Nov 30, 2006

Muslim Dialogues

My last post brought this comment.....

"When you say that it's their karma ( for oppressed women) you sound like a religious person that tells the poor that if he/she suffers that's only because of his/her faith. Or you want to say that the only solution/choice for these women is to be "saved" by westerners? And yet, it's the religion. A religion exists only through practice. Islam today is defined by what some people' are doing. You would laugh at that, but I think women are oppressed everywhere in the world. The difference is that Arab/muslim women know that they're in chains and western women don't which is absurd. I'm not talking about men because I realize day after day that they're fragile creatures. The ones in the Atlas mountains understood it, they've left earth for women."

I agree.... And I did not mean to suggest that we can only wait for Islamic women to be "saved by westerners." I misspoke. It has nothing to do with East or West. It has to do with a basic sense of humanity, which is certainly inherent in Islam but has been lost on the pyre of fundamentalism. Many, many imams are not voicing that humanity or teaching it. And moderates, whoever they are, whereever they are, will not or cannot make themselves heard.

I would also argue that women in the West do know their captivity. They feel their chains all too well. But it's not the same captivity as women in many Islamic particularly Arab countries experience. The real captivity in the West is less unequal pay, the overbearing myth of superwoman and super mom, the stigma of motherhood, the relentless debate over 'women's rights' or the contradictory motioning of 'come closer / get back' that you find in bedrooms and boardrooms. Not those things so much; it's the malady of a fast moving, materialistic society in which women and men have little time for each other or themselves. Or their children. And so they drift. Depression is the commonest cold.

But these are all ailments of the mind. And in the end there is an underlying humanity, there is refuge in the West, there are spiritual resources and municipal resources — and there are friends, lovers, even family to which one can turn and find relief. Whatever is missing and suicide rates notwithstanding, there is nothing to compare — nothing — with the fear and desperation of women who choose the horror of burning themselves to death to avoid their plight.

And you wonder where is the outrage in the Islamic world? The response is always muted, and too often defensive, and linked to America and Israel....

On the other hand, women in the Atlas Mountains are different and I myself have met Kahena, the Veiled Queen of Jerawa, that most feared and fabled of Berber warriors.


Nov 29, 2006

"We Are Just Watching Things Get Worse"

This excerpt from an article in The Guardian (11/28/06,,1958707,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=12) suggests once again the terrible truth about how Islam has been comandeered. The journalist is talking to a 28-year-old woman member of the Afghan parliament.....

Joya talks like this to me, furiously, for more than an hour, almost weeping as she catalogues the crimes against women that still keep them in a state of fear: from Safia Ama Jan, the leading women's rights campaigner assassinated in Kandahar earlier this year, to Nadia Anjuman, a poet murdered in Herat last year; from Amina, a married woman who was stoned to death in Badakhshan in 2005, to Sanobar, an 11-year-old girl who was raped and exchanged for a dog in a reported dispute among warlords in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan last month.

She is desperate for people to take account of the silent women whose voices we never hear. "Afghan women are killing themselves now," she says, "there is no liberation for them." This is not just rhetoric: the Afghan Human Rights Commission recently began to document the numbers of Afghan women who are burning themselves to death because they cannot escape abuse in their families.....

It is at once an argument for the West to involve itself further and to abandon the whole mess. What's particularly disheartening is that this is not the unique case of Afghanistan. Not merely the curse of the Taliban or a few bad apple imams in Teheran. Although women are, for the most part, infinitely better treated in Morocco, even there the situation is precarious and under the surface males regard women in much the same way. Even sophisticated, western educated males. I often heard them in my classroom. One told me once that women were 'property' and should have no rights. "It's like asking sheep what they would like to eat. Why would you do such a thing? It would be cruel."

It is not the religion, of course, but the way it's been carried through the centuries — in the minds of men, for the benefit of men. Or that is the politically correct view. Certainly, there is no defending the Pope's comments a few months ago about the violent nature of Islam. Whether true or not, his view only heats the burner. But these stories do wring out the heart. And perhaps you think, well yes this is their karma and let them to it and when they're finished we'll see them again.

Nov 26, 2006

Note from underground

Pour une vie normale et saine des enfants des détenus islamistes aux prisons marocaines.

-Et en célébration de la journée mondiale des droits de l homme.

- L’association ENNASSIR pour le soutien des détenus islamistes au Maroc , organise un sit- in devant le conseil consultatif des droits de l homme a RABAT Le 08/12/2006 a 15h. Et cela pour attirer l attention sur les conditions critiques vécus par les familles , enfants, et proches des détenus islamistes et dénoncer l exclusion de leurs dossier de toute arrangement favorable.

