Tag Archives: Islam

Tariq Ramadan – “Colonization and the Muslim Unconscious”

I began to write a book review today and ended up writing about the author instead.

The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad by Tariq Ramadan.

Maybe tomorrow I can find words to share about the book.

There are many books written about the Prophet, Allah’s messenger, and the origins of Islam. I chose this one as my introduction to the man and the religion because it seemed accessible (not overloaded with verses from the Qu’ran) and also because the author, Tariq Ramadan, is a well-known scholar of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford. A good friend in Gaza first introduced me to the writings of Tariq Ramadan.  شكرا

The back-story about the author was rolling in my head as I read his book.

In 2004, the author was offered a nonimmigrant tenured position at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He was granted a nonimmigrant visa but 3 months later the State Department revoked the visa citing the  “ideological exclusion provision” of the USA PATRIOT Act. The university went to bat for him but the government refused to budge and Tariq Ramadan resigned his position.

In 2005, Tariq was invited to speak at several universities in the U.S. and applied for a B visa. The State Department did not respond and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center – the three groups who had planned on meeting with Ramadan in the US – for revoking his visa under the “ideological exclusion provision”. They argued that the ideological exclusion provision was in violation of the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights of those three groups and that the government’s actions violated the Administrative Procedures Act.

The State Department rejected his second application for a Visa, stating: “A U.S. consular officer has denied Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s visa application. The consular officer concluded that Dr. Ramadan was inadmissible based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization.” Between December 1998 and July 2002, Ramadan had given donations totalling $940 to two charity organizations supporting Palestinians. The U.S. Treasury designated both as terrorist fundraising organizations for their alleged links to Hamas. The U.S. Embassy told Ramadan that he “reasonably should have known” that the charities provided money to Hamas. 

The ACLU challenged the government again and the case ended up in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  Am. Acad. of Religion v. Napolitano, 573 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 2009).  Al-hamdulillah! The court ruled in favor of Tariq Ramadan. The federal law (Immigration and Nationality Act) required the Visa applicant to know that he was rendering material support to the recipient, and the government should have confronted Tariq about this allegation rather than unilaterally denying the application and telling him after-the-fact. In 2010, the ban was lifted and Tariq came to the U.S.

Why is my government fearful of an Islamic scholar? Why is my government rejecting cross-cultural discourse and critical thinking? Why is my government erecting obstacles to humanity’s progress and understanding? I’m saddened by the U.S. government and many Americans who prefer to build walls, not bridges. If the Prophet were alive today, I suspect he would have some answers.

In this 40-minute video, Professor Tariq Ramadan discusses the “Colonization and the Muslim Unconscious” in 2014 at the Muslim Group Conference in the U.S.  I find alot of truth in his words, and encourage my friends to watch.  He speaks about Israel and Palestine about 23 minutes in.

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Filed under Islam, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, Video

Shukran!

Today I’m thinking about my eye.   My right eye, to be exact.

Lora with her eye bandaged after surgery.

Lora with her eye bandaged after surgery.

Shortly after returning to the United States following my 9 months in the Middle East, I had eye problems that required emergency surgery.  A detached retina which needed to be reattached post-haste.  I was fortunate to have the diagnosis and surgery accomplished within hours after the problem appeared.

Recovery has not been as quick, and today I learned that I now have a cataract in that eye as a result of the surgery.  I was warned about the risk before the surgery.  I will need more surgery to fix the cataract.

There are different ways of looking at our misfortunes in life.

  • We can sit and grumble and stew until we have developed ulcers.
  • We can fret and gnaw our teeth and have a temper tantrum.
  • We can analyze the situation, considering all the possibilities and options.
  • We can stomp our feet and yell “Why did this happen to ME!*!
  • We can ignore the problem and hope it disappears.
  • We can shrug our shoulders and say “oh well”.
  • We can try to get even — an eye-for-an-eye.
  • We can be thankful for the blessings we have and think about the future in a different way.

If this eye problem had occurred last summer, I don’t know how I might have responded. Today, I’ve decided to be thankful for my blessings.  And I think my trip to Gaza has a lot to do with my decision.

