Detroit Trip 2017

It’s been two years since I’ve been back home. I’ve had lots to reflect on this time.

There’s so much that can be said about this picture. This was the house I was born in – in Detroit. Its tragedy is apparent in its front door that has been kicked in; windows smashed; the roof burned. Amazing that it still stands. God alone knows how many decades it’s been open, exposed to the elements. And even more tragically is this is now an all too common image of Detroit homes: total devastation. And yet it reminds me of so many paths I did not take; so many I was protected from. And while I have attained neither fame nor fortune, God has clearly been the Writer of my destiny. Like when He said to His Prophet, “Did He not find you orphaned and shelter you? Did He not find you wandering and guide you? Did He not find you impoverished and enrich you?” (أَلَم يَجِدكَ يَتيمًا فَآوىٰ وَوَجَدَكَ ضالًّا فَهَدىٰ وَوَجَدَكَ عائِلًا فَأَغنىٰ). I had always harbored a secret hope of one day being able to purchase the house we were forced to abandon. But like so many things in life, you simply have to let go:

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It’s like that line from The Princess Bride when Inigo Montoya “goes back to the beginning”:

Colonialism, Decolonization, and the Need For Muslims to Move Beyond Crass Symbolism

Yesterday I made a post on Twitter which sparked some difficult but worthwhile conversation about the topics of colonialism and decolonization. The following are some additional thoughts I had on the topic:One reason why the Muslim world was so ripe for conquering is because they were overly invested in symbols and not The Truth. In other words identity politics and I sort of crass conservatism mixed with a simple minded symbolism is what contributed to the ease of them being conquered. This is why large tracts of the Muslim world will flip when one white dude draws a cartoon but will either turn a blind eye to, or participate in, corruption. ‎Instead of the Qur’anic

(رب إني ظلمت نفسي)

“O God I have wronged myself”Qur’an, 28: 16

it’s “the West is bad”. And the ulama’ have in large part enabled this line of thinking particularly from the vanquished lands of the Muslims.

If identity is not subservient to The Truth then you’ll have a people who espouse The Truth while contradicting it in their every day lives. Additionally, symbols and identity are easily hijacked, whereas The Truth remains aloof, an independent arbiter.

Detroit the Movie – A Film Review


So … some of y’all asked what I thought about the film, “Detroit”. Well, to bounce the ball back to my homie Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, I said: “For someone who ain’t never probably been to Detroit or knew anything about it before writing/directing it, I give ’em an ‘A’ for effort, but a D+ on substance”.

For starters, there’s the director, Kathryn Bigelow: Cali born, Columbia educated. And the writer, Mark Boal: a New Yorker. Now, it’s not that a Californian or a New Yorker couldn’t know anything about Detroit … but these two make no sense exceptions to the rule. This was formulaic Hollywood at its best, or in my opinion, worst. Or even better, to paraphrase John Sims: “Detroit is a film by white people, about ‘the Blacks’, for white people”.

So what does Detroit get wrong? Well, for one, Detroit is a city of neighborhoods, not individuals. And this movie is a classic example of postmodern storytelling: focus on the individual narrative; peoples and their histories? Nah … who cares about that, right? And it’s history that Bigelow and Boal (and Hollywood as a whole) just doesn’t get. I was also quite upset that at the end of the film, where you’d normally get that sequence of “real life photos” of the people actually impacted by the events hinted at in the movie, instead you get, “su-prise! su-prise!” The film you just saw is not only a dramatization but the events that we just portrayed in front of your eyes ain’t exactly the truth. To me, given the gravity of the events (white police offers, in collusion with one another, murder black civilians, and are then acquitted!), those people deserve more dignity than to be used as Hollywood canon fodder.

Lastly, since the film is titled “Detroit”, it didn’t even come close to scratching the complicated reality that is Detroit (let alone the riots of ’67!): race, economics, class, etc. So yeah … it falls very, very far from the mark.

The Healing Power of Imagery in the Qur’an

The Qur'an's use of imagery is important to grasp, not only grammatically, but in order to be adequately inspired by it. Like its use of nahr and anhār (نهر، أنهار، نهار) "river(s) and day": like time passing us by like the gushing of a river. In one sense, time eludes us, rushing past us (pun intended). In another sense is a river's gushing stream and its tranquilizing power, as how God describes The Garden (Jannah). For me, with the ever increasing insanity of the world I need a fantasy world to retreat to. But a fantasy still rooted in reality.