New Directions

In my most recent post, I stated my intention to resume posting within this blog and to change its name. I also discussed some pf the reasons for these decisions. Within this article I will describe much more specifically the direction in which I plan to take this blog.

From its beginning in 2008 the purpose of this blog has been to provide a space in which I could articulate my own ideas regarding the political economic issues that have been of importance to me. At that time I attempted in several posts to present the vision of a long-standing minority tradition within the historical socialist movement which was variously represented in the forms of Associational Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and English Guild Socialism. While there were clearly differences between these traditions of socialism they all had clearly a very similar stance against the dominant statist form of modern Socialism. I chose to call this tendency Cooperative Socialism. I also attempted to point out the connection between this form of socialism and the vision of the kingdom of God held by Jesus and other important figures within Christianity. Little of this made any impact.

More recently since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 my focus has shifted to issue of US foreign policy particularly in its relationship to the nation of Syria. I have been a passionate supporter of the Syrian oppositon’s struggle to end the Assad dictatorship and to replace it with a more democratic, less oppressive polical system. I have been very disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration of refusal to provide military support and aid to the moderate Syrian Free Army in its battle againt the regime. This has consequently led to the slaughter of over 170,000 Syrians and to the raise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or as it is also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Clearly a better nominclature.

This support of a US foreign policy which actively supports the stuggles of peoples and nations against genocide and their brutalization by their own governments has been a dominant aspect of my political life at least since the 1990s. During the Bosnian War of the first half of the 90’s and the Darfur War of the mid 2000’s I worked with groups of people within Columbus Ohio in hope of defending first the Bosnian people against genocide and latter to defend the people of Dafur against the same. Unfortunately these campaigns neither at the local nor larger national level did much to change national policy.

While most people of the left would rather take on “progressive” domestic issues and ignore the struggles of peoples particularly within the Islamic world, I happen to believe that the existential battles of life and death of whole peoples have a much greater moral significance than have many of the often purely tactical political fights between this nation’s right and left. I believe that one of the most significant aspects of a politics of justice should be to support the peoples in nations such as Syria and Iraq in their struggles against their own brutalization and destruction.

As stated above I initially attempted to articulate within this blog a radical vision of what I call “cooperative socialism” within a religious context. While one of my articles called “God and Socialism” over the years has garnered many views, it has received little real response. Most of the other articles within the blog have received much less response. This has reinforced my view that “socialism” has essentially died as a motivating ideal within the West and within the United States in particular. Still I believe that the ideals of a cooperative socialism are sound. They are in fact the values of the kingdom of God (Thea within my religious faith). I also think that many of details of the concrete reality of this form of Socialism have been worked out brilliantly within the Mondragan Cooperative Corporation and other cooperative enterprises. All of which show that cooperative socialism can work within the real world and not just within the world of ideas. Therefore I hope to again begin articulating this vision within future posts within this blog, even if I have to utilize an alternative vocabulary to better articulate these visions of a just society.

I am perfectly aware that perhaps such writing will have little positive impact, however I feel that this is what I am perhaps called to do. I think that it makes more sense to write about what passionately interests me than to follow what every one else is doing. I do of course have an interest in issues that are more mainstream and domestic in nature and I will probably comment on them here as well. But in the more immediate future they will not take priority status.

Religion also will continue to be a part of the mix. This blog is not be a theological blog. But to the degree that religious authors write on subjects which relate to issues of justice and to the degree that religious ideas impact positively on the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day, I will discuss them here.

I of course am perfectly aware that any attempts in modern political discourse to interconnect the issues of politics and religion is viewed with deep suspicion in the West and particularly within the secular Left. Many in the West of course reject religious belief in principle and believe that it should play no role in public life. Many religious persons also reject it because they believe that religious belief and spirituality is primarily a private, apolitical, purely spiritual thing which is not really properly related to the concrete political, economic world.

Such a belief is a falsity. Traditional Islam on the contrary has always believed that the laws of Allah (Sharia) should rule not only over the lives of individual believers but over the life of society as well. The Jewish tradition historically has seen the Torah as having a similar authority over the Jewish Nation. And even within Christianity it has been believed that principles of justice to the poor and oppressed within society have been mandated by God. Confucianism, certain forms of Taoism, and Buddhism also traditionally held that religious belief does and should have worldly social consequences.

