Sunday, January 29, 2006

One Giant Robot—The “Muslim World,” India, and Albert Brooks

One could be gracious and give the benefit of the doubt to Albert Brooks and those involved in his most recent film. One may assume that the title of the film, “Looking for Humor in the Muslim World,” is itself meant as a joke on the western perceptions of the named region. I’m not too gracious. And in seeing how the movie has be promoted in the weeks coming up to the recent release, and how the trailer itself promoted the film, I feel somewhat justified. The opposing stance, is that this film, set in a country that is predominantly Hindu but has a sizable Muslim population, and cultural influence from Arabic Muslim culture, is meant to broaden the outlook of the American populace. Show the masses that the term so often tossed around these days, is often misleading, if not harmful.

This is an appropriate place for a significant qualifier: I have yet to see the film, and probably wont, given that except for a poor bootleg, it wont be reaching Kabul anytime soon.

So for the past several weeks, I’ve been subjected to a flood of promotion for the film on quite a few websites such as and and other similarly leaning ones. Something about it bothered me, and I decided to write on just how the film is being promoted. As always, what we take away is heavily dependant on what we bring in. Further, I wouldn’t be surprised if the total amount of time I had seen the ads for the film was equivalent to the length of the film. Also, it’s fairly certain that significantly more people have seen the promotion of this film than will actually go see it. That’s my rationalization for writing on the cultural significance of a film that is meant to be culturally significant.

The film is set primarily in India with a small portion set in Pakistan. The first clip, shown upon loading the film’s website, is a joke where the punch line is a play on the words ‘Gandhi’ and “candy” (said in English with a mock Indian accent). Yes, Gandhi is significant to the ostensible “Muslim world”, the sub-conti’s independence and the ’47 split and all. But I’m guessing a joke about Jinnah would have bombed in both India, Pakistan and most importantly, in the U.S. As equally a joke about Gamal Nasser, Abdul Qassim, or Sukarno would have failed. But we westerners know Ghandi.

The film’s website also includes an interview with Brooks. In it, Brooks states that the motivation for the film was to make a comedy looking at contemporary issues post-9/11. In answering what his inspiration for the film was, he says, “...this was the 700-lb. gorilla sitting in my comedy office saying, ‘deal with this, find a way.’” I’ll take that as a noble intention, and a good route for dealing with some aspects and issues of our post-9/11 state. After that we get some crap about inter-cultural understanding and comedy and such. It isn’t till the sixth question that the fact that the film was shot in India comes to light. The question and answer only address the difficulties of filming in India, and mind you, I believe India produces more films than any other country in the world.

In the next question, Brooks talks about approaching an Imam to get permission to film inside the mosque. Here Brooks makes note that he is Jewish, and that he doesn’t “think that there’s been 15 Jewish people in that mosque ever.” That may very well be true, it is India after all, and though I don’t know for sure, I don’t think there is a notable Jewish population in India. There is, however, a notable Hindu and Sikh population in India, these religious populations being the focus of Muslim extremism and intolerance in the sub-continent. And I’m sure that more than 15 people of those religions have entered the mosque. It is here that I most start to doubt Brooks himself, and how he views his film’s message and assumptions.

I would have been willing excuse Brooks and attribute the film promotion and message to the studio were it not naïve statements like the above. Carrying the stereotype of Arab intolerance of Jews to India, placing it upon the Muslims there and more detrimentally the entire population of India, and making himself a martyr for entering a mosque there is a bit much. And in gaining the Imam’s approval, Brooks says of himself, “ I felt like a diplomat for two minutes.” I greatly hope U.S. diplomats in India have a better understanding the nation than Brooks does.

Two questions further, we have Brooks deftly dodging a question on his understanding of the “Muslim world” upon leaving India. Rather than saying that he has a limitedly furthered understanding of the “Muslim world” upon leaving a country with a Muslim minority, which would in part acknowledge the fundamental flaw of the film, he basically says comedians aren’t as useful as anthropologists at understanding cultures. Self-deprecation, one Brooks’ trademarks, with a joke about the mistake he made in choosing India as being representative of the “Muslim world” would have been used brilliantly here, and made a significant cultural point. Especially as Brooks, a bit further on, acknowledges that his character is the buffoon of the movie. He states this in a question on how the film would be received in the “Muslim World.” This only furthers my assumption that Brooks deserves no benefit of the doubt.

