Wednesday, November 30, 2005
  Interesting Blog
Diane Silver, sf editor, writer, broaduniverse member and previous editor of their newsletter, WisCon attendee (which is where I met her) has recently started a blog. Her thoughts on spirituality, religion, separation of church and state, and fundamentalism really resonated with me. It's so important for progressive, spiritual people to come together and support one another in challenging the direction our country and our world seems to be heading... to reaffirm that co-existence and tolerance are values worth fighting for.

Anyway, check her out: http://hopeandpolitics.blogspot.com/

It's one blog I'm planning to check regularly.
 
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
  Why Sci-Fi?
When you tell people you write fiction, an awful lot of them nod and smile, thinking that means you're in the entertainment business. Well, yes, that too... but for many of us, fiction is about a whole lot more than just telling a good story. It's about examining truths, and pulling forth stories which help us think about issues and, hopefully, in the end understand a bit more about who we are--as a species, as races, as genders, as individuals.

When you say you write science fiction, the smile often takes on a sort of frozen look. Science fiction, how nice. (Unless you are talking to a sci-fi fan, in which case you are assaulted with questions about your books or stories). Good science fiction is about the same things as regular fiction, only perhaps a bit more self-consciously. Take Ursula Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness." She is able to examine sexuality in a way standard fiction can't because of the society/species she creates. Or Orwells 1984, which examines governmental thought control and totalitarianism in a way that wouldn't be very possible in straight fiction, because (one hopes) the extreme version he writes about would never be tolerated in the real world.

Science fiction writers (at least my favorite ones) focus and crystalize an issue, capturing the essence of it, intensifying it, removing the noise and distraction and messiness of real life, so they can pick it apart. It results, often, in a very intense experience, that can have a significant impact on the way you see your world, your life, your relationships.

The Boston Globe a couple days ago ran an article talking about the roke of science fiction, particularly utopias and dystopias.

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/11/20/back_to_utopia/?page=full

"The authors says about one book: ''The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" (1965) is a psychedelic odyssey of hallucinations-within-hallucinations from which no reader emerges unscathed."

Yes, that's the idea -- many authors of sci-fi hope the reader will come out on the other side of their book changed, or at least at bit more thoughtful.
 
Monday, November 28, 2005
  World AIDS Day
Thursday is World AIDS Day, a time to remember, a time to rededicate ourselves to fighting this dreadful disease. For those who have lost a loved one, know that I will be thinking of your and yours on this day.

Here in Indianapolis, a portion of the AIDS quilt will be on display in the Glendale Mall, and a memorial service will be held at 6 pm at the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, 2950 E. 55th Place.

For more on support for people who have AIDS and AIDS prevention in Indianapolis, check out the Damien Center


For more World AIDS Day info:
http://www.unaids.org/wac2004/index_en.htm

The entire unaids.org site is worth exploring.
 
Sunday, November 27, 2005
  On Theology
Ok back to theology...And point two from Friday's blog...

At this Unity Service I went to last week, the sermon was basically an extended metaphor. The church, the preacher said, is a hospital; when you go to a hospital, you expect to see sick people, so why are we surprised to meet people who aren't spiritually perfect when we go to a church. In a hospital, there's a pediatric ward, and in church you will meet children, as well as some adults who act like children. Most hospitals have a psych ward, and you'll meet some of those patients in the hospital. But, the preacher said, I don't let those folks ruffle my feathers, because I am busy taking care of people in the ICU. By which he meant people like myself. People who aren't Christian.

It wasn't just the exclusivity of that message that made me cringe, but the entire metaphor. The view of the world as sick, or rotten. Another metaphor the preacher used was that the world is like an apple. When Adam sinned, the big, beautiful, ripe apple fell from the tree and got a bruise on it, just a little spot, but that's where the rot set in and now the whole world is rotten.

I just don't see it that way. People aren't rotten, they are fallible. God doesn't expect us to be perfect, just to strive to be our best. Sure lots of people do things that are stupid, mean, selfish, etc, etc. But I honestly believe that the vast majority of people do so thinking they are doing good, or in moments of uncontrollable passion. Most parents who hit their kids believe that they are giving them the discipline they need to get ahead in life. (They need to read a few child-centered child raising books, but I know they do think they are doing their kids a favor) Most republicans really do believe the trickle down method is the best way to stimulate the economy and make life better for all. (Despite the obvious problems in our economy and the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.) And so on.

Fortunately, God is Understanding and Merciful, and forgives those who are sorry.
 
Saturday, November 26, 2005
  Peace in Iraq
Ok, theology will have to wait for the really important things... ;)

Check out this movie:

http://www.afsc.org/iraq/movie.htm

Then sign the petition at the friends site.

It is clear that continued US military in Iraq is not helping the situation but making it worse since the resistance is resolute and rapidly devolving into civil war as Iraqis draw lines between those who support the American-backed government (that is seen by many as a puppet government doing American bidding) and those who oppose what they see as American occupation of and interference in their country. That the lines can be drawn along sectarian lines only makes matters worse, and it won't be long until there is all out civil war between sunnis and shias, supporters of the government and resistors.

