Saturday, April 30, 2011


I just caught the tail end of a commercial on Starz for Torwhood: Miracle Day.

WTF is this? Is this the 'American Torchwood' I've heard about and been ignoring?

Friday, April 29, 2011

SPN - Mommy Dearest

Title is a ref. to Joan Crawford and her uh, special child rearing tactics, I'm sure.


That line alone is what will get you killed.

I am overly amused that the background music for the bar scene was 'I Believe in Miracles'.

Dean, man, if you're human, why would it work on you?

I- the- the LOOK when Cas stopped saying- I- *dies of slashy glee*

Hi Tara! Lenore!

Oh, yeah. No one saw this coming. *rolls eyes*

Good boy Cas. Also, that was a tad cold. The whole, 'we needed to movie this along'.

'smitey mcsmiterdon'

Good going Dean, now Cas is pouting.

Well that was easy.

Dean - 'tough love', not always the answer.


Dean saved his boyfriend!

The kids are totally plants....

Uh. I don't really have a lot to say, obviously. I'm too busy staring at the tv. Crowley caused this? That is...kind of ironic. And amusing.

Also, I love Mary Winchester's actresses.

Is Eve lying or on crack? Or is Crowley really alive?

*ponders* Is Cas doing something with the souls in heaven?

I really do like Eve. I mean, she's not a nice...let's go with 'person', but I like her. I like her...

The kids. What'd I say? Yeah. That's right. Kids are evil. Supernatural has proved this.

Boys, just work for the mother of all monsters. Okay?

Noo.....that was way too easy. She can't be dead!

Dear Supernatural - please to stop killing off the cool female characters. Kay?

Crowley? Wait, does Meg still have Cas' sword? That'd explain the stab wound...

Not that Cas' sword is the only thing that can kill monsters, just I don't remember Meg giving it back.

Unless Cas and Crowley are working together. Huh. Maybe...all those souls...yeah. To win the war, I could see it.

CROWLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *is dead from glee*

preview: *flail* that is all

God Save the Queen! and the mosque thing again.

Or, uh...whatever they say. So I accidentally got up in time to watch William and Kate walk down the aisle. Her dress was gorgeous! Except for the train. I'm not a big train fan on wedding dresses. I mean, it was lovely and all, just not my thing. And we won't talk about how I DVR'd the event on two different channels so I can watch it all later. Because I don't care, really. Not British, don't have a monarch. And maybe that's the problem. The Kennedy's are all dead, and they were our 'royalty'. So now we need another family like that.


So I think I found an email address for the Imam of the local mosque. I tried to go back to the page I found it on today, but it appears to be having some difficulties. Anyway. Would it be appropriate to email the Imam directly? I wouldn't just email a priest directly...or is that just me?

Another thing is that there's this site called Why Islam that has this 'service' where you can email or call them and they will try to set up a visit to a local mosque. So.

Here's the thing. I'm obsessive. Not OCD, though I joke about that. Just obsessive. I get an idea and sometimes it sticks and it won't go away. At all. This has all the signs of being that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

VBV - Ch. 4 Pt. 3

The subheading for this one is 'The Wife as a Possession'. It's really very short. First we have the old standard:

surah al-Baqarah 2:223: " Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe."

I point out, again, like a broken record, that the author only uses the first part of the verse, ending with 'approach your tilth when or how ye will'. I admit that this one gave me problems too, especially before I read the entire verse. I, on my own, decided that this was an example of the mentality of the age. Wives, in all cultures and religions of the time were essentially property. Valuable only for the prestige they might bring, if they were exceptionally beautiful or had some other quality, or for the number of sons they bore. Sons, not daughters. Because girls were burdens. It's not an attitude limited to one culture or another.

The tafsir I've read, however, has this explanation, basically. This verse follows on the verse that prohibits sex between a married couple while the wife is menstruating. Anal sex, by the way, is also considered forbidden. Just in case you were wondering. Anyway. The two verses, 222 & 223 are connected. First the Qur'an says that men are forbidden from having/asking for sex from their wives while they are menstruating (which, depending on the woman is either a good thing or just annoying), then it explains that once she has cleansed herself (I think the word is ghusl) the man is permitted to come to her in any way that Allah has allowed. Which is where the 'tilth' or 'field' comes into play. The field is a fertile image, reminding/hinting at the vagina and the womb. So the verse, along with the preceding is informing the men that they should only have sex with their wives in the proper time and orifice. Which is what a *lot* of Christians will tell you as well. We may not like the imagery, but it is what it is. The Qur'an was written in an agricultural society 1,400 years ago. What they would find understandable and meaningful is not necessarily what we do.

The next surah she cites as making the wife a possession is surah al-'Imran 3:14 (but not all of it, just the part she wants...): " Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world's life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (To return to)."

This is one of those cases where 'I do not think that means what you say it means' comes into play. Yes, women are listed as amongst the things that men covet. Is that really a surprise to anyone? Is it a statement of approval? I think not. Merely one of fact. Men want women, sons, money, land, cool toys, fast cars and lots of all of them. "Such are the possessions of this world's life" - these are the things we can have in this world. But they don't last into the next, and that's reflected in the next section "in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (to return to)". Don't Christians say that closeness to Christ, to God, is the true goal of our lives? It seems to me that this is saying the same thing. There are the riches of the world and the riches of eternity.

Doing Things Alone

I don't do things alone. I mean, aside from necessities, and even then I put them off as long as I can. But I don't like to go to the movies by myself, or shop, or eat out. And that's actually becoming annoying, because, for instance, I want to eat at this one deli. It makes sense for me to do so. I work out on Sunday and I need to eat lunch right afterward, right before I go to the movies. This deli is a very healthy place, so it's a much better option than any of the other restaurants in the area or eating mall/movie theater food.

But I haven't been going because I don't have anyone to go with me.

Well, screw that. I am determined to go eat my lunch Sunday in this deli. By myself. And screw anyone who thinks that I'm some weird lady, eating all by herself. *flips the imaginary people judging her off*

Also, just for the record, if either Donald Trump or Sarah Palin gets elected president next year? I'm going to need a viable other country to move to. Just putting it out there.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

VBV - Ch. 4 Pt. 2

The next bit deals with the 'Doctrine of Marriage'. I'm breaking the chapter up into even smaller bits, so this will just be about the 'Selection of a Wife'.

We start out with a selection of surah:

Surah al-Baqarah 2:221 - " Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise."

Surah al-Ma'idah 5:5 - " This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)."

We'll deal with these two first. I think it goes without saying that the author only quotes the bits that she wants and not even the entire verse. But that's not such a problem here as it was in some of the last section's verses. The author claims that these two verses show a contradiction with the Qur'an. In fact, it is not a contradiction. There is a distinction made between idolators (unbelievers), believers (Muslims), and People of the Book (Christians and Jews). I neither speak nor read Arabic, so I must trust those who can. Idolators are mushrikeen, while the People of the Book are 'Ahl al-Kitab. So there is no contradiction. Muslims are forbidden from marrying anyone who is an idolator - meaning the pagans. They are permitted, however, to marry People of the Book - because they are all of the same faith 'family' - the Abrahamic faiths and, according to Islamic theology, all worship the same God and spring from the same monotheistic instructions.

As an aside, I refer you again to Becky's article about the permissibility of Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men. It has long been held that the instructions in al-Ma'idah 5:5 restrict the marriage to People of the Book to Muslim men. However, Becky makes an excellent argument for the view that the instruction is actually to both men and women.

The next quote is surah al-Nisa 4:23-24 - " Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father's sisters, Mother's sisters; brother's daughters, sister's daughters; foster-mothers (Who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful;- Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise. "

My 'problem' with this really only comes into play when the author comments 'For the most part, this list would be endorsed by Western society.' I'm questioning which part of the list Western society would say is okay to marry that the Qur'anic list forbids?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

VBV - Ch. 4 Pt. 1

This is a long chapter, so I'm going to break it up a little. We'll just see how long this takes. The chapter is titled The Qur'an, the Hadith, and Women.

