Sunday, December 25, 2011

Celebrating Christmas is Haram for Muslims

I went to the garage and let the cats in, and then walked out to get the newspaper. It was an overcast, chilly Christmas morning. Our next-door neighbors had not yet turned off their outdoor Christmas lights. The lighted lawn ornaments, two reindeer, were still slowly moving their wire heads, on the alert for Christmas day hunters; the Muslim neighbors, perhaps?

We have two Muslim families living across the street from us. They have no holiday decorations up, which is not surprising, but I wondered what their attitudes are towards Christmas. For example, how would they react to being wished, "Happy Holidays?" What do they think about Christmas decorations going up on houses in the neighborhood, and downtown, or Christmas sales at all the stores, and the incessant Christmas music played in those stores? They might not shoot the wire-lighted reindeer, but, like me, wouldn't they love to shut off that damned music?

Well, of course, a practicing Muslim does not celebrate Christmas, or any other kuffar (kufr, kafir), i.e., unbeliever religious holiday. According to, "Celebrating the holidays and the occasions of the Kuffar is certainly Haram. You are not permitted to do it. Nor are your rulers allowed to make these (Kufr) holidays as official holidays, since it is an imitation of the Kuffar." Haram in this context connotes sacrilege and is forbidden.

According to the Quran, the Prophet صلى الله عليه is said to have provided the people of Islam with two holidays, Fitr, and Tashriq (Tashreeq). Fitr or Eid al-Fitr is the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.  Tashriq are the days of eating and drinking and remembering Allah. The Islamic calendar is lunar, so the timing of these holidays varies according to the Gregorian calendar.

Many American Muslims are said to be tolerant of Christian holidays and are not offended if they are greeted with "Happy Holidays." It would not be appropriate, however, to wish them Merry Christmas.

Since moving here last February, I've had very little opportunity to interact with my Muslim neighbors, and certainly haven't had a heart-to-heart talk about religion. I have talked with Hamid, across the street, about the economic situation and his plans for returning to his country -- Bosnia. I've had more interaction with the other neighbor's son, Ahmed, who tosses the football with me and is like any American boy of 12.

I hope to learn more about my Muslim neighbors in the coming year, enshallah.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Iraq War Ends

We went to war with Iraq a wounded nation. Some say we were compelled by lofty motives; to put down a dictator whose brutal repression of his people cried out for their liberation, and whose weapons of mass destruction threatened the region, if not the world. But in our heart we knew what drove us into that vast desert. In our hearts we seethed with anger, with hate, and yes, with fear, and we went to seek vengeance. And in the blasting heat of those desert sands we took their blood, and spilled our own. And in the end, they danced in Fallujah, as we cased our flags.

As of the end of November of this year, 4486 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, 316 troops of other nations have been killed. Over half of those killed were under 25 years old. Over 32,200 have been wounded, about 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries. There is no official count of soldiers suffering PTSD. Roughly 55,000 Iraqi insurgents have been killed. A secret U.S. government estimate puts the Iraqi civilian death toll at over 100,000, although some estimates are 6 times that amount.

Her name is Samira
She is five
She sees the silver bird flying through a clear blue sky

It glints in the sun and catches her eye
The bird makes a long slow arc
She loves the shape of the curve it makes

Like the curve of her arm shielding her eyes
Her thoughts go to her very own tree
And the soft shapes of its lovely limbs
And she thinks of the sound

Of the leaves at night
How they take her off to sleep

Excerpts of a poem by, “Kaneix,” 2003

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7, 1941

The destroyer USS Shaw explodes after being hit by bombs during the
Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941

USS Arizona Memorial

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Hookah Pipe Dream

Me, with beard and hoodie, dressed to fit in with OWS
I’m growing a beard. My wife doesn’t like it. She turns her head when I go to kiss her. “It’s prickly,” she complains. Well, I’m feeling prickly. I don’t like what I see in the American political or business arenas. So I’m growing the beard in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) folks. I’m not sure what they don’t like, although articulating their complaints seems to be high on the list.

There are several things I don’t like, and I’m sure if I wandered around an OWS camp like James ‘ACORN’ O’Keefe (he takes photos of people misbehaving), I’d find common ground on many of them. For example, I don’t like James O’Keefe.

But let’s stick to the theme. How do I loath thee, Wall Street, let me count the ways.

    • I don’t like banks taking TARP money and then paying their executives huge bonuses.
    • I don’t like financial institutions like Goldman Sachs cheating investors.
    • I don’t like the lack of public and quasi-public oversight of our financial institutions.
    • I don’t like the executives of companies that led the American economy down the garden path to the dump going unpunished.
    • I don’t like corporations being people -- they’re so antisocial.
A judge just threw out the Securities and Exchange Commission's proposed $285m settlement with Citigroup, which was accused of misleading investors in one of those toxic mortgage schemes at the peak of the US housing bubble. If I recall correctly, he called the amount of the fine, “rounding error” for Citigroup.
The SEC is supposed to be riding herd on Wall Street, but it’s letting the bulls run and feeding the rest of us manure. The SEC has had a longstanding practice of levying relatively minor financial settlements alongside de facto waivers of civil liability for the guilty. “Wealth management institutions,” as they like to call themselves, commit fraud and pay small fines, and the SEC allows them to walk away without admitting to criminal wrongdoing. Nice work if you can get it, and you can, and that brings me to my next dislike.
I hate the fact that no one went to jail. AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley were run by people involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. And the aforementioned Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling. No one has been indicted, let alone gone to jail. And no one was watching. And that brings me to my next dislike.
I don’t like the total ineptitude of the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other federal institutions, including the Justice Department. Justice is blind, only not in a good way.
And then there’s our Congress. So much to dislike and so little space to rail about it. But let’s stay with the theme -- Wall Street. Because running for office in the House and Senate requires raising obscene amounts of campaign cash, and because special interests are willing to contribute said cash, we have encouraged a system of legalized bribery. Wall Street leverages that system (Wall Street likes the word ‘leverage’), and the revolving door between the Fed and employees of Wall Street -- once you were a crook, now you’re a regulator -- to preempt and/or weaken regulatory reform, such as the Dodd-Frank bill.
The only way we’re going to solve the problem of a bought and paid for Congress is to institute a system of publicly funded elections -- no 527s, PACs, Super PACs, Pack-of-Money of any kind, soft, squishy, slimy, or otherwise. No endless robocalls at all hours. None, nada. This is what OWS should be demanding, but that brings me to my last dislike.
I dislike the search-and-destroy partisanship in Congress that makes campaign finance reform a hookah pipe dream.
Given the likelihood of any of these dislikes being addressed by Congress anytime soon, the OWS folks, and my beard, may be around for a while.

Sorry honey.