In the final question of the interview, Brooks says it “would be the greatest thing” if the film were to play in India or to a Muslim audience. This because, “America needs to kick itself in the butt a little bit so these people see that we’re human...not this giant robot that’s going to kill them...”

Brooks too needs to kick himself in the butt, a hard and swift kick for coming out of one of the most religiously diverse countries, one that is predominantly non-Muslim, and not having realized this. Brooks needs to kick himself again for promoting a film with many images of Brown skinned South-Asians, who probably have no affiliation with Islam under the title “Muslim World.” Brooks needs to kick himself once more for making a film with images of Sikhs in turbans under the idiom “Muslim world.” (Haven’t the Sikhs in America suffered enough because of this type of idiocy already?) Brooks needs to kick himself until he sees that brown skinned people, the people of the Middle East, the people of South Asia, and Asia in general are “not this giant robot” named the “Muslim World.” Perhaps then I would be a bit more gracious to Brooks.


Anonymous said...

So, in sum:

1. Brooks’s joke about “Ghandi” [sic] didn’t make you laugh.

2. You don’t think it’s appropriate to make jokes about people that Westernerns know about. (“But we westerners know Ghandi” [sic]).

3. You don’t think that films generally, or perhaps films about Muslims, should be shot in India -- even though India’s got more Muslims than practically anybody.

I mean, they’re totally swimming in Muslims over there. Like, suppose you’re trying to find a Muslim you’ve misplaced. It’s happened to all of us. And you feel like you’ve looked everywhere -- in the bazaar, between the couch cushions, you name it. My advice would be: try India.

4. You think it’s “naive” for Brooks to differentiate between Jews, on the one hand, and Hindus and Sikhs on the other.

5. You think that if you’re making a film about people in “the Muslim World,” then you have an obligation to keep non-Muslims off the set -- especially those pesky “Brown skinned South-Asians.” Come to think of it, as you note, Brooks himself isn’t Muslim. What the holy hell is HE doing in a film about THE MUSLIM WORLD?!!! omg omg omg!!!!11one.

Incidentally, if you do a google search for “Albert Brooks India,” the very first hit you get is an interview with Brooks in which he says:

[T]he Muslim world is a very large world. There are Arab Muslims, and Pakistan is all a Muslim nation, and even though India is primarily Hindu, the irony is, the minority population places it as the second-largest Muslim population in the world. So when you're in India, you meet many Muslim people, and they have their own relationships with the Sikhs and the Hindus.

But apart from that, I’m sure that Brooks has no idea that India is religiously diverse.


Anonymous said...

Give a guy one god-damn comic appellation and look at him go!

Q. A. Shah said...


First off, thank you for catching that misspelling. It’s been fixed now, and thankfully Aaman corrected it before the post went up on

1. I actually did find the joke about Gandhi funny, chuckled a bit. I don’t see how you inferred that I didn’t, as that was far from the underlying point. I was rather talking about the relevancy of a joke about Gandhi in relation to the “Muslim World.”

2. You’re right, I think we should replace all stand-up comedy, or comedy in general with lectures on world history or politics or culture, etc...

3. Granted I’m not a follower or a huge fan of Bollywood. But you surely don’t know that, nor was that implied, nor does that come anywhere close to implying your hyperbole.

As far as populations are concerned, India does have a large percentage of the world’s Muslim population. And China and Pakistan have nearly the same amount if not more, and Indonesia has the most. Yet China’s Muslim population is easily under 5% of the nation’s total, and India’s Muslim population if around 15% of their total, where as Pakistan’s and Indonesia’s are the overwhelming majority. That the cultural significance of the various populations correlates to the percentage of the total, is what I’m assuming.

