In 2012 the list of influential Muslims from around the world was compiled by theRoyal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a Jordanian think tank. This is the fifth year such a list has been published, but this years interesting tie bit was that it included 40 American Muslims, including two in the top 50.
This was not a fact that was missed by the HuffPost which reported that Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, a California-born convert who founded Zaytuna College, an Islamic college in Berkeley, Calif., and is a leading Islamic authority in America, ranked No. 42, two places ahead of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic studies professor at George Washington University known for his work in Islamic philosophy.
Any list that has King of Saudi at the top, consecutively for five years is extremely questionable. His relevancy is quite problematic especially given that as the custodian of Mecca and Medina he’s transformed those two sacred places into cheap Las Vegas imitations with the only unifying theme of bigger, bigger and still bigger. But going back to the idea that 40 out of the 500 listed were American Muslims means quite a bit given that no other nation dominated the list like citizens from the United States did.
Right after the list was published a conversation ensued on twitter after this tweet by @bornshaikh:
While most of the conversation was in jest, I kept wondering what the implication of this question had on American Muslim community life, especially as I drove across the Southern United States. Why can’t we get things done?
U.S. dominates list of world’s “500 Most Influential Muslims’- Why can't we get anything done? zite.to/11gIRSq—
Ahmed Shaikh (@bornshaikh) November 29, 2012
Thats the thing, so many “illustrious leaders” from the West, yet we seem to keep mucking things up here. But I think Dawud Wharnsby probably had the most salient point:
Tonight I am rather bewildered to be included, once again, in this year’s edition of “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims” compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman Jordan. It is an honour to have my work recognized in the “Arts and Culture” section alongside incredible artists who share my faith ~ such as Yusuf Islam, Zain Bhikha, Sami Yusuf and A.R.Rahman (among others)… but very strange that the list is so selective… excluding living legends of music such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Kenny Gamble, Ahmed Jamal and Richard Thompson (to name only a few). Though I am humbled to even see my name in the same book as the likes of individuals such as Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Prof. Timothy Winter I wonder why mention of an individual such as young Malala Yousafzai [read here] was absent? It is also very odd for me ~ in fact very painful ~ to be listed in a book of “influential muslims” alongside the names of many decadent, discriminatory, and even dastardly political dictators, leaders, kings and public figures who shamelessly claim to speak on behalf of God Almighty in our world today. It is my belief that the TRULY INFLUENTIAL muslims in the world are not the corrupt, capitalistic leaders, self-righteous imams, famous-faith-charged TV sheikhs or even the ego-struggling singers such as myself who claim to follow the Qur’an…. the TRULY influential muslims in our world are the ones who quietly teach their children by positive example ~ even during these trying and twisted times ~ to be people of love, honesty, integrity, justice, humility, frugality, wisdom, non-violence, truth and Creator Consciousness. They are a silent majority not always found in palaces, lavish mosques, expensive conferences, elite lecture halls, TV talk shows, devotional music concerts or radical rallies. But I can assure you: there are many more than just 500 and THEY are the types of muslims I treasure being with and influenced by.
My friends daughter was named Malala in honor of Ms. Yousafzai. But this little tender girl isn’t the only one, I have heard of numerous young parents honoring Malala by naming their little girls her name. Why? Simply because Malala championed girls education in a nation that has delcared itself a Muslim Republic, yet in a Muslim Republic a little girl should not have to protest in order to have access to education, nor should a person of her tender age be shot in the head simply because she wanted to be educated. Malala should be recognized in the top 50 because she is the future of Islam and young Muslims. My generation of American Muslim activists recognizes this, yet she has not even appeared on this illustrious list. Why? Malala will continue to do amazing things and she deserves the support and backing of the entire Muslim world community so that those who find it convenient to silence her know that they are marginalized, against universal Islamic values and of no consequence to the greater Ummah.
Helping President Obama was important to me in both elections at a personal level, I also wanted to work with my fellow American Muslims. Not to tell them what to believe, or who to support, but to help American Muslims understand the critical role we all play in the political process.
