Prayer Reminders

As a baby Muslim, one of the problems I’ve been having is remembering to pray, especially at the right times. I’ve been using a chart, but that requires me to check it all day, and sometimes I forget. My intention is there, but I’m a scatter-brained type of person, get easily distracted and tend to hyper-focus on whatever I’m doing (I’ve been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder). For instance, when I’m writing, I forget to eat, even if I’ve been writing all day.

I downloaded Salaat Time.2 the other day from CNET and it has really helped me to be consistent with my prayers. It automatically sets the correct prayer times and calculates the Qiblah for your location. There is a graphical display that shows you all the prayer times for the day as well as how long it is until the next prayer. You can choose the Adhan you want to hear, what juristic method is used for calculations and whether or not you want to hear duas after the Adhan. It’s very simple to use and very effective—as long as my computer is on. Oh, and it’s free.

This is only one of many different prayer reminder software applications that are out there. Some of them can even be used on your mobile, if you have the right kind (like an iPhone). One such application is Sun Dial by Islam Tech, LLC.

Part of being a new Muslim is establishing new habits. I’m hoping that using Salaat Time will help me to become more mindful of my prayer obligations, Insh’allah.

“Leaving Islam” Bus Ad: Subtle Or Not So Subtle Islamophobia?

Example of bus ad

Pamela Geller insists that the bus ad campaign that she and her group, Stop Islamization of America, initiated has nothing to do with Islamophobia. Instead, it is a sincere attempt to offer help to Muslims who are thinking of leaving their faith. Never mind that the ads themselves imply that any Muslims who try to do so will be threatened by their families (in what ways is left up to your imagination) or receive a fatwa on their heads (which subtly conjures up the case of Salman Rushdie whose 1989 fatwa called for his execution).

Geller insists that the ads are meant to further religious freedom. She said, “It’s not targeted at practicing Muslims. It doesn’t say ‘leave,’ it says ‘leaving’ with a question mark.” Uh, got it.

Apparently the campaign is in response to a similar one in San Francisco which has the opposite intention: to urge people to find out more about Islam.

As innocuous as the San Francisco ads are, some people see sinister motives behind them, as if Muslims are trying to somehow “trick” people into converting to Islam.

One of the objections to the pro-Islam ads is that they are supported by the Islamic organizations ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) and CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), among others. Why is that a problem? Because of their supposed ties to extremist groups.

The reality is that every Islamic organization, center or mosque has this criticism leveled against it. If it’s Muslim, it has to have terrorist sympathies.

ICNA comes under fire because it openly states that its purpose “shall be to seek the pleasure of Allah through the struggle of Iqamat-ud-Deen [establishment of the Islamic system of life] as spelled out in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of [Muhammad].” Many non-Muslims interpret this to mean that Muslims want to take over the world.

What frustrates me is that Christian churches or denominations with a similar ad campaign or mission statement would never be seen as conspiring to convert people against their will or to achieve world domination. In their case it would be called “freedom of religion.” In Islam’s case it is called “coercion.” Never mind that the Qur’an clearly states that “there is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)

Muslims are criticized for not standing up against terrorist acts and for not being more forthcoming about their “agenda.” But when they do try to explain Islam, they are criticized for trying to push their religion in non-Muslims’ faces. Muslims are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The truth is, Islamophobes don’t want to hear it. They have their preconceived notions of Islam and nothing a Muslim could do or say would change their minds.

What scares me is that they are proud of their hatred. Stop Islamisation of Europe‘s website has the catchphrase, “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” (Italics mine.) Excuse me, but what’s the difference?

That’s Telling ‘Em!

Featuring Saudi newscaster, Buthayna Nasser. I admire a woman who has the courage to speak her mind, especially when she’s as articulate as Nasser.

Muslim American Youth Speak Out

Riz Khan of AlJazeera speaks with Muslim American youth on issues that concern them.

These are college students who are trying to balance their faith with their participation in American society.

Confused

Image from You R A Creator

I am a baby Muslim, only eight months old. That means that I know very little about the Qur’an, the ahadith and the Sunnah, or which actions are haram and which halal. When I read articles about Islam on the Internet or in Muslim magazines, I don’t know what they’re about because of all the Arabic terms that are used. I know a smattering of Arabic, but not nearly enough to enable me to navigate around the Muslim world. I’m still startled whenever someone says “Asalaam alaikum” to me and I stutter when I reply “Wa alaikum asalaam.” This isn’t exactly coming easily for me.

