and local agencies are distributing emergency aid.

The UN says it faces an unprecedented challenge in co-ordinating distribution of aid to some 10 nations at one time.

A huge undersea quake triggered sea surges, leaving millions homeless.

The disaster zone is now threatened with outbreaks of disease, which the UN health agency has warned could double the death toll.

Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand were among the worst hit by Sunday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which sent huge waves from Malaysia to Africa.

[…] “The first wave of destruction has caused tens of thousands of deaths, but the second wave of misery is really caused now by the water and sanitation systems.”

In Geneva, World Health Organisation (WHO) expert David Nabarro told reporters “there is certainly a chance that we could have as many dying from communicable diseases as from the tsunami”.

In Sri Lanka alone, more than one million people are displaced and aid workers are under pressure to ensure they have clean water and sanitation to prevent an outbreak of disease.

There have been deaths as far away as Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia.

Award Season

The holiday season has brought the weblog award season upon us as well. First came the 2004 Weblog Awards by Wizbang. I somehow got nominated for the Best Asian Blog contest there and ended up with 0.9% of the vote.

The voting for the Asia Blog Awards 2004 is taking place nowadays. This blog was voted the Best Pakistan Blog in these awards last year. This year, I recommend Chapati Mystery as the best Pakistan blog.

The Koufax awards, which are for the left half (politically, that is) of the blogosphere, closed nominations a couple of days ago and will begin voting soon.

And now, City of Brass and Alt.Muslim have started the Annual Brass Crescent Awards for the Islamic Blogosphere.

The Brass Crescent Awards are named for the Story of the City of Brass in the Thousand and One Nights. Today, the Islamsphere is forging a new synthesis of Islam and modernity, and is the intellectual heir to the traditions of philosophy and learning that was once the hallmark of Islamic civilization – a heritage scarcely recognizable today in the Islamic world after a century’s ravages of colonialism, tyrants, and religious fundamentalism. We believe that Islam transcends history, and we are forging history anew for tomorrow’s Islam. These awards are a means to honor ourselves and celebrate our nascent community, and promote its growth.

The Awards are loosely modeled after the successful Koufax Awards and consist of two phases:

First, bloggers and blog-readers are asked to submit nominations for each of the categories listed below. Both Muslims and non-Muslims may participate in the nominations process. Nominations can be done in the official nomination thread at AltMuslim or City of Brass, or via private email. Self-nominations are encouraged! (AltMuslim.com and City of Brass may not be nominated for any category)

After the nominations period has concluded, we will go through and post a list of nominees, along with brief descriptions of the blog and why they were nominated. This will serve as a snapshot that we hope will serve as a benchmark to track the growth of the Islamsphere over time. Please help us with this by leaving descriptive comments along with the nominations!

Second, based on the number of nominations each blog receives for each category, we will select 8-10 finalists for each category. Voting will then take place for winner in each category. The blog with second-highest vote count in each category will be granted honorable mention status.

The nomination thread is here:
First Annual Brass Crescent Nominations

Remember that Islamsphere does not mean “Muslims Only.”

In defining the Islamsphere, we are not relying solely on adherence to the faith, but an affinity for parts of the diverse cultural fabric that Islam embraces and is embraced by worldwide.

So go and nominate your favorite blogs and posts here.

I’ll update this post later with my nominations as it is late now and I am tired.

UPDATE: Here are some of my nominations:

More to follow.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Civil Liberties, Republicans and TV News

There is an interesting public opinion survey out from Cornell.

In a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should — in some way — curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans, according to a new survey released today (Dec. 17) by Cornell University.

[…] The Media and Society Research Group, in Cornell’s Department of Communication, commissioned the poll, which was supervised by the Survey Research Institute, in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The results were based on 715 completed telephone interviews of respondents across the United States, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

The survey also examined the relation of religiosity to perceptions of Islam and Islamic countries among Christian respondents. Sixty-five percent of self-described highly religious people queried said they view Islam as encouraging violence more than other religions do; in comparison, 42 percent of the respondents who said they were not highly religious saw Islam as encouraging violence. In addition, highly religious respondents also were more likely to describe Islamic countries as violent (64 percent), fanatical (61 percent) and dangerous (64 percent). Fewer of the respondents who said they were not highly religious described Islamic countries as violent (49 percent), fanatical (46 percent) and dangerous (44 percent). But 80 percent of all respondents said they see Islamic countries as being oppressive toward women.

[…] “Our results highlight the need for continued dialogue about issues of civil liberties in time of war,” says James Shanahan, Cornell associate professor of communication and a principal investigator in the study. Shanahan and Erik Nisbet, senior research associate with the ILR Survey Research Institute, commissioned the study, and Ron Ostman, professor of communication, and his students administered it.

And what do you know, Erik Nisbet has a weblog.

The results are reported in two parts:

I’ll focus on the issue of civil liberties for American Muslims.

