I think this blog’s old tagline sums it up pretty succinctly: “Observations on Islam, America and international affairs from an unapologetic liberal and a proud American Muslim.”
I’m Svend White, an Information Technology consultant in Champaign, Illinois. I am married and have a beautiful daughter.
I was raised Muslim in Boston. My parents–a Danish woman and an American man–embraced Islam (independently of one another) before I was born in 1972. You might say I’m a WASM (“White Anglo-Saxon Muslim”).
I have a Master’s Degree in Religion (major: Islamic Studies) and have published a bit here and there on Islam, Muslims and politics.
The odd juxtaposition of this blog’s banner is an attempt to capture a bit of the cultural hybridity that I’ve always experienced as an American Muslim, not to mention one who happens to have ties to Scandinavia and who loves mythology.
The figure on the right is Mullah Nasruddin (a.k.a. Juha), a beloved figure of Islamic folklore and Sufi tradition. He is an amalgam of fool and wise man, about whom countless delightful and edifying tales have been told over the centuries. He is often portrayed riding a donkey backwards.
The curious critter on the left is Ratatoskr, a figure from Norse mythology. The image is an inset from a beautiful 17th century manuscript [website in Italian]. It is a squirrel who inhabits Yggdrasil, the tree that connects all the worlds. Ratatoskr scurries up and down the length of Yggdrasil, endlessly conveying insults between a giant eagle who sites atop the tree and a great dragon who far below, gnawing on the tree’s roots.
If you’ve read any of the often hilarious accounts of Mullah Nasruddin’s adventures, you’ll understand my fondness for the inscrutable, henpecked mullah. He’s a timeless symbol of the human condition, the quest for enlightenment and the unprepossessing forms in which true wisdom often arrives. More to the point for a blogger, the way he effortlessly (and sometimes unknowingly) slips back and forth between the roles of teacher, trickster and self-indicting buffoon seems to me particularly apt metaphor for the whole enterprise of pontificating on current events in a complicated world.
Aside from its allusion to other aspects of my background, I like the image of Ratatoskr because he is what academics call a liminal figure, a traveler (and, in this case, a messenger) between worlds. Worlds that, sadly, are often in conflict. (Hopefully, my role will be a bit more constructive role than facilitating geopolitical trash-talking, though.)
Almost as important, I love illuminated manuscripts and religious iconography in general.
WHAT DOES “AKRAM’S RAZOR” MEAN?
I really need to update this explanation, but please see this post from 2005 for a sense of what I’m getting at.