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How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America
How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America
by Moustafa Bayoumi
Edition: Hardcover
39 used & new from $3.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Drive from your mind a single image of what Muslim or Arab youth and families "look" like, March 20, 2015
The author relates the stories of seven Arab-American youth from Brooklyn, New York.

It's hard for me to relate to the stories in this book because I'm much older than the subjects, I've never lived in a place with a lot of Arabs (or great ethnic diversity) and I've never had the family, financial and legal struggles many of them had.

Nevertheless, the stories were engaging, and I read the book quickly. Each subject's story made me think about things differently, and I suspect each reader would draw unique lessons for himself or herself.

If you are part of a masjid or church administration or other organization which claims to serve youth, reading this book would help you understand youth concerns and hopefully drive from your mind a single image of what Muslim or Arab youth and families "look" like.

The title is based on a passage from W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk. Again, until we Muslims, especially post Civil Rights-era immigrants and their descendants, come to understand and support the struggles of non-European peoples in the Americas, we won't be able to understand our own situation.

NPR broadcast Professor Moustafa's reading of the book and brief comments.


The Secret World of Oil
The Secret World of Oil
by Ken Silverstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.75
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you care about the poor or the environment, prepare to vomit in your mouth, February 9, 2015
If you care about the poor or the environment, be prepared to vomit in your mouth at nearly every other page of this account of the oil and other resource extraction industries.

Ken Silverstein devotes a chapter to each of the following categories of players in this woeful tragedy: the fixers, the dictators, the traders, the gatekeepers, the flacks, the lobbyists and the hustlers.

While varied dictatorial regimes from Africa and Asia figure throughout the novel, Silverstein profiled Teodorin Obiang, the heir apparent to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the dictator of Equitorial Guinea.

Have you ever heard of Glencore? It makes mountains of money trading rights to exploit natural resources around the world.

Do you know George W Bush's torture consiglieri John Yoo (and here), who also happens to heartily approve of Barack Obama's warmongering? Before him there was Ronald Reagan's legal yes-man Bretton Sciaroni, who wrote memos explaining why it was legal for the United States government to aid the Contra terrorists killing Nicaraguans. Do these guys end up in prison or at the end of a noose like Nazi war criminals? Yoo is teaching at University of California - Berkeley, and Sciaroni, who talks with Silverstein without the slightest recognition of himself as a sleaze, is a potentate in Cambodia.

If you ever have the opportunity to throw your shoe at Tony Blair, do so with righteous anger. Before you read the chapter about him, you may want to have some inanimate object close by that you can destroy. At least write and perform a song about him.

Lest you think that resource extraction only impacts politics in the Third World, read the chapter on Louisiana. And think twice before voting for Bobby Jindal.

Silverstein ends with a humorous narration of the career of Neil Bush, the son of President George H.W. Bush and brother of President George W Bush. I guess you'll think it's funny if you find humor in the ability of USA blue-bloods to land in money no matter their incompetence.

The book does not offer solutions or best practices. The people interviewed in this book agree that there's simply too much money at stake to care about poor people or the environment.

A large question humanity must answer is whether capitalism can adapt to prevent destruction of our biosphere. This is the premise behind books like Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and E. O. Wilson's The Future of Life. These liberal environmentalists believe that market mechanisms can be adjusted to delay ecological collapse until technology or human consciousness solves the threats to our biosphere. Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything is more radical in its demand that our entire economic system needs revolutionary change.

Silverstein's book certainly takes the sparkle out of liberal environmentalists' proposals.

Silverstein makes excellent use of USA diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks. Consider supporting whistleblowers and the news outlets which publish material using the leaks.

I'm tweeting some of tidbits from the book under the hashtag #SecretWorldOfOil. Join the conversation.


Does God Belong in Public Schools?
Does God Belong in Public Schools?
by Kent Greenawalt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $32.95
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4.0 out of 5 stars Most Common Claims Against Public Schools of Violations of the Free Exercise Clause Are Without Basis, February 7, 2015
Professor Greenawalt's book examines different common claims made by parents, students and school employees that public schools have violated the Free Exercise clause by interfering with their practice of religion.

