Love, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized

An Open Letter To My Muslims Brothers & Sisters

Assalamu alaikum

The world tells me we are inherently different. I’m not a Muslim my self, but I’ve always been fascinated & inspired by Islamic contribution to human civilization. The history of & historical figures from the Islamic world have fascinated & inspired me for years, especially the era of the Islamic  Renaissance in North Africa, the Middle East & Spain. As a student of philosophy the works of Muslim thinkers & scholars have always grabbed my attention, particularly Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroes). I first encountered Ibn Rushed in a wonderful Philosophy class I took in college for my minor. My German born professor admired him & introduced us to the basics of his system of though. This passage from his book The Decisive Treatise stood out to me

The double meaning [of religion & philosophy] has been given to suit people’s diverse intelligence. The apparent contradictions are meant to stimulate the learned to deeper study.

What this has always seemed to mean for me, a non-believer of God, is that religion & philosophy often have the same goal: to understand the Universe, what takes place in it, our own place in it, and how to live with and understand one another. There is intrinsic difference between people of faith & people of freethinking philosophy, just slight variations in emphasis & ontology. We all live by moral standards, we all have family or communities, we all seek knowledge, we all seek to better ourselves & those we love & care for. The differences in how we come to understand ourselves & our world are not nearly as important as the fact we do all seek to know, to feel, to love, to explore. 

There are many paths to truth, to happiness, to wisdom. We do a great disservice to ourselves & our fellow human beings when we close off a path because it may not seem familiar at first. I have found that when one takes the time to take, as Frost wrote, “the path less travelled”, you see that what at first seems to your eyes and mind to be alien is in fact your own world made new again through difference; a tree is a tree is a tree again, and a wise thought is wisdom in any tongue or any culture. We translate our seeming differences by experiencing them, through a striving to see love in unknown places, and emerging from the path to a shared destination.

***

A beautiful building stands near my apartment in Bolingbrook, Illinois, a Masjib & community center. It represents to me the wonderful diversity of this country & its people, people who make our community stronger & more enlightened. I smile when I think of the young Muslim families I see at the library or at the store; how proud they seem, how kind & friendly they are. On a more personal note, when I was in college it was hard for me to make friends (I am autistic and social skills are not my forte) and many of my peers ignored me or did not take the time to try to understand my life or point of view. That is until I met a group of Muslims students, some of whom I worked with at the College library. They were warm, open, non-judgemental, invited me to sit with them at lunch, introduced me to new people & ideas. We enjoyed the time we spent together, and even though we saw the world differently sometimes, we never let these differences get in the way of caring for one another as human beings. Their friendship during this hard time in my life is not something I will ever forget.

***

Today many of our non-Muslim leaders in government, medias & culture are telling us to fear Muslims, to hate them, to shun them. They tell us Islam is an “evil” religion, one that has no intellectual tradition worth studying, no love for women or those outside of Islam. I know these are calumnies, blood libels told to benefit those with power & who want power, whose imperial aims thrive when Muslims and non-Muslims fight & terrorize one another. I know that the West has blood on its hands and has done much to earn the distrust of some in the Muslim World. I know that fanatics on both sides need this hatred & use it to wield power over people who just want to live safe, happy lives. I know that those who hate, who want us to hate, believe that there are two worlds at war. I know the truth. I know there is one world, one humanity. I know refugees are seeking what I seek: a home, love, education, enrichment, happiness, community. I know most Muslims know this too. We are not different, we have no reason to fear one another. We must love one another. I support Muslims, I support refugees, I support immigrants. I support my brothers & sisters. I reject Trump & his fascist ideology, his fascist programs. I stand with you, and I know many more stand with you too. We are not different, you and I. We are the same people making our way, sometimes on different paths, sometimes on the same path, all heading to the same destination.

