A vulnerable God, and surrender

We’re currently producing a show featuring Jean Vanier, a wise old man who has spent his life doing charity work with mentally disabled individuals around the world. Although he’s Christian, his words and his gentleness are unsettling in their beauty and have given me plenty to think about as a Muslim. His notions of God’s vulnerability, in particular, make me understand the word islam better than I ever have. (I’m going to delve into the kind of theological matters I don’t typically discuss. I mean, yes, I do talk about religion often enough, but my own spiritual bent is difficult for me to pin down, even though I’m coming from an Islamic perspective. So I’ll be talking about God as a reality more than I usually do. That’s even uncomfortable for me to do because I think God is something that we are incapable of talking about well using language. It’s awkward, and language is limiting because of its precision and linearity. I’ll be addressing that awkwardness in this post, as well.) Read more

Approaching Ed Husain and The Islamist

One person we’re pursuing for an interview is Ed Husain, British Muslim and author of the controversial book The Islamist. We have a copy of his book at the office, and I picked it up and read it voraciously over the past few days. This upcoming show is one I desperately want us to get right.

Let’s talk a bit about the book first. I’m going to drop a few spoilers, so if you’re planning to read it, I suggest you skip ahead a bit (or even wait until you’ve read the book). Read more

At The Corner of Crescent and Sainte-Catherine

The cosmopolitan city of Montreal is home to immigrants from every corner of the world, including a vibrant Muslim community. But how will Muslims react when a government commission addresses the misplaced discontent of non-Muslims toward this growing, visible community? Read more

Religion and the search for beauty

During an all-hours-of-the-night conversation with one of my best friends, I was asked by him, strictly from a place of genuine curiosity, how someone as educated and intelligent as I appear to be could “fall for” or “buy into” religion (“fairy tales, wizards and magic” as he put it). It’s a valid question, one I’ve been asked before in some form. I’ve always found it difficult to deliver the kind of succinct answer that would satisfy such a question. To be honest, I myself ask myself regularly how or why I believe what I do. Not because I think I’m in danger of losing my faith or anything like that, but because I am genuinely curious about the path I’ve taken, and about the mechanics of this device that operates in my soul. Read more

Thoughts on Little Mosque on the Prairie

I just finished watching the first episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie. Actually, we managed to get the press kit from the CBC, for the sake of our CKUT radio show. Part of the press kit was a DVD with the first episode.

There seems to be an inordinate amount of “buzz” (God, I hate that word) around this show. We’re finally showing the “normal” side of North American Muslims. Frankly, the mass media has failed, thus far, to really deal with Islam outside of the context of fundamentalism or extremism, so this is a refreshing change. It’s also, in my view, representative of the continuing Islamic renaissance here in the West. Read more

Optimism vs. cynicism

Strange morning. I was listening to CBC Radio as I usually do. On The Current, they interviewed George Monbiot, a writer for The Guardian, who was talking about air travel within the context of global climate change. Pretty heavy stuff. I agree with all of it. We’re sitting in a closed garage with the car running, essentially, and rather than turn the car off, we’re just enjoying getting high off the fumes. Wonderful. (And for the record, yes, I own a car.)

Anyway, an hour later, on Sounds Like Canada, on comes Bruce Mau, a designer who recently published a think piece in The Walrus called “Optimism: Imagining The Future.”

As a global culture we are beginning to outgrow polarized and binary divisions but we still confuse the media with reality. If we were to publish a newspaper called Reality, it would be a mile thick. The first quarter-inch would arrive on your doorstep, scare the hell out of you, push the worst of human possibility into your world, make you want to lock your doors, inhibit your impulse toward community, and drive you to xenophobia, resentful and fearful of all the violent others determined to ruin your life. The rest of the mile of newspaper — the reality of our world, the part that never gets published — would be Massive Change, the story of how millions of people from every part of the world are working together to confront the dilemmas we face as a global society.

What is Massive Change, and why is it capitalized? Read more

Heroes

Remember when I said, a while back, that I wanted to try my best to alternate the content of my posts between the usual complaining, bitching and caustic deprecation, and something that’s actual positive? You know, try to not be so “clever” and angst-ridden and try to be more open and joyful? Well, today is one of those positive posts.

It’s not often that we actually get to meet our heroes. Heck, it’s not often that our heroes are even alive while we are. Actually, no, that’s not true. We all have people we look up to from out there in the world, people who inspire us, people we aspire to be. Call them heroes, call them idols, call them role models, but they are there, and it’s rare that we are graced with the opportunity of meeting them. Read more

Star Wars, orthodoxy and spirituality

I was looking over the post I made about The Hero With a Thousand Faces, and I thought back to actual philosophical conversations some friends and I have had about Star Wars.

We were all born in the late 1970s, so Star Wars was part of our childhood mythology. It’s a passion for us, and the debates have gotten quite heated, particularly surrounding the Prequel Trilogy and their place in the pantheon.

In all seriousness, the Prequels aren’t really respected by most fans I know. I don’t know about die-hard, convention-going fans, which we are not. But just regular people who, like us, grew up fantasizing about the movies, making lightsaber sounds every time we turned on a flashlight—we’re having trouble reconciling the quality of the Prequels with our love of the Original Trilogy.

So hoping to inject some intellectual coherence into the Prequels, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what Lucas is try to say there. There’s this whole messy political plot that is incomprehensible to me. Mixed up in there is a statement about Messianic theology, dogmatism, orthodoxy, mysticism, and religion in general. (And now for the indulgent fan-boy analysis. Hey, I’ve got to do something to redeem this franchise.) Read more

The End and the death of perpetual storytelling

A few minutes ago, I finished the outline of the final chapter of my novel. In some ways, I am relieved that the end is finally in sight. Yet I can’t help but acknowledge that a great part of me right now almost mourns the loss of that perpetuity, that ongoing storytelling process.

I’ve known for some time now that I love beginnings. That “once upon a time” magic is something that inevitably morphs into something else somewhere in the middle. You can’t sustain “once upon a time” until the end of the story. At some point, the story changes into a series of “and then, and then.” It all culminates with those fateful words: “The End.” But those first few pages of a story are the pages I most love to write, because I get into this authorial storyteller role that gives me the same high as most people get from talking about themselves. Besides, it’s just a whole lot of fun to break into a new story, to take someone away, to take hold of them and not let go. Read more