Sunday, March 27, 2016
Recently when speaking to a large conference of Zionist leaders, Donald Trump denied the existence of Palestine in a rather underhanded way, pandering to his audience. There seems to have been a history of support among conservative evangelical Christians of the Israeli government and military regardless of what actions they are taking at any given moment. Many conservative zionist Christians such as the minister John Hagee, base such support of military action on scriptural references of Israel being the chosen people of God. It is important to note that this is one of many ways to interpret such scripture and often, ministers like Mr. Hagee take to a literal or fundamentalist interpretation of scripture that the majority of Christians would perhaps disagree with. Often these individuals remain blissfully unaware of the lives of individuals involved in this conflict. Lives such as Anas Murakatan who lives in the 20 percent of the city of Hebron that is occupied by the Israeli military. Anas and his wife, who was at the time pregnant, were interviewed by Al-Jazeera about their experience of living under occupation. As of December of 2016, all of the residents of this 20 percent of Hebron were being required to give their personal information so as to receive identification numbers to enter the street on which they live. They must report with this number to several checkpoints on the way to their homes and should they find themselves absent from the list owned by the checkpoint officers, they will either not be allowed home, or otherwise have to find another, more difficult route to circumvent the checkpoints. Furthermore, only the residents of the given streets under occupation may enter the area: Thus, they may have no visitors, be they family or friends- no exceptions. As Anas was being interviewed, speaking of his wife, he mentioned that should she go into labor, she would not be exempt from having to submit to the checkpoint stops before boarding an ambulance, which may as well be subject to check-ins, making it's arrival further delayed. After his wife arrives home and is recovering, she will not be allowed to receive visitors and they will have to take the newborn child to be registered, at which point, the child will be given a number as well. While this is an immense inconvenience, this is not the greatest problem. This idea of making someone identify by number is a method of dehumanizing the occupied people. It is a method of stealing identity and self-worth. I would ask those who claim that these actions are the will of God if such a God would ordain the dehumanization of any individual. The answer to that question, no matter what the faith, is an emphatic "no". Whether we are speaking of the three Abrahamic faiths or of Hinduism or Buddhism and so on, all begin with a respect for the dignity of life and hope to relieve suffering. To claim that these methods are correct is always missing the mark, in religious terms.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Tuesday's special lecture with Dr. Boukhars was very appropriately timed. The tactic of those individuals calling themselves "the Islamic State" is to insight fear and confusion. So, the lecture was appropriate in that it brought understanding to yet another senseless act of violence which is very difficult to understand. The term "ISIS" gets thrown around in the American media and most recently, on the Presidential campaign trail, without the appropriate context to aid in understanding. Many candidates propose solutions as they find ISIS to be the most significant threat to our national security. Ironically, many of the solutions proposed seem to be black and white in nature: offering simplistic military solutions to a complicated problem that carries with it equally complex social issues. It would not be hard to imagine that many of the facts surrounding the rise of ISIS are foreign to many American students being that so many media sources do not frame the problem in it's entirety nor offer constructive suggestions to said problems. Perhaps the most troubling fact from an American perspective is that ISIS is not a new problem which has just arisen but rather the resurgence of a problem that existed in 2003 with the beginning of the United State's military involvement in Iraq. While the group was not at that time called "ISIS", their original surfacing was in that time, although many felt as though they were successfully dealt with. However the poor strategy to build Iraqi democracy and the poor strategies of the Bush administration began to pave the road for the rise of ISIS. The region has seen several such governmental attempts at reorganization; all of which have failed. Socialism, capitalism, the Muslim Brotherhood, and more all seemed to fail. This administrative failure is one of there three things that Dr. Boukhars claims ISIS feeds on. The three factors are as follows: 1. Failing State Administrations, 2. Oppressive political policy, and 3. The oppression of Sunnis. While it is that the vast majority of Muslims oppose ISIS (Something like 99%), ISIS continues to see Sunnis as their constituency. This is due to the fact that in the main regions in which ISIS is active (Iraq and Syria), there has been widespread persecution of Sunnis (or this is the perception of many, as Dr. Boukhars said). This dissatisfaction amongst Sunnis has created a perfect storm of political unrest, upon which ISIS lives. It is interesting to note however, that Sunnis actually hold the majority in these regions. The persecution is possible as they are a majority with a minority complex; feeling the full weight of their oppression. Up to this point the strategies to deal with the rise of ISIS have either been primarily militaristic (the Bush administration) or relatively inactive, so as to distance from previous administrations (the Obama administration), according to Dr. Boukhars. The West's failure to come to the aid of Sunnis being persecuted is an idea that those in ISIS use to their advantage to create hostility against the West. It is important to note here that these factors are just a few of the factors surrounding the rise of ISIS and their actions around the world. This is an extremely complicated issue that has very little to do with Islam whatsoever, contrary to what Donald Trump would have his constituents believe. It is a sobering thought when one realizes that the tactics of Donald Trump such as division and alienation, create there perfect conditions for ISIS. Awareness of what are really the underlying issues nee to be brought to the attention of the American public along with the recognition that to support a man like Trump, is counter to the progression of a nation and a more civil planet.
