Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Friday, April 18, 2008

A photograph I wish I'd never seen.

© Jean-Marc Bouju/The Associated Press
An Iraqi man comforts his son at a holding pen for POWs in Najaf, Iraq, March 31, 2003. -- World Press Photo of the Year

There is a picture of a man behind barbed in an orange jump suit his face covered by a hoodie holding a little child. Even though I can no longer locate the photo, it is one I wish I'd never seen. But I did see it. It still haunts me. And even today I feel selfish for wishing I'd never seen it-- I felt so ashamed of myself wishing I'd been spared the pain of mere empathy when this father and son, when other parents and children live/or die through this. What was that little boy thinking and feeling? What is that little boy feeling and thinking today? And the father who can only touch his son? Shit world that allows for such circumstances. Someone once informed me the father and son are lucky because at least they got to meet each other and this proves that the captors are humane.
Really? I said. Is that so? Its a topsy turvy world, isn't it, so kcuf u.

"Bouju says the child in the photo caught his attention because it was wailing and screaming. A soldier walked into the holding pen and cut the father's handcuffs so he could comfort the child.
"I have a four-year-old girl and I missed her a lot and I thought she'd be screaming too," Bouju says. "It touched me."
Shortly after the picture was taken, another unit came and took the prisoners away, including the young boy. Bouju was not able to get the name of the father or the son or determine what, if anything, they had done wrong.
rest here"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are God and Allah the same Being?

I’ve grown up interchanging God and Allah and no Muslim I know has ever pointed out that God-Allah is not the same entity, in fact so ‘normal’ has the interchange become that it has not occurred to me that others might ‘hear’ differently. The other day, however, after making one of my cheekier comments regarding Almighty-God, a friend turned to me with angry eyes.
“How come,” she said, “you always speak of God but never of your Allah in this way?”
I sputtered. Then explained that semantically Allah and God were equivalent.
“Are you,” she did not look any happier, “absolutely sure?”
Well, I’m very happy to draw my friend’s attention to an article by author Rabih Alameddine
“The word for God matters quite a bit more than what lands on one’s table for dinner at night. We never say the French pray to Dieu, or Mexicans pray to Dios. Having Allah be different from God implies that Muslims pray to a special deity. It classifies Muslims as the Other. Separating Allah from God, we only see a vengeful, alarming deity, one responsible for those frightful fatwas and ghastly jihads — rarely the compassionate God. The opening line of every chapter in the Koran is “Bi Ism Allah, Al Rahman, Al Rahim“: In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. In the name of Allah. One and the same.”
rest here
Alameddine's fiction:
The Hakawati
I, the Divine A Novel in First Chapters
Koolaids: The Art of War
The Perv: Stories

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Oscar Wao wins the Pulitzer.

I am thrilled Junot Diaz's novel 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' has won the 2008 Pulitzer for fiction. My mini rave from a while back!

On writing Wao:
'It took me 11 years to struggle through one dumb book, and every day you just want to give up. But you don't find out you're an artist because you do something really well. You find out you're an artist because when you fail you have something within you—strength or belief or just craziness—that picks you back up again. Most of the artists I know will never, fortunately for them, have to face an 11-year hole. Fighting your way out of an 11-year hole is a lot tougher than it might seem.' read rest here

congratulations to the two other fiction finalists, Denis Johnson for Tree of Smoke and Lore Segal for Shakespeare's Kitchen

Monday, April 7, 2008

Literary Auction for Dunbar Village Aid

All rape and assault are horrendous but reading the details of this particular gang rape and battering of a 12 year old boy and his mother is absolutely sickening, the stuff nightmares are made of. The mother and her son require monetary help and writer Tayari Jones has organized an e-bay auction of short story and novel critiques as well as other goodies with all proceeds going to mother and son. You can also send donations directly.

God Revisited

David Plotz knew religion in ‘bits and pieces’ –he knew a bit of this, he remembered a piece of that, the rest he picked up along the way. Then one day in adulthood he attends a Bar Mitzvah and picks up the Good Book and opens it and reads it and what he reads startles him enough to read more and record what he comes away reading. This record makes for a hysterical series called Blogging the Bible. Here’s an example:
“Moses leads the Israelites into the wilderness—Day 1 of their 40-year trek. They immediately complain that they’re thirsty and the only available water is bitter. We’re a grumbling people, aren’t we? Freedom after 430 years of captivity, and nothing to do but grouse. The Israelites had crabbed to Moses when Pharaoh made them gather their own straw. When the Egyptian army pursued them to the Sea of Reeds, they had griped to Moses that they would rather have stayed in Egypt as slaves than die by the sea. Now they’re fussing that they’re thirsty. God gives Moses a piece of wood that cleans up the water—the world’s first Brita filter. “
read rest of post on PTH

Aasem Bakshi brings to my attention Ziauddin Sardar Blogging the Quran for The Guardian. And Robert Spencer is also Blogging the Quran for HotAir. Reading these interpretations side by side should be fun (even if they're not written in Plotz's satirical fashion which made BTB such a delightful read). For instance the first verse in the Quran is The Opening (Al-Fatiha) and Spencer is preoccupied with whom the verse's last two lines refer to and illustrate his exploration of the Quran is in order to understand it within a '9/11 how-could-they' context:

'The final two verses of the Fatiha asks Allah: “Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.” The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the “straight path” is Islam — cf. Islamic apologist John Esposito’s book Islam: The Straight Path. The path of those who have earned Allah’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians.'

Sardar's exploration is more nuanced and detailed and, interesting enough, he neither spends much time on the final two lines nor is there any mention of Jews or Christians. Rather Sardar concentrates on what is referred to, in The Opening, as the straight path, 'sirat-ul-mustakeen', and Medaliane Bunting-- her role is to ask Sardar questions a non-Muslim might have about the text--brings up interesting contrasts and comparisons with the Bible.

'Common to both Christianity and Islam is the image of the path, and the spiritual life as a journey. These are very important ideas in Christianity and I wondered whether you can explain more on how this image is used in Islam...The implication is that it's hard to follow the Christian path and the gate is narrow, but the Qur'an seems to be using the image differently; can you explain? Finally, can you expand on what stops human beings following the path? In Christianity, the explanation is that fallen human nature makes it hard for us to find and follow the narrow path. Does Islam have a belief about the Fall and original sin? What explanation is there in Islam for why all human beings aren't jogging happily along the Straight Path?'

I have always believed the straight path means means being the best human being you can possibly be regardless of whether you pray five times a day or not. The one saying of Prophet Muhammed which has always been of great comfort to me is that 'actions will be judged by intentions' i.e. God can see the hypocrite beneath the pious on the prayer mat.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cook for your family three time a day, daily plus snacks?

I met a man who asked me if I cooked? No, at least not very often. But what does the family eat. Out, I said. He looked decidedly discomfited to be stuck in a car with a woman who did not look sufficiently guilty for not being connected more closely to her stove. I did feel guilty though, a little bit, as if some dirty part of me was out and about. This man, he'll be okay if his wife wants to work outside the house, that's her choice, but it's his choice that she cooks dinner too, daily because, he tells me in all earnestness, that's her duty, her first duty. At least, he grins, I'm honest about what I want? When I was his age I was honest but I didn't know what I wanted or how to disconnect my wants from what my parents wanted for me. And the girls that did know wanted really rich guys to marry them, that's all. Back then I'd given them the same look I gave the man today who asked me if I cooked. But between then and now there is a difference in emotions behind those siamese looks.