Anticipating questions from the “modern” Pakistanis

I am (was, it happened) scheduled to give an “Islamic Talk” before a group of largely non-practicing Muslims who are doing a fundraising dinner for Pakistan. How unfortunate of an audience that I was selected to give this talk. I do not mean this to be humble, I mean that sincerely, if they knew how dark and empty my inner-soul was, they be shocked. However, I was authorized by a Shaykh and maybe at least my outward can be of some benefit.

I know this crowd. They tend to have a fairly hostile approach towards outwardly religious people. I once wore a pakol and pashtun clothing (I am Pashtun) and a woman came up to me and asked me “Are you from the Taliban?” It was fairly rude, because she didn’t even greet me or know who I was. When I said no, mostly in shock, she said “okay, then you can stay”. It was worse because I am very much not cultural, so to have my fledgling expression attacked was disheartening. But I won’t play the victim.

Anyways, before any talk that I present, on any topic, I practice in my car. I also anticipate the sorts of questions that people will ask me afterwards. In particular with this audience, I anticipate someone coming to me and saying that they like Islam, but these Mullahs who study in madrassas are all intellectually backwards and come to foolish conclusions.

I plan to basically criticize modernity, but not do it from a position of ignorance.

Modernists are a very confused group of people. They differ on basic points of morality that I bet even you would disagree with. For example, did you know that they no longer say there is just male or female? Want me to justify it for you from their perspective? (Engage them in a little bit of back and forth, make points they cannot refute).

You think you’re being “modern”? All you’re doing is being a laughable imitation of European culture. Your sleeveless shalwar kameez is not “modern”, its just not Pakistani.

Do you think you’re being educated? Auntie, I have a Masters degree. I’m more educated than you.

Did you know that in modern society, men do not protect women? Men have no obligation towards their wives at all. After all, we’re all just people who happen to have different different biology.

You think technology is so great? Did you know that technological advancement has been slowing down? Most of what we have is basically implementation of existing technologies. The basic principles are the same.

You think we are a golden age of physics? Lets take physics. You argue that physics is a glory to our knowledge and insight. But in modern physics, you have two irreconcilable theories that both explain the world and stand up to empiric observation. How can this be? Similarly, every 100 years or so the entire scientific paradigm changes. And in every period, it is presumed that its current conclusions of science is eternal truth. Then those eternal truths change!

You need to re-evaluate the way you look at the world. This European idolization is backwards.


Atheists Cannot Make a Moral Claim

Yes, I mean it. Atheists cannot be moral.

Why? Because if they applied their lack-of-beliefs (for lack of a better words) to its logical conclusions, they would recognize that morality is not objective. It cannot be measured, observed, or even speculated about. It is a non-rational concept.

Typically, atheists appeal to things like “universally” accepted human rights or notions like “harm no one and do as you please”. But these concepts are arbitrarily, they have no basis. They do not rest upon anything tangible or objectively measurable.

Most atheists presume that, absent of religion, we will all fall into a secular utopia, where humanistic values are self-evident and adopted by all. But this isn’t true. Removing religion does not default to humanism, in fact it does not default to anything.

For this reason, when I hear “that is wrong” from an atheist, my immediate question is “wrong based by what standard?” And I never get an answer.

There only thing holding morality is the last vestiges of Christianity – although, even that is on a sharp decline.

May the “New Atheists” live to see the results of their project.


Society is contemptuous. Everyone has their own view, refusing to hear others, and trying to force you to accept their view.

Free thinkers do not tolerate disagreement.

Hypocrisy is apparent, but no one sees.

Everyone thinks their team is moral, the rest is immoral.

And maybe that includes myself?

So maybe the better path is to disconnect.

Transgenderism and Feminism: Opposites

Transgenderism (is that a word?) and Feminism are essentially at war with each other.

Third-wave Feminism deemphasizes the differences between men and women, and says any difference is the result of socialization caused by patriarchy. I won’t bore you with the details, but you can look it up and listen to a lot of the 3rd-wave feminists, who go so far as to say biological differences are social constructions.

Conversely, modern gender theory, necessary for Transgenderism, claims that when a person transitions from male to female or vice versa, the person is said to “present” as the other gender. In doing so, they dress in the clothes, hairstyle and accessories of the other. They actively change their appears to conform and aim for to be “passable”. They argue that these expressions make them feel more natural.

These two are contradictory. If gender is a pure social construct, as the feminists allege, then why would transgendered people aim to conform to a socially constructed standard? How could a socially constructed standard by definition artificial, feel more natural?