For months, I watched many new friends and acquaintances in Gaza coping under the most stressful and difficult of situations.  They couldn’t find a job. Their house was destroyed during Israel’s bombing in November.  Their request for travel abroad to study was denied.  A family member died in the West Bank and they were prevented from traveling to the funeral.  Their father was imprisoned in an Israeli jail under administrative detention (no charges, no evidence, no trial).  Their leg was amputated years ago when an Israeli bomb struck the house and it collapsed on top of the children. Children were orphaned as a result of the occupation and fighting. And a young man who lost his eye when he was struck by shrapnel.

I’ve met ALL of these people personally.  I can see their faces in front of me today.  And none of them complained or yelled in anger or gave up.  They all, each and every one of them, were thankful for the blessings Allah has given them.

I don’t know Allah.  But I feel my new friends in Gaza have made me a better person.  Shukran!

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Islam is a Peaceful Religion

Mehdi Hasan provides a powerful oratory in defense of Islam as a religion of peace at the Oxford Union.

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July 9, 2013 · 10:59 pm

Mother’s Day — Gaza style

Ahmad and me at the Rafah border crossing on Gaza side.

Ahmad and me at the Rafah border crossing on Gaza side.

I don’t think Palestinians in Gaza celebrate Mother’s Day.  Every day is Mother’s Day for them.  The Qur’an, I’m told, instructs good Muslims to take care of their mothers and women.

Yesterday was a good example.  On my last day in Gaza, I was accompanied to the Rafah border by the young man whose family I’ve been living with for the last 3 months. Even though he had a final exam that afternoon, he made all of the arrangements for our drive at 6 AM and then stayed with me until I was safely on the bus to the Egyptian side of the border.

Before the bus departed, he came onboard and pointed to another young man waving at me.  He told me this young man was crossing the border too and he would help me.

Refa'at and me at the Rafah border on the Egyptian side.

Refa’at and me at the Rafah border on the Egyptian side.

 Refa’at treated me like his mother.  He sat and chatted with me, offered to get me something to drink, translated for me with the Egyptian authorities, talked with the swarm of young people who wanted to carry my bags, and negotiated with the driver for my ride to Cairo.  Then we parted ways, but he called me later that evening to make sure I arrived in Cairo safely.
Mural at Rafah border.

Mural at Rafah border.

 It is especially difficult to leave my new friends who are living under Occupation and the Israeli siege. The injustices they endure are unfathomable.  What right does an American have to travel relatively easily and leave this open air prison, while the majority of 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza will never be able to leave?  Why?  How can humans treat each other like this?
Mural at the Rafah border.

Mural at the Rafah border.

If Americans only knew that our tax dollars and our elected members of Congress are responsible for perpetuating this inhumanity, we could stop it in a minute.

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The drive to Cairo was chaotic.  The driver was yelling at everyone for nearly the entire 7 hours. All of the passengers (except me) were smoking, including the woman wearing a niqab.  And the Sinai scenery is no longer exotic to me so I passed the time reading Ilan Pappe’s “The Ethnic Cleansing.”

I hope I will be able to return to Gaza one day, but I wish I could fly directly to the Gaza Strip and not have to cross the Sinai again.

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Filed under Gaza, Islam, Occupation, Peaceful

Charter for Compassion

When people in Gaza ask me about my religious faith, I tell them that I am nominally a Christian.  I try to live my life by the Golden Rule, something that all major religious traditions share.  “Do unto others as I wish they would do unto me.”  I wrote about the Golden Rule in January.

This morning, I stumbled across this TEDTalk by Karen Armstrong.  She says “religion has been hijacked” and that many “religious people prefer to be right rather than compassionate.”

Karen says that the Golden Rule must be applied globally.  “Any ideology that doesn’t promote global understanding is failing the test of time.”

“We should not treat other nations as we do not want to be treated.   . . .  It is well past time to move beyond mere toleration, and move towards appreciation of the other.”   At the end of her short 20 minute talk, she urges people to support the charter for compassion.  The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological and national differences.  Take a look here.