yours in friendship,

Noah Mann-Engel

Advertisements
Standard
poetry

A Lark

Columnes_-_Gran_Mesquita_de_Kairuan

Hark! I am a Lark

A blessed spark

of inspiration on a dullard’s own

canvas

his eyes jacinths

his teeth

dancing dalliances with

unipeds

grinning three-eared coney

peace and violet and aquamarine fractals

Alhambra

the ides of Spain

Submission kef

in smoke of pleasure

a red paparchy

spilt like silk

onto Iberian plains

gadroon guilt saucers

and porcelain cups

from Cathay

passionate blue

dragons in common with the

gonfalon on the stone wall

Hail! I am a Nightingale

body ooidal

though still taking flight

Standard
Conservatism, essay

“I’m Just A Monkey on A Gun”: The REAL American Sniper

Chris Kyle at Work

Chris Kyle at Work

Is this what it has come to in this nation? Are people like Chris Kyle really supposed to be celebrated like a “hero”? Men who admitted in their own autobiography that they looted the houses and bodies of the people they killed in Iraq, who calls the people he killed “scum” and celebrates their death as a sign of American exceptionalism and a step towards more American “freedom”?

A man whose supporters attack others with rape, death, and assault threats for daring to even express dislike for a movie made about him? Is this a hero? A man who said he enjoyed killing and would do it all over again? We are supposed to celebrate that? On the day we celebrate the life of a true hero, Martin Luther King, Jr., a man killed by a sniper, a film is out in theaters about a man who killed 200 people with a rifle. There is something perverse about that. Something wrong…something sick in the American spirit that we can find room in our hearts to celebrate as heroes people who kill others in the name of a freedom that they then rail against and denigrate at home whenever someone they do not agree with exercises it in public. “Kill the ragheads!” “Death to liberals” “That feminist should be raped!”…we see this online and in person every time some one has the temerity to dare and question the conservative myth-making industry. We must move past such false heroes as Chris Kyle, abandon them and call them what they are: drones, enforcers of power and privilege, or in other words, Cowards.

The US Public has long celebrated cowards, people who do with their fists and their guns what they cannot or will not do with their minds or their hearts. It is part of our American inheritance, our Imperial ethos, the same sensibility that could turn Christopher Columbus into a hero and the Native Americans into perennial villains. It is the faulty nature of American morality itself, our collective belief that our power is good, or rage is justified, and our desires matter more than anything else.

So, in conclusion, and to put it as simply as I possibly can: If you think “American Sniper” Chris Kyle is a hero, you are morally repugnant. The man was a racist, xenophobic, sociopath mass murderer and confessed war criminal. Move on and grow up. As Chris Kyle said about himself, quoted in a profile posted on CNN, [http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/03/us/texas-sniper-killed-kyle-profile/] : “I am just a monkey on a gun.”

Standard
Middle East

Fire on the Euphrates

14euphrates3_600

Let’s do it

bomb bomb

bomb again

and drop the pretense of

change

Hope the endless someday

reaches

some sort of conclusion

but don’t count on it

Tomahawks strike Raqqah

Sparks fly and

The Euphrates is set on fire

Strike like Mongols

from the air

leave nothing to chance

or well enough alone

every nightmare of the West

must be soothed by 10,000

Muslim lives

Rome one the Potomac

535 fiddlers under a slave wrought dome

One fool sitting on a leather throne

Let me be clear

We the people have plenty to fear

Standard
Atheism, Religion

Why Richard Dawkins & the New Atheists Do No Speak For Me

dawkins1

There is no “Atheist Movement”, there are only people who lives without the need for, or a belief in, a deity or “supernatural power” and who seek reason and peace. Movement “A”theists (and they desperately want that capital A) only seek to empower themselves and to find a place in the existing power structure. They want the same influence that Christians have had in the halls of power, the Universities and the boardrooms for generations and they are willing to cater to the worst impulses of their followers to achieve this.

Case in point, Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins, PhD, the biologist and scientific educator, has played his part in making atheists respectful and taken seriously by the establishment in Western cultural and governmental institutions. His scientific theories are interesting and have added much to the popular understanding of science. Richard Dawkins the man however, the leader of an atheist “movement”, is another matter entirely. He is just another in a long line of powerful, elite, rich white men who have decided that the gravitas granted them by their standing and education gives them the the right to pontificate on everything from torture to date rape. Richard Dawkins twitter (@RichardDawkins) is filled with “logic” based analyses of pretty much anything and everything that pops into his head.

