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For years, the harms associated with cigarette smoking have been well known, and over time, society has responded with measures intended to dissuade cigarette smoking and inoculate the general public from its corrosive effects.  It began with restrictions on marketing cigarettes to teens, then included restrictions on the types of advertising mediums tobacco companies were allowed to utilize, and over time has come to include substantial taxation on a single pack of cigarettes and surgeon general warnings on cigarette packs.  More recently, the FDA has been considering the addition of ‘shock photos’– graphic images depicting the damages of smoking to further discourage cigarette smoking.
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Post 1 from Muslimmatters:

http://muslimmatters.org/2010/11/18/riyadh-as-saliheen-series-hadith-1-reward-for-intentions/

By Ulf Laessing Ulf Laessing – Thu Nov 18, 6:17 am ETMECCA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters Life!) – Saudi Arabia’s religious police keep such a low profile during the haj, it’s hard to imagine that you are in Islam’s holiest city.

The kingdom, where Islam first emerged around 1,400 years ago, applies a strict form of Sunni Islamic sharia law that imposes gender segregation, forces shops to close during prayer times and prohibits women from driving.

But in Mecca, the enforcement of many of these rules is relaxed during the haj, a duty for every able-bodied Muslim. And with the government investing billion of dollars in recent years to make pilgrimage safer and more comfortable, many pilgrims end up going home as goodwill ambassadors for the country.

“We have to thank Saudi Arabia for their services. It’s getting better and better every year,” said Ritha Naji, a U.S. pilgrim performing a “stoning of the devil” rite that has been the scene of numerous deadly crushes in recent years.

The Grand Mosque, home to the Kaaba shrine which Muslims around the world turn to in prayer every day, is the only place in the desert kingdom where women and men can pray together.
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Earlier today at lunch, a coworker and I were discussing the recent hooplah surrounding TSA’s invasive airport security.  During the discussion, we both agreed that the current model is unsustainable.  Although you might be able to convince the majority of people that body scanning is a necessary evil, there will remain a sizable portion of the population that refuses to subject themselves to the equivalent of a digital strip search or being groped by a security guard.  It was then that my coworker suggested looking at Israel as a model for airport security; I was oblivious to Israel’s airport security approach and didnt want to prejudge their approach based on my own misgivings with their domestic policies towards Palestinians, so I inquired as to what it was that made their approach worthy of being emulated.  He then explained that when someone checks in to a flight in an Israeli airport, they get asked a series of basic questions.  Depending on how an individual responds, along with their behavior throughout the questions, a person will either be permitted to proceed to their gate, or kept for further questioning/screening.
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Earlier this week I opined on the Juan Williams firing, stating that though it wasnt fair, NPR had the right to do so, and that the mainstream media is full with many such instances of columnists, pundits, and commentators being terminated as a result of expressing politically incorrect statements.

Today, I’m going to twist the question a little and attempt to address the following: how should the Muslim Community have responded to Juan Williams in the immediate aftermath of the comments?

Firstly, there is a large portion of the Muslim Community that feels perturbed at the many double standards apparent in the media.  This sentiment is best depicted on www.whatiftheyweremuslim.com, a site that chronicles other individuals committing acts which, if done by Muslims, would likely have resulted in some level of hysteria.  As a result of this disposition, civil rights organizations have formulated an approach for responding to instances of Islamophobia: send out a mass email, request constituents to bombard said organization/individual with demands for apology, and hope for said organization/individual to acquiesce to stated demands.  In many instances, the process works like clockwork.  In others, it does not.

In my humble opinion, this was one instance in which the aforementioned approach was unwarranted.  Juan Willaims statements may- and indeed were- bigoted, but Williams is no Robert Spencer.  He’s not even Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin.  He’s a liberal commentator, with a track record of speaking to the issues of civil rights and black leadership.  Saying that he gets worried when boarding a plane and seeing someone with Muslim garb on was extremely ignorant.  No argument there.  But I dont believe it was insidious, I dont believe his intent was to castigate Muslims everywhere, and I dont believe it should have been met with the level of repudiation it was, particularly by Muslim Civil Rights organizations.