There are feminists who oppose the inclusion of Transgender male-to-female into female-only spaces, they are derogatorily referred to as “Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists”, or TURFs for short. These are closest associated with feminists from the 70s and 80s…

Just some thoughts.

Oregon Standoff Side-Point

This is a meaningful rant. I am currently listening to a reasoned discussion about these armed Oregon takeover…it was Al Jazeera, go figure.

I thought it was funny that the news logo was in Arabic, while showing armed militants in the US. Typically its the opposite, the news logo is in English, and the armed militants are in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Then the video showed someone quoting the constitution. They were claiming that they would die defending the constitution, almost religiously. And it occurred to me, these gun-totting terrorists are not constitutional scholars. All they do is read the constitution and apply their own personal interpretation.

This is exactly what is happening with ISIS or Boko Haram. They think their own simplistic personal interpretations, which are not in line with established Islamic scholarship, akin to not being in line with Constitutional scholarship, are valid interpretations of Islam.

Scholarship tends to produce more calmer, reasoned approaches to problems. Simplistic fools tend to create violence.

On a side note, I am absolutely certain this Oregon standoff will end violently.

Thoughts on the notion that “A Literal reading of the Qur’an allows for terrorism”

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. “A literal reading of the Qur’an allows for violence” — that groups like ISIS can justify themselves from the life of the Prophet, that just like how Levitical Law or  the Old Testament have violent passages the Qur’an does too, but “moderate Muslims” simply do not follow them anymore. When I hear this, I hear “I can prove creationism through scientific journals”. Only those who are deeply ignorant of Islamic scholarship or perhaps those whose lens has been colored from analysis of other religions could reason this.

I need to start with an absolutely critical premise. Islam has a “True Scottsman”. That is to say, Islam has a normative scholastic tradition that is widely shared, even without mass awareness and even given regional variations of Islam. Specifically, Sunni Islam has four legal schools, known as madhhabs, which are closely related yet distinct sets of principles and conclusions that are used as frameworks to interpret the Qur’an and prophetic tradition to derive Islamic law. Shia Islam has significantly broader variations, but with the exception of the Aga Khanis or ‘Alawis, they tend to only be around disputes of leadership and cultural and political identity, not practical law. That aside, Shias tend to coalesce around a single legal framework. These 4+1 schools are effectively absolute in their penetration of the Muslim world and provide a concise framework for what normative, orthodox, mainstream, approach to Islamic law. Granted, there is debate even within these schools, but even then there is a consensus or normative opinion and other minor opinions are taken as a rukhsa (acceptable opinion in the event of a dire circumstance or to free someone from blame).

For centuries, the general populace read the Qur’an and pondered its meanings. But specific formulations of Islamic law, practice, applications and rulings derived thereof were delivered to the masses through the scholars. Typically Muslims did not simply read the Qur’an and hadith texts to reach to their own personal conclusions on law. Instead, they relied on the established scholastic tradition through one of the four schools. This provided a dispassionate, sound legal framework not affected by personal desire. Additionally, it was rare that the average Muslim directly delved into the books of hadith without guidance. This was not withholding knowledge from the masses, as anyone could become a scholar by attaching himself to the coterie of a scholar. Instead, it is this was recognizing that hadith are inherently highly contextual reports. Some hadith are considered formally abrogated, some are still applicable, some are general, some are specific, etc.

Now to ISIS and related groups: Groups like ISIS started as a theological schism from classical Islam. From their perspective, they were returning to classical Islam that was free from scholastic interpretation and unnecessary clutter. But in reality, they were jettisoning centuries of scholarship, even if it dated back to the first three generations (Salaf al-Salih), both theologically and legally, that they reportedly claim to adhere to. They eliminated all schools of Islamic thought as “following the madhhab” or “following your shaykhs” instead of following the prophetic tradition. With this in mind, they reinterpreted the Qur’an and Hadith without even the requisite basic knowledge. They pick up the hadith texts, find what they think justified their position, and cite it as Islamic justification.

Outwardly, they appear scholarly, authoritative and maybe even convincing. But their ignorance is acutely palpable to anyone with basic knowledge of the Shari’ah, but seems convincing to the ill-informed. This is perhaps most analogous to creationists who have little-to-no scientific knowledge, but will cite research papers they do not understand to disprove established scientific conclusions.

