Friday, November 13, 2009

Service members bridge gap between mosque and military

Interesting piece in the LA Times about American Muslims in the military and their patriotism.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bill Cosby: Mark Twain Prize

Bill Cosby was honored at the Kennedy Center where he received the 2009 Mark Twain Prize. PBS covered the ceremony and it features clips of Cosby through the years. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

University blasts in Pakistan and the future of Islam

Interesting article by Mark LeVine, professor of history at UC Irvine, as he reflects on the bombing of International Islamic University in Islamabad. Here is an excerpt from the story:

With this attack, the Taliban has struck what until now was a sanctuary, however fragile and inchoate, where the emerging generation of Pakistanis and Muslims could determine on their own terms how best to bring together their cultures and traditions to grapple with the profound challenges faced by their societies.

I hope it doesn't weaken the spirit and resolve of the thousands of students who've come to the IIU from across the Muslim world to help build a better future. They are not just the future of Pakistan, or of Islam; they are the future as well.

Judge Richard Goldstone

A fascinating interview of Judge Richard Goldstone by Bill Moyers. Judge Richard Goldstone was chosen by the United Nations to investigate "Operation Cast Lead," the Israeli attack on Gaza. His report found Israel guilty of war crimes and some actions which could amount to crimes against humanity. Judge Goldstone says some remarkable things:
These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment, and constitute war crimes. The government of Israel obviously has a duty to protect its own citizens. That in no way justifies a policy of collective punishment of a people under effective occupation, destroying their means to live a dignified life and the trauma caused by the kind of military intervention the Israeli government called Operation Cast Lead.
[later in the interview...]
Well, I saw the destruction of the only flour-producing factory in Gaza. I saw fields plowed up by Israeli tank bulldozers. I saw chicken farms, for egg production, completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of chickens killed. I met with families who lost their loved ones in homes in which they were seeking shelter from the Israeli ground forces. I had to have the very emotional and difficult interviews with fathers whose little daughters were killed, whose family were killed. One family, over 21 members, killed by Israeli mortars. So, it was a very difficult investigation, which will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.
[later in the interview...]
You know, one thing one can't say about the Israel Defense Forces is that they make too many mistakes. They're very, a sophisticated army. And if they attack a mosque or attack a factory, and over 200 factories were bombed, there's just no basis to ascribe that to error. That must be intentional.
[later in the interview...]
No, no. On the contrary, I was struck by the warmth of the people, that we met and who we dealt with in Gaza. You know, my fears were put aside. When I went back for the second visit to Gaza, I went with a much more equanimity and level of acceptance.
[later in the interview...]
Which is a form of racism. Why should my being Jewish stop me from investigating Israel? I just don't see it. I think a friend should be open to criticism from friends.
It is amazing to hear someone speak with such passion for the truth and justice.

You can watch the whole interview, online at PBS.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Who Speaks for Islam - documentary on LinkTV

An interesting documentary recently done on Link TV called, "Who Speaks for Islam" that was hosted by Ray Suarez. The full episode is posted online and a review was recently done by the New York Times. Check it out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dispelling the myths behind Columbus

An interesting post about Columbus and the role of myth-making in popular history

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

Representative Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida, has gained a lot of attention for his now-famous description of Republicans' plans for healthcare (Step 1 - Don't get sick. Step 2 - And if you do... Step 3 - die quickly).

His speech, delivered on the House floor, was quite refreshing, mainly for the response it provoked among conservatives and liberals. It may help shift the momentum of the debate so that Democrats are no longer on the defensive. More importantly, it serves as a stark reminder that there are serious consequences to cosmetic reform measures that largely protect special interests.

People without insurance, or with inadequate insurance, often enter the healthcare system with late complications of their illness that end up costing society far more than if they were treated earlier. From a purely economic viewpoint, it is better for society if such people die quickly, and Grayson's comments insinuate that this is the Republican perspective.

While clearly an exaggeration, it does remind us that healthcare reform, fundamentally, cannot simply be about economics. It has to be based on the notion that every individual has the right to receive healthcare. If we proceed from this principle, then we can find a way to make the economics work. But if we start from a position of profiteering, then no meaningful reform will ever take place.

Representative Grayson appears to be fighting for principles - even before tackling healthcare, he has taken a leadership role in holding the banking industry accountable for the money it receives from the federal bailout.

