Bob Schwartz

Tag: Islam

The Far Mosque

The Far Mosque

The place that Solomon made to worship in,
called the Far Mosque, is not built of earth
and water and stone, but of intention and wisdom
and mystical conversation and compassionate action.

Every part of it is intelligent and responsive
to every other. The carpet bows to the broom.
The door knocker and the door swing together
like musicians. This heart sanctuary
does exist, though it cannot be described.

Solomon goes there every morning
and gives guidance with words,
with musical harmonies, and in actions,
which are the deepest teaching.
A prince is just a conceit,
until he does something with his generosity.

Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

Rep. Steve King of Iowa: I don’t want Somali Muslims working in Iowa meat-packing plants because they want consumers of pork to be sent to hell. (Or something like that.)

“I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops.”
Rep. Steve King

Can America go for one minute—let alone one hour or day—without some hateful and ignorant politician saying something hateful and ignorant?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: You have to read this story carefully to follow the intertwined threads of hate and ignorance. Steve King thinks he is an expert on pork (which he no doubt is) and on Muslim theology (which he profoundly is not). He is probably profoundly ignorant about Christian and Jewish theology too. For Christian education he should turn to his pastor. For Jewish theology, he should turn to “the lead Jew in Congress”—whoever that is.


Politico:

Steve King singles out Somali Muslims over pork

The Iowa congressman says they shouldn’t work in his district’s meat-packing plants because they won’t eat pig products.

By KYLE CHENEY

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Friday that he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at meat-packing plants in his district because they want consumers of pork to be sent to hell.

In a Breitbart News radio interview, the eighth-term congressman known for his inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric, said his views were informed by a conversation with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who he called “the lead Muslim in Congress.”

King said Ellison informed him that Muslims would require “a special dispensation” from an imam in order to be able to handle pork in one of his district’s meat-packing plants. “The rationale is that if infidels are eating this pork, [the Muslims] are not eating it,” King said. “So as long as they’re preparing this pork for infidels, it helps send them to hell and it must make Allah happy.”

“I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops,” he concluded.

Ellison’s office declined to comment on King’s interpretation of his remarks.

King said he approached Ellison about the issue because meat-packing plants in his district had informed him that they hoped to hire Somalis to work in their facilities. “And I say, ‘well, Somali Muslims, will they cut pork?'” King recalled of his conversation with the plant leaders. “They looked at each other and said, ‘We don’t’ know.'”

King has drawn attention for his frequent flirtation with fringe, racist political elements. Earlier this week, he retweeted a known British white supremacist’s warning about immigration.

King’s commentary on pork consumption and Islam doesn’t stop at his district’s edge. Last week he slammed Sweden, which he said “capitulated to Halal” when the organizers of an international soccer tournament there decided against serving pork to accommodate a large number of Muslim players.

“I draw the line here and, if need be, will fight for freedom of choice — in our diets,” he tweeted. “Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is the #1 Pork district in America. No takin’ bacon off our tables.”

L’dor Vador (Ramadan)

L’dor Vador (Ramadan)

Jews begat
Christians begat
Muslims.
Thousands became
Millions became billions.
Blessed and blind warriors
Pages of holy books
Edged in gold
Sharp as swords.
Angry and bitter blood transmutes
To sweet water in the scorching desert
Of seeking souls.

©

Note: We are in the midst of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, commemorating the first revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad. It is sad astonishment to students of all three Abrahamic faiths to see how zealously ignorant and contentious some of the faithful of each may be to each other. (Jews who will not dare to touch, let alone read, the New Testament; Jews and Christians who will not dare to touch, let alone read, the Qur’an.)

In fact, each faith has produced extraordinary core texts that should be the first stop for anyone claiming to know anything—not only about the other, but about their own traditions. The golden threads of Judaism are woven into Christianity, the golden threads of Judaism and Christianity are woven into Islam. The ugliness and terror are man-made; the best parts are from the compassionate and caring.

L’dor vador. From generation to generation. One family.