The first subsection in this chapter is titled The Doctrine of Creation. The author starts with the angels arguing with Allah over his plan to create mankind to populate the earth. Here's something I never quite got, so maybe someone knows. If angels in Islamic theology have no free will, how are they questioning Allah's plan? Anyway. The reference is surah al-Baqarah 2:30. Oh! For the record, I use Qur' for online Qur'an referencing, since it has a couple of different translations available for comparison and to look up the tafsir on verses. I'm not sure that this verse really needs looking into, at the moment though. The key factor, I believe, is mentioned by the author. "Allah was creating man that he might have a relationship with him; relationship being the context within which love is given and received." No, Muslims don't refer to Allah as their father or have the same sort of interactions that Christians are used to. But here's a question for you. Why did God (or Allah) create people at all? Does He *need* our worship? Does He derive power from it somehow? No. So God (under whatever name) must have created humanity from either some sadistic impulse to watch us screw everything up, or out of love.

Allah then proceeds to create human beings. It is my understanding of the creation story in Islam that man and woman were created around the same time, but separately. Unlike the Biblical creation story where Adam is created and then God takes a rib out and makes Eve, making her merely an extension of man. What, no, I don't have a problem when people take that story literally, why do you ask? Anyway...according to the Qur'an (Surah Al-Hijr 15:28-29) man was made out of clay which Allah dried and then breathed life into. *waggles hands* No more odd than any other creation story, and I assume we all know that man was not *actually* formed out of clay. Perhaps we can look at it to say that Allah took raw materials (the ancestor that we had in common with the apes) and tweaked it a bit. Whatever. I actually find the details unimportant, but that's just me.

The author quotes *part* of Surah Al-A'raf 7:189 in regards to the creation of women. The entire surah actually runs: It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, (saying): "If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful." The author only quotes the first sentence. Anyway. Man (Adam) is made in the 'image' of God, and Woman (Eve/Hawa) is made in the image of man. Making her, also, a reflection of God. I like that she is not created merely as a part of man, but that she is created similarly to him, but separate from him. The author does quote a hadith (7.62.114) saying that woman was created from the rib of man, but that's hadith, not Qur'an and so...*shrug*. It's not officially Allah's word, right? If it contradicts the story in the Qur'an, I assume that it is incorrect. I mean, it is from Sahih Bukhari, and I guess, if I tried I could mesh the two stories, since the Qur'an leaves out details because the stories are already supposed to be well known, but as I was taught the creation story of Islam, woman was created separate but equal with man. Which means that she has the same moral and religious rights and duties as a man.

The author argues that in Christianity there are two camps as to the relationship between men and women. In one camp are the Egalitarians - those who see no distinction in gender roles. The other camp are the Complementarians - those who view the genders as equal in value, but distinct in role and authority structure. Interpreted, this means that the egalitarians believe that men and women are equal. Women can do anything that a man can do in the church structure, including being pastors, elders, leading the church, etc. Complementarians believe that, in the eyes of God each person, man and woman is of equal value to God. However, there are some roles that are given to men and some that are given to women. It will surprise no one that the roles of authority are all reserved for the men. The author claims that in Islam, the relationship is that if 'Islamic disciplinarianism'. The man takes a protective stance over the woman and...the author doesn't explain anything else. I actually view Islam's genders roles as rather complementary. Men have their roles and women have theirs. They complement each other, at least, they're meant to. Again, keep in mind that no situation is perfect and there will always be people (sometimes a lot of them) who abuse whatever system they're in.

She moves on to the old stand-bys to prove that women are 'less' in Islam.

Surah al-Baqarah 2:228 - And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree [of advantage] over them.

*Again*, the author only quotes *part* of the verse. The whole verse (from the same translation used in the book, which is Yusuf Ali) is: Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.

So this is all about the proper behavior in a *divorce*. There is supposed to be a waiting period ('Iddah) of three months before the divorced wife can marry again. The main practical purpose of this would be for tracking whose child is whose. Assuming that the couple were having normal marital relations (there are different rules of divorce when the marriage hasn't been consumated), then there remains the possibility that the woman is pregnant with her ex-husbands child.

There is also mention of the fact that, during this period, the couple may be reconciled. (Assuming this is not their third divorce, in which case another set of rules kicks into effect. But we'll get to those, I'm certain.) There's a lot going on here that seems to me to be meant to give the couple chances to reconcile. I think that the line about women having rights similar to the rights against them refers to the woman's right to also want her husband back. Obviously, both parties have to agree to the reconciliation, but everyone is allowed to reconsider and to fight for what they want. On top of that, it is also a pointed reminder that the wife has rights against her husband inside of the marriage. The right to be clothed, fed and taken care of on an equal level with the husband. Not treated like a servant or a slave and abused.

An interesting tidbit from the tafsir is that a woman's word alone was to be taken in matters of pregnancy/menses. Hers was the count that mattered, which is why the warning that she was not to hide what is in their wombs. They shouldn't lie to extend the 'iddah or to shorten it.

But what about the 'degree of advantage' over women? Historically it makes sense because men were in the greater position of authority. It's traditionally interpreted to mean that men are stronger and just generally a little bit better than women. But what if it's an additional warning? A reminder that the man's responsibilities are greater because they tend to have the cultural advantage?

Surah al-Baraqarah 2:282 - Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her.

*twitch* AGAIN, it is not the complete verse! - O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah Has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable Himself to dictate, Let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (For evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period, whether it be small or big: it is juster in the sight of Allah, More suitable as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves but if it be a transaction which ye carry out on the spot among yourselves, there is no blame on you if ye reduce it not to writing. But take witness whenever ye make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If ye do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; For it is Good that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. If ye are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, a pledge with possession (may serve the purpose). And if one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, let the trustee (faithfully) discharge his trust, and let him Fear his Lord conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it, - his heart is tainted with sin. And Allah knoweth all that ye do.

*flail* It's very clearly a specific instance. A business transaction. I know this has been used to say it's for every case, but I think if you read the whole context it makes more sense as being just in this case. And that would be because it was *unusual* for women to have a lot of dealings in business in this time period in any culture. There were, of course, exceptions (Khadijah, as an example), but in the main, women didn't deal with these things all the time. Does that work in modern times? No.

There are some hadith referenced, but you know what? I'm not bothering. They're the ones about women being deficient in intelligence, yadda yadda. Go here, read this blog post: Deficiency of Women? That's how I understand it and that's all I've got to say about that.

The other part I've read was about the inheritance laws and I'm not touching that because I don't understand how that all breaks down. I know that women get less than men if following the strict Qur'anic formulae. I don't know how many people do that now daysget less than men if following the strict Qur'anic formulae. I don't know how many people do that now days, but in historic context, it makes sense since the burden was all on the men of the household to support the women. In most cultures anything that the wife owned really belonged to her husband, so (not that this was referenced in the chapter) the fact that women were permitted to keep their own money for themselves was a step up.

And this took way longer than I planned. I may need to break the chapter down into even smaller sections.


Until Ghost Story comes out. What? Like you aren't counting down the days too. You know you are. Don't lie.

Something I didn't notice until recently: the cover art for Ghost Story really does have Harry's headstone on it. The one Bianca gave him. This pleases me. :D

Monday, April 25, 2011

And the freaky dreams return

So I dreamt last night that one of my neighbors was Muslim. And I was, for some reason, talking about my desire to go to the mosque in my backyard. And he overheard, and was explaining that there was a class being held at xxxx about xxxx(something I can't recall). So I'm thrilled, and when I finally look at him (because we held this entire conversation without looking at one another. Or at least I assume he wasn't looking at me, because there was a screen of trees between us) I saw that he was a kid, maybe half my height and he had a deformed leg. Like, it was very much larger than his other leg. Swollen, maybe?

And this is when I wish I understood dream analysis.

a flaw in the plan

I get orders shipped to my work because someone is always here and I live out in BFN, with a fence/gate around the property. So my options are to either leave the gate open, thus defeating the purpose of the gate, or let the boxes sit there all day. Neither of which I like, so I have things shipped to work.

The problem comes when people have this habit of looking at my things when I unbox them. Which is normally fine, except when what I'm unboxing is yaoi manga. Like, hardcore yaoi. As in, Viewfinder. Yeah. Brush it off as you turn the cover away from them, 'oh, it's just a comic, nothing you're interested in.' Code for, 'it's gay porn. go away.'

Sunday, April 24, 2011

VBV - Ch. 3

Not much to say about this chapter. It's about famous women in Islam. The thing I find ironic is the book goes on and on about how oppressed women are and have always been under Islam, but then it devotes a whole chapter to women who were a big deal in Islam and makes a point of saying that these are only a few examples out of thousands.

