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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Peter King Gets His Comeuppance in the Senate

The ShortFormBlog points out the push and pull of Congressional whimsy:

  • action A couple weeks ago, Rep. Peter King attracted controversy by launching a Congressional hearing titled “The Radicalization of American Muslims.”
  • reaction At the behest of Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, the Senate will be holding a hearing titled “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims.” source

On the other hand, I have to wonder if the Senate’s gesture can possibly heal some of the pain caused by Rep. King’s efforts and media outreach.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Tagged: #politics #Muslim
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Sounds from Jerusalem: Hymns and Muezzins’ Calls from the Mount of Olives

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor, and Chris Heagle, producer

Asian Christians sing hymns on the Mount of Olives
(photo: Trent Gilliss)

We happened upon the most magnificent soundscape today while viewing the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It’s a serendipitous few minutes of audio that gives you a feel of the magic of this sacred land and the way religions, people, and cultures continually bump up against one another.

What you first start hearing is a group of Evangelical Christians from South Korea singing a classic hymn. But, within a minute, just as these pilgrims finish, a new wave laps up the side of the ridge. A muezzin calls Muslims to prayer. Then, in stagger-start style, the muezzin’s call from Al-Aqsa Mosque summons another group of Muslims. The recitations float freely and nimbly, almost as if you could waft the layers of sound at your choosing.

We hope you enjoy! I’d appreciate hearing your reactions.

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The Islamification of Weed

by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Nejma SheaNejma Shea is a 29-year-old hip-hop artist who categorizes herself as an underground MC. Her socially conscious lyrics are militant, high-pitched, and punchy. Walkin Lyke WAR, her latest CD, describes the hardships of her life’s journey, including a five-year incarceration she served in New Jersey. On stage, she adds to her delivery by wearing bold outfits such as long Syrian camouflage dresses, decorative hijabs, and war paint on her face.

Shea’s songs describe her interpersonal revelations, interspersed with criticism of women’s correctional facilities and a quest for political justice. There are also, however, occasional mentions of smoking marijuana that have dismayed members of the Muslim community.

“Sometimes Muslim brothers and sisters don’t agree with my unorthodox ways when it comes to Islam.” Shea also says she does smoke for medical purposes; it helps quiet her chronic nightmares and spiritually enhances her relationship to Allah. “It has many medical uses and is a blessing from the Earth that the most high, Allah, created,” she explains.

Mustafa Umar, associate director of the Islamic society of Corona-Norco, calls Shea’s justification “the Islamification of weed.” The term describes the incorporation of marijuana usage into Islamic practice. Born in Orange County to Pakistani and Indian parents, Umar says he understands the social pressure young Muslims face in American society: “I’ve had many sisters come to me about it, but in the media, it’s more portrayed that guys are smoking,” says the 29-year-old imam.

Umar says he’s also heard young Muslims attempt to defend marijuana use by quoting a passage of the Qur’an that states the Lord “brought forth fruits for your sustenance.” But he doesn’t agree, and he recently held a meeting to combat this notion. His invited guest speaker is Imam Yassir Fazaga, the medical director of Mental Health for Access California Services, a family and resource center for Arabs and Muslims. Addressing a large crowd of immigrants and first-generation Muslims, Fazaga explains that the Qur’an prohibits marijuana.

A 38-year-old U.S citizen who immigrated from Eritrea, Fazaga cites a Qur’anic verse that states if “wine or gambling” causes greater harm than good, it should not be consumed. Incorporating marijuana consumption into this verse, he says, should also be prohibited as well: “For us Muslims, it’s a mood altering agent that shrouds a person’s intelligence to make decisions. Then for the Muslim it is Islamically illegal and the same goes for alcohol.”

Even though marijuana has been legalized for medical purposes, Fazaga says all other alternatives should be explored before its consumption. At the Access Resource Center where he counsels, Fazaga says he has come across an increasing number of young Muslims who admit to smoking marijuana.