Ironically, the so-called “Moderate Muslims” are responding not with liberal or progressive interpretations of Islam, but with classical interpretations that date back since day one, whereas the terrorists are the ones who espouse modernistic, “reformed Islam”. There is a shift to “reform Islam”, which typically means move it away from traditional Islam and let the masses interpret it as they choose. As Dalia Mogahed pointed out in her discourse with Irshad Manji, the idea that a free-for-all to interpret Islam is any less valid than centuries of scholastic interpretation is exactly the kind of thinking that gave Osama bin Laden legitimacy.

(I’ve listened to the entire talk, but can’t seem to find it online!!)

I’ll close with a statement from Ibn Taymiyya. He said that every deviant group in Islam’s history has always justified themselves with the Qur’an and Sunnah. But they always have done so by accepting parts and rejecting other parts. Groups like ISIS and their ilk are deviant innovators and should be challenged both militarily and theologically.

Short Story: Trump’s List

In 2016 the election came down to Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. Two months before the 2016 presidential election, there were two coordinated and major terrorist attacks in Washington DC, leaving 120 dead. The attack was boastfully claimed by the dying ISIS regime. The gravity and fear of the attack ushered in Trump’s victory, who, true to his word, displayed his militarism. He increased his bellicose rhetoric and intensified domestic security programs, made easy through weakened civil rights, a rubber stamping congress, and terrified public. Among the first of a series of laws was a domestic watch-list. Ostensibly the list was only for “people of interest”, but in practice it was targeted primarily at Muslims and to a lesser degree activists for Black Lives Matter and leftist activist groups.

Three months into his term, there was another terrorist attack, leaving 30 dead and over 100 injured. Again, ISIS claims responsibility.

And Trump plays hardball back.

Trump declares that Islam is not a religion, but a political ideology, akin to communism or anarchy. As such, it is not afforded protection under the 1st amendment. Trump orders the closure of thousands of masjids and orders that all self-affirming Muslims must officially be registered. Key Muslim figures are ” administratively detained”, ID cards are issued, free travel is restricted and stories circulate the Muslim community of forced registrations of Muslim males for “security purposes”. News sources uncritically declare official government sources as factual but few protest.

In this situation I find myself. And I refuse to register…

I am at work. I am respected, hold a senior position at my company, am well known and very openly Muslim. But a certain uneasiness has set in among my co-workers. They know me, but in their fear, subconscious indoctrination from political demagoguery and the media’s amplification, they hold me in cognitive dissonance. Is he one is us? Or is he a bad guy?

Its mid-day. I step back in after praying Zuhr for an urgent meeting. Suddenly there is a knock on my ajar office door.

“Mr. Abdullah, you have a visitor.” Its the office secretary. She pauses for a moment. “I know you are busy but I really think you should come to this. He said he’s with DHS.”

A shiver runs down my spine. “Did he say what his business was?”

“No, just that he absolutely needed to speak to you.”

A second later two suited men accompanied by four police officers come to my office. I did not invite them. “Mr. Abdullah, I’m Agent Jefferson with the Joint Terrorism Registry Task Force. We’ve been trying to get in touch with you for some time time. And we are going to speak. Right now. Tell me, are you a member of a mosque named Masjeed el-Kowran?”

He refers to a local masjid that I used to attend, before it was monitored for weeks, shutdown, and several community members I personally knew were detailed for “terrorism-related investigations”.

“Sir”, I consider my words, “I am not interested in speaking with you. I need you to leave my place of business immediately.”

He ignores my response. “Mr. Abdullah, I will just be a moment. Did you attend this political center Masjeed el-Kowran anytime since December 2016?”

“Sir, I told you. I am not interested in speaking with you. I did not give you permission to enter-”

“Mr. Abdullah, we know that you are a member of that organization. Are you aware of the National Person of Interest Registry, the NPIR? Because we attempted multiple confirmed attempts to speak you on this matter and you have intentionally failed to comply. Mr. Abdullah, do you realize that by law your affiliations require you to cooperate?”

The presence of firearms and the sternness of his voice draws in a small office crowd.

“Sir, I am-“, I slightly distance myself, “-was a member of the masjid. It is just a place of worship. It is not a political organization and I find this highly questionable that you could ask me such a thing. For the third time, I am not interested in speaking with you and ask that you immediately leave my place of business.”

There is a slight pause. The officers glance at each other. “He admits his affiliation.” Their eyes return to me. “Mr. Abdullah, you are required, let me repeat that, required to register with the NPIR. Do you understand? You must comply with this immediately. We can take care of this right now.” The agent places a six page form on my desk. “It will only take a moment. Its only a registration list, nothing more. It just takes 30 minutes to complete and your fingerprints. You are not under arrest. We just need to know who you are, how…”, he searches for the right word, “…how committed your views are. A few questions to get a feel for you.”

