May 2009



Little Persian Cafe, on the corner of Broadway and W116th Street

by Dagmar Riedel
Street vendors in midtown Manhattan, between 5th and 6th Avenue, often play Arab music and wear vaguely Muslim head dresses. Some time ago, their advertisements began focusing on all-beef hot dogs and burgers. But now they are advertising their food as halal. The photos of the halal carts were taken between the end of March 2009 and the beginning of May 2009. It seems that both Arab-Americans and Iranian-Americans are jumping on the bandwagon, though dress and cart names may also be the result of marketing strategies. (more…)


Sacred meat with name of Allah from Nigerian restaurant

Gullibility may be the most common human trait. The West has its UFOs and citings of Elvis, following medieval Christian crusades to find the true cross and holy grail. Indeed, even the prepuce of the Messiah (venerated in the church on January 1) shares space in almost two dozen cathedrals. It is reported (the kind that Fox News might report) that on Christmas day in 800 AD the about-to-be-crowned Charlemagne gave a part of the foreskin of Christ to Pope Leo III. Charlemagne said he received it from an angel, but others say it was a wedding gift from the Byzantine Empress Irene. One wonders who spirited the bit of divine flesh out of the stable in Bethlehem and saved it for a future queen.

All three monotheisms posit signs from Yahweh, the Triune God or Allah. The Virgin Mary or even the head of Jesus may appear on a piece of toast, as though God blesses the bread we eat only if it can take the heat. Islam, unfortunately, is not immune from calligraphic appearances in the most mundane places. Less than a year ago, the Arabic name Allah, appeared on several pieces of meat in a Nigerian restaurant. Alhamdillah, it was beef. But as a sign of hard times, it was not a prime rib or filet mignon (which would have been far too much Western cuisine, I think), but gristle. “When the writings were discovered there were some Islamic scholars who come and eat here and they all commented that it was a sign to show that Islam is the only true religion for mankind,” claimed the restaurant owner. The more appropriate response might be: fat chance. (more…)

By Asghar Ali Engineer, April, 2009

A few days ago I was invited to speak in a Prophet Day’s function. There were other speakers as well. As usual the speakers before me indulged in rhetoric ‘Islam is the solution’ and also said the world economy has failed and slowed down as it is based on gambling and interest. Another person said Islam declared human rights 14 hundred years ago whereas UNO declared it only sixty years ago. Yet another speaker said Islam has given equal rights to women and made it obligatory for them to seek education. Also it was emphasized that Islam is religion of peace.

All this provoked me to say all this is true and I can add much more to it but have we ever seriously reflected why Islamic world is in such turmoil today. Why Muslims have totally failed to adopt these teachings in practice. I said if one caste a critical glance at Islamic world today one finds exactly opposite of what Qur’an teaches. If Qur’an lays great emphasis on knowledge, Islamic world from Indonesia to Algeria has more illiterates than any other community. (more…)

Historicizing Arab blogs: Reflections on the transmission of ideas and information in Middle Eastern history

by Brian Ulrich, Arab Media & Society, Spring 2009.

[This is an excerpt; to read the whole article, click here.]

Arab blogs have caught the attention of Middle East watchers. Much of the attention dedicated to them, however, has dealt with their political importance, whether as a mobilizing tool for activists or as an alternative source of news reporting. Blogging is also interesting, however, as a new and perhaps significant departure in the history of media in the Middle East. By this I do not mean “media” in the common late 20th century usage in which it applies primarily to those who work within unidirectional mass media, but rather as a medium of communication. In particular, I am interested in the way media enables and structures relationships between and among senders and receivers of ideas and information, as well as in the mechanisms of reception of messages and the perceptions of media forms and transmitters which circumscribe their authority. (more…)

Muslims for Progressive Values cordially invites you to participate in our Third Annual National Conference, to be held from June 19 – 21, 2009 at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.

Join us for a spiritually uplifting and engaging weekend as we explore this year’s theme, “Building the Progressive Muslim Community.” The retreat will include a variety of skills-building workshops including media engagement, political advocacy, and discussions on spirituality as well as social activities. To learn more or register to attend the conference, please click here.

The 3rd annual Muslim for Progressive Values retreat “Building a Porgressive Muslim Community” is June 19-21 at Sarah Lawrence College, NY and the deadline for registration is May 31, 2009. (more…)


Mosque in Jiblah, Yemen

There was a time when books were hard to come by. Either they cost too much or were inaccessible in a private or exclusive university library. Whatever else the world wide web has done (and that is a mouthful), it now functions as an archive. More and more, the rare and out-of-print books I used to be forced to read in a library reading room are becoming available online. Mr. Gutenberg might roll over in his Grab at the very thought of a pdf file, but print has taken a new and universal turn. I especially enjoy the “flipbook”, which simulates turning the pages of images of the original. For an enjoyable read on the early history of Yemen, there is the flipbook version of Henry Cassels Kay’s translation called YAMAN, ITS EARLY MEDIAEVAL HISTORY, published in London in 1892. This has excerpts (not always trustworthy in their translation) from Umarah ibn Ali al-Hakami (1120/21-1174), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406); Muhammad ibn Yaqub al-Janadi (d. 1332?).

The sad thing is that well over a century ago, Kay lamented that there was virtually nothing available on the history of Yemen, which had become of strategic interest to the British empire. (more…)

by David Newman, The Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2009

For the past two years I represented Israel’s universities in the UK in the debate surrounding the proposed academic boycott. There were many who could not accept the fact that a professor with left-of-center views should fill this role. The Department of Politics at Ben-Gurion University where I work has been described by its detractors as being the most left-wing academic department in Israel. After all, they would argue, people like myself are part of the problem, not the cause, and as proof of their argument they would roll out the same two or three names of Israeli academics (most notably Ilan Pappe) who had taken the unprecedented step of actually supporting the boycott. The proposed boycott proved to be a great opportunity for some left-wing bashing rather than focusing on the real problem – the growth of anti-Israel sentiment among specific groups within the UK university faculty union.

The last few years have been “in season” for attacking the academic left, a form of academic McCarthyism that is hard to recollect going back 10 or 20 years. Most pernicious and consistent is the self-styled Campus Watch, created by the neo-con critic of the Israeli left, Daniel Pipes. It uses students and faculty to spy on those teaching courses on Israel and the Middle East. Anyone who so faintly utters a word of criticism is immediately labeled as such, including some of the best critical scholars of Israel today. (more…)

The Bible is a big book with plenty of quotations for politicians and other enemies of clear thinking. Thomas Jefferson came up with his abridged Bible based solely on the Gospels. He saw value in the ethics but not much in the legal wrangling and superstitions. Now it appears that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took the opposite approach, striking out the blessed beatitudes like “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Who needs that when there is all that hellfire and brimstone and enemy bashing early on? Apparently not Mr. Rumsfeld, nor his adoring boss, Mr. Bush.

It appears that even though the Defense Secretary was not very adept at devising a plan for post-war Iraq security, he did know a thing or two about Photoshop. You can see a slide show of the illustrated covers of his “Worldwide Intelligence Update” (oxymoron that it was) on the GQ website. It is not hard to see why it was given “no distribution” classification. (more…)

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