To me, political empowerment is a positive endeavor and an investment in the future of our community in this country. It is a long road that starts with informed voters who over time become volunteers and donors. Moving forward on this road requires self-determination, a commitment to our political process, collaboration, coordination and a lot of strategy.
This election season, I spearheaded the online #MuslimVOTE article series and campaign (September 21, 2012 through to Election Day) with Illume, Altmuslim and Altmuslimah. I wanted to encourage them to vote, to get out the Muslim voice on election-focused topics, and to create an online space for coordination and sharing of information on political organizing efforts by American Muslims across the country.
Leveraging social media was important because social media is an influential space with broad and deep reach. It is also an easy and inexpensive way to collaborate and share information. #MuslimVOTE was very successful with approximately 30 articles written for the series, and almost 400 participants on Facebook.
Online efforts need to be complemented by ground efforts and vice versa, There were some amazing local ground efforts this year. To start with GOTV efforts by Muslims in the battleground state of Virginia encouraged voter turnout electing Tim Kaine to the US Senate, and helping to keep Virginia blue for President Obama. A second example is the election day GOTV efforts of the Arab American Association of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. And finally, Emerge and United Voices for America in the hard fought race for a US Congressional seat in Florida. Both organizations worked tirelessly to help Patrick Murphy defeat Islamophobe Allen West in a very close race.
Demographics played a huge role in this election and will continue to in future elections. The demographics favor us and so strengthened and amplified planning around efforts like the ones mentioned above both online and on the ground will benefit the community in 2014, 2016 and beyond.
Read other perspectives here.
This election cycle Zeba Iqbal spearheaded the campaign #MuslimVOTE: Election 2012-American Muslims VOTE! She was also part of the ad hoc group Muslims for Obama. Zeba was the Executive Director of the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals (CAMP) in 2010 and 2011; and a 2009-10 Fellow of USC’s American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. She lives in New York City, and works at Princeton University.
Maybe the crisis one feels at turning 30 is really rooted in the intense attachment to this worldly life and a lack of connection to the spiritual life. At least that is the lesson I am beginning to piece together since my last post on the fear of turning thirty. I thought I share my reflection since, 30, is just a month away.
One of the things I undertook immediately after posting those fears to the broader world was I stopped hanging around people my age. There are lots of things that motivated me to that. First, I felt anxiety from seeing where they stood in life as opposed to me. Worse, the greater connectivity I had with folks in my peer group through social media drove home this internal self doubt about where I was in life and questioning whether I had done the right thing with my life. Second, the younger friends only drove that home toward a bitterness because it seemed they were far younger then I was and were following some path that I had not read the guideposts about. Finally, I realized that my decisions were a product of my choosing, my circumstances and my life experience and therefore they were unique. I couldn’t, shouldn’t, compare the path that I took because it was a path not trodden by my peers, it was one that I was pioneering for others.
By hanging out with folks older then me they enabled me to put aside my fears of getting older. I saw folks still struggling with the same things I am struggling with, who were ten, fifteen and even twenty years older then me. Unemployment, start up businesses, academic endeavors, failing marriages and new relationships along with opportunities that they had not imagined. I guess in a way I am significantly different from my peers because for me the “party” scene was intense and short lived, but the expectations of life and enduring to find some meaning in it isn’t something that fades away, it sticks around and people continue to deal with it at different levels and intervals in their life.
What I came to realize in my push to spend more time with older friends, mentors and seek out grandparent figures was that being able to understand growing old requires understanding our mortality. In understanding mortality we need to grapple with death, because in essence our anxiety about aging is rooted in the sense of one’s own progression toward death. Which for Muslims I find is a silly thing to fear given our very direct involvement with death- forced participation in funeral prayers, the handling and washing of the dead, the burying process is a communal one where the males carry the body and everyone is required to carry and pray for the deceased.
But its not that Muslims are immune to a disconnect from death, its that our culture (American) creates a static around our mortality by presenting it as something far off in distance even if we are engaged in the rituals around death. So to make life meaningful, thereby lessening the anxiety I felt, I had to make death a greater reality or factor in my life not one of ritual. I quickly told myself that a near death experience was not the way to learn this lesson.