I page through the form, one section asks for my commonly used internet passwords. Another asks for my views on Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The last page is a sniff fingerprint card. I notice at least two typos.

“No,” I whisper to myself. “No, I am not obligated to complete this. You have no right to ask me this information.” There is timidity in my voice, as the six stern-faced officers are now circled by slightly larger audience.

“You don’t have anything to hide, do you? Or are you hiding something? We are not interested in harming you, just interested in your safety and the safety of Americans.” Implicit in this response is the denial of my American citizenship.

I hesitate, not sure what to say. What more can I say?

“Mr. Abdullah, right now, I see you as being uncooperative. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. And we are very much authorized to do this the hard way. Do you understand? You can either sit down, stop with the responses and complete this form and we can be on our merry way, or continue to be uncooperative, in which case we will have to force compliance. We have already enforced six peaceful registrations today, quick and easy. Lets make that seven. But this is your last chance, the bottom line is, you will be completing this form by today. The next words out of your mouth better be ‘Yes, Sir’ or you are being uncooperative with the law.”

My thoughts race to the stories I have heard of other forced registrations. Two officers step forward, unholster their tasers, not pointing, but ready. The two officers behind them place their hands on their shoulders.

I freeze. I look back at the paperwork. Should I complete it? What do I do? I look back up at the officers. My voice cowers, “I am not sure…that…”

“Hit him.” the agent says.

In a flash the two police fire their tasers at me. One catches just under my abdomen, second pair misses with only a single barb piercing my chest. For a moment the only audible sound are the rapid crackling electrical pulses. My entire body tenses up, I lose all motor functions, release a high-pitched scream, and collapse face-first into my desk keyboard, and then onto fall for the floor. The crackling continues. I release a moan, but I am unable to scream. Then the crackling ceases.

“Okay, I need everyone to step back. Step back!” The officers order the crowd back.

“I told you,” the Agent continues, “Didn’t I tell you? You chose to do this the hard way. Now will you complete the form.”

Though I am down, I can respond and even get up if I wanted to. But I refuse. And they know it. For another moment I lay motionless on the floor, uneaven breathing.

“Hit him again.”

The crackling continues. I scream again. Then it stops. There is a brief pause. Then again it continues for 20 seconds. By the third time he continues for 30 seconds. I am broken, the fight in me is gone. My pride wants to resist, but finds an uncooperative body.

“Okay…Okay, I’ll do what you say, ” I wisp out.

“Sit him up,” the agent orders. The two rear officers manhandle me onto the desk chair, they break my shirt button and my shirt comes partially untucked. My lower lip is swelling up, while my nose is dripping blood, my glasses have fallen off and the barbs are still in my chest. I am breathing rapidly, unable to catch my breath. I’m terrified, what next?

In the following moments, the agent begins to recite to me a series of pointed questions. They ask about my place of birth, my level of religiosity, particular self-identifications, my frequent contacts both foreign and domestic, my internet activities, which religious leaders I affiliate with, my views on with terrorist organizations I have never heard of, my donations, participation in various Islamic organizations and so on. The other officers yank out the barbs from my chest, letting a crimson red stain to peak through my dress shirt. I submit to the questioning. I itch my nose, only to smear the blood across my face. In the end, the second agent produces a fingerprint ink pad, jerks each individual finger onto the pad and spreads them across the paper. I lower my gaze and let it happen.

In the end, takes a picture of me, the hands me a pen to sign my name and initial in three places. For a brief moment I consider signing with my left hand, a final act of defiance. But what is the point? My hands are trembling, but I am able to script my name, blood smearing and black ink across the page.

“This is why you should remain cooperative, Mr. Abdullah. You have to understand what is happening to our country. You have to do your part in keeping this country safe. Thank you.”

He agent shuffles the papers in order, places them into a file. He then hands me a single-page form of standard questions and new behavioral and travel laws. He tells me a series of other demands. I hear every word, but do not comprehend the meaning. I only catch that I will receive my registration card in four weeks, which I am obligated to carry.

“Thank you for your cooperation.” and he leads the other five men out.

For moments I sit there with my arms dangling off the side of the chair, blood dripping onto my shirt, fingers caked in black ink. Co-workers walk by and stare, but try to pretend as if no scene was just presented. I am humiliated, embarrassed. I take a moment to catch my balance, retrieve my glasses, and walk out of the building, never to return.