And if you were looking for a specific Muslim you’d be foolish to go to India. Quite soon, walking the streets of D.C. you’d be as likely to come across a Muslim as you would in walking the streets of much of India. And walking the streets in parts of Michigan would probably correlate to walking the streets of Amritsar or Ludhiana. When I decide to default on my student loans, I’m heading to India (the Goa trip being a recon operation). Walking the streets of Bangalore, you may be hard pressed to find a Muslim.

4. I think it’s is naïve for Brooks to think that all Muslims cultures across the globe are anti-Semitic. There would seem to be no other point to his anecdote; this being true especially in a culture where the Hindu-Muslim strife way overshadows any strife between Islam and Judaism.

5. I think it’s potentially harmful to advertise a film with the words “Muslim World” showing images that perpetuate stereotypes that are completely unfounded and directly hurt those whom they are made about, specifically Sikhs. In America, as you may recall, after 9/11, there were numerous violent incidents directed towards Sikhs. Perhaps the film helps to correct this, I don’t know. The advertising of the film surely doesn’t. Making a film showing the diversity of races and religions in the “Muslim World”, as I said in the original post, would be a great thing. And this may have been Brooks’ intention, but given the interview, it didn’t seem as such was the case.

I missed that quote, but it doesn’t really help the case. It does show quite a bit more awareness on Brooks’ part, and likely he is not as naïve as I insinuate. But Pakistan is not an all Muslim nation as he states, though it is around 97% Muslim. And if you were to ask certain elements of the Sunni population of Pakistan, they would say that the Shi’a in the country are not Muslim. And yes, if you go to certain regions, especially towards the north west or Bangladesh land borders of the country, you’ll find large amounts of Muslims, if you go to other parts, central and southern, you’ll find a lot less.

So to sum it up, you’re wrong in your summation.

Now back to work.

Q. A. Shah said...

And, I am correct in taking your name as inclusive of the quotation marks?

Anonymous said...

Pakistan is not an all Muslim nation as [Brooks] states, though it is around 97% Muslim.


And if you were to ask certain elements of the Sunni population of Pakistan, they would say that the Shi’a in the country are not Muslim.

So . . . you’re arguing now that Pakistan doesn’t count as part of the Muslim World?

Look, before you go committing yourself to more crazy-ass propositions, I guess we’ll just have to agree that Brooks should do a follow-up movie in which he wanders the streets of Amman or Riyadh trying to find out “what kind of comedy the Jews like.”

Maybe at one point he could pull out all the stops by brandishing a ventriloquist dummy. “Do you think this is funny—you Jews?!!” he could keep asking passers-by. Now that I’d go see.


P.S. Just between you and me: the Shi’a of Pakistan—Jews in disguise?

P.P.S. I don’t know. But that’d be awesome. “Hey Musharraf, you’ve been Punk’d!”

runningbluegirl said...

"Gary" is "grumpy"

Q. A. Shah said...


So are you saying these "numbers" I use are some mystical form of conjuring spirits in the material world?, that 2+2+=5? Ok, Ok, 97%, sure a Muslim nation, but if you allow for the more radical elements of the Sunni ideology of that nation, it drops to 80%, Shi'a being 1/5 or so.

The Muslim World

I, if you hadn't noticed, have issues with the way that term is used. When this film's sequel gets made in Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago, I may have less issues w/ Brooks' use of the term.

If the movie was 2 hours of Brooks walking around the streets of various cities across the globe in a shalwar kameez, ventriloquist dummy similarly dressed in hand, and all he did was yell out "Oi Oi. You Muslim. Ya think this is funny??" as he proceeded to do a tap dance, then pull a string attached to the dummy and watch it blow up--I would have no issues with the film. THAT I think we would both go see.

And you're right, we so need Ashton Kutcher to have done this film...

Q. A. Shah said...

Welcome. And I fear you're off. I've seen "Gary" being "grumpy," and this is far from that...

Anonymous said...

You know who "Gary" is?!

Anonymous said...

I’m “Gary”! Are you “Gary”? No? Look closer. There! You were “Gary” all along.


runningbluegirl said...

