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The Boston Globe has an astounding collection of high-resolution photographs from the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, as well as Eid ul Adha observances from throughout the muslim world. These photos are breathtaking, humbling, inspiring, and beautiful.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but here’s just an example of one that caught my eye and my breath:

h03_17254335.jpg

But there’s much, much more than this to see…

The victims of Islamic terrorists are disproportionately muslims – and we have seen that nothing is sacred to these barbarians, not women and children, not muslims praying in mosques, not the holy month of Ramadan – now, not even the Hajj itself:

Alerted by Saudi and other intelligence agencies
that al-Qaida planned to launch a bloody assault on Muslim pilgrims
taking part in the annual pilgrimage – the Hajj – the Saudi government
last week launched a huge counterterrorism operation, one of the
largest in recent memory, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

[…]

The Saudi operation began three months ago
with preemptive raids by Saudi security forces on suspected al-Qaida
cells, according to a former senior CIA official. Several hundred
suspects were taken into custody, he said.

U.S. officials
would not comment on the nature of the intelligence of a probable
terrorist incident, but in November 2007, Saudi security forces
arrested 208 al-Qaida suspects accused of planning an attack during the
Hajj. Another 28 suspects were arrested the following month.

Who, exactly, is waging a war against Islam? Given that their targets are the innocent, the pious, and the weak, Al-Qaeda’s claims of doing jihad are exposed. This is not jihad but hirabah, and they are not mujahidin but muharib.

Related: At Talk Islam, a discussion about reviving the practice of takfir. After all, the muharib use it (in Orwellian fashion) against the mainstream muslim who dares object to their slaughter of muslims engaged in prayer, so turnabout is fair play. Takfir is a political weapon, and thus far mainstream Islam has been disarmed. Time to fight fire with fire, perhaps.

(via Crossroads Arabia)

In my essay The Burka and the Bikini, I argued,

The bikini and the burka are so far to the extremes that they meet
again. They both serve to reduce women, from a person, to an object. In
the case of the burka, that object is “slave”. In the case of the
bikini, that object is “sex”. The burka is forced upon women, for fear
of consequences, whereas women are induced to wear the bikini, out of
desire for consequences. But in both cases those consequences are to
please males.

The bikini and the burka can both be used by women as expressions of
power and independence
. The burka, or ridah, or hijab, can be a
powerful weapon of modesty, if chosen freely (and in fact, it is in
Western countries like America that Qur’anic modes of modesty in
women’s dress do finally take on the meaning they were intended to
have, because of the freedom of choice. America is the greatest Islamic
country on earth). Likewise, the woman wearing a bikini solely out of
her personal pride in her appearance has turned the bikini into a
weapon of self-expression.

This sentiment earned me a great deal of critique, I am proud to say. The view that the burka is not necessarilyily oppressive, and that the bikini may be so, is one that threatens the basic cultural-supremacist narrative of Islam as barbaric / West as enlightened.

To argue that Islam offers the potential (admittedly, largely unrealized in most of the present-day Islamic world) for more meaningful women’s rights than Western feminism is a kind of cultural blasphemy. That’s why at least one person felt compelled to express their dissatisfaction via anonymous postcard to PostSecret:

It is encouraging to see the dogma of bikini as liberation is being questioned. The burka and the bikini are just pieces of cloth, nothing more. What matters is why they are worn – and who makes the decision.

The hajjis have begun to arrive home. Among them were Rep. Keith Ellison, the first muslim elected to Congress and now the first US elected official to have ever performed Hajj.

The Democrat from Minnesota’s 5th Congressional
District traveled to the Saudi Arabian city along with about 3 million
people. The journey is a lifelong dream for many Muslims.

“It was transformative. It was a wonderful experience,” Ellison
said in a telephone interview today. “I learned a lot about myself,
about my faith.”

He said that word soon got around that he was a congressman —
some people had recognized him from TV — and he wound up talking to
groups of 60 or 70 people.

“I didn’t want to turn it into a politics thing,” he said. “I
was trying to play it low. I really wasn’t trying to play the role of
the public official.”

Ellison said he talked to the groups about “the importance of
calling on your spiritual journey, and that whether you’re a postman or
businessman or a congressman, we all need to do what we do better. With
more purpose and more focus, and a greater sense of serving humanity
and looking out for the poor and stuff like that.”

It’s interesting that Ellison’s status as a Congressman was cause for mini-celebrity. It speaks, I think, to the tremendous reservoir of hope and goodwill that muslims worldwide have for the United States, despite near-universal condemnation of our foreign policy over the past 8 years. As Ellison notes, he was also approached by many who were eager to express their hope about Barack Obama’s election:


People were encouraged about the role the U.S.
will play under President-elect Barack Obama, Ellison said. The fact
that Obama’s middle name is Hussein and he had a Muslim father came up
in conversation.

“People think that the (incoming) president might have a higher level of sensitivity,” Ellison said.

We truly are at the cusp of a new era in American-Islamic relations. However, we have to be careful about setting expectations too high, as well…

There’s also a nice article from last year in the LA Times, “personal trek, with millions” about a group of California muslims who went to hajj. This year, an NBC producer and author named Kamran Pasha, also blogged his Hajj experience.