What I conclude from my experience is that the path of spirituality, greater sense of oneness with creation and therefore God, allows that understanding of death to become relevant and not some far off experience. When we become connected to God we loosen that strong connection to the worldly life and allow for us to transcend things like vanity (oh, look how I am looking), vitality (I can’t run like a 18 year old), feeling of dissertation (I am alone in this world), and accomplishment (I didn’t buy that house or save this much) connecting with the the afterlife, not just this mortal life.
Check out Dr. Zingbarg’s article “Sacred Anxiety: Anxiety as an emblem of Spirituality” in Psychology Today, where he discusses the possibility that a persons anxiety might be due to one’s spirituality or lack thereof. For the meditation inclined, I stumbled on this Islamic Meditation website, you have to pay to get the six week course material, but I thought I share because of its quirkiness.
Strategic move indeed, Facebook rolls out plans for a new messaging service via SMS mobile phone services. You might be wondering how antiquated, right?
I would be as well if I hadn’t spent a few months following the “backend” of the story about social media and its use during revolutions in the Middle East, in Iran before that, in disaster relief in Japan and the list does go on. We in the US primarily interact with the world wide web on some form of personal computer in the form of desktop (less so today), laptops and/or tablets and the growing smart phones. However, this technology has not translated for the rest of the world. The transfer of use is greatly limited by costs. An average middle class income in Egypt for example could hardly afford the cost of a personal computer and the internet services charges associated with it. However, everyone out of necessity as well, can afford a cell phone and pay-as-use cards or chips for mobile phones.
Internet use, therefore seems like a everyday occurrence, is in fact a luxury in the developing world. Facebooks fortunes rest on access to the internet via out of reach technology for these countries. While facebook may have a billion users, its potential in many markets has or is maxed out because the vast majority of people don’t use the internet daily.
Twitter on the other hand represents a business model and in particular accessibility that is unparalleled by many social media providers through its connection to SMS, or texting message connectivity. In one sit down a user in Egypt can set up an account via Twitter but not have to rely on direct internet access in order to stay connected on their cell phone to the internet. They still have access to the vastness that is the internet network to get their message out, but they dont rely on the internet website directly.
Thats why many in the Western media labeled the recent Arab revolutions to Twitter. I am finding out that that is itself a major point of debate and criticism and would require a whole other post but the conclusion is that Facebooks model is very limiting.
Just to get you some figures: prior to the Egyptian revolution, the population was around 78 million. The mobile phone industry had 73% penetration into the market, with only 10% of that connected with Data to the internet. Think about it this way, formal bank accounts in Egypt only amounted to 10% of the population. More people used a cell phone then had a bank account.
Now consider internet connectivity in Egypt. According to the pre-Revolution-Mubarak Ministry of Communication 2010 study, only 22% of the population had access.
Putting that into context think about the United States, with a population of 130 million people, there are 120 million cell phone subscribers here. Thats incredible! And internet access, while not complete, is still higher then that of Egypt.
Given the industry environment in the developing world, this makes complete sense for Facebook to want to get access to this market. Facebook is assuming that this messaging, free and subsidized by the company, will lead to new users, therefore new marketing and data gathering prospects. The downside is that the assumption is based on a growth in internet access, or developing a messaging service that is able to take millions of text messages and making sense of gathered data. Subsidized messages, MIGHT, allow Facebook to send direct advertisement messages.
The kicker here is that Facebook had been given the title of “SMS Killer” (according to wired a year earlier) just around the beginning of this past year according to NYTimes blog and here we are with Facebook readjusting its strategy to fit the global marketscape with its no-user-account-needed-SMS-chat capability. Will text messaging disappear? Probably not, but what it does mean is that Facebook has now realized the marketscape and impediment to its capturing a segment of the larger broader market. Check out this talk at TED by Robert Neuwirth about this market-D and how cell providers in Africa had to rethink their strategy to get market penetration into Nigeria, the largest market in Africa.
