Entries Tagged 'jews' ↓

Oprah, Diddy and Other Goodies at GC

I haven’t written here much lately because I haven’t got much to say these days. The stuff I do have to say I send off to GlobalComment or other such fun places what pay me. So I thought that, in addition to some shameless self-promotion that I’m about to do, I should also promote some other good stuff I’ve been reading. To wit, Joe Sapien’s take on Diddy as the next Bond. We take a break from his usual sarcastic tone to sample some flabbergasted outrage and the foolishness that is Diddy. In addition, there’s a good assessment of Obama’s Change.gov blog thing by Sarah Jaffe that you should take a look at. The piéce de resistance, though, is Renee Martin’s take on the fatness of Oprah and how we should shame her for being ashamed of it (my interpretation – not what she actually actually said) rather than point fingers at her for being fat in the first place. (In fact, she didn’t say at all that we should shame Oprah – I just think that Oprah should be ashamed of her shame. All that wealth, accomplishment and power and her weighing scale can break her heart? Pff. Stupid world.)

And I wrote about Mumbai because I do that kinda thing. This is the part where I’m shamelessly self-promoting, btw.

That’s all, folks.


Ali Eteraz is asking the question, “Have you ever prayed in another religion’s house of worship?” And, because it’s not like I have summer grading to finish or new courses to prepare for the fall semester, I’m going to answer it.

I grew up in a pretty fruity religious set-up. Which is to say, my mom was a lapsed Protestant, my dad was a lapsed Muslim and I liked to talk to God. (I also had this moment where I was talking to trees when I was about 7, but I never expected God to talk back. The trees, however…) And my fruity parents let my religious-as-heck Phuppos (aunts) talk to me about religion and God and the Prophet all the time.

So I came out kind of weird.

This preamble is so that you will understand better the following few activities.

At 9, I had an ayah (sort of a babysitter/nanny type person, not a sign from God) who was a Christian. Her name was Venus. Really. And every week she and her husband would have their friends over for Bible study with the local pastor (padri, though I don’t remember his name – John maybe? Or maybe I think all Christians are called John. Hmm.) So I decided to hang out with them during their Bible study and the let me. Since I was only 9, my comprehension of things was a little vague. But I really liked the colourful pictures of Jesus and how all these people hung out together. My parents were breaking up so no one really hung out with anyone else in my life.

Which is why, at 9, I converted to Christianity for a day, until my cousin came and told me I was an idol worshipper and going to hell. She was 9 and 1/2. So I converted back.

At fourteen, my father had some horrendous long conversation with me about why God might not exist and I was thrown into complete intestine-freezing fear. If there’s no God, I thought, who’s looking? It was like the roof of the world had been taken off and we were all exposed to anything. It was not nice.

We were in Italy at the time. After a very long time, my father and stepmother, Kathy, had decided to go on vacation. We were in Rome when this conversation arose and luckily soon after we went to look at some churches. I can’t remember which church it was on that trip that really did it for me. I remember the inside, not the outside. We walked in and it was huge and beautiful. The main altar was humongous, but then there were little chapels off to the sides here and there. So I walked away from the main, domed altar, the ceiling of which was about three or four storeys high, and sat in one of the little chapels for a while and prayed. I made it a point to say things like, “Dear God, I know the Virgin Mary is right in front of me holding the baby Jesus, under this big ol’ cross, but I’m not trying to pray to her, you know that right?” I clarified by niyyat about a dozen times and then said whatever prayer it was. Which must have been something along the lines of, “Please exist and don’t send me to hell for that doubt I’ve been experiencing for months now.” The churches kind of saved my faith. Or Italy. Or, you know, God.

And then, when I was 24, I was living in Seattle. Much like Dave, I lit a candle for a friend in a Catholic church. I was having a bad time and I went for a walk in my neighbourhood. There was a large Catholic church and I just sort of walked in, hung out for a bit, saw the candles and lit a couple. One was for me and one was for my ex-boyfriend, who was also having a bad time.

I guess I have a thing for the Catholics. They make pretty buildings and, unlike Protestants, they don’t just have to believe, they also have to do. Which is closer to Islam and so makes more sense to me.

You know where I never prayed? In a Hindu temple. I went to Germany when I was 22ish and we visited a Tamil Hindu temple which was chock full of idols of various kinds. I walked in and felt like I was transgressing every known boundary in the world. And I felt awful for feeling that. I watched a priest do what I now know to be a sacrifice at the altar of one of the representations of lingam (the male princple). It involved bananas and things. I didn’t understand. I looked around at everything, trying to be as untouristy as possible because I kept thinking, “How offensive would it be to me if a Hindu wandered into a mosque and started looking at, I don’t know, the mosaics in the wall like they were some peculiarity of an alien race?” As soon as they let us go, I legged it out of there and into the fresh air where I could breathe again. I’m not proud of this, so don’t go finger-wagging. Rest assured, fingers have been wagged and poked into my eye as well.