This surprises me somewhat as he is a Harvard educated multi-millionaire; I was almost hoping to find out he was a teacher or policeman who rose up to fight for his constituents. Well, we'll take what we can get...

The reality is that health care reform will largely protect special interests while requiring only incremental "sacrifices" that will nominally expand insurance coverage for the uninsured or improve coverage for the underinsured.

The public option, a government-backed insurance plan, was a creative solution that could have made a meaningful difference. Hopefully, Grayson's comments will remind us of what is at stake and encourage real reform measures to be considered...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Child is Born

Incredible photographs of the developing fetus, with details that are stunning...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Planet where the rain is rock hard

Interesting news story on a newly discovered planet that is so hot, it rains rocks...

Sunday, September 27, 2009


A new movie coming out called, "Amreeka," and was recently reviewed, and strongly recommended by, Roger Ebert. Chronicles the story of a Palestinian woman and her son as they adapt to life in America...below is the opening paragraph from Ebert's review and the trailer as posted on YouTube. Enjoy!
Muna is a non-religious Palestinian, which makes her an outsider on both sides of the Israeli checkpoint she has to pass daily on the way to her job as a bank accountant. She dreams of emigrating to America with her teenage son, Fadi, so he can grow in a less sectarian society. When against all odds, she wins the U.S. lottery for green cards, they leave for a new life that is more, and less, than they expected.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

At Capitol, 3000 Muslims gather for Prayer, Solidarity

Interesting news story from the Washington Post...

Nearly 3,000 people gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol on Friday for a mass Muslim prayer service that was part religion and part pep rally...

Interestingly, rather than a protest, it was a gathering of Muslim Americans who were praying for America...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Qur'an by Hafiz Ilyas

A local shout out this time, Hafiz Ilyas of the Des Plaines Islamic Community Center. The video makes little sense but the recitation is wonderful.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Myth of the Monolith

There was an interesting opinion piece by Professor Olivier Roy and Justin Vaisse in the NY Times entitled, "How to Win Islam Over."

Vaisse is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute

Olivier Roy, is author of "The Failure of Political Islam," a standard text on political Islam. There is an interesting interview of him as part of the series, "Conversations with history."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Qur'an: Surah Baqara by Salah Budair

Ramadan 2009 - The Big Picture

Absolutely beautiful photo essay in The Boston Globe about Ramadan...check it out:

Friday, August 07, 2009

Give that bird a drink, never mind I'll get it myself!

This is a fascinating story about some ingenious birds. Check it out:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ghostwriters paid by Wyeth Aided its Drugs

The NY Times and others have uncovered that Wyeth used ghostwriters to write a large number of journal articles trumpeting the merits of hormone replacement therapy. These articles were often published as review articles or editorials, formats that are designed to influence physician thinking on a subject.

Often, physicians would sign their names on to such documents, with minimal original contribution, presumably in exchange for pay or simply the "academic" output such a publication would provide.

These discoveries were made as a result of ongoing lawsuits against Wyeth for the deleterious effects of hormone replacement therapy on inappropriately selected female patients.

It's just a reminder to me about the importance of learning to read the medical literature critically and objectively.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Status: Managed

Well, it can be tough to keep your status updated across all the social networking platforms out there. I mean logging in, typing it, logging out and repeating for 3-4 sites...who wants all the hassle?

You all want to know what I'm doing right now, right away, don't you? Here are three different ways to do just that...the sites are called, pixelpipe and quub...anyone else use any of these services? Let me know what you think...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Flying with faith

Nice story about airport chapels and the increasingly diverse mix of faiths that use them...I have certainly found them useful, especially when flights are delayed...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Gaza war victims testify before UN panel

A reminder that the devastation, physical and emotional, of Israel's attack on Gaza still haunts the people of Gaza...

Gaza kids eye kite-flying world record

Even in Gaza, a child can have a moment of joy...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

H1N1 flu impacts plans for Hajj

To limit the possible health impact on those making the Hajj, new restrictions on those who can make the pilgrimage will be added this year. Ironic that the swine flu will keep some Muslims from making Hajj...pigs are just bad news!\07\24\story_24-7-2009_pg7_38

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rabbi Levy Rosenbaum arrested for brokering black market organ sales

A sad story of exploitation that you just couldn't make up: a New York rabbi, Levy Rosenbaum, has allegedly been working as a black market organ broker for the last ten years, in a network that includes 5 rabbis and 3 New Jersey mayors and which appears to be centered in Israel.

