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Jason Van Boom
Jason Van Boom
Jason Van Boom is a consultant, lecturer, and writer.

Sufi Leader, Peacemaker Buried in Jerusalem


by: on June 21st, 2010 | 3 Comments »

A Sufi leader who had worked for peace and interfaith understanding was able to continue that work even after his death. Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze gathered together for the funeral of Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari in Old City Jerusalem on June 1. His mourning tent received rabbis, priests, imams, and other visitors for three days.

Sheikh Bukhari was the head of Naqshbandi Holy Land Sufi Order, and also the head of the Muslim Uzbek community in Jerusalem. He was a direct descendant of Imam Muhammad Ismail al-Bukhari, the most prominent compiler of hadith (oral traditions attributed to Muhammad (saws)) . Sheikh Bukhari’s family had moved from the Uzbek city of Bukhara to Jerusalem in 1616. The Ottomans placed them in charge of shrines in the Holy Land and Lebanon.

Sheikh Bukhari continued his family’s tradition of service, in part, through active engagement in interfaith activities. He was a co-founder of Jerusalem Peacemakers, and participated in the Interfaith Coordinating Council in Israel, Interfaith Encounter Association and the Sulha Peace Project. Nourished by Islamic traditions and a student of Gandhi, King, and Mandela, Sheikh Bukhari believed that religious leaders have an important role to play in peacemaking.


Important Report on Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan


by: on June 17th, 2010 | Comments Off

Human Rights Watch has issued a comprehensive– and disturbing– report on female genital mutilation, aka female genital cutting, aka female circumcision, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

I’ve written a story on the report at ILLUME Magazine (read it here). You can also read the full report from Human Rights Watch here.

Briefly– it’s a widespread problem, affecting at least 40% of girls and women in different parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, and severely affecting their health.

And the attitude of Kurdish officials? Dismissive. HRW’s report has a number of disturbing quotes from government officials; dismissing FGM as occasional, not widespread, almost extinct. “Not a big deal.”

Thankfully, there are number of NGOs in Iraqi Kurdistan that ARE dealin with this problem. I will inquire about what Americans can do to support them, and post what I find out.

What Would Frodo Do? JRR Tolkien and Political Economy


by: on June 15th, 2010 | 17 Comments »

I recently posted on Tikkun Daily the following quote on JRR Tolkien vs Ayn Rand:

“There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kld’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.” – John Rogers http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2009/03/ephemera-2009-7.html

It’s been somewhat of a hit with Tikkun Daily readers (as I write this, it’s ranked #5 on our “most read posts of the past 7 days” list). This led me to wonder: Did Tolkien have a view on political economy?

Frodo's mentor

We know what kind of economics John Galt and other Randian heroes espoused. And many more people get turned on to lassez-faire capitalism by Rand’s novels than by libertarian economics treatises. (The first history of libertarianism, by Jerome Tucille, is actually titled It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand). So, if fantasy novels can provide an ideological basis for the opposition, can progressives find inspiration from Tolkien, one of the greatest storytellers of all time?

In other words: What would Frodo do?


A Great Quote on JRR Tolkien vs Ayn Rand


by: on June 13th, 2010 | 6 Comments »

“There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kld’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.”

UPDATE: I’ve written a post here at Tikkun Daily looking more closely at JRR Tolkien as an alternative to Ayn Rand– see here.

UPDATE 2: John Rogers, screenwriter, film producer, comedian and comic book writer, is the original author of this statement. Raj Patel heard it from a friend without knowing it was published earlier, and quoted it in his The Value of Nothing. Like many others, I thought Patel was the author. I’m grateful for two Tikkun Daily readers who pointed out the need for a correction. You can find the original statement here: http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2009/03/ephemera-2009-7.html

Pro-LGBT Rights Muslim Wins Primary


by: on June 10th, 2010 | 7 Comments »

Ako Abdul-Samad, Iowa state representative

June 8 witnessed perhaps the most unusual political campaign battle connected to the same-sex marriage debate: a Muslim state legislator vs an ordained Christian minister. The Muslim, Ako Abdul-Samad, had the backing of a pro-LGBT rights organization, while his opponent Clair Rudison, Jr. got his biggest donation from a social conservative political fund.

My report on the story is at ILLUME Magazine, a Muslim American news magazine that’s doing ground breaking work in bringing a Muslim American perspective to professional journalism. You can read the story here.

Here at my nest at Tikkun Daily, a comment on the significance of this story:


People’s Republic of China Lifts Its “Baldness Blockade”


by: on June 10th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Baldies of the world, unite! We can now go to the People’s Republic of China, even from Taiwan.

Does "bald" equal "dangerous"?

Most men who are genetically “chrome domed” are concerned about how their natural tonsure will affect romantic prospects. It turns out that visa restrictions are a possibly more pressing problem.

