Get In The Game

As with many of you, the #metoo campaign made me think about the power dynamics of modern society, and what we can do about it. Here are my thoughts –

Men –

In general, in any given interaction with women and children, you have an advantage. From centuries of tradition, men have been at the top of the ladder. Acknowledge this. Learn to dial it back, to watch how you approach them. The macho attitude, the swagger, the demand to be listened to and, at times, be obeyed, are part of domination, and abusive. The idea that you can touch a woman on her shoulder, her arm, or her back, in order to get her attention, is a physical intrusion, an abuse of her personal space.

Beyond that, you are on the closest thing to equal footing with other men. Use it. When you see abuse, intervene. Speak out. Interpose yourself. Be brave. Set aside your desire to fit in, to be part of the system, and be part of the change that is needed.

But be aware of the dynamic as you approach. If the target is successfully handling the situation, wait until asked for help. Don’t be the guy that’s there to save the day, be the guy that’s there to support. Then, if things go wrong, be the guy that’s there to join. Don’t be the leader, be the partner.

And, finally, at least for this post, remember that choosing to not get involved is as heinous as assisting the attacker. It is an action, either one of cowardice, or one of assent. Failing to get involved should make you feel as guilty and shameful as if you’d done the attacking.

Women –

Network. Be supportive. You have more power as a group than as individuals. Get involved. I realize that, for the most part, I am preaching to the choir here, and that the vast majority of those of you who read this are already doing the best you can. You all deserve respect for dealing with these issues since the moment of birth.

Here is the challenge – everyone knows someone who is too shy, too brainwashed into believing that they are powerless. Reach out to them, offers support, pull them into the discussion. Get them involved, and encourage their growth. You’ll be fighting against years of indoctrination, and there will be times when they fall backwards. When that happens, be the one to reach out, and keep reaching out until they respond.

Of course, that challenge isn’t complete without discussing the women who support the system as it exists, the Phyllis Schaflys, Kelyann Conways, and such, the women who watch The 700 Club, who talk about “knowing your place”, the women who voted for Trump, Pence, Ryan, Rand, and McConnell. Reaching out to them is the biggest challenge of all, as far as creating a movement. Patience, calm rationale, and not devolving into a fight are all very difficult challenges. But keep trying. Changing one of their minds tends to undermine the resistance of others like them, their neighbors, their friends. Nobody said this would be easy, nor always pleasant.

Everyone –

Be inclusive. Chances are that there will be others in the trenches that have different ideas or beliefs than you. It may be that they feel strongly about issues outside the equality and anti-abuse struggle. You may be an anarchist, and find yourself next to a capitalist. You may be devout in your religion, and find yourself joining the efforts of an atheist. Set aside those differences for now, work towards the common goal. Working together creates understanding and respect.

Stay involved. If this past year has demonstrated anything, it is that it’s easy to gather people for an event, but hard to keep things going. This is going to be a long, hard process, one that may take generations to accomplish, be there for more than a single event.

Finally, speaking of generations, get involved with our youth. Volunteer at schools, get involved in sports, support Big Brothers and Sisters, find some way of positively impacting our kids, and then be the example, be the person they model their behavior after. They will probably be fighting against this when they are adults.

And above all, don’t give up.

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Heritage.

I’m writing this in response to a something a dear friend said that needs responding to. The man is a friend who is open-minded, one who has changed his opinions over the last two years, one that I expected to vote for Trump, but who became, long before the election, one of the more outspoken critics of both Trump, and the underlying hate. In short, a man who thinks.

The issue of the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage has returned. I feel that, yes, as heritage is defined, it is definitely a symbol, much as the Nazi flags and the white hoods of the KKK are. And about as desirable.

You see, the old “Stars and Bars” are part of my heritage, just as much as Old Glory, English history, and slavery. The Civil War found my family ancestry so entangled that even the Gordian knot isn’t as complex. I have ancestors who fought on both sides, supported both sides, and died for both sides. I have both slave holders and slaves in my family tree. The story of the war is the story of my family.

But when I look at the Confederate flag, when I see the statues built to glorify men who died to support it, I feel no pride, only deep regret and sorrow.

The flag was conceived as a symbol of the South, and, according to the man who designed it, as a symbol of the supremacy of the white race. It explicitly stands for the idea that people can be owned, bought, sold, used in whatever way their owner sees fit, and destroyed. It stands for the idea that some people are inherently better than others, simply based on their ancestry, while other people are less than human for the same reason. That stance is pure evil.