It is time the US pulled out and let an international, UN peacekeeping force take over, so that the Iraqis can get on with rebuilding their country and working through the tensions between the various communities that have to live together in that land. Of course, we have a responsibility to facilitate that with financial, technical, and practical assistance, but we need to get our troops out, so that rebuilding can take place a lot more rapidly and sanely.
 
Friday, November 25, 2005
  Christianity, Islam, Interpretive Dance
The service that I went to Sunday reminded me 1) how little I really know about Christian culture and 2) precisely why I'm not a Christian (always a good thing!).

On point one...

There was one segment of the service which consisted of "interpretive dance." This is aparently becoming more and more common in church services and some churches even have instituted dance ministries. I have no idea where or with whom this all started, but the performance at this particular service really surprised me. Two black boys were dancing/acting out a song about Jesus Christ. They were wearing "white face."

To me, the implications of these two black kids wearing white makeup were really uncomfortable -- ranging from an in your face commentary on the Unity service (yeah, we're all unified as long as we pretend to be white...) to a disturbing interpretation of the Christ story along the lines of white is good, white is pure, white is saved, I'm white... which, at least at certain levels, leaves our two black performers (and the black members of congregation) out in the cold.

Neither one of these interpretations seemed to be their intent, nor did the audience seem upset, so I assume they didn't see it the way I was feeling it. I did some looking around and one website interpreted the use of white face as saying the actors are dead to the world -- ie their eyes are on heaven -- and white is the color of death in all cultures. Another referenced the Poirot/mime tradition since the dance is wordless, and like a mime performance, tries to convey meaning through motion. A black acquaintance who used to do clowning said she always felt like the white face reminded people that nothing about her what white, that whatever whiteness they might see in her behavior was just a facade.

I doubt these kids were that sophisticated. And it appears to be a widely accepted trend:



Whatever their intent, the whole incident certainly made me think about sensitivity and hypersensitivity. Here I was, a white person, feeling disturbed about this white face, when a lot of black folks I talked to, and in the audience watching, didn't seem to be bothered by it at all. Sometimes, I think we can go overboard being too sensitive and read things into something that simply don't exist. And yet, it seems if you have to err, better to err on the side of over-sensitivity rather than under.

This issue always comes up around this time of year for me anyway, given Thanksgiving. On the one hand, I love the idea of Thanksgiving -- a celebration that people of different races, religions, with different languagesm, customs, and world views can live in harmony, helping each other live better lives and survive difficult times. And yet, I hate that the spirit of Thanksgiving was betrayed only a few short years after the event it commemorates. I deplore the treatment of Native Americans, the arrogance with which they were viewed, and the genocide perpetrated against them. As a Mayflower descendant, I am truly thankful that the pilgrims survived that winter, but I'm also stricken that my ancestors were part of the great western expansion that forced the native population from their homelands. And yet, I recognize that this is the way of mankind. Kingdoms are usurped by new kings, the visigoths invaded Europe, the Mongols sacked Baghdad.

Of course, there are other considerations as well. Since my kids aren't participating in other "american" holidays such as Christmas or Easter, I figure it's good to let them participate in this one, with a little consciousness-raising at the same time.

Nonetheless, I figure it's good for me, and for them, to feel a bit queasy about it, much as I felt queasy at the black face.

As for part two... That'll have to come tomorrow
 
Thursday, November 24, 2005
  Happy Thankgiving

Thanksgiving at the Taylor/Khalid household (with friend Khadija ElAlami)


My dinner plate!

Yummy yum!

Not pictured: 1 cherry cobbler (made with cherries from our own trees), 1 pumpkin pie, and 1 chocolate pudding pie with fresh, homemade whipped cream!

A new feature this year: October Ale (non-alcholic ala gingerale) and Strawberry Fizz based on popular drinks at Redwall Abbey... I guess I can feel good that I have got my girls hooked on reading!
 
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
  Jose Padilla and the Supreme Court
By now everyone has heard that "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla is no longer being held as an enemy combatant; he has been released to civil authorities to be charged with conspiracy to kill American's overseas. (No mention is made of the alleged dirty bomb that has become synonmous with Padilla's name.)

One can't help but wonder how the government can swear up and down for three years that this man is an enemy combatant and should have no rights to meet with his legal representation, to be charged and see, or even worse, challenge, the evidence against him, to ask for bail or judicial review, and then just decide to reverse their decision. So, what...they were wrong these past three years?? They made a mistake that cost him three years of his life? What if they hadn't changed their minds? Without any judicial review or process by which an "enemy combatant" can challenge his or her status, it's totally conceivable that they could have held a potentially innocent man for dozens of years. The case of Captain Yee comes to mind...

Many commentators are speculating the sudden swing had to do with the government's fears that they would lose a Supreme Court case designed to test the government's power to strip away rights guaranteed in the constitution from an American citizen.

"Today's move is an attempt to take this action away from the Supreme Court so that the [government] can continue to exercise these powers, maybe not against Padilla but against other Americans in the next few years," said Timothy Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice. "They saw this case moving to the Supreme Court and, in my view, they came to the conclusion that the Supreme Court was going to reject this theory and say that these powers the president was asserting are illegal and violate the bill of rights."

