City of Brass

City of Brass

I, Pilgrim

If you’ve wondered why I’ve been even more distracted of late, it is in preparation for the most important trip I’ve ever made in my life:


“Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): 

Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). 


And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; 

“That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. 

Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House.
Such (is the Pilgrimage): whoever honours the sacred rites of Allah, for him it is good in the Sight of his Lord. Lawful to you (for food in Pilgrimage) are cattle, except those mentioned to you (as exception): but shun the abomination of idols, and shun the word that is false.”


(Surat al-Hajj, 22:26-30)

I will be keeping an (old-fashioned, pen and paper) journal for the trip, but in the unlikely event I do get (or even want) internet access I will try to post brief updates while in Mecca and Medina. I also will have a retrospective when I return. 
In the interim, don’t forget that nominations have ended and the final voting phase has begun for the Brass Crescent Awards!
(photo © Taha Raja)
  • Erik

    “Europe today is a powder keg,” Otto von Bismarck remarked , “and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal.”
    I am not going to waste your time tonight with yet another treatise on why Islam is not the Religion of Peace, Tolerance, Compassion, etc, etc. We are beyond that. Had America agonized, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, whether Shinto was actually OK but only Bushido was bad, the Greater Asian Co-prosperity Sphere would be going strong to this day. Among reasonable people, unblinkered by the dicta of political correctitude, the real score on Muhammad and his followers is well known. It has been known for centuries. That score, however, no matter how calmly stated and comprehensively supported, invariably elicits the howls of “Islamophobia” from the neoliberal elite class.

  • nnmns

    Have a great trip and be safe.

  • Thomas Nephew

    Wow, Aziz! Congratulations on making the hajj. I hope you’ll be able to share some of your experiences from time to time. Have a safe and wonderful journey.

  • Thomas Nephew

    PS: don’t forget to vote early!

  • Alicia

    Bon Voyage, Aziz. I’ll miss your (not nearly frequent enough) blog posts, and hope you return spiritually and creatively refreshed.

  • jody

    Erik is actually GOP congressional candidate (and Nazi re-enactor) John Iott.

  • nnmns

    I recommend everyone read this column from Informed Comment by Prof. Juan Cole.

    Most of the elements of sharia to which Americans might object are traditional and are being reformed by Muslims themselves. Thus, sharia traditionally allowed a man to take up to four wives. But in many Muslim countries that practice has been curtailed. Or people think about harsh punishments such as stoning for adultery. But the Qur’an does not mention stoning anyone, and stoning adulterers is actually a feature of Jewish law or halakha that was probably brought into Islam by rabbi converts in the 8th or 9th century. Egypt has made the age of marriage 18, even though Muslim legal tradition allowed marriage at a much earlier age. But then Roman Catholic canon law in the medieval era set the marriage age at 12, as did Jewish religious law. All religious systems of law in the medieval period tended to allow marriage with the onset of puberty. Americans who get all high and mighty about sharia should remember that 18th century British law prescribed hanging for minor theft.

    There’s a lot more to the article, which is pretty informative.
    It’s really valuable to people who are afraid we’re headed for Sharia law. It could save their lives; high blood pressure can kill you.