The idea of a complete separation of religious principles from a primarily secular society has been an unfortunate interpretation of the enlightenment vision of the principle of the Separation of Church and State which was first developed within the Protestant world of the Netherlands, England, and the United States. The separation of church and state was a positive response to the wars of religion that raged over Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and religious tyranny which reigned over much of Europe through out its history. The extreme idea that religious principles have no right to any role in political discourse or influence in society is radical modernist premise of a radical secularism which seeks to end any role for religion in society.

As an American I believe deeply in the Constitutional separation of Church and State and reject all forms of religious intolerance. However I also believe that religious believers have the moral right to attempt to support legislation and laws via democratic means which they believe are in accordance with the will of God. Of course within this society the Christian Right has been most famous for its ability to channel its religious passions toward political agendas. While I reject almost all aspects of the politics of the Christian Right, I have not problem in principle with their attempts via democratic means to push their political agenda.

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A’isha’s Legacy

Amina WadudThe second article I want to post is an article “A’isha’s Legacy” by Amina Wadud who is one of the founders of the modern Islamic feminist movement. By way of introduction to the article I want to cite the last part of the Wikipedia article about her.
 
Glenn
 
Friday prayerWadud was the subject of much debate and Muslim juristic discourse after leading a Friday prayer (salat) of over 100 male and female Muslims in the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York on March 18, 2005, breaking with the tradition of having only male imams (prayer leaders). Three mosques had refused to host the service and the museum that had agreed to host it pulled out after a bomb threat. (The event was not the first time in the history of Islam that a woman had led the Friday prayer. See Women as imams for a discussion of the issue.)

In August 1994, Wadud delivered a Friday khutbah(sermon) on “Islam as Engaged Surrender” at the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa. At the time, this was largely unheard of in the Muslim world. As a result, there were attempts in Virginia by some Muslims to have her removed from her position at Virginia Commonwealth University.

There has been objection and some support from Muslims around the world to Wadud’s imamate. In spite of the criticism, Wadud has continued her speaking engagements, and has continued to lead mixed-gender Friday prayer services. On October 28, 2005, following her talk at the International Congress on Islamic Feminism in Barcelona, Spain, she was invited to lead a congregation of about thirty people.

The majority of the Islamic community, whether laymen or Islamic scholars, are opposed to the idea of women leading mixed-gender congregations, but allow women to lead women only.[1]However, some jurists, such as the Iranian Shi’i jurist Mohsen Kadivarhave espoused her view on the permissibility of female imams. It must be clarified, however, that most Shi’is do not agree with Kadivar’s views.[citation needed]

[edit] Media appearance

She was interviewed on WNYC radio on July 14, 2006, to discuss her book Inside the Gender Jihad. She responded to questions and comments about other activities including women in gender-mixed Friday prayer service.

[edit] Controversy

Wadud’s stance on issues such as women’s rights have generated outrage among Muslims such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has issued a fatwa, published in the Qatar press, in which he called upon Wadud’s death. Wadud, a leader of the progressive organization Muslim WakeUp!, has defied the fatwa on many occasions, such as holding a mixed-gender prayer in a conference hall at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Divine following a bomb threat. Three mosques and an art gallery had previously refused to hold the prayer because of the perceived danger.

Wadud published a book in 1999, Qur’an and Woman, which has caused controversy among Muslims due her extrapolation of women’s rights from the Qur’an, such as an example that the prophet Mohammad allowed a woman to lead prayer.

Enclosed is the beginning of the article A’isha’s Legacy.

A’ishah’s legacy

Amina Wadud looks at the struggle for women’s rights within Islam.