One hopes the move fails, and that the Supreme Court delivers their verdict which was expected at the end of next week. Certainly the government's glib flip-flopping on Padilla's status ought to give the Court plenty of reason to issue a verdict, especially if it was going to rule that the government does not have the power to strip citizens of their due process rights.

A full write up can be found at: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1132653917855
 
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
  Yay! It's Snowing!!
Sitting in my office (which is tucked into a corner of my bedroom...) I can see the snow swirling around outside. This is the second snow of the year, and the sight makes me feel so happy and full of joy at nature's beauty!



I know there are some people who will be moaning and groaning, but if it's gonna be cold, then I'd rather there be snow on the ground than not.

And for those of you who might be interested in what my workspace looks like, here it is (when it's clean, which isn't too often...)



As you can see from the close up, I now have three Chinese paintings on the wall:



The first I got in XiAn during my second trip to China, when I stayed there for a year. The second two I got at an artshowing in Beijing when I returned in 2002. My two favorite groups of painters are the impressionists (especially Renior, Monet, and Cassat) and the landscape style of Chinese painting.

 
Monday, November 21, 2005
 
The historic declaration by the OIC on childhood issues, including FGM, honor killing and child brides, is now online at:

http://www.oic-oci.org/press/english/November%202005/DeclarationEng.pdf

Once again, one can only hope the steps recommended therein will be implemented so these blights on Muslim communities across the world can be eradicated.
 
Sunday, November 20, 2005
  On being a Reporter
I love being a reporter!

For one, I learn so much, and go to events I would not otherwise go to. For instance, today I went to a multicultural worship service on assignment for NUVO. This is not the sort of thing I would have gone to since it was specifically designed to bring together Christians of different denominations and races (white and black).

Yet, it was fascinating (from a sort of anthropological point of view). While parts of the sevice were uncomfortable for a person who isn't Christian (especially one who has consciously rejected the concept of Trinity), some of the songs would be totally acceptable as nasheed (Islamic songs of praise) and the sermon was a demonstration of what a sermon ought to be -- uplifting, emotional, personal -- most of which is missing in many khubahs (the sermon during Muslims' Friday prayers.) It seems too often the only time khateebs get worked up is when they are berating their congregation for assumed shortcomings, or when they are talking about the oppression of Muslims around the world. I wish more imams went to Christian churches to learn how to inspire their followers rather than try and scare them into behaving well!

Number Two benefit... being on assignment gives me an excuse to go up and talk to people I would never talk to. Believe it or not, I'm naturally shy. Get me in a crowd and I usually clam up. At an event like this, I would stand on the fringe, watching people greet each other and then slip out to my car without having said a word to a soul. With a title behind me (and the need to get quotes for a story), I manage to meet a lot of people.
 
Saturday, November 19, 2005
  On Writing and Neuroses
I have often said that if one were not insane when one started writing, attempting to get one's work published will certainly drive over the cliff. My latest ups and downs... the publishers who had acepted my short story, Peaceful Conclusions, for their anthology have decided that anthology sales are not doing well, even though their past anthologies have won Eppies, and that they are no longer going to be publishing anthologies.

This is reminiscient of various publications that I have written for and which folded after some months or even just before my article was supposed to be published. Not to mention the children's book publisher that went out of business -- TWICE! -- before I could send back my signed contract. Or the one who is holding onto my first novel manuscript; it's been three and a half years now, though they consistently tells me that they are indeed still considering it. (I know it's on the long side, but really, if it's taking them that long to read it, well, we'd better not go there...)

Of course, the worst part is the waiting. Waiting to hear back from magazine editors, agents, publisers, contests. It's like the life cycle of the butterly, only sort of mixed up. You start as a caterpillar -- growing like crazy (ok, your manuscript growing like crazy, but you get the idea.) Then you go into cocoon state, let the juices stew around a bit, and emerge as a larvae. (I told you it was rather mixed up.) Then you edit like crazy until you are ready to go back into your chrysalis. Only you don't decide when -- or even if! -- you are going to emerge. You hang out, at first expecting succour at any moment. Then you start dozing off; it's rather dull in a chrysalis. If things are really bad, your knight in shining armor (pardon the mixed metaphor...) will email you saying, I'm sending this off to the editorial board, or I think the executive editor will really like this, or can you send me the full manuscript, before he disappears into the sunset for another three (or four or five) months. If you're lucky he'll come back. If not, you never hear another peep, or perhaps he'll hail you from a distant hilltop -- alas, I pass.

Of course, that is all balanced out by the acceptances. The glory of seeing one's words in print. Or better yet, of having someone tell you, I really enjoyed that piece you wrote. Ah heaven. Money's not bad either, when you can finagle it.

