Month November

  • Brass Crescent Awards, nominations now open – please vote (for me!)

    The nominations for the Brass Crescent Awards for 2008 are now open. I’m pleased and honoured that Spirit21 has once again been nominated for Best Blog and Best Female Blog. There are some great sites that have been shortlisted, so do spend some time reviewing them all and enjoying the diversity and expanse of the ‘Islamophere’.

    And of course, if you feel that Spirit21 deserves it, please nominate it for Best Blog and Best Female Blog.

    Closing date is December 19th, so get yourselves down there and happy voting!

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  • The one about the priest, the rabbi and the mullah…

    I have a theory, and I’m hoping you can help… I’m hoping that a bit of intercultural and interfaith humour can help bond us together and ease tensions. So I’m looking for jokes to bring together faiths.

    Here is a starter for ten:

    A priest, a rabbi and a mullah walk into a bar. The barman says “What is this, a joke?”

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  • What does a Muslim country look like?

    I’ve been in Turkey for the last few days, spending time between Istanbul, Ankara and Gaziantep, which is Turkey’s sixth largest city, located in the south-east of the country.

    Although Turkey may not be the UK’s closest Muslim country in geographical terms (I believe Morocco may be closer), I think that historically and culturally it may be the closest as part of our European heritage.

    The people I’ve met here are passionate about describing Turkey as the ‘bridge’ between Europe and the Middle East. Nowhere is that more poignant than here in Istanbul, where the residents point to the bridge across the Bosphorous that links Europe to Asia symbolically as well as physically. The architecture, landscape and climate feel at once both European and Asian, interwoven in an inexplicably successful manner.

    The melange is on the one hand confusing. What is Turkey? What is its place? Is it European, or is it Middle Eastern? Does it rest on a history of fluid cultures, peoples, invasions and empires? Or is it embracing and driving forward the 21st century?

    On the other hand, the paradoxes that face Turkey are the same ones that face the rest of the increasingly globalised borderless world, except Turkey’s history and geography force it to face the seeming contradictions front and centre. Do affiliations relating to one part of a nation’s identity, trump other ties, or can they co-exist? Or – and this is where Turkey’s real potential for the future may lie – is a multifaceted and complex nation like Turkey which has several connections, going to drive forward a sustainable and peaceful global future?

    These questions and challenges make Turkey a Muslim nation different to any other. It is at once traditional Muslim heartland, but also part of the European family. Its secular political system, which keeps religion firmly in the private domain, whilst its people are fervent about calling themselves Muslim, is quite distinct from other Muslim countries that I have visited.

    I asked myself the question “Why does Turkey feel different to other Muslim countries that I’ve visited?” The answer may lie in examining our own expectations of what a Muslim country should or should not be. Or it may lie in Turkey’s continuing volatile debate to understand its own identity as a European Muslim.

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  • Audacity of a non-American Dreamer

    Audacity of a non-American dreamer

    Yes we can
    Make a change
    Yes we can
    Find a way
    Yes we can
    Have a dream
    Yes we can
    Make it real

    Is it words?
    That may be
    Is it words?
    We will see
    Is it words?
    It’s in our hearts
    Is it words?
    That’s where we start

    It’s not one man
    That brought us here
    It’s not one man
    That made it clear
    It’s not one man
    That said it’s now
    It’s all of us
    That showed us how

    Change can come
    Our eyes have seen
    Change can come
    But does that mean
    That change will come?
    We’ll wait and see
    For change to come
    Change we must be

    Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

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  • Rahmah not Rubbish

    We love to tell the stories of the life of the Prophet, but have we really learnt to apply them to our daily lives?

    One of the favourite stories that Muslims like to recount is that of the woman who threw rubbish at the Prophet. We like it because it tells a simple human tale of compassion that wins out over malice. It is the triumph of patience and good manners over hatred.

    The Prophet walked along a particular street every day on his way to conducting his affairs. From one of the windows, a woman who was angry at him for preaching the message of one God, would throw rubbish at him. Each day he would walk past, and each day she would throw her fetid refuse at him. One day, as he is walking past, there is no rubbish thrown at him.

    Let us pause for a moment, before completing the story, and really truly think about what it must have been like to face this daily occurrence. We recount it very glibly, and don’t really feel it in our hearts.

    Dear reader, please take a moment to create this situation as though it is real to you, and feel the emotions that rise up within you. You are walking under a window, and a pile of stinking vegetable peelings, rotting banana skins, three day old meat trimmings and some used toilet roll hits your head. You live in a hot environment, and so the mixture of putrid waste is particularly disgusting. A voice rings out above you: “******* Muslims! Terrorist! Osama lover!” and the abuse continues. We can all easily fill in blanks of the insults that Muslims face everyday. I would feel angry, furious. That is the natural human response.

    Now we return to the behaviour of the Prophet himself. One particular day, there is no rubbish thrown at him. He is concerned and so he enquires after the whereabouts of the woman. When he is advised that she is unwell, he goes to visit her to see the state of her health. She is shocked when he arrives, knowing full well the extent of her abuse. His kindness and patience in dealing with her cruelty wins her over, and she accepts the message that the Prophet has been preaching.

    How much we love to tell this story! How proud we are of the Prophet’s exemplary character! But we fail to apply this in our daily lives. Let us return to our imaginary scene above. Would we have asked about the well-being of our abuser? Would we have taken time to get to the bottom of why they abused us? Would we have dealt with compassion and reason with them?

    Many Muslims today already do suffer this kind of abuse, from simple rude comments on the street, to derogatory content in the media, to smearing in political circles, to books which cause offence. Sometimes we find it hard to connect it to the stories of the Prophet because we have not internalised the human experiences of the individuals whom we rightly venerate. And this is because we have not put ourselves in the shoes of their real human experience.

    When we see an attack on Islam or Muslims, we ignore the example of the Prophet to return violence with rahmah, compassion, and concern, and instead return it with anger, protest and in a handful of cases with violence. It is easy to wax lyrical about the Prophet’s patience, but have we really ever imagined ourselves in the situation, as we did a moment ago? Can we now imagine how hard what he did was? When scorn is poured upon Muslims, upon Islam and heartbreakingly on those whom we respect, we must rise above the instinctive response to retaliate with base violence. Defending yourself, and asserting your rights is indeed critical. It is right and proper to rise up to the full extent of law and justice. But we have to also bear in mind the vision that Muslims ought to have for society: to create an equal, fair and tolerant world that is based on knowledge and compassion.

    A visionary can only take a dream and turn it into reality by meeting abuse with knowledge. And when those who are thirsty to know about all the values that can make us the best of human, they will look to wherever they can find that knowledge. If Muslims are not offering accessible knowledge, then that thirst will be quenched wherever even the mirage of truth appears. Where there is abuse, it must be replaced with knowledge and compassion, rahmah. That is what happened when the Prophet stepped into the woman’s home. As the Qur’an says, when we face those who are ignorant, we should return it with peace; that is the spirit that leads to quantum change.

    This article was published in The Muslim News

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