Oddly enough this has recently been rape. He goes on about how terrible it is that men who rape women when they are drunk and cannot remember the whole incident have their “lives ruined”. He goes on about how date rape is not as serious as violent stranger rape and is generally an ass to anyone who would try to get him to see how his “logic” is anything but when applied to such a complex and painful topic as sexual assault. It is not so much the content of what he says, which is bad enough, but the fact that he feels that his position in popular culture and the New Atheist movement gives him the right to act as a moral arbiter of issues that will never affect him as a powerful rich white heterosexual man. It is the sort of privilege that he does not recognize he possesses and in fact does not even recognize as privilege. This is no different than the mindset of many men in various other movements, be they Christian, Jewish, Islamic or any number of secular fields.

Dawkins has made Ayaan Hirsi Ali in particular, and anti-Islamism in general, one of his pet causes. He has tended to attack and shame any atheists or secular group that has any problem with Mrs. Hirsi Ali’s anti-Muslim and Western Imperial apologist tendencies. This recent tweet shows how he takes his position of authority rather too seriously, to the point of almost seeming to “excommunicate” secular groups that do not toe the Anti-Islamic line:

“Inviting a speaker [like Ayaan Hirsi Ali] is not “disrespecting” anybody. I, however, hereby disrespect Yale Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics” (https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/511279615844048896

Dawkins seems to have little time for feminists unless they are explicitly anti-religious or anti-Islamic. The fact that Mrs. Ali is the partner of fellow white pro-Western Imperialism master of the Universe Niall Ferguson may have something to do with his affinity for her cause.

Dawkins has also defended and played apologist for philosopher and New Atheist fixture Sam Harris. Harris has some interesting things to say in the fields of philosophy and neuro-biology but his views on Muslims and civil rights are troubling to say the least. Mr. Harris has stated that

“torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror”, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html

Mr. Harris has also posed extensive thought experiments about the nature of torture in a crisis that have more in common with a plot from the show 24 then anything approaching reality or scientific understanding of torture. Mr. Dawkins has not been shy in his defense of Mr. Harris, a man who believes as he does that Islam in general is a threat to the “West” and secular society. This sort of support for the apologists for big government programs that violate civil liberties is troubling and betrays a sense of moral superiority that is troubling and odd in someone who wishes to reject the power and influence of religion in public life. The New Atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens and his defense of the brutal US/UK invasion of Iraq, seem to have an affinity for Neo-Liberal and Neo-Conservative policies, especially regarding the so called “war on terrorism”. It leads me to wonder if they realize that they are defending the institutions that are most infiltrated and influenced by the same messianic and power-based religious ideology they attack in other forums? Writer and moral philosopher Chris Hedges had this to say about the New Atheists

“I was stunned at how the very chauvinism and bigotry and intolerance that they condemn in the Christian Right they embrace under the guise of atheism […] they also create a binary worldview of us and them.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMcd_yWL2DM]

When reason and logic are used in furtherance of the same goals that are espoused by the religious, cultural and governmental powers that be then it may be time to question if what these men are trying to popularize is in fact free-thought at all, or merely another way for the powerful to couch their ideology, misogyny and power aims in a new and more up-to-date form of moral apologia. People who seek out an alternative to the dogmatic, chauvinistic, misogynist and violent religious sects that dominate the world do not need more heavy-handed and morally superior musings from men who benefit, knowingly or not, from the privilege they make their bones attacking. Why do atheists need leaders at all? Why can’t we have a community of freethinking, privilege defying, open-hearted people who do not wish to impose a secular religion of unquestionable “logic”? Why must the same rich white faces keep on telling us what is in our own interest? These are questions we must all struggle with and find our own answers to.