And that’s my story. I’ve never been able to pray in a synagogue, though I’ve been to one or two. I’ve been to a lot of Shabbat dinners and lunches and third meals though, and I’ve blessed bread and wine, ameyned the candle-lighting with the rest of my friends. Judaism makes more sense to me than pretty much any other religion that I don’t belong to. But praying in a synagogue is like praying in a mosque: if you don’t know how to do the hokey pokey, you can’t turn yourself around. You just have to sit and watch and let things sink in, if they’re going to.

Tripe Alert

Check out this piece of genius rumour-mongering on the part of the Saudi populace – or whoever runs stuff over there. The full story can be found here.

It makes me ashamed. To be what, I’m not sure. But just a general crimson hue is creeping over me at the notion that there are scads of Muslims out there thinking a) melons can get AIDS, b) melons can pass AIDS on to people and c) this is how the State of Israel, in its infinite Muslim-hating campaign of religiocide, is going to kill us quietly in our beds.

Go here if you doubt the Jewy agenda of Ynet. Go down past the strange scrolling furniture ad.

What assheads.

He probably didn’t intend this

…as poetry, but “Say” by Umar Lee has a poetic power that I thought was appropriate here. If you can’t open it for any reasons, the blog is muslimsandisrael.blogspot.com. And this post is like the whole blog: it makes you do a double take.

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Let’s Hate Israel!

(written Aug. 3 and then sat upon because of circumspection – Seattle, WA)

Maybe I’m just too fruity. Maybe I’m not committed enough to the cause. Maybe you can explain to me what the cause is.

It was two days into this “conflict” between Israel and Hezbollah before I knew what was happening – I was writing a script, thank you very much, I don’t have time for world politics!

Then I got to Islamabad from Lahore for 6 hours and found out “Israel was doing something evil,” before I flew here, to the States, for this vacation. I reserved judgement all the way through the noise – in Islamabad, watching the news; going through airports; sitting next to a Lebanese woman for 14 hours on the plane – for me, it all hinged on one question: who started it?

When I got to DC, I found out.

CNN was counting Day 5, I think. Jon Stewart was making his joke about the “brink” of war. And at that point, I couldn’t say really that Israel was involved in anything particularly evil. Just seemed like someone hating Mondays in the Holy Land again.

Now there’s all these Lebanese refugees, evacuees, civilians. My news comes from BBCUrdu.com – their word throughout has been inkhala, which is exodus on a massive scale, evacuation, migration.

Yesterday [Aug. 2], as Mom and Peter drove me to the airport to fly to Seattle from DC, Hezbollah launched, I think, 190 rockets into Israel.

Today Israel attacked Gaza. I didn’t investigate why. I went for a walk.

I keep forgetting that Sharon and Arafat aren’t playing in this game anymore. Every time they say on the news, “Prime Minister Whoever said this,” I think – wait, no, Sharon, where’s Sharon? He’s the anti-Christ. If it’s not him, things should be better.

That is a lesson in how not to look at George W. Bush, by the way.

So let’s just hate Israel, okay? I so don’t want to figure out the Lebanon-Syria-Hezbollah matrix. I really don’t want to spend brain power on why this happened this way, why Hezbollah are so awesomely anti-Muslim that they attacked Israel and provoked the kind of response that is, to my mind, profoundly American – which is bomb the crap out of the other guy and to hell with what happens to the civilians and, yeah, sure, why not invade their country? And I really honestly don’t even want to begin to touch what grander logic was involved in all of this and how that logic is going to, in the coming months, truly horrify us all so that we realize that, in fact, someone somewhere wanted it this way all along. Let’s just hate Israel! It’s so much easier and we’re so used to it!

Sarcasm and bitterness. Because these are not my people. These are no my Muslims, these are not my Jews. And I have both Muslims and Jews in my camp. When someone asks, “Whose are those?”, well, these are not mine. When the Taleban were strong, one realized that one had to own all Muslims, no matter how noxious, for the greater good. And one does. These are Muslims.

But whatever the cause is here, it’s not mine. Whatever it is they’re trying to achieve, I’m not on board. Whatever it is they say they want, they are lying about it. And I’m a Muslim, not a lemming.

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The Dead, the Living, the Friendly with God

When you walk into a graveyard, say assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah, which means “peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah.”

Or say hello.

