Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Book Review: The Disappearance of Childhood By Neil Postman

Today then ever before American culture is very significant. Effectively what American culture does the World will fellow, like it or not. Therefore, with this intention in the back of my mind I picked up Neil Postman’s “Disappearance of Childhood”. From the author’s title and reading the prologue I had a very good either about what the book was about. The title is in reality a question; is childhood disappearing?

After thinking about this for a while even before reading the book I came to the conclusion it is. Think about it, in England we now have Playboy products advertised as child toys, even to the extent of a pole for dancing, which was sold by some shops to children. Children’s clothes are getting even increasingly skimpier, to the extent that thongs and G strings are categorized as child wear. It occurred to me that yes we are losing childhood but we don’t even know it. The whole essence of Postman’s argument rest upon the fact that childhood as a social structure (not biological, but the condition of treating children as fundamentally different from adults) is disappearing from right beneath our eyes, and this is the main result of technology, especially pictorial such as the Television.

Postman uses cogent arguments with a little humor, and argues that in the past the main criterion to differentiate an adult from a child was literature and the ability to read and comprehend. He argues in the modern age we have revealed adult secrets to children through technology as thus as an effect are destroying childhood. For example, the secret of sex, which once only known to adults is now easily revealed to children by watching the television. Whereas, in the past, once children were at the correct age to comprehend this taboo, this secret was revealed to them. Postman takes us through the history of childhood, in this witty book the arguments about if childhood is socially constructed or was always there, nicely put to bed. Postman takes the reader though a history of the term, its etymology, its journey through the centuries, and the psychology of the concept very smartly and succinctly. After this Postman clearly with social and historical evidence expounds his argument that childhood is virtually dying and on life support and he cleverly does this by conveying how children are bombarded with violent and sexually imagery. Which decades and centuries ago could be learned only through reading, analysis, and adults. After reading, the reader I assure you will see how childhood is dying, if not already dead.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Chris Hedges :The War on Language

By Chris Hedges

There is a scene in “Othello” when the Moor is so consumed by jealousy and rage that he loses the eloquence and poetry that make him the most articulate man in Venice. He turns to the audience, shortly before he murders Desdemona, and sputters, “Goats and monkeys!” Othello fell prey to wild self-delusion and unchecked rage, and his words became captive to hollow clichés. The debasement of language, which Shakespeare understood was a prelude to violence, is the curse of modernity. We have stopped communicating, even with ourselves. And the consequences will be as extreme as in the Shakespearean tragedy.

Those who seek to dominate our behavior first seek to dominate our speech. They seek to obscure meaning. They make war on language. And the English- and Arabic-speaking worlds are each beset with a similar assault on language. The graffiti on the mud walls of Gaza that calls for holy war or the crude rants of Islamic militants are expressed in a simplified, impoverished form of Arabic. This is not the classical language of 1,500 years of science, poetry and philosophy. It is an argot of clichés, distorted Quranic verses and slogans. This Arabic is no more comprehensible to the literate in the Arab world than the carnival barking that pollutes our airwaves is comprehensible to our literate classes. The reduction of popular discourse to banalities, exacerbated by the elite’s retreat into obscure, specialized jargon, creates internal walls that thwart real communication. This breakdown in language makes reflection and debate impossible. It transforms foreign cultures, which we lack the capacity to investigate, into reversed images of ourselves. If we represent virtue, progress and justice, as our clichés constantly assure us, then the Arabs, or the Iranians, or anyone else we deem hostile, represent evil, backwardness and injustice. An impoverished language solidifies a binary world and renders us children with weapons.

How do you respond to “Islam is the solution” or “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior”? How do you converse with someone who justifies the war in Iraq—as Christopher Hitchens does—with the tautology that we have to “kill them over there so they do not kill us over here”? Those who speak in these thought-terminating clichés banish rational discussion. Their minds are shut. They sputter and rant like a demented Othello. The paucity of public discourse in our culture, even among those deemed to be public intellectuals, is matched by the paucity of public discourse in the Arab world.

This emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idiom of mass culture. Manufactured phrases inflame passions and distort reality. The collective chants, jargon and epithets permit people to surrender their moral autonomy to the heady excitement of the crowd. “The crowd doesn’t have to know,” Mussolini often said. “It must believe. ... If only we can give them faith that mountains can be moved, they will accept the illusion that mountains are moveable, and thus an illusion may become reality.” Always, he said, be “electric and explosive.” Belief can triumph over knowledge. Emotion can vanquish thought. Our demagogues distort the Bible and the Constitution, while their demagogues distort the Quran, or any other foundational document deemed to be sacred, fueling self-exaltation and hatred at the expense of understanding. The more illiterate a society becomes, the more power those who speak in this corrupted form of speech amass, the more music and images replace words and thought. We are cursed not by a cultural divide but by mutual cultural self-destruction.

