Dear Imam Johari,
You probably don’t remember me. Actually, I’m certain you don’t. I think I’ve met you only twice; once at an MSA Iftar dinner we shared a table, and the other time I attended a campfire lecture you gave at Dar al-Taqwa, where, I might add, you displayed quite a beautiful voice in singing some nasheeds.
And eventhough we’ve only met twice, I’ve known you for quite some time, as is true for most of the American Muslim community. Your reputation precedes itself and I humbly acknowledge that your years of service at the national level for the cause of Islam dwarf my meager local community efforts of years past.
And that is why it has pained me to read your past few posts.
You started with an open declaration calling for Muslims to adopt the principle of non-violence. Surely, non-violence has its place in a larger movement of resistance, but it cannot be its sole strategy. There must be, as it always has been, space at the table for resistance by force. Surely, you are intimately aware of the American civil rights struggle with the existence of the black power effort in conjunction with the non-violence movement. Also, armed resistance played a significant role in the other example you cited, the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
And the same type of armed resistance has been playing a vital role in defying the authoritarian control of Israel over both the Palestinians as well as Lebanon. It can be argued that if not for the constant thorn-pricking by Hamas (in Gaza) and Hezbollah (in South Lebanon), Israeli forces would still be firmly established in those territories.
Dear Imam Johari, you would be well served to read this excellent piece by Max Ajl on the inability of a purely non-violent movement to affect positive change, especially in the I/P conflict.
“But the sort of non-violence Taylor supports is the sort that castrates resistance, and takes resistance out of the realm of history and into the realm of religion. What would Taylor have recommended to the Vietnamese? There is nothing nefarious about defending oneself from armed attack. Making it nefarious writes the Palestinian right to resist out of history, reserving righteous violence and force for the Western powers that already almost monopolize it.”
As the writer notes, look at the emasculated example of the MV Rachel Corrie, the June 5 ship that attempted to break the Gaza blockade. The IDF swiftly diverted the ship and the activists quietly complied with nary a cry. How effective was that?
In your call for non-violence you have mysteriously conflated the issue of illegitimate violence (e.g. suicide bombings of civilians) with the strategic usage of force employed by resistance groups. While the former is clearly indefensible, the latter is essential in opposing oppression.
It is a bit dispiriting to hear from a prominent American Muslim leader as yourself the unconditional call for non-violence by the Palestinians, as if such tactics have never been employed by the weaker side. For years, non-violence has played a leading role in the resistance against Israeli aggression, especially with the increased participation of foreign peaceful organizations.
So, for you to state your thoughts as you have, you are (unknowingly) bolstering the argument that Israel is justified in its actions to defend itself against this delusional ‘barrage of violence’.
Surely, that is not a sentiment you wish to express.
Ajl sums it up in the end of his article: “Those who resisted violently were brave. Those who resisted non-violently were brave. All were right. All were just. Solidarity organizations can agree in advance to resist or not to resist, as Taylor instructs us. But most oppression in human history has been thrown off by horrible violence. Frankly, if a man has a gun pointed at my head on my own territory and has shot the person standing next to me, and I can disarm that man, I will disarm him. And there is something surreal, if not pitiful, to demand not only that I abjure that basic human response, but furthermore, abjure it when the gun is pointed not at my head but at the person standing next to me. Writing about it admittedly makes for good copy and good employment for those living and writing in Western countries where power is eager to dissolve an internationally-sanctioned right to resist. For those living under the gun, Taylor’s prescriptions may seem a little odder.”
My other grievance is with regards to your blog post on the topic of Imam Anwar Awlaki. You write that Islamic bookstores and other businesses should stop selling his famous lectures, such as Lives of the Prophets, due to his recent calls in support of unIslamic acts of violence. You cite your concern that innocent Muslims who may be positively affected by his lectures, which you acknowledge as being extremely beneficial, could be led down the slippery slope towards his more recent lectures advocating unIslamic acts of violence.
How ironic is it that your warning of a slippery slope is itself leading you down another slippery slope. If we begin to advocate the censoring of Islamically legitimate material due to questionable views held by the author, where will this take us? You are creating a precedent that can be used in future calls to ban such revolutionary authors such Syed Qutb or Maududi.
Surely, that is not a precedent you wish to set.
As intolerable as Imam Anwar’s views on suicide bombing may be, it is equally intolerable to censor his legitimate work in fear of leading astray the ‘naïve’ and ‘ignorant’.
This reeks of paternalistic totalitarianism. Because lay-Muslims are too stupid to tell right from wrong, the Muslim leadership must censor the good stuff from the bad stuff.
While we’re at it, let’s get rid of all the Shia material. And all that goofy Sufi stuff as well. These books could really lead people astray, no?
I’m sure you realize that such an approach is inconsistent with the principles of a free society.
Many know you as a man of serious principle and strong leadership. But I must say that your past few posts have come off as someone trying to appease more than lead. I don’t think even Fox News has made such demands of the Muslim American community. So why would you? Also, what gives with you admitting that you've learned from Steve Emerson? The clown journalist has no interest in creating a working relationship with the Muslim community, as evidenced by his obnoxiously condescending response to you, yet you are touting his approval?
