“…increasingly religious…” and Other Words

Several recent articles describe the Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev as having become, “…a fervent Muslim…” and “…increasingly religious…” I want to scream, “NO! He was NOT becoming a fervent Muslim! He was becoming a fervent KAAFIR (unbeliever) and increasingly IRRELIGIOUS! He took SATAN as a guide instead of ALLAH!”  Those articles were written by non-Muslims, while imams across the nation condemned the tragedy and even dared to say what they should have been saying loud and clear:  These men are not brother Muslims, but heretics. 

Instead of preaching to the choir, imams and Muslim writers need to clean up our language. There is no such thing as “radical” Islam. There is Islam, and there is other than Islam. There is no such thing as “fundamentalism” in the sense that one goes back to the founding (fundamental) principles of Islam to concoct justifications for terrorism.  There is no such thing as “extremism” which condones violence, and “non-extremism”, which does not. Do I need to cite Qur’anic ayahs regarding  malicious killing and all manner of violent behavior that wrecks havoc and brings suffering instead of peace? I think not.

In addition to disowning terrorists, we Muslims really need to change how we describe our religion and its associated perversions. WE know what is meant by “radicalism”, but the non-Muslim rightly thinks that “radicalism” is simply an exaggeration of established guidelines. “Fundamentalism”, with regard to Islam, is not actually fundamental; it does not go to the founding principles, and cannot claim right guidance. “Extremism” is not the outer edge of acceptable practice; it is not the purified, rarified essence of what we ordinary Muslims accept as Islam.

It’s bad enough that groups of Muslims in many countries learn corrupted ideas that subvert Islam, commandeer its theology and hijack its purpose, but even worse that the majority of  Muslims are not finding more effective ways to counter the development.  

One way, one small but important way, is to change how we describe our religion and the people who arose from our religion but who’ve stolen it, used it in service to the most heinous of evil acts. This post is my contribution to that goal. If you agree with me, speak up. Talk about this, especially to imams and Muslim leaders. If nothing else, post something on another blog, an article, a letter to the editor.

What Happened to “Ocean Mist”?

I was perusing the new WordPress themes, wondering whether I wanted to change my theme. Ocean Mist has always been a favorite theme; I’ve returned to it regularly. Tonight, however, I accidentily gave it up, probably forever. 

I didn’t intend to give it up, but my finger brushed the wrong key as I was loading  “live preview” on one of the  themes. Suddenly, Ocean Mist vanished. I decided I didn’t really want to change my theme after all, so I looked for Ocean Mist but couldn’t find it in any of the lists of themes on the WordPress site. I “googled” it and found it as a download, so I downloaded it– the new, improved version!– but then I couldn’t figure out how to upload the theme into the blog, so now it’s really gone, and I feel a sense of loss.

 

Poking around the WordPress site, I realized that themes are going the way of other consumer goods—  more numerous but of poorer quality and higher price. Custom color options that used to be free on certain themes are now included in the Custom Design option that costs $30 per year.  “Custom header” now means (on some themes)  that you can choose from several pre-loaded headers but not upload your own. Free custom fonts went away years ago; I’m surprised I can still choose font color. Font size can be changes, sort of, but the limited choices don’t always work. I cannot figure out why this paragraph cannot be shrunk to fit its surrounding paragraphs.

I finally landed on Coraline, a theme I have used and liked, which still offers custom color backgrounds and fully custom headers–  free. I have since activated Fruit Shake, with the same custom header and (limited) custom background, my necessary minimum requirements. I’ll miss Ocean Mist, as I don’t think I’ll have the gumption to learn new computer maneuvers for awhile.  I’ll keep the downloaded file, just in case I run into a computer guru who would simply love to upload it for me. 

If I were knowledgeable about designing themes, I’d craft a Middle-Eastern  theme. Maybe someone will do it for me, and if it were gorgeous, and  infinitely customizable, I might even pay for it. 

Blogging a Book

Blogs, Books, and Good Writing

Blogs and books don’t share much in common, at first glance, but they should share the most important, critical aspect of the written word: good writing. Now that blogs have “grown up” as a literary form, blog authors need to  pay attention to craft.

Nina Amir is a writer, coach and editor of both books and blogs. Her guidance not only improves the writing of blogs, but opens an avenue for bloggers to publish their work in book form. Since many blog readers are blog writers, I offer her website as an invaluable tool for those whose blogs could, or should, be published as books:

 http://howtoblogabook.com/hire-a-blog-coach/

I’ve read several blogs that deserve to be immortalized in books, and I’ve read at least one book that started out as a blog:  

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverbend_(blogger)

I’ve considered using my own blog to construct a book, eventually. Book or no book, a blog should offer good writing. I encourage all who  write blogs to learn about the craft of writing, even if their blogs are simply places in which they release a pressing stream-of-consciousness. Readers deserve good writing.

Blogging a Book

Certain blogs are good enough to publish in book format. American Bedu, http://americanbedu.com/ , for instance, contains  posts of interest to those who would understand life in Saudi Arabia from an international perspective. I’d love to be an editor, and cull the wheat from the chaff for an eventual hard copy book of that blog. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong course of undergraduate study, so the only editing I get to do is of my own work.

That’s OK. I have enough of it to occupy my time for the rest of my life, and since I have gravitated towards the memoir genre, I continually contemplate the writing of my own memoir,  publishable in book form, of course.