Is that something we want to celebrate? Do we really want to bring it to the fore, and point to it with pride?

“Look, Susie and Fred, there’s the flag that lead the South. It stands for owning slaves. It stands for committing treason. It stands for being able to rape, injure, control, and kill people who aren’t us. Be proud! Rejoice that, at one time, the dominant class and race could be free to act in whatever way they wanted. Be glad that this flag is still here to remind us of better times.”

Is that really a heritage we want to salute? No. It is a heritage we should remember. The Confederate flag should be in every US history book, where it, and the sheer monstrosity of slavery should be clearly and graphically discussed. It should never be taught that it stood for anything less than evil, than racism, than treason.

You see, my friend, it isn’t about whether or not it’s offensive – it’s about glorification of ideals that are so far from the core of virtually all faiths, so removed from the core of what it means to be humane, so antithetical to the very concept of our society and country, that it has no purpose to serve, other than as a reminder of the something abhorrent. It represents the same evil as Dachau, Treblinka, and all the extermination camps of the Nazis, the terrorist attacks throughout the world, and the idea that people have the right to inflict suffering on whomever isn’t strong enough to resist all made physical and visible in cloth form.

If we are truly honest about this heritage, then we should have a day of national mourning and rememberance, and not see this disgusting display of putrification paraded about and hailed.

Then, maybe, we’d start doing justice to our heritage.

Time To Choose

Every day I am out there, being public about being Muslim. I often wear a thobe, I mostly wear kufis, and I greet people without hesitation. To me, it is a former of Dawah, of outreach. And I’ve only had a few questionable interactions, although I’m sure I’ve had my share of “looks” from people not near me.

So, I don’t walk in fear.

OK, *THAT* is a lie. Of course I have fear. I don’t want to be attacked, harrassed, or killed because of my religion. Nobody should be afraid to be open about their beliefs. But more and more, people are being attacked for just those reasons. We’ve seen brutal beatings and killings, synagogues defaced, and vandalism of churches. And today, a bombing of a mosque as people were gathering for morning prayer.

So, yes, I have fear. But letting that fear control me is the surest path to victory for those who would oppress me. It is giving in, letting them have their way, making me disappear, and I will not do it.

Each of us has choices to make, now. Do we hide? If we are LGBTQ, do we modify our behaviours, our clothes, and where we go? If we’re POC, do we “stick with our own kind”, avoid places like Orange County and all the myriad of places that are predominantly White and Conservative? If we are anything but White, Male, and able-bodied, do we do our best to be invisible? And if we are White, Male, and able-bodied, do we remain silent when we see this happen? Do we laugh at the jokes, look the other way when someone harrasses another? Do we fear that by speaking out, we will be treated like the “others”?

These are the questions that we all have to consider answer for ourselves, and the ramifications of them extend to those we love.

For those of you who are too afraid, I understand and respect that fear. Life is precious, and we all do what we can to stay free and alive. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and I rejoice in every moment that you have, for that is why the Divine put us here, to be.

For those of you who will not be silent, I understand and respect that choice. Your risks are real, and there is no guarantee that the fight against this evil that has grown so prevalent will succeed. The only reward we are sure of is the knowledge that we tried. Cold comfort, sometimes, but comfort nonetheless.

This struggle, this war, is just starting. Be good to each other, whether you resist openly, or do your best to minimize your risks, you are all part of the Divine’s creation.

May the Beloved bless you all.

Call To Freedom #02

Part 2 of 7

Independent and complete investigations

10 July, 2017

Corruption in Donald Trump’s circle is so widespread that approaching the issue is daunting. Consider the following :

  • His advisors and family met with Russian representatives in attempts to influence the 2016 election. 
  • He is guilty of fraud regarding his “University “.
  • He has (allegedly) sexually assaulted and harassed a great number of women.
  • He has placed people in charge of cabinet positions whose involvement directly impacts either their livelihood, or that of their friends and family.
  • He has pushed for a cessation of an investigation into his campaign’s activities, to the point of firing the director of the FBI.
  • He has threatened, through whispering campaigns, to remove the current Acting Director of the FBI.

And the list goes much further.

His efforts have directly impacted the confidence that we can hold in his Presidency. When he interfered with the investigations, and then attacked the believability of the Press in order to hide the truth, he set himself above the law.

In the past few weeks, the news cycle has been flipped so fast that any mention of the ongoing investigations has been buried. This, combined with the threats to the independence of the investigations, is a direct attempt to hide from the public his acts of malfeasance. 