Standard
Israel, Middle East

I am Done Apologizing For Justice: A Response to Rabbi Menachem Creditor

palestinian-loss-of-land-1946-2010

The Following is a response to the Essay “I’m Done Apologizing For Israel” written by Rabbi Menachem Creditor. That essay can be found here:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-menachem-creditor/im-done-apologizing-for-i_b_5606650.html

The Palestinian people are done apologizing for daring to not be Jews. Ever since the Western Imperial powers gave into pressure from the Conservative Christian, Zionist Jewish, Cold War Hawk and Corporate lobbies and recognized Israel, the Middle East has been most troubled and violent of regions. After the evil that was the Holocaust the Western Powers made “never again” their mantra and bought into the absurd and racist ideology of imperialist Zionism as a way to assuage their own guilty consciences for not acting to save the Jews of Europe when they had the chance. It did not hurt that the West now had a non-Arab/Muslim foothold in the oil and gas rich Middle East, a foothold in the form of an expansionist, violent nation that owed its very existence to Western support and eventually largesse. Eastern European Jewish survivors of the horror that was the Holocaust joined with wealthy zionists from the diaspora and forged a nation whose only legitimate justification could be found in a covenant with an unknowable deity which led to an ancient campaign of genocide and brutal expansionism against a native pagan population described in a 3,000 year old book of religious fables and theology. Using intimidation, economic exploitation and outright terrorist tactics (like those of the Stern Gang and others) the zionists were able to force a conflict which led to the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Arab Palestine to make way for Zionist settlement and expansion.

The Palestinians were forced to flee, forcibly evicted from their homes and property and in many cases were outright killed. Many ended up in ghettos and many more in refugee camps in poor and despotic nations that did not want them. The colonizers, who named their “nation” after the ancient semitic Kingdoms of Israel & Judea, broke their promise to the international community, and to the Palestinians themselves, by refusing to compensate the dispossessed Palestinians for their land and property and by refusing to allow them the right to return to the land of their birth. Many of these Palestinian Arabs had lived in the area for generations, even centuries. They had lived in peace, or at least in absence of conflict, with Jews, Christians and others for centuries under Ottoman authority. This was their home and the Zionist colonizers stole it from them based on a mythical contract executed by a mostly mythical man with an invisible and implacable god. This new nation went on to defend itself against an Arab world that saw a threat in the powerful, colonizing, advancing and Western backed ethno/religious state. That a crime had been committed against the Palestinians was never denied, indeed some Israeli leaders admitted that the Palestinians had legitimate grievances against their conquerors. David Ben Gurion himself stated

 

A people which fights against the usurpation of its land will not tire so easily… it is easier for them to continue the war and not get tired than it is for us… The Palestinian Arabs are not alone. The Syrians are coming to help. From our point of view, they are strangers; in the point of law they are foreigners; but to the Arabs, they are not foreigners at all … The centre of the war is in Palestine, but its dimensions are much wider. When we say that the Arabs are the aggressors and we defend ourselves — this is only half the truth […] the fighting is only one aspect of the conflict which is in its essence a political one. And politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves […] The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country, while we are still outside.

 

The Zionist vision has always been an imperial vision, a vision of an ethno-religious liberal republic (at least for those who bow down to overall Jewish superiority in the nation) built upon the territory of people who are seen as “occupiers” of a land they and their ancestors worked, improved, and lived on for generations. Zionism in its most militant form is remarkably similar to Nazism: it is based on a conception of race & heritage that is completely artificial, it is based on the idea of a national living space for a growing and virile master race, it is militaristic and based upon the appropriation of land thought promised to the chosen race under a spiritual, moral covenant that is coherent only to those whom it benefits. These two ideologies create aliens out of people who have lived within the land for all their lives, creates terrorists and militants out of people fighting for their lives, their dignity and their land, and makes hypocrites and charlatans out of a proud Jewish people who have historically fought for dignity and for the right to live in peace.