Statement Agree
All Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts with the federal government. 27%
Mosques should be closely monitored and surveilled by U.S. law enforcement agencies. 26%
U.S. government agencies should profile citizens as potential threats based on being Muslim or having Middle Eastern heritage. 22%
Muslim civic and volunteer organizations should be infiltrated by undercover law enforcement agents to keep watch on their activities and fundraising. 29%
Agreed with none of the statements 48%
Agreed with one statement 15%
Agreed with two or more statements 29%

While all of these statements are problematic with respect to civil liberties, the monitoring of mosques and organizations could be useful if limited to specific suspicious cases (as Volokh Conspiracy point out.) Profiling might wrong but is an American institution with a history older than the United States itself. The most egregious one then is the requirement for registering every Muslim in the US. Please note that the statement addresses US citizens specifically.

So who are these 27% who want me to register with the government? According to the survey, 40% of the Republicans, 17% of independents and 24% of Democrats want to require Muslim registration. Does this support depend on how personally afraid of terrorism the survey respondents are? Yes, 24% of those with “low fear” and 37% of those with “high fear” want this restriction. Oh and religion seems to make one more of an asshole in this case. Support for registration increases from 15% (low level of religiosity) to 30% (moderate level) to 42% (high level). However, I am not sure how much of this is an artifact of party identity with Republicans being more likely to be more religious and asshole-ish.

Another interesting thing in the survey is the effect of TV news on the opinions of people. Those with low or moderate levels of religiosity don’t show much variation in their support of Muslim registration based on how much attention they give to the TV news. However, highly religious people are affected a lot by the idiot box with only 26% of those who pay low attention to TV news supporting registration as compared to 56% of those whose attention to TV news is classified as high.

None of this is really surprising. It is easy to give up civil rights when those rights belong to the other rather than you. I also remember a Gallup poll from October 2001 in which 49% wanted Arab Americans to carry a special ID and I posted about the effect of media on misperceptions about the Iraq war.

I don’t think that a general measure like registration of all American Muslims or internment like that of Japanese-Americans in World War II is likely to happen. I also don’t think that the US is becoming fascist. But fascist baby steps can happen in a democracy and one of the important battlegrounds is public opinion as Unqualified Offerings points out.

Given the protorture credentials of the Bush administration and the anti-civil-liberties stance of a lot of Republican voters, I don’t understand how any intelligent, reasonable person could have voted for George Bush last month. May be some Bush voter can enlighten me?

And I love the title The Poor Man gave to his post on this topic.

Atlantan Not!

I thought I lived in Atlanta, but it turns out I do not. I was under the impression that this area of DeKalb county was part of the city of Atlanta. But according to this map of Atlanta neighborhoods, I am outside the municipal boundaries of Atlanta. The Census Bureau lists the “Place” we live in as North Druid Hills CDP instead of “Atlanta city.” Our mailing address obviously says Atlanta.

This is no big deal but it is embarrassing. While we moved to this neighborhood last month, I have lived in Atlanta for many years now. In fact, I have lived longer in Atlanta than any other place except my birthplace Wah Cantt.

The question is whether my neighborhood would be classified as suburban.

Ads and Donations

I had three donation links on the sidebar of the main weblog page. Amazon Honor was never used and hence has been removed. The Paypal button fared a little better but with the last donation 8 months ago, I have decided to remove the Paypal button as well. The only donation link now is for donating money directly to Dreamhost for my webhosting bill.

I also installed Google text ads on the individual entry pages as well as the main page a few months ago. The result has been a trickle of money, not much but still useful for the webhosting bill. However, the ads on the main page haven’t even netted $1. Therefore, I have removed the ads on the main page.

I link to books I read in the sidebar as well as review some of those books in individual posts. All the Amazon links for these books are part of the Amazon Associates program which means that I get a small referral fee if you follow the link and buy that book. There is no cost to you, so I suggest if you get interested in a book you see here, please do follow the link to buy it.

I have not accumulated enough fees through this program to be paid by Amazon yet, but I am going to keep using it. In fact, I have expanded my use of the Amazon Associates program with the new sideblog showing the movies I have watched recently or am thinking of watching. The movie sideblog links to the DVD version as our chances of going to the theater in the near future are nil.

The sideblogs list the books and movies but their reviews have been in posts on the blog. I have modified the sideblogs such that there is a link to my review post with each movie or book. I hope that feature would prove useful to some readers.

Muslim Tolerance and Kafirs

Yasmine of Rambling Monologues has a moving post about the intolerance displayed by some Muslims. You should read her whole post, but here is the conclusion.