Press service AFP reports that the People’s Republic of China has lifted its ban on visas for bald travelers from Taiwan:

The rule imposed by the southern Chinese city of Xiamen barred bald people from applying for one-year multiple-entry permits before it was cancelled earlier this year, according to Taiwan’s Travel Agent Association.

“It would probably have raised the question of discrimination if Chinese customs officials were to ask visitors to remove their wigs,” said Roger Hsu, a spokesman for the association.

This is good but strange news. Good that the cause of equality, non-discrimination, and acceptance of “hair pattern diversity” has been advanced. But strange that such a ban was in place at all. What gives?


Minarets and the Conversion of a Swiss Politician: Separating Facts from Fantasy


by: on February 5th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

[This story also appears  at Illume Magazine, an American Muslim news site.]

The recent passage of a ban on the construction of minarets in Switzerland has a very interesting side story. A member of the political party that pushed for the minaret ban announced that he had become a Muslim. Outside of Switzerland, the mainstream media has ignored this. Muslims around the world, however, have picked up on this story, circulating it on blogs and on Facebook. In the process, however, the story has become distorted into a fairly bizarre shape, and so creating some confusion. Meanwhile, at least one anti-Muslim blog has picked up on the story. Looking at the comments it appears that some opponents of Muslim immigration want to dismiss the fact of his conversion all together. Nevertheless, it is a verifiable fact that a Swiss elected official belonging to the Swiss People’s Party- the principal backer of the minaret ban- converted to Islam.


Austrian Schoolgirls Set Muslim Classmate’s Headscarf on Fire


by: on December 9th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

This story is a dramatic example of the increasing pressure European Muslims face, as rightwing nationalism makes its grim resurgence.

What is especially troubling is how this political tension is affecting the lives of children and teenagers. No one should have to go through her or his own mini-Kristallnacht at a school, field trip or school event.

The anti-Islamophobia site LoonWatch.com, citing The Croatian Times, has reported the following incident:

Two schoolgirls are to be expelled after setting a Muslim girl’s hijab headscarf on fire during a school trip.

The 15-year-old girls, from Graz, Austria, escaped race hate charges by claiming the attack was a prank and not related to the victim’s religion.

LoonWatch goes on to quote an article in The Austrian News, commenting on this incident, discussing how it reflects growing insecurity among Muslim Austrian girls and women who choose to wear hijab.


Alan Keyes Attacks Sarah Palin’s Pro-Life Credentials


by: on December 6th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

This initially surprised me. Sarah Palin has been criticized on many grounds. (I would try to list them, but their number, like the demons that afflicted the Gerasene demoniac in the Gospel of Mark, are legion). Being insufficiently conservative on social policy is not one of them. Alan Keyes, however, never ceases to amaze even the most jaded political observer. He has attacked Sarah Palin for not being a genuine pro-life candidate. He charges that she has expressed her opposition to abortion only in personal terms, but has given no principled, ideological reasons for limiting or banning abortion. In doing so, she leaves herself room to waffle later on. Here’s a summary of his view:


Recent Death of a Swiss Historian; an Antifascist “Conservative Patriot”


by: on December 6th, 2009 | Comments Off

The Financial Times has a story on the work and recent death of Jean-François Bergier, a Swiss economic historian who chaired an international commission that examined Switzerland’s policies in World War II. Calling himself a “conservative patriot,” Bergier apparently believed that the highest patriotic duty is to help one’s nation understand itself, looking at both lights and shadows.

The story of how he came to chair the commission is fairly dramatic:

Revelations about the dormant Swiss bank accounts of Holocaust victims and the stonewalling that greeted the efforts of relatives to gain access drew such stinging international criticism that in December 1996 Switzerland set up an international commission of experts to examine the country’s wartime role. Bergier was roused from his bed late at night by a call from officials in Bern and asked to take on the job of chairing it. He was given quarter of an hour to make up his mind — and agreed….

Backed by a staff of about 100, the commission, which reported in March 2002, went well beyond the initial question of relations with Nazi Germany. In 25 volumes and almost 11,500 pages, Bergier and his colleagues delved much deeper, encompassing the Swiss government’s approach to the thousands of Jews seeking entry to escape Nazi oppression.

Among other issues, the commission examined Switzerland’s wartime immigration policy — a topic relevant to the Swiss minaret ban controversy, since most Swiss Muslims are refugees from the former Yugoslavia:

Immigration was an acutely sensitive issue just before and during the war, with Bern intensely aware of the risks of provoking the Nazis. Some Allied countries, let alone nonbelligerents, hardly extended a warm welcome to Jewish refugees. But the commission concluded that Bern, tainted by anti-Semitism, could have done much more and was aware of the fate of those turned away — “needlessly” as Bergier stated.