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Archive for January 2011

Photos of Mass Demonstrations in Egypt

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Will this be the domino effect?

Here’s a link to some great photos.

Mass Demonstration in Egypt
Mohammed Abed / AFP / Getty Images

Call to Prayer: Some protesters take time off to pray during the demonstration in Cairo.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2044357,00.html#ixzz1C8QqptGZ




Written by Wajahat Ali

January 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Lesley Hazleton’s great review of “The Domestic Crusaders”

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The great Lesley Hazleton, over at the wonderful blog “The Accidental Theologist,” just wrote a great review of “The Domestic Crusaders.”  Sharing it at Goatmilk.

Lesley Hazleton


Katie Couric, no longer quite America’s sweetheart, made news recently when she came up with what she called “a crazy idea”:  what if there were a kind of Muslim Cosby Show?  Would that help counter bigotry and make American Muslims real to the 60% of non-Muslims who have somehow avoided ever even meeting anyone Muslim?

Nutty, naïve Katie?  Maybe not.  Because I know just the man for the job.  That is, if the Cosby Show were at least a couple of notches sharper and funnier.

Katie, meet Wajahat Ali. Waj, for short.

His new play, The Domestic Crusaders, has just been published in book form by McSweeney’s — a guarantee of cutting-edge cultural significance — and it’s dynamite.  The good kind of dynamite.

The title itself is sharp-edged, an ironic cut at George W. Bush’s use of Crusader imagery for the American invasion of Iraq.  On the surface, the play follows a day in the life of a Muslim Pakistani American family.  There’s the parents, eager to preserve cultural identity while still trying to blend in;  the grandfather indulging in what seems to be a well-earned old age;  and three children, all in their 20s and none — horror in the mother’s eyes! — yet married:  the daughter a law student in white hijab and designer jeans;  the elder son defiantly secular;  the younger med-student son gravely, calmly observant.

The play opens with the mother singing along to Tom Jones as she prepares lamb biryanis (warning from experience:  do not read this play unless you have lamb biryanis within easy reach, because by the act of the first act all you want to do is reach for one, or two, or three).  From this moment on, you’re laughing even as you’re being drawn deep into the multiple paradoxes of what’s been called the hyphenated existence (think American Jews or Mexicans or Koreans or Irish or add-your-ethnic-background-here), where language, culture, religion, and politics bump up against each other and then bounce off in unexpected new combinations. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Wajahat Ali

January 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

What’s The New Civil Rights Movement?

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You can hear the story here: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/17/132942453/Whats-The-New-Civil-Rights-Movement

Today is the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Martin Luther King, Jr federal holiday. And in honor of Dr. King, host Michel Martin talks with a diverse group of provocative intellectuals to try to answer the question: What is America’s next civil rights challenge. Joining the discussion are Gustavo Arellano, columnist for the OC Weekly, Kai Wright , editor of ColorLines.com, and Wajahat Ali, a lawyer and a playwright who wrote the critically-acclaimed play called “The Domestic Crusaders.”

Copyright © 2011 National Public Radio®. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


I’m Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

But first, we’re thinking about the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. on this, the 25th anniversary of the first Martin Luther King Day holiday. And we wanted to think about the question, what is America’s next civil rights battle? So we’ve gathered a diverse group of panelists.

Joining us, Wajahat Ali is a writer, lawyer and playwright who wrote the critically-acclaimed play called “The Domestic Crusaders.” It’s about a day in the life of a Pakistani-Muslim-American family in the wake of 9/11.

Also with us, Kai Wright. He’s a journalist who reports on race, sexuality and health. He’s the editor of Colorlines.com and the author of “Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York.”

And Gustavo Arellano. He’s a syndicated columnist who writes the column “Ask a Mexican” for the OC Weekly. He’s also published a book by that name and he’s also a frequent contributor to our weekly Barbershop segment. Welcome to all of you. Thank you all so much for joining us.

Mr. WAJAHAT ALI (Playwright, “The Domestic Crusaders”): Thank you. Thank you.

Mr. KAI WRIGHT (Author, “Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York”): Thanks for having us.

MARTIN: Now, we were speaking earlier with Lonnie Bunch, the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. And one of the reasons we’ve called each of you is that you’re all young and none of you was alive at the height of the civil rights movement of the ’60s. Or at least, you know, you weren’t grown. You weren’t grown folks.

So, I wanted to ask each of you if that movement is something that has some direct meaning to you now. Some lived meaning to you now. And, Gustavo, I’ll just start with you.

Mr. GUSTAVO ARELLANO (Columnist, OC Weekly): It absolutely does. Just reading the battles of the civil rights movement, through the whole epic, really, of starting from the South up to the North, through Chicago, on the West Coast, it’s absolutely amazing. And as a reporter who has the social activist bent into him, it’s inspiring to see the tales of the common folks, or the common man and woman going out there and bravely confronting stereotypes, bravely confronting racism, bravely confronting all the hate that was out there, such vicious hate.