I don't deny that there are women who are oppressed under the name of Islam. But that's not anything new, or anything that belongs only to Islam. Women are oppressed or have been oppressed under pretty much every theology or philosophy known to have ever exist. But the authors' goal is obviously to make Islam out to be terrible and awful and something that people need to be rescued from. The hilarious and sad thing is that they so far fail in their purpose all on their own. Which is not to say that people don't fall for this crap, of course.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

VBV - Ch. 2

This chapter was surprisingly not as bad as it could have been. The author was a former muslimah, so maybe that had something to do with the lack of specific vitriol toward Mohammed's wives?

The author takes a very simple approach. She lists each wife, in the order that they married Mohammed and tells a little bit about them and about how long they were married to Mohammed. Of course, each marriage ends either with the wife's death or at Mohammed's death.

We actually start with Aminah, Mohammed's mother. It's a brief, four paragraph section mentioning the name of Mohammed's father and the facts of his becoming an orphan.

Khadijah, of course, is Mohammed's first wife. I admit to having a little bit of a romantic notion about Mohammed and Khadijah. I like to think that they really did love one another. In a time and place where he was more than within his rights to marry multiple women, he stayed married only to Khadijah her entire life. I've heard the argument that she controlled the money. Well...not really. She only retained control of the business of one of her first two husbands because there was no one else. Once she married Mohammed, it was all his, technically. So he *could* have married someone else. He chose not to.

After Khadijah's death, Mohammed married Sawdah bint Zam'ah. She was a widow and it seems a very practical sort of thing. She needed a husband and he needed someone to take care of his four daughters. I'm not saying that they didn't love each other - we really don't know. Merely that it was a very good idea from both sides of the equation. Things back then weren't like modern times. People did not, in the main, marry for love. They married because of arrangements by the family, for position, for money, for power. To secure treaties and end blood shed.

Mohammed's next wife (and the most controversial) was Aisha bint Abu Bakr. Again, I think this was a very practical kind of marriage. Abu Bakr was Mohammed's closest companion. On one hand, how better to secure the friendship than to become members of the same family? In that same vein, most people in power are toppled by those next in line. People that they view as close friends. One thinks, though, that they might hesitate if that meant hurting their own child as well. (Historically, this is not always true. But it's a possibility.) One thing that annoyed me in this section was the author's automatic assumption that Abu Bakr would have killed Aisha at birth if not for Mohammed's orders. We have no way of knowing what he would have done, so why are we attributing the worst motive? There is also the assumption that Abu Bakr cared nothing for Aisha in the way the author says that he 'just gave her away'. Again, it was a different time and the marriage, from Abu Bakr's perspective, was a good one.

Mohammed's fourth wife was Hafsah bint Umar ibn-Khattab. Again, I see the reasoning as similar to that of his marriage to Aisha. Cementing a close tie with Umar would have been even more critical since Umar had been one of the greatest and most violent opponents of Mohammed and Islam.

Zainab bint Khuzaimah was known as Umm ul-Masakeen, 'mother of the poor and the needy'. She cared for people who had very little, giving them food and shelter as she could. She was a widow of the Battle of Uhud, and Mohammed married her. Perhaps seeing one of the virtues he wanted to instill in the ummah personified in her?

Hind bint abi Umaya was another widow of the Battle of Uhud. Hind, like Hafsah, was a well educated woman.

Zainab bint Jahsh is the woman who was a cousin of Mohammed. She was married to his adopted son, Zayd. Neither one of them seem to have wanted to marry one another, but Mohammed insisted that it was the will of Allah. Later on, Zayd and Zainab would divorce and Zainab would marry Mohammed. This is the incident that is taken to prove that adoption in Islam is not the same thing as being a natural child.

Juwairiyah bint Al-Harith was a captive of war who went before Mohammed to plead for her release. Instead, he offered her a deal. Marry him and he would set all the captives from her tribe free. One could look at it and say that Mohammed was just really smitten with her beauty, but that doesn't make a lot of sense. Whatever else you might want to say about Mohammed, he wasn't an idiot. I assume that there was some political advantage to this move.

Ramlah bint Abu Sufyan is an odd case. She was the daughter of Abu Sufyan, someone who was a huge villain early on in Islamic history, but who later converted to Islam. There's some question over whether his conversion was sincere or just to save his own butt, but that's neither here nor there. Ramlah was either divorced or widowed (no one's quite clear on whether she divorced her husband because he converted to Christianity or if she remained married to him until his death.) Either way, Mohammed heard that she was alone in Abyssinia and sent someone to propose on his behalf. She agreed and they were married by proxy. They only got to be together six years after their wedding. Again, I see practical, political reasoning behind this marriage.

Safiyya bint Huyayy was a Jewish captive who was the daughter of the leader of the tribe Mohammed had just wiped out. She converted and married Mohammed. In spite of some accusations that she remained Jewish in secret, Mohammed remained convinced that Safiyya's conversion was sincere.

Maymuna bint Al-Harith was a distant relative of Mohammed's. She had been married twice. Her first husband divorced her and her second husband died. After this, she requested to marry Mohammed.

The last 'wife' was Maria al-Kibtia. I say 'wife' because there's apparently some debate over whether Mohammed ever married her or if she remained a slave-mistress. She gave Mohammed a son, Ibrahim, who died when he was 18 months old.

My only real quibble with this chapter is that the author insists that the Bible wants men to only have one wife, while the Qur'an, and therefore Allah, wants men to have multiple wives. On the first half, I say that it is clearly open to interpretation. Men in the OT had multiple wives as a matter of course. There is no clear cut injunction anywhere in the Bible for men to only have one wife. There are things that can be read that way, but just ask any Christian who believes in polygamy and they'll show you alternative readings. On the second half, yes, the Qur'an technically allows for up to four wives, and men have gone beyond that and had more than that under the name of Islam. However, it never says that it's a good idea, or that they *should* have more than one wife. As a matter of fact, the instruction is that if the men don't believe that they can treat each wife equally in all things - and that includes affection - then he should only marry one. Since it's actively impossible to be fair in all things to people it's a heavy indication that the men should only have one wife.

Movie: After.Life

At first, I thought it was as if the kid from The Sixth Sense grew up, got bitter and got a job as an undertaker.

And then it wasn't.

And I'm left wondering how Liam Neeson can be both so hot and so incredibly. fucking. creepy. all at the same time.


Book Review: The Haunting by Shirley Jackson

This is an older book, originally published in 1959 under the title The Haunting of Hill House. It's what I would consider to be classic horror. There's not blood dripping from the walls, no slasher elements (Jason & Freddy as examples). It's all about the psychological horror.

The plot is fairly simple, and you've seen it done a million times. But I believe that all the ones that came after The Haunting were just imitations. Even Stephen King did one with the tv movie Rose Red. Same set up, essentially, with only the details being different.

There's an old, magnificent house with a history of violence/questionable activity and death. Years after it has been last lived in, a professor/researcher with an interest in the paranormal gets a group together to go stay in the house for a night/week/month/the summer. He gathers people who have had paranormal experiences before, whether those are the uncanny ability to know things that they couldn't possibly know or a rain of stones on their house when they were a child. Typically some scion of the family that owns the house is present as well, to make certain that the visitors don't accidentally burn the place down.

And then the activity starts. The thing that makes, in my opinion, The Haunting one of the best examples of this is that there is always the question of whether or not any of the 'paranormal' activity is actually happening at all. You have the four main characters, Dr. Montague, Luke Sanderson, Theodora, and Eleanor Vance who spend most of a week in the house. They all experience the classic feelings of being watched, the knocking, banging, etc. Classic haunted house stuff. But the house, Hill House, is really just a creepy, weird place. It's built slightly off of true. None of the walls or angles are perfectly straight and it's built rather like a maze. It's drafty and very easy to get lost in. In addition, you have a group of people coming to a house that they believe to be haunted for the express purpose of trying to experience ghostly phenomenon. Nothing that happens can't be explained by simple unfamiliarity with the house, the noises of a normal house and the power of suggestion combined with the mental state of some of the people in the house.