  • Erik

    A liittle background on Juan Cole
    Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, produces a steady stream of writings that downplays the threat radical Islam poses to America and the West. His opinions are at odds with the beliefs of most Americans. Now, through a project designed to foster an understanding of America in the Arab world, he appears to be at odds with himself.
    Cole is one of the most politically driven Middle East studies professors in the U.S. From his perch in Ann Arbor, he tried to explain away Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats to “wipe Israel off the map” by claiming – inaccurately — that it was a mistranslation. He has also attempted to whitewash Americans’ views of the Saudis and their radical strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. Last year, in a statement that further soiled his academic reputation, he compared Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
    In spite of this record, however, Cole has embarked on a laudatory project that could, in effect, repair some of the harm wrought by his earlier writings.
    Together with several University of Michigan colleagues, including Near Eastern Studies professors Michael Bonner, Raji Rammuny, and Marcia Inhorn — who has since moved on to Yale and found herself under fire — Cole created a non-profit called the Global Americana Institute (GAI).
    The project is surprisingly patriotic. GAI is designed to encourage a better understanding of the American political system in the Arabic-speaking world through the translation of key American political works into Arabic. If successful, it could help America win the “battle for hearts and minds” — the ongoing effort to foster an appreciation for democracy and a rejection of radicalism in the Muslim world.
    According to its website, GAI began with a “selected set of passages and essays by Thomas Jefferson on constitutional and governmental issues such as freedom of religion, the separation of powers, inalienable rights, the sovereignty of the people, and so forth.”
    GAI, according to the site, also intends to “have all the founding fathers translated — Madison, Franklin, Washington, Paine, and so on.” It also seeks to produce Arabic translations of the “major speeches and letters of Martin Luther King or of the works of Susan B. Anthony,” and to even translate a “good solid book” about the history of the American Jewish community.
    Cole’s group asks for contributions to fund qualified Arab translators and to disseminate these works around the Arab world, mostly in paperback. This is a critically important task. Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the anti-Semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion currently rank among the bestsellers at bookstores and street vendors throughout Arabic-speaking lands. GAI could help change that.
    From this laudatory start, however, Cole’s non-profit takes a potentially dangerous turn. The GAI website says that if it finds enough funding, it also seeks to “subsidize courses on American studies at Arab universities or even to endow some chairs.” Are Cole (president and treasurer), Inhorn (secretary), and the other professors of Middle Eastern studies on the GAI board eyeing new pulpits? If Cole delivered the same message to Arab students that he delivers to Americans, he would effectively undercut the good work of his nonprofit.
    For the near term, the prospect of endowing a GAI chair appears slim. According to its tax filings in 2005, when GAI was founded, the nonprofit had some $3,000 in net assets. Its resources had grown to $21,000 by 2007 and just under $30,000 by 2008 — sufficient to fund some translation projects, but far short of the amount needed to accomplish Cole’s grander plans.
    And that’s a good thing. When he is not working to expose the Muslim world to the morality of the American democratic system, Cole continues to spew invective on his ironically named blog “Informed Comment,” and advocate positions antithetical to America’s interests. In recent weeks, for example, he has dismissed the dangers of a nuclear Iran under Ahmadinejad, and tried to explain why the United States should accept defeat in its war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    In light of his track record, it is unclear what drove Cole to create the Global Americana Institute. This patriotic project puts him squarely at odds with himself. After all, one cannot truly embrace the messages of both Madison and the Mullahs.

  • nnmns

    Erik apparently hates that an expert goes public on the continual mismanagement of our mideast policy, so he tries to discredit him. In fact Cole is one of the more patriotic writers I’ve seen. Patriotic to American, that is. Is Erik, perhaps, more patriotic to Israel than to America?

  • Juzar Noorani

    Indeed its a journey of a lifetime and you might miss it every year during the season after your return. Its nothing like you will ever experience in this world. Its a life and a world in its own, and to tell you the truth you will forget every material form of life and engross in the spiritual aspect.
    Do remember us in your dua and yes, if you ever get that internet access, then pictures would be welcomed :-)

  • Erik

    Do you think Hamas is a terrorist organization? yes or no will do.
    What is your opinion of Sharia law?