In cases like Shea’s, Fazaga says that marijuana is a “mask for people who may suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome,” and “is not the way to deal with the problem.” Since marijuana is inexpensive, many young people try it. But Fazaga attributes its frequent use mainly to its prevalence in popular culture.

“You have people like Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. They glorify marijuana,” says Fazaga. “The definition of manhood that is presented promotes and encourages to smoke.”

Umar has also made previous attempts to discourage the use of marijuana among young Muslims by inviting former celebrity rappers such as Loon, who was signed by P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, and Napoleon, who was part of Tupac Shakur’s group Outlawz. Both men attribute their new and sober lifestyle to their conversion to Islam. “In order to address the younger crowd, we have to speak lower to their level,” Umar says.

But Shea does not see eye-to eye with these Qur’anic rationales against marijuana nor with Fazaga’s evaluation. She holds firm that Islam is a non-compulsive religion. Since its fundamental principle is the practice of one’s free will, she has the choice to smoke marijuana.

“I’m not going to say the Qur’an forbids us to smoke weed or not,” says Shea. “The Qur’an is the only unchanged religious book and people interpret it in different ways because of different views in the Islamic community.” Only Allah can judge a person’s actions and their intention behind it, Shea adds.

Explaining her perspective, Shea raises the sensitive topic of gender roles and how they are reinforced by Qur’anic interpretations that she finds religiously oppressive: “As a Muslim woman, you are not suppose to make a lot of noise, you are not suppose to look a man in his eyes. The Qur’an and the true Islam, a peaceful and non-compulsive way of life, protects women. It doesn’t intend to give men the right to hold women captive.”

Orthodox members of the Muslim community argue that frequent mentions of marijuana heard in popular music threaten young Muslim-Americans. But, for Shea, hip-hop is an avenue of free expression: “I love hip hop. I love marijuana. But most of all I love Allah, most high, and his messenger Muhammad. Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.”

About the image: Nejma Shea performs in Omaha, Nebraska. (photo: Ness Ordonez)

Editor’s Note (Jan 17, 2013): Language has changed to more accurately reflect Ms. Shea’s description of herself. And, we misstated that Ms. Shea did not use marijuana for medical purposes. She does. We regret the error.


Sharis DelgadilloSharis Delgadillo is a broadcast graduate student at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. She is the senior producer for the award-winning college television news-magazine show, impact. Last summer, she interned as a television producer at Cape Town TV in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Palestinian-Lebanese Daughter Sings Despite Father’s Wishes

by Jon Dillingham, guest contributor

Camellia Abou-OdahCamellia Abou-Odah in studio. (photo: Jon Dillingham)

Camellia Abou-Odah was three months old the first time she ever sang: her mother says she belted out an impromptu tune to accompany her father, who casually filled the kitchen with Islamic melodies. Though it was her father’s extraordinary voice that first inspired her to sing, that few minutes in the kitchen was the last time they would ever share a song.

Born and raised in Kansas City to a strict Muslim father from Gaza and a self-described liberal Muslim mother from Lebanon, Camellia has struggled to stay true to traditional values while at the same time nurturing her passion for singing, which her father prohibits.

She’s now in the middle of recording her first songs with Grammy-winning producer/songwriter Danny Sembello, and she smiles confidently as we talk over Thai iced coffee near the University of Southern California in South Central Los Angeles. It’s casual sweatpants and sandals this afternoon, but it’s hard not to notice her boisterous brown curls and big smile when she walks in. She looks like a slender, young, Arab Chaka Khan. The ease and grace with which she speaks betray the fact that the long, arduous road to this point has broken family bonds and challenged her sense of self and identity.

Download free mp3 of “Move On” by Camellia Abou-Odah.

Camellia’s father is often chosen to lead prayers at his local Islamic center in Kansas City thanks to both his piety and mellifluous voice. Her mother, Dr. Basimah Khulusi, says her ex-husband had even entertained notions of becoming a singer himself, before dismissing the idea as “a childish notion.” He came to America from a prominent family in Palestine but was far from a religious fundamentalist, until his daughter was born.