That, I think, is what makes it such a great horror novel. The most frightening things aren't about blood and guts. Those are great for gross out factors and for making you cringe as you involuntarily imagine the pain and shock of the wounds. But for real horror, you want to play with the mind. Make people question what is real and what's not. Let their own imaginations trick them. That's what makes a scary story really scary. And I honestly think that The Haunting does that the best of anything I've ever read.

There've been two film adaptations of the book. One, in 1963, which is fairly true to the original work. There are, as always, some differences, but for the most part I think they did a really good job. The second, done in 1999, not so much. It was made to be more like a modern horror movie, where it's very definitely a ghost and there's all these fancy special effects. Fine and dandy, but you've lost the thing that makes the story excellent. And honestly, the 1999 movie just wasn't very good. In spite of having Liam Neeson in it.

"Hill House itself, not sane, stood against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, its walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

Friday, April 22, 2011

SPN - Frontierland

It's like a theme park! Yay!

Ooohhh...I remember that place!

Hullo...why doesn't Cas just say 'timey wimey'?

Have I mentioned that I like the woman they've got playing Eve-Mommy?

Is Dean scamming in the Old West? Otherwise, how'd he get to be sheriff?

:D I like when they do fun things with the title cards on eps.

They're fanboying Samuel Colt. I find this cute.

I- I- Bobby watched DS9! Come to me you beautiful man!

Dean 'praying' to Cas is always funny.

Hey, who's the secretary?

And, now I love her. Go Rachel! Hey, Cas, no. This was a necessary ass chewing. They needed it! *sigh* Cas, man. Someone needs to get you into relationship therapy.

'Is it customary to wear a blanket?' :D

Dean is such a nerd.

'you know what that is? AUTHENTICITY!' Dean = awesome fanboy.

Who wants to bet the guy they just hung is the phoenix?

I love Dean's little pout when his blanket doesn't make him fit in.

Hah! Oh, the theme of terrible aliases continues.

Once again, Dean gets pegged as gay. No, no, don't read into that at all.

Poor Dean, his little fantasy's getting all messed up by reality.

Yeah. Wow. *That* was such a hard thing to guess. *rolls eyes*

Ooohhh..commerical for Smallville's finale. HI LEX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dean has such a devilish little grin, there. Yes, we got all your 'possy' puns, Dean.

I think Sam is almost as tall as that horse. Go Gigantor!


We're passing out, apparently. Poor Cas. I mean, I suspect he's been doing something naughty and morally gray on the dark side of that gray, but whatever. I love Cas.

Hey, maybe they can bring Gabriel back to kick everyone's ass and take over since everyone else is clearly a moron.

And *that*'s how Dean becomes sheriff.

*giggle* Blazing Saddles reference!

'a giant from the future with some magic brick' *rofl*

'I'm either too drunk or not drunk enough.' I have had that though quite often.

*cringes* Oh, Cas that...that's very demonic. I mean, we know that the whole demons are the merger of human souls and archangelic power thing is true, but how do you think that got started? Yeah. Lucifer started reaching out and touching peoples SOULS, sucking off energy.

Ah. Yeah, you know, I'd let the Phoenix torch this guy. On general principles.

Why;s Bobby always the one paying for the boys? Oh, yeah. Responsible adult. Also, the boys are kind of dicks.

Cas is gonna yank them out before they get the Phoenix. I kind of hope the guy lives. I like him. *pout* Okay, well, run and scoop up some dead man! Now!

Told you....

Ah! Oh, hah! Go Samuel Colt! Too funny!

preview: not a clue. I mean, yeah, Mommy and there's Cas all covered in blood. And that's all I've got.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

VBV - Ch. 1

Right, so there was absolutely nothing of interest in the introduction. So we're ignoring it. I should say that this book is a collection of essays/articles written by Christian women. So Mr. Caner (supposedly a former Muslim) is merely the 'editor' and he only 'edited' for spelling, etc. All other content is each authors.

So, this first chapter is supposed to be the testimonies of four women who converted the Christianity from Islam. Three of them were born Muslim and one was raised nominally Christian, converted to Islam, and later left Islam and became Christian. I'm not going to go into their stories because, really, the article doesn't. They're very brief. Here's the pattern: "I was a Muslim, and I was oppressed and abused. Islam didn't makes sense to me, and then I met some Christians/saw Billy Graham on tv and felt all warm and cuddly inside." Got it? Moving on to what *I* want to talk about from this chapter.

Nitpick #1 - The reference to jihad as a holy war. Look, I get that that's the usage it has in the media and even the usage that some terrorist groups put it to. But it's not the *only* or even *main* meaning, and someone who used to be a Muslim should know that. Again, if you're going to argue with Islam (or anything), argue with what it really is. Not what you want people to be afraid of.

Nitpick #2 - In listing the five pillars of Islam, the author lists the first as 'Shahada (confession of Allah). Like I said, this is a nitpick. The shahada is not *just* the confession of Allah. It includes acknowledgement that Mohammed is his prophet. See, if it was just bearing witness that there is no god but God, then Jews and Christians could agree with it too. It's the bit about Mohammed that sets it apart. Again, not a big deal, really, but it annoys me. Someone who was a Muslim should know that.

The author argues that anyone who has studied Islam and Christianity and compares Allah with Yahweh will see that they're different gods. Which is not entirely true. There are a million and one lines to be drawn between the god of the OT and Allah. And since the god of the OT is the same god as the one in the NT, the similarities and comparisons must remain.

"The Allah of the Qur'an requires good works, but the Yahweh of the Bible requires faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Islam claims that God can have no son, and that Jesus Christ was only a prophet like Muhammed."

It's true that *one* of the things required for salvation in Christianity is faith in Christ. It is, in fact, the main thing. But it's not the only thing.

James 2: 14-16 - 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

It's a very Protestant thing, to insist on sola fide, which is an un-Biblical concept. Faith and works go hand in hand. Both religions, Christianity and Islam, ask for faith and works, working together.

"because He claimed to be God (John 8:58). In other words, He was either who He said He was, or He was a madman. This is a stumbling block for Muslims." 

Only not so much, since they believe that much of the Bible is corrupted. So there's not reason for them to believe that Christ ever claimed that he was God. As far as Muslims are concerned, these words never passed Christ's lips because he was a prophet and so certainly not a madman and he, being a prophet, would never overstep his bounds and tell people he was god, causing them to worship him and fall into shirk.

"Wherever Christians live, lost and dying people surround them."

Oh, that's just annoying and arrogant. You *cannot* approach people as though they are all some sort of pet project. Yes, it is a Christian mandate to spread the Gospel, to make all people aware of the message of Christ. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. The sentence above is an example of the wrong attitude. You share the Gospel by living it, and part of that is having love and respect for every person around you, whether they are Christian or not. Looking at them with pity and trying to shove your faith down their throat for 'their own good' is not the way to go. Be a good person, a good Christian and make *friends*. Real, honest friends. Maybe some day they'll want to talk religion and then you can sit down and talk. As friends. And maybe they'll come to see the truth in Christianity. Or maybe you'll find the truth in Islam. Or maybe you'll all have a good laugh and go out to dinner and see a movie. There's more to life than trying to make people agree with you.

The author makes it seem as though every Muslim is out to kill people who leave Islam. Are there people out there who believe that that is mandated by God? Yes. But, at least in the West, people enter and leave Islam all the time. Making it seem as though just be speaking out these women, who one and all live in the US are risking their lives, especially considering they don't give their full names is just pouring fuel onto a fire and hoping it starts a wildfire.

"many young women are lured into Islam by Muslim men. In order to marry a Muslim man, the woman must 'convert' on paper. Often believing they are discovering the whole truth for the first time, these women abandon faith backgrounds that never seemed real or important to them in order to pursue love and the close culture of Islam."

Thus does the author negate and denigrate any and all women who may have, oh, I don't know, studied Islam and come to the conclusion, to faith in the fact that Islam is the correct and final revelation. Are there women who convert because they fall in love with a Muslim man? Yes. Sometimes they come later to a real faith in Allah. Sometimes they don't. But really, their 'conversion' is not real. A person should only convert if they really believe. It should never be for another person. And that goes for *any* religion. Aside from all of that, Muslim men *are* permitted to marry women 'of the Book' - Jews and Christians. There's some debate over whether or not Muslim women are allowed to marry believing Jews and Christians (for an article on this, see Becky's article 'Are Muslim Women Allowed to Marry Non-Muslim Men?') But, you know what, people of all faiths and walks of life are unhappy, looking for the right fit for themselves. It's not just that women who come from bad backgrounds convert to Islam because they think it will make their lives better. I believe that the majority of converts do so because they find something that works for them, even if it doesn't turn out to be a lifetime thing. They learn something and hopefully at the very least, they come out knowing more about themselves, stronger in some fashion.