RBG= Asiyah

I don't know who 'Gary' is but he's still 'grumpy'.

ms. daisy said...

"4. I think it’s is naïve for Brooks to think that all Muslims cultures across the globe are anti-Semitic. There would seem to be no other point to his anecdote; this being true especially in a culture where the Hindu-Muslim strife way overshadows any strife between Islam and Judaism."

He may be naïve, but you're being disingenuous. I can't say what his point was, but Quasim, on some level you have to accept the truth that there is a fundamental anti-Jewish sentiment among many Muslims. Just as I know that there is a fundamental anti-Muslim sentiment among many Jews.

Given the current situation in Palestine/Israel, it is increasingly difficult to discuss Islam without reference to Judaism, and vice versa. I wouldn't necessarily have made the same comment as Brooks, but I see where he's coming from. He's a Jew; he's basically famous for being funny and Jewish (which, hello, why am I not more famous, as I too am both funny and Jewish); that's what informs his comedy.

Why did he ignore the obvious Hindu/Muslim strife? Because he was making a movie, and this is what sells.

Q. A. Shah said...

Hello hello. And yeah, "Gary" is grumpy, but if i'm correct in my assumption about who it is, this is not him at his worst/best form.

Ms. Daisy,
So yes, i am being a bit disingenuous. And I accept that there is a anti-Jewish sentiment among many Muslims, but I don't think it's a fundamental sentiment. I think it is more political and contextual to the Palestine/Israel situation, and not much beyond that for most of the Muslims, even though it may be expressed generally and not just at the situation.

I agree that it's difficult to discuss Islam w/out reference to Judaism in the western world, as so much of our western interaction with islam is driven by the Palestine/Israel situation. But I don't think that is true in India. For most of the Hindus there, their interaction with Muslims is much more driven by the situation in Kashmir or Amritsar rather than Israel. For most of the Muslims in India the same is probably true for their interactions with people of other faiths.

But yes, when a muslim in india meets a jewish person, the Palestine/Isreal sitaution will be at play, I agree with you there. But I think the Imam in that specific mosque didn't know how much of a factor being Jewish was to Brooks' persona. I think if a famous Hindu comedian was doing the same film, and wanted to use the mosque, the imam may not have been as willing.

In the end, I agree with your final statement the most. I was just hoping for more with what coulda have been a great film.

Anonymous said...

Uh-oh, now Daisy might be getting grumpy.

   Q-Dog: I accept that there is a anti-Jewish sentiment among many Muslims

Really? Even among the disguise-wearing Shi’a of Pakistan? Musharraf: “Oh man, you guys totally got me!”

   When this film's sequel gets made in Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago, I may have less issues w/ Brooks' use of the term.

Aw, now you’re just making names up. Yeah, “Tobago.” Sure, Q. Next you’ll say that Brooks should film his sequel in “Zeezostan” or “Abraxastan,” and feature the Shi’a with their ubiquitous yarmulkes.


ms. daisy said...

Now, now, "Gary," when I'm cranky, you'll know it. We're not there yet ...

From Quasim: And I accept that there is a anti-Jewish sentiment among many Muslims, but I don't think it's a fundamental sentiment. I think it is more political and contextual to the Palestine/Israel situation, and not much beyond that for most of the Muslims, even though it may be expressed generally and not just at the situation.

I disagree. Like, 110%. The fight for Israel's statehood is simply the most recent excuse for anti-Jewish rhetoric by many Muslim leaders in the international community; if I have my history right, the Mufti who was buddies with Hitler wasn't meeting to talk about Israeli statehood/repression of Palestinians so much as he wanted in on the final solution.

I am about as ignorant of what the Qu'ran says as the next non-Muslim, but I've always understood that it contains some fairly scorching indictments of Jews. Which is not to say that the Torah doesn't do the same to non-Jews (er, Amalekites, anyone??) ...

Anonymous said...