In my own personal saga of ups and downs, the publisher who just said no to anthologies offered to publish the story as a stand alone offering as a part of a new publishing program of short stories and novellas that they are starting. Now I have to dedice if I want to be on the ground floor of this new program, and if it's going to be worth the time/nervous energy/nailbiting/daily (or hourly!) trips to the publishers equivalent of statcounter, etc. It would be pretty cool, and I think the publisher has got a decent reputation. Plus they publish Piers Anthony and some other big name authors so they should have more pull than some small publishers. Of course, it doesn't qualify for sfwa, but that's not the only standard in the sky. And it might not make me enough money to take my kids to see the next Harry Potter film (I mean movie 5, I saw movie 4 today.), but what the heck, it just might.
 
Friday, November 18, 2005
  Islamic Charities cleared
In 2003, Senator Grassley called for an investigation into some two dozen American Muslim charities. IRS records were requested. This week Senator Grassley's commission declared that the charities have ALL been cleared. No funding of terrorism to be found.

Once in a while it feels good to be able to say, "I told you so."

Of course, this remains unreported in the major media, and on the dozens of websites that had a field day when Grassley announced the probe, declaring Muslims in America to be a fifth column and so on. The media and such websites are interested only in the three or four cases of Muslim charities being shut down, and the insituation of guilt, not the proclamation of innocence off the two dozen organizations who were deemed to be sound charitable institutions devoted to good works.

The charities that were cleared include:

The SAAR Foundation and all members and related entities
Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA)
Muslim Student Association
Muslim World League
International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) or Internal Relief Organization(IRO)
Al Haramain Foundation
Alavi Foundation
Institute of Islamic and Arabic Science in America (IIASA)
Islamic Assembly of North American
Help the Needy
Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
Islamic Foundation of America
United Association for Studies and Research (USAR)
Solidarity International and/or Solidarity USA
Kind Hearts
Islamic American Relief Agency and/or Islamic African Relief Agency
Islamic Society of North America
International Islamic Relief Organization
World Assembly of Muslim Youth
Rabita Trust
Human Appeal International


A report from the Indianapolis Star, one of two places you can locate the story on the web via google and altavista, the other being FortWayne.com

----
November 15, 2005

Indiana-based Islamic Society cleared in Senate investigation
Senate committee concludes investigation of Muslim groups in U.S., finds no wrongdoings

By Robert King

A U.S. Senate committee found nothing "alarming" in the financial records of the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America and nearly two dozen other Muslim groups the committee reviewed searching for terrorist connections.

"Of course we were sure that nothing would come out with regard to ISNA, but it is good to see that they have come to that conclusion as well," said Louay Safi, executive director of an Islamic Society program that develops new Muslim leaders. The Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North America is the largest Muslim umbrella organization in North America.

In seeking the tax records of the Muslim groups in December 2003, Senate Finance Committee leaders said they would look at the "crucial role that charities and foundations play in terror financing" and that "often these groups are nothing more than shell companies."

But almost two years later, the committee has concluded its work with no plans to issue a report, forward any findings to law enforcement agents, hold hearings or propose new legislation.

"We did not find anything alarming enough that required additional follow-up beyond what law enforcement is already doing," U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the committee, said in a statement. "If something in the future does cause new concern, we will continue the investigation."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal authorities have shut down a few of the largest Muslim charities in the United States under suspicion of funneling money to terrorists. Similar freezes have been placed on assets of organizations in other parts of the world.

The end of the committee's investigation came as welcome, if not unexpected, news for officials at the Islamic Society of North America, which tries to promote a positive image of Islam in the United States and help recent immigrants acclimate to life in America. The group's convention is the largest annual gathering of Muslims in North America.

The society, which is considered the largest Muslim umbrella organization in North America, complied with an Internal Revenue Service request to turn over financial records shortly after the Senate Finance Committee announced its intentions, Safi said.

"We cooperated with their investigation. We provided records. I am glad to hear this has been concluded," Safi said.

The Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over tax matters, said it had a responsibility to ensure charities abide by the law. In its original letter to the IRS seeking the records, the committee said Muslim groups have used their reputations as charities and foundations to escape scrutiny.

But on Monday, Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine said it is important to remember that an investigation is "not an accusation of wrongdoing." No report came at the end of the review because the financial information involved is confidential, Levine said.

Safi said he understands that the terrorist threat requires the government's vigilance. But he said it is disheartening how innocent Muslim organizations have been "smeared" in this process.
The Senate investigation was widely reported, casting doubt on the Islamic Society at a time many Muslims in the United States were viewed suspiciously because of the terrorist attacks on Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the Senate Finance Committee had gone on a "fishing expedition" that did nothing but reinforce the idea that Muslims are guilty until proven innocent when it comes to terrorism accusations.

"Unfortunately," Iftikhar said, "I think this is indicative of federal law enforcement's dragnet against the American Muslim community."

Copyright the Indianapolis Star, with permission
 
Thursday, November 17, 2005
  A poem worth reading
This was written by a Muslimah friend of mine. I think it speaks well enough for itself.


I Thought... I Was Wrong
By Widad

I thought you were my brother
I thought I was your sister
I am Muslim...
But who are you?

Your goal is an Islamic State
To get there you use death and hate
Is your goal Jannah ?
Or the Hell on Earth you create?

At what price?