"Islam is a religion based upon mystical experiences, and Muslims are familiar with the idea, so perhaps the Holy Spirit does speak on this subjective, emotional level to draw Muslims to the truth. Although Islam claims that Muhammad's revelations are from Allah through the angel Gabriel, experiences of peace and love are characteristic only of the true God who is recognized by Christianity."

*sigh* *ALL* religions are based on mystical experiences. They're meant to take us out of ourselves, to make us connect to the greater reality. To show us life after death as a goal, a possibility, and the concept of a transcendent Creator being. On top of that, Islam, according to it's adherents, is a rational faith. Which, admittedly is a matter of perspective, but I find it funny that the Christians are claiming that Islam is all about emotions and funny visions and the Muslims are claiming the same thing about Christianity, both viewing themselves as the rational choice. Religion isn't rational, end of story. The last sentence though, is just...I don't even know what to say. It's flat out *wrong*.

And that's it for this chapter. Next chapter is all about Mohammed's wives. :) I'm going to go do something more productive than this, like watch Hawaii 5-0 and read The Haunting by Shirley Jackson. Then in about half an hour I'm going to go to sleep. *Far* more productive. :D

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


So, did I mention that I work at a newspaper? Did I? Yeah. It's this place where reporters work and then we print things. I was talking to the woman who does the religious news (shes a friend) and we were talking about stalking. So I told her the story about me stalking the mosque. And she laughed and said yeah, there's never anyone there and they're very insular because they're in a very conservative (Christian) area and had some trouble with vandalism, etc. years back. So they don't ever advertise anything that they do. And the idea is basically, 'the people who need to be here know how to get here'. Which, I laughed and said, 'Yeah, I know how to get there. The question is if I *should* get there!'

But the upshot of it all is that she knows two guys people who do a lot in the community and are Muslims and is going to find me the email for one of them who she swears won't mind me emailing him to ask if I can visit or if there are any classes, etc. She thinks that they hold classes on learning Arabic and about the Middle East and about Islam at our cultural center, but she's not sure on times or anything.

PS: I made ticky boxes at the bottom of the posts. Use them, people. Can't have all that hard work going to waste... ;-p

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Voices Behind the Veil - Forward

Okay, I decided to try to do this. These may be slow coming, since I have to look things up, etc.

The book starts with a few paragraphs of blahblah about 9/11 and how no one thought about Islam before then. The Christians in the West just pretended that Islam didn't exist, I guess. But it's true, Islam wasn't a big deal to most people until it became a big deal. I like to think most people have gone from the immediate, media fueled fear to an understanding. But not everyone.

The fourth paragraph in starts about how Islam oppresses women. My very first 'huh?' moment came there. The author quotes something that is supposedly engraved on the wall of a mosque in Kabul, which he attributes to the second Caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab: "Prevent the women from learning to write! Say no to their capricious ways!" I had a hard time believing that I'd never heard this before. I mean, I've read a *lot* of muslimah's defending Islam and the quotes from the Qur'an and ahadith that are used to support the idea that Islam oppresses women. But I've *never* heard this before. So I went looking. I can find no independent verification that this phrase exists anywhere, let alone in a mosque. I'm not saying I'm 100% sure that it doesn't, just that it doesn't make sense. In the first place, I was under the impression that all of the text that decorates a mosque is Qur'an. In the second place, a quote that can only be found in one source, and a highly prejudiced source at that, cannot be trusted. Third, while I was trying to find this quote elsewhere, I ran across an answer from one of those Islam online Q&A sites: "As I am not sure about the statement you have mentioned [quoted above], I can answer your question from what `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, has done in his life. Firstly, his daughter, Hafsah, the mother of the believers, was one of the few women who could read and write. And he asked a very famous Muslim woman named Ash-shifa’ to teach Hafsah how to read and write, which reflects his caring about women’s education. Secondly, he nominated Ash-shifa’ to be inspector of the markets to watch prices and dealings in the markets. Moreover, a very old woman stopped him after delivering a khutbah and he was in a congregation of some companions, and he went to her, stood as a young child listening to his mother, and when the companions asked him about her, he said: “This is a woman whom Allah listened complaining about her husband.” Allah says, “Allah hath heard the saying of her that disputeth with thee (Muhammad) concerning her husband, and complaineth unto Allah. And Allah heareth your colloquy. Lo! Allah is Nearer, Knower.” (Al-Mujadilah: 1) In many evidences `Umar showed great respect for women and their education. Therefore, we cannot single out a certain event, if it is truly ascribed to `Umar, and consider that to be the general attitude of `Umar towards women."

Yadda, she quotes the Qur'an, stating that Muslim men are allowed to beat their wives. I'm not trying to blow off wife beating and abuse as a problem, but let's be honest. If a man is going to beat the shit out of his wife, he's going to do it whether or not his religious book tells him it's okay or if it condemns it. Does the Bible say no wife beating? Pretty sure it doesn't. Does it imply it by telling men to treat their wives like part of themselves? Eh. It's arguable. But again, it's all up to the men and how they and the society want to read it. I can give you plenty of instances where corporal punishment between a husband and a wife was viewed as a 'Christian' thing to embrace.

I'm not going to go through all the hadith she quotes, etc. But here's a comparison that struck me as not doing what she meant it to do.

She contrasts the Islamic opinion of women and their husbands as expressed by this hadith: "What rights does the woman have with the man...He should feed her if he eats, clothe her when he dresses, avoid disfiguring her or beating her excessively, or abandoning her except at home." Hadith 7.62.77 She doesn't give which book of hadith it's out of. It's not Sahih Bukhari, and googling doesn't tell me which book it belongs to. So I have no idea. Maybe it's one of the collections of hadith that isn't considered to have a strong chain of narration, making it weak and unacceptable. I don't know. But even if it is an accepted hadith, how, precisely, is it bad? Oh, I know, it mentions the husband disfiguring the wife or beating her. Yeah. It tells the husband *not* to disfigure his wife, or to beat her excessively. Keep in mind that up until really recent times, men disciplined their wives physically and there was *no* rule, no suggestion as to how far they could go. Men could kill their wives and if it wasn't out right accepted, it was swept under the rug. Women weren't just property in the ME. It was all over. So a ruling telling them to dial it the hell back was actually a step forward. Doesn't make doing it at all acceptable by todays terms, but they weren't living in modern times.

But other than that, the hadith sounds good. If the husband has food, he has to share it with his wife. He can't eat it all himself. If he has clothing, then he has to make sure that she has clothing. He can't just buy himself new things and let his wife run around in rags. He has to take *care* of her in the same level he cares for himself. So, nyah.

The author compares it, though, with a passage from the Bible: "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." 1 Peter 3:7. Fine and dandy. Except for the part about the wives being the weaker partner. So if women and men are supposed to be equal in Christianity, as opposed to Islam, where the man is a degree above the woman, why do you pick a verse that calls women *weaker*? Neither passage, from the hadith or the Bible says what the author wants them to say, and they're bad comparisons with one another.

Blah, blah, more Qur'an & hadith are evol and degrading to women, YAY CHRISTIANITY! *rolls eyes* Now if you were to point out to these writers the history of oppression of women within Christianity, you would be told that that was man messing up the message of God. Well, the same can be said for the oppression of women under Islam. Different rules, same problem. People suck. That's the problem with *everything*. We mess things up. Religions would be great if there were no people in them.


How do you know you have it? Is there some sort of feeling that you get?

I have this problem. Because of me being, well, me, I am more than capable of arguing points of view that I do not share. The problem in this being, in order to be convincing you take some of those facts in to yourself. You have to project the air that you believe what you're saying. I have yet to come across an instance where there was any difference in how I felt while I was trying to convince someone of something I didn't believe, but wanted them to believe to be true, and how I feel in contemplation of things that I claim to believe. So now I'm questioning whether or not I believe any of it at all.

