#dailyupdate: Burn the Witch

When I heard Radiohead’s new song for the first time, “Burn the Witch,” I was left with a foreboding joy of pure brilliance and deep sorrow. There was no doubt in my mind that he, like PJ Harvey, was utilizing his music as activism and that this song was about the hatred burning this world down. I listened to the song repeatedly, watched the clip multiple times, and have read the lyrics endlessly.
Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live

Confirming my suspicion, the Atlantic publishes this:

Today’s new Radiohead song, “Burn the Witch,” blessedly does not hide its power. Sonically novel yet viscerally moving, gorgeous yet terrifying, it is the sound of Radiohead returning to do what it exists to do. The video is a claymation retelling of The Wicker Man, in which a police officer arrives at a town that is—spoiler alert!—secretly preparing to burn him in a ritual sacrifice. Thom Yorke’s lyrics speak of the kind of mass action and complacency that allows such a crime and, the logic probably goes, many other cruelties committed by societies.

And the Guardian highlights the theme too – directing focus directly to the refugee crisis in Europe and anti-Muslim sentiments that are raging.

Stay in the shadows
Cheer the gallows
This is a roundup

This is a low flying panic attack
Sing the song on the jukebox that goes

Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live

The only thing that exceeds his genius is his relevance.

#dailyupdate: on spiritual heartbreak and countering extremism

A few days ago, I was working on this 50 page research paper that is dealing with sectarianism in the Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. I’ve tried to avoid dealing with Sharia law in general because I simply do not know enough and haven’t had time to do proper research. However, I realized that I had to address it at least a *bit* and started a generalized search for different Muslim perspectives on apostasy. Well, I quickly realized that a “quick search” would only lead me to more extreme views and what I really wanted to know was the other views out there. So I wrote a friend of mine, Mehreen Rasheed, and after presenting my dilemma and struggle, she sent me long emails of different and moderate views.

Below is her reflection on spiritual heartbreak and extremist views. 


Just a few days ago, a dear friend of mine asked me for help while writing a paper on Egypt, Iraq, and Syria’s “apostasy” laws. She had found the Qur’anic verses and Hadith that are typically used (read: misused) to justify imposing the death penalty on people who convert from or leave Islam.

For context and perspective, she wanted to find more moderate interpretations. Happy and relieved that she had not left it up to an unreliable and unrepresentative Google search, I gladly sent her a flurry of sources roundly discrediting that view and briefly explained some of the basic theological issues surrounding sound, contextual interpretation of religious sources and determining the validity of Hadith. I then included a non-exhaustive list of Islamic scholars, many of whom are American Muslim household names and who have been greatly influential in my thinking. I told her that looking at the views and work of these people could give her some insight into the way many Muslims, particularly in the United States, tend to think.

Then today, I read the news that in Da’esh’s most recent propaganda effort, it published a hit list containing the names of beloved Muslim scholars and leaders from the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. Among them were names I had mentioned to my friend just four days ago. It would have enraged me at any time, but the timing made it an especial stab in the gut.

I think back to the conversation with my friend from few days ago. From Egypt, our conversation had turned to Da’esh and its propaganda machine, which includes the publication of pseudo-theological treatises to attempt to justify their heinous and criminal actions. She lamented how organized Da’esh seems to be in comparison to many religious scholars who are not on the same level of research. I immediately sent her another flurry of links to statements and treatises by prominent Muslims scholars around the world not only denouncing Da’esh, but actually conducting legal analysis discrediting its view as a matter of Islamic Law. Then it was my turn to lament how it seems that no matter how much we condemn, denounce, discredit, and repudiate, we always seem to be coming up short—not just among bigots who would turn a deaf ear to our cries, but even among those like my friend who are actively seeking answers.

I know that I don’t owe the world an explanation or an apology. I don’t owe anyone my condemning, denouncing, discrediting, and repudiating. We spend a lot of time talking about this: about how calling upon Muslims to condemn extremism unfairly puts our loyalty and citizenship on trial. More insidious is the danger of pandering and falling into the trap of becoming the exceptional “moderate,” well-behaved Muslims—as though to suggest that Islam itself must be apologized for; as though the false, shallow rhetoric of these self-interested criminals somehow has equal claim to the Way.[1] But I want to scream. My heart is broken that the beautiful teachings of my beloved Prophet have been contorted, disfigured, to fit some horrific agenda. Moreover, people are actually buying it—from the actual Da’esh recruits to The Atlantic Monthly.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I continue to condemn. Not out of a sense of obligation or American jingoism, but out of a deep love of my Prophet and the Way that he showed me. A way of peace and mercy. A way that has changed my life. His legacy doesn’t need saving. But like the Prophet’s own companions, who could not bear to remain silent in the face of criticism and defamation against him, how can I? I condemn, I condemn, I condemn.

[1] Sharia literally means the way, or more specifically, the way or the path to water [water being the source of life]. We believe that Sharia is divinely-revealed guidance for individuals, families, and societies to achieve harmony and spiritual excellence in this life and salvation in the next. This is distinct from fiqh, which is jurisprudence—legal opinions and interpretations that may change depending on place and evolve over time—a mortal pursuit.

#dailyupdate: prayer candles and jinn

I read a book this winter called “Birds Without Wings.” Truly a masterpiece about villagers in a small, remote village in Turkey during the fall of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey’s beginning days.

It was unique for many reasons particularly the style of how the author presented the story: short stories of different members of the village; sometimes told in first person and sometimes in the third person. He interwove the village life with short chapters on Mustafa Kamel.

The content of the story, rather the villager’s lives, was what captured me especially as the author carefully but simply presented the story of Muslims and Christians living together. The Christian women would light candles for their Muslim friends, and the Muslims would get advice from the local Sheikh for their Christian friends. Each was buried with a relic of the other faith. Comical at times, I was left with a sense of profound beauty.