  • Laura

    One of the most prominent anti-Zionists today is Prof. Juan Cole from the University of Michigan.
    Part of being a successful anti-Zionist involves claiming that Jews have no right to the land of Israel. So to be a good anti-Zionist, one needs to deny Jewish history. To this end, in March Cole published a piece of historical fiction in the Salon online magazine. Titled “Ten reasons why East Jerusalem does not belong to Israel,” Cole mixed half truths with flagrant lies to justify his denial of Jewish history and belittlement of the Jewish rights.
    Cole wrote, “Jerusalem not only was not being built by the likely then non-existent ‘Jewish people’ in 1000 BCE, but Jerusalem probably was not even inhabited at that point in history. Jerusalem appears to have been abandoned between 1000 BCE and 900 BCE, the traditional dates for the united kingdom under David and Solomon.”
    This assertion is so mendacious that it takes your breath away. As anyone who has actually been in Jerusalem can attest, it is all but impossible to be physically present in the oldest areas of the city and not bump into relics dating from between 1000 and 900 BCE.
    Cole’s allegation is the academic equivalent of Louis Farakhan’s claim that white people are devils planted on earth by aliens. As an anti-Zionist anti-Semite, it was just a matter of time until Cole traveled into the fetid swamp of denying the historical record to facilitate his false claim that Jews are not a people and therefore are bereft of rights as a nation to our national homeland.
    And why shouldn’t he cover himself in anti- Semitic muck? So far, the stench has brought him great success. The very fact that I felt compelled to write an essay explaining why anti- Semitism is anti-Semitism and why anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism is depressing proof that anti- Semites have been wildly successful in whitewashing their bigotry.

  • nnmns

    Laura you confuse anti-Zionist with anti-Semitic. If you read the news this morning you noticed Israel’s greed for land has again trumped the world’s hope for Middle Eastern peace. Likely more American troops will die because of Israel’s ongoing greed.
    A case of clear-cut right to land, by your reasoning, is America which the Indians clearly occupied fully. Are you in favor of us non-Indians giving up any claim to that land? If not, how can you support Israel’s much shakier claims?
    Erik I wouldn’t care to be under Sharia law. Or Old Testament law. Read the article I linked to above – there’s surprising overlap. And I’m in a lot more danger of being under Old-Testament law than Sharia law.
    The Sharia law thing is made up by Republican and likely Israeli lobby activists and only fools fall for it. Which means you are either a fool or an activist trying to divide America for greed and power. Which is it?

  • Taha Raja

    congrats on making the journey of a lifetime…and InshAllah many more to come.
    I performed Haj 4 years ago and it was amazing. I hope to go again sometime soon. I assure you this journey changes you forever.