This is the first documented case of human donor organ trafficking in the United States and it is getting very little media coverage. Here are some newspaper excerpts:

NY Daily News
Rosenbaum was a middleman in a “kidney mafia” that includes doctors in Israel, a worldwide network of organ hunters, and brokers who match patients and donors with doctors who do the transplants, said Nancy Schepper-Hughes, founder of Organ Watch, which investigates trafficking.
NJ Star Ledger
He planned to give the donor $10,000, federal authorities said, and charged his client a handsome fee: $160,000.

"I am what you call a matchmaker," the complaint quotes Rosenbaum as telling the undercover agent.

Had the transaction been real, federal authorities said, it would have been the most recent chapter in Rosenbaum's 10-year career as an illicit middleman. In each case, he would take a blood sample from a prospective recipient and give it to an associate at an insurance company who could analyze it at a lab without arousing suspicion. The sample would then be shipped to Israel and the necessary people paid off to find a match.

"He preyed on vulnerable people, " said assistant U.S. District Attorney Mark McCarron.

Rosenbaum would then arrange the donor's flight to New York, including obtaining a visa, authorities said. Once the donor arrived in the U.S., Rosenbaum would help fabricate a relationship between the donor and recipient -- a story both would repeat during interviews with medical professionals. The two might pretend to be business associates, for instance, or close friends from a religious congregation.
Daily Record
The alleged decade-long scheme, exposed this week by an FBI sting, rocked the nation's transplant industry. If true, it would be the first documented case of organ trafficking in the U.S., transplant experts said Friday.


Scheper-Hughes said her research has uncovered hundreds of cases of illegal organ transactions brokered by and for Israelis in Israel, South Africa, Turkey and other countries, with sellers recruited from poor communities in Moldova, Brazil and elsewhere.
The sale of human organs is something that many bioethicists and religious groups oppose. All living donors in the United States are supposed to declare that their donation is free of any financial interest.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes gave an interview on BBC in 2008 about why she feels the sale of human solid organs is wrong.

A study published in JAMA in 2002 showed that, in India, where there are no restrictions on the sale of organs, "selling a kidney does not lead to a long-term economic benefit and may be associated with a decline in health" thus refuting the notion that organ trafficking can improve economic conditions among the poor.

One could only imagine horrific situations in which an uninsured patient suffering a heart attack were told that his hospital bill could disappear if only he sold his perfectly normal kidney...

...I'm glad that the wheels of justice are beginning to turn in this case and hope such exploitation is shut down...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Uighurs: China's Muslim Minority Claims to be Marginalized in Its Ancestral Homeland

It is important to note that China's repression of religion is a major cause of the unrest and if it simply allowed its people the right to worship, a lot of this struggle would be moot. This piece opens with a nice poem.

New movie: Captain Abu Raed

New movie out called Captain Abu Raed, directed by Amin Matalqa, a Jordanian-American who studied at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. It earned 90% on rottentomatoes and won a prize at the Sundance festival.

Here is a link to the trailer, a review in the San Jose Mercury News, another one on 360east.

Seems like a great story, let me know if any of you have seen it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Muslims hope for new era of understanding

A nice piece on Muslim Americans and their involvement in civic life...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Muslim Headscarves to be allowed in Georgia courtrooms

I'm glad common sense has finally caught on in Georgia...if it's okay for a nun, why isn't it okay for a Muslim woman? If freedom means the right to dress provocatively, why not also modestly? It's nice to see that the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, also supported this decision.

Read the rest of the article here

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Islam in Xinjiang: an ancient rival for a young China

Interesting piece on the positive role of Islam in the social life of Chinese Muslims in Xinjiang and the Communist repression of its expression. Here is an excerpt:

Other popular Islamic Uighur rituals fill roles that the government cannot. One, called the mäshräp, brings men together to perform, to read and discuss the Qur'an, and to mete out punishments for immoral behaviour in the community. In the city of Ghulja in the mid-1990s, these organisations became very influential, as they were popularly recognised as a force for positive social change, especially in addressing alcoholism and drug abuse. The groups even began to establish football clubs. In February 1997, the authorities cracked down on the groups, calling them illegal separatist gatherings. The government used football pitches for tank exercises and then cracked down violently on the subsequent protests. The groups became victims of the state's imperative to control every aspect of public life.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Documentary: "New Muslim Cool"