A fantastic conversation, really, that began with a review of a movie the reviewed hadn't seen, that coursed through a discussion of the temperment of a commenter hidden behind a nom de plume, and that concluded with an assertion about a holy book by an admitted ignoramus. Ah, what do I know . . .

Vasco Pyjama said...

On a side issue, you might be interested to read what my friend Iqbal Khaldun wrote about cartoons with the Prophet.

Q. A. Shah said...

J-dog...i mean "Gary",
I really wanna see Brooks do a "punk'd" version of the movie "Zeezostan"...with Sufis disguised as Shi'as disguised as Assasayin...all tripped out on heroin. And lots of ventriloquist dummies, and I mean like armies of them. We gotta copyright this.

Ms. Daisy,
Lets get you cranky. Wait, no I've seen it, and don't like it. So I was wondering when I was writing my initial response to you if you'd go down the line you've started. I disagree w/ it 110%. I think it's been overplayed, and that the historic relations between Muslim and Jewish people is no worse than the any other interactions between the Abrahamic faiths, and likely the non-abrahamic too. Wasn't the Pope or some Cardinal of the time buddies w/ Hitler too?

And of course the Qu'ran contains some schorching indictments of Jews, it was a new religion distinguishing itself as superior. Kinda had to. As far as the versus often quoted by radical elements as reasons to kill all Jews, the context easily points the other way. If I remember correctly, it was a matter of treason/betrayal committed by one of the Jewish tribes that were allied with the exiled Muslims. The Jewish tribe was presented with a choice of punishment under either Jewish law or Muslim law, and they went with Muslim law since, on this matter, it was less harsh. Then the Muslims proceeded to kill all the Jewish men and young men (maybe boys too??).

The point being, I think the level of anti-Jewish rhetoric and sentiments is probably higher and broader than ever among the Muslims. I don't think it's fundamental to Islam anymore than anti-X sentiments are fundamental between any major religous groups.

You're getting annoying with brash, unfounded, and hypocritical accusations. I didn't review the movie, nor claim to. Go read the post. Carefully (even though a cursory reading would allow most people to see that your claim that I was reviewing it as simply dumb). And the nom de plume doesn't hide too much. It's an alternate presentation of my name rather than a pseudonym.

How about signing off with your name, or even a variant, or a consitant pseudonym even, next time.

Checked it out, and I largely agree with him. Not surprising though.

Q. A. Shah said...

The latest "Anonymous",
I see that the 'nom de plume' comment was in reference to "Gary," not me.

Either way, sign off with something.

Elizabeth said...

" really wanna see Brooks do a "punk'd" version of the movie "Zeezostan"...with Sufis disguised as Shi'as disguised as Assasayin...all tripped out on heroin. And lots of ventriloquist dummies, and I mean like armies of them. We gotta copyright this."

(c) Q-dawg, 2006. I LOVE IT. Can I be an extra?

I love this post. I get your point: basically, he thinks he's being all insightful, but he's not, 'cause he doesn't know the half of it. I so agree that people like that should be flamed.

That being said I have yet to meet a Muslim man who can watch anything- ANYTHING- about the Jews, a Jew, or Israel on TV without making rude comments or jokes about Israelis or Jews (they never confine their comments to settlers or Zionists). Now, I do live in Afghanistan and all my housemates are Muslim (Pakistani), and my husband is Muslim. I would note that women tend to be more open and usually quite liberal, but they seem to be unsuccessful in passing on their sense of humanity to their sons. Still, I met few Muslims in the US (not a single one that I can remember, actually), so perhaps that would change my mind.

Anonymous said...

J-dog...i mean "Gary"

I am not J-dog. What are you talking about?

Look, you know the guy on that bench enjoying a refreshing soda in front of the supermarket from that movie, made about 10 years ago, about a rampaging homicidal Frankenstein monster?

I tossed that guy the soda.


* Later on, he repaid my gesture by arguing, at some length, that all airplanes, “at all times,” travel at a uniform speed.

ms. daisy said...

