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City of Brass

City of Brass

Bomb blast in Karachi targets Dawoodi Bohra community

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
People inspect the blast site in Aram Bagh area of Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

People inspect the blast site in Aram Bagh area of Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

This happens almost every day in Pakistan – fanatic hirabists commit arrogant blasphemy and murder fellow Muslims in cold blood. This time, the target was my own community, the Dawoodi Bohras.

KARACHI: Two people were killed in an explosion that took place after Friday prayers outside the Saleh Mosque for Bohra community worshippers.

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Deputy Inspector General (DIG) police Abdul Khaliq Shaikh confirmed that one person died in the blast that took place in the precincts of Arambagh. He added that four people were injured, of which two are in critical condition.

Saif-ud-Din, a witness, said people were coming out of the mosque after Friday prayers when there was a huge blast and many people fell on the ground.

“I was inside the mosque when the bomb exploded and I saw people falling to the ground,” Din told AFP.

Umer Khatab, a senior officer at the police Counter Terrorism Department, told reporters that about two kilogrammes (4.4 pounds) of explosives were used in the bomb, which was detonated with a timer.

“The bomb was planted to target the people coming out of the mosque,” Khatab said.

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I have only anger and sadness, no words. This isn’t the first time – for Bohras or any other Muslim group living under the shadow of the Dark Caliphate.

UPDATE:

UPDATE: Even worse carnage in Sana’a, Yemen – again, targets are Muslims during Friday prayer.

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Proof denies faith

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

On Reddit, someone posted the following question: “What convinces you that the Quran is the literal Word of God?” I think this is precisely the wrong question.

The book/movie Life of Pi directly and elegantly addresses this question. In the end – no spoilers – there are two versions of events that the main character tells the authorities. One is beautiful and uplifting, and melancholy in some ways, but ultimately affirming and magical. The other is brutal, savage and harsh. But both stories explain the events equally well. The beauty of Life of Pi is that it simply asks you – which story would you rather believe? Not, which one is there more evidence for. Because despite the assertions to the contrary of disbelievers, the world isn’t defined by what we can prove.

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The great lie of the Enlightenment was that human reason and rationality is sufficient to describe the Universe in full. I am a scientist, remember – I literally rely on Reason every day. But I have no illusions that the scope of Reason’s objectivity is truly universal. Reason is fundamentally limited – and the mathematician Godel proved that limit mathematically. Godel used logic itself to irrefutably demonstrate that provability is a weaker notion than truth, no matter what axiom system is involved.

The video game characters on the screen, or the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave – it’s all the same.

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So, the right question isn’t, what proves that the Qur’an isn’t the word of God – it’s, what would possibly be better about the universe in which it isn’t, that would compel me to stop believing it is? All things being equal – and they are, because absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence – I choose what is beautiful over what is ugly, what is magical and uplifting over what is brutal and degrading.

This is the fundamental and critical distinction between religion and science – in the former, the first step has to be one of belief. At some point, you have to choose to take the leap.

Ironically, one of the premier atheists, Douglas Adams, knew that very well – which made him far more intellectually honest than modern atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens. Adams wrote that proof denies faith – so if one were to prove the existence of God, one might arguably be disproving his existence at the same time. Any God that can be proved, is not one worth believing in.

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As an irrelevant aside, the name Richard Parker (name of the Tiger in Life of Pi) has a very strange history, in fiction and in real-life, with shipwrecks, and survival, at all costs. If ever I get a chance to ask Yann Martel a question, I’m asking him if he knew. I already had my chance to ask Douglas Adams a question :)

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Proud to be American, proud to be Muslim

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This is a guest post by Safiya Dahodwala.

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS graced the land of America for the first time as the 53rd Dai (spiritual leader) of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. It has been nearly a decade since his predecessor, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin bestowed his bountiful blessings upon the Bohra community in America.

Syedna presided over a momentous reception, during which several dignitaries welcomed His Holiness to Los Angeles. A representative from the office of Rep Brad Sherman presented Moula with an American flag that had once flown over the capitol. I was watching Moula from a balcony afar, and saw the flag about to be presented to Moula. I turned my head for a split second, only to see when I looked back that Moula had so swiftly stood up out of his chair, and in a half bow of respect, accepted the flag and shook the dignitary’s hand. The flag was then opened, and Moulana held the American flag wide open for all of us to see. What a sight indeed! I’ve never felt more proud to be an American Dawoodi Bohra than when, on his fist visit to America as Dai, Moulana held up our flag, an emblem of our nationality. 

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I was reminded of both Moula’s bayaan, and the hadeeth of Rasulallah, who state that it is imperative to support the land in which you reside. The grace with which Moula received the dignitaries that come to welcome His Holiness on Friday speaks to his humility and deep respect for all people. Moulana concluded Friday’s event with a recital of the Star Spangled Banner, another nod to His reverence for the USA, its leaders, and the citizens of this nation.

Safiya Dahodwala, from Illinois, is a senior at George Washington university in Washington, DC majoring in International Affairs and Geography. She is looking forward to a career in natural hazard and disaster management after she graduates in May.

Related: Islamic world leader inaugurates Woodland Hills mosque

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is ISIS Islamic? Wrong question.