The dead are like the living. Just elsewhere. That’s the notion you grow up with and so, if a grave is a qabr, you can get alongside the name qabristan for graveyard. And when you walk into a cemetary, you, the living, have the added relief (God forgive me) of addressing people who have either taken their baggage away or, more likely, left it behind them forever. Sometimes dead people feel like real people in a way that live people don’t.

If you’re a really morbid fuck, like me.

When you visit a grave, say the Fatiha. It goes like this (translation from memory):

All praise is to Allah, Lord of the worlds, Owner of the Day of Judgement
You alone we worship, to you alone we turn for help.
Show us the straight path,
the path of those whom you bless
not of those who earn your anger
nor of those who go astray.

I visited Mitch’s grave. And I said the Fatiha. Sylvia was talking to him, telling him we had breakfast this morning and who all was there. And I wondered if he heard my Fatiha like he heard Sylvia’s news.

And when we’re all in the ground, we’re all in the ground. And God is God everywhere. When Mitch died, it turned out no one was going to say kaddish for him, which is the Jewish prayer for the dead (I wish I had a translation of it). I was in Seattle and I got all upset (not about the kaddish thing, just about his death in general and I don’t really know why, except that he died suddenly). I asked Marty if he would say kaddish, after asking Peter if he would want Marty to. And Marty did. So Marty, in Seattle, said kaddish for Mitch, son of Sylvia, in Washington, DC. Joel ameyned that kaddish, which was nice of Joel. And later, apparently, they talked about how it was odd that I’m a Muslim and liaised a kaddish between two Jews, and then how it made sense after all. Because my mom is who she is.

When you visit a grave, say the Fatiha. Because your Christian mom brought you up right.

I gotta tell you: life is weird.

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I visited a Jewish cemetary for the first time in my life today. We went to say hello to Mitch, my step uncle, who died two years ago of cancer. And American death celebration has always thrown me off a little, though never in a bad way.

Jews and Muslims are very similar in many ways. But cemetary culture is not the same at all, at least not to my knowledge. Maybe Muslim graveyards in the States look just like Christian and Jewish ones, I don’t know. I’ve never been.

But, first off, they’re really well-manicured. And they have benches. And paths to walk along.

And then, what really throws me off, you don’t know where the head is. I mean, presumably, the headstone is where the head is, but what about the plaques? If there are plaques instead, which direction is the body? And why do they walk over graves? They walk over graves! You don’t know where the body is, so you walk over the grave. Or even when you do sometimes, you can still walk over the grave. Imagine being dead and having someone walk over you. I don’t know, man.

Jews bring rocks to graves. I don’t know why. I have all kinds of Jewish trivia in my head, but I did not know that you take rocks to graves. We went and Roz, Mitch’s wife, had a little baggie full of pretty rocks. She passed them around. One of them was from Israel, which she laid herself. She gave me one. Peter, my stepdad, Mitch’s brother, laid one. My mom laid one. Sylvia, Mitch and Peter’s mom, laid one. By the time we left, there were about 6 or 7 rocks on the little plaque.

A Star of David. Mitch’s full name. 1942 – 2004.


Messiahs and Crustaceans

You know why He told us that Muhammad was the Seal of the Prophets?

So that we wouldn’t look at anyone else like that again.

An atom’s weight of good and bad will be shown to you. – And so it will be that you yourself will be all you have in the end. You and your life and the things your learned in the time that you learned it. Not history, even, because history is a thing in your head. So, as far as you are concerned, is the Qur’an – because if you don’t wake up to it, for you, the Word of God might as well not be there. The Eternal Book rests with God and Torah comes from it and Gospel comes from it and Qur’an and Psalm and Ginza come from it. But you are what you learned in your life and there is only this one life. I figured that out in the loo, one day, that there is only this one life and I’d better just live it the way that makes best sense. And so what you take with you to God is what you made of yourself in this life, which is, in the end, all that is in your head + all that you did outside of it + the people you loved + the people that loved you + the people you hated + the people that hated you. And Ayat al-Kursi says No one will intercede on the Day of Judgement, except by His leave.Everywhere you go, there is the face of God.

So how many more messiahs? Or revelations? Or heroes or saviours? How many more Jesuses need to come or come back?

Muhammad said there would be no one after him. Categorically. No one.

Everywhere you go, there is the face of God.

What else are we looking for?

I don’t know why I was thinking all this. My computer wouldn’t connect to the internet and I’ve been writing this script I mentioned a few days ago and I just got back from feeding pizza to my students from Islamiat class. It’s 5:30 pm and horribly hot in Lahore. I went on a date the other night and it was fun. Joel was mentioning recently that his rebbe isn’t his rebbe anymore because his community couldn’t hold him up without wanting him to be the messiah and now it seems they’ve torn him down or let it happen (I don’t know anything) and I was just lying here wishing my internet would work and my air conditioning wasn’t registering 31C in a closed room and thinking: Yeah, well. Quit waiting for the messiah, ya dumb Jews. And then I thought: Yeah, but you’re the more linear religion, Kyla. You’re the one who thinks the End Time is jotted down on a calendar somewhere. So do Jews, but that’s not the point; the point is about pots and kettles. And then, if I’m really going to preserve narrative honesty, I started typing this.

