Sunday, October 22, 2017

Florida campus activists shut down white supremacist

"No Nazis, no hate. “His filth has been rejected” - AFT President Randi Weingarten on the great work from the resistance against Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Archaeologists Uncover 9,000-Year-Old Stone Gates In Saudi Arabia

New Editions: Mawārdi's Ethics of Worldly and Religious Affairs

The Ethics of Worldly and Religious Affairs (Adab al-dunyā wa al-dīn
by Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Mawārdī / Alboacen (972-1058 CE) 
edited by Muḥammad Yāsir Muḥammad al-Ḥusayn
(Dār al-Nafāʾis)

New Publications: Aḥmad Muḥammad Shākir's Method of Textual Editing and Criticism

Ahmad Muhammad Shakir's Method in Textual Editing and Criticism 
(Manhaj Aḥmad Muḥammad Shākir fī taḥqīq al-nuṣūṣ
by Dr. Ashraf ʿAbd al-Maqṣūd ʿAbd al-Raḥīm 
(Maktabat al-Imām al-Bukhārī)

Book Talk: Dan E. Stigall, The Santillana Codes: The Civil Codes of Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania (Library of Congress)


On Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6:00 p.m., the Law Library of Congress, the Friends of the Law Library of Congress, the Embassy of Tunisia, and the Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division will co-host an event celebrating the work of David Santillana, a Tunisian jurist and the intellectual father of the civil code of Tunisia – a legal work that influenced the civil codes of both Morocco and Mauritania.

The event will feature remarks by Ambassador Fayçal Gouia, the Ambassador of Tunisia to the United States; Jane Sánchez, Law Librarian of Congress; Mary Jane Deeb, Chief, African and Middle Eastern Division; Emily Rae, President, Friends of the Law Library of Congress; and Dan E. Stigall, author of a new book entitled The Santillana Codes: The Civil Codes of Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania. A display of rare law books will highlight the source materials used as inspiration for the Codes.

Please join us for an evening in celebration of Maghrebian and Sahelian legal culture.

Please request ADA accommodations at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or

This event was made possible through the generous support of Hise Explorations Partners, LLC, and the Friends of the Law Library of Congress.

Image credits: Dan E. Stigall (book cover)."

Indonesia Cables, Communist Massacres

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Real American Heritage or: We Don't Eat Lizards in Puerto Rico

Yesterday (October 15, 2017) marked the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month for this year. Every year since the late 1960s, September 15th to October 15th has been dedicated to celebrating “the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture” (click here for more information). Hispanic/Latino “refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race” and we currently comprise over 17% of the population of the United States. While anti-Latino hate speech seems to be on the rise, institutionalized racism in the United States has targeted Latinos for much longer. Early twentieth century “scientific” racists like Lothrop Stoddard (1883-1950) and Madison Grant (1865-1937) looked at Latinos in a manner not quite in accord with the aforementioned definition. Instead, Hispanics represented to them that which they feared and hated most: the “defiling” of the genetically superior white race through miscegenation with the descendants of African slaves and the indigenous populations of North and South America. In defense of white supremacy, they advocated sterilization and other means in order to implement a gradual ethnic cleansing. Despite the fact that these views have been formally denounced as racist pseudoscience by leaders of the international scientific community since the mid-twentieth century, experience from primary school days to now tells me, and many others like me, that these beliefs persist.

A few examples of the kinds of racist and anti-Latino aggressions (nowhere near being an exhaustive list) to which I have been exposed over the years include:

I worked as an undergraduate at a place where other student employees were primarily from South Asia and the managers were white. Statements shared between the white managers and international students insulting Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics were numerous and almost daily. I approached my employer about this kind of talk, to which he replied that some stereotypes are true. All of this was at a time when the president of our university was a Puerto Rican.

On the shortlist to be admitted to graduate studies at Princeton, I met with one of the better-known senior scholars related to my field who referred to Hispanics as a “peasant race.” I did not pursue graduate studies at Princeton.

A few months into my first semester of graduate studies, I was made aware that one of the professors had asked the only other student of Puerto Ricans descent whether or not we eat lizards (the professor was a person of color who counted themselves among the “model minorities” who were superior to Latinos and African Americans). Both the Puerto Rican student and another student of Central American descent who was present during the exchange expressed to me the level of hurt they felt when being addressed this way in a public setting among other students and professors. My own later experience in classes with this professor included most of my participation being rejected at first and then immediately accepted after an East-Asian female classmate would come to my defense.

One history professor after asking about by ethnic background, suggested I was unfit to be successful in graduate-level studies. He spent a significant portion of one class session mocking the names of Hispanics who had mixed with Asians and other non-Latinos.

One graduate student, also a person of color, in conversation with me referred to Hispanics as having a vulgar culture, while he, as a possessor of “the Arab gene”, came from a superior culture equal to that of white Americans and superior to Latino and African-American culture.

One doctoral student became known for his white supremacist hate speech. Examples include his declaration that “there are too many beaners in Tucson” and other slurs against Latinos, African-Americans, and others that make Richard Spencer and the Alt-right seem tame in comparison. I was briefly part of a research group where he and other white students nodded in approval at the description of a Mexican-American undergraduate student, a bi-racial graduate student, and myself as belonging to “weird races.” The doctoral student referred to white men as “the best race” to which the others laughed, including one white journalism student who otherwise professed to be liberal. Both the latter as well as another MA student who had graduated earlier, at separate times expressed to me their fear and paranoia that Hispanics and other non-white people were trying to “change” white people. I approached a professor in the department regarding this and similar issues, and the response led me to believe that this would only result in me being impacted negatively and no one else.

