“…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.

Book Review: Love, Insha Allah

Book Review: Love, Insha Allah

The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women

Though Islam is growing in America, one bumps up constantly against ubiquitous incompatibilities between Islam and Western culture. Nowhere is this incompatibility more prominent than in an American Muslim woman’s search for a mate.

The stories in this book reveal the problematic position of American Muslim women who would like to get married. They must either make compromises, or take a hard line with respect to their religion, further limiting their chances for finding a mate in a society that is still composted of mostly non-Muslim residents. Some of these writers have shaved the edges off Islamic teachings , even to the extent of doing haram behavior, knowingly, deliberately. The instinct to find a mate and establish a family often takes precedence over familial and religious dictates regarding how to do so.

Islamic customs, which relied heavily on community relationships, now operate in an anemic facsimile of their original effectiveness. American customs for dating, sex and marriage, are not officially available to these women.To make matters worse, Muslim communities in the United States are composed of people from varying cultural and linguistic traditions. American Muslim women sit between a rock and a hard place; even men tiptoe across a loose tightrope when courting them.

When the Abrahamic religions were being codified, the human life span was much shorter. Young people did not have to navigate a prolonged period (named adolescence) between childhood and adulthood.  Mating occurred at  physical maturation. These days, physical maturation plays second fiddle to religious mores that were not written for adolescence or homosexuality. Add to that the economic and educational demands of today that also postpone marriage well beyond the best physical stage for it.

At least one of my readers will remind me that Islam is applicable to all peoples for all times, and to that reader I say, “Then it will have to find a way to reconcile human nature with the unnatural frustration arising out of modern  adolescence. It will also have to accommodate an increasing incidence of homosexuality.”

Homosexuality, by the way, does not recede when it manifests in a Muslim, and several of these writers are brave enough to talk about it. One would think that if Allah hated homosexuality enough to forbid it, He would give us better tools for coping with it in a halal manner, but this is not the case. Homosexuality will prove to arise from physiological  and genetic predispositions, and therefore will never be responsive to blame or volition on the part of those who find themselves claimed by it.

I respect the women who’ve told their stories, and I admire their courage in trying to find a third way, a way to live as Muslims and as Americans, partaking in the blessings of both identities and navigating the inherent troubles. Some women have tossed Islamic teachings out the window, while others have have cut themselves off from the benefits for which people choose to live in America.  None, however, have turned their backs on Islam, itself, and most have become stronger in faith as a result of their trials, regardless of whether they succeeded in finding a mate.

Not all the essays are marked by conflict or frustration. Several of the women met their husbands in the traditional Islamic way, through the help of parents and relatives, without having to date and sift through a succession of boyfriends. These women are the lucky minority. Several others met their husbands by means unconventional in either American or Islamic cultures; their stories prove that finding a mate need not conform to a strict prescription.

The women represented in this book are pioneers, and through them, especially with respect to how they raise their children, a stable American Islam will develop.  Oh, I know. There’s no such thing as “American Islam” or “Saudi Islam” or, or… Well, yes there is. How do you suppose Islam, or any other religion, survives over the centuries, migrates to different continents, and serves populations that have never have heard of one another? An Islam that thrives in the West is still evolving.  This book forms a link in the process, and will eventually be regarded as an historical document. I hope the children of this book’s authors will read their mothers’ stories with a sense of relief because they will not have to blast through the moral and social difficulties endured by their parents.

A New Perspective on Islam

I’ve been ruminating on my waning connection with mainstream Islam. Ever since we came to the United States, I’ve been slipping away from ritual practice. The events of 9/11 pushed me to the brink of apostasy. I’ve been sitting on that prickly fence ever since.

Islam keeps pulling me back, in unexpected ways. Last week, as I put my grandson bed, his mom said, “Read Qur’an on him. He likes it,” so I read a few suras, surprising myself that I remembered how to do so with tajweed.

The child lay quietly, and a little smile settled over his face as he gazed into my eyes. I kissed him, said I love you, and good-night. He was asleep almost before I closed the door to his bedroom.

I do not call myself a moderate Muslim. I dislike the word “moderate” because it calls up the notion of immoderate Islam, or extreme, thus giving legitimacy to what is often called extremism, or fundamentalism.

I also dislike the word “fundamentalism” because it implies that its followers observe the fundamentals of their religious beliefs, and that’s far from the truth.

I’m not a “progressive” Muslim, either. That word implies that those who came before were not civilized enough to develop the religion to meet the needs of modern life, as if Islam needs to grow  from a state of immaturity.

So what kind of Muslim am I? I don’t know anymore.

Am I a “reformist” Muslim? What’s that? Did you know that there is now a Reformist Qur’an available?


Did you know that the number 19 has been analyzed and found to reveal a code of some sort that lends credence to Islam’s claim of authenticity of the Qur’an?


I keep these ideas at arm’s length for now, but they are interesting. What do you think? I’ll study them; perhaps they will resonate with me, and I’ll feel secured in faith once again.



Submission Part One

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Submission Part One

As I read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel, I want to know more about her as a person. I want to know why she became apostate rather than reformist. I want to know why she thinks in terms of an either/or dichotomy, why she condemns Islam outright, why she cannot hold even a shred of it without compromising her agenda for rejection.

She reminds me of the Christian who said to me, twenty years ago, “Either Jesus is the son of God, or he is an imposter.”

Well… what can one say to that? No, and no?

I looked for the film Ayaan Hirsi Ali made with Theo van Gogh before he was murdered. They called it Submission Part One. She wrote it, he filmed it, and I finally watched it on You Tube. I won’t even post the link; I’d  be embarrassed. The film is nothing but a perverse, adolescent gimmick, the kind of thing Ayaan, herself, might well become ashamed of, as she grows in wisdom and experience.

It’s disgusting, and actually serves to promote the abuse of women. In its blatant expression of cruelty, it goes beyond the outer limits of good taste, and ventures into a sadistic passion that a sick Muslim might indulge. It is the film for which Theo van Gogh was murdered.

After seeing the film, I watched several interviews of her, in which she staunchly maintained that Islam was backward and cruel, and could not be established in a democratic society without compromising purity.

The woman speaks clearly, softly, almost eloquently, yet her smooth skin and charming smile come from a place of youth. Her naïve pronouncements should inspire indulgence rather than death threats.

I happen to agree with her on certain points, but her tactics offend me, not only as a Muslim but as an intellectual.  On the one hand, she recommends open-mindedness and education, yet in the next breath condemns Islam– a major world religion that has guided millions upon millions of people over centuries.

She’s fallen over the edge, as adolescent rebels are prone to do. Technically, she is no longer an adolescent, but she behaves as one.  She’s wallowed in her defiance.  She’s given no wiggle-room to anyone. She’s in-your-face, and her message strikes a note of recognition in Muslims who hear it.

We know who we are. We simply don’t know what to do about it yet, but we’re not going to throw out the baby with the bathwater.