City of Brass

City of Brass

Strange twist in the Dayton incident

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

There’s been a followup in the Dayton mosque incident, with the police now revealing that the can of pepper spray was found inside the mosque, not nearby:

The can of pepper spray found four days after someone sprayed a
10-year-old girl in the face at a local mosque was discovered inside
the mosque, a Dayton police lieutenant said.

The girl said she was sprayed about 9:40 p.m. Sept. 26 through an
open basement window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, Lt. John
Huber said.

The girl told police one of two men outside the basement window
sprayed her with something from a white can with a red top as she
watched children whose parents and relatives had gathered at the mosque
to celebrate Ramadan.

A can of pepper spray was found Sept. 30 in another room in the
basement inside a red and white-striped bag, Huber said. He said it was
initially reported to him that the can was found near the mosque, but
he later learned it was inside the mosque.

The article also mentions that the police interviewed a ten-year old boy in relation to the incident. It’s possible that this wasn’t an attack at all, but an accident between children. If that’s the case, then obviously the Obsession mass-mailing was not relevant to the incident at hand (though hardly exculpatory for the more serious critique of Obsession, that the movie creates a climate of hate and mistrust towards ordinary muslim-Americans. There’s no white-washing the cynical evil intent of the movie and its cowardly, shadowy backers).

I hope that this incident turns out to have been nothing more than an accident and not a hate crime at all. That would be really, really great news indeed.

Brian McLaren endorses Obama

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Brian McLaren is a Christian pastor who approaches faith and politics from within the compassionate tradition of Christianity, focusing on the Prophet Jesus’ AS example of charity and taking care of the poor, etc for his inspiration rather than judgment and brimstone. As such his politics take him leftward in opposition to the conservative Religious Right – the Religious Left, I suppose, would be the natural term, though of course it is a fledgling movement with no comparable political clout. It’s worth noting that McLaren just publically endorsed the Matthew 25 network, a pan-Christian political action committee with a focus on social work, and endorsed Barack Obama for President. An excerpt from his endorsement letter:

A lot
of us feel that we’ve watched large sectors of our Christian
community in the U.S. engage in several decades of divisive, ineffective,
and downright counterproductive political engagement. At best, many
attempts at engagement have been superficial, simplistic, and subject
to binary thinking where one or two wedge issues easily distinguish
the “good guys” from the bad. At worst, we’ve watched
too many of our fellow Christians slip into a “culture war”
mindset where neighbors became enemies to be defeated and silenced,
not loved as we love ourselves. In addition, we’ve watched too
many members of our faith communities be manipulated by cynical politicians
who knew what tune to play to get people of faith marching obediently
in their parade.

Many of us – sadly, I include myself here – stood on
the sidelines and complained about the wrong being done by “the
Religious Right.” In private, we might say that the major media
figures didn’t speak for us, but we responded to faith-based
misuse of the political process with faith-based disuse. We didn’t
realize, as we now do, that disuse tends to favor those in power and
support the status quo.

As I’ve watched with sadness what has happened in recent years,
I’ve promised myself again and again that I wouldn’t just
stand on the sidelines complaining this election season. That’s
why I’m so thrilled about positive, constructive initiatives
like the Matthew 25 Network. Drawing from Jesus’ powerful parable
about his solidarity with “the least of these,” this network
invites us as people of faith to step beyond individual self-interest,
and even beyond the interest-group politics of “what’s
best for us” – whether “us” is our denomination,
religion, party, or nation. It invites us to consider how to use our
vote on behalf of the neediest, the most vulnerable and poverty-stricken
… so that their concerns are our own when we vote. For us, this
is inherent in what it means to be followers of Jesus.

Based on these values, the Matthew 25 Network has chosen to support
Barack Obama. Does that mean that every one of us is in full agreement
with every detail of Senator Obama’s campaign? Of course not:
we’re electing a president, not a Messiah! Blind, uncritical
support is part of the misuse that we’re trying to move beyond.