  • Erik

    Canadian writer Mark Steyn thinks “The future belongs to Islam.” The main reason for this, according to him, is demography, with massive population growth in Islamic countries and low birth rates in infidel nations. He makes some assertions I agree with, such as that big government is a national security threat since “it increases your vulnerability to threats like Islamism, and makes it less likely you’ll be able to summon the will to rebuff it.”
    According to Steyn, “Four years into the ‘war on terror,’ the Bush administration began promoting a new formulation: ‘the long war.’ Not a good sign. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower.”
    Critics would claim that Mr. Steyn isn’t contributing to maintaining Western willpower by suggesting that we’ve already lost. Still, I shouldn’t be too hard on him. The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced his article as “Islamophobic, inflammatory and offensive.” If CAIR dislikes you, you know you must be doing something right.
    But he makes other assertions I strongly disagree with, such as indicating that the United States should remain in Iraq to spread democracy: “What does it mean when the world’s hyperpower, responsible for 40 percent of the planet’s military spending, decides that it cannot withstand a guerrilla war with historically low casualties against a ragbag of local insurgents and imported terrorists?”
    Here, Mark Steyn is wrong, which indicates that he doesn’t fully understand Islam. The entire project of “spreading democracy” was a mistake from the very beginning, because democracy cannot be exported to an Islamic country such as Iraq. It is stupidity to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on Muslims while Islamization continues apace in the West.
    Steyn also does not fully understand the issue of demography. Islamic countries are parasitical. Even the massive population growth is only an advantage as long as Muslims are allowed to export it to infidel lands. Deprived of this opportunity, and of Western aid, the Islamic world would quickly sink into a quagmire of overpopulation. This is a long-term solution, to demonstrate to Muslims the failure of Islam.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    According to Srdja Trifkovic, the author of Defeating Jihad, “The tangible cost of the presence of a Muslim man, woman and child to the American taxpayer is at least $100,000 each year. The cost of the general unpleasantness associated with the terrorist threat and its impact on the quality of our lives is, of course, incalculable. (…) There is a direct, empirically verifiable correlation between the percentage of Muslims in a country and the increase of terrorist violence in that country (not to mention the general decline in the quality of life and civilized discourse).”
    Sooner or later, we have to deal with the implications of this fact. The best way to deal with the Islamic world is to have as little to do with it as possible. We should completely stop Muslim immigration. This could be done in indirect ways, such as banning immigration from nations known to be engaged in terrorism. All Muslim non-citizens in the West should be removed. We should also change our laws to ensure that Muslim citizens who advocate sharia, preach Jihad, the inequality of “infidels” etc should have their citizenship revoked and be deported back to their country of origin.
    We need to create an environment where the practice of Islam is made difficult. Muslim citizens should be forced to accept our secular ways or leave if they desire sharia. Much of this can be done in a non-discriminatory way, by simply refusing to allow special pleading to Muslims. Do not allow Islamic public calls to prayer as this is offensive to other faiths. Both boys and girls should take part in all sporting and social activities of the school and the community. The veil should be banned in public institutions, thus contributing to breaking the traditional subjugation of women. Companies and public buildings should not be forced to build prayer rooms for Muslims. Enact laws to eliminate the abuse of family reunification laws. Do not permit major investments by Muslims in Western media or universities.
    It is conceivable that some infidel nations will copy the Benes Decrees from Czechoslovakia in 1946, when most of the so-called Sudeten Germans had shown themselves to be a dangerous fifth column. The Czech government thus expelled them from its land. As Hugh Fitzgerald of Jihad Watch has demonstrated, there is a much better case for a Benes Decree for parts of Europe’s Muslim population now than there ever was for the Sudeten Germans.
    Is that racism and Fascism you say? Muslims themselves in poll after poll state that their loyalty lies with the Islamic Umma, not with the country they live in. “I’m a Muslim living in Britain, I’m not British” is the sentiment. Well, if Muslims themselves state that their citizenship is not worth the paper it is printed upon, why not take their word for it?
    David Selbourne, author of The Losing Battle with Islam thinks that “Islam’s swift progress is easily explained. For the West — but not China or India — is as politically and ideologically weak as the world of Islam is strong. The West is handicapped by many factors: its over-benign liberalism, the lost moral status of the Christian faith, the vacillations of its judiciaries and the incoherence of their judgments, political and military hesitations over strategy and tactics, poor intelligence (in both senses), and the complicities of the ‘Left’.”
    Can the West defeat the Islamic threat? Selbourne states ten reasons why not, including the extent of political division in the non-Muslim world about what is afoot, the confusion of Leftist “progressives” about the Islamic advance, anti-Americanism and the vicarious satisfaction felt by many non-Muslims at America’s reverses, as well as the West’s dependency on the oil and material resources of Arab and Muslim countries.
    According to him, Islam will not be defeated because “the strengths of the world community of Muslims are being underestimated.” Yet another indication that Islam’s advance will continue lies in “the skilful use being made of the media and of the world wide web in the service both of the ‘electronic jihad’”
    I agree with him that the cultural weakness of the West is a major disadvantage, and has been one important reason behind the recent resurgence of Jihad. It was never inevitable that we allowed millions of Muslims to settle in our lands. This was the result of Multiculturalism and the weakening of our cultural identity, and in Europe with the deliberate help of Eurabians.
    The impact of globalization and modern mass media is more complicated and has contradictory results. As one pundit at ex-Muslim Ali Sina’s website put it: “Rituals are important as brainwashing tools to instill discipline and loyalty. Islam’s focus on rituals remind me of the rituals in the military. (…) But what worked well for a medieval war machine is disastrous for Muslims in the modern world. The Arab war machine was supported by the blind obedience, brotherhood, courage, hatred and high birth rates inspired by Islam. (…) But these same qualities are handicaps for Muslims in the age of the microchip. Today they lead to poverty, belligerency, war and defeat.”