“When I met him, he was different, and then he flipped,” says Camellia’s mother. “He went back to the old traditions that he grew up with. Having a daughter was a driving force because in the Muslim tradition his honor lies in what ends up happening with his daughter.”

A Singing Career in the Making

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What Does This Photo of Men and Women Praying Together in Tahrir Square Signify?
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
On February 1st, this photograph was posted on Twitter with the caption:

"In Tahrir Square in Cairo, men and women pray together just like at the  Haram in Makkah, gender boundaries have been transcended and the only  thing that matters is that they are Egyptians who want freedom!”

To see Muslim women and men praying next to each other in an Egyptian public square is worthy of noting. We wonder what it suggests about bigger changes afoot in Egypt? We reached out to commentators Melody Moezzi and Mona Eltahawy via Twitter for some context and perspective.
Moezzi replied: “In the time of the Prophet, men and women prayed side by side. Today in Mecca, men and women pray side by side. This should be good enough for the rest of the world then — to end segregation in mosques and in prayer. That’s what the comment is getting at.”
Eltahaway reached out to her broad sphere of followers on Twitter. One of Eltahaway’s Twitter followers added (with a smiley emoticon appended to the end:  “The segregation angle comes into play only when you are inside a mosque. Believe it or not, Islam is a flexible religion.”
What do you see in the photograph that might add to our understanding? Do you have other insights that might train our eyes to see differently? Are there details to which we should pay greater attention, which, in turn, would add to its meaning and significance?
(photo: S. Habib/Twitpic)
What Does This Photo of Men and Women Praying Together in Tahrir Square Signify?
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
On February 1st, this photograph was posted on Twitter with the caption:

"In Tahrir Square in Cairo, men and women pray together just like at the  Haram in Makkah, gender boundaries have been transcended and the only  thing that matters is that they are Egyptians who want freedom!”

To see Muslim women and men praying next to each other in an Egyptian public square is worthy of noting. We wonder what it suggests about bigger changes afoot in Egypt? We reached out to commentators Melody Moezzi and Mona Eltahawy via Twitter for some context and perspective.
Moezzi replied: “In the time of the Prophet, men and women prayed side by side. Today in Mecca, men and women pray side by side. This should be good enough for the rest of the world then — to end segregation in mosques and in prayer. That’s what the comment is getting at.”
Eltahaway reached out to her broad sphere of followers on Twitter. One of Eltahaway’s Twitter followers added (with a smiley emoticon appended to the end:  “The segregation angle comes into play only when you are inside a mosque. Believe it or not, Islam is a flexible religion.”
What do you see in the photograph that might add to our understanding? Do you have other insights that might train our eyes to see differently? Are there details to which we should pay greater attention, which, in turn, would add to its meaning and significance?
(photo: S. Habib/Twitpic)

What Does This Photo of Men and Women Praying Together in Tahrir Square Signify?

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

On February 1st, this photograph was posted on Twitter with the caption:

"In Tahrir Square in Cairo, men and women pray together just like at the Haram in Makkah, gender boundaries have been transcended and the only thing that matters is that they are Egyptians who want freedom!”

To see Muslim women and men praying next to each other in an Egyptian public square is worthy of noting. We wonder what it suggests about bigger changes afoot in Egypt? We reached out to commentators Melody Moezzi and Mona Eltahawy via Twitter for some context and perspective.

Moezzi replied: “In the time of the Prophet, men and women prayed side by side. Today in Mecca, men and women pray side by side. This should be good enough for the rest of the world then — to end segregation in mosques and in prayer. That’s what the comment is getting at.”

Eltahaway reached out to her broad sphere of followers on Twitter. One of Eltahaway’s Twitter followers added (with a smiley emoticon appended to the end: “The segregation angle comes into play only when you are inside a mosque. Believe it or not, Islam is a flexible religion.”