You kill me again and again
You seal your fate
I thought you were my brother
I thought I was your sister...
I was wrong

I am every child you blow up
I am every woman you rip to shreds
I am every body charred and limbless
I am every headless man
You hid in a shallow grave

I am Muslim

You lie to our children
Suicide bombers you make
Never worrying at all
That it is Jannah they forsake

You bomb schools and masjids
You tear families apart
You create hunger, want and need
It is from the Ummah you depart

You celebrate with weapons
Held high above your heads
Muslims weep after your destructive wake
It is Allah you forsake

I thought you were my brother
I thought I was your sister
I thought you were Muslim
I was wrong

You are not my brother
I am not your sister
You are a Killer!
Look in a mirror and you will see

You are Islam's Enemy

copyright 2005
(Posted with permission of the author. Please respect copyright!)
 
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
  Guru Nanak's Birthday
Today is the birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, the world's fifth largest religion. (By some counts... others include things like agnostics/athiests who may outnumber Sikhs, but which is arguably not a relgion, or some put "african tribal religions" or "chinese spiritualisms" as a group -- a dubious thing at best as they may have wildly divergent beliefs.)

Either way, Sikhism is not well-known in the West, where there is a growing community of Sikh.

The Sikh Council of the USA's website has a wealth of information on this religion, as does sikhs.org. Check them out!

Here is a short introduction from allaboutsikhs.com

INTRODUCTION
Over twenty million Sikhs follow a revealed, distinct, and unique religion born five centuries ago in the Punjab region of northern India. Between 1469 and 1708, ten Gurus preached a simple message of truth, devotion to God, and universal equality. Often mistaken as a combination of Hinduism and Islam, the Sikh religion can be characterized as a completely independent faith:
Sikhism rejects idolatry, the caste system, ritualism, and asceticism. It recognizes the equality between both genders and all religions, prohibits the intake of any intoxicants, and encourages an honest, truthful living. Sikhs have their own holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Written, composed, and compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. While the Sikhs hold their Gurus in high reverence, they are not to be worshipped; Sikhs may only worship God.

Members of the Sikh community are mainly concentrated in their homeland, Punjab; however, substantial Sikh populations exist throughout the rest of India and the world. Punjabi, a variant of the Hindi language with some Persian influence, is the spoken and written language of the Sikh people. Male members of the Sikh religion use the name, Singh (lion), as their middle or last name, while females use the name, Kaur (princess). Sikhs tend to be industrious and pioneering; this accounts for their general success wherever they live and settle. The hard-working nature of the Sikhs is derived from their religion, which can be best characterized as a faith of unlimited optimism.

Who is a Sikh:
A Sikh is any person whose faith consists of belief in One God, the ten Sikh Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures and teachings of the Sikh Gurus. Additionally, he or she must believe in the necessity and importance of `Amrit’, the Sikh baptism.

God and the Sikhs:
According to the Sikh belief, God is all omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. The sun, moon/s, wind, fire, water, vegetation and all other things which exist are His witnesses. A Sikh must worship only the abstract form of God. The worship of images or any other object is strictly forbidden.

God is both the creator and the destroyer. He is beyond birth and death. He is both merciful and compassionate. He is beyond fear and enmity. He is self illuminated. He is the Master of all the treasures. All our possessions are a result of His grace.

The Sikhs call God as Waheguru, meaning the most wonderful Master.

The belief of the Sikhs in Waheguru is similar to that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam i.e., God is the greatest power, He is supreme, He is the king of kings, He pervades everywhere, He knows the inner thoughts of everyone, He is the giver, He existed before the start of the time, He existed when the time was started, He exists now and He will exist forever.

Relationship with God:
The Sikh Gurus called Waheguru as Master and themselves as his servants. In some hymns
they called Him as Father, Mother, Friend and Brother as well1. Like Jesus Christ, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, in one of his hymns, called himself as God’s son2.

Universality:
Sikhism does not believe in asceticism, celibacy or living alone at mountains or in caves or in forests in the search of Truth and God. It also rejects the orders of monasteries. For a Sikh the true life is the life of a householder. Living in a family environment and by serving the community both Truth and God can be realised. Thus it rejects the order of monks (Buddhism and Jainism) and nuns (Christianity).

The Sikh teachings are based on the principles of Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of humankind.

Sikhism rejects the concept of chosen people (as in Judaism) and caste system (as in Hinduism); it also rejects the concept of entering `Nirvana’ without the blessings of God (as in Buddhism and Jainism).

In a Sikh temple people of all the faiths are welcome. The Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib also has in it the hymns composed by both Hindu and Muslim saints of various denominations.
The first five baptised Sikhs, called the beloved ones, were also from both lower and upper Hindu castes. They were the first Khalsa, the pure ones:

Bhai Daya Singh, aged 30, a Khatri from Lahore (Punjab) Bhai Dharam Singh, aged 33, a Jat from Delhi Bhai Mohkam Singh, aged 36, a washerman from Dwarka (Gujrat) Bhai Sahib Singh, aged 37, a barber from Bidar (Karnatak) Bhai Himmat Singh, aged 39, a water carrier from Puri (Orissa)

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth prophet of the Sikhs, urged his followers to drop caste symbols after their names and instead write a common surname: Singh, meaning lion, for men and Kaur, meaning princess for women.