Sure, the Pope was buddies with Hitler, but the Catholic church - and all Christian denominations - has always had a bone to pick with the Jews. Several, in fact, although the most salient was definitely the spurious claim that we killed Jesus. For the record, I'm exactly as impressed with Catholic/Christian anti-Semitism as I am with Muslim anti-Semitism - that is, not even a little bit.

But I don't see how that's relevant to the discussion. Other religious figures hate you so it's okay if we do, too? Not convincing.

Elizabeth, if you're still reading: Why can't I ever read your blog? The bottom is always cut off! This makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. D - You've got to admit that there are some awful potent information cascades at work in the world and that, given the state of current scholarship (which is, of course, run behind the scenes by the Jews), we have to acknowledge that it is properly rational to follow information cascades.

Hence, you'd have to be crazy not to hate Jews.


Welch, Ivo, et al. "Informational Cascades and Rational Herding: An Annotated Bibliography and Resource Reference." Last visited: today.

Q. A. Shah said...

If we film in the states, on a really bad soundstage with cardboard sets, you'll only get standard extra wages, union of course. So are you going for the army of dummies (and we will provide t-shirts designating such) or an Assasayin (there may be a bollywood-esque dance/song scene w/ whirling dervishes).

But thanks, and yeah, that's the concise way of putting the post. I think the film coulda been really good if it went for pure satire, instead it seemed to try for too much gravitas/cultural relevancy, at least judging from how it was promoted.

And yep, i agree about your sentiment, but i think a lot of western raised muslims are better about distinguishing in finding fault w/ settlers & zionists. Though my parents, well my father, despite being educated in the west and living there for nearly 30 years still notes when a Jewish person is on TV.

I was so focused on executing that scene well (it was difficult after all...) that i don't clearly remember who exactly threw that soda to me.

Ms. Daisy
I was getting defensive being a muslim, saying that others do it too. I wasn't trying to excuse it. I think that when you discuss anti-jewish sentiment among muslims these days though, because of our climate, it automatically pushes reflexes. I shoulda assumed and known you weren't doing such, i.e. relying on or speaking in cliches. But I'm still not backing down from my original sentiment about it not being 'fundamental' to Islam, if I'm reading your use of the word correctly.

ms. daisy said...

Hey anonymous, drop the r - I ain't no Mrs. And I love how people think we're even organized enough to run the world - have you ever been in a synagogue?!?! We can't even run a house of worship properly! Of course since the world appears to be headed for Armaggedon right now, that could actually back up your assertion ... hmmm.

I try not to speak from/in cliches, and didn't mean to - I was trying to speak from a reasoned base of knowledge (although as anon points out, my people control the knowledge, so who knows if that even has a normative value). And how I meant fundamental was: it's a basic tenet of the religion, as seen in the holy texts. I don't mind agreeing to disagree on that one.

runningbluegirl said...

Ms. Daisy,

I disagree about hatred of Jewish people and/or Judaism being a basic tenet of Islam. In fact, the Quran Sharif doesn't even say that Jewish people are going to hell. I am not a scholar but I did a search on the USC site where one can do a search on 3 different translations of the Quran Sharif. Nowhere does it say that we (Muslims) should have hatred against Jewish people or the religion.

What it does say is that certain foods were forbidden as a result of Jewish 'rebellion' (I don't know the history on this).

Another verse says the following:
YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah: announce unto them a most grievous penalty-
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Lo! many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom,
SHAKIR: O you who believe! most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely, and turn (them) from Allah's way; and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah's way, announce to them a painful chastisement,

Only the second (Pikthal) version mentions Jewish people and those who use money w/o giving to charity.

Other mentions in the Quran Sharif discuss the differences between Jewish and Christan thought and how God will reconcile their differences on Judgment Day. One translation of that says that they both believe in nothing. Yet another says that both Christians and Jews received words from God and did not follow them. So they will receive their punishments on Judgment day.

It specifically says that good people (no matter the religion) will be rewarded on Judgment Day. I am not an expert on monotheistic religions (perhaps someone with more knowledge can weigh in on this), but this seems to be very accepting, in contrast with evangelical Christianity, which I believe, mandates that only the 'saved Christians' will go to heaven:
YUSUFALI: Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
PICKTHAL: Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans - whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right - surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.
SHAKIR: Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

This is repeated a little later in the Quran Sharif also.