Not that I expected it to be easy. But I had no idea how much I didn’t know until after I said my Shahada. Some of the things I’ve learned have surprised, even shocked, me. And I’ve been confused by all the different opinions of the various shayks and scholars. Some of what I’ve read in the Qur’an has concerned me but I don’t feel that I have anywhere I can go to get a better perspective. It seems like so much I read on the Internet only emphasizes what you must not do (or you will never see Paradise.)

I do have Muslim friends, Alhamdulillah. In fact, they were instrumental in my becoming a Muslim. That and some courses I took in college had the greatest influence on me. They answered all my questions, and still do when I get a chance to ask them. But some things I don’t even know to ask about. Like what do I do now that I’m a convert and my husband is not Muslim? I found out months after my conversion that our marriage was considered void and/or we should get a divorce.

That really threw me. I have the most supportive husband in the world. When I first approached him about my desire to become a Muslim, he said, “Go for it. I’m behind you all the way.” He’s not even threatened by my wearing the hijab (in fact, he likes it). We talk about Islam all the time and he even looks things up on the Internet for me, or brings me home books from the library that he thinks will be helpful to me. He’s the one who designed this website. He’s proud of the fact that I’ve become a Muslim, even defends me to people who don’t understand how I could have made this decision.

And I’m supposed to divorce this man?? What about the emphasis on marriage in Islam? If you have a good one, are you just supposed to throw it away because you said the Shahada and your husband hasn’t?

I admit that this was a turning point for me and not in a good way. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t judge Islam by Muslims. (And it was Muslims who told me that.) But when I found out that my Muslim friends were concerned about my marriage to a non-Muslim, I felt betrayed. When I asked what I should do, I was told that I should pray about it and Allah would tell me what to do. Well, I have prayed about it, and I’ve made my decision: this marriage stays. But I’m haunted by the knowledge that there are some Muslims who think what I’m doing is wrong.

One of the things I like about Islam is the emphasis on patience and perseverance. I’m not the most patient person in the world, but I am stubborn. I don’t give up easily. Now that I’ve found my true home, I’m not going anywhere.

Movie Review: No One Knows About Persian Cats

I wanted to see No One Knows About Persian Cats (trailer here) because I’m curious about everyday life in Iran. The movie delivers some of that, but what it excels at is showing us Iran’s underground music scene.

As with most things, Iranian officials are very restrictive about what music can be played, who can sing (females are not allowed to sing solo), even what instruments are used. You can only play publicly  in Iran if you get a special permit and of course you won’t get a permit if you don’t stay within the boundaries. Anything that smacks of the “decadent West” won’t get approved and might even get you put into prison.

That poses a problem for the musicians in Persian Cats because they want to play everything from indie rock to rap. In fact, one of the things that most surprised me in this movie was the wide range of styles that were represented. I expected something that sounded, well, Persian (don’t ask me what I meant by that). I was also surprised by the quality. Even the rap song, which I don’t normally gravitate toward (a nice way of saying I dislike it), was well-done and enjoyable.

That doesn’t mean that the music was merely copied from Western music. The lyrics especially are brooding and poignant. What they weren’t–and this also surprised me–was political. It seems that the only rebelling the musicians are interested in is in the realm of art. That’s not to say that art can’t be political, but when these musicians sing about freedom, they mean the freedom to express themselves. They’re not advocating an overthrow of the government.

That’s what makes the Iranian government’s prohibitions and punishments seem so over-the-top: the music scene, at least the way it is portrayed in this movie, is no threat to the regime. Unless you ascribe to the view that once people taste freedom in one area, they want more of it.

Continue reading Movie Review: No One Knows About Persian Cats

Group Protests Islamic Center to Be Built Near Ground Zero

Some people are calling it an outrage, others a “slap in the face.” But supporters of the proposed Cordoba House, to be built on the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory, two blocks from Ground Zero, insist that it will help to heal the wounds from 9/11 and promote dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Those who see all Muslims as terrorists and complicit in the attack on the World Trade Center feel threatened by the very idea of the Islamic center. Some (although not all) of the victims’ families have already stated that it will be a constant reminder of their losses (as if Ground Zero itself won’t forever remind them). And even those who aren’t against it on principle still wonder if it’s the most sensitive thing to do.

On Sunday, June 6th, the group, Stop Islamization of America, staged a protest of a few hundred people at the corner of Church and Liberty streets (no, I’m not kidding) where two Muslim groups, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, plan to build the 13-story center. Cordoba House would be an “insult to victims of 9/11 and establish a beachhead for political Islam,” the group said on its website, where it also estimates the size of the crowd at 5,000 to 10,000.

Pamela Geller, director of the group, says that “without Islam, 9/11 would not have happened.” You might as well say that the murders of abortion doctors, or the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, would never have happened without Christianity.

The video below was also on the group’s website. I’m not sure why, because Geller clearly did not win the debate.