The Khalsa:
A baptised Sikh is called Khalsa, who must observe and follow strict code of conduct.
He must-
worship only one Almighty God,
recite five prescribed banis (hymns) everyday
learn Punjabi language and read Guru Granth Sahib,
wear and observe the significance of five Ks: kesh -uncut hair, kanga-a small comb, kara-a stainless steel bracelet, kirpan - a sword and kuchcha - an underwear.
live a truthful life and treat all humans as equal He must not-
cut body hair
eat kosher meat,
smoke, take drugs or intoxicants,
have faith in black magic, superstitions, charms and rituals
Rules, Concepts and Commandments:

A Sikh lives by the rules made for him by the ten Gurus. The fundamental rules, concepts and the commandments are as follows:
Worship of God
Worship only God and no one else.
Make worship and prayer a part of your daily life.
Do not make images of God, worship him in his abstract form.
Truthful life and honest living
Work hard and work with honesty.
Lead a truthful life.
Share your earnings with others.
Help the needy and the poor.
Love your children.
Respect your parents.
Do not harm others.
Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of man
Believe that everyone is the child of God.
Believe that all human-beings are equal.
Do not discriminate on the basis of colour, religion, cast and creed.
Rituals and Superstitions.
Do not believe in any rituals and superstitions.
Do not believe in the worship of images, tombs and graves.
Social and Family Guidelines
Do not take alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
Do not eat halal meat.
Do not eat any food which inflames the passions.
Be true to your parents and children.
Do not steal.
Do not gamble.
Love and respect your guests.
 
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
  On Hiatus in Houston
I have been "relaxing" the past few days in Houston after a rather grueling two-day drive from Indianapolis to Goodrich (which is about two hours north and east of Houston.) Catching up with my brother, sister-in-law and cutie pie nephews, Eli and Ezra, as well as my mom and dad.


Guess who's who...






 
Friday, November 11, 2005
  Concerts
Ani, songwriter and the only Muslim woman to win a grammy award, will be performing this weekend in NJ. If you are in that area, it's well worth going.

Sunday, Nov 13th: The Noor-va-Danesh CulturalCenter.
Show: 4-6pm.
Address:66 East Pierrepont Ave, Rutherford, New Jersey

Monday, Nov 14th: Bergen Community College's Interfaith Week.
Show: 1:30-2:30pm
Address: 400 Paramus Road, Paramus, New Jersey 07652
For more info: 201-447-7200 or www.bergen.edu


You can find Ani on the web at: http://www.ilhamproductions.com/ or her personal site: www.a-n-i.net.
 
Thursday, November 10, 2005
  Congrats to Louise
A friend of mine, Louise Marley, has won an Endeavor Award for her book The Child Goddess. The book is well-deserving of winning the award (and many others). While The Child Goddess raises issues of contact gone awry, what it means to be human, and the politics of corporations, the most gripping part (to me) revolves around the struggle of the central character, Isabel, to live a life of devotion and faith despite a lack of religious feeling. Isabel is a female catholic priest; her order is considered by some to be heretical, by others to be saintly. Set against this backdrop, the story follows her personal challenges with interplanetary ethics, personal relationships, and corporate manuevering, exploring her determination to hold onto her faith, and act faithfully with or without feeling. I have to say, I found Isabel's unfolding story to be one of the best examinations of what it means to have faith that I've come across in a long time.

If you're in the mood for a good read, check out The Child Goddess.
 
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
  Mourning Jordan; Islamic states take on FGM, child brides, and honor killings
Inna Ilahi wa Inna Alaihi Rajiun -- to Him do we belong and to Him do we return. The traditional Muslim condolence for those who have lost a loved one. While it is hardly surprising that terrorists would attack in Jordan, it is definately a sad day for the prospects of a peaceful world. Jordan has of late been one of the more moderate and humane voices coming out of the Middle East. No wonder someone wants to disrupt their society and their position in the world.

On a more positive note, representatives of 50 Islamic states gathered in Rabat, Morocco, for a two day conference and came out with a statement against FGM (female circumcision) reiterating that it is completely against Islamic teachings. They also took a strong stands against the pratice of marrying off daughters at a very young age and honor killings, encouraging Muslim countries to enact laws and social programs to combat these various problems.

A full report can be found here: http://www.afrol.com/articles/17176
 
Monday, November 07, 2005
  Earthquake Relief
It's easy to send a single check and feel you have made your contribution, but the thousands and thousands of Pakistanis, Kashmiris, and Indians who remain in the devastated regions of those countries are facing winter without homes, food, warm clothing... our compassion cannot peter out along with the media attention and news stories.

November 8th is the 1 month anniversary of the Earthquake. There will be vigils and fundraising in cities around the globe. Please join a vigil. Please remember the survivors as you prepare for Thanksgiving feasts here at home.

For more info on the vigils, click here
 
Saturday, November 05, 2005
  Moving Day
Yesterday evening, I flew out to Boston to help my parents move from my childhood home. Today we left the old place behind. It was a sad leave taking as the developer who purchased it is likely to tear down the house and put in townhomes. He stands to make an extra $200,000 if he builds town homes rather than subdividing the 3.5 acres and putting two more houses on it. To him, it's just an old house.