What do you see in the photograph that might add to our understanding? Do you have other insights that might train our eyes to see differently? Are there details to which we should pay greater attention, which, in turn, would add to its meaning and significance?

(photo: S. Habib/Twitpic)

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Photo Triptych of Possibilities in Cairo
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Amidst the massive amount of voices tweeting and retweeting happenings on the ground in Egypt, Nevine Zaki’s photo above serendipitously found its way into my Twitter stream with the caption:

"A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers #jan25."

During the wee hours of this morning, I find myself deeply moved by her new-found love for Egypt as a woman living and working in Cairo:

"The most beautiful thing about #Jan25 is that we all suddenly discovered an incredible love for #Egypt that we never knew was still in us
Living here presented always presented a struggle for us in 1 way or another, but since #jan25, we all suddenly felt alive again.”

With the image below, she writes, “Can it get more peaceful than this?”

But, surprisingly to me, it’s the idea behind the following photo that strikes me as most decent, most civil, most caring, most mundane: residents of Cairo showing their goodness by cleaning up what must be an incredible amount of refuse during the chaos: “These trash bags are all over the city, its [sic] from the citizens who cleaned the streets.”

All photos by Nevine Zaki.
Photo Triptych of Possibilities in Cairo
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Amidst the massive amount of voices tweeting and retweeting happenings on the ground in Egypt, Nevine Zaki’s photo above serendipitously found its way into my Twitter stream with the caption:

"A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers #jan25."

During the wee hours of this morning, I find myself deeply moved by her new-found love for Egypt as a woman living and working in Cairo:

"The most beautiful thing about #Jan25 is that we all suddenly discovered an incredible love for #Egypt that we never knew was still in us
Living here presented always presented a struggle for us in 1 way or another, but since #jan25, we all suddenly felt alive again.”

With the image below, she writes, “Can it get more peaceful than this?”

But, surprisingly to me, it’s the idea behind the following photo that strikes me as most decent, most civil, most caring, most mundane: residents of Cairo showing their goodness by cleaning up what must be an incredible amount of refuse during the chaos: “These trash bags are all over the city, its [sic] from the citizens who cleaned the streets.”

All photos by Nevine Zaki.

Photo Triptych of Possibilities in Cairo

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Amidst the massive amount of voices tweeting and retweeting happenings on the ground in Egypt, Nevine Zaki’s photo above serendipitously found its way into my Twitter stream with the caption:

"A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers #jan25."

During the wee hours of this morning, I find myself deeply moved by her new-found love for Egypt as a woman living and working in Cairo:

"The most beautiful thing about #Jan25 is that we all suddenly discovered an incredible love for #Egypt that we never knew was still in us

Living here presented always presented a struggle for us in 1 way or another, but since #jan25, we all suddenly felt alive again.”

With the image below, she writes, “Can it get more peaceful than this?”

Prayers in Tahrir Square

But, surprisingly to me, it’s the idea behind the following photo that strikes me as most decent, most civil, most caring, most mundane: residents of Cairo showing their goodness by cleaning up what must be an incredible amount of refuse during the chaos: “These trash bags are all over the city, its [sic] from the citizens who cleaned the streets.”

Taking Care of Cairo

All photos by Nevine Zaki.

Comments
How do you show what’s happened to these women? You can’t. So you show their lives without their husbands and sons. You look for these moments where you see how hard it is for them, how they break down. From simple things, like putting a shelf up, to having somebody else help them with their kids.
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Diana Markosian, on photographing surviving women in the North Caucasus

Muslims in Russia
From “Muslims in Russia” (photo: ©Diana Markosian)

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

I love this interview with 21-year-old photographer Diana Markosian and what she says about how she gets her honest photographs:

"News photographers know exactly what shot they’re looking for. After they have it, they’ll leave. But you stick around for just a bit, and you’ll get something a little different.

It seems to me to be the visual version of what we do here at Krista Tippett on Being.