I contacted a well-known professor of Puerto Rican descent who writes on racism, and his advice to me was the following: “find solidarity from other folks of color… if one finds others, shares stories, and thinks about collective ways to resist, then the struggle becomes feasible; then one realizes that one's pain is the product of a racial order for which one is not responsible (folks want us to believe that things happen because of us, because we make them up). So, find solidarity, create community, and develop collective practices of resistance to racial domination.”

I have since then been awarded a Fulbright and other awards, permitting me to travel for scholarly research to several countries in North Africa, western Asia and Eastern Europe, achievements commonly considered evidence of academic success. Today, a Nuyorican woman from the Bronx, Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, is the first Hispanic to serve in the highest federal court of the United States. With Puerto Rico currently suffering as it is, and being neglected by new political forces seeking to further normalize the racism I am discussing, we have Nydia Velázquez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress, a Nuyorican democrat, leading the way in advocating for Puerto Rican disaster relief. “Low-class” diaspora Puerto Ricans like the Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Pultizer prize-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, my fellow Arizona-alum Joseph Acaba, the first person of Puerto Rican heritage to be named a NASA astronaut, and numerous other leading entertainers and successful professionals have continued to increase awareness of the island’s plight, keeping it in the public eye and raising millions of dollars in relief aid.

I repeat the advice of professors like Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, president of the American Sociological Association, and others that victims of racism create community and work together with anti-racist allies to develop collective practices for counteracting racism. I have written this essay as a first step in order to encourage others impacted by racism and to let them know they are not alone.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, during oral arguments in the gerrymandering case Gill v Whitford, referred to social science as "sociological gobbledygook." ASA President Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has responded in a letter, the content of which is below:

Fighting for the NEH's Future on Capitol Hill

Documenting Democracy’s Fall and Dictator’s Rise in Chile By PASCALE BONNEFOY (OCT. 14, 2017)

A phone in the exhibition “Secrets of State: The Declassified History of the Chilean Dictatorship” at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile. Visitors can pick up the receiver to hear a recreation of a conversation between former President Richard M. Nixon and his national security Adviser, Henry Kissinger. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Gathering Strong Evidence

Monday, October 16, 2017

Racialized Citizenship and Territorial Status in Puerto Rico (Hostos-CUNY Public Policy & Law Unit)

Letters on North America October 16, 2017 (Committee on Academic Freedom)

The first women’s journals published in Africa and the Middle East (Library of Congress International Collections)

All 7 volumes of Irfan Shahîd’s 'Byzantium and the Arabs' are reissued & available for free download

Stars Stand in Solidarity With Puerto Rico at the Somos Live! (Hispanic Heritage Month)

"the most recent updates from the relief benefit revealed there had been over $20 million donated"

"Celebs use a united voice to help at the disaster relief concert."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

‘Do We Have To Fight Nazis Again?’ Professor Says Of Spencer At UF

‘Do We Have To Fight Nazis Again?’ Professor Says Of Spencer At UF: In a Q&A with WUFT News, University of Florida associate history professor Paul Ortiz conveyed his thoughts on Richard Spencer’s upcoming appearance at UF, his ideology and the dangers of his views.

‘Allah’ Is Found on Viking Funeral Clothes

An image taken from the analysis of the Kufic characters on bands found in graves in Sweden. Credit Annika Larsson 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Complex History of the Genes That Color Our Skin - The Atlantic

Carlos Alomar: The Puerto Rican Guitar Hero Behind Bowie’s ‘Fame’ (Hispanic Heritage Month)

Featured image: Courtesy of Carlos Alomar

Here's what would happen to US politics if Puerto Rico became a State" By Ryan Struyk, CNN

Gary Bauer: The Left is "an American Taliban" Destroying Confederate Monuments because "they hate America." (Values Voter Summit)

Yamiche Alcindor: CBC demands action from FB after Russia sows racial division & FBI targets "black identity extremists"

The real roots of early city states may rip up the textbooks

The real roots of early city states may rip up the textbooks: Settled agriculture didn't spawn the first states. Two new books help expose the real drivers, the pressures on marginalised people – and what they can teach us

Iran to blame for cyber attack on MPs' emails – British intelligence

Kurdiu - Attack on mosque kills 20 in Central African Republic

Kurdiu - Attack on mosque kills 20 in Central African Republic: More than 20 Muslims were killed in a mosque in the Central African Republic's southeast during Friday prayers, community leaders said Saturday. “The...

Young Saudis Celebrate as Reach of Religious Police is Reined In

Report Hate in School (Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

ʿAbd al-Fattāh Qudaysh al-Yāfiʿī on Sectarianism

"No one group, sect, or school of thought speaks officially in the name of Islam or the sunna [to the exclusion of others]. No group, sect, or school of thought [can claim] all [their beliefs and practices] are correct and absolute truth [while] other [sects, schools, etc.] are in error and absolute falsehood."

"In every sect, there are extremists and there are moderates, between meagerness and excessiveness; so let us work toward increasing the moderates in every sect."

Martín Espada on banned books, poetry, and resistance

United Muslim Relief Emergency Response Team in Puerto Rico

Statement by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Withdrawal by the United States of America from UNESCO

The United States Withdraws From UNESCO

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science)

Removing Racist Statues ("Whose Heritage?")

Spain and England feared that enslaved Africans would be more susceptible to revolt if they were Muslim

Muslims were banned from the Americas as early as the 16th century
by Andrew Lawler

"By the time of the Hispaniola revolt, Spanish authorities had already forbidden travel by any infidel, whether Muslim, Jewish, or Protestant, to its New World colonies, which at the time included the land that is now the United States... In 1682, the Virginia colony went a step further, ordering that all “Negroes, Moors, mulattoes or Indians who and whose parentage and native countries are not Christian” automatically be deemed slaves."

