City of Brass


As Ramadan approaches, I think the pull of the mosque becomes stronger. This is natural and expected and hardly evidence of any kind of hypocrisy on our part, as Muslims – we are human, and the entire point of Ramadan is to re-center our awareness for a brief time on Deen. Even if that re-centering is primarily logistical rather than spiritual, the process itself is piety.

For someone seeking out a mosque, it is helpful to know whether the approach to Islam of that mosque is in line with their own. Some level of disclosure about that approach by a mosque, ideally on their website, is needed so that seekers don’t waste time learning the hard way whether or not the congregation is a good fit.

Here’s a sample Mosque Disclosure by the Islamic Center of Southern California – obviously, not everyone will agree with all aspects of this, but that is the point. By publishing such Disclosures, mosques help the spiritual seekers find what they are looking for.


The sources of Islam are the Holy Quran and the non-controversially relayed (sahih) tradition of the seal of messengers, Muhammad (peace be upon him). Other traditions, man-made rules, cultural and ethnic behaviors are not infallible, and are not considered as sources of Islam.

Islam is the universal mercy of God. Muslims identify primarily as Muslims and not as a particular ethnic group, race, color, or tribe. No such exclusionary activities are allowed in the Center.

Arabic is taught as the language of the Holy Quran. The language of communication and activities at the Center is the language of the land, i.e. English.

Choosing a school of thought (mazhab) is a matter of personal preference, not a policy of the Center

The affairs of Muslims should be handled through consultation (shura), discipline and organization.

Men and women are equally encouraged to participate in the activities of the Center and equally responsible for their efforts.

The Center does not believe in segregation of the sexes to attain righteousness. Rather, righteousness is attained through modesty, decency, purity of heart, clarity of conscience, and the observance of the dictates of God and His apostle.

While advocating the codes and ethics of Islamic behavior, the Center believes there is no compulsion in religion. The role of the Center is to teach and remind, not to compel or judge.

Islam is a complete way of life. While social and political activism may be a part of this, the Center’s activities are focused upon and geared towards the interests of Islam and Muslims in America. Preoccupation by other countries’ politics leads only to division and chaos among Muslims in America and is contrary to the policies of the Center.


The Muslim community in the United States is comprised of an enriching mosaic of races, ethnicities, cultures, schools of thought, and ways of practicing Islam. Respecting that diversity, we also assert our identity as Americans who subscribe to the following:

We believe the values and principles found in the U.S. Constitution are in alignment with the eternal message of the Holy Quran, promoting mercy (21:107), justice (4:135), peace (8:61), human dignity (17:70), freedom (2:256), and equality for all (49:13).

We view the United States as our home.

We believe in a representative democracy as defined in the U.S. Constitution, which we believe is congruent with the Islamic concept of shura – a collective and consultative form of decision making.

We embrace the pluralism of our country, and are committed to constructively engaging in its religious, civic, economic, social, and overall betterment.

We enjoy those aspects of our nation’s culture that do not conflict with Islamic values, and avoid those which do.

We believe men and women should be equal participants in all activities and efforts.

I hope that by sharing this, other mosques are encouraged to post similar Disclosures, with the above serving as a useful template.

Yoda stumbles across religious conundrums

Yoda stumbles across religious conundrums

Islam and Judaism are very orthopraxic* religions – Muslims and Jews are commanded to DO a lot of things. Eating, praying, fasting, observing – and all the nuances of Shari’a and Halakha – the everyday actions of a Jew or Muslim are heavily influenced by the concepot of correct conduct, laden with religious meaning and symbolism.

Basically, the faith commands us to Do. However, within Do there are actually two commands: Do, and Do Not.

Perhaps I am atypical, but I would like to believe otherwise when I say that I tend to fall short of Doing all the things I am supposed to be Doing Not all the things I am not supposed to be doing. The question is, which is worse?

If we don’t do what we are commanded to Do – that is a lapse. It is usually a regression to our base behavior, a lack of discipline. For example: Praying is hard. Fasting is really hard. We are told to do these things and we doin’t always do them because we are watching Netflix or we want to sleep in or we are just feeling lazy.

However, when we do what we are commanded to Do Not, that is somewhat more serious, because it requires an active act of disobedience. We are not just engaging in a sin of omission, we are engaging in action that we know to be proscribed.

I have no moral or theological basis for this thought, but if there is a greater spiritual failing, logic tells me that it’s probably the case where I actively choose to act against proscription, rather than merely failing to act according to prescription.

I’m not trying to create a basis for rationalizing my failure to comply, here – but in the modern world, as we try to reconcile our beliefs with the constraints of our consciences, law, and modern culture, it seems that there is more room for compromise with respect to the command to Do versus the command to Do Not.

* Christianity, meanwhile, is more of an orthodoxic faith – the emphasis is on belief and ritual rather than action and conduct. These are of course merely broad generalizations.

via Lucky – this is not good:


I have long argued that there is an inherent tension between the ideals of the Enlightenment and spirituality. This ruling from the European Court of Justice (the EU equivalent of the US Supreme Court) is a case study for that tension:

Companies may ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions, the European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday, setting off a storm of complaint from rights groups and religious leaders.

In its first ruling on an issue that has become highly charged across Europe, the Court of Justice (ECJ) found a Belgian firm which had a rule that employees who dealt with customers should not wear visible religious or political symbols may not have discriminated against a Muslim receptionist it dismissed for wearing a headscarf.

The ECJ tries to thread the needle, however, by stating that companies may not cater to their customers’ prejudices:

[The court] determined that the case of the French engineer Asma Bougnaoui, fired by software company Micropole after a customer complaint, may well have been discriminatory.

Reactions, however, focused on the findings that services firm G4S in Belgium was entitled to dismiss receptionist Samira Achbita in 2006 if, in pursuit of legitimate business interests, it fairly applied a broad dress code for all customer-facing staff to project an image of political and religious neutrality.

The ruling will have different impact in different countries based on national religious freedom laws, which vary from EU nation to nation – headscarves are outright banned in France, for public sector jobs, for example.

The main issue here is that Europe holds to an ideal of secularism rather than religious freedom. There is nothing remotely similar to the First Amendment in Europe – the concept is fundamentally alien. That’s not surprising given that the first colonists from Europe to America were escaping religious persecution. Given that Europe’s immigrant population is colonial, whereas in America it is aspirational, there is already a barrier inherent in European society towards integration. In Europe you must assimilate, not integrate. That is not freedom, it is fundamentally oppression.

Of course, other religious groups, even racially white ones like the Jewish community, are rightly aghast at this ruling. But this is the reality of a civilization built on Enlightenment values, which state that human reason and rationality are objective and pure. That’s the central delusion upon which European oppression in the name of secularism is built. It’s not that far removed from Chinese oppression of the Uighurs in Xinjiang.