    Islam was perfect for medieval warfare, but gradually lost out to the West, especially after the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, which could never have taken place in Islamic lands because of their lack of freedom and their cult of authority. Ironically, history has now gone full circle. Muslims are still useless in developing anything new, but as a result of migration, modern communications, the presence of Muslims in infidel lands and Arab oil revenues, they can more readily buy or expropriate technology from others. The Iranian Revolution was aided by audio cassettes of speeches by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
    In the book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Roger Scruton argues that globalization “offers militant Islam the opportunity that it has lacked since the Ottoman retreat from central Europe.” It has created “a true Islamic umma, which identifies itself across borders in terms of a global form of legitimacy, and which attaches itself like a parasite to global institutions and techniques that are the by-products of Western democracy.”
    The “techniques and infrastructure on which al Qaeda depends are the gifts of the new global institutions. It is Wall Street and Zurich that produced the network of international finance that enables Osama bin Laden to conceal his wealth and to deploy it anywhere in the world. It is Western enterprise with its multinational outreach that produced the technology that bin Laden has exploited so effectively against us. And it is Western science that developed the weapons of mass destruction he would dearly like to obtain. His wealth, too, would be inconceivable without the vast oil revenues brought to Saudi Arabia from the West, there to precipitate the building boom from which his father profited.”
    While Scruton gives some support to the idea that the Internet and modern communications technology have strengthened Islam, there are some contradictory views worth listening to.
    Theodore Dalrymple thinks that “Islam has nothing whatever to say to the modern world,” and states that “Personally, I believe that all forms of Islam are very vulnerable in the modern world to rational criticism, which is why the Islamists are so ferocious in trying to suppress such criticism. They have instinctively understood that Islam itself, while strong, is exceedingly brittle, as communism once was. They understand that, at the present time in human history, it is all or nothing. (…) Islamism is a last gasp, not a renaissance, of the religion; but, as anyone who has watched a person die will attest, last gasps can last a surprisingly long time.”
    Although some of the tensions we are seeing now are caused by Western cultural weakness, part of it is also related to the impersonal forces of technological globalization. Previously, Muslims and non-Muslims could for the most part ignore each other on a daily basis. This is no longer possible, because Muslims see the Western world on TV every day. And if somebody in, say, Denmark says something “insulting” about Muhammad — which in the 19th century would have gone unnoticed in Pakistan or Egypt — thanks to email, mobile phones and satellite TV, millions of Muslims will know about it within hours. However, this can potentially be good for non-Muslims.
    Contrary to what Selbourne claims, the Internet has in fact emerged as an important, perhaps crucial factor in the Western resistance, as author Bruce Bawer has noticed: “Thank God for the [Inter]Net. I tremble at the thought of all the things that have happened during the past years that I would never have known about without it. The bloggers have in some cases reported about things that the mainstream media has left out, and in other cases pointed out omissions and distortions in the media coverage. Frequently, the mass media has felt compelled by the bloggers to pay attention to stories they would otherwise have ignored. The blogosphere is a fantastic way to spread news. If an important event has been reported in just a single, insignificant local paper, one blogger somewhere will have written about it, other bloggers will have linked to him etc. so that the news story is passed on to blog readers around the world. If Europe is saved, it will be because of the Internet.”
    Columnist Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post praises the blogosphere and states that: “The responsibility of protecting our nations and societies from internal disintegration has passed to the hands of individuals, often working alone, who refuse to accept the degradation of their societies and so fight with the innovative tools of liberty to protect our way of life.”
    J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic tale the Lord of the Rings is a story about the little people, the Hobbits, saving the day in the end. The most powerful enemy within in Tolkien’s story is the wizard Saruman. In the West now, Saruman corresponds to a whole class of people in politics, the media and academia. The Sarumans of the West are met with resistance from thousands of little hobbits in cyberspace, and they don’t like it. Pessimists claim that this era is merely the Wild West period of the Internet, which will gradually become tamed and censored. That is possible, but even if events should turn out that way, the Internet will still have given an important contribution to the Western resistance of our time.
    Seaborne believes that many people are underestimating the strength of Islam. Perhaps, but some observers, including Mark Steyn and Mr. Seaborne himself, may be overestimating it. They overlook the fact that Islam has many weaknesses, too. Don’t underestimate your enemy. Muslims should be credited for making clever use of our weaknesses, but this “we’re all doomed and have already lost” theme is overblown.
    We should implement a policy of containment of the Islamic world. I’m not saying that containment is all that we will ever need to do, but it is the very minimum that is acceptable. Perhaps the spread of nuclear weapons technology, the darkest side of globalization, will trigger a large-scale war with the Islamic world at some point. The only way to avoid this is to take steps, including military ones, to deprive Muslims of such technology.
    We should restrain their ability to hurt us physically. We can’t prevent it completely, but we should limit it as much as possible. Muslims try to wear us down through terrorism. They should be worn down through mockery and criticism. We should also make clear that for every Islamic terror attack we will increase these efforts, which Muslims fear more than our weapons. It’s the new balance of terror.
    Dr Koenraad Elst, one of Belgium’s best orientalists, thinks “Islam is in decline, despite its impressive demographic and military surge” – which according to Dr Elst is merely a “last upheaval.” He acknowledges, however, that this decline can take some time (at least in terms of the individual human life span) and that it is possible that Islam will succeed in becoming the majority religion in Europe before collapsing.
    Dalrymple is probably correct when he says that Islam is an “all or nothing” religion which cannot be secularized. The future may not belong to Islam, as Mark Steyn suggests. It is conceivable that Islam in some generations will cease to be a global force of any significance, but in the meantime it will be a constant source of danger to its neighbors, from Europe through India to Southeast Asia. The good news is that Islam may not be able to achieve the world dominance it desires. The bad news is that it may be able to achieve a world war. We can only cage it as much as possible and try to prevent this from happening.