"Of course, suppressing “Islamic leanings” did little to halt slave insurrections in either Spanish or British America. Escaped slaves in Panama in the 16th century founded their own communities and fought a long guerilla war against Spain. The Haitian slave revolt at the turn of the 19th century was instigated by and for Christianized Africans, although whites depicted those seeking their freedom as irreligious savages. Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia in 1831 stemmed in part from his visions of Christ granting him authority to battle evil."

Read more:

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

What is White Supremacy? Do Races Differ?

Longform Podcast #263: Jelani Cobb

Carl Conetta (Defense Analyst, Center for International Policy): << How real was the threat? >>

<< How real was the threat? >>

Also see: Dept of Justice, "US Attorney Announces Unsealing Of Charges Against Three Men Arrested For International Plot To Carry Out Terrorist Attacks In NYC,"
This case like many (see below) involved the active participation of an FBI handler; They're 'sting' operations. Would the plot have matured or even occurred otherwise? In many other instances, no - although such cases add to pervasive public fear of terrorism, and they give false assurance of effective counter-terrorism policies. What stings mostly turn up is some degree of 'proclivity' to terrorist action or 'susceptibility' to terrorist influence.

Obviously, the threat of US terrorist attack related to overseas wars is real. The problem is that sting operations give the false impression that US law enforcement agencies are effectively containing it.

- Kansas City Star (2017), "FBI undercover stings foil terrorist plots - but often plots of the agency’s own making," "Of 126 Islamic State-related cases prosecuted by federal authorities across the country since 2014, nearly two-thirds involved undercover agents or informants." (And many others involved no US attack plans.)

- New Yorker (2016), "Do FBI Stings Help the Fight Against ISIS?,"

- Guardian, "How terrorist 'entrapment' ensnares us all,"

- Al Jazeera, "US law enforcement accused of using entrapment to ensnare ‘terrorists’,"

- Mother Jones (2013), "Inside the Terror Factory," Edited excerpt from author interview (

"In the 10 years after 9/11, there were 500 defendants who were charged with federal crimes involving international terrorism. About 250 were charged with things like immigration violations or lying to the FBI... Of the 500, about 150 were caught in sting operations; these operations were solely the creation of the FBI through an FBI informant or undercover agent providing the means and the opportunity, the bomb, the idea, and so on... Only about five people of the 500 charged...were involved in some sort of plot that either had weapons of their creation or acquisition or were connected to international terrorists in some way... Those are the five that you can point to in the decade after 9/11 who seemed to pose a significant threat... That’s a handful compared to the more than 150 who were caught in these sting operations."

Rise of the Generals By Michelle Goldberg

"Rise of the Generals: Why it’s entirely possible to be both horrified and heartened by the growing political influence of America’s military leaders." By Michelle Goldberg

The People of Flint stand with Puerto Rico

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saudi Arabia Will Allow Women to Drive

The Self-Taught Philosopher: How a 900-year-old Arabic tale inspired the Enlightenment

"Our contemporary values and ideals are generally seen as the product of the Enlightenment. Individual rights, independent thinking, empiricism and rationalism are traced to the debates and discussions held by the great European thinkers of the 17th and 18th century: Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Kant among others. But these thinkers owe a debt to a figure from 12th century Spain: a philosopher-physician named Ibn Tufayl who wrote a story called Hayy ibn Yaqzan -- which may be the most important story you've never heard." **This episode originally aired May 16, 2017.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Gregg Popovich: 'We still have no clue of what being born white means.'

Let There Be Page Numbers

"Print helped fuel the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, which in turn fueled major developments in the printing industry. As people were exhorted to read the Bible, new tools emerged to help them navigate its pages: page numbers, indexes, annotations--basically, all the features of the "apparatus of the book" that we take for granted today."

Rethinking Arabic Canons: Muhammad ʿAbduh as Glossator

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mohammed Abed al-Jabri on Ibn Hazm in The Formation of Arab Reason and Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought

"As for his insistence, on the other hand, on the necessity of respecting the norms of reason and committing to such, and the necessity of spreading logic, Arabicising it and integrating it according to its milieu within the Arab culture, all this is clearly in evidence as well, not only in his belief in the 'universalism of reason', but also in his ambition to render it the sole referential authority in the various epistemological fields." (385)

"Is it, then, not our right, or even a duty on us, to look at the above verses and hadith on the rights of the oppressed in the light of what is nowadays called ‘social security’?! This covers the right to medical care, unemployment benefit, and the right to pension benefit. These rights are guaranteed for the benefit of the oppressed through deductions from the income of the rich and the state employees. It is a modern arrangement quite in keeping with righteousness, al-zakāt and surplus (al-ʿafw). Ibn Hazm explained ‘giving money’ in terms similar to the modern concept of ‘social security’: God imposed on the rich of every country to provide for the poor. The ruler is to compel them to do that if zakat revenue was not sufficient for that aim. They have to be provided with their sustenance, clothing for winter and summer, lodging to protect them from rain and sun and the eyes of the onlookers." (246-7)

"The ‘building’ of the land, or what today is simply called ‘development’, may be engrafted in our conscience by the employment of some texts from our tradition. In addition to the texts which make land development a duty of man in general terms, there are other texts which transfer this duty to the state, which can do more to support the rights of the oppressed. One outstanding text in this connection is by Ibn Hazm: The sovereign leads people towards development and increase of agriculture. He allots them portions of undeveloped land as their own and supports their efforts of development and cultivation in order to reduce prices, for people and livestock have a better life. The greater the reward, the more wealthy people there will be and the greater the amount of al-zakāt which will be accrued." (248)