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Dr. Oz’s Mystical Muslim Identity

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"I’ve struggled a lot with my Muslim identity. … As a Turk growing up in America with one parent from one side of the religious wall and one from the other side, I found myself tugged more and more towards the spiritual side of the religion rather than the legal side of the religion."

Dr. Mehmet Oz at ServiceNation SummitThe popular heart surgeon and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz is a spiritual man who is hard to classify, religiously speaking. We learned that back in 2004 when we interviewed him. He spoke with Krista at some length about his Muslim faith and about the value he finds in his wife’s Swedenborgian tradition.

But, this excerpt from the PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., digs deeper into Oz’s personal identity by asking about his family’s divergent approaches to Islam. Through Oz’s telling of his own family history, we learn some history about Turkey and its geography, and the immigrant experience in the United States.

Oz’s mother walks in the line of many proud, modern Turks who are secular Muslims, approaching faith as a private practice that is separated or divorced from public and political institutions. Whereas, for his father, religion and law were inseparable and, according to Oz, they were “obviously and beautifully and elegantly integrated.”

Listening to his story, I wonder whether he might be classified as part of the demographic that’s been polled and reported on so much lately: the spiritual but not religious generation.

(photo: Jim Gillooly/PEI/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

[via almaswithinalmas]

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Egypt’s Copts Channelling Anger into Civic Engagement

by Lina Attalah, special contributor

Egyptian Christians Hold Blood-Stained Portrait of Jesus Christ
Egyptian Christians hold a blood-stained portrait of Jesus Christ during a protest late on January 2, 2011 outside the Al-Qiddissine (The Saints) church in Alexandria.
(photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

In April 2006, hundreds of Egypt’s Alexandrian Christians gathered to mourn the death of 78-year-old Nushi Girgis, a Christian who was stabbed at St. Mark and St. Peter’s Church during one of a series of attacks on churches in the city that year. As the crowd walked down the street, chanting religious hymns, people began throwing stones from their balconies. The scene quickly turned violent, pitting Muslims against Christians.

Four years later, although largely invisible, the tension still looms. We saw a resurgence of violence last week with the bombing of the same St. Mark and St. Peter’s Church, which took 23 lives and injured many more people. Egypt’s Coptic Christian families worry about their lives in a nation that has become a contested home. The current wave of violence could mark a crossroads for this community with regard to its sense of political engagement which, for a long time now, has been dormant.

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Bollywood Squares: The Manganiyar Seduction at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"They have the Muslim saints and they worship Allah. And then they also have their … Hindu goddesses. And they sing to both. Like, there would not be any difference if they were to sing a Sufi Islam mystic song or if they were to sing a Hindu mystic song. It would be with the equal amount of devotion."
—Roysten Abel, on the Manganiyar musicians

The Manganiyar Seduction
Musicians from Rajasthan, India, led by Daevo Khan, perform at the Rose Theater in New York on November 23, 2010. (photo: Lian Chang/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

Thirty-eight Sufi musicians from the deserts of Rajasthan, India. Thirty-six, open-faced, photo booths draped in red velvet, stacked four high and nine wide. One lone box lights up. One lone khamacha drones. One lone singer begins his song. Then another box alights. Then another. Pulsating, alternating. Percussive rhythms build with dhol, dholak, and karthal. Map Pinpointing Manganiyars in Rajasthan, IndiaVoices of men, women, and children from India’s Manganiyar community layer one on top of the other, enmeshed with harmoniums, kamancha, sarangi, bansuri, murli, and morchang. The theater’s magic. Electric. A crescendo. Quiet.

Roysten Abel, the creative force behind this production, describes the concept as a “dazzling union between the Manganiyar’s music and the visual seduction of Amsterdam’s red light district.”

And I missed it.

Visa issues delayed the performance of The Manganiyar Seduction at the Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater by two days, so I headed back home to Minnesota. At least we have this video from the White Light Festival to give us some access to this dramatic performance.