Even if I hadn't grown up there, I would mourn it being torn down. It was built in the 1820s, and while there have been many changes to it so that it is not exactly a historical house (the barn was converted into a livingroom and loft bedroom, the walkway between the house and the barn was converted into a kitchen, the front entry was redone, a huge fieldstone fireplace was added), it has a character that new houses, and certainly new townhomes do not have, and never will have. Not long ago, an old home was torn down not far from where I lived in Indianapolis, and I mourned it's destruction too. The big old windows, the symetrical design, the steep slope of the roof -- all of it combined to give the house a warm, homey feeling, and an architectural beauty that the newer homes with their 1 window per room and vinyl siding can never hope to attain.

I wish more people valued character and beauty in homes, rather than extra square footage, freedom from ever having to paint siding, and production cost reduction. I wish they valued the heritage and history that is being destroyed. I wish that the bottom line was not what determines every business decision made these days. I wish corporations worried less about continually growing profits and market share and more about paying their workers a good salary, providing safe and pleasant working conditions, and nice benefits, while maintaining decent profits.

Of course, that's not going to happen. And so we will lose beautiful old homes to the ugly new homes being built these days.

Of course, also, this is not only happening in America. Saudi Arabia is about to bulldoze the Prophet's birthplace to make a new hotel and parking lot (full story below). It's a far greater loss than my old home, but it represents the same kind of thinking -- history isn't important, preserving things isn't important, money is.

Maybe the developer will relent, hopefully enough pressure can be put on Saudi Arabia to save the Prophet's home.
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http://www.islamicity.com/m/news_frame.asp?Frame=1&referenceID=21986

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: The Saudi embassies in Washington, Ottawa and London are likely to be soon flooded with mail from shocked Muslims urging that the birthplace of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) not be bulldozed.

A report in the London newspaper The Independent, says, "Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage."

According to progressive Canadian Muslim broadcaster and activist, Toronto-based Tarek Fatah, in January 2002, Turkey accused Saudi Arabia of a 'cultural massacre' following the demolition of an historic Ottoman castle near the holy city of Mecca. The spat between Turkey and Saudi Arabia barely caused a stir anywhere in the Muslim world, let alone international circles. The Ottoman fort?s destruction is not the only massacre of culture that the Saudis have done in the name of money and Islam. In the 1980s, they demolished part of the two hills of Safaa and Marwah to build a palace for the late King Khaled.

These historic hills were where Abraham left Hagar, and where Muslims during Haj run between the two hills to commemorate Hagar's search for water for her infant son. Not one Imam or Muslim leader protested. After all millions of dollars have the power of silencing even the most pious. But that is not all. The Saudis are now planning to destroy the very house of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Independent article quotes Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect, "What we are witnessing are the last days of Mecca and Medina." According to Dr Angawi - who has dedicated his life to preserving Islam?s two holiest cities - as few as 20 structures are left that date back to the lifetime of the Prophet 1,400 years ago and those that remain could be bulldozed at any time. "This is the end of history in Mecca and Medina and the end of their future," said Dr Angawi. The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism.

The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists' fanatical fear that places of historical and religious interest could give rise to idolatry or polytheism, the worship of multiple and potentially equal gods. Idolatry is punishable be beheading in the kingdom.

According to the London newspaper, "The Wahhabists now have the birthplace of the Prophet in their sights. The site survived redevelopment early in the reign of King Abdul al-Aziz ibn Saud 50 years ago when the architect for a library there persuaded the absolute ruler to allow him to keep the remains under the new structure. That concession is under threat after Saudi authorities approved plans to 'update' the library with a new structure that would concrete over the existing foundations and their priceless remains." Dr Angawi says that the bulldozers could come "at any time" and the Prophet's birthplace would be gone in a single night. Ali al-Ahmed, the head of the Gulf Institute has said, "The destruction of Islamic landmarks in Hijaz is the largest in history, and worse than the desecration of the Koran."

Dr Angawi has said, "The man-made history of Mecca has gone and now the Mecca that God made is going as well. The projects that are coming up are going to finish them historically, architecturally and environmentally." The kingdom cannot cope with the increase in the number of pilgrims and new hotels, apartments and services are badly needed, director of a leading Saudi estate agency told Reuters.

Ahmed does not see that as the reason. According to him, "The service of pilgrims is not the goal really. If they were concerned for the pilgrims, they would have built a railroad between Mecca and Jeddah, and Mecca and Medina. They are removing any historical landmark that is not Saudi-Wahhabi, and using the prime location to make money."
 
Friday, November 04, 2005
  Oh Sweet Lunch!
Nothing like lunch on Eid. :)

Today I'll have mine with the kids at school. Thankfully, school lunch ain't what it used to be... it's a whole lot better.
 
Thursday, November 03, 2005
  Eid Mubarak!
 