Critique of Religious Discourse - Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd; Translated by Jonathan Wright; Introduction by Carool Kersten

"An important work of contemporary Islamic thought argues against the programmatic use of Islamic religious texts to support fundamentalist beliefs"

"First published in Arabic in 1994, progressive Muslim scholar Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd’s controversial essay argued that conventional fundamentalist interpretations of the Quran and other Islamic religious texts are ahistorical and misleading. Conservative religious leaders accused him of apostasy. Marking the first time a work by Abu Zayd is available in its entirety in any Western language, this English edition makes his erudite interpretation of classical Islamic thought accessible to a wider audience at a critical historical moment. After his exile, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (1943–2010) became the Ibn Rushd Chair of Humanism and Islam at the University for Humanistics, Utrecht. Jonathan Wright is an award-winning translator. Carool Kersten is a scholar of Islam at King’s College London."

Muslim Youth Camp Teaches How to Cope With Rising Hate | NPR

Supreme Court of India Judgment - Triple Talaq (Divorce)

On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam

The Legal Thought of Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti

Authority and Legacy

Rebecca Hernandez

Oxford Islamic Legal Studies

  • Explores the different forms of authority and rhetorical strategies adopted by religious scholars and institutions in Muslim societies
  • Brand new study of a previously neglected figure in Islamic history: Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1505)
  • Interdisciplinary approach that analyses historic sources alongside modern takes, such as the YouTube commentaries produced after the 2011 Egyptian revolution
  • Demonstrates how Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti fits into a larger discussion about reform and revival in Islam

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Righting historical wrongs." Justin Trudeau addresses Canada's Indigenous Peoples

"Canada can and must do better when it comes to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples – we're working together for a stronger future." #UNGA

"We have been working hard, in partnership with other orders of government, and with lndigenous leaders in Canada, to correct past injustices and bring about a better quality of life for Indigenous Peoples in Canada."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Islamic Legal Studies: A Critical Historiography - Ayesha S. Chaudhry

Islamic Legal Studies: A Critical Historiography - Oxford Handbooks

"This article examines the politics of knowledge production in the field of Islamic Studies, including Islamic Legal Studies, in the context of the Qur’an and Islamic law. It thinks broadly and freshly about Islamic Studies, categorizing it anew, by considering the study of the Qur’an as it relates to three forms of Islamic Studies: White Supremacist Islamic Studies (WhiSIS), Patriarchal Islamic Legal Studies (PILS), and Intersectional Islamic Studies (IIS). The article examines the fundamental assumptions of WhiSIS and PILS, uncovering their operational logics, before discussing the theoretical framework that underlies IIS’ approach to Islamic Studies. It analyzes the critiques that WhiSIS and PILS level against IIS, and the challenges that IIS poses for both WhiSIS and PILS. It concludes by considering the role of IIS in the future of Islamic Studies."

Keywords: Islamic Studies, Islamic Legal Studies, Qur’an, Islamic law, White Supremacy Patriarchy, Intersectionality, Feminism, Muslims, Islam

Ayesha S. Chaudhry Ph.D.

Islamic Studies and Gender Studies, University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How ‘white people’ were invented by a playwright in 1613 - Ed Simon | Aeon Ideas

The Jacobean playwright Thomas Middleton invented the concept of ‘white people’ on 29 October 1613, the date that his play The Triumphs of Truth was first performed. The phrase was first uttered by the character of an African king who looks out upon an English audience and declares: ‘I see amazement set upon the faces/Of these white people, wond’rings and strange gazes.’ As far as I, and others, have been able to tell, Middleton’s play is the earliest printed example of a European author referring to fellow Europeans as ‘white people’.

A year later, the English commoner John Rolfe of Jamestown in Virginia took as his bride an Algonquin princess named Matoaka, whom we call Pocahontas. The literary critic Christopher Hodgkins reports that King James I was ‘at first perturbed when he learned of the marriage’. But this was not out of fear of miscegenation: James’s reluctance, Hodgkins explained, was because ‘Rolfe, a commoner, had without his sovereign’s permission wed the daughter of a foreign prince.’ King James was not worried about the pollution of Rolfe’s line; he was worried about the pollution of Matoaka’s.

Both examples might seem surprising to contemporary readers, but they serve to prove the historian Nell Irvin Painter’s reminder in The History of White People (2010) that ‘race is an idea, not a fact’. Middleton alone didn’t invent the idea of whiteness, but the fact that anyone could definitely be the author of such a phrase, one that seems so obvious from a modern perspective, underscores Painter’s point. By examining how and when racial concepts became hardened, we can see how historically conditional these concepts are.

There’s nothing essential about them. As the literature scholar Roxann Wheeler reminds us in The Complexion of Race (2000), there was ‘an earlier moment in which biological racism… [was] not inevitable’. Since Europeans didn’t always think of themselves as ‘white’, there is good reason to think that race is socially constructed, indeed arbitrary. If the idea of ‘white people’ (and thus every other ‘race’ as well) has a history – and a short one at that – then the concept itself is based less on any kind of biological reality than it is in the variable contingencies of social construction.

There are plenty of ways that one can categorise humanity, and using colour is merely a relatively recent one. In the past, criteria other than complexion were used, including religion, etiquette, even clothing. For example, American Indians were often compared with the ancient Britons by the colonisers, who were descendants of the Britons. The comparison was not so much physical as it was cultural, a distinction that allowed for a racial fluidity. Yet by the time Middleton was writing, the colour line was already beginning to harden, and our contemporary, if arbitrary, manner of categorising races began to emerge.