I keep expecting that bolt of lighting, the feeling of everything clicking together and making sense. It's not happening, which makes me keep looking. I've felt more transcendent, religious awe lying back and watching the stars, or watching a great predator move than I have in any church.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Makeup The Reversal

A little over three years ago I declared myself makeup free, and glad to be there.

I never wore a whole lot of makeup anyway, but I'd become convinced that 'good Christian women' didn't wear makeup of flashy clothes, etc. Makeup is really sort of a non-issue in the Bible. There's something like three passages that mention it at all, and in the context it's not saying yea or nay, but just mentioning it as in: she put on some eyeliner. Only Biblically.

If it's important for you to know what passages speak of makeup, they're: 2 Kings 9:30, Jeremiah 4:30, and Ezekiel 23:40. Those didn't really enter into any argument that I saw, however. The verse that I saw used, was 1 Timothy 2:9-10: Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

You'll notice that there's no mention of makeup in that passage. So why is it used? It's more of an extrapolation, an extension of the idea contained within the text. The passage, as I understand it, is basically saying, don't bling yourself out.
However, some people take it farther (and I was one of them) and wear very plain, dark clothes. No jewelry, no makeup, don't do anything fancy with their hair, etc.

I think, now, though, that it's not really about whether or not you wear jewelry. Aesthetically, there's such a thing as too much jewelry, too much makeup and then it becomes tacky and *waggles hand* ugly. But really, I think the passage is more about the importance of such things. As a Christian woman, it's not the shiny things that you wear that make you precious or good in God's eyes. It's the good works that you do, the hungry that you feed, the poor that you clothe. That's the 'jewels' you wear for God. The other stuff, wear as suits your tastes, and what is tasteful. I don't think God cares either way. Though He may cringe at some of the things we wear just because they're in such poor taste. :)

So that's my new rule of thumb. It's allowable, as long as it's tasteful, not tacky.

Which is a long way of saying, I'm wearing makeup and jewelry again.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Movie: The Conspirator + Shopping

We went and saw The Conspirator today. The movie is historical fiction, based on the tale of Mary Surratt. Who is Mary Surratt, you say? Well, she was the woman who was executed for being a conspirator in the assassination of President Lincoln and the attempted assassinations of Vice President Johnson and the Secretary of State.

It's one of those historical issues where we'll never know the truth of the matter. Mary Surratt was a Southern widow who ran a boarding house. It was in her house that the conspiracy was hatched. Her son was a very close friend of John Wilkes Booth and was also accused. He, however, managed to escape. The government arrested and tried Mary Surratt as a conspirator, arguing that she not only could not have not known what was being plotted, but that she was an active participant.

The conspirator's were tried under a military tribunal and all nine of the members captured (Booth was killed while they were trying to capture him and John Surratt had escaped) were hung for it.

The irony is that, by the time John Surratt turned himself in over a year after the death of his mother, the Supreme Court had passed a law that declared that civilians deserved a civilian trial even in times of war. So he received a jury trial and the jurors were unable to come to a verdict, setting him free.

After the movie we went shopping, and I got a new purse. You can see the new one on the left, and the one it is replacing on the right. Hah. My friend Eve has been trying to get me to buy a new purse for years. But I didn't want to give up my ratty old messenger bag. But she finally convinced me, because she told me how much she wanted to turn me over to the What Not to Wear people. :D

Also, I bought a new top and a new skirt. The best part of the skirt?

It's a size 16. Do the happy dance!

Also, my cat followed me around so she could be in all the pictures. :)

Hmph. I'm reading Voices Behind the Veil right now, and it is the worst book about Islam I've ever read. I can't decide if I should go through it and explain how wrong it is, or just wait until the end and do a general, 'this book sucks' post.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Final Post - Islam: A Short History

Finished the book. A couple of interesting bits, and then we're moving on.

"By the fourteenth century, the study and observance of the Shariah was the only type of piety to be accepted by all Muslims, Sunni and Shii, Sufi and Faylasuf alike. By this time, the ulama liked to believe that these laws had been in place from the very beginning of Islamic history. Thus while some Sufis, such as Rumi, were beginning to glimpse new horizons, many of the ulama believed that nothing ever changed. Hence they were content that the 'gates of ijtihad' were closed. After the loss of so much of the learning of the past, the destruction of manuscripts and the slaughter of scholars, it was more important to recover what had been lost than to inaugurate more change. Because the Mongol military code made no provision for civil society, the ulama continued to govern the lives of the faithful, and their influence tended to be conservative. Where Sufis such as Rumi believed that all religions were valid, by the fourteenth century the ulama had transformed the pluralism of the Qur'an into a hard communalism, which saw other traditions as irrelevant relics of the past. Non-Muslims were forbidden now to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and it became a capital offence to make insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The trauma of the invasions had, not surprisingly, made Muslims feel insecure. Foreigners were not only suspect; they could be as lethal as the Mongols." - p. 103

"Politics had never been central to the Christian religious experience. Jesus had, after all, said that his Kingdom was not of this world. For centuries, the Jews of Europe had refrained from political involvement as a matter of principle. But politics was no secondary issue for Muslims. We have see that it had been the theatre of their religious quest. Salvation did not mean redemption from sin, but the creation of a just society in which the individual could more easily make that existential surrender of his or her whole being that would bring fulfilment. The polity was therefore a mater of supreme importance, and throughout the twentieth century there has been one attempt after another to create a truly Islamic state. This has always been difficult. It was an aspiration that required a jihad, a struggle that could find no simple outcome." - p. 157-158

"The fact that Muslims have not yet found an ideal polity for the twentieth century does not mean that Islam is incompatible with modernity. The struggle to enshrine the Islamic ideal in state structures and to find the right leader has preoccupied Muslims throughout their history. Because, like any religious value, the notion of the true Islamic state is transcendent, it can never be perfectly expressed in human form and always eludes the grasp of frail and flawed human beings. Religious life is difficult, and the secular rationalism of our modern culture poses special problems for people in all the major traditions. Christians, who are more preoccupied by doctrine than by politics, are currently wrestling with dogmatic questions in their effort to make their faith speak to the modern sensibility. They are debating their belief in the divinity of Christ, for example, some clinging to the older formulations of the dogma, others finding more radical solutions. Sometimes these discussions become anguished and even acrimonious, because the issues touch the nub of religiosity that lies at the heart of the Christian vision. The struggle for a modern Islamic state is the Muslim equivalent of this dilemma. All religious people in any age have to make their traditions address the challenge of their particular modernity, and the quest for an ideal form of Muslim government should not be viewed as aberrant but as an essentially and typically religious activity." - p. 163-164

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

This is one of those books that I picked up on the sale table for like $3 a few years ago and I just got around to reading it.

The story is set in Afghanistan and it spans the time period from 1974 through 2003. It follows the lives of two women in Kabul, Marian, who is from Herat and Laila, who is born in Kabul.

Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a cinema owner named Jalil. Her mother was a maid in his home and when she got pregnant by him he built her a kolba, a little house out on the outskirts of the village and made her and Mariam live there. Nana (Mariam's mother) is bitter and angry, of course. She is the one made to suffer, to be insulted by the village while the man, Jalil, is still respected. Still lives in town with his three wives and his legitimate children. Nana is also somewhat manic depressive and suffers from 'attacks from a jinn' which, from the descriptions, are really epileptic seizures. Mariam, though, doesn't know or understand all of this. All she knows is that she loves her parents and wants to be a part of her father's life. To live in the big house in town with her brothers and sisters.

One day, when she's fifteen, Jalil breaks a promise to come see her. So she travels all the way into the village. Her father refuses to let her in the house, sends out his drive to tell her that he's not home, but she knows that that's not true. Mariam is actually forced to sleep out in front of her own father's house on the street. One of the consequences of this little event is that Jalil and his wives decide to marry Mariam off. They marry her to a man about 40 years old, keep in mind that Mariam is 15, named Rasheed. He lives in Kabul, which is far enough away that Mariam's family never need to see her again.

At first, Rasheed treats Mariam as though she is precious. Then, she has a miscarriage. From that point on, he changes. Becomes abusive.

Fast forward another 18 years. Laila, who is a neighbor of Rasheed and Mariam, is 14 years old. She is in love with her best friend Tariq, and the warlords of Afghanistan, with the Soviets gone, have turned on one another.