The book's only mention of such a claim by a Muslim is a school teacher who wore hijab in violation of the district's clothing policy.

For some reason, I always thought that public schools had to accommodate religious requests provided they did not disrupt operations. I don't remember reading the term "accommodation" at all, and it does not appear in the index.

If you are concerned that religious claims are reducing the quality of public schools, you should read this book because it will help you understand why teaching evolution and science-based sex education is warranted.

I would also recommend this book to people who operate private schools. When discussing possible options to resolve objections to actions of public schools, one of the most common reasons for public schools to continue doing what they are doing is the lack of a good alternative. If the purpose of your private school is to "shield" children from general society, you'll find that your school's students, parents and employees are very likely to disagree with specific policies and you're back to choosing between "watering down" religion and marginalization of part of your school community.


The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
by Jared Diamond
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stretches our conception of the ranges of choices available to us in a matter similar to the best science fiction, January 31, 2015
By comparing how modern and traditional societies handle war, raising of children, care of the elderly, health risks, religion, language and diet, The World Until Yesterday stretches our conception of the ranges of choices available to us in a matter similar to the best science fiction.

By learning how other human societies have chosen particular paths and pondering the reasons why they chose them, perhaps we can come to see our own "givens" as choices which made sense (i.e. were "functional.") Once we realize that a time-honored practice in our societies is not in fact universal or intrinsic to being human, we can begin asking whether it continues to fulfill necessary functions or if its continuation brings us harm.

The chapter on religion is of particular interest. Professor Diamond identifies seven functions of religion (p. 367). Perhaps an analysis of our practice of religion according to these functions could reveal whether we're placing the proper emphasis on what we as individuals and societies need in a given era. For example, if "supernatural explanation" is a function of religion, do we use such explanations in a self-serving, misogynistic or ethnocentric way? Does our practice in religion simply buttress an oligarchical order? Perhaps we could examine our religious practices and emphasize those which work against the more problematic of these functions of religion.

Another chapter of interest to many readers of this blog will be the chapter on the development of languages. In brief, the chapter promotes learning multiple languages, but read it to understand why.


Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination
Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination
by Alondra Nelson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.82
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for All Activists, October 26, 2014
"Quando dou comida aos pobres chamam-me de santo. Quando pergunto por que eles são pobres chamam-me de comunista."

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."

Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara (1909 – 1999), Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, 1964 to 1985

Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson.
University of Minnesota Press, 2011, 289 pp.

Professor Alondra Nelson (Twitter) has written a book which all activists should read. It focuses on the advocacy, activism and ideology of the Black Panther Party (BPP) in healthcare.

The BPP saw healthcare in the United States as proof of white supremacy and regarded its provision as a necessity for movement building and outreach. Over time, it required each of its branches to establish a community health center. The health centers were required to staff or have access to biomedical professionals and empower the patients in decisions regarding their treatment. They promoted a view of health beyond the biomedical model. Poor health outcomes among black Americans were the inevitable result of policies which limited their political clout and economic opportunities, and only revolutionary socialism could address these issues. Healthcare was one example of a good which should be provided regardless of profit, and these community health centers were proof of this concept.

Most fascinating to me was the BPP's work in the field of sickle cell anemia and its resistance to the medicalization of violence.

Sickle cell anemia is familiar to me. My father co-authored a paper in this field, and I mentioned it in "Health, Public," an encyclopedia entry I wrote for Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History, edited by Richard Juang and Noelle Morrisette. When I was a child, I was diagnosed with anemia, but I never had any symptoms. Later physicians told me that I likely had fewer, larger red blood cells than the "norm" (i.e. northern European) as part of the genetic legacy of peoples from malaria-endemic regions.