The scholar Kim Hall explains in Things of Darkness (1996) that whiteness ‘truly exists only when posed next to blackness’: so the concept of ‘white people’ emerged only after constructions of ‘blackness’. As binary oppositions, ‘whiteness’ first needed ‘blackness’ to make any sense. The two words create each other. The scholar Virginia Mason Vaughan writes in Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1500-1800 (2005) that: ‘Blackfaced characters in early modern dramas are often used … to make whiteness visible.’ ‘Black’ and ‘white’ have never referred to defined groups of people; they are abstract formulations, which still have had very real effects on actual people.

There is little verisimilitude in describing anyone with either term, which explains their malleability over the centuries. How arbitrary is it to categorise Sicilians and Swedes as being ‘white’, or the Igbo and Maasai as both ‘black’? This kind of racial thinking developed as the direct result of the slave trade. Hall explains: ‘Whiteness is not only constructed by but dependent on an involvement with Africans that is the inevitable product of England’s ongoing colonial expansion.’ As such, when early modern Europeans begin to think of themselves as ‘white people’ they are not claiming anything about being English, or Christian, but rather they are making comments about their self-perceived superiority, making it easier to justify the obviously immoral trade and ownership of humans.

Hall explains that the ‘significance of blackness as a troping of race far exceeds the actual presence’ of Africans within England at the time. Before Middleton’s play, there were a host of imagined ‘black’ characters, such as in Ben Jonson’s The Masque of Blackness (1605), which featured Queen Anne performing in blackface, as well as Shakespeare’s ‘noble Moor’ in Othello, staged a couple of years before Middleton’s play. Understandings of race were malleable: in early modern writing, exoticised characters can be described as ‘dusky’, ‘dun’, ‘dark’, ‘sable’ or ‘black.’ Depictions of an exoticised Other weren’t only of Africans, but also Italians, Spaniards, Arabs, Indians, and even the Irish. Middleton’s play indicates the coalescing of another racial pole in contrast to blackness, and that’s whiteness – but which groups belonged to which pole was often in flux.

Consider the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In sonnet 130, he says of his mysterious paramour that ‘her breasts are dun’; in sonnet 12, he references her ‘sable curls’; and in sonnet 127 he writes that ‘black wires grow on her head’. As is commonly understood, and taught, Shakespeare subverted the tradition exemplified by poets such as Petrarch who conceptualised feminine beauty in terms of fairness. Part of this subversion lay in pronouncements such as the one that states that black is ‘beauty’s successive heir’, a contention of Shakespeare’s that can seem all the more progressive when our contemporary racial connotation of the word is considered. Thus, how much more radical is his argument in sonnet 132, that ‘beauty herself is black/And all they foul that thy complexion lack’. Shakespeare’s racialised language connoted a range of possibilities as to how the Dark Lady’s background could have been imagined, and the conjecture that she was based on women variously European or African indicates this racial flux in the period.

Or take Caliban, the native of the enchanted isle colonised by Prospero in The Tempest. Often sympathetically staged in modern productions as either an enslaved African or an American Indian, there are compelling reasons to think that many in a Jacobean audience would rather understand Caliban as being more akin to the first targets of English colonialism, the Irish. By this criterion, Caliban is part of the prehistory of ‘how the Irish became white’, as the historian Noel Ignatiev put it in 1995. None of this is to say that Caliban is actually any of these particular identities, nor that the Dark Lady should literally be identified as belonging to any specific group either, rather that both examples provide a window on the earliest period when our current racial categorisations began to take shape, while still being divergent enough from how our racialised system would ultimately develop.

Yet our particular criteria concerning how we think about race did develop, and it did so in service to colonialism and capitalism (and their handmaiden: slavery). Bolstered by a positivist language, the idea of race became so normalised that eventually the claim that anyone would have coined such an obvious phrase as ‘white people’ would begin to sound strange. But invented it was. With the reemergence today of openly racist political rhetoric, often using disingenuously sophisticated terminology, it’s crucial to remember what exactly it means to say that race isn’t real, and why the claims of racists aren’t just immoral, but also inaccurate. Middleton demonstrates how mercurial race actually is; there was a time not that long ago when white people weren’t ‘white’, and black people weren’t ‘black’. His audience was just beginning to divide the world into white and not, and, unfortunately, we remain members of that audience.

Race might not be real, but racism very much is. Idols have a way of affecting our lives, even if the gods they represent are illusory. In contemplating Middleton’s play, we can gesture towards a world where once again such a phrase as ‘white people’ won’t make any sense. In realising that humans were not always categorised by complexion, we can imagine a future where we are no longer classified in such a way, and no longer divided as a result of it either.Aeon counter – do not remove

Ed Simon

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

MLB Celebrates Roberto Clemente Day - 09/06/17

"I think the greatest thing you can say about a person is that they gave their life for their cause. That's what Roberto Clemente did. He was a beautiful human being." - Muhammad Ali

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ring of the Dove - Busaad Art Gallery (2012)

The Ring of the Dove
The Ring of the Dove is one of the most important books in the Arab literary heritage that talked about love and its meanings and attributes, and what lovers may experience, from abandonment and deprivation, to satisfaction and pleasure. And although Ibn Hazm was true to his commitment to the morals and noble values ; his poetry, however, had some direct indications perhaps due to his rebellious nature and the openness prevailing in that period of time. The title The Ring of the Dove signifies permanence and stability, the permanence and immortality of love. In addition to the aesthetic significance of the ring or collar, which has a distinguished beauty in itself, the dove also seen to be a messenger of love and passion.