I started noticing a whole bunch of people posting these status updates that read like legal notices to Facebook about copyright and original content people have been posting to their accounts. The sad reality was that folks who are in law school are posting this notice up as well.
In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).
For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!
(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws, by the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).
Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.
The truth is quite straightforward- when you start your account with Facebook you agree to the terms and conditions that they present to you. Agree to the privacy and personal guidelines for use of the medium. You and Facebook have already agreed to the copyright and use through that initial step, there is nothing that will change that agreement, especially you as a consumer posting up a notice like that.
Facebook, can and has, changed their use agreement. Three years ago Facebook tried its hand in Democracy by allowing its users to vote on these, but those efforts fell flat partly because of how the company set up the procedure and a small degree to the lack of interested shown by users.
The worst part of this whole shenanigan is that people don’t even take the time to research what it is that they are posting. Like their slactivist mentality they channel their couch-sitting-lazy-ass-attorney. Here is how you can not look like fool when you see one of these posts
Look up the things your posting: Berner Convention is actually the “BERNE CONVENTION”
The Berner Convention is an agreement between countries to recognise copyright infringement regardless of where the original content was created. As in someone in Italy is still committing copyright infringement even if the original content was created in the America. However the Berne Convention does not make this message any less pointless. In fact it is the Berne Convention that makes even legitimate copyright disclaimers almost unnecessary.
Just because there is pseudo-legal-jargon doesn’t make the statement any more valid- for example the UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 is the Uniform Commercial Code, your use of it doesnt mean much because its the same thing that Facebook is using in its privacy agreement.
If you really care about your “copyright” status go read the Facebook user guidelines yourself, you will notice that you retain your copyright to any original content you put on Facebook anyway.
The worms are still alive. That is pretty amazing because I did think they would be dead by now.
It’s cold, like in the low teens at night since I live in the high desert. The amount of food scraps that are being put into that one bin is huge, like I think the family is now close to four pounds a week. I was thinking the worms would just die from the heaps of food and the bacteria destroying the food source up leaving the worms with slim pickings. Finally, I thought they would be dead because I honestly am not good with organic living things that aren’t green.
But they are alive, they have spread throughout the bin and they are devouring the food. I find they they are loving all the organic banana peels we have dumped in there.
Some of the other stuff I been putting in there have been bread. We had some stale bread crumbs along with moldy bread that I also put in there. Another thing I put in there was a decomposing accelerator called Bokashi.
According to the website Bokashi “is made by fermenting wheat bran with molasses and SCD Probiotics. Bokashi has traditionally been used by Japanese farmers as a soil amendment to increase the nutrient level and microbial diversity of the soil. Bokashi is a Japanese word that means “fermented organic matter.” It can be used as a soil amendment to increase the nutrient level and microbial diversity of the soil for planting.”
I used it because I am a first time composter and didn’t want to fail largely out of the fear that failure here would set back my ability to get my parents to agree to other organic urban farming projects. Right now when I dig into the material I am beginning to see the start of “organic soil matter”. The Bokashi has also gotten the level of bacteria/fungus growth up exponentially in the organic material.
The other fascinating thing is that while I read everywhere that you could put seeds into the compost heap and that it would kill the seeds from growing. However, the seeds from melons and gourds and cucumbers were germinating all over the place. Which gets me worried that if any botanical pests were able to get their seeds into the heap they will have access to all the benefits- water, nutrients and sun light. Anyway, below is a short video of the worms when they were put into the compost. Enjoy my narrative.
Since I am doing this a few days after “Friday” I really don’t have much to say about the Khutbah (though I may have also missed it, possibly, most likely).
Blog in Review
Also- ELECTIONS! Yeh so President Obama has a second term, I volunteered (here) but didnt vote for him, basically I have that freedom because I live in a non-swing state. Read before you yell at me. Also check out the post identifying the pictures from election day.
So I am building a compostor in the backyard, I got a miter saw and have been cutting and nailing away, will post on that soon. Also next week I will be two months away from turning 30. I have some fears will share those.