While black American health activists had been addressing sickle cell conditions to the extent their resources permitted, a 1970 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Robert Scott seemed to bring together all of the BPP's talking points:
Health care priority for sickle cell anemia (SCA) should be based on its prevalence, severity, and on a standard of support set for similar conditions. Sickle cell anemia occurs in about one in 500 Negro births and median survival is still only 20 years of age. In 1967 there were an estimated 1,155 new cases of SCA, 1,206 of cystic fibrosis, 813 of muscular dystrophy, and 350 of phenylketonuria. Yet volunteer organizations raised $1.9 million for cystic fibrosis, $7.9 million for muscular dystrophy, but less than $100,000 for SCA. National Institutes of Health grants for many less common hereditary illnesses exceed those for SCA. Prevalence data in cities with sizeable black populations show that SCA is a major public health consideration. More appropriate priority for SCA depends on improved public and professional understanding of its importance.
The BPP began learning how to conduct screenings, and, when a new screening procedure which didn't require a blood draw and whose cost was minimal emerged, the BPP launched widespread screening campaigns in public places. It also fundraised for these efforts and attempted to mobilize researchers who shared its social vision of health to research cures and treatments for sickle cell conditions. It published articles and its leaders gave interviews refuting white supremacists who used sickle cell conditions as evidence that black Africans and their descendants were genetically inferior to white Europeans.

In 1972, researchers at University of California at Los Angeles drafted plans to create the Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence and sought financial support from Governor Ronald Reagan and the California legislature. The BPP and allies saw these groups as defining violence in the United States as a medical problem requiring a medical solution, i.e. medicalization or biologization. The BPP rejected this view, as exemplified by H Rap Brown's (Jamil al-Amin) famous quote, "violence is as American as apple pie." A coalition of groups was successful in convincing the state of California to cease supporting research along these lines.

These BPP successes, however, did not result in ending morbidity and mortality discrepancies among races in the United States, much less socialist revolution. There are of course many reasons for this, including police repression. But in the cases of sickle cell anemia and the medicalization of violence, liberal solutions from the biomedical world, namely increasing resources developed for sickle cell diagnosis, treatment and research and extending the protection of medical ethics to prisoners in United States jails, who would have been the experimental subjects in the UCLA center's research, blunted the BPP's radical arguments.

And yet this legacy of activists providing healthcare to the people the state ignores lives on. I have given some money to University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic in Los Angeles over the last 10 years, and I learned from Dr. Nelson's book that a former BPP member and worker at one of its clinics, Norma Armour, helped found it.

The Islamic Medical Association of North America publishes a guide to operating a charity clinic. It has also published video recordings of sessions where people involved in these clinics discuss their operations.

To the extent that any of these clinics focus on patients' participation in decision-making and on a social vision of health, it is part of the BPP legacy.

Dr. Nelson has a 16-minute video from Book-TV about this book.

Her most recent book is Genetics and the Unsettled PastThe Collision Between DNA, Race, and History which she co-edited with Keith Wailoo and Catherine Lee. (Rutgers University Press, Paperback, 9780813552552, 370pp.) (Twitter)

Updated October 11, 2014: The concept of medicalizing away social phenomenon is at the heart of Edward Said's Orientalism and its Reader's Digest version, Covering Islam. Define a group. Develop a methodology to use in the study of that group which is not used on any other group. And, then, what do you know, you find that there are factors unique to that group which cause a phenomenon. I've blogged a lot on the War on Terror, but the reading I'd recommend which has several examples of medicalizing is Arun Kundnani's The Muslims are Coming!.


Culture Of Honor: The Psychology Of Violence In The South (New Directions in Social Psychology)
Culture Of Honor: The Psychology Of Violence In The South (New Directions in Social Psychology)
by Richard E. Nisbett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $33.81
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is USA militarism a more important factor than pastoralism?, June 26, 2014
I was very suspicious of the idea that "culture" could be the reason for higher levels of personal conflict homicides among Southern whites, but the evidence presented was surprisingly convincing.

