Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Silent Blogger is open to YOUR suggestions!!!

I haven't posted anything in a good long while. I had been very busy with some deadlines leading up to Thanksgiving. Now, I'm back to my normal schedule, still busy as always but with enough spare time to breathe and do a few other activities.

Thus, I've been meaning to and wanting to post for the last week but I'm unable to think of anything to say. I've been doing my usual reading, recently mostly the Quran with some Bible thrown in. I haven't read anything else like my occasional history or theology from any of my random sources. I've been going to church and jumuah like usual but nothing there has inspired me or made me wonder. I know there was at least one thing I read that I wanted to comment on but I didn't write it down and I've long since forgotten. It's very possible that the same has happened with sermons and khutbahs.

I don't think I'm in a slump of any sort; I just don't have anything to say at the moment. Therefore, I'm reaching out to my readers for suggestions. If you have anything you think I should look at or if there's anything relevant that's been on your mind, please suggest or comment. I really always intended on this being more of a forum than a blog, mostly because I was seeking advice and encouragement, so I'll steer more in that direction for the time being.

On that note, I also intend to look back over my old posts and their accompanying comments to see if they can get my brain working again. One comment suggested I talk to my local clergy in person and make use of the intimacy of one-on-one conversations that is lacking in online forums. I do intend to do that but I'm going to put it off until after Christmas just because I'd rather not have the many interruptions on both of our parts that accompany the season.

So for now, I'll just continue on my way doing my usual thing, reading and thinking. I actually do talk to people in person sometimes but it's a very select few and they're not formally trained in theology, just another lay person like myself.

Until I post again, which hopefully will be soon, peace be with you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Although I'm still busy and will be so until Thanksgiving rolls around, I've kept up with my reading to a lesser extent. I've had a few thoughts that I'll address sometime later when I have a bit longer.

However, for now, I just wanted to express something that struck me this morning in church. Throughout this process, I've been doing lots of reading and lots of talking. The reading helps me to be informed, the talking helps me to organize my thoughts and provide entertainment for my one reader, not to mention that I get valuable feedback that helps me further refine my thoughts. I've prayed lots for all my regular things but also a ton for guidance. I ask for forgiveness and patience during my time of wandering and confusion. Mostly, however, I ask to be led to God's truth, to God's path. I ask God to teach me right from wrong, to help me not to be misled by those who, intentionally or out of ignorance, point me in the wrong direction. I've been asking and begging and pleading and talking and talking and talking but just this morning I realized that I haven't really stopped to listen.

Whatever I'm reading, of course, speaks to whatever my current thoughts and concerns are. Often I find that reading is simply another form of listening. However, my prayers are just concerns, requests, complaints, and praises. I never take the time to allow God to use my prayer as a two-way communication medium.

So from now on, I'm going to try to give myself an extra few minutes whenever I explicitly pray* to just clear my head and listen. I suppose it's basically meditation but I prefer to think of it as changing my prayer from a monologue directed at God to a dialogue with God. Religion is all about one's relationship with God and a dialogue between two people seems much more indicative of a relationship than one person talking at another.

* Explicit prayer meaning when I stop and pray with the sole intention of praying as opposed to praying throughout my day during my regular, daily activities. I've been trying to keep God on my mind and in my heart all the time rather than just an occasional thought whenever I pray. If you truly love, honor, respect, and fear God, then you shouldn't have to actively think about Him, he should be in everything you think, say, and do without trying.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Religous Extremists

This is a topic that needs to be addressed at some point so I might as well have a go at it now. This part isn't so much for me as for critics who would immediately point at radical Islam and ask how I could even consider it as my religion.

My answer to that question is that it's very easy when you realize that radical Islam is just as representative of true Islam as radical Christianity is representative of true Christianity. By radical Christianity, I don't mean pro-life Catholics or born-again Biblical literalists, I mean the kind who take radical measures like bombing abortion clinics or missionaries who torture the natives into accepting Christianity or kill them in the process.

Even most non-Muslims are aware that the terrorist acts performed in the name of Islam are condemned by most of the Muslim world. However, the strict enforcement of what is called Sharia law is opposed by many conservative Muslims as well. I'm obviously far from well-educated when it comes to Islam but I think that many of the current oppressive Islamic regimes go against the teachings and spirit of Islam in their practices.