  • nnmns

    Erik clearly you’ve thought a lot about this. I agree that fundamentalist Islam is a potentially dangerous religion, perhaps even more dangerous than fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Judaism, Hinduism and so on. But it’s less dangerous to the US than fundamentalist Christianity for the foreseeable future because some fundamentalist Christians are too close to the levers of power in Washington.
    I also agree that mockery is a good weapon to use against any religion that takes itself seriously, like all fundamentalist religions do. Thus we must preserve the right to mock religions.
    I do not agree that we should single out Islam for different treatment. You assume we are in a war against all Islam, I do not. And if such a war can be avoided we must do so because it would hurt us desperately. So if it becomes necessary to combat citizens who “advocate sharia, preach Jihad, the inequality of “infidels” etc” then in fact any citizens who advocate foreign laws, preach religious takeovers and the inequality of “infidels” or in fact place foreign governments or foreign-based religions before America should be treated equally badly. And for the same reasons – they are all dangerous. (Just think of all the damage the Israeli lobby has done to us!)
    I do agree we should stop sending money to Saudi Arabia, the source of the most fundamentalist Islam. That means we need to stop guzzling gas and oil. And there are other, even more important reasons to do that. The future of human life on earth may depend on it.
    As for bloggers, they are good and bad, like news organizations. Some spread falsehoods, some exaggerate trivial events all out of proportion. Some are one-sided. But they do have their place; we just need to be ready to take a lot of what they say with a grain of salt.
    Let us remember that Communism seemed undefeatable but was not. And a lot of people died unnecessarily because of that error. Let’s show more sense and restraint.
    This hoohaw is really about Republicans wanting to frighten their way into power, not a serious threat to our freedom this century.

  • Hicham Maged

    Looking forward for your after-hajj post insha’allah. May Allah accept from you and everybody who’s going this year, Amen!

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