I have a couple of observations. #1, and I have no scientific basis for this, but I have an attachment to Malcolm X's assertion that "chickens come home to roost"/ karma / uncontrollability of violence. That the US south and west have the worst histories of genocide & slavery & expansionist war seems to me to be a "cosmic" reason for higher rates of bad things happening. Of course, that doesn't explain why non-personal homicide rates are similar.

#2, When the US military talks about a culture of honor, is that the same thing?
[...]
#3, Since the south hosts a higher percentage of military facilities than other regions, I wondered if white homicide rates could be correlated with presence of military installations?

#4, when the US government responds to "insults" with war, is that a reflection of a culture of honor? I'm thinking about the personalization of the enemy - Hitler, Tojo, Noriega, Saddam - so we're attacking an individual who "dissed" us rather than entire peoples.

As you can see, I am ideologically more inclined to attribute US violence to national policies than a culture brought by Scotch-Irish pastoralists. Although, if I'm honest with myself, that doesn't explain regional differences in white personal conflict homicide rates.


Cleopatra: A Life
Cleopatra: A Life
by Stacy Schiff
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.61
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2.0 out of 5 stars You'll Feel Like You Are in One of Octavian's Triumphs, May 24, 2014
This review is from: Cleopatra: A Life (Paperback)
I did finish this book weeks after I started. It made me want to find an asp and kill myself. The author uses 2 paragraphs to supply one sentence's worth of information.


The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism
The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism
by Trevor Aaronson
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from $14.90

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FBI is a threat like child predators, February 21, 2014
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Trevor Aaronson's The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured war on Terrorism gathers disparate news stories into one narrative: the frequency of "terrorism" convictions in the United States in the years following 2001 is neither a measure of the threat terrorism poses to public safety nor the effectiveness of the federal government in protecting United States residents.

Aaronson compiled a database, accessible online [...], of the characteristics of "terrorism" cases as identified by the United States Department of Justice. A frequent characteristic is the appearance of one or more confidential informants, and often these shadowy figures do more to further the crime than the convicted felons ever did. Through scrutiny of court documents and interviews with persons involved in the cases, Aaronson makes the following claims:

1. The vast majority of the convicted terrorists were no danger to the public.
2. The informants who are chiefly responsible for the convictions are themselves often criminals who have harmed public safety, even while they are on the payroll.
3. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) uses coercive tactics to recruit large numbers of Muslims into spying on their co-religionists and punishes those who refuse to do so.
4. The FBI may be violating terrorism suspsects' rights by tolerating illegal behavior of informants during investigations and failing to record or destroying recordings of conversations which would exonerate the suspects.
5. The focus on "Islamic" terrorism leads to less effective law enforcement in other areas, such as financial crimes [link to Frontline program on insider trading] and other ideological terrorism.
6. The FBI has a financial incentive to continue to use confidential informants to produce terrorism convictions. A steady stream of such convictions helps it justify its increasing budget to Congress.

The Department of Justice has scheduled a Hate Crime Prevention Forum in Augusta, GA. It has been canceled twice, the first time because of the Federal government shutdown and the second because of inclement weather. I propose that a major cause of hate crime against Muslims and those thought to be Muslim is the regular announcements from the FBI of thwarting of terrible Muslim terrorists. Muslims around the USA have called for reevaluation of cooperation with their local FBI offices, and I believe it is important for all board members of Muslim organizations to read this book to better prepare them for government spying. Moreover, it behooves Muslim organizations to organize programs to warn their members of FBI tactics the same way we educate children to avoid sexual predators.


Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America
Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America
by Ranya Idliby
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.25
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4.0 out of 5 stars We choose to be Muslims because we refuse to be lesser Americans., February 18, 2014
After listening to an interview with Ranya Tabari Idliby, author of Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America, I published a response/rant the guilt from which compelled me to buy and read the book.