Advertising as Insurgent Art: Reverse for Kindness

reverse-for-kindness

I recently posted about Poetry as Insurgent Art. Now I want to add advertising to that.

There are going to be a number of Super Bowl ads this weekend that take indirect but clear aim at current events, including anit-immigrant sentiment and the Muslim travel ban. It now appears that one of the world’s biggest ad agencies, Leo Burnett, is joining the cause. Adweek reports:

Leo Burnett has a simple message of solidarity to share with people impacted by the U.S. travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries. Beginning today, when you visit the Leo Burnett website you’ll be redirected to a new site, BurnettLeo.com  http://burnettleo.com/  .

A video on the new site explains that while English is read from left to right, Arabic is read from right to left. Regardless of how we read something, the advertising agency wants people to know that it stands in support of everyone and cares deeply about the values of humanity, bravery and kindness.

More New York Hate Attacks—On a Muslim Cop and a Subway Worker

aml-elsokary

Just as you probably didn’t see any national coverage of the assault on a Muslim college student riding the New York subway, you also probably didn’t see stories about more attacks in the last few days—including one on a New York City cop.

Sunday

‘I will cut your throat!’: Man attacks Muslim cop and her son

A suspect was arrested Sunday in the Brooklyn attack on an off-duty Muslim cop wearing a hijab.

“Go back to your country,” the man yelled at NYPD Officer Aml Elsokary during the incident Saturday.

He also targeted the cop’s 16-year-old son — shoving him and shouting a slur that referenced ISIS — before telling them both, “I will cut your throat! Go back to your country!” sources said.

The incident is being probed as a hate crime.

The suspect, whose name was not released, lives near the scene of the attack, on Ridge Boulevard and 67th Street in Bay Ridge.

Elsokary made headlines in 2014 when she helped rescue an old man and a baby from a burning building.

Monday

Muslim MTA worker in hijab pushed down stairs, called ‘terrorist’

A Muslim New York City Transit employee who was wearing a hijab with her uniform was injured when she was pushed down the stairs at Grand Central Terminal Monday morning by a man who called her a “terrorist,” officials said.

The 45-year-old woman was on her way to work at 6:20 a.m. when the man confronted her on the 7 Train.

“You’re a terrorist and you shouldn’t be working for the city,” the hate-monger spewed at her while the two were on the train, as he jabbed at her MTA patch.

He followed her off the train and pushed her down the stairs. Her ankle and knee were injured and she was taken to NYU Langone Hospital.

We have to start facing a few realities, though strategies to deal with them are still to be determined. One is not just the presence of hate and intolerance—an age-old problem—but the growing aggressive expression of that hate, possibly in light of the current political climate. Another is a certain willingness to stand by while that happens—also long-standing—because we will always have such people and that’s just the way things are. A final reality is much of the news media, which, with all due respect, spent the presidential campaign focused on all kinds of nonsense and missing all kinds of truth, sometimes in the name of being “objective” and not judging or having opinions.

These latest examples of necessary truths are not matters of opinion. What’s wrong is wrong, and if the media is uncomfortable reporting or analyzing it, maybe they have outlived their usefulness and relevance.

“Drunk men screaming Trump’s name try to rip off Muslim student’s hijab as straphangers stand idly by on East Side subway, cops say”

Yasmin Seweid

This is from today’s New York Daily News.

I have mixed feelings about repeating such a negative story. But I am repeating it because Google News shows that at this point it has been covered by only 26 news outlets in America and the world.

Only twenty-six news outlets. Practically any story gets more coverage than that—let alone a story with major social implications, involving the next President of the United States, or at least his name as a rallying cry.

One more thing: Take the hateful actions of these attackers, and imagine their shouting the name of some other President. Imagine these men shouting “You look like a f—ing terrorist! Get the hell out of the country! You don’t belong here!” followed by “George Bush! George Bush!” or “Ronald Reagan! Ronald Reagan!”

Are we ready for this New World?


STRAPHANGERS STOOD BY AND WATCHED as three drunk white men repeatedly screamed “Donald Trump!” and hurled anti-Islam slurs Thursday at a Muslim Baruch College student before trying to rip her hijab off of her head on an East Side subway, the woman told the Daily News.