If you’re in Washington, DC, be sure to buy tickets for their March performances. And, according to Abel’s website, he is currently working on The Manganiyar War, interpreting the Mahabharata through music. That ought to be really fascinating.

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Rumi’s Continuing Emergence in Our Culture

by Krista Tippett, host


A young man from Islamabad, Pakistan expresses himself through photography and the poetry of Rumi. (photo: "Spirit" by Esâm Khattak)

We’ve created a memorable hour of listening that’s fresh and lush with the sounds and the texture of the great Sufi poet, Rumi.

There is no formula for our shows, no template. Each begins with the raw material of a conversation, and we shape its pace and sound and elements around that. I think great productions emerge when the whole feel of the experience seems at one with the words being spoken, taking the listener more deeply into the passion and intent of the voice being heard. Creating this show around the life and words of Rumi has felt a little like having magic to work with.

I take away many gems of idea and image from my conversation with one of Rumi’s delightful 21st-century interpreters and successors, Fatemeh Keshavarz. Rumi saw human life and love as the closest we come to tasting and touching transcendence, and he approached all experience with his whole mind, heart, and body.

Keshavarz describes Rumi’s “whirling” around a column as he recited poetry — a habit that inspired the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlevi Sufi Order — as a way to “stay centered while moving.” He believed that, as searching and restlessness propel us to keep learning, plowing the ground beneath our feet, they are themselves a form of arrival. In Rumi’s way of seeing life, perplexity is a blessed state, sometimes a necessary state. This idea has special resonance, perhaps, in the 21st century when so many basic definitions and institutions of previous generations seem to be up for grabs.

But Rumi’s recent “discovery” in the West also holds no little irony. I found this best expressed in my research by a British journalist, William Dalrymple. “It seems almost unbelievable in the world of 9/11, Bin Laden and the Clash of Civilizations,” he wrote, “but the best-selling poet in the U.S. in the 1990s was not Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, nor Shakespeare or Dante. … Instead, remarkably it was a classically trained Muslim cleric who taught Sharia law in a madrasa in what is now Turkey.” Yet as Rumi has been translated and popularized in the modern West, the religious sensibility behind his beautiful, best-selling words has often been lost.

Fatemah Keshavarz is adamant on this point: Rumi was steeped in Islam. He represents and speaks to “an adventurous and cosmopolitan Islam.” The generous, cross-cultural appeal of his words reflects ideas at the core of Islam that are muted by the extremists and headlines of our time. But to the extent that Rumi would deny or subvert those, he does so through his grounding in Islamic tradition, and his profound love for it.

Keshavarz, who was born in Iran — the center of the vast civilization that spawned Rumi and where he remains to this day a household name — takes special solace in Rumi’s insistence that we can create worlds and possibilities by way of language itself.

Where that part of the world is now concerned, Keshavarz says, U.S. political culture has adopted a language of fear. Rumi champions and models a language of hope. This is not tepid and naive but full-blooded view of human reality, fully aware of the double-edged sword of the passions and pulls of real human experience. In this, Rumi speaks to those of us on both sides of a real or imagined “clash of civilizations.”

As we conclude this show, I hear Rumi as a perfect voice for the spiritual longing and energy of our time. With his vigorous and challenging language of the heart, he reminds us that we need poetry as much as we need science, alongside our politics and within our diplomacy. We need passionate searching words, not just logical decisive words, to tell the whole truth about what it means to be human, and about the past, present, and future of our world.

Here is one passage of many I’ve seen quoted of Rumi, which I’ll now hear with new layers of relevance:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

~

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

The Rumi Collection edited by Kabir Helminski There are many English translations of Rumi’s poetry available today. But, the craft of translating is a delicate art, one that calls for sensitivity and understanding of the Sufi master and his culture. The Rumi Collection, edited by Kabir Helminski, serves as a good introduction that includes translations by Coleman Barks and Robert Bly, as well as Helminski himself — a Shaikh, or master, of the Mevlevi Order — and others.