A documentary called, "New Muslim Cool" is airing on PBS and is the story of Hamza Perez, a Puerto Rican who gave up his life as a drug dealer after embracing Islam. Hamza dedicates himself to rehabilitating drug dealers and also is a hip hop artist. A nice review of the documentary was posted by Ginia Bellafante on the New York Times website. An excerpt:
Shot primarily in grim quarters of Pittsburgh, it chronicles the life of a young religious convert to quietly explore the porousness of cultural identity and the immense challenges presented to a man dramatically trying to reinvent himself in the face, essentially, of sanctioned prejudices.

ACLU condemns U.S. crackdown on Muslim charities

An article in the Los Angeles Times by Duke Helfand discusses the difficulties Muslim Americans face in charitable giving by highlighting a recent report from the ACLU. An excerpt:
The federal government's crackdown on suspected terrorism financing since the Sept. 11 attacks has violated the rights of American Muslim charities and deterred Muslims from charitable giving, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report Tuesday.

An expansion of laws and policies since 2001 has given the U.S. Treasury Department in particular virtually unchecked authority to designate charities as terrorist organizations and freeze assets without adequate safeguards to protect against mistakes or abuse, the study concluded.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


An interesting review in the New York Times by David Sanger of "Engaging the Muslim World," a new book by Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan and author of the blog, "Informed Comment." There is also a funny interview of Juan Cole on Colbert Nation.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Yusuf [Cat Stevens] rides the inner-peace train

Niece piece in the LA Times about Yusuf Islam's (formerly Cat Stevens) upcoming album and his personal journey over the's a quote from the article in which Yusuf describes how he found Islam:
"I think it was my birthday, and my brother decided to buy me a copy of the Koran. He knew of my ardent search for big answers, and he had realized that here was a religion that very few of us in the West had taken the time to study," Yusuf said. "It's all been colored by our prejudice, connected to the history of wars in Christendom. But really the religion is quite hidden. I personally was surprised when I discovered how well it fit in with my dreams.

"It was," he said, pausing briefly, "kind of miraculous."
You can hear clips from his new album, Roadsinger, on his website. One of my favorites is "Welcome Home." Some videos from the new album are on YouTube:

First Pakistani Muslim Female Student Named City Tech Valedictorian

It's never too late to complete your education but it's even better when you do it with excellence

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tax Software Deals

Ah yes, the time approaches for paying the tax man. Check these offers out for doing your taxes online. Unfortunately, I don't get any referral fee, but you can always buy me a cup of coffee...

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35% off TaxCut if you use Mastercard

There are a number of companies that will file your federal taxes for free, depending on your adjusted gross income and what type of income tax you file. The IRS has a comprehensive listing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

IMAX movie: Journey to Mecca, In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta

A new IMAX movie, "Journey to Mecca, In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta" recounts the adventures of the legendary traveler, Ibn Battuta, in the year 1325, as he traveled 3000 miles through the deserts of North Africa to Mecca in order to perform the Hajj.

The closest venue for the movie is in Dearborn, MI at the Henry Ford IMAX. For the world travelers in the audience, it is also playing in Montreal, Paris, Toronto, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi (in case you needed an excuse to visit those cities).

It looks really good from the trailers and they have a facebook page as well with pictures and more information.

Ibn Battuta published an account of his travels in Arabic and numerous translations are available. I also found an English translation, via Google Books, of an abridged version by Samuel Lee, who was a professor of Arabic at Cambridge in the 1800s available freely for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Obama Administration and Civil Liberties

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has decided to continue the "state secrecy" program which allows the "rendition" of suspects to foreign countries for interrogation without the need for evidence. Think about how scary that sounds, if you love civil liberties.

You can be shipped overseas, tortured and detained in a foreign country's prison and never be given a reason, a court date or any evidence to prove your involvement.

One of the more shocking stories is that of Binyam Mohamed, whose story has been covered by several sources (Telegraph, NY Times, Daily Kos, Salon). The Obama administration maintains that divulging information would threaten national security, but the details of Mr. Mohamed's case, and others like him, are already well publicized and documented.

Read the Los Angeles Times and NY Times editorials on these issues.