It is incumbent upon the citizenry of this country to demand a complete and independent investigation. Anything less leaves the credibility, trustworthiness, and legitimacy of this Presidency meaningless.

Next, Part 3 of 7

Economic class warfare

The Fourth is over.

The fourth is over. 
I’ve been conflicted by it for a long time. On one hand, the day celebrates the essential push for liberty that brought our nation into existence. Against seemingly overwhelming odds, my family, and other families,  we’re brave enough, resourceful enough, and willing to sacrifice everything in order to break free. 
But it did not go far enough. It took another 84 years before slavery was ended. We live with the results of those 84 years today. The damage that was done by the continuation of slavery will be with us for far longer.
And it too another 55 years before women were finally freed, finally given the right to vote. The results of that repression will be with us for a long time as well.
And now we have fascism to fight. Again. It’s spread,  and the retrenchment of racism and bigotry, has been insidious. The extent it hid and grew has surprised many, if not most, of us. We are in a war now, for the very survival of the ideals fought and died for by our ancestors. 
So, on one hand I honor the spirit of my ancestors, the drive for freedom, and their sacrifices, was inspiring. On the other hand, I sorrow for their lack of awareness, their lack of determination in finishing that drive by installing liberty and equality for all.
And thus we come to today. It is important to acknowledge and be inspired by the past, by Lexington, Valley Forge, Yorktown, Antietam, and Gettysburg. It is vital that we look at the struggle that the women of this country went through, how they, too, fought and suffered. It is from these memories that we must draw our strength and courage. 
For once more we face a foe who would oppress our peoples, who would drive us backwards in our quest for liberty and equality. Who would split us, 
May we honor the efforts of our ancestors, may we match their commitments with our own. May we remember 1776, 1861, 1920, and 1941, and carry forward the effort. In 2017, let us be willing to do what it takes to defeat this widespread evil we now face.
Rise up!

Confronting Internal Evil

And thus we come to the heart of the problem, our reluctance to fight and kill fellow Muslims. Please bear with me, this will be long.
First we have the issue of their status as believers. This is a particularly vexing issue, given the willingness of certain groups within the ulama to use takfir as a tool to bludgeon others into silence or submission. Certainly groups like ISIS use it for worse than verbal assaults, they justify everyone that does not support them as nonbelievers, and then go further than our beloved Prophet ever would, they treat them as of less worth than even bees, for the Prophet told us to be gentle, and to not burn even bees. So we are faced with a group who are takfiri in attitude, and transgressors in action.
This is the hard part – we must not adopt their methods as our own. 

To declare someone to no longer be a Muslim means that you have assumed the role of Allah. You have, by such actions, decided that you know their soul, that you know everything about them, and that you know how Allah views them. This is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your own soul, for it uses your own anger and ego against you, allowing you to fall into a trap set for us by Shaitan., the same trap that those who are in ISIS have fallen for. Hang in a bit longer, I’ll get to my point once I’ve dealt with the issues.
So, if we are not to declare that they are not Muslims, how do we explain their actions? How do we look at all that they have done, the murders, rapings, and destruction that they have committed, and accept that they have done so while claiming to believe in a religion that we believe is beautiful, constructive, loving, and life-affirming?
We turn to the warnings from Allah. We label them not as nonbelievers, but as transgressors,  for they have clearly become such in their actions. The Qur’an, 9:36, says

And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.