I have the exact verses in the Quran Sharif but it's 7 pages long so I don't want to flood Q's blog (any longer than I already have) but i'd be happy to send it to anyone who sends me an email.

In peace,


P.S. I'm sorry for the super-long post, this is something I feel strongly about. I definitely agree with Q that the Palestine vs. Israel conflict is primarily political. But I also think it has something to do with the post-colonial angst/anger in the predominantly Muslim world. The loss of Palestine was a huge blow to Muslim psyche at the sheer unfairness of it all (I understand that there are different perceptions about this - but this is how I and I guess most Muslims feel). I am not anti-Jewish, but I strongly believe that Palestine deserves its own state w/o being walled in as a ghetto. That said, I do believe that Jewish people deserve their own sovereign state.

This is the longest post ever. Sorry.

ms. daisy said...

Asiyah, I appreciate your informed and thoughtful response, I really do. I absolutely agree that Palestine deserves to be an internationally-recognized state, free of Israeli domination. I think that the so-called disengagement should be made complete (by ceding air-space and water control to the government of Palestine). And I think that the Israeli government is at present operating (a) in flagrant violation of international law and (b) as an apartheid state. I really hope I didn't come across as an apologist for Israel, because I don't think I am, and if I did, please tell me, because I want to check that immediately.

Okay, so, taking into account that my understanding of the Qu'ran is limited to what I can Google, here's what I can tell: From this site, I gather that there are some nasty things about Jews and our general character. The problem is, I don't have any idea about the source - legitimate? hate-mongering? so left-of-center as to be discounted?.

So, then I went to Wikipedia, and their article on Islam and anti-Semitism contains episodes of anti-Jewish violence and persecution starting as early as the 11th century.

And then I went to, which I've visited quite a bit, and their search engine can officially bite me, because I found nothing helpful. But I would trust their word on the issue, because of the other stuff I've read there.

There is plenty of nastiness in the the Tanakh (the aforementioned commandment to kill/commit genocide against "Amalekites," a term that has been construed to include Nazis and Arabs; the Maccabee reign over Israel was particularly brutal; loads more).

I agree that the Palestine v. Israel conflict is at its root political, and I think it has been exploited by religious leaders (on both sides, my current Rabbi included) as somehow intrinsically a part of our religions. I think that's crap.

Unfairness is a truly kind way to describe the colonialization of Palestine in the early 1900s - it was atrocious. The counter-argument, however, is that the Jews' expulsion from the land, dating even further back, was also atrocious. So - we're all wounded, and we've all done some wounding, and I think what I'm trying to say is that it's important to acknowledge the unpleasant realities inherent in holy texts that date back to a time I can't imagine, because otherwise moving forward is a futile endeavor.

Dude. Blog officially hijacked.

Anonymous said...

And this, my California flower, is why religious tolerance is specious, why only the essentially agnostic can be tolerant, and why the faithful are morally commanded to engage in holy war.

(To be sure, those who live their faiths as culture rather than as religion are the worst offenders.)

- Commenter # 8

ms. daisy said...

Dear Commenter #8,
You, too, can officially bite me. A faith in G-d does not preclude tolerance, not any more than a faith in G-d is the same thing as tolerance.

-the California Flower

Anonymous said...

Western flora: while I enjoy thumbing through Justine as much as the next fellow, is your invitation to masochism favored by the voweless mnptnt?

There is a 1782 discussion with a doomed fellow you should read, my wicked.