Friday, March 4, 2016
What a great two-day treat it was to be able to attend the concert in the evening, to be followed by a drumming and question and answer session the next day! I, like many others, came to the concert with some preconceived notions about what the style of music being played would be like. I am quite familiar with traditional Arab music and the similar Greek music form from which, traditional Arab music takes some if its musical inspiration. I could not have imagined the indigenous feel of the music being played on what would have been traditional tribal instruments. This in combination with the multicultural perspective of the group itself made for a truly unique experience! It is easy to see in western culture how music pervades every part of our lives and what one can see from such a concert experience is that music has been with humanity for quite sometime and continues to be so. Musical instruments such as the "talking drum" being played by Massamba Diop are not simply musical instruments, however. They were first a method of communicating from village to village as the sound is able to travel for long distances. The drum was played under the arm and varied in intonation depending upon the movement of the arm and where the drum is struck (either by the hands or the mallet. This varied intonation was displayed in the way that Tony Vacca challenged Massamba Diop to match the intonation of his voice on the talking drum and In such a demonstration, it is easy to see why the drum is so named. The talking drum in present time means quite a lot more than a simple communication device or instrument however. Massamba spoke, while answering questions of culture, of a saying that is used in Senegal. He spoke of passing the "bowl" (a generational gift) from generation to generation and in so doing, never letting the traditions of one's culture die. For Massamba, his "bowl" is the talking drum. Massamba also spoke of the drum's ability to keep one happy and young, and rightfully so, as I would have never Imagined that Massamba could have four children, all of whom are either as old or older than myself! When he and I talked about this he said, "You see! I could be your father"! The belief that doing what one is meant to do in life will keep one young prompted me to think that perhaps the drum is in some way, a connection to God for Massamba. Religion is, after all, a very important theme in his life as a Muslim and as the son of an Imam in Senegal. As I listened to both Massamba and the excellent dancer, Abdou Sarr talk, I thought that these two men, who are so passionate about their music and their faith, are the example that poorly taught westerners should be presented with, so as to do away with harmful misconceptions about Islam. They spoke frequently of acceptance, love and of all the elements that unite us as the human race. This is quite a stark difference from the many misconceptions that Ira Zepp wrote of in the early chapters of his "Muslim Primer". A side note: After Dr. Esa made a comment about Sufi influence in this sort of music and dance, I noticed that as Abdou danced, with arms spread out wide, he like his Sufi brothers and sisters, had one palm up to the heavens and the other facing down towards the earth. I took notice of this a little late, however and was not able to ask about its meaning to him. Perhaps he felt as though he was bring some divine influence into the room so that we like the Sufis, might experience that love of God through music and dance. These experiences grow so much richer when one is able to learn of the cultural context behind such musical traditions. I felt as though, not being familiar with this sort of music, it required me to have a certain self-awareness so as to keep the western musical tastes out of my consideration and submit to the new experience. Having successfully done that, the performance only got richer the second time I saw Massamba, Abdou, and Tony. Immediately after the concert, I visited Tony Vacca's Website concerning his project with Senegal. We should be thankful that there is someone in the United States that wishes to connect our cultures and enrich our lives! As Apart of this project, Tony has combined western musical instruments and styles with the music of Senegal. Above is an example of the way in which he has combined american Jazz with traditional Senegalese instruments such as the marimba that we saw in the concert on Wednesday night. Thank you to Massamba, Abdou, Tony, the McDaniel Music department, and Dr. Esa for this experience!