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City of Brass

City of Brass

G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel nominated for Hugo Award – and needs YOUR support

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

msmarvel

Few people outside the fandom of science fiction and fantasy probably are aware of the Hugo Awards, but in a nutshell, they are the single most prestigious award for SF/F, launched in 1953 during the Golden Age of sci-fi. These are the Academy Awards, the Nobel Prize, of their genre.

In 2013, Saladin Ahmed’s book Throne of the Crescent Moon was nominated for Best Novel, losing out to John Scalzi’s Redshirts – a tough loss indeed, but a significant honor in its own right. And way back in 1980, Steven Barnes’s The Locusts (co-written with Larry Niven) was nominated for Best Novelette, losing out to George R.R. Martin. There may be other Muslims whose works were nominated that I am overlooking, but to the best of my knowledge no Muslim has ever taken home the iconic Huge Rocket statue.

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This year, however, that all could change: Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, is nominated for Best Graphic Story. This is huge news and a tremendous recognition by the SF/F community of the cultural, literary, and social impact of Ms. Marvel – which is almost impossible to summarize, but this article at the venerable AV Club magazine is a pretty good primer: “One year later, Ms. Marvel’s influence is felt far beyond the comics page”

How can you support Ms. Marvel? Unfortunately, it takes a little work. Voting in the Hugos is not free – you have to be a member of the World Science Fiction Society, and register for the annual WorldCon convention (this year, named “Sasquan” and held in Spokane, WA). You needn’t actually pay the full registration fee to attend the convention – there are “supporting” memberships available for $40. For that $40, however, you will receive the voter’s packet which includes the complete set of nominated works in all categories – hundreds of dollars’ worth of science fiction and fantasy. This is an incredible bargain just on a fan basis alone.

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Make an investment in a supporting Worldcon/Sasquan membership, get a huge pile of amazing fiction to read, and support Ms. Marvel. She’s been fighting for us, it’s time we got her back :)

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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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