- No. 8

Q. A. Shah said...

Ms. Daisy,
So I was reading your use of 'fundamental' correctly. As far as the agreed disagreement, sure, we have a fair amount of those, no? Even given that, as far as it being fundamental, I'm sure our varying perspectives come in relation to the importance of the verse to us. You being much more affected by that part of the religion than I. But I still can't see it as fundamental. A Muslim can get to heaven without hating or killing Jews, and quite likely a Muslim that hates and kills Jews has less of a chance at heaven. It may be a common strain in the religion, especially now, but it's not fundamental. Simply, if you're going to claim it's fundamental, and extricate that claim from the current political climate, I'd expect you to become well versed in the religion and quote versus of the Qu'ran or Hadith, and such. Even I can't do that. But as far as theology goes, the opposition to Christian belief (trinity, status of Jesus, etc...) is more fundamental to the religion.

As far as the first of the two sites, it seems legit, and not way left of center, but definately a bit tilted towards one side. It seems to say, don't hate the Jews, but here are reasons to hate them if you must.(BTW, for Qu'ranic versus, the Ahmadi site ( is quite easy to use.)

Hijack away, we muslims are good at doing that anyway, no? But, thank you for that post and the research. I was simply too lazy to do such. No worries about the super long comment, as you may have noticed, that seems to be an continuing trend/problem.

And there are some versus that say that Muslims should not be friends/associates (and some translations that say condemn/hate) with Jews or Christians, but these follow versus condemning specific charecteristics, and I think most rational scholars say that people of other religions having those characteristics shouldn't be associated with.

Despite me getting a bit snippy and personal in a comment to anonymous, now i realize i probably shouldn't have. i hope tempers wont flare too much here.

runningbluegirl said...

Hi Ms. Daisy and Q,

I will check the sites you have mentioned this evening, if I have a chance. I only searched with the terms, "Jewish" and "Jew" on the USC site, thinking that would cover it but I forgot to search under 'Israel". I will let you know what I come up with. I shy away from essays/articles written by Muslims on Jewish people/Judaism b/c I do think that most Muslims have an automatic negative reaction b/c of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But that doesn't mean that it's fundamental to the religion. There are many who think that killing others and killing themselves is fundamental to the religion, when the Quran Sharif specifically states that if you must fight, make sure to fight only other fighters (keep civilians out of it, like the Geneva Convention) and etc.

Take care everyone,


ms. daisy said...

I think what I was trying to get at is that the knee-jerk negative reaction comes from more than just the Palestine/Israel issue, specifically it can (not that it should, and not that, as you and Quasim have effectively pointed out, reasonable and sensible scholars advocate that it should) be derived from scriptural authority. Just as stoning women who do not dress modestly enough "can" be derived from Jewish scriptural authority (hence the actions of the haredim in Meah She'arim in Israel).

You're right, Quasim, I'm not an expert in hadith or the Qu'ran, and I'm not going to become one. So - I'm open to hearing arguments, and to being schooled.

Dearest commenter #8, do I know you? You are being awfully familiar and it is, I will admit, kind of creeping me out.

Q. A. Shah said...

Ms. Daisy,
I am far from an expert to.

But when put your view of "fundamental" that way, I can understand your perspective, and agree w/ it somewhat. See I just don't think that if you can rationalize somehting based on a verse in the holy text, it becomes fundamental.

And you got cyber stalkers now?

ms. daisy said...

Only on your blog do I get cyber ... er, not stalkers, necessarily, just offputting individuals of questionable repute. Unless they're the same person, in which case it's just one offputting, etc.

Elizabeth said...

Ms Daisy, sorry, there's something wrong with the coding so it cuts off. That's blogsome coding crap that I can't remove. What you can do is click on the title, which is a link to the post itself (not a display of the post on the main page). Thanks for being interested. By the way, the new evangelicals in the US are one Christian denomination that is very keen on the Jews. So, there's one.

QA- it's probably better than my existing salary. But I don't do this shit for $$$$.

ms. daisy said...

Hmmm - will try that next time.

Well, the evangelicals are keen on us because we play a charming role in their eschatological schema (i.e., when we're in the holy land, the second coming/end of the world will be at hand). Frankly, that comes under the heading of that Free To Be song - "some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without." No thank you.

Q. A. Shah said...

It's about time you started unionizing aid workers. Really. Get some salary parity cause we development contractors are doing quite fine, but we only do this stuff for the cash as you know.