Also my first piece at Illume Magazine went up- Social Media and the Campaign. Currently working on my next piece which is a curation of reflections from a diverse group of American Muslim leaders regarding the future of a political activism in the community.
Also next week I am going to have my first session of the Muslim-Jewish NewGround Fellowship. Really excited and working on my pre-fellowship reflections, so be on the look out for that.
Aside from that one other note I have is regarding the Papa Johns CEO John Schnatter saying he’s going to be laying-off employees and cutting hours because of the implementation of the Health Care Reform Act. I believe its more in protest of losing the election to President Obama and therefore is a political statement or move then it is anything else. Shame on Schnatter who can give away 2 million pizza but not pay for healthcare or pay a penalty per year for not providing healthcare for his employees. For my part I won’t be eating any Papa Johns pizza, which is one of my favorite pizza makers when I do eat it.
So part of my trip took place close to the 72nd anniversary of the United Nations charter being approved. Interstingly enough that auspicious interntational meeting took place in San Francisco and the city has an entire plaza dedicated to it.
The plaza is part of the Civic Center in downtown, at its center is a wonderful fountain that is a sunken pit with water raging in to it and from what I hear it has become a bathing pool for the city’s homeless. In fact the entire area is a bit run down with trash and piles of “stuff” that belongs to homeless folks.
But the history of the place is not lost on me, nor is its connection to Star Trek. Star Fleet Academy is located in San Francisco as well, however, its not necessarily where the UN Plaza is located but more to the northwest by the Presidio, near the South end of the Golden Gate bridge, and Fort Baker/Horseshoe Bay on the north end of the bridge in Marin county (yeh, I am a bit of a Treky, not crazy, but have enough tid-bit info). Which is where my first adventure of the City trip begins in Marin County.
Muir Woods a place of serenity until you say it out loud
John Muir, the naturalist, the father of modern day conservationist movement, environmentalists and of coarse, lets not forget, our AMAZING National Parks! I take pride in having visited his namesake national monument in Marin County just north of the City on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
I admit some would call Muir a crazy person that rambled along in the woods, but he was a crazy person who’s ideas illuminated the future and have left an impact on our society. Unlike so many other crazy people, he was actually crazy enough to get a following and mainstream his ideas.
I have to also admit at this point that one of my first National Park experiences was at Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park. That is where I first heard the name John Muir and where I also fell in love with the outdoors. It was suiting then that when I went off to UCSD I chose John Muir College as my first choice because the college promoted Muirs ideals on nature, and also, it had the least amount or most flexible general education requirements out of all the other colleges that made up the undergraduate system at UCSD.
Back to my problem of not being quite. The John Muir National Historic Site has an interesting history, you all should check it out on wikipedia. The trail itself is between 1-2 miles and literally is like walking on a boardwalk in Atlantic City (God help those Americans as they suffer through Hurricane Sandy) but through a forest.
There was a debate between my brother and I as to whether the forest could be considered “enchanted” or “magical” which got heated because his definition for the two were flipped around. Therefore, I was constantly reminded that I should be seen, not heard.
While wandering on the main trail we came upon Cathedral Grove. What I learned was just a crazy interesting intersection of things that interest me- our national parks, Muir woods, San Francisco and the United Nations.
In 1995 the UN turned 50 years old. They held a special commemorative ceremony in tribute of this anniversary at Cathedral Grove. Originally in 1945, shortly after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt a commemorative ceremony was held in the same Cathedral Grove location to mark the passing of one of the founders of the UN. All 50 signatories of the UN Charter hiked their way up to Muir Woods to take part in the ceremony. There is a plaque there an everything for you to read up on it when you go.
It was actually a really great experience to visit not just the UN Plaza in San Francisco but then to have stumbled upon another piece of UN history at Muir Woods.
Here is where I stayed in San Francisco, if anyone is interested in reading the review- Hotel Vertigo.
Got the sample ballot two weeks ago. By now even the person living out in the woods will know there is an election going on. Regardless how you plan to vote, PLEASE VOTE.
