Archive for October, 2008

I believe in miracles…I think


I’m going to be honest. I’ve been wavering on my support for Obama ever since he spoke at the AIPAC conference, and his support for Israel became more and more concrete. He is, after all a politician and I’m just scared that he’s going to disappoint. Maybe it’s so it’ll be easier for me to deal with if he doesn’t come through. I’m scared that someone who can gain such popularity among a group of conniving politicians so entrenched in BS can’t possibly be as noble as he seems. I’m scared that people will think that somehow one man can heal a nation; that all that’s required of a population is to fill out a ballot. That’s just the first step. Without us, one man can’t do anything. Without his people, Ghandi would be nothing. Without MLK’s marchers, he would be a footnote. But most of all, I’m scared that he actually is what he seems. And all it takes is someone with a gun to tear all of it down. In a world where we are bombarded with reality shows, we forget the reality around us, how permanent things are.
We invest so much in one man, and we expect miracles. But isn’t the ascendence of a black man to the White House a miracle itself?


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Obama speaks to student body in ’91

I thought this was refreshing…a politician whose vision has been consistent long before he began his political career. Keith Olbermann tonight talked about his old history teacher at Hackley High, and how in 1991 the teacher invited Barack Obama, a third year law student at the time,  to speak to the student body during Black History month.

In the Hackley Review, student writer Alicia Yagoda described the speech as follows:

Throughout his speech, the speaker emphasized that change is possible. The core of his ideas, was that as the nation comes out of the conservative, money hungry, and cynical atmosphere of the Eighties, it needs the idealism of a socially conscious generation, coupled with actions to fulfill idealistic goals… .Perhaps because the times are confusing and the future is unforeseeable, the students listened closely to Barack Obama.

Seventeen years since, and Obama continues to inspire… Gobama!

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not in vain

the following is a poem i found scrawled in my little bro’s handwriting…as creative and smart as he is, the piece is actually by emily dickinson…i’m posting it here because i like it a lot…

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life from aching,

or cool one pain,

or help one fainting robin

unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

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Remembering Indianapolis

I will preface this by saying once again, that I am not in favor of all of Barack Obama’s policies, particularly his foreign policy. However, as a man, he is undeniably who I would want to be running this country. After reading this speech below, I am reminded of Obama;s speech on racism during the whole Jeremiah Wright debacle.  I can’t wait for a leader I can be proud of. If only for four years.  

On the day MLK Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was on his way to a campaign rally in Indianapolis. He was advised by police to cancel his appearance, which was before a primarily African American audience in a poor and dangerous neighborhood.

He refused.

Instead, he climbed the platform, with no speech prepared, and said what is pasted below.

That night, there were riots in over 180 cities across the US.

Indianapolis was silent.


Robert F. Kennedy on the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Ladies and Gentlemen – I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because…

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

For those of you who are black – considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.

Robert F. Kennedy – April 4, 1968

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Buried under steel skyscrapers in Tel Aviv
Deep beneath city streets built by Zionist thieves,
Lies the land of my people, concealed by unspeakable evil,
Demolished mosque minarets and broken church steeples.

Lost in dreams of distant memories
of what could have been, but will never be.

Jealous of Americans’ contented ignorance,
Their inherent unawareness mixed with indifference
An innocence that causes him to explicitly abhor them
his words dwarfed by all those who wrote before him.

Tukan, Barghouti, Darwish, Jayyusi
What will he say that these poets did not?
Brave wordsmiths who stepped towards the gunshots,
Put pens in slingshots and flung verbs instead of rocks.

How differently will his text reflect the madness?
What hasn’t previously been expressed by those faithful Arab accents?

A wish that his words weren’t wasted ink,
but carried enough weight to sink in,
Not chewed and spewed,
Regurgitated like too much cake,
And left on Facebook and MySpace pages.
Like quotations from so many Arab sages

He despises how they’ve taken inspiring lines
and placed them on coffee cups of corporate franchises

Words are only powerful if they are heard.
So he urges you
To listen.