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
  Interesting Thoughts on Outreach
Ok, quickie post. Burning Blue Soul has a very interesting entry on dawah (prosletyzing) and I have to say, I agree with a lot of what he (she?) says. A lot of converts come into Islam and get a HUGE shock when they find out how far most of the community is from the delightful theology they thought they were embracing. I know I did. What happened to the egalitarian, anti-racist, economic and social justice, compassion for your neighbors, kindness to all, mercy for mankind I thought would be the center of Islamic congregations?? What happened to Rumi's love Allah and His creation so well it makes you cry with joy? Instead I found the worst of what had turned me off of church life -- backbiting, lying, petty jealousy and rivalry. Bleh.

Anyway, read Blue Soul's post, it's spot on.
 
  A Cause worth Supporting
A writing friend of mine, Yvonne Oots, forwarded me this press release about a new anthology that includes her story, Merlin. What a great way for writers to make a difference in the world! As someone who often writes with a polemical bent, I hope that my words make a difference in people's lives. This anthology goes one step further, by dedicating its profits to disaster relief. I hope you'll join me in supporting the effort.

----
Writing Community Unites to Write “Stories of Strength” for Disaster Relief

As they watched the coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, writers who had gathered on the AbsoluteWrite.com message boards decided not to sit by helplessly any longer. Instead, they set their pens and keyboards to work-- writing uplifting essays, short fiction, and poetry on the theme of “strength.” The result is the 316-page anthology Stories of Strength, with 100 percent of the proceeds to go to disaster relief charities, including the Red Cross, Americares, and the Salvation Army.

Headed by Jenna Glatzer, author of acclaimed Celine Dion biography For Keeps, this project attracted contributions from many well-known writers, including a story and an original hymn by award-winning science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card, an essay by famed actor Wil Wheaton (Star Trek, Stand By Me), and a short story from Christian romance author Robin Lee Hatcher.

With more than 100 pieces from writers all over the world, and the gracious efforts of prominent editors and graphic designers, Stories of Strength is a tribute to the human spirit: celebrating true stories of courage and endurance in challenging situations that range from the death of a child to living through natural disasters, to smaller-scale trials, dealing with returning an overdue book to the local Library Troll.

Alternating between tear jerking and humorous, Stories of Strength is guaranteed to inspire and remind readers that the human spirit knows no boundaries.

The writers hope to turn their words into sizeable long-term contributions to disaster relief charities. In addition to the writers’ donations, publishing company Lulu (http://www.lulu.com/) is generously donating its profits from the project. Lulu will also donate several media review copies.

Most writers are available for interviews, readings, and book signings.

For ordering details and for contact of writers in your local area go to http://www.storiesofstrength.com/. The book will be available direct from Lulu on November 1, 2005, and available to order from bookstores worldwide soon thereafter.

Book details:
Stories of Strength
Editor/Publisher: Jenna Glatzer
Publishing services provided by Lulu
ISBN: 1-4116-5503-6
Release date: November 1, 2005
316 pages
Price: $15.95
 
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
  Conference on Islamic Feminism
This is one I conference I really wish I could have attended... The first Conference on Islamic Feminism. With topics such as Islam and Feminism, Quranic Hermeneutics, Islam and Diversity, Progressive Islam, it would have been right up my alley. Fortunately, Ahmed Nassef, who is also Editor of MuslimWakeUp.com as well as a board member of the Progressive Muslim Union, was able to represent PMU. I hope to hear a full report over at MWU soon.

An article in the Daily Star reads: "'Islamic feminism is an emerging reality that must be seen as an alternative to the dominant chauvinist readings [of the Koran],' the statement (of the delegates) said, adding that the Koran 'does not justify patriarchy.'

The October 27 to 29 conference was organized by the Catalonian Islamic Board, whose secretary Abdel-Nour Prado called for a 'gender jihad' to 'struggle against male chauvinistic, homophobic or sexist readings of the sacred texts' during her presentation to the 400 delegates."

Amina Wadud once again delivered friday khutbah and led a mixed-gender congregation in prayers. The ball continues to roll! A quickie report on that is up at MWU, causing the usual furor.

Alhamdulillah, it is so good for Muslim feminists to have a place to come together, to be unabashedly feminist. More often than not, in the Muslim community, feminist is a dirty word, much as it is in certain American Christian circles. We have a long path to walk before the wider Muslim community embraces even very basic feminist notions, even though those notions have solid backing in the Qur'an. It's important for us to be able to show our support for one another, to bolster each other's activism, to live in a place where "feminist" is a badge of honor and pride, not something people look shocked to hear you claim as your identity.

As soon as I get a picture of it, I'll post me in my radical muslim feminist t-shirt. Until then, you can check it out at the source, hijabman (who's blog is definately an interesting read.)
 

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Name: Pamela Taylor
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm a stay-at-home mom/freelance writer/author. While I make a living at journalism and op-ed, my first love is fiction, particularly science fiction. I also write poetry, mostly of a religious bent.


What I'm reading now



SuperMom Saves the World
By Melanie Lynne Houser. The sequel to Confessions of Supermom. I've just started reading it, but before the end of the first page I was laughing out loud. A fun, fast-paced, light read that is perfect for the plane or that lazy day on the beach.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too.
MoveOn.org. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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