"Morning brought no relief. The muezzin's call for namaz rang out, and the Mujahideen set down their guns, faced west, and prayed. Then the rugs were folded, the guns loaded, and the mountains fired on Kabul, and Kabul fired back at the mountains, as Laila and the rest of the city watched as helpless as old Santiago watching the sharks take bites out of his prize fish."

People are getting killed all the time by roving bands of mujahideen or missiles. Tariq's family evacuates and Laila's is about to follow, to flee to Pakistan, when a missile hits their house, killing her mother and her father, leaving Laila an orphan.

Rasheed takes her in and marries her. Again, everything is fine, Laila is the queen of the house, while Mariam is little better than a slave. At least, that's the way Rasheed treats them. In reality, Laila wants nothing more than to be a friend to Mariam.

The story follows their lives and the pain and suffering that they face. But it shows the joys too, and the friendship, the family bond that develops between Mariam and Laila. It goes through the wars, the battles, and then the coming of the Taliban. At first, the Taliban are greeted as a good thing, but then it becomes clear that things are not going to go back to the way they were before the Soviets came. This is the announcement that the Taliban play through the streets of Kabul, written on fliers and tossed out to the people:

"Our watan is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:

"All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something other, you will be beaten.

"All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be beaten.

"All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white. All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.

"Singing is forbidden.

"Dancing is forbidden.

"Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kite flying are forbidden.

"Writing books, watching films, and paining pictures are forbidden.

"If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.

"If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.

"If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.

"Attention women:

"You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home.

"You will not, under any circumstances, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.

"Cosmetics are forbidden.

"Jewelry is forbidden.

"You will not wear charming clothes.

"You will not speak unless spoken to.

"You will not make eye contact with men.

"You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.

"You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.

"Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately.

"Women are forbidden from working.

"If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.

"Listen. Listen well. Obey. Allah-u-akbar."

This is a book about war, but not in the epic sense of it. This is about how it affects the people on the ground, the people who want nothing to do with it, but have to suffer the consequences of it. It's a book about two women and the things that mothers will do for their children, to keep them safe.

It's an absolutely fabulous book. I didn't expect to enjoy it as I did. The author also wrote another book, The Kite Runner. I haven't read it, but I ordered it so as soon as I get it, I'll be reading it. I think the author is just that good.

Friday, April 15, 2011

SPN - My Heart Will Go On

With a title like that, even without the summary on my dvr, you know it's gonna be about the Titanic. Also, YAY BALTHAZAR! My third fave angel on the show.


I- I- this is going to kill me, isn't it? They're going to be back and then die again. Damn you writers!

Bobby! I mourn your old man romance's doom!

Who wants to bet the garage door kills this guy?

Duh. Okay, so, theory. Because Balthazar did the thing I know he did from the preview, Death is running around killing people to fix all the shit.

It's the plot to Final Destination. Only with hotter guys.

Hey! Dean won rock paper scissors! Yay Dean! You've learned a lesson!


See, see, they're back and holy shit, are they gonna put Bobby and Ellen together? I think my head will explode.

Yep. Yep.


If you hear a dripping sound, that's my brain, coming off the ceiling. Pay it no mind.

Oh, Dean only won rock paper scissors because this is alterna-world.

Hello blonde woman. Death's accountant?

Lady, that scarf was a real unfortunate choice. And that's why I'm glad women don't wear ties. Too many office hazards.

Funny story, so, somewhere in the interviews on my Supernatural dvd's there's a story Kripke told about how he decided on the boys driving an Impala. He was talking to a neighbor, telling him about this show he was writing. Two brothers, crossing the country in a classic Mustang. And the neighbor, a muscle car guy, said that was a fine car. For a pussy. If Kripke wanted a monster car, something that looked like it would beat other cars up, then he needed a '67 Impala. And thus, we got the Impala. So I'm guessing the Mustang is a nod to that.


"Because that God awful Celine Dion song made me want to smite myself!" ILU Balthazar. So freaking hard.

"Oh, oh, sorry. You have me confused with the other angel. You know, the one in the dirty trench coat who's in love with you." *looks at Dean* Yes...we all know you're jealous, Balthazar.

Oh, Fate. So not Death. Hi Fate! Hmmm...Atropos? She's the one who does the cutting. But she's not usually cute.


Okay, and the commercial for the finale of Smallville made me squee.

Irony... I thought it was funny, Dean.

Oh, Cas. I love you. Yes, the boys may have pissed Fate off. Just a tad. Probably gave her an ulcer before that.

Ellen. I miss you so much. I do.

I love this song!

Ha! Atropos is adorable! Reminds me of Sheila from DF. And we all know how well she turned out...

"But freedom is more preferable." I hate that sentence.

And Atropos is a little OCD.

Oh! Oh! Atropos is a disgruntled worker!

And Cas is a sneaky pants!

I really do like Atropos. And I wanna meet her sisters...

Hello Baby! We've missed you! *huggles the Impala*

"You killed 50,000 people for us." No, just for Dean. And really, it was just because Atropos had him over a barrel and wasn't going for the lube.

Cas, you are a terrible liar. Terrible. Dean, Sam - you're idiots. ID. I. OTS.

So cute, Dean and Sam with Bobby. Who is their Daddy. Best parent they've ever had. *pouts*

preview: Cowboys? I like. *waggles eyebrows*

oddly pleased, take 2

I'm such a stalker. I just drove by the mosque at lunch.

Ignore me and my freakishness, please...

I am oddly pleased

The local mosque has a website!

No, I have no idea why this makes me happy.

*wanders off to read it all*

Islamic Community of Southwest Florida - Masjid Nur.

ETA: There's not much there, yet. Just prayer times and a page with a message to the youth. And some pictures. *twitches*

Here's the thing. I have still never actually set foot inside a mosque. I have never spoken to a Muslim (that I know of) face to face. It's one of those things where I'd *like* to go, but I can't just show up. *twitches some more* Don't mind me...

ETA2: I've looked at every page, and I'm still circling it. Why don't they have an email contact? *pouts* Also, all the pictures, everyone looks very...ethnic. Not a single white person. Which just makes me more nervous. Only white girl in the room? Yeah. I'd stand out... *argh*

Today is a good day

I'm going to the bookstore, so yay!



Also, I seem to have created a verse, in the Dresden Kinkmeme. And it's het. I mean, I sort of have another verse, with the Bad Angel series, but that's slash and dark and, you know, more me. So how the hell did this other thing happen?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Inu-Yasha Has Ended!


Okay, I'm a bit behind on my manga reading, and I somehow managed to miss the fact, when I bought it, that volume 56 was the last volume of Inu-Yasha. I've been reading this manga for *years*!

It's sort of a shonen manga, in that there's a lot of fighting and powering up, etc. But there are the shoujo aspects of the love story and the emotions.

The basic set up is that a girl from modern day Tokyo gets sucked through a well into ancient Japan. There, she meets a half-demon named Inu-Yasha. Inu-Yasha was cursed, fifty years before by the woman that he loved. Kagome winds up bringing a very powerful demonic object back with her into the ancient time, and this jewel, the Shikon jewel, sets off a series of demon wars. All of it leading up to a battle with the major villain named Naraku. It's all fairly typical shonen stuff. Fight, fight, get more power, yadda.

The thing that I love is the relationships. All of the characters are very human, even the ones that are demons. You have Inu-Yasha, who is half human but who has rejected his humanity in order to try and find a place and survive amongst the demons. But of course neither the humans nor the demons will fully accept him and so he is always alone. Kagome, a fairly normal middle school student who is thrust into a time and place she doesn't understand, trapped with a boy who hates her (Inu-Yasha). There's Miroku, a Buddhist monk who seems to only be a perv, but in reality is under a terrible curse and so lives his life as if there's no tomorrow.

Sango, a woman who comes from a demon hunting clan. She has to live with the fact that her younger brother murdered their entire family as she hunts the demon that she blames for it all.

Sesshomaru, Inu-Yasha's full demon older half-brother, who hates all humans and is driven to claim what their father left for Inu-Yasha, since as the oldest and only legitimate son, the inheritance should be his.

I'll admit that I love Sesshomaru the best. His journey, to me, is the most interesting. He goes from being a fairly one dimensional guy who's there to beat up his baby brother because daddy loved Inu-chan best to slowly finding his own heart because of a single act of kindness shown to him by a little girl who had nothing.