Tonight I got a message from my Pakistani Muslim roommate saying she felt jinn in her room. Without thinking, I, an Egyptian Christian, grabbed a Mexican prayer candle that some American Christian gave me, lit it, and took it to her room right before she played the Quran.

Sitting back down in my room, feeling confident that we would be able to dispel any discomfort she was feeling (although I am not necessarily a believer in jinn, I do believe in spiritual and emotional warfare and any range of lesser feelings that can sometimes cause discomfort), I remembered the book. So in a sense, this is a book review and a very big recommendation to read it, and in another sense this is me reflecting on life, and how often it is through the simple things that the most complex are manifested.

#dailyupdate: Scalia re enemy combatant due process rights

“In the Founders’ view, the “blessings of liberty” were threatened by “those military establishments which must gradually poison its very fountain.” The Federalist No. 45, p. 238 (J. Madison). No fewer than 10 issues of the Federalist were devoted in whole or part to allaying fears of oppression from the proposed Constitution’s authorization of standing armies in peacetime.” Scalia dissent in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

He then went on to attack the suggestion that the majority opinion provided: a new process that would meet Due Process minimum requirements. “This judicial remediation of executive default is unheard of. The role of habeas corpus is to determine the legality of executive detention, not to supply the omitted process necessary to make it legal.”

When reading the majority opinion, I wanted to know why the case does not start off with an analysis of why a US citizen fighting against the US in active combat does not get classified as a traitor, charged with a crime of treason and instead is held as a POW – captured in an active combat zone. Is it because the USG simply does not want to submit to a “full-blown” criminal trial?

Much of the reasoning in the majority opinion would make more sense if this had been addressed, but it wasn’t and the government’s interest in avoiding a trial is simply not defended to any degree that convinced me. The idea of accepting, and in fact allowing, a deprivation of constitutionally-protected rights because the military does not want to go to court is exactly why Scalia dissented.

#dailyupdate: Book Review – The Time Travel of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets

Leaping uncontrollably through history, Khairy Shalaby creates a time lapse of Cairo through words, covering thousands of years of history. He writes in short chapters telling a fantastical story of power struggle, of emir’s, sultan’s, revenge, death, and of kingdoms rising and falling.

What most surprised me though is the main character, Ibn Shalaby, the man who sold pickles and sweets. Spinning in and out of different times, the man is incredibly smart and witty, and yet so simple and often times stupid. I found myself smiling sheepishly at how much of Egypt seeped through the lines on each page, even while reading the English translation of the story.

Highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to get lost in time, in Egypt, and in story.

#dailyupdate introduction

I haven’t posted in a while because I didn’t have something to write. Having put so much effort to writing in other areas of my life, the forum didn’t make sense to me. Until tonight.

I am going to post a series of #dailyupdate’s, a place where I will share thoughts I’ve had throughout the day. It’s a place where I will hash out ideas that I think we should be talking about. And it’s a place where I want to force myself to articulate those issues. There might not be a theme, but there probably will be. You’ll see, so here we go.

#dailyupdate: i spent a lot of time today thinking about sectarianism (this will be a theme). what really is it? is it discrimination, a kind that can manifest itself in the quiet ways: limited job opportunities, stares and comments, racial or religious cliques. or is it bigger than discrimination, something more like persecution? does it start with something small, something that manifests as normal and almost desirable, but really just be representative of persecution? isn’t persecution after all really very bad discrimination? and my last question: isn’t it persecution that certain groups experience when they lose their land, their money, their family members, or their lives because they are different and have limited job opportunities, because comments are made about them, and because they stick to themselves because they aren’t welcome outside (or do they like it that way?)? i just don’t know.

Translation of ISIS Statement “A Call to Our Proud Tribes in Sinai”

February 17, 2015

To our people in Sinai: All of you have seen the crimes committed by the Egyptian army in Sinai, killing Muslims and burning their bodies, tearing down mosques and homes. You all saw the army bombing safe homes day and night, and destroying farms and wells. We remind of this knowing that it is not far from your minds, and that all of you have lost a brother or a family member or had a house torn down. At the very least, you have suffered in your livelihood. What people do not know is that this is a plan to remove the people of Sinai and create camps for the army’s Jewish overlords. This menace, Sisi, has said multiple times that his war in Sinai is to protect his Jewish neighbors. His loyalties are made clear.

As the Quran says (quote from Quran here), everyone participating in this war has therefore forfeited Islam, which is also true for the agents and spies from the tribes who have sold their religion. If they die in that state, they lose in both life and eternity.

Our strong tribes, we call on you to absolve yourselves of these evildoers, kick them out from amongst you, not sit with them or ride with them lest you receive the same fate as they receive from the mujahedin. We swear that there will be no mercy to anyone going down that road except beheading unless they repent before they are beaten. We therefore repeat the invitation to anyone participating in this: Return to Allah in repentance, which he may accept; and show your repentance to the mujahedin before they reach you. Do not be late, our list is long and our swords are sharpened and will not rest until Allah has judged between you and us.

Our final message is to our own families and tribes: Stand with your sons among the mujahedin. We swear that we have only gone out to support Allah’s religion and to protect your blood and reputation. We are of you and you of us, and you have seen how Allah has supported us against the criminals with even with our small numbers and equipment. How the more so if you stand at our backs, defend your religion, and take your revenge. Know that we fight them with the power of our religion, so be not fooled by their numbers or strength.

Strong Tribes


Translation provided to Eshhad by Amir Beshay

via @locka3: https://twitter.com/locka3/status/570200092512260097