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

There is an excellent longform essay on ISIS published in The Atlantic, “What does ISIS Really Want?” that lays out an excellent case fore ISIS being genuinely different in ideology, motivation and ethos than Al Qaeda. The real question boils down to, is ISIS “Islamic” or not – and makes an excellent case for why the answer to that question is essentially, “Yes” – but also, equally important, explains why that question is the wrong question. The right question is, how do we use ISIS’s claim to Islam against it?

Read the entire article. It will take 5 minutes, and is probably the best article on ISIS that has yet to be written (though the article in American Conservative, “When ISIS Ran the American South“, is a close second, even though technically it has nothing to do with ISIS, still essential reading).

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Note, I certainly have issues with some of the assumptions and assertions. For one thing, the piece asserts that ISIS is an authentic vision of the Prophet’s time, but that is just ISIS’s interpretation of the Prophet, one they share with the Islamophobia industry (also known as Fear Inc). An interpretation is just that, an interpretation – but it bears mentioning that the entirety of Islamic scholarship in the world, representing nearly every major school of jurisprudence, has come together to write a detailed rebuttal to ISIS’s theological and historical assertions in a public Open Letter that is also essential reading as a companion piece. (Sorry for all the homework.)

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What does ISIS’s existence tell us about Islam? Rather than engage in lazy takfirism (which even President Obama fell prey to), I like to quote The Poet:

“I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.”

This is true of all great religions as well as men and women. Christianity is not defined by Nazism or the KKK (ahem – did you read that article yet?) or Buddhism by Mao or atheism by Stalin.

It is true that the Islamic State is Islamic. But that does not get to constrain the definition of Islam, the meaning of Islam. They are Islam, we are Islam. We are not in denial, we perform our ijtihad as do they – THAT is Islam.

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We should refuse to debate Islam with ISIS. We should use Islam instead: “if one man calls his brother an apostate, one of them is right” and “lakum Deen nakum walaya deen”. We should say, to you be your way, to me mine” and we should use the imagery of muslims being killed by ISIS the way ISIS uses imagery of muslims being killed by everyone else (we’ll come out ahead in righteousness on that score).

We should utterly ignore, disown any contact or engagement with, and completely refuse to even acknowledge exist, Islamophobes. We should define islamophobia as “believing Islam is like ISIS only, which is as stupid as believing Christianity is like Nazism or Buddhism like Maoism” and leave it at that. Kneebiters, all of them, and they feed on our misplaced outrage.

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We should never engage the question of who is muslim, what is unislamic. Instead we should say, ISIS makes things clear for muslims. They give us a clean, clear choice. And in so doing they delegitimize the wing of Islamic thought that may have had some legitimate depth and insight, but caused more trouble than it was worth – as the screaming outrage of the Zarqawis proves. They have done mainstream Islam a tremendous favor, and we should be merciless in exploiting it.

Overwhelmingly, muslims around the world reject ISIS, they reject ISIS’ flavor of Islam, they choose the 21st century over the 7th, they choose the Prophet’s message of love and the Hadith and the schools of jurisprudence and centuries of wisdom and thought, over an illusion that we are somehow still a ragged and persecuted minority at the edge.

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‎ISIS only attracts the angry, the psychotic, the fringe, to its banner. They are a nation of mentally ill egotistic misfits and psychopaths ruling over poverty and PTSD-stricken warzone refugees. The only way ISIS could arise, like Nazism, was in the desolate aftermath of an idiotic and unnecessary war of choice. ISIS and Nazism required a political and moral vacuum in which to arise, and the way to prevent similar deranged extremist ideologies from arising again is to learn from the mistakes of 1919 and 2003.

And the way we defeat ISIS today is for muslims to stop saying ISIS isn’t Islam, but to say, we choose our Islam over theirs. We need to say, ISIS says we aren’t muslim, but we don’t care what ISIS says. And we don’t care if ISIS is Islamic or not – they want to kill us. Please kill them first.

Previous Posts

Bomb blast in Karachi targets Dawoodi Bohra community
This happens almost every day in Pakistan - fanatic hirabists commit arrogant blasphemy and murder fellow Muslims in cold blood. This time, the target wa

posted 8:22:26am Mar. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Proof denies faith
On Reddit, someone posted the following question: "What convinces you that the Quran is the literal Word of God?" I think this is precisely the wrong question. The book/movie Life of Pi directly

posted 9:33:46am Mar. 13, 2015 | read full post »

Proud to be American, proud to be Muslim
This is a guest post by Safiya Dahodwala. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS graced the land of America for the first time as the 53rd Dai (spiritual leader) of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. It has been nearly a decade since his predecessor, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin bestowed his bountiful bl

posted 12:58:00pm Mar. 05, 2015 | read full post »

is ISIS Islamic? Wrong question.
There is an excellent longform essay on ISIS published in The Atlantic, "What does ISIS Really Want?" that lays out an excellent case fore ISIS being genuinely different in ideology, motivation and ethos than Al Qaeda. The real question boils down to, is ISIS "Islamic" or not - and makes an excellen

posted 11:34:08pm Feb. 17, 2015 | read full post »

The Price of Extremism
This is a guest post by Durriya Badani. The execution style murder of three young North Carolina students, two of whom were hijab wearing Muslim women, raises questions regarding the rise of Islamaphobia in the United States in the form of hate crimes. Some will argue that the motive for the inc

posted 11:26:53am Feb. 12, 2015 | read full post »

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