Ibn Hazm
Is Ali bin Ahmed bin Saeed, was born in the year 384 AH/994 AD in Cordoba. He reached the rank of minister but finally rejected this path in favor of his passion for literature, science and languages. The boldness in his opinions and arguments brought indignation of many people and so some of his books were burned and ripped apart. He said: “to burn the book you are only burning paper because the book is in my heart”. Ibn Hazm died in 456 AH/1064 AD at the age of seventy.

The Technique
Due the high literary standing of The Ring of the Dove, a special harmony between text and the technique of painting was necessary. And so the formulation of the exhibition’s paintings was based on the legacy of the manuscripts in terms of a strict construction and configuration and flow of manuscripts, using natural materials in the preparation of the paper and colors of Islamic design and decoration. Representing the factor of time was paramount and thus the aged appearance of the paintings give a real sense of history. Calligraphy remained the master of the situation in this experiment, which took a lot of effort and time to reach a degree of convergence between the text and actual writing.

Tribute to the calligrapher Hashim Muhammad Al-Baghdadi
It is through his mentorship in the rules of Arabic calligraphy, that I have I got to know the secrets of calligraphy. A grand Salute to my teacher and mentor Hashem Baghdadi. And last but not least Love.. the permanent and sustainable; and longevity means humanity and morality. 

Ibrahim BuSaad (Artist) December 2011

Anthropomorphism in Islam: The Challenge of Traditionalism (700-1550) by Livnat Holtzman

Anthropomorphism in Islam

"Explores the problem of anthropomorphism: a major bone of contention in 8th to 14th-century Islamic theology"

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Women Judges in the Muslim World: A Comparative Study of Discourse and Practice

"Edited by Nadia Sonneveld, Radboud University, and Monika Lindbekk, University of Oslo

Women Judges in the Muslim World: A Comparative Study of Discourse and Practice fills a gap in academic scholarship by examining public debates and judicial practices surrounding the performance of women as judges in eight Muslim-majority countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco). Gender, class, and ethnic biases are inscribed in laws, particularly in the domain of shariʿa-derived family law. Editors Nadia Sonneveld and Monika Lindbekk have carefully woven together the extensive fieldwork and expertise of each author. The result is a rich tapestry that brings out the various effects of women judges in the management of justice. In contrast to early scholarship, they convincingly prove that ‘the woman judge’ does not exist.

Contributors are: Monique C. Cardinal, Jessica Carlisle, Monika Lindbekk, Rubya Mehdi, Valentine M. Moghadam, Najibah Mohd Zin, Euis Nurlaelawati, Arskal Salim, Nadia Sonneveld, Ulrike Schultz and Maaike Voorhoeve."

Muslim Media Review: Access Free Arabic Texts from Library of Arabic Li...

Muslim Media Review: Access Free Arabic Texts from Library of Arabic Li...: You can now get free, Arabic-only PDFs of LAL bilingual books! I can't link b/c twitter thinks it's spam but you're clever. ...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660 by Alison Games

The Web of Empire

"How did England go from a position of inferiority to the powerful Spanish empire to achieve global pre-eminence? In this important second book, Alison Games, a colonial American historian, explores the period from 1560 to 1660, when England challenged dominion over the American continents, established new long-distance trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean and the East Indies, and emerged in the 17th century as an empire to reckon with. Games discusses such topics as the men and women who built the colonial enterprise, the political and fiscal factors that made such growth possible, and domestic politics that fueled commercial expansion. Her cast of characters includes soldiers and diplomats, merchants and mariners, ministers and colonists, governors and tourists, revealing the surprising breath of foreign experiences ordinary English people had in this period. This book is also unusual in stretching outside Europe to include Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. A comparative imperial study and expansive world history, this book makes a lasting argument about the formative years of the English empire."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

'The Book of Tribulations: The Syrian Muslim Apocalyptic Tradition' Translated by David Cook

'The Book of Tribulations: The Syrian Muslim Apocalyptic Tradition'

"'The Book of Tribulations: The Syrian Muslim Apocalyptic Tradition' is the earliest complete Muslim apocalyptic text to survive, and as such has considerable value as a primary text. It is unique in its importance for Islamic history: focusing upon the central Syrian city of Hims, it gives us a picture of the personalities of the city, the tribal conflicts within, the tensions between the proto-Muslim community and the majority Christian population, and above all details about the wars with the Byzantines. Additionally, Nu`aym gives us a range of both the Umayyad and the Abbasid official propaganda, which was couched in apocalyptic and messianic terms."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil Translated by: TALLAL M. ZENI

"Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on Divine Wisdom and the Problem of Evil is a translation of selections from two of Ibn Qayyim’s books, Key to the Blissful Abode (Miftāḥ dār al-saʿāda) and Remedy for Those who Question on Matters Concerning Divine Decree, Predestination, Wisdom and Causality (Shifā’ al-ʿalīl fī masā’il al-qaḍā’ wa’l-qadar wa’l-ḥikma wa’l-taʿlīl). As with all his other writings, Ibn al-Qayyim’s foremost goal is to establish the wisdom of God, the primacy of the Qur’ān and Sunna, and the congruity between reason and revelation. In the present selections, Ibn al-Qayyim focuses on the application of the wisdom of God to the existence of evil. Ibn al-Qayyim first discusses twenty-six wise purposes behind God creating humanity and settling them on Earth. His perspective is that whatever exists in this world is either purely or preponderantly good, or indirectly leads to a greater good. Ibn Qayyim then explores how the presence of evil allows the manifestation of many of God’s Beautiful Names, glorious attributes and compassionate actions; while, for humanity, the existence of evil provides the righteous with opportunities to strive against it, for Paradise can only be reached by ‘traversing a bridge of hardships and tribulations’. The discussion of the existence of evil is followed by thirty wise purposes and secrets in God allowing people to sin. Prominent among them are that God loves repentance and loves to manifest His Attributes of forgiveness and mercy. Here, Ibn al-Qayyim also debates at length whether the punishment of Hellfire will be eternal or whether it will come to an end. He favours the latter position in accordance with the Qur’ānic verse 107 of the Chapter Hud and because of God’s mercy. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya was born in 1292 near Damascus where he obtained a classical Islamic education and specialised in jurisprudence. In 1312, he met the Hanbalite reformer Ibn Taymiyya and remained his disciple until the latter’s death in 1327. Ibn al-Qayyim died in 1350 in Damascus." 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Shi'i Doctrine, Mu'tazili Theology: al-Sharif al-Murtada and Imami Discourse by Hussein Ali Abdulsater