Yasmin Seweid said she was stunned by the assault — and the fact that no one in the subway car came to her aid.

“It made me really sad after when I thought about it,” she said. “People were looking at me and looking at what was happening and no one said a thing. They just looked away.”

The terrified 18-year-old recounted her harrowing encounter with the hate-spewing trio.

“I heard them say something very loudly, something about Donald Trump … I also heard them say the word terrorist and I sort of got a little scared,” Seweid told The News.

Seweid had left an event at Baruch and was on her way home on an uptown No. 6 platform at the 23rd St. and Park Ave. stop at about 10 p.m. Thursday when the men started taunting her, she said.

They hollered at the business major as she boarded a train.

They kept screaming Trump’s name at her, and then said, “Oh look, a (expletive) terrorist,” she said.

“Get the hell out of the country!” they yelled during the train ride. “You don’t belong here!”

Seweid, who was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Egyptian parents, was shocked.

“I born and raised in this country,” she told The News. “I’m an American, you know?”

When Seweid ignored them, they pulled on her bag to get her attention and the strap broke.

“That’s when I turned around and said ‘can you please leave me alone,’ and they started laughing,” she said.

She walked to the other end of the train, and they followed her and tried to pull off her hijab, a head covering worn by Muslim women.

“Take that thing off!” they hollered.

“I put my hand on top of my head to hold it,” Seweid said. “Then I turned around and screamed ‘what the (expletive).’ ”

Seweid got off the train at Grand Central Terminal on E. 42nd St. and reported the terrifying incident to police.

Her father, Sayeed Seweid, 55, of New Hyde Park, L.I., said he was also angry that no one else stepped in to defend his daughter.

“Nobody even offered to help an 18-year-old girl,” he said. “That means something. Her phone was dying. You offer help — it doesn’t matter the race, religion, or the country.”

After filing a police report, shaking and crying, Seweid made her way to Penn Station where she called her father after finding an electrical outlet to charge her phone, her father said. She was not injured.

He came and picked her up and they chatted with police into the early morning hours before driving home.

On Friday, Seweid sat with police officers and tried to help spot the men on surveillance video, her father said. No one has been arrested.

The incident is another in a growing list of bias crimes across the city since Trump’s election. Cops said that from Nov. 8 through Nov. 27, there were 34 reported incidents compared to 13 in the same period in 2015.

“American Muslims, and particularly men and women who wear religious attire, are being increasingly targeted by hate nationwide in the wake of the Nov. 8 election,” said Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“I was very shaken up … I’m definitely traumatized,” Seweid said. “I’m really scared.”

Of the 34 incidents between Election Day and Nov. 27, 18 have been anti-Semitic in nature, compared to five in the same period last year. Five of the incidents have been anti-gay, and five others, anti-white. Two targeted Muslims and one was anti-black.

Books: It’s Ramadan, Curious George

It's Ramadan, Curious George

Something can be significant and cute. It’s Ramadan, Curious George is that.

Published this past May, the book is a way to introduce little ones to the possibility that others believe differently, that there are other religious and cultural traditions than their own. In this case, a Muslim holiday is introduced through the antics of that famous playful monkey. (George distracts his hungry friend by playing checkers with him.)

Day of Fasting

H.A. and Margret Rey, the creators of Curious George, were German Jews living in Paris when the Nazis invaded in 1940:

Knowing that they must escape before the Nazis took power, Hans cobbled together two bicycles out of spare parts. Early in the morning of June 14, 1940, the Reys set off on their bicycles. They brought very little with them on their predawn flight — only warm coats, a bit of food, and five manuscripts, one of which was Curious George.

The Reys made it to New York with the manuscript. The first Curious George book was published in 1941 (this is the 75th anniversary). The rest is history, and a part of the lives of millions of kids (and their parents).

It is possible to help make the world better one book, and one monkey, at a time.

The Revival of Enlightened and Transformative Politics

Talking about the revival of enlightened and transformative politics is bound to be imprecise.