Your vote does matter, who goes into public office will affect you. Watch this Fung Brothers video on how exactly close to home voting touches the issues you care about:
If you dont vote, you gotta cope with the shiesty politicians that get elected in place of the ones that really want to make a difference and make government work for the people. This was a great video put together through a collaboration between the brothers and by my friends at APALC and in particular my friend Tazzystar.
The State of California is actually well ahead of the country in that they have made registering to vote even easier, way more efficient, and hopefully less costly and damaging to the environment. You can go online and register to vote. It takes you all but five minutes, you just need your drivers license to fill out some parts and its over.
Also, below are the requirements:
- A United States citizen,
- A resident of California,
- 18 years of age or older on Election Day,
- Not in prison or in county jail (serving a state prison sentence or serving a term of more than one year in jail for a defined “low-level” felony), or on parole, post release community supervision, or post-sentencing probation for a felony conviction (for more information on the rights of people who have been incarcerated, please see the Secretary of State’s Voting Guide for Currently or Formerly Incarcerated Californians), and
- Not found by a court to be mentally incompetent.
Last day to register is Oct. 22, 2012 for this Novembers election. AND the crazy thing is that you don’t even have to go to a polling station if you are that anti-social. You can send in your mail-in-ballot prior to the elections. So please register to vote!
When a khutbah hits the spot my spirituality and Jummah experience is uplifted. Today was all about Muslims code of conduct and ethics and how we have to be examples to those around us. How the Prophet SAW represented that in his conduct with all aspects of community and personal life.
Around the Blogosphere
This week I posted up the 6 exit strategies that you shouldn’t use to end your communication with a prospective spouse. Seems like people have all sorts of ways they like, or find it easy, to do that, but there should be definite lines drawn in the sand on these six ways. Also I got some stuff up on the weird search terms that people type in to stumble onto my blog, like “Lesbian Bully Ranch“- WTF?! Also I had my little engineering endeavor as I tried to “fix” the broken screen on my beloved Amazon Kindle. I also wrote a piece on how folks can become better networkers and use those mixers and cocktail hours better. Besides that I wrote a movie review of “Argo”, Ben Affleck’s political thriller that is set in post-Revolutionary Iran, you’d think its a propaganda piece, but its not.
Other Things of Interest
If you don’t know, you now know that I LOVE Nina Paley (of Sita Sings the Blues fame). She came out with this new piece called “This Land is Mine” which is spot on given our current nuclear programs stand off with Iran.
Also, my brother handed me this book (physical) to read, “Start with the Why” by Simon Sinek (website). He had actually shared his TEDx talk with me earlier (see below), so I was familiar with the content of the book and where he author was coming from. But for anyone who is interested in leadership, team work and what it takes to be a great leader, I recommend you check the TEDx talk out and then grab the book.
Another video worth your mbps is Gangnam style parody by Collegehumor.com- Mitt Romney Style- hilariously true in so many ways. On a political note, last week I read the WSJ book review “Brother Tariq’s Last Stand” and then had a friend forward me The New Republic review “Tariq Ramadan’s Arab Winter“- both discussed Tariq Ramadan’s new book “Islam and the Arab Awakening“. Both are antithetically opposed to the idea that Islam could take political shape. I’d like to think that this is a exclusive secular perspective that stands against all forms of faith based politics, but its not. Maybe I will post something more in particular about the criticism within the reviews- and there are some legitimate points. But for now check it out.
Finally, to Barack the vote or not? Over at Illume Magazine, Irfan Rydhan writes why he will be voting for Obama, again. Whereas if you read The Atlantic, you will find Robert Wright lay out why he wont vote for Obama. Regardless of what you feel, I encourage you to vote. Do not sit out, to that end watch this video about making your video count. If you really want to hear the pro’s and con’s of voting for Obama, Islamic Center of Irvine has a live debate taking place Friday, October 19, 2012. I dont think its being podcasted or broadcasted live, but American Muslim activists will be on either side of the debate panel explaining their positions. I do have my own thought about voting for Obama, which I will post up next week.