I write this because I hate the word “kaffir,” and I hate how it comes so easily to some Muslims even as it makes me flinch, and I hate that we contemptuously turn away the very same people we accuse of not understanding us, without giving them a fair chance to know who we are, without granting them credit for making the beautiful effort of shared human spirit and outreach that we ourselves as Muslims rarely make a point of with other communities. Who the hell are we to be critical then, when we accuse others of stereotyping us and disliking us and being ignorant of who we are, of the vastness of our humanity and traditions, and of what Islam in its pure beauty truly stands for? And I guess what I’m really just trying to figure out is –

When did we ourselves become so damn self-righteous and judgmental?

I agree with Yasmine about the (ab)use of the word “Kaffir.”

And here are some suggestions to fellow Muslims (and others):

  • Do not call anyone “Kafir.”
  • Do not call anyone atheist or non-Muslim just because they don’t agree with your opinion on evolution.
  • Respect others’ faith.
  • Do not try to debate Islam’s “superiority” over someone’s religion.
  • Treat Pakistani Christians/Hindus (or other minorities) with respect (replace your own country and minority here).
  • Don’t be quick to judge anyone, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, atheist, or of some other religion.
  • Socialize with a diverse set of people with different backgrounds and religious beliefs. Don’t be proud of your habit of staying within your own religious circle.
  • Don’t caricaturize other religions.
  • If you criticize the Bible using textual analysis, be prepared to use (or at least let others use) similar tools for the Quran.

Any more suggestions?

Muslims, Misogyny and Parenting

It is an unfortunate fact today that the Muslim community, barring some exceptions, is misogynist. There are lots of individual Muslims who are against gender discrimination, but collectively we still have a long way to go.

As a man, I am not directly affected by such issues and I haven’t done much to change things for the better (other than may be posting about it on this blog and talking to Muslims I know about it). However, now I am the parent of a cute little girl. Hence, I’ll be confronted with this problem soon. In fact, I have encountered some mild versions even now. For example, a number of people wished or prayed for us to have a baby boy. I always had a big argument with them. I would have been equally happy with either a boy or a girl, but my heart desired a girl. Then, there are the comments about Muslim girls having it tough in this American society (as if Muslim boys are free to do whatever). Also, someone mentioned that it is a good idea to send a girl to an Islamic school since she’ll learn Islam and get into the habit of wearing hijab there. I don’t see Muslim parents as much concerned about the dress of their sons.

Discussing these thoughts of mine with Amber, it was interesting for us to discover that we were not alone. Maryam of A Dervish’s Dua has similar concerns.

while I am willing for myself to ‘deal with’ aspects of patriarchy in Muslim community life (negotiate space), I do not want that for my daughter. I do not want to raise her believing that Islam teaches she is a second class citizen.

Let me get this straight off the bat. I strongly believe that at its core Islam is an egalitarian faith which views man and woman as complimentary partners and that each person has the same fundamental duty to respond to God’s will regardless of their gender. I believe that Islam teaches that all human beings are equal and can only be distinguished by piety.

However, I also recognise that Islam has been culturally manifested in very patriarchal fashions and that these manifestations claim to be representing “true” Islam. Islamic law in particular has often codified patriarchal readings of Islam into a canon of orthodoxy that is difficult to question without challenging some fundamental ideas of who gets to speak authoritatively “for” Islam.

I think that the Qur’an and the Prophet, God love him, recognised the limitations of the societal structures of the period into which the Muhammadan expression of Islam first dawned (including notions of masculinity and femininity) but as Farid Esack has written elsewhere. But I also believe there is an underlying ethic of equity which transcends —- is more real —- than the cultural clothing which Islam wears at any one time period.

Therefore I remain a Muslim trying to seek out those egalitarian readings wherever I may find them. But now that I have had a baby – and a baby girl at that – I want more for my daughter than what is currently on offer in the Muslim community. I want her to be valued and cherished as a human being, not relegated to second class because she is female. I want her to play a vital and active role in her faith community, not stand on the side-lines as a marginalised spectator. I want her to have access to all the resources, facilities, opportunities that a brother might have. I want her to have a voice that is equal to any Muslim man who is her peer in knowledge, wisdom and piety.

Will I be able to give that to her? At the moment I think not and so I am starting to flirt with the idea of leaving the ummah so that my daughter might have more than I can give her from within it. It is not an easy decision, as one of the most fundamental ideas in Islam is the communion in community.

I know that I will not leave Islam, for my soul belongs to Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. The Prophet Muhammad, God love him, will always be my Prophet. But the Muslim community, I am sensing, is a dangerous place to be for a sensitive soul. I want to protect my daughter’s fledgling wings, until she is strong enough to fly in the face of patriarchy. I have tried and worry that I may not be, and in failing then I fail my daughter. I so long for community, and I have good and close friends who are Muslims who I cherish. But I am starting to think that I have no place in the institutionalised religious community.

We are thinking along the same lines as Maryam. While we will still socialize with some Muslim friends, we plan stay away from the local conservative Muslim community (for example, my college MSA). Also, we have no plans of sending Michelle either to an Islamic school or to the Sunday lessons at the mosque.

RELATED: A new group weblog focusing on Islam and women.