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Filed under Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion, Video

Easter and hope

Easter is a very special holy day for Christians.

As a little girl, I loved Easter very much because my sister and I would wear new dresses, new shoes, and new hats (bonnets) for church.  We decorated eggs and then the Easter bunny hid them so we could search for them on Easter morning.

Easter eggs

Easter eggs

The very best were the chocolate Easter bunnies.

Chocolate Easter bunnies

Chocolate Easter bunnies

As an adult, Easter means “hope” for me.   That four-letter word is what I’m hanging my hat on for the future — for my granddaughter, for my family, for my friends, and for Palestine and Israel.

Merriam-Webster defines hope: to cherish a desire with anticipation; to desire with expectation of obtainment; to expect with confidence.
In a world stressed with the challenges of climate change and horrific projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline, hope can seem far-fetched.
In a world plagued with intractable conflicts, such as Israel’s occupation of Palestine, hope can seem downright foolish.
But I can’t imagine life without hope.  That is the human spirit, that makes us different from plants and animals.  We have the power of imagination and creativity to believe in something better and to hope.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam all share that common denominator of hope. Now, if they could just share it together!
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What’s wrong with the Hamas Charter? Part 1

The US government officially designates Hamas a terrorist organization.  The Hamas Charter is usually cited as one of the main reasons.  So I’ve been very curious to learn more about this Charter, available here.  It is long and, frankly, poorly drafted because it rambles on and on and on.  I still haven’t finished it.  

Azzam Tamimi, author of Hamas Unwritten Chapters, says “the current Charter is written in a language that no longer appeals to well-educated Muslims.”   A balanced critique of the book is available here.

The Charter was first published on August 18, 1988 and has been frequently cited by Hamas critics as proof of its anti-Semitism and inflexibility.  Until the late 1990s, Tamimi says this criticism didn’t concern Hamas leaders much. They were more concerned about addressing Arabs and Muslims inside and out of Palestine, and not worried about what others thought.

Tamimi writes:

Many Hamas leaders now recognize that the fundamental and essential positions expressed in the Charter could be expressed in more universal language, that could appeal to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  Instead of justifying its statements in religious terms, which may mean little to those who do not share the same faith or the same vision, a new Charter should refer to the historical basis of the Palestinian cause.

In Tamimi’s opinion:

The biggest problem arising from the Charter lies in its treatment of the Jews. Part of the difficulty here is that of the language employed. The average Palestinian refers to Israelis as yahud, which is simply the Arabic word for Jews. Terms such as Zionist or Israeli figure mostly in the writings and conversations of an elite which has received secular education. They are not current in the vocabulary of the common man, and have until recently also been absent from Islamic discourse. When Arabic texts referring to the Israelis as yahud are translated into European languages, they may indeed sound anti-Semitic.

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Khalid Mish’al told a Canadian TV journalist that the liberation of Palestine “does not mean that either the Palestinian people, or we in Hamas, want to kill the Jews or want to throw them into the sea as Israel claims.”  He expressed his determination  to continue the struggle to liberate Palestine and regain the rights of the Palestinians, but denied categorically that there was a war against the Jews.  “No, we do not fight the Jews because they are Jews. We fight them because they stole our land and displaced our people; they carried out an aggression.  We resist this Zionist project which is hostile.”  As for those Jews who do not fight the Palestinians, he said: “I have no problem with them, just as I have no problem with peaceful Christians or peaceful Muslims.” He went on to explain that “if a Muslim were to attack me and steal my land, I have every right to fight back. This applies to all others irrespective of their race, identity or religion. This is our philosophy.”

I have met members of Hamas in Gaza and, just like Democrats and Republicans, I know I can’t judge the “party” by the opinions of a few.  But I’m convinced of one thing.  The current US policy in the Middle East, and the State Department’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization, are counter-productive. 

Hamas won a legitimate election in January 2006.  And if there was an election today, recent polling indicates Hamas would win big again.   So Obama, and Clinton, and all the foreign policy wonks in Washington . . . come out of your offices and see the world as it exists, not as you wish it existed.

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Filed under Elections, Hamas, Islam, Israel, Politics, US Policy