And more importantly, for me, as a child of Mexican immigrants and as somebody basically Mexican, to me it was amazing to see all those coalitions, all those groups, all these people fighting for those same struggles. A lot of the legal fights especially, that’s what I’m more familiar with, housing covenant fights, the school desegregation fights, most of the important legal victories originally started with Mexican-American families fighting for those rights.

And the NAACP and those amazing lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, Loren Miller, seeing these cases and later on citing them as precedent for the much more famous cases that the rest of the United States rightfully remembers.

MARTIN: Wajahat, what about you?

Mr. ALI: You know, just coincidentally, we were at the NBC studios a half hour ago and we saw photos of the marches and protests put on by Martin Luther King and it still resonates with, I think, all groups here in America. It’s iconic. It’s the vision and it’s the reality of forcing America to live up to its ideals. And to ensure that America really, you know, keeps to its promise of having those freedoms and democracies and civil liberties for all people regardless of your religion or gender or race.

We could look to that generation and we could look to that multicultural coalition that existed in that time and it gives kind of a road map for the present and for the future.

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Written by Wajahat Ali

January 18, 2011 at 5:10 am

Posted in Race, Wajahat Ali

Katie Couric’s Idea of a “Muslim Cosby Show” Might Not Be So Crazy After All

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Katie Couric’s recent comments recommending a “Muslim Cosby show” to combat anti-Muslim bigotry has been decried by some as a naïve, simplistic remedy for the festering sore of Islamophobia in America. However, research and common sense in fact suggest that authentic and accessible American Muslim narratives can emerge as popular, effective tools of cultural diplomacy in helping bridge the divides between Muslim Communities and the U.S.

As an expert on cultural diplomacy and one of founding members of the Aspen Cultural Dialogue Group, a venture launched by the Aspen Institute in 2008, my research indicates the process towards radicalization and extremism is profoundly cultural. It depends less on economic and societal grievances, but instead relies heavily on ideas, beliefs, and an individual’s interpretation of reality.

It turns out that the picture that the media paint is a powerful influence on how we, as global citizens, view the world and our neighbors.

An accurate and nuanced depiction of the complex Muslim identity in the U.S. mainstream media remains relatively unseen on the television screens and unheard-of on talk radio. Due to daily incidents of unrest erupting in Muslim countries around the world, the caricature of “rage boy” — the popular image of the enraged, anti-American Muslim man prone to violence- continues to be the standard depiction of a religion with nearly 1.5 billion adherents. In certain Muslim countries, America is always shown as a war-mongering, imperial force waging a merciless campaign against all of “Islam” due to its ongoing war in Afghanistan, drone strikes in Pakistan, presence in Iraq and recent surge of bigoted, anti-Muslim rhetoric by certain politicians and pundits.

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Written by Wajahat Ali

January 12, 2011 at 7:44 am


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11 faith-based predictions for 2011

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

To open 2011, CNN’s Belief Blog asked 10 religious leaders and experts – plus one secular humanist – to make a faith-based prediction about the year ahead.

Have a faithy prediction of your own? Share it in comments.

Here’s what those in the know are predicting:

1. With the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” there will be a more concerted effort by the gay, lesbian,  bisexual and transgendered community for gay marriage, uniting conservative evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox Jews in a much more civil but principled resistance. Respectful debate will produce more precise and pluralistic solutions.
Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed, in Orlando, Florida

2. A new generation of Muslims will bust out of their culturally and politically isolated cocoons and passionately reclaim their voice and narratives; one that has been stolen, used, abused and hijacked by extremists, terrorists and fear-mongering propagandists. Watch out for a major cultural renaissance as a new generation of Muslim artists and storytellers grab the mic, enter the arena and speak their voice with a revived passion and purpose.
Wajahat Ali, Muslim playwright and attorney

3. As anti-Christian violence accelerates in places like Iraq, Egypt and India, a government crackdown on Christian churches gathers steam in China, and European bureaucrats continue to drive Christianity from the public square, “Christianophobia” will become a buzzword.
John Allen Jr., CNN’s senior Vatican analyst

4. After years of increasingly contentious debates and billboard wars between religious believers and atheists, American secularists will begin to embrace a message of positive humanist community, gaining increasing acceptance as they organize cooperation between nontheists and theists toward the common good.
Greg M. Epstein, humanist chaplain at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

5. As religious tensions grow over the coming presidential election and domestic cultural issues involving perceived legislation of morality, the media will find more zealous Christians reacting to the issues of the day whose extreme positions will further divide the evangelical church into radical positions, and turn away seekers looking for a peaceful resolution to the churning in their own souls. In other words, the devil will play a trick on the church, and the church will, like sheep, lose their focus on the grace and love of Christ and wander astray. Those who seek peace, then, will turn to liberal ideologies.
Don Miller, Christian author whose books include “Blue Like Jazz” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Wajahat Ali

January 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

Posted in Religion, Wajahat Ali


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