That concept has never actually been dead. Looking at Christianity, a recent post about Jim Wallis and Sojourners highlights just one instance. A bigger and much more famous current example is Pope Francis. And it is nothing new. The Social Gospel movement, which is still represented (though not always appreciated), aimed to see the realization of the highest Christian principles in everyday practical society.

Keeping with the Christian theme, this is not about what Jesus would say about abortion or gay marriage or prayer in schools or any of these specific arguments—though all have a certain significance. It is about politics as a tool of overall transformation, beyond sectarian concerns.

This is not limited to Christianity. Every one of the traditions has a core of enlightenment and large scale transformation. But each of those traditions has found a way to occasionally devolve that mission into movements and policies and tactics that diverge and even contradict the higher principles and aspirations. It isn’t necessary to point out the wrong turns that, for example, Judaism and Islam have taken along the way to supposedly establish heaven on earth.

In the era of what was affectionately, or for some derisively, known as the New Age movement, this concept of politics as a transformative tool was central. There was the idea that if we kept our eyes on the prize—not just a country but a world elevated above our baser selves—we could together create something better. Politics was one of the tools that would serve that end, instead of enabling smaller personal ambitions and selfish, possibly pernicious, goals.

So here we are. Enlightened and transformative politics is not dead. But it may be missing in action. Each political choice we make—each donation, each tweet, each vote and, yes, each post—might help us find it. Or kill it. It’s up to us.

One God Two God

One Fish Two Fish

One God
Two God
Red God
Blue God
(apologies to Dr. Seuss)

A professor at Wheaton College may be dismissed for saying that Christian and Muslims worship the same God.

There is so much that could be said about this.

About the history of American evangelicalism, of which Wheaton is a part. How it began as an open and activist socially liberal Christian movement and has ended up in some instances a radically conservative and strictly exclusivist movement.

About theology as complex as any machine ever built, and just as incomprehensible to those who are not religion mechanics and engineers. How even though the God of the Jews was absolutely the God of Jesus, and the God of the Jews and Jesus was absolutely the God of Muhammed, that isn’t so according to people who may think themselves smarter and more important than Jesus or Muhammed.

The concept of one God was a revolution in civilization. The earlier belief in an entourage of gods, greater and lesser, has been mostly replaced by the one. (Whether that one might be three-in-one goes back to the theology complexities mentioned above, so let’s leave that for now.)

It is no wonder that after thousands of years with religion as a standard way of life, more people are rejecting it than ever. Because if there is a God, and if religions have sprung up on his behalf (with or without his blessing), that God and those religions can look spectacularly ridiculous in the eyes of good people who want nothing but good for people. And because if God really cares about all this very human nonsense, a growing number of people want nothing to do with him or his religions. And who can blame them?

Bacon and Ribs Illegal in America When Jews and Muslims Take Over

When Orthodox Jews or Muslims are in charge, bacon, ribs, and all sorts of other things will be made illegal.

Of course, that will never happen. Not because Orthodox Jews or Muslims will never take control of American democracy (anything’s possible). But because the U.S. Constitution—that imperfectly perfect protector of individual rights—would not permit it.

In the secular sphere, there is no higher law than the Constitution. Beyond being the law of the land, it is the law of the law of the land. Those who study it in the context of world history and politics recognize that it is a one-of-a-kind, no-other-time-or-place achievement.

Those who say there is some kind of higher law than that in the civic arena are misinformed, or in some cases, such as Ted Cruz who should know better, strategically mistaken. The question those folks have to answer is this: If there is higher law than the Constitution, whose law is it? If it’s “God’s” law, recall that God talks to lots of people in lots of religious traditions, and apparently isn’t always heard to say the same thing to everyone. It will shock some Christians to learn that God has been speaking to Jews for thousands more years, and while there seemed to have been plenty of talk about a messiah, nothing to indicate that one actually arrived. Or asked county clerks in Kentucky to stop issuing marriage licenses. Or told presidential candidates who claim to believe in law and order to defy the law of the law of the land. In his name. Amen.