It is said that those who are hurt in turn hurt others…if we look from this perspective the Zionist mission is understandable if not forgivable. That the Jewish people, or at least a large segment of them, wish to do to Palestine what the Americans did to the Native Tribes, what the Spanish did to Native Empires of South America, and what the Chinese did to the kingdoms of central and southern Asia, is understandable if not forgivable. But 3000 years of imperialist wrongdoing does not make what Israel did and continues to do to the Palestinian people right. As desperate, as violent, as seemingly misguided as the resistance against Israel by the Palestinians is, and as foolish, opportunistic and bigoted as their chosen representatives, like Hamas, are, that does not mean the Palestinian fight is any less righteous, any less just. If Israel has the “absolute right” to defend itself, then what of the Palestinians, the ones who are truly dispossessed? A cheap rocket coming from Gaza is a weapon of terror but a million dollar bomb dropped from a billion dollar Israeli F-16 is righteous and justified by the “facts on the ground”? Were the Afrikaaners justified in keeping the native population of South Africa in check? Was the African National Congress and other black African groups “terrorists” for violently resisting their oppression and the theft of their land? If we say that Israel is morally justified in its mission in Palestine then what basis do we have to deny the same stamp of approval to what the Whites did in South Africa? Remember that the ANC was once known as a terrorist group and Nelson Mandela and his fellow Black African freedom fighters were as vilified and hated as the leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are today. It is moral relativism of the most disgusting, the most self-serving sort to give the mandate of a just cause to one while rightfully condemning the other as an international embarrassment.

And now we have Rabbi Creditor with his cloying, solipsistic and morally repugnant apology for his support of the Zionist cause. We are asked by the author to pity him for having to defend the actions of an international pariah who has defied the international community and waged aggressive war against the people whose land they occupy. We are told were are “anti-Semitic” (a tired intellectual strawman if there ever was one) for daring to point out atrocities committed in the name of a nation claiming the mandate of heaven. We are told that because the Israelis treat some of the scores of people, mostly civilians and children, they maim and slaughter with weapons of war they extreme violence should be excused. We are told with a straight face that people in a crowded city that has been blockaded for a decade who shoot rockets into a nation with nuclear weapons and missile defense systems is a sign that the latter nation is “under-siege”.  We are told that a group, as odious as it may be to some, chosen in internationally recognized and administered democratic elections to represent the Palestinians of Gaza is “illegitimate” and must surrender this authority because it dares fight back against an occupier. We are told that lack of enthusiastic support for the nation of Israel is essentially the same thing as morally condemning all Jews, everywhere. To coin a phrase—enough of this mashugana!

To equate the great Jewish people of the world and all that they have given to the shared cultural and scientific heritage of earth with a violent, xenophobic and imperialist nation state is an insult to Jews everywhere and throughout time. The real, and totally disgusting, crimes committed against Jews as a people do not justify the actions of the nation of Israel nor do they add any legitimacy to its theological justification for existence. To admit this fact is not to commit any violence against the Jewish people. Jews must be held to the same standards of moral culpability and agency that every other nation is, or should be, held to. Rabbi Creditor, and anyone who supports imperial violence, xenophobic hate and ethnic cleansing under whatever banner it chooses to wave, should have to apologize, and vociferously at that, for such support. I, and millions of others, are done apologizing for our pursuit of justice for the people of Palestine under siege.

Standard
Syria, Syrian Civil War

Santayana’s Nightmare: The West in Syria

armyarmy

Yours not to reason why; 
Yours but to do and die. —Alfred Lord Tennyson

George Santayana is perhaps the most over-quoted man in the history of the written word. The quote in question is of course his admonition that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  The philosopher and social critic probably never actually wrote or said this but the sentiment has always been embraced by those afraid of great men and great movements making the same tragic missteps that have plagued human history since the beginning of time. It is easy to take the quote at face value, and it is an almost impossible proposition to prove or disprove. But what if we turn its logic on its head…What if those who are tasked to remember the past refuse to do so? What if they refuse to acknowledge that the past even happened? What if they are not condemned by impartial fate and bad study habits but by a deliberate pursuit of into the future the ideas that have always benefited those in power over those without it?

