More episodes here.
More episodes here.
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”:
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.
In this episode, I discusses some challenges facing American Muslims in a Trump presidency. I also addresses the need for Muslim activists and scholars to work with one another, not against, and how can American Muslims work to restore their sense of dignity and respect in the eyes of society, and most importantly, God?
One of my past occupations was a brief stint trying to play jazz. I quickly realized I was much better spinning it (at WEMU) than playing it. Besides, my middle brother was already a professional jazz musician so that was being held down. But in addition to him, my uncle has been a part of the Detroit jazz scene since its inception. Every time I visit my uncle, he recounts to me numerous tales and encounters with some of the biggest names in jazz (who incidentally got their start in Detroit). As some of you know, I have written on the connection between jazz, jazz musicians, and Islam (in my opinion, jazz is the American Muslim nasheed). Below is a snippet of the conversation I had with my uncle. In sha’Allah, more to come.
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