My response to the interview reflects my views, but the book impacted me more deeply and, upon reflection, helped me appreciate Ustaza Ranya's positions . I present some criticism unique to the book and a few observations, and I end with a strong promotion of the book and Professor Ranya.

On page 44, she ponders the terms "secular Muslims" and "non-religious Muslims."
Too often, the choice in the West is cast as if it were a battle between Islam and secular Muslims, a choice that many Muslims appear to confirm when they describe themselves as secular Muslims or non-religious Muslims. I do not feel that this is a wise choice. We must give our children other options. To abandon or to call oneself not-quite Muslim is not just semantics. It has real and important consequences. It denies the possibility of the natural and necessary diversity that exists and has always existed within Islam. ... To shrink from Islam or to qualify our Muslim identity is to abandon our religion in its time of need. For all the stereotypes and challenges, for all the misconceptions and fear, I still expect my children to carry the truth of their faith with conviction and pride, to patiently serve as Americans and as Muslims. It takes courage and fortitude to navigate childhood and young adulthood in defiance of those who are too eager to label you or to dismiss you as qualifying for neither or as both.
On pages 45-6, Ustaza Ranya writes:
My friends have asked me, as I have sometimes wondered myself, why I continue to remain Muslim in spite of my frustrations. The reasons are many, but perhaps the most important is that I remain a Muslim to some degree because of my frustrations. ... I am a daughter of Islam. I have loved its stories, poetry, and people my whole life. I have loved its heroes and heroines. I have loved its prayer beads in the hands of my father and my grandfather before him. I have loved its sights, smells, and sounds; its domes, minarets, and prayers; its art, architecture, mosaics, and ceramics. To have loved is to owe. It is to stand by it in its hour of need. I know no other way. [italics in original]
I agree with her criticism of the term "secular Muslim," and I wonder why she described herself with that term in the CSPAN interview. On page 210, Ustaza Ranya seemingly interchanges the terms "Muslim secularists" with "secular Muslims."
Muslim secularists are not necessarily rejecting their faith. Many do not want to be at the mercy of orthodox Muslims who have appointed themselves as guardians of the faith and who define faith strictly through the observance of rituals. Many secularists do not want to be denied the possibility of spiritually rich lives. They are often inspired by Muslim values and the belief in the transcendent, beyond the here and now of life. Many secular Muslims are not happy just committing to humanistic or secular ideals, but insist on their right to be inspired by Islam's rich plurality of traditions and culture. They do not believe that orthodoxy is exaggerated and inflamed to empower orthodoxy to define the boundaries of faith. [p. 210]
A secularist is a believer in secularism. The varied definitions of secular seem to preclude it from describing somebody affiliated to a religion. I believe in secularism because I think it is a better way to organize society than state-enforced religion. But I am not secular because I believe individuals' actions have a worldly dimension and an otherworldly dimension, i.e. God's judgment. In this and in other issues, Ustaza Ranya is not systematic and careful with her language. [However, by the time I finished the book, I began thinking that my search for systematic thinking was akin to the various fundamentalisms she was criticizing.]

It is also clear from the second passage the great extent to which Islam remains for Ustaza Ranya a matter of personal identity. Earlier in the book, she emphasized how it would be inappropriate for parents to burden their children with a despised religious identity out of "loyalty." [pp. 13-14]

It is also tricky, IMO, to say that Islam is in need. And even if I would accept that assertion, I would hesitate even more to think that it needed me. In a secular sense, Islam is not an animate being that needs (see Edward Said's book Covering Islam.) In a divine sense, if Islam is God's religion, than there's no reason to fear for it. Muslims, and humanity in general, are in need. There may be something I can do for them. I also think the same thing when I hear Muslims of other viewpoints say things like "Islam needs you to do X or believe Y."