This is a significant development, because it comes at the time when the influence of the Religious Right is at an all-time low. The Matthew25 group reject the single-issue politics of the pro-life wing, as well, with a sub-organization called Pro Life Pro Obama, which argues that there is no inherent contradiction in being pro-life and supporting the pro-choice Senator. The reason is that Obama has articulated a desire to reduce abortions by making them unnecessary, rather than illegal (a re-framing of the abortion issue that brings right and left together). In addition to seeking to reduce the need for abortion, they also quite wisely focus on “life” as a choice – and argue that women must be encouraged to choose life and be supported in that decision (that latter part conspicuously absent from most pro-life partisans’ considerations).

Of course, there is a backlash. McLaren’s approach to the Bible is not a literalist fundamentalist one, but rather interpretative. On issues like homosexuality, for example, this leads him to counsel compassion for the sinners rather than taking a hard-line stance. Those who disagree with him (“foundationalists”) invoke plenty of doctrine in their arguments, but can’t seem to avoid accusing him of depravity in the course of their arguments. In the political realm, his endorsement for Obama led to him being labeled a “heretic”, and far worse. In some ways this political schism reflects the tension within Islam in the modern era, suggesting that these theological and political issues transcend faith and represent a more universal trend. That trend, throughout world history, has pointed in the direction of increasing liberalism and less religious literalism.

There’s more to the Religious Left than just McLaren or Matthew 25, of course. Another great resource is the God’s Politics blog, which is headed by Jim Wallis and is a co-venture of Beliefnet.com and Sojourner.net. Also, Street Prophets is full-fledged blog progressive liberal blog community with an explicit focus on religion and politics, a spin-off of DailyKos. I think that as the Religious Left finds its voice, it will naturally broaden to Islam and Judaism as well; examples of this include Talk Islam and Ameinu. And there still remain strong voices on the right, such as Beliefnet’s own Rod Dreher, who still identify as conservative but whose approach towards politics is independent and principled. Inshallah we can all work together and undo some of the damage wrought by this closing era of conservative religious dominance.

Nominations open for Brass Crescent Awards

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

brasscrescent_vert.gifJust a reminder – the Nominations phase for the Brass Crescent Awards are now underway. Head over to brasscrescent.org to nominate your favorite blogs in any of the following categories:

BEST BLOG: This category honors the most indispensable, Muslim-authored blog there is. Period.

BEST WRITER: Who is the most stimulating, insightful, and
philosophically wise among us? This category is intended to highlight a
blogger who may not post daily, but when they do post, they really make
an impact.

BEST NON-MUSLIM BLOG: Which blog writen by a non-Muslim is most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue with Muslims?

BEST BLOG DESIGN: Which blog has the most aesthetically pleasing
site design, appealing to the eye, evoking Islamic themes, and/or
facilitating debate and discussion?

BEST POST OR SERIES: Which single post or group of posts in the Islamsphere was the most original and important, above all the others?

BEST FEMALE BLOG: The woman’s voice in Islam is equal to the
man’s, and in the Islamsphere we seek to make sure the female
perspective is highlighted and given its rightful due. Which Muslim
woman’s blog has done the most to explore the role that women play
within Islam and society?

BEST NEW BLOG: Which blog is a true diamond in the rough, one that everyone should be reading but who most just haven’t heard of (yet)?

BEST GROUP BLOG: Which multiple group blog in the Islamsphere
has the best diversity of writers and the most interesting debate on
Muslim issues?

BEST HUMOR BLOG: Which blog gets their point across by using humor in the most effective way?

BEST MIDDLE EAST/AFRICAN, EUROPEAN, SOUTH ASIAN, AND ASIAN BLOGGERS:
The Islamsphere is truly a global phenomenon. In Iraq, despite the
chaos and uncertainty, there is a sea change of free speech and
expression, the vanguard of which are blogs. There are also bloggers in
India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Jordan, and most
other countries that host Muslims, all of whom have their own
perspectives on faith, culture, and politics.

The nominations period runs until Friday, October 24th!

word clouds for Biden and Palin

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I manually extracted Biden’s and Palin’s remarks at the debate from the transcript and fed them into Wordle to create these word clouds. First, Senator Joe Biden:
biden
And then, Governor Sarah Palin:
palin
It seems the primary topic of the evening was John McCain, and to a lesser extent Barack Obama. That makes sense and fits perfectly into each veep candidate’s objectives for the evening – Palin to build McCain up, and Biden to tear him down.

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