Shi'i Doctrine, Mu'tazili Theology: Examines the critical turn that shaped Imami Shi'ism in the 10th and 11th centuries

"God is not free to act; He is bound by human ethics. To be just, He must create an individual of perfect intellect and infallible morality. People are obligated to submit to this person; otherwise eternal damnation awaits them. While these claims may be interpreted as an affront to God’s power, an insult to human judgment and a justification for despotism, Shiʿi Muslims in the eleventh century eagerly adopted them in their attempts to forge a ‘rational’ religious discourse. They utilized everything from literary studies and political theory to natural philosophy and metaphysical speculation in support of this project. This book presents the contribution of al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 1044) of Baghdad, the thinker most responsible for this irreversible change, which remains central to Imami identity. It analyzes his intellectual project and establishes the dynamic context which prompted him to pour the old wine of Shiʿi doctrine into the new wineskin of systematic Muʿtazili theology."

Key Features

  • Comprehensive coverage of al-Murtaḍā’s enormous oeuvre (running to several thousand pages) and diversity (spanning virtually all contemporary fields of knowledge)
  • A meticulous engagement with long and dense theoretical texts that are either in manuscript form or poorly edited
  • An orderly presentation that equips readers with an overall understanding of Shiʿi theology in its main phases while preserving the profundity of analysis
  • The study of a little-known author whose views, nonetheless, are still a major influence for Shiʿi Muslims

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls

Henry David Thoreau: “Walden. Yesterday I came here to live.” That entry from the journal of Henry David Thoreau, and the intellectual journey it began, would by themselves be enough to place Thoreau in the American pantheon. His attempt to “live deliberately” in a small woods at the edge of his hometown of Concord has been a touchstone for individualists and seekers since the publication of Walden in 1854.   But there was much more to Thoreau than his brief experiment in living at Walden Pond. A member of the vibrant intellectual circle centered on his neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also an ardent naturalist, a manual laborer and inventor, a radical political activist, and more. Many books have taken up various aspects of Thoreau’s character and achievements, but, as Laura Dassow Walls writes, “Thoreau has never been captured between covers; he was too quixotic, mischievous, many-sided.” Two hundred years after his birth, and two generations after the last full-scale biography, Walls restores Henry David Thoreau to us in all his profound, inspiring complexity.   Walls traces the full arc of Thoreau’s life, from his early days in the intellectual hothouse of Concord, when the American experiment still felt fresh and precarious, and “America was a family affair, earned by one generation and about to pass to the next.” By the time he died in 1862, at only forty-four years of age, Thoreau had witnessed the transformation of his world from a community of farmers and artisans into a bustling, interconnected commercial nation. What did that portend for the contemplative individual and abundant, wild nature that Thoreau celebrated?   Drawing on Thoreau’s copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closed Walden with an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. We meet the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist; the solitary walker who found society in nature, but also found his own nature in the society of which he was a deeply interwoven part. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him.   “The Thoreau I sought was not in any book, so I wrote this one,” says Walls. The result is a Thoreau unlike any seen since he walked the streets of Concord, a Thoreau for our time and all time.

Walayah in the Fatimid Isma'ili Tradition

Friday, July 21, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The 'Ethics of Disagreement' Disagreement

ʿAwwama's "Traditionalist" Ethics of Disagreement                 ʿAlwani's "Reformist" Ethics of Disagreement (Eng)


During my visit to Medina a few years back, I had the opportunity to meet with a prolific writer and editor of works in the Hanafi tradition, Said Bikdash. His gracious hospitality and generosity with his time was equally matched by the vigor with which he defended what he saw as traditional conservative Sunni Islam from what he considered the deviated methods of modernists and reformists. He was a staunch supporter of the concept of taqlīd (defined in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as 'uncritical and unqualified acceptance of a traditional orthodoxy or of an authoritarian code of a particular religious teacher') and held no sympathy for reformist calls to the practice of its opposite, ijtihād.

He was critical of medieval and modern ʿulamaʾ who had criticized taqlīd, considering them to be a major reason for the decline in authority of the traditionalist scholars. I mentioned medieval scholars such as ʿIzz al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Salām (1182-1262) and Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī (1274-1348) and he cited them as examples of praiseworthy scholars who practiced taqlīd of the Shafiʿī school of jurisprudence. I mentioned that both of them had strong words of praise for the jurisprudential writings of Ibn Ḥazm (994-1064), a medieval scholar whom Bikdash had criticized over his pro-ijtihād, anti-taqlīd position. His response was that this may be an example of a specific praise within a general critique, a concept I had often heard mentioned by the conservative Salafi scholars, rivals to the traditionalists like Bikdash, when referring to medieval Sunni ʿulamaʾ like Ibn Ḥajar al-Asqalānī (1372-1449) and al-Nawawī (1233-1277) who endorsed theological positions from the Ashʿarī school rejected in Salafi/Atharī theology.