The educated elites in the Arab world are now as alienated as the educated elites in the United States. To speak with a vocabulary that the illiterate or semiliterate do not immediately grasp is to be ostracized, distrusted and often ridiculed. It is to impart knowledge, which fosters doubt. And doubt in calcified societies, which prefer to speak in the absolute metaphors of war and science, is a form of heresy. It was not accidental that the founding biblical myth saw the deliverer of knowledge as evil and the loss of innocence as a catastrophe. “This probably had less to do with religion than with the standard desire of those in authority to control those who are not,” John Ralston Saul wrote. “And control of the Western species of the human race seems to turn upon language.”

The infantile slogans that are used to make sense of the world express, whether in tea party rallies or in Gaza street demonstrations, a very real alienation, yearning and rage. These clichés, hollow to the literate, are electric with power to those for whom these words are the only currency in which they can express anguish and despair. And as the economy worsens, as war in the Middle East and elsewhere continues, as our corporate state strips us of power and reduces us to serfs, expect this rage, and the demented language used to give it voice, to grow.

Read the full article @

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


No Logo is really a journalistic savvy inspiring, and altogether pioneering work of cultural criticism that investigates money, marketing, and the anti-corporate movement. No Logo will challenge and enlighten students of sociology, economics, popular culture, international affairs, and marketing; in addition, to changing your buyer behavior. I must admit now after reading it I have changed the way I look at advertising and I am now much more introspective. The book exposes the exploitative measures of branded companies such as Nike, Wal-Mart, Shell et al in a refreshing manner. It argues that People who purchase branded goods are "buying into a life-style" and those who buy, for example, Hilfiger become “little Tommys.” Naomi Klein is very critical of designer clothing companies who exploit its laborers to produce cheaper goods in order to increase sales and have a huge impact. The book is unique and quite personal as it gives you real life case studies as Klein takes you along with her in her travels giving personal and poignant accounts. Its makes you realize that the manner in which our goods are made is inhumane and down right wrong. Designer clothing and sports shoes are examples where multinational companies close down factories and use sweatshop labor in Asia, mainly China, the Philippines and Mexico. With the jobs and wealth these companies bring to the respective countries, many governments just turn a blind eye and therefore let the companies do what they crave. Klein visited several factories and gives horrific accounts of ill treatment of mainly women workers in these factories, such as pregnant girls who are frightened to reveal their condition for fear of the sack and cases where babies are born at work and mothers who have died because working for exhausting periods of time. These sweatshop practices of long hours, banned labor organization takes you straight back to the 19th century industrial revolution. The negative aspects of the book is probably its size, if your not into reading then this book will take you a very long time as it in size 10 Time Roman with an enormous thirty five lines on every page. But even if you read half or twenty five percent of this persuasive advertisement I assure your consumer behavior and thinking will change.