How they changed 15 days of refuge into 60 years
Circulated false claims that no one lived there
Replaced old Arab names with new Hebrew seals
Arranged elaborate Mandates and enforced biased deals

How can he sleep
beneath exploding skies,
these children do not?


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Fatwa alert: Murder as a form of TV censorship

Recently, the NY Times did a piece on a fatwa that was issued by a highly respected Saudi scholar, Sheik Saleh al-Luhaidan. Basically, he stated that it was alright to murder the owners of TV networks for airing immoral programming. The ruling was in response to a highly popular Turkish soap opera that invaded the homes of Arabs across the Middle East during the month of Ramadan. In the show, among the main characters are a married couple in which the husband treats his wife as his equal. Scandalous, I know. Abortion was another issue that was dealt with.

My friend recently posted the story on Facebook and I thought one person’s comments were interesting in that they’re reflective of a general passive and uncritical attitude towards an ailing religious establishment in the Middle East. Essentially, he believes it to be a conspiracy on the part of Western media to smear Islam and make Muslims doubt their faith. Not to suggest that some journalists don’t intentionally choose to focus on the worst aspects of our communities, but to dismiss in knee-jerk fashion any and every criticism that comes out of Western journalism is due more to stubborn, blind faith and less from any evidence that Western editors conspire to attack the faith of Muslims. Why get defensive? Are we afraid that if we admit to and begin to reevaluate a form of Islam that has been partly molded by chauvinist and intolerant thinking, that it will somehow cause us to lose complete faith? Rather than make us doubt, these incidents should help us to work harder to fulfill the potential of our faith. We have to believe that if our faith is solid and true, than addressing these problems will only lead to a strengthened imaan. Because if it doesn’t, well then I’m not sure I want to follow a faith with so many inherent problems. But I don’t believe these issues stem from the divine. Each fatwa is simply one man’s interpretation.

The person who commented on the article described the sheikh as a well-respected scholar and warned about criticizing “stupid clerics”, as my friend described them. This is the same sheikh who in the past declared an already persecuted minority of Ismailis to be “infidels”, thereby legitimizing their maltreatment in Saudi Arabia. Imams are not above reproach if they are harming their communities and there’s a line between healthy respect and blind loyalty. A highly respected scholar with wide appeal should not be encouraging murder but instead remind Muslims that no person shall bear the burden of another’s sins, so if a person decides to own a television set then he or she does so at their own risk. Makes for less bloodshed and more personal accountability.

Beyond the fatwa itself, I take issue with these inconsistent clerics and their endemic double standards. This particular sheikh changed his original opinion when Saudi authorities, many of whom own these networks, got a tad upset over the fatwa he just put over their heads. Rather than blaming these men for the programming they’ve allowed into their country, which would have at least been consistent with his original logic, the sheikh instead put down his sword and decided that perhaps they should be given a fair hearing in court.

This is representative of how the religious establishment in the Middle East caters to powerful interests and vice-versa. Of all the thousands of fatwas manufactured by these men, not even a handful touch on the corrupt leaderships and societal ills that have direct bearing on peoples’ daily lives. And when it comes to the “highly respected” ones, the chances of finding such fatwas are nil. Instead we have scholars wasting our time on inconsequential matters, and blaming TV execs for a problem that can easily be resolved by simply changing the channel.

And what’s that say about an Arab world that’s become infatuated with a show seemingly promoting women’s rights? Reportedly, the show raised marital tensions between actual couples. Did the show really cause these problems though or did it just reveal what was already bubbling beneath the surface? Could it have anything to do with how women are treated in these societies? Case in point, recently Jordan’s religious establishment pressured the parliament to reject a law that would have protected women from honor killings because Imams worried it would threaten the nation’s “values.” And like always and as business as usual, the parliament in return stays out of the affairs of mosques as long as they’re not touching on their rule. Which I guess wouldn’t be so bad if Imams weren’t busy calling for assassinations and impinging on minority rights.

Corrupt political leadership is not the only thing deterring the Muslim world from progress…

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