Aside from the reasons or the advisability of such a project, I am finding excellent resources to help an author accomplish just that– writing a book. One such resource is Nina Amir’s “Blog a Book” blog, in which she shows the ways in which a blog can be brought into the service of producing a book:



Occasional bloggers think that their blogs can be lifted and patched into a book, but that wouldn’t work except for a small group of highly focused blogs with dedicated followings, such as American Bedu. The blog format has developed into a vessel to contain conglomerations of outpourings from the blog writer’s psyche, and as such, has enjoyed tremendous popularity. Even focused, purposeful blogs tend to represent fluid affairs and current topics, or else serve the instruction of esoteric subjects.

Nina Amir’s idea turns the thrust of the blog around. Rather than using a blog to elucidate the blogger’s ideas on religious, political and social positions— interspersed with daily activities, menus, and weather reports— a blogger could use a blog to shape and hold a book project.

I like this idea. I will think about it.Let me know if you, too, think it’s a good idea for your writing.

More to the Kingdom and to Me

Monday, September 13, 2010
There is More to the Kingdom, and More to Me

Judging from many comments made on English language blogs about Saudi Arabia, one might conclude that the Kingdom is nothing but a hell-hole– a prison for women, a women’s prison in a cage that confines men, too, men who beat the women but do not beat the keepers of the cage. A prison in a cage, surrounded by the nourishing waters of freedom, but never cranking open sealed doors…

I’m not going to deny the social problems relating to women, the political danger to those who speak against the established regime, or the academic weakness of the educational curriculum. Real as they are, these issues coexist with other qualities. There is more to the Kingdom than female oppression, etc.

I am also not going to make lists of everything good and desirable in the Kingdom; I am not an apologist.

However, I do wonder of those who live there, or have lived there, is there anything right about this place? Have the Saudis any decent thing to offer each other or the rest of the world? If not, what are you doing there, or what are you doing spouting off on the blogs about the lack of freedom and Western-style choice in a country that doesn’t claim to offer it?

Emotional diatribes do not enrich my understanding of Saudi Arabia, Islam, the world, or my enthusiasm for participation, therefore I need to rein in my energies.  I started this blog mainly to collect my Riyadh memories, and to explore my relationship with Saudi Arabia and Islam as the years have passed.

I’m satisfied with my efforts so far, but I feel the urge to expand my purpose. I’ll be revising my blogroll on a continuous basis. Certain blogs have been informative, entertaining, and enriching, but the abundance of bitching and bashing in the comments sections have blunted my interest in those blogs. I’ll be adding blogs to the list, blogs that I read and that reflect my interest in diverse subjects— Italian language, Depth Psychology, Digital Imaging, Journal and Memoir Writing. If I lose readers, I’ll attract others.  I don’t have many I haven’t already lost, anyway. Though I write this blog primarily for myself, I do want readers; they inspire me and connect me in a way that writing cannot. Writing is completed by reading.

This blog is different from the essays I write  for publication elsewhere. It’s not more personal, but more spontaneous, of the moment, perhaps.

Future posts will bring more of the rest of my life into my blog.  I look forward to sharing aspects of my life that blossomed before I ever boarded my first flight to Riyadh, or my last flight out.




The Journal

Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Journal, The Wonderful Journal

The Journal is an elegant Windows program for personal journal writing, record keeping, social networking, creative writing, and whatever other purpose you might conjure up. It’s the most versatile, customizable writing program I’ve tried. You can post to your blog directly from it, you can password protect it, you can decorate it, you can insert images, etc… Whatever you can think of, it can do right now, or will do in the next version. David Michael, the programmer, is constantly at work tweaking The Journal, adding new capabilities (just when you think there are no more capabilities to be added) and communicating with Journal users who ask questions, make suggestions, or simply want to tell him how they use The Journal.

I’ve tried several other notable writing programs. I used to like Life Journal, but poor support drove me away.

Blogging tools like Windows Live Writer are useful, but The Journal includes the functions of Live Writer, plus much more.

The Journal is not yet available for Mac, but you could certainly install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp or Parallels, and  then put The Journal on it (which is what I plan to do when I buy my first Mac, one of these days.)

Try it free for forty-five days:

http://www.davidrm.com/

For the record, I am not in any way connected to David Michael, nor do I benefit when someone clicks on the link to The Journal from my blog. I simply love the program and want to endorse it.

Typekit, Anyone?

Has anyone on WordPress gotten the hang of using this tool? I don’t know what is easy about it. Nothing was easier than controlling font appearance the old-fashioned way. I think I’ll continue to do so, if such an antiquarian method is still available on WordPress.

WordPress vs. Blogger

WordPress vs. Blogger

I use WordPress because of its ease and efficiency. Blogger offers more options for creative content, but I don’t have the patience to learn it.

I can subscribe to other WordPress blogs, but not to Blogger blogs, so I end up reading more WordPress than Blogger blogs, which is exactly the point.

Some of the Blogger blogs are wonderful, but I find myself neglecting them. Commenting on Blogger blogs continues to be a challenge, with the separate comment page that sometimes eats the comment , and what about those skewed letters you always had to decipher?  Are they still a prerequisite for posting a comment?

If you are writing on Blogger, please know that I probably love your blog but do not read it or comment as often as I do on WordPress blogs, and this is only because of accessibility.

Does anyone else notice this tendency for polarization of community based on format?