I was teaching Sufism recently and about how, eventually, if you hit that Sufi high, there is only ever Now for a really pious Sufi. Or, to put it better, a true Sufi seeker is looking for that moment when now is the only thing that matters because that’s when you remember to remember God always. That’s when you fail to forget. That’s when your full attention is on the fact that there is God and only God and nothing but God and from Him you came and to Him is the return and so you yourself aren’t really even there. You’re just borrowed bits of matter running of Godsbreath. That’s what the Sufi wants to be always, to remember always.

Everywhere you go, there is the face of God.

You know what Muhammad is the seal of the Prophets, why there are no more prophets after him? So that we’ll look at no one else that way again.

Until we learn to carry our houses on our backs, I’m not sure we’ll ever go home. And until we learn that the End Time is always here, and never coming both at the same time, we’ll never get anything done. I think Qayamat is this. Yaum al-Qayamah = The Day of Resurrection. Tell me why we’re scared of that.

Note: All the italics above are paraphrases of Qur’anic ayaat, from memory. | |

The Jihad Whinge

I’ve been bemoaning lately my purpose in the world. For at least a year. No, not true. For a year, I’ve been numb to the notion, except in minor jolts. For the two years prior to that, while I was attempting to get my Masters degree in Seattle, I was bemoaning my purpose in the world. And since getting my degree was not helping in any of the ways it was supposed to, and was hindering many other things, happiness and health being primary among them, I decided to temporarily chuck the whole endeavour and come on home.

I came on home.

Now I’m here. And I’ve been rambling on about trains and the rustic loveliness of smog (okay, I haven’t done that yet, and I shan’t) and how much better Islamabad is than Lahore (it is) and how much better Lahore is to live in if you’re young (thank you, God, for Lahore). And that’s all very well.

But I used to be a different sort of person, I thought. For example, I was pretty religious. To look at my life now, you wouldn’t know it. I told one of my new friends this recently and he said, “na kar.” And I said, “Yeah, really. Can you believe it? I was all Muslim and stuff.” And the things I talk about now, who could tell?

I’m okay with that. I’ve made some conscious choices and they actually align a little bit better with my upbringing (some of them) and there are reasons for this. That isn’t the point here. The point is about jihad and my sporadic whinging about how I wanted and still want to find out what mine is and when will I bloody get to do it.

So I’m adding another bullet point to that whinge: Where are all my damn Jews? What happened to that stuff? I was a big Jew Hugger. Certified, authentic, pronounced challah with a khay. Ameyning motzi and kiddush, and trying not to talk to pious Jews as they step out of the loo and say their dua, even though my inner Muslim giggles at the thought of loo duas (that’s brakha in Jewish, btw). (Yes, yes, I know we have loo duas too, shh.)


Maybe it’s not so complicated. Maybe I don’t have to restart the bloody Kosher-Halal Co-op again (an excellent endeavour at Oberlin College or do co-housing in Seattle that I was never fully into, or even the double-yeshiva thing that I was totally into (we’ll talk, J.). I teach religion and history at a university in Lahore. That’s something. My students don’t totally despise me. I can tell this, even though I think they keyed my car at one point. But there are other things I’m good at. I’m good at somewhat random-ass, rather esoteric conversation about the meaning of death. I had one with Joel just now, on IM, and as I was having it, I thought, you know what? Maybe this is what I’m made to do? Maybe this sort of thing is my Jewish-Muslim Interfaith Granola Junk! I mean, think about it: I just told a really Jewish guy Imam Jaafar as-Sadiq’s exegesis of the Qur’anic story of the prophethood of Moses. And then I went on to explain, in a way that we both comprehended, how I thought that this mean that we are not created for death (a Joel thought, initially), but we lack the faith to really digest it and so we keep tabs on our own mortality. (A detailed explanation of what-the-fuck will inshallah follow in a separate post.)

It maybe just be that it’s 4 in the morning. But I have imbibed no substances, so believe me when I tell you that whatever the fuck it is that I’m high on right now, I’m really enjoying it. And what I’m thinking is: that was a smart thought I just had.

Which brings me to the point of this post, which is that there may be a sort of Web2.0 style solution to my Jihad Whinge – a sort of Kyla 2.0 (retch!) type of thing. I’m a good talker. I’m a good talker about religion. Talk to me.

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