In the Middle of the Night

Remaining with the One, one night, one’s life

“Umar, are you sleeping ?” he asked through a whispered murmur.
“No !” I answered.
The day had been long and relentless. It was already so late. I was getting ready to sleep, mindful that the day ahead wouldn’t be any less arduous. Twenty or thirty minutes passed by in silence.
“Umar, are you sleeping ?”
“No !” I answered a second time.
It became quiet once again. I didn’t grasp the urgency in his voice but remained silent anyway. Half an hour passed by again.
“Umar, are you sleeping ?”
This time, I didn’t respond at all. I pretended to sleep so as not to bother him. Waiting for a reply and hearing none, he presumed that I had finally fallen asleep. He arose in the still of the night, without making a sound, alone, beside his companion whom he thought was in a deep slumber, and started to perform the night prayer. For God only, oblivious to my attentive gaze, hidden from anyone’s sight.
It is Ustadh Umar Al-Tilmisani, an old time student and travelling companion of Imam Hasan Al-Banna who provides us with this story. The attitude of his master was enough to move him to tears. It exemplified the personality of Hasan Al-Banna: light-giving faith, a deep spirituality, personal discipline, gentle and soft with his fellow human beings. Umar al-Tilmisani wrote it and said it again and again, as I had heard stories of this kind from my father, Dr. Saïd Ramadan, his son-in-law and my mother, Wafa al-Bannâ, his eldest daughter.
The secret of Hasan Al-Banna was the quality of his faith and the intensity of his relationship with God. Anyone who had ever been in contact with him perceived and experienced this. He lived as had the first Sahaba - following the path of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him).
From the age of twelve, his destiny had been mapped out through the study and dhikr circles of the Husafiya tariqa. There he learnt the importance of being with God, of remembering him with all his heart and soul, permanently. He also learnt the true criteria to success: faith, humility, effort and personal discipline. Within the core of his education, he had a very deep understanding of jihad al-nafs: to exist for God, alongside God, to reform one’s heart, purify one’s intentions, make time for the Most High before wanting to act in His name. The Sufi masters of the Husafiya tariqa were very strict in this regard - they were always concerned to never deviate from the authentic traditions of ahl al-sunna wal-jama’ah and keeping away from heterodoxy. All that really counted for them were the written references of the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the example of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him), and of the devoted companions (may God be pleased with them). Hasan Al-Banna never forgot this teaching and his entire allegiance to the cause was founded on the same fundamental principles: the Qu’ran is our book, the Sunnah our wisdom, and it is only these basic principles which will awaken our conscience, nurture our heart and intensify our dhikr.
Some years later, Hasan Al-Banna would make a meticulous compilation of all the written texts, uniquely taken from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which had a spiritual virtue, particularly when it came to the exercise of purifying the heart, of dhikr and meditation. This compilation, otherwise known as Risalat al-Ma’thurat, was the core of spiritual education for all members of the Muslim Brotherhood. They were asked to read it, memorize it if possible, and recite it with fervour and concentration twice a day, morning and evening. At a very young age, and especially during the years of intense Islamic activity in the social and economic spheres, Hasan Al-Banna had understood that there was no future for Muslims if they did not recapture what was essential to their hearts, their personal striving, their conscience and memory.
The world is a trap and it sometimes happens that temptation can, in subtle ways, assail those who are engaged in Islamic activities such as da’wah, education, solidarity and lectures. Drowning in Islamic commitments, activities and projects, what eventually happens is that they forget what is absolutely essential: to give one’s time to be with God, to get to know Him while being intimately attached to tawhid, to remember him (dhikr), to purify one’s heart (tazkiya al-nafs), to feed the conscience of these works (al-muhasaba), to be attached to the Qur’an, to pray, to fast and to do the invocations. This is necessary every day, and in the night.
Al-Ma’thurat is comprised of texts from the Qur’an and the Sunnah which are essential on many levels. Each one of them is strong and precise, with a spiritual function as were the hadith of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). Their daily reading guides Muslims and protects them. It involves discipline and fortitude, attention and awakening, faith which illuminates and a conscience which directs everyday practice and action. In this light, Risalat al-Ma’thurat is a teaching, and we understand that Imam Hasan Al-Banna was a mentor (murabbi) who started by fortifying one’s faith and dhikr in order to guide one’s intelligence. This is the spirit of any understanding (al-fahm), which became the first fundamental principle of all of his teachings (al-ta’alim).
Few lines... to give you the possibility to get to know a man, Hasan A-Banna, concerning whom there have been many rumours and lies. He was a man who surrendered and sacrificed his life for God. Those who heard him, changed. Those who accompanied him, loved him. Those who remember him are still moved. Assassinated and taken back by God at the age of forty-two, he left a teaching and a methodology which is simple and luminous: if you want to be loved by God, follow His Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him), and if God loves you and protects you... then have no fear!
God is with those who persevere and who are patient.

Monday, 7 September 2009



Islam has never become rooted in a particular land until that land began producing its own religious scholars. There are several million Muslims in the United States and rapidly growing Muslim populations in Canada, Great Britain, and Western Europe. Yet, there are no accredited academic institutions capable of training students in the varied sciences of Islam, while also instilling in them a sophisticated understanding of the intellectual history and culture of the West. Clearly, there is an essential need for Muslim institutions that can wed Islam’s classical texts with the contemporary context.

This reality has led to two lamentable situations. First, there are very few Muslim scholars who can meet the religious and pastoral needs of a rapidly expanding Muslim community in the West. Second, much of our younger generation has become alienated from the mosque and from religious culture.

From Vision to Reality

Since its founding by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in 1996, Zaytuna has been attempting to address these issues through a variety of educational programs. Zaytuna’s 
vision has always been to create a lasting institution of higher learning. To that end, we launched a pilot seminary program in 2004 that graduated five students in 2008. Based on our experience with the pilot program, we are moving forward with our plans to establish the first accredited Muslim college in the United States.

Zaytuna College will function at a level comparable to the best of religious seminaries and general institutions of higher education in the United States. We have carefully designed a rigorous curriculum in Islamic Studies and Arabic, as well as in the humanities and social sciences, so our students can confidently navigate the cultural, political, and intellectual currents that are shaping our world.

We are also seeking accreditation from the most demanding accrediting bodies in the United States, as well as recognition from major educational institutions in the Muslim world, such as Egypt’s al-Azhar University. Finally, we are building an endowment that will rival that of comparable academic institutions.

Indigenization of Islam in the West

By aspiring to produce scholars who understand the specific needs of contemporary societies, we believe Zaytuna College has an important contribution to make in the indigenization of Islam in the West. An indigenized Islam is of particular significance at this time when there is so much suspicion directed toward Muslims as illegitimate “outsiders,” while at the same time a demonstrated desire on the part of many in the West, especially in America, to create a more open, multicultural, and tolerant society.

God willing, a Zaytuna College education will prepare students for a meaningful life as compassionate, productive, and educated citizens of the global community who understand Islam as a living, viable, and relevant faith, and who represent that faith with dignity, wisdom, and honor.

"For ten years, Zaytuna has played a key role in helping the Muslim American community rediscover much of the beauty and wisdom of traditional Islam. We look forward to the growth and expansion of Zaytuna’s services so it can further explore and implement, in partnership with other Muslims, the best of this classical heritage in a complex, pluralistic society.”

Dr. Ingrid Mattson
President, Islamic Society of North America