These past few posts seem like some ill-conceived PR campaign attempting to win over the distrusting American public. ‘Hey, look at us American Muslims. We understand you all are afraid of us, so watch us bend over backwards to prove our allegiance by cutting all relations with this new bogeyman, Imam Anwar, no matter how positive his work may have been to thousands and thousands of young Muslims. And we won’t stop there. We’ll throw in a complete rejection of all forms of violence resistance, choosing the more acceptable (to the American Empire) approach of non-violence. Now can someone please call Michelle Malkin so we can schedule a nice photo-op?’
In conclusion, while my letter is addressed to you, my thoughts are not solely restricted to you. They are more intended to address a trend I am fearful may be growing in the American Muslim community in specific, and the international Muslim community at large. That is why I chose to share my thoughts on my humble blog instead of writing to you in private.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Dear Imam Johari,
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Must-read article by Reverend Frank Julian Gelli on the World Cup:
"Capitalism-plugged football is the new opium for the people. A counterrevolutionary tool. So David Cameron had the flag flying over Downing Street yesterday when England played the US. The bankers, financiers and public school toffs in power want to keep the opium flowing. By contrast, faith in God is about liberation. About arousing people up from their drugged slumbers. About a bright new dawn. Listen to the Apostle to the Gentiles:
‘It is full time for you to wake out of sleep. For salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.’(Romans 13:11-12). Kick the habit, folks. Kick the Cup, O you new Gentiles. Time to wake up!"
Seems like the good reverend reads my blog:
"And it's this need for a diversion from 'life' that needs to be countered.
One reason for the Islamic prohibition of drugs and alcohol is the suspension of reality that is a consequence of their consumption. As mature, responsible adults, it is our duty (to ourselves, our families, and to our fellow man) to remain cognizant of our actions and our surroundings. By doing so, we are to constantly strive to become closer to the Ultimate Reality (swt).
Instead, we have become preoccupied with ways to distance ourselves from reality, thereby distancing ourselves from *the* Reality (swt)."
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Back in an age when marriage lasted a lifetime and divorce was not considered a failure of the marriage, but a failure of the self, a learned sheikh was approached by one of his students.
"Oh teacher, we have noticed how your wife is so abusive of you. She has embarrassed you in public countless number of times and never loses an opportunity to insult you. How come you don't simply take your legitimate right and divorce her?"
After a brief moment of silence and deep thought, the teacher looked up at the student and gently responded.
"My son, if I were to divorce this woman, one of two things would occur. Either she would remain a single divorcee or she would get remarried. In the first case, she would become miserable and lonely and I do not wish to be the cause of her misery. In the second case, she would cause her new husband untold difficulty and I do not wish to be the cause of his misery.
And so I have decided it best to take it upon myself to bear the burden of this misery. 'Surely Allah does not waste the reward of the doers of good' (9:120)"
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Who is Furkan Dogan you may ask?
He was the lone US citizen of the nine activists killed by the Israelis during the Flotilla Massacre. I was horrified to read about his execution-style killing and the even more horrifying, but not surprising, silence by the US on one of its citizens being murdered abroad.
What does this 19-yr old martyr have to do with me?
Well, besides his obviously extraordinary act of courage and sacrifice, I didn’t give any extra thought to him over the others who died at the hands of the IDF.
But when I read that he was born in a small town located in upstate New York named Troy, I immediately sat up.
You see, Troy, NY is known for nothing - absolutely nothing. The weather is dreary, the social life is non-existent, and the locals are aloof. Those living in this ex-industrial town are infamously known as Troilets.
The only thing of real value located in Troy is my Alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Yes, that makes me the only human being in the world who has the ignominy of being both a Troilet as well as a Baltimoron (being from Baltimore). Yay for me!
Anyways, so when I read that he was born in Troy 19 years ago, the story became a bit more personal. I was there in Troy from 1990 to 1994, the exact time of his birth.
And since I know that the only Turkish residents of Troy are RPI postgrads, I immediately started racking my brain for any Turkish brother with the last name Dogan, in the off chance that I actually may have known Furkan’s father. Seeing that it was almost 20 years ago, many names and faces have begun to blur, so I wasn't having much luck there.
And then when I finally found a picture of the good brother whose son was killed in the Flotilla Massacre, my heart dropped.
His name is Ahmet Dogan and I knew him from the local masjid at RPI. While he was pursuing his PhD, I was an undergrad youngling. I remember him for two things, his extremely quiet demeanor and his sweet jump shot. Our paths regularly crossed in many places during my four years there – at the masjid, at social gatherings, at Juma’a, on campus.
And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that I actually held little Furkan in my arms, during one of the countless encounters with dear Ahmet.
And for the mere possibility of having met modern-day martyr Furkan Dogan, I am humbled and honored.
Friday, June 4, 2010
MM posted this amazing debate on the Freedom Flotilla massacre between Ahmed Bedier and the Israel consul general in Florida. I can't put into words how impressed I am by Ahmed Bedier.
Azra put up a flashy ad by a SA telecom in support of the World Cup. As I commented on her blog, these types of ads truly disgust me. They deify sports and athletes as objects of worship. The world stops when the game begins. It was done with Jordan many years ago and it's being done today.
Judge for yourself:
File this under 'News to me' - it's illegal to send money to the Taliban. Not just for American citizens, but for Emiratis.
Seems that these folks sent money to the Afghan Taliban and in return got beat up by UAE police, who also threatened to sexually abuse them or a family member, and eventually were sentenced for three years for financing a terrorist organization.
The arm of the American legal system is very long indeed.