June 2015

We moderns devour news as if it were a staple food. Gone are the days when one sat down for coffee in the morning with a daily newspaper. There are still newspapers of every flavor, but news is now the product of digital media. And the news cycle grows shorter all the time. During the American Civil War it might take weeks for reports of battles to be reported in the papers. The telegraph and telephone made the news flow a bit faster, but until digital formats news was always at least a day old, if not more. Now many events are instantaneous. Mobile videos of police brutality go viral in minutes. And the sheer number of news and social media sites could easily fill up surfing all 24 hours of the day.

In the old days newspapers were selective in publishing letters to the editor. Really nasty retorts and profanity rarely made it into print. But most sites today leave space for comments from anyone. The results are pathetic. Rational discussion of issues raised is almost non-existent. Curses and lunatic projections are common. I was reading an Al Jazeera article entitled “How is ISIL expanding?” Al Jazeera disclaims all liability for anything posted as comments and well they should.

Below are some of the comments posted (apart from the spam that have nothing to do with the article). The mentality of some of the individuals matches their inability to write in English. Prejudice über alles in cyberspace:

Start cooking the popcorn as sunni and Shia showdown  looms on the horizon. ……All muslime countries  need to be destabilised and turned  into flea infested wastelands. CIA, MOSSAD  and RAW collaboration achieving excellent results.  (more…)

Commercial giants are playing fast and loose with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. These days it can be a big juicy Ramadan deal, wherever you live, when you go out after avoiding food and water all day long. Fast food chains are especially eager to break your fast. Somehow I suspect that if the Prophet Muhammad were alive today, he would not order pizza and a coke for iftar. If fasting is only about denying yourself for half a day and then living it up for the other half, it loses all spiritual meaning. There are a number of hadiths recording what the Prophet Muhammad said about the holy month of Ramadan. One of these is related as follows: “When Ramadan enters, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hellfire are closed and the devils are chained” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Modern day businesses are more interested in opening the gates of their franchises and leaving the gates of Hellfire ajar, while quite a few devils seem to have no problem breaking their chains.

Just as Christmas is now about putting presents under a tree and Easter is searching for colored eggs, so Ramadan has become a time to buy rather than contemplate. Capitalism captures religion whenever there is a profit to be made out of a prophet. Restaurants offer special iftar meals, usually with elaborate spreads, and hours are reduced in most Muslim countries so workers can go home and take a nap. Religiosity shines while acting on the ethical principles of the faith takes second place to making sure iftar is exactly at the adhan and not a nanosecond before. This may be the letter of the law, but it misses the whole reason for fasting in the first place.

Then there are the promotions that show the hypocrisy of the appeal. Tsk, tsk British Tesco for inviting Muslims to partake of a Ramadan special like bacon-flavored Pringles. The artificial and the superficial combine to make Ramadan just another shopping holiday.

Islamic Africa is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, academic journal published online and in print. Incorporating the journal Sudanic Africa, Islamic Africa publishes original research concerning Islam in Africa from the social sciences and the humanities, as well as primary source material and commentary essays related to Islamic Studies in Africa. The journal’s geographic scope includes the entire African continent and adjacent islands. Islamic Africa encourages intellectual excellence and seeks to promote scholarly interaction between Africa-based scholars and those located institutionally outside the continent.

Check out the blog post by Eric Davis of Rutgers University on the need to take out Da’ash now.

For my post at Mena Tigningen, click here.

Heritagedaily.com, November 11, 2013.

“These are not the ruins you’re looking for!”

In 2012 Italian photographer Rä di Martino spent more than a year wandering the desert towns of Morocco and Tunisia, on her journey she came across the curious remnants of another world…

‘A long time ago in a galaxy far away’ these words are so familiar as to be short hand for the beginning of a grand adventure! Much like the immortal words ‘Once upon a time’ or ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ they are arresting and instantly significant. For generations they have peaked the interest of the movie-going public and almost like a mass pavlovian experiment, we can scarcely stop ourselves from re-playing the grand opening phrases of John Williams’ iconic score in our heads – perhaps making raspy lightsaber noises with pursed lips as we thrash our arms about… Just like a ‘real’ Jedi.

We return to Rä coming upon the ruins of ‘Tatooine’ as one might approach the standing structure of Karnak or even the megaliths of Stonehenge. Though while those ruins are of cultures from the distant past, these are of cultures from the depths of human imagination. Some stand alone in the desert while others have been incorporated into towns and homesteads. She found the juxtaposition of these remnants of ‘another world’ and ‘real’ ruins fascinating and decided to feature them in a series of photographs entitled ‘Every World’s A Stage’. (more…)