I'm sympathetic to Ustaza Ranya's response to the passage in the Quran which some Muslims have used to justify wife-beating. She wrote that Muslims take three approaches. The first is literalist and Wahhabist and in full support of the most misogynistic practices. "The second approach, embraced by apologists, tries to whitewash the verse by offering conditions and qualifiers regulating and limiting the circumstances under which a Muslim husband can beat his wife. ... I find this approach tragic and comically absurd in its desperate efforts to resolve a Quranic verse that is clearly offensive--even to those defending it. Its proponents understand that the verse is unacceptable to the social and cultural values of the twenty-first century, but they are not ready to make that leap which requires the rejection of a verse that is in the Quran. Progressive and reform-minded Muslims embrace the third approach." (pp. 72-3)

The author mentions some figures who have shaped her thoughts on these matters. Most prominent is Feisal Abdul Rauf, associated with the Cordoba Initiative to build a community center in Lower Manhattan and author of the book What's Right with Islam, which I liked. Another is Abdolkarim Soroush, whom she met through a New York Times Magazine article. Ustaza Ranya writes, "... I secretly wondered if Muslims had virtually replaced the divinity of Jesus with the divinity of the Quran ... In my mind, the Quran for many Muslims had become God; to worship God was to worship the Quran." [p 51] She also references Khaled Abou El Fadl and Fazlur Rahman.

I do feel a need to be more systematic when taking radical positions regarding the dominant ideas among Muslims about the Quran, but I do not believe that that particular shortcoming overshadows the insights Ustaza Ranya presented on this subject.

I was curious to find out what Ustaza Ranya ended up doing regarding the textbook which mentioned Muslims' acceptance of wife-beating, but that was never revealed in the book.

The book is filled with praise for "America." Thus, I found it ironic that the author could write this sentence without irony:
Israel is America's kindred spirit in the Middle East, a relationship nourished by religious, cultural and political connections. [p. 97]
Another example of unsystematic use of a concept fraught with dispute in American minority communities is assimilation:
As a confident America moves forward in its expansive power of assimilation, I hope that my children too are a part of that larger and better union, a stronger union, and a union that includes American Muslims. Let us inspire Muslims all over the world as they pursue a justice and a freedom that we as Americans have long known. [p. 158]
This passage upset me at first, but I believe the author has in mind something that only became more clear to me by the time I finished the entire book.

I also disagreed with the author's definition of fatwa: "legal decrees in Islam issued by religious law experts." [p. 87] But I 100% agreed with her condemnation of the mindset which demands and produces fataawaa:
Do Muslims really need a fatwa on everything from brushing their teeth to how they socialize? Or when and how to have sex with their spouses? What some of these people need are parents, not Muslim legal opinions. By engaging in the trivial and the banal, Islam becomes a trivial and banal religion. [p. 92]
My attitude about the book changed right as I was entering its final third. Perhaps it was because my own rigidities were loosened enough to appreciate it. Sometimes a book and a reader take a while to get in tune. Think of two pendulums eventually matching oscillation. Or maybe because Ustaza Ranya just let it rip and wrote the final chapters with more passion.

On pages 141-2, she makes her first historical argument about why Muslims frequently seem to justify political violence.

Then we start getting beautiful passages such as:
Those who have made Sharia into an obsolete punitive system obsessed with regulating people's vices as opposed to a true quest for justice or taqwa are criminals. [p. 157]
Chapter 16, entitled "Mommy, Can I Marry a Jew?," makes two assertions with which I disagree yet contain truth I cannot deny. The first is that it is better to marry a good non-Muslim than a bad Muslim. The second, regarding the offspring of mixed religious marriages, is the idea that the child can practice two religions at once.

As a male, I have forbidden myself from commenting on women's clothing issues, but I like how the author handles it in Chapter 17.