For instance, one issue that is frequently raised against Islam is its treatment of women. Even though Muslims will tell you that Islam glorifies women and promotes fair treatment of women, that is not the case in many Muslims countries. However, these strict laws are not taught by Islam but are simply the result of Muslim societies creating overly-strict laws by extending Islamic rules or simply perpetuating strict cultural practices and claiming that they are required by Islam.

The following quote is from this article on CNN about men and women at Hajj.
"Why do Muslim women seem to have fewer rights than their men?"
In theory, they don't. For about 1,500 years, women under Islamic laws have had rights that might have surprised their counterparts in other religions, such as the right to independent wealth and property -- which can even be kept private from a woman's husband. One staunch feminist living in Saudi Arabia pointed out in an interview that the arrival of Islam, particularly in Middle Eastern countries, actually improved conditions for women. She said before then, the pagan, often nomadic, tribes treated women like easily discarded property. Islam set standards that looked after women's interests and protected them from men.

In fact, Christianity has a long history of oppressing women that only recently ended. Without having to do any research, I knew Paul's statement that women should not speak in church and should ask their husbands any questions once they are in the privacy of their own homes. However, once I started doing a little research, it appears that Jewish and Christian teachings about women are usually more oppressive than the Islamic teachings. This article addresses many women's issues from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic perspectives with many quotes from the Bible and the Quran as well as rabbis and saints. Of all the topics addressed: education, impurity of women, witnessing, adultery, vows, property, divorce, motherhood, widowhood, polygamy, and the head cover, with the exception of the head cover, Islam actually does more to protect women and ensure their rights than Judaism and Christianity. When it comes to head coverings both Judaism and Christianity have a tradition of women covering their heads. There is nothing mentioned in the Old Testament, although there are apparently rabbinic teachings requiring head coverings. In the New Testament women are instructed to cover their heads when praying, a practice that is still observed by many older Orthodox women, I've noticed, but it makes no mention of their daily lives.

We ignore the fact that Christian culture, in its modernization, has gone against Biblical teachings about women and pushed for gender equality. For some reason, we choose not to treat Islam equally and blame the backwards state of certain Islamic regimes as culture but we blame it on the religion instead. If we go back to the Bible and even Christian tradition and look at Christianity rather than modern Christian cultures, we see that Christianity affords fewer rights to women than Islam.

My main point, throughout all this, is that the extreme practices, teachings, and actions done in the name of Islam does not fairly reflect the religion. Similarly, just because modern "Christian" countries have modernized and ensure certain rights to people does not mean that Christianity necessarily promotes those ideals. I guess, in summary, I'm saying to judge a religion first on its teachings and second on its followers and try to distinguish between those who truly practice the religion from those who carry out their own wishes in the name of that religion.

This post has somehow turned mostly into a discussion of women in Islam, although I believe that terrorist Islamic thinking is simply the extreme form of the same train of thought that leads to oppression of women. If terrorism needs to be addressed as its own subject, I can return to that later but I feel this expresses my general thoughts on religious extremism in general.

When it comes to Islamic extremism, people usually think of Taliban Afghanistan or Iran but I believe Saudi Arabia even goes far beyond Islamic teachings in its oppression of women. Islam's laws try to promote respect toward women by keeping them from being objectified as sexual objects. This requires a basic amount of modesty. Likewise, Islam teaches men to avoid tempting situations so as not to have impure thoughts. However, not permitting women to travel alone or drive cars is taking that to a far extreme. Just as the primary opinion is that a women's face and hands may be exposed for practical purposes, it is only practical to allow women to move about to conduct daily tasks. How can a woman work if she cannot travel without her husband? (Remember that Mohammad's first wife, Khadija, was a business woman.) Similarly, how can a non-working woman run errands, go shopping, take the kids to the doctor, or accomplish anything if she is always tied to her husband? I know my mom had a full time job just being a mom; if my dad had to accompany her while also keeping his employment, he never would have slept.

I'm interested in what Muslims have to say about this. I'm sure most think that the Taliban are extreme but will they sympathize with my opinions about Saudi as well?

(As a footnote, I feel like this post was even less connected and logical than most; maybe I'm just out of practice after such a long pause.)