We’ve also provided a page of translations by Fatemeh Keshavarz on our website. Not only can you read the text of each poem, but you can listen to it in Persian or English too.

Comments
Yeah I’m Arab, yeah I’m very American, and yeah I’m very Islamic, but you put those things in the blender and I’m no longer just a thing. I’m a new thing.
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Najah BazzyNajah Bazzy, an American-born nurse and founder/president of Zaman International, as quoted in "Muslim Women Gain Higher Profile in U.S." for the International Herald Tribune's series, “The Female Factor.”

Photo by Edward Marritz.

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

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Flag-Raising My Hijab: An American Woman’s Decision

by Amanda Gormley, guest contributor

Amanda Gormley with Horse

The first time I prayed the Islamic prayer, or salat, I stood in my living room in the silvery morning just moments before dawn. I was self-conscious and unsure of what to do. I had prepared flash cards to help me through the complicated process of standing, sitting, and bowing while reciting verses in Arabic. I stood facing Mecca and folded my right hand across my chest. My left hand clutched a flash card that read:

Bismillah ah Rahman ah Raheem
In the name of God, the most gracious, most merciful

Alhamdu lil-ahi rab-bil alamin
All praise be to the Lord, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds

Ah rahman-ah rahim
The most merciful, most gracious

Maliki yawmid-deen
Master of the day of judgment

Iyyaka n’abudu wa-Iyaka nasta-in
You alone do we worship, and to you alone do we turn to for help

Ihdi-nas sira-tal Mustaqim
Show us the straight path

Sira tal-ladhina an-amta alaihim
The path of those who went before us with your grace

Ghair-il Maghdubi ‘Alaihum
Who did not deserve your anger

Wa lad dal-in
Nor went astray

The awkward syllables filled the back of my throat like a swallowed cry as I struggled to make the foreign sounds. But as my mouth worked away at the words, I felt my spirit enter a world that existed outside of the senses, a dimension beyond time and space where the body does not confine the soul. I felt a deep, unending sense of mercy and forgiveness surround me.

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Because it is an overtly religious place, it’s not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority. They have the same values we do.
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Reef Al-Shabnan, a 19-year-old Muslim student from Saudi Arabia on attending Catholic University in Washington, DC. She’s quoted in William Wan’s piece from The Washington Post on the increasing enrollment of Muslim students at Catholic colleges.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Oklahoma, Elections, and Shari’ah Law

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

Masjid An-Nasr, Oklahoma City
The crescent-topped dome of Masjid An-Nasr peeks through trees of a residential neighborhood in Oklahoma City. (photo: Andrew Shockley/Flickr)

Hailing from Canada, where referendums are few and far between, I’m fascinated by some of the questions on the U.S. ballots. This year I was particularly interested in Oklahoma ballot measure 755 [bold emphasis mine]:

"This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.

The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.

Shall the proposal be approved?

For the proposal

Yes: __________

Against the proposal

No: __________ “

The amendment passed, with 70 percent in favor. Haroon Moghul of Religion Dispatches wrote an amused and hopeful piece from a Muslim perspective. For starters, he addresses some of the misunderstandings about Shari’ah law by explaining what it isn’t, and what it is:

"What most Americans don’t realize is that we already have interpretations of Shari’ah law in our country; or, at least, interpretations of the personal, moral, and ethical components of the law, operating off of individual choice and will. When Muslims pray, they are following interpretations of Shari’ah. Fasting in Ramadan. Giving in charity. Even a smile, the Prophet Muhammad said, is charity. So what this means in real terms is entirely beyond me…"

At a time where civility may be harder to find, I was heartened by his surprisingly optimistic note for the future. A view, however, which is probably out of reach for Muneer Awad, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who filed a lawsuit (PDF of petition) challenging the constitutionality of the measure. A preliminary hearing before U.S. district court judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange is scheduled for today.

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