“I converted to Islam during the second wave feminist movement in the 1970s. I saw everything through a prism of religious euphoria and idealism. Within the Islamic system of thought I have struggled to transform idealism into pragmatic reforms as a scholar and activist. And my main source of inspiration has been Islam’s own primary source — the Qur’an. It is clear to me that the Qur’an aimed to erase all notions of women as subhuman…………”

On An Islamic Feminism

   
 
I am posting here a few of the web sites of Moslem women authors who are challenging the patriarchal control of Islam. I also want to post three recent articles regarding the current movement of Moslem feminism. The two web sites are those of Irshad Manji who is the author of a very controversial book The Trouble with Islam Today for which  she has received much criticism within the Islamic world. The link to her site is  http://www.irshadmanji.com/
While Miss Manji is perceived because of  her book and writings by many Moslems as being hostile to Islam what can be seen in her site is that in spite of her criticisms she is still very much a believer in Islam. The other site is that of the author Sumbul Ali- Karamali and of her recently published book called “The Muslim Next Door.” The link to her site is http://www.muslimnextdoor.com/
I own a copy of her excellent book which I believe is one of the best analysis of  Islam in its entirety, One of the best chapters in the book is the one that deals with the issue of Islam and women rights. In this book I think that she takes on quite effectively some of the issues that have been raised in discussions here such as the issue of the supposed command that men hit their wives and the issue of inheritance.
 
 I will include a link to the New York Times article “Women Use Koran to Demand  Equal Rights”

which a represent some of the world Islamic feminist response to a ruling in February 2009 by the government of Malaysia to ban the practice of yoga as unIslamic. Enclosed are a few highlights of the article.

 
 
“The religious order banning women from dressing like tomboys was bad enough. But the fatwa by this country’s leading clerics against yoga was the last straw.

“They have never even done yoga,” said Zainah Anwar, a founder of a Malaysian women’s rights group called Sisters in Islam.

Anwar argues that the edict, issued late last year by the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia, is pure patriarchy. Islam, she says, is only a cover.

It was frustrations like those that drew several hundred Muslim women to a conference in this Muslim-majority country over the weekend. Their mission was to come up with ways to demand equal rights for women. And their tools, however unlikely, were the tenets of Islam itself.

“Secular feminism has fulfilled its historical role, but it has nothing more to give us,” said Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian anthropologist who has been helping to formulate some of the arguments. “The challenge we face now is theological.”………….

Glenn

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On Islam and Women

Over the past month I have been participating in a group in which the issue of the nature of Islam particularly in regard to its relationship to women has come up. Many members of this Christo-Pagan group believe as do many  other people within the United States that Islam within its inter core is a violent and misogynist faith. For example many members believe that Islam commands husbands  to beat their wives and that the general effect of Islam even at its origins has been to support the domination of men over women. Even though these persons dislike Christian fundamentalism intensely they will often cite the writings  of Christian fundamentalists who supposedly have some expertize on Islam in support of their ideas. This attitude of negativism toward Islam is in marked contrast to the attitude of many Christo-Pagans regarding Christian origins.  Christo-Pagans often believe that the “real teachings” of Jesus was a message of love and that Jesus was a radical supporter of the rights of women. Only latter was this message corrupted by the forces of patriarchy. In contrast many Christo-Pagans believe that the Koran and Mohammed himself had misogynist views toward women from the beginning. Thus in contrast to Christianity, Islam has no redeeming positive core. That I believe is a profound error.
 
While my own theological beliefs are incompatible in many ways with those of Islam, I tend to want to argue in favor of  those  religions which I believe are being defamed. In past discussions on the internet I have argued against Christian fundamentalists in favor of Islam. I have also argued in defence of Christianity against  bigoted members of the Islamic community  who have argued for example that  St. Paul was a gay  pediphile or that Christianity has been guilty of hundreds of millions of deaths through out its history. All demonization of  the religions of others should be opposed. In the case of Islam which polls  http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2006/03/american-attitudes-toward-islam-and-muslims
show  is very unpopular in American society, I think that it is particularly important to point out the myths  that are often spread. In the next few posts I want to point out first that a world wide Islamic feminist movement exists which interprets the Koran and the life of Mohammed as in fact helping to liberate women from traditional male patriarchal structures. I also want to post some articles by one of the founders of the modern Islamic feminist movement Amina Wadud in which she shares her own thoughts and attitudes regarding the Koran and life of the Mohammed. Finally I want share a writing regarding the issue of whether the Koran encourages the beating of wives by husbands.
 
Glenn