He directed me to read the book Adab al-Ikhtilāf (Ethics of Disagreement) in order to better understand the manner in which the ʿulamaʾ respectfully handled what they considered acceptable differences of opinion in theology, worship practices, and law. A friend who had accompanied me in my visit said he had read the book and met its author, the late Taha Jabir al-ʿAlwani (1935-2016). Said Bikdash abruptly corrected my friend, and clarified that he was referring to another book of the same title by his shaykh (as well as in-law), Muhammad ʿAwwama of Syria. The book by al-ʿAlwani was considered by Bikdash to contain too many "problems" with respect its pro-ijtihād reformism.

This meeting, in a nutshell, represents the traditionalist/reformist divide within the Sunni ʿulamaʾ class. Al-ʿAlwani's credentials as an Azhari scholar steeped in the Islamic legal tradition would not be questioned by more conservative, traditional ʿulamaʾ and was never denied by Said Bikdash, I must add. And yet, a book on the etiquettes of disagreement has difficulty being accepted when it is written by someone holding the very positions with which one disagrees!

A sampling of the works of Sāʾid Bikdāsh graciously gifted to me after our meeting:

The newly revised and expanded edition of Alwani's Ethics of Disagreement (Arabic):

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ports and Printers Across the Armenian Diaspora with Sebouh Aslanian hosted by Nir Shafir

Uncool Imams

Not too long ago, I had dinner with a Muslim religious leader who works primarily in the suburban parts of where I grew up in the "Gateway Region" of northeastern New Jersey. His traditional education is unquestionable and his knowledge expands into a number of other fields, yet his obliviousness to some important matters in local and foreign history and politics, coupled with a false confidence borrowed from his expertise outside of these fields, was wholly disappointing. During our after-dinner conversation, he was adamant in his assertion that it had been Rachid al-Ghannouchi, intellectual leader of the Tunisian Muslim democrats, who followed the ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as President of the Republic of Tunisia, and not Moncef Marzouki. In spite of my conversation partner's adamance, Ghannouchi, founder and president of the Ennahda, Renaissance, Islamic democratic political party, was never the president of Tunisia, and was vocal in both his refusal to run and in his criticism of the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party, aligned with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, for nominating a presidential candidate, in the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections.

Even more disappointing, and hitting much closer to home, was his denial that a specific neighborhood in downtown Jersey City now populated by numerous South Asian restaurants and businesses, had historically been a Puerto Rican neighborhood. It was an erasure that denied the histories and contributions of a people that included my own parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, who in the 1950s and 1960s populated many of the old apartment buildings and brownstones that still stand today.

This ignorance of the stories and struggles of certain non-white communities, those descendants of the survivors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the genocides and ethnocides of indigenous peoples who do not fall under the label of "model minority," remains prevalent. A glaring example of this is to be found in a 2016 article by Eboo Patel, which speaks of a class divide that pits privileged Princeton liberals of color protesting racism against working-class whites embodied by the cab-driver who took him from the "Brick City" of Newark to the quaint university town of Princeton.

An excerpt on his conversation with Mickey the white working-class cab driver (click to enlarge):

And yet, had Mr. Patel decided to take the cab before or behind the one fate led him to choose, he more likely than not would have been faced with a working-class black or Latino-American driver, much like my own uncles and cousins and father for a period of time, people that Mr. Patel seems even more unacquainted with than working-class whites. These are a people who often worked in factories like Mickey, or in shipyards like those of the Bethlehem Steel and Shipbuilding Company that employed many of my own relatives for 30-plus years, that also closed up and moved away. The problems faced by these other groups of working-class Americans in terms of job loss, family life, health and mortality rates, etc., are further aggravated by an attitude of white supremacy that still pervades much of white working-class consciousness, best exemplified in the 1848 speech by South Carolina politician and Vice President under John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) and Andrew Jackson (1829-1832), John C. Calhoun (1782-1850):

"With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and the poor, but white and black, and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals, if honest and industrious, and hence have a position and pride of character of which neither poverty nor misfortune can deprive them."

A version of what follows was written several years ago. The names of people and places have been removed out of respect for those involved who have passed on and in the hopes that those now in positions of leadership will work towards positive change without feeling shamed in any way.

The Bigoted Imam:

I have attended ****** numerous times between the years 2003-2009. It is an institution, like other institutions, composed of individuals, some who are right for the job and some who are not. This letter is regarding the Imam of ******, a man who, in my estimation, is not worthy of being a leader over even one person.

Here is a man who has said that "Spanish" people are lazy, all the while surrounded by Mexican immigrants working on new construction for the Islamic center of which he serves as Imam. Here is a man of Levantine/shāmī descent (from the area comprised of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria) who said that North African Arabs (Tunisians, Algerians, Moroccans, etc.) were fornicators and adulterers, and that black and Latino men should not be trusted when marrying Arab women, while Middle Eastern men seeking US citizenship were encouraged to marry black and Latina women, hiding information about other wives in their home countries, divorcing the American women of color after becoming citizens, and obtaining sole custody of whatever children were had without any censure. These are the words and practices of an ignorant man.

The Imam needs to be reminded of a few facts regarding the place he now calls home. America has had to suffer a long time with the problems of racism. The Imam himself, in his physical appearance, clearly displays what in Spanish is referred to as mestizaje, mixed racial ancestry, specifically of sub-Saharan African ancestry. If he is ignorant of these facts regarding his adopted country and regarding himself, the burden is on him and those around him to make himself aware, especially since he is in a position of leadership in the Muslim community of ******.