Today President Barack Obama has committed the US to arming the rebel forces fighting the Assad regime. The regime has “crossed” the dreaded and media lionized “red line” marking the use of Chemical weapons against the rebels fighting his regime. 150 people have been confirmed killed by chemical weapons used by the Assad regime. And while my heart goes out to these poor people who died at the hand of this brutal dictator they are only 150 0f the at least 93,000 (and probably much higher) who have died since the war began in 2011. This is put into better perspective when we realize that the UN has confirmed that the rebels, principally the Free Syrian Army and the Islamist groups that support and fight with them, have also used chemical weapons against their foes. No one has clean hands in this horrid war but we have decided once again that a dictator in the middle east with scary weapons is not to be tolerated.

The irony of course is that Assad was up until the mid to late late 00’s one of the USA’s biggest allies in the region. The current President Assad and his father in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were supported by the CIA and the US government. Of course Assad is also supported by Iran and Islamists in Lebanon and this fact is not lost on a defense establishment on the Left and the Right that despises the Iranian regime and would like to see Israel strengthened at their expense. The European Union, or what is left of it, has dropped its arms embargo against the Syrian Rebels and now plans to send weapons along with the USA. Russia of course remains the lone holdout in favor of the Assad cause. At least they are honest about their naked ambitions in the region.

So once again the US prepares to arm an insurgency movement against a dictator they (The USA and Europe) helped to create and maintain. The insurgents themselves are not consulted, we have “connections” in the FSA and in the Syrian opposition in exile who let us know that we are wanted and indeed required in Syria. The US media has of course, with few exceptions, jumped on board the war-wagon and made the FSA and the Islamists and Kurds they work with look like the undisputed heroes in the conflict. We are told by sages like John McCain and Eliot Engel that the rebels are to be trusted and we must do everything we can in order to destroy the man we helped create, Assad. There is much to profit from war in Syria; the weapons manufacturers will be raking in cash hand over fist and the “think tanks” and “peace organizations” will once more have attention and money lavished upon them to deal with the inevitable conflagration that will result. It is also worth noting that the oil monopoly known as the Sunni “Gulf States” (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar) will be very pleased with a change of leadership, or at least continuing Shi’a/Alawite chaos in the region. Who benefits from a western intervention in Syria? Far too many people, and that is the real problem.

We have a system where those who are given, or who take, power over military matters of life and death make decisions in the dark and after consulting with their corporate masters. As long as this is the case the “right” to remember and apply the lessons of the past to future action will always err on the side of conflict and war. The small group of men and women who run our system have much to gain and little to lose in a full on war in Syria. It will not be their sons and daughters and mothers and fathers who fight and die supporting the rebels in Syria. The people will not be the ones who benefit from the booty that comes from any conflict the West tales part in. It will be the same plutocrats and politicians who will be  pontificating and laughing all the way to the bank. Eugene Debs said regarding another war in another time War makes possible all such crimes and outrages. And war comes in spite of the people.” We are told that the best way to prevent conflict, or rather conflict that would inconvenience or scare westerners, is to arm those who we have decided are the ‘good guys’. This idea that guns and bullets equal peace is not new. It has been with us since at least the Mexican War and has led us into conflict after needless conflict from Korea to Panama to Iraq. War is peace. Peace is, out of necessity, war.

Rest assured it will not end with “arming the rebels” . It never does. This is how every American war begins. Those arms will not be arriving in Syria alone; they will come with CIA and military “advisers” who will train and assist them in their fight. This will put them in the middle of the conflict and in harms way. As soon as one of these “advisers” is hurt or dies we will up the ante and spiral into yet another self-justifying imperialist adventure in Asia.

So what is to be done? There are few options available to us besides civil disobedience, continued reasoned debate, protest and strike. We will do what we always do when we are forced to fight for the elites a conflict we do not want or understand. We must take back the political system that allows for such war mongering. We must dismantle a political system that sees both parties benefiting from endless conflict and gives unlimited power to a few greedy, ill-advised and foolish individuals and corporations. If we do not create a new system divorced from corporate and political control and power we will continue to fight “wars for peace” that have no real point besides profit and no end to be seen. If we go to war once more we only have ourselves and our complacency to blame. Santyana’s erroneous quote will only be put to rest when we, the People and Workers of the World, Unite against war and in favor of true peace!

Standard