Quote from the LA Times Editorial:
If a man credibly claims to have been snatched from his home and family and tortured by or with the acquiescence of the government, he deserves a fair and impartial reckoning in court. Besides, the government's assertions about the damage that could ensue should be viewed skeptically. The history of the privilege suggests that the government may use it not so much to protect national security as to prevent its own illegal or embarrassing misadventures from coming to light.

Quote from the NY Times Editorial:
The Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.

The opinion piece by Glenn Greenwald, on, is also well worth reading.

I had high hopes that Obama's legal background would make him a strong supporter of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the honored traditions of due process, of the American belief in innocence until proven guilty. It appears that Obama was only interested in marketing hope.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Al' America: Travel Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots

A new book that chronicles the long history of Muslims in America. I haven't read it yet, but looks interesting. There is a recent review in the Washington Post by Paul Barrett.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Image of thy love," an excerpt from Hafiz

In some of my reading about Rumi, I have come across another great poet and Sufi, Shamsuddin Muhammad, who is known simply as Hafiz. He lived during the 1300s in the city of Shiraz and has legendary status among Persian poets and Sufi scholars.

His poems about love are suffused with mystical undertones and even the English translations, despite their many limitations, give one a sense of how beautiful they must be in the original language.

Here is an excerpt from one of his ghazals, translated by William Henry Lowe:

By the soul of the Master, and time-honoured truth, and the
faithful covenant
[I swear] that the companion of my morning hour is prayer
for thy welfare

My tears, which have surpassed the flood of Noah,
From the tablet of my breast have been unable to wash the
image of thy love

Transact some business, and buy this broken heart,
For in its broken state, it is worth a hundred thousand whole

Friday, January 30, 2009

Found in Translation: How a Thirteenth-Century Islamic Poet Conquered America

An interesting article by Ryan Croken which uses the case of Coleman Barks, a popular translator of Rumi, to make a larger point about the mistranslation of Muslim culture in America. As Mr. Croken states:

Muslims are mistranslated everywhere, egregiously so—not just their poetry, but their faces, their character, their humanity.

While I think Coleman Barks' translations are to be avoided, they really are of poor quality, the larger point that Croken makes about mistranslations of culture, especially Muslim culture, is worth considering.

Rumi, may Allah have mercy on him, was a Muslim mystic and saint who reminded people of our connection to our Lord in ways so piercing that his words continue to enlighten centuries after his death, in languages and cultures nothing like his own.

A brief biographical sketch of Rumi is available here, and some older English translations are available online (links soon). Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

60 Minutes report on Palestine

Watch CBS Videos Online

An interesting report on Palestine by 60 Minutes, one quote from Bob Simon, the reporter:

"Without a separate Palestinian state, the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank. They could give Palestinians the vote, that would be the democratic option, but would be the end of the Jewish state. Or they could inflict apartheid, have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians. But apartheid regimes don't have a very long life."

The report goes on to detail how a "security wall" has been built, sometimes straight through farms owned by Palestinians, how water is diverted away from Palestinians, how Palestinians are forced to use separate roads from Israelis and the demolition of homes in East Jerusalem owned by Palestinians.

It was shocking to see the contrast between the immaculate, green, fortress-like settlements with the drab, debilitated neighborhoods of the Palestinians. Former United States president Jimmy Carter has already used the term apartheid for the treatment of Palestinians and, after watching this report, it was not hard to see why.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Take My Hand, new album by Nader Khan

I first came across Nader Khan from the Seekers Digest blog and he has a beautiful song called "Take My Hand" that is worth hearing. He also has some songs in Arabic and Urdu that are wonderfully done...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Gaza: the logic of colonial power

Nir Rosen, a journalist who covers the Middle East, has written an insightful article on the situation in Gaza in the English newspaper, The Guardian. Mr. Rosen exposes the hypocrisy of powerful states that attempt to legitimize morally inexcusable actions by holding only one group of civilians as sacred.

Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims.

Much like the United States in its frontier days, Israel has adopted a philosophy of manifest destiny that will not spare the Palestinians. To this day, Native American reservations largely remain symbols of despair in America, the under recognized burden of an exclusionary manifest destiny.

The international community, and America in particular, has the opportunity to prevent the tragedies of history from repeating themselves, yet it would take the kind of inspired leadership that seems lacking in Washington, Obama's election notwithstanding.