So we fight them in the way of Allah. But we fight.
The Prophet told us that there are three ways to fight oppressors, and we face oppressors in ISIS and other groups like them, for their victims are innocents, noncombatants, and the weak. Muhammad told us that there are three ways to oppose the oppressors – physically, verbally, and mentally. Of the three, he said that the best was physically,  then, if that was impossible, verbally, then mentally, should the first two be impossible. 
We can all oppose them physically. Really. We do so either directly, by going and confronting them, be it with violence, or by countering the results of their attacks by caring for those they have hurt. But we also can oppose them by denying that which supports them. We make sure that any money we donate goes to groups that do not send it to them. We send money to groups like Doctors Without Borders in order to diminish the effect their transgressions have wreaked on the innocent. There are myriads of ways to do this. And join in with your communities to protest these groups. Make their local supporters aware that the majority of believers oppose the transgressors. 
We oppose them verbally. Look, I am a great example of someone who speaks out on the Internet,  but do even more. Be willing to verbally speak out when someone calls for their support. Do not be silent. If an Imam says that they are following jihad, tell him that you disagree. (Then you can also do a physical opposition by leaving that mosque.) Write to your representatives if you live in a democracy, and tell them that you oppose those who support these groups. Make your voice heard.
Finally, in your prayers, in your thoughts, oppose them, and equally oppose the impulse to mirror their hatred. This last is a huge trap. Hating the deeds that they do is good, but hating the person only increases the circle of transgression. Consider Caliph Ali, who, during combat, had an opponent spit in his face. He could have allowed himself to fly into hatred and kill the man, but instead he withdrew. Taking a life must be done soberly, not out of anger and hatred, but out of necessity. Ali then returned and killed the fellow, not out of anger, but because it needed to be done to oppose the oppressors.
We have to do the same. Taking a person’s life is one of the most horrible actions a person may face. You eliminate any future chance at redemption, you freeze them at the moment of death from any change in the record of deeds Allah examines. You end any chance that the person might have future offspring that might change the world for the better. It is a terrible act to face doing.
But sometimes it must be done.
I beg you, my beloveds, to consider your own souls, and be gentle to them. Act not out of anger, but out of necessity. Do what must be done, according to that which the Divine has ordained, but do not transgress, do not oppress, for the final victim of such actions is your soul.
May Allah bless us all, and guide our actions.

Call To Freedom #02

The Tipping Point, Part 1 of 7

16 June, 2017

We’ve reached a major point in our republic’s life. These next few months will determine if we survive as a democratic republic, or fall into authoritarianism. The events leading up to this have been highlighted by the last couple of days, and the following is a list of those, along with ongoing issues, all of which I will discuss after the list.

  1. Violent political expression
  2. Free and complete investigations
  3. Economic class warfare
  4. Minority rights
  5. Ecological destruction 
  6. Removal of a free press

1. Violent political expression.  

We have been living in a state of undeclared civil war for several generations. Those who are entrenched in power and money have been guiding repression and violence in an effort to keep control to themselves. 

In spite of the current attempt by the “other side” to claim otherwise, we have rarely seen violence initiated by those who are not, in some way, following the establishment’s lead. The few times have been widespread – some anarchists in the first part of the 1900s, anti-war activists in the 1960s and 70s, and, most recently, a lone gunman in Virginia on Wednesday the 14th. 

We cannot include the riots in Watts, nor those in response to Civil Rights efforts or as a response to law enforcement misconduct, these were not an initiated first attack, but rather a response to a perceived attack.

On the other side of the ledger we have the slaughter of workers at the end of the 1800s through until the 1920s by corporations and law enforcement trying to control and rule the workers. We have the systematic destruction of the indigenous tribes throughout our history, in an effort to control the lands that were theirs.

We have had lynchings of people of color for centuries now, which has increased after the Civil War, as those in power used it as a method of repression and power. Often those who performed the crimes were guided and encouraged by those who benefitted. 

We have seen the LGBTQ members of our society harrassed, beaten, and murdered, simply because they were, and are, perceived to be a threat to the entrenched ruling class’ values.

We have seen similar hatreds and actions towards immigrants. From migrant farm workers, to innocent shopkeepers, the powerful have killed, looted, raped, and deported as many as they can, all to control the power structure’s status quo. The idea that the culture of another tradition might end up on an equal power footing has unleashed a torrent of violence for centuries.  This is now growing to encompass a religion as well as the various ethnicities that do not “fit in.”

It is incumbent upon the oppressed and their allies to be prepared to defend themselves.

Let me be clear – violence should never be the first choice of action. In response to oppression, peaceful, mass civil disobedience is the best response.

Consider the counterprotest at the Nation Of Islam mosque in South Dallas. A group of white supremacists declared that they were going to protest and confront the believers, and that they would be armed. The response was huge, far outstripping in size the dozen or so protestors. When confronted with a large presence of counterprotestors, and a battery of press, the bigots folded. 

We’ve seen this happen in other situations. Large groups of protestors have managed to dissuade attacks, and to pressure the establishment into making changes. This should be our primary method of defense when effective. 

This has worked in many places, but it is not guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that the established power will use any and all available means to continue their dominance. We can expect to see individuals and groups being told that “their” way of life is threatened, even though they are part of the oppressed. We can expect to see law enforcement being directed to take stronger actions against protests. 

The establishment has used violence in the past, they will probably use it in the future, and will camouflage it as being incited from the resistance, as they have done so many times before. We must be prepared for it, and how we each respond must be an individual’s own decision. What we must do is respect the efforts of our fellow resisters, and aim our efforts at a unified front.

Next, part 2, Free and complete investigations.