God talking to Bush Junior

Alright, I know this is old news, but I thought I'd comment on discussions in the media a while back about how George W Bush appears to have confided in Palestinian leaders in June 2003 that'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …"As happy as I am to criticize this sorry excuse for a leader--and, boy, how the mighty (and … [Read more...]

Uneven “Kingdom of Heaven”

Finally rented "Kingdom of Heaven". It was a gorgeous, lovingly filmed pageant, with great production values, stirring battle scenes, convincing acting and exotic backdrops. Unfortunately, the plot was pretty thin and at times dull.  Also, as much as I like Orlando Bloom, his boyish persona just didn't measure up in this role, especially opposite the august Ghassan Massoud (Saladin) or Marton Csockas (who plays his rival and the story's villain).  The Independent   … [Read more...]

Cultural identity: the new religion

After my father's conversion to Islam in the late 1950s, my grandmother, a devout Catholic, never questioned his right to make that choice.  Granted, she worried till the her final days for his immortal soul, but she never viewed him as less American or a part of the family for leaving the Church.  I think more than a mother's love was at work there--I think it was the result of an intuitive understanding of religious faith and the spiritual and emotion imperative to follow one's … [Read more...]

Must Sufis be Muslims?

In the West, there are many who identify themselves as Sufi but not Muslim. Kabir Helminski questions whether Sufism can be disconnected from the Islamic faith and tradition in which it developed over the centuries in  "What is Truly Universal Spirituality". … [Read more...]

Today, God is “twice hidden” from most of us

I'm grateful to the Velveteen Rabbi for passing on this truly inspiring pearl of wisdom from Rodger Kamenetz about the modern spiritual condition: At the dawn of the Enlightenment, as modern ideas challenged faith everywhere in Europe, one rabbi, Nachman of Bratzlav, diagnosed our contemporary spiritual condition. He called it "second degree hiding." He said: Not only is God's face hidden from us, but it is hidden from us that God's face is hidden from us. We too live in a time of the … [Read more...]

The Brick Testament

Ever wonder how some of the most dramatic stories from the Bible story would look if recreated in Legos?  Yes, Legos.  Behold, the Brick Testament! I'm still not sure whether this is mockery or homage, but I must confess it's strangely entertaining (and it's definitely quite helpful for refreshing your memory on some key stories).  And those looking just for entertainment can fast forward right to the lively parts (e.g., various massacres, rapes, and dismemberments ). The … [Read more...]

The Grinch: A Misunderstood Mujahid

Growing up a Muslim in Boston in the 70s and 80s and with little contact with the broader Muslim community, I had BIG issues with Christmas. Unlike a lot of Muslims, my beef with Christmas wasn't theological.  I don't accept the line that to joining Christians in celebrating their holiday is to engage in or condone  shirk (idolatry), as do many Muslims.  Nor was it philosophical or ethical.  To the contrary, I always liked Christmas in principle, finding it a noble and inspiring holiday … [Read more...]

A Lost Tribe is found in India

The world is peppered with peoples that claim descent from the "Lost Tribes" of Israel (see  this link for the seemingly never-ending parade of contenders) that were exiled over two and a half millenia ago by Assyria's King Nebuchanezzar.  As one site puts it:Scholars have claimed to discover their descendants in North and South America, England, China, Japan, Burma, Africa, Arabia, Persia, Central Asia, and Siberia, among other places. And then there are the various New Age … [Read more...]

The joys of interfaith (and intra-faith) dialogue

No irony or sarcasm is meant by that title.  When it works, it really is a joy. Last night, I participated in an interfaith dinner between local young Muslims and young Christians enrolled in a pastoral studies program at The Falls Church, a beautiful Episcopal church that happens to be right next to  one of the nexi  of Muslim life in northern Virginia, Halalco.    An aside:  Halalco is the first modern, professionally-run Islamically themed department store--as … [Read more...]

The fragility and unpredictability of life

An incredible turn of events recently befell a dear friend of mine that is an eerie mix of tragedy and triumph. Rafi, a family friend for many years (like my father, he's an American who converted to Islam in the 1950s, and they've known each other since) was at the hospital for an urgent kidney transplant operation, when Marian--his younger and to all appearances healthy wife--collapsed before his eyes, felled by a brain hemorrhage.  This was only a short time before his operation was to … [Read more...]