I'm going to miss this manga!

It also doesn't hurt that Sesshomaru-kun is a bishie.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Niqab Ban

So, we all know that I am speaking from the peanut gallery on this matter. I'm not Muslim, and I don't ever intend to be a Muslim. Even when I was seriously investigating Islam as a possible convert, I did not find the evidence for the niqab being fard to be overwhelmingly convincing. Hijab, yes, if we're speaking of a standard of modesty. Not so much if we're speaking of a very specific uniform. Okay?

That being said, I am very much against banning the niqab. In the exact same vein I am against any religious clothing being banned in public. So yamuka, headscarves of other religious women, a Sikh turban, tzitzit, crosses, crucifixes, rosary beads, prayer ropes, etc.

France says that they are banning the face veil because of security concerns. I don't believe that to be true, given that their president flat out said that he was against the Islamic face veil in particular. They're a 'secular country', right?

In my opinion, that's fine and dandy. A nation can be secular. It should be, as a matter of fact - in the sense that the nation should not be run on religious rules. Any nation run on religious rules will, without fail, wind up discriminating against those people living within it who are not of the predominant faith. That doesn't mean that the people, however, must be secular or that the secular nation can or should infringe on their rights. One of the rights people have is religious freedom. If a woman believes that her faith requires her to veil her face in public, then she should have the right to do that. In the same way that other women have the right to walk around half naked on beaches. Two ends of the same problem.

I Find It Cheapening and Tawdry

*sigh* I'm weird, I know. I don't like and/or respect any religious group that makes tv commercials for themselves. It's cheap and tawdry, makes me feel like they're selling themselves, makes me think of the televangelists, and we all know how I feel about them. So, Mormons, 7th Day Adventists, Scientologists, etc. them. I am immediately turned off by the fact that they advertise like that.

And now guess what's popping up on my tv all the time.

Commercials for the Catholic Church. *headdesk*

You can see some of them here at the official website: Catholics Come Home. I think it's just a group of Catholics, not something run by the See in Rome or anything, but still. Still.

Excuse me. I'll be over here, being embarrassed for these people. *reminds herself this is not. her. problem. anymore.*

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's All Because We're So Very Freaking Special

Random weird thoughts! Be prepared.

So, let's assume that there is no god. Or at least not one that is actively involved in humanity/the universe. Meaning that if there is an intelligent, creative force behind the universe, it kicked everything into motion and then tottered off to do something else. Therefore, all 'revelation' is man made. Got it?

Okay. So we're the ones writing every religious text ever. There's no divine mandate, nothing. It's just people. Why do we write religious texts? Hell, why did we invent a personal god to begin with?

Because humans are imaginative. We look around us and don't just focus on survival, food, shelter, etc. We wonder 'why' and 'how'.

We see the world around us and the plants and the animals and we feel that we are vastly superior to all of them. The animals, after all, while adapted to their lifestyle and their environment, have never learned to speak. To have societies, build tools (ignoring the animals that do, in fact, use primitive tools), have written language. They do not express themselves as we do, they do not seem to feel as we do. I don't speak of nerves and pleasure/pain responses, but emotions. We anthropomorphise many animals, saying that they mourn, etc. etc. and some do, in their own fashion. But it's not like *us*. We're superior.

So we've been looking around since we figured out how to and wondering how did this all get here. Why is it that we're so vastly superior to everything else, but we can't control the weather, or the ocean. Why do we get sick and die? Why are we superior to all the other creatures? Why can't they do what we did and evolve into better species? Why why why...

And we invent a being that is like us, but superior to us. And of course, because we're the highest form of life, it must be personally invested in us. So why wouldn't it want to talk to us? To tell us about itself and our origins and what we need to do to become ever more superior? And people start having visions and revelations from the creating being, and eventually it all gets written down, etc. and we wind up with religious texts and rules ad nauseum. Also, someone along the lines figures out that people are herd animals and we all want to belong. Religion is a great way of controlling people, so they roll with it.

But then, if we're inventing the divine because we're convinced of our own greatness, why are we constantly being chastised in the religious texts? The fall of the world being blamed on humanity, sinful, etc.

Well, because we're the center of the freaking universe, of course!

It is, literally, all about *us*. The divine made this perfect world, made us perfect, but because of our amazing powers of us-ness, we screwed it all up. How could we screw up the perfection? See above, about us being the center of the universe.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

al-Ghazzali - Islam: A Short History

So, al-Ghazzali was a teacher at a madrasah, an expert in Islamic law, who suffered a nervous breakdown in 1095. His breakdown was caused by the fact that he felt he was losing his faith. He became paralyzed and couldn't speak.

"his doctor's diagnosed a deep-seated emotional conflict, and later Ghazzali explained that he was concerned that though he knew a great deal about God, he did not know God himself."

Ghazzali went to Jerusalem, practiced Sufi exercises and returned to Iraq ten years later to write Iyah alum al-Din (The Revivial of the Religious Sciences). It became the most quoted Muslim text after the Qur'an and the ahadith.

"It was based on the important insight that only ritual and prayer could give human beings a direct knowledge of God; the arguments of theology (kalam) and Falsafah, however, could give us no certainty about the divine."

What do you think? Is it only through ritual and prayer that we can know God? Does theological argument get us nowhere, spiritually?

"All the Shariah rules about eating, sleeping, washing, hygiene and prayer were given a devotional and ethical interpretation, so that they were no longer simply external directives, but enabled Muslims to cultivate that perpetual consciousness of the divine that is advocated by the Qur'an. The Shariah had thus become more than a means of social conformity and a slavish exterior imitation of the Prophet and his sunnah: it became a way of achieving interior islam. Al-Ghazzali was not writing for the religious experts, but for devout individuals. There were, he believed, three sorts of people: those who accept the truths of religion without questioning them; those who try to find justification for their beliefs in the rational discipline of kalam; and the Sufis, who have a direct experience of religious truth."

Are there different sorts of believers? I think we know the answer to that is yes. How do you feel about Ghazzali's categories?

Why do you think that ritual gives people a sense of the divine? Does it?

Unrelated, I kind of want to do video posts, but I don't have anything to talk about that's worth the effort it takes to record and then upload. Is it easier with a webcam?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jon Stewart on Glenn Beck's Impending Departure

My god, I love this man!

You can't see it, but Beck's departure is making me do a happy dance. Not that that means he'll be gone from the public eye for good, which is disappointing. But I'll take what happiness I can get! :D

"Glenn Beck still had the third highest show in cable news ... Maybe Fox News thought it would be useful to pick some random talk radio host rehashing all same tired old John Birch Society conspiracy theories to seed ultra-conservative viewpoints into the news cycle, while making the rest of the network seem centrist by comparison. But, he then began to believe his own messianic delusions and became a giant pain in the ass. So they dropped his ass."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Favorite Childhood Books

I was looking at Susanne's blog and saw on her blog list a blog entry with the title 'My favorite childhood books'. It's over on Bridget of Arabia's blog, which is not one that I read, but you know, books! So I wandered over to check it out. And it made me remember *my* favorite books from when I was a kid. So here we go, in no particular order!

1. The Nancy Drew Mystery Series - I loved these stories. I still do. I have the entire original set, in the shiny yellow hard covers. I wanted to *be* Nancy Drew. But I always thought of myself as a Bess. The slightly curvy friend who was true blue and helpful, but not necessarily brave. :)

2. Little House on the Prairie - Again, love. Love, love, love. This is where my love of living 'back in the day' came from, I'm certain. I wanted to live with the Ingalls' and just...have their life. It was just all so much more interesting than my boring life!

3. Dracula - No, really. I read it as a kid, and I loved it. And the rest is history!

4. Bunnicula - He's a vampire bunny! What's not to love?

5. Bridge to Terabithia - Oh, this was the first book I read where I put it down and never read it again. Not because it was bad, but because it was so emotionally moving and touching and I carry around the pain and love I felt for this book still.

6. The Hatchet - It's a survival story. It's wonderful and engrossing. One of those books you read under the covers after you've been told lights out because you just can't put it down.

7. The Egypt Game - It's a kids book and a cute story and then all of a sudden it's not anymore.

8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Pirates! Submarines! Giant squid! It's a classic for a reason, people!

There's more, but these are the ones that come to mind at the moment...
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