Speaking of the idea of the "Clash of Civilizations," the author writes:
My children's identities will not be a paradox, but an inspiration. It is more accurate today to speak of the complicity of civilizations. Of the candor, collaboration, and cooperation of civilizations as we move forward together to solve, heal, cure, and advance in our quest for God's irrefutable and absolute values. [p. 203] [italics in original]
In the final chapter, the author describes her idea of assimilation in rhetorical assertions of the rightful place of Muslims in America and the noble nature of America itself:
America's nascent ideals have proved to be more powerful and resilient than the contradictions of its reality and historical struggles. ... When American Muslims salute the flag and take the oath, they are bowing at the altar of America's one and most important religion, which preempts all other differences and diversities; it is an American faith in the elixir of its ideals. Although historically those ideals have been tested, corrputed, and appropriated to the exclusion of others, time and time again it is not cynicism that sets in but a resilient faith that a better America will reign supreme. ... Our journey has been about refusing to be denied our simultaneous Muslim and American identities. By no uncertain measure, we choose to be Muslims because we refuse to be lesser Americans. [America's] heart and soul are in its historic promise, its superpower ability to welcome, assimilate, and empower those who continue to flock to its shores. [pp. 221-5]
So I feel like I disagree with the author on a variety of points, yet the author has convinced me that those differences don't matter. It's more important to focus on the values of agreement, which are more important, than the value of purity of religious practice or ideology. It's very disarming! It is very easy to continue reading and listening to people who reaffirm your own thinking. I am very happy that I did read this book despite my misgivings because it changed how I think about my practice of Islam and my relations with other people.

P.S. I also think that the author's concern for her children elevated her thinking on topics beyond where I, who don't have children and thus may not have as much skin in the game, have gone. It's like the Arabic proverb:
اللي إيده في المية مش زي اللي إيده في النار
Literally, "the person whose hand is in water isn't like the person whose hand is in fire." Meaning something along the lines of walking in another person's shoes.


Black Liberation and Palestine Solidarity
Black Liberation and Palestine Solidarity
by Matthew Quest
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.96
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How you think about liberation in Palestine mirrors your thinking about liberation in the USA, February 11, 2014
Authors Lenni Brenner and Matthew Quest collected in this volume some of the essays they published between 1993 and 2013 analyzing the positions of prominent figures in the movement for black liberation towards Zionism and Palestinian resistance to Zionism. These positions were reflections of their owners' evolving understandings of the liberation struggles in the United States.

The liberation struggle evolved from the civil rights' postures of late 1950s and early 1960s Martin Luther King, Jr and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) to the nationalist (Black Power) positions associated with Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael and even the socialist and revolutionary stances of members of the Black Panther Party like Huey Newton. Correspondingly, Black Americans changed from seeing Zionists as struggling for the rights of a minority (Jews) to seeing Zionists as an extension of white supremacy or global imperialism and capitalism into southwest Asia and northeast Africa.

Nevertheless, many factors have limited the development of the Palestine Solidarity movement in the United States. The most important, in my reading of the author's claims, is the non-scientific (in the Marxist sense) nature of most resistance to Zionism (and other anti-colonialist struggles in Africa). For example, should Zionism, which placed one ethnic/religious group's capitalist intermediaries over the means of production in Palestine, simply be replaced by a different ethnic or religious group's capitalist intermediaries? Likewise, should Black Americans be struggling to allow their bourgeoisie the right to exploit workers or working to end exploitation of workers? Is the boycott, divestment and sanctions tactic falsely assuming that European and North American support for Israel is accidental and not intrinsic to Israel's position in world capitalist relations?

Another non-scientific aspect of contemporary Palestine Solidarity movements is a failure to study the history of Jews in Europe, the United States and Israel. The authors believe that the Zionist movement's contradictions are dissolving its support among Jews, and a Palestine Solidarity movement which presented a liberating alternative would be the end of Zionism. It would also avoid antisemitism.

In the United States, the lack of an political movement for liberation independent of the Republican and Democratic Parties, especially in the Age of Obama, has caused Black Americans' solidarity with Palestinians to be instinctive and romantic yet theoretically ungrounded, expressive without being effective and easily subverted to electoral politics' insatiable demand for money.

I recommend this book for those who are interested in Marxist analysis of liberation movements and United States history and Palestine Solidarity activists.


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