In doing so, we create enemies.  I said earlier that Williams is no Rush Limbaugh.  Rush Limbaugh has a history of making inflammatory statements against groups, and Williams does not.  But in inflating the controversy, we run the risk of turning him into a Limbaugh.  Jon Stewart, for instance, has gone to bat for Muslim causes a number of times, as have Keith Olbermann and others.  If Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh both came on the air and made the same statements Williams did, I’d be calling for Limbaugh to get fired, whereas for Stewart, I believe simply getting a Muslim leader on the phone with him would do a lot towards changing his mind.  Even if it didnt change his mind entirely, he’d still be advocating for Muslim rights in the future, and in doing so we’d retain an ally in an age where there are far too few people in the media willing to ally themselves with Muslim causes.

Williams is now a full time commentator on Fox News.  I suspect that his rhetoric against Muslims will get increasingly hostile as time goes on, and I can only hope that after this entire episode is over, he’s able to maintain some level of objectivity when it comes to addressing the many issues which involve Muslims in some way, shape, or form.

As a final note, in the spirit of fairness, I will say that I’m not sure how much Muslim civil rights organizations factored into NPR’s decision.  It appears that the firing was the result of a long standing dissatisfaction with Williams and his relationship with Fox News, and not the result of consultation from CAIR/MPAC or anyone else.  My assessment still holds, as I’m sure a nuanced press release from Muslim organizations would have made firing Williams more precarious for NPR, to say the least.  And Allah Knows Best.

A NEW POST!!!

After a roughly two month long hiatus, rest easy my friends, for a new post has finally arrived 🙂

Consider this another in a series of random thoughts concerning a variety of topics that piqued my interest over the past few months….

-The NFL and its recent rule changes regarding big hits: lost in much of the machismo being expressed by players is the reality that football is simply a devastating game to play for ones health. The fact is that as fans, we love the barbarism that comes with watching a football game; the stunning hits incite an awe in the ability of men whose frames are sculpted nothing short of statuesque and whose tackling pedagogy was conceived in adolescence. But once that barbarism penetrates the abstract and enters into reality, discomfort sets in. We dont want to see our childhood sports heroes in wheelchairs suffering brain damage, penniless, living in retirement homes sans proper medical coverage, because it brings to light what we know deep inside-that football is, at times, nothing short of primitive savagery akin to animal hunts in Roman Colosseums. Is it wrong then to be a fan? I dont believe so. But there is an evident hypocrisy with fans who watch football believing it to be like any other sport. It is not. It is far more violent, results in far more injuries, and inhibits the quality of life for many of its participants post retirement. As long as that is understood, we can begin to speak about football in real terms, and that as long as there is football, there will be injuries, players getting carted off the field, defenders getting fined for big hits, and the occasional paralysis and/or loss of life.

-Juan Williams was recently fired from NPR for comments that NPR says “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.” Since, there has been much criticism levied against NPR, and I dont believe there should be. NPR has the right to fire whomever they want, under whatever grounds they want. Rick Sanchez was fired for criticizing Jon Stewart and questioning whether or not Jews could really constitute a true ‘minority’ given their accomplishments in Corporate America. Helen Thomas was fired for a recorded statement that told Israel to “get the hell out of Palestine” and called on Jews to “Go home.” Don Imus was fired for calling a womens basketball team “nappy headed ho’s.” Fox News fired E. D. Hill for calling Barack Obama’s dap with Michelle Obama a “terrorist fist jab.” As much as ‘political correctness’ is mocked by pundits these days, there is a standard by which news correspondents are asked to abide by, and once they contravene that standard (which is admittedly subjective), their job is in jeopardy. I dont pretend that its fair, but its the nature of the beast.

-My alma mater, GMU, is hosting a conference this weeked entitled, “New Approaches to Quran and Exegesis” which I plan to attend, inshaAllah. Not sure what to expect, but it should be interesting.

-Looking forward to Beautiful Patience with Shaykh AbdulBary in December, inshaAllah.

9/11 Happened to Us All