Le bureau d ENNASSIR
Casablanca : 26/11/2006

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

تحت شعـار:

- من اجل حياة سوية لأطفال المعتقلين الإسلاميين المتواجدين بالسجون المغربية

- وتخليدا لليوم العالمي لحقوق الإنسان .

تنظم جمعية النصير لمساندة المعتقلين الإسلاميين وقفة سلمية أمام المجلس الاستشاري لحقوق الإنسان بالرباط يوم الجمعة 08/12/2006 على الساعة الثالثة بعد الزوال. وذلك لإثارة الانتباه إلى ما آلت إليه أوضاع عائلات وأهالي وأطفال المعتقلين الإسلاميين بعد سنوات على اعتقالهم، والمطالبة برفع الحيف والظلم الذي لحق المعتقلين أنفسهم بعدما تم استثناؤهم من العفو وإقصاء ملفاتهم من جميع مراحل التسوية.

Nov 24, 2006

Slow... View Ahead

As you come up the narrow dirt road to the hill of the hawk, there's a small square patch of old plywood nailed to a post with the warning, 'slow... view ahead'. But you could read it differently and you probably do because by the time you see the sign you see what's beyond it, the beginning of the view — the sign is no more noticeable than a period on the page of the Oxford English Dictionary. As your eye records the sign, the mind will discern the true syntax, "Slow view... ahead." From this distance, up on the bluffs, the Pacific is more than simply the sea, some body of water extending beyond the horizon. This is all ocean, all male, earth mama, as big as a starry sky... The slow view slows, as if to say, 'don't worry about life and death, this IS what's ahead and it will take care of everything.'

Later, we went for a walk along the bluff, the three of us, and sat down off the path, lay back and shut eyes. Heather did a wonderful thing; she said nothing. Which comes from living in such a place. There's nothing to say, because after all you take a slow view of life. Then suddenly a shadow passed, and with it the sound of something whirring. Eyes open and banking 10 yards overhead was a condor, that gigantic flying machine with those totally modern wing tips, like long fingered hands for ailerons. The bird kept banking, and then suddenly there was another and still another. They were all over the place, this most exotic and still endangered specie. Finally, one lighted on a fence post a dozen yards away. It had a number on his wing, like race horses carry on a saddle or old time race cars with the number in a circle. This was an oval shaped white marker with a three digit number. The bird stood proud, head moving like an eagle's, surveiling the scene, and yet you had the sense this was something that was more than curious, that wanted to make distant contact, the way you would with something strange but familiar. In fact, the birds live up on the coastal range and with all the efforts to get them out in the wild and breeding again, they still have an affinity for the specie that first shot them down, then rescued them, then protected them, then tried to get them airborn again.

We watched. It was an amazing thing. And then we walked on, back to the slow view sign, and back down the hill.

Nov 8, 2006

Tigers and strawberries

Here's what I've been thinking about. Buddha told a parable in a sutra: A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

-Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
from Everyday Mind

Nov 7, 2006

Ginned Rummy

So much of the punditry has focused on the notion that Rummy went wrong when he tried to wage war on the cheap, that he didn't understand the depth of the insurgency. There is some truth in that, but there's more to it. In fact, the unexpected power of the insurgency was not his fault; it was Bremmer, among others, who made the fatal mistake of being ideological instead of practical. It was Bremmer who advised getting rid of all the Baathists in government, thinking these were deciples not paid acolites. Bureaucrats needed a job. They were no danger so long as they could bring home the bacon.

Rummy's particular mistake was not knowing his foe. Not knowing that what Arab societies crave above all is security, that what they fear above all is chaos. This was the gift and the ability of the Prophet, to bring warring tribes together, to a sense of affinity beyond kin and the spirits in wadis and dunes.

The object in Iraq should have been to install a benevolent dictator, not implant democracy. The mistake in Vietnam was to think that communism was monolithic, that Ho Chi Minh was Mao's puppet. The mistake here was to think that Hussein was anything more than a dictator who could be bought off far more cheaply than the cost to destroy him.

Nov 1, 2006

An American in Morocco

In my experience, Moroccans assume there is a vast difference between the American government and the American people. "We don't like Bush; we like the American people" is always the mantra. But then you say, 'well yes but remember that 69 million people voted for George Bush in the last election. If you don't like Bush you have to accept his retinue. "Oh but we like Americans."

Or do they and should they.... Which brings to mind Karen Hughes' recent visit to Morocco. You might read an account that appeared in the Atlantic recently. Click on the link below.