Monday, February 13, 2006

Links: Idolatry, Mrs. King, Brugada Syndrome, DesiBlogging

--Read Tim Burke's thoughtful take on the ongoing anti-Islamic cartoons controversy. In some instances, Burke echoes Juan Cole, and sympathizes with the sense of grievance that many Muslims worldwide feel. But he also has this clear-sighted rejoinder to the apparent theological confusion of the protestors:

Certainly the given religious logic of the attitude toward iconic representations of the Prophet within many Islamic traditions is almost actively contradicted by the riots and protests directed at the cartoons. What is that reaction but idolatry, the mistaking of the human, the temporal, for the divine, the elevation of Muhammed and representations of him to the level of God? Isn’t that one of the clearest and most unambiguous instructions within the Qu’ran and later interpretative traditions, to not mistake the Prophet for God Himself?

That is an argument which will convince no one, because none of this is really about the substance of a belief about iconic representation and idolatry.

--Read Mendi Obadike's somewhat ambivalent response to the death of Coretta Scott King last week.

I'd heard her say that she married a vision, not a man, but before King's death, I'd always imagined that the idea was simply that she knew she was marrying an activist. What I've been sitting with this week is the challenge of recognizing what activism looks like when one is speaking / acting from the position of black lady (or perhaps colored lady). I've been thinking about this question in the context of my own creative work, but it is hitting me differently when I rethink King's life in the context of her own intentions, rather than in the context of her husband's work. Even the writing of this post requires me to think about the politics of engaging with the lady as a political figure. Do I call her Mrs. in the title of this post?

--Read Brendan Greeley on his experience with a rare heart anomaly known as Brugada Syndrome, in the New York Times Magazine:

From my two hours on the operating table I remember nothing, punctuated by a shock of pain so wrenching and intense that it fails comparison with anything else I have ever experienced, then nothing, then another shock comparable only to the first, then nothing. I can confirm that defibrillation does in fact contract all of the muscles in your body so that you lift off the table. In my case, my lungs constricted and I woke up screaming involuntarily. One of my cardiologists told me later that by the third time my heart stopped, they had adjusted the defibrillator and I remained sedated. I think I thanked him.


--Rage, of the blog Brown Out, has an edifying polemic (or maybe an intelligent rant) where he points out the dangers of taking desi blogging too seriously:

However, if someone were to begin reading a blog as a primary source for their understanding of a community and/or issues that pertain to it, they could be led astray, especially by folks who are on a soapbox about their perspective, or their authenticity, but don't have much more to back it up than a lot of hours in front of a computer screen and, more often than not, minimal interactions with the subjects of their posts. I know that I've been guilty of the same in the past, and have tried to remedy what I could when I was reminded of the flaws. But others don't do that, and their pieces remain up, virtually unchallenged (especially if it's about community organizations or initiatives, when the principals of those entities seldom have the time to respond to misrepresentation (or no representation) in the media, let alone the blogosphere). Then, the next time that someone searches about agency X or person Y, what they get is a source that is often an under- or even un-researched polemic that hasn't even been seen, let alone replied to, by the person/group in question.

Rage points to a possible problem associated with quickie blogging. But it's also to a great extent a problem associated with search engines, which tend to rate blogs quite highly when they are widely linked to and current. I don't know what specifically Rage is thinking of here -- his argument could be stronger if he gave some specific examples -- but he certainly provides some food for blog-thought.

--Oh, and check out Jabberwock's review of Upamanyu Chatterjee's new novel Weight Loss (which looks very twisted and creepy), as well as Pankaj Mishra's positive review of Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, in the New York Times. By all accounts, Kiran Desai has nailed it with this one.


Blogger Rage said...

Thanks for the mention, Amardeep. The link may be broken, though.

I definitely agree that specific examples would better serve my point. Perhaps there's more to write, now that I got the thesis-rant out there...

3:43 PM  
Blogger Amardeep said...

I fixed the link (somehow .html had become .htm).

And I'll look forward to further comments from you on this, if/when you get a chance.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Weird. I've spoken to Brendan, when he was researching his Pakistan story. You probably have too, if you were on RadioOpenSource.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Amardeep said...

Yes, I did talk to him a bit. So maybe part of this linkage is "someone I sort of know is in the New York Times magazine!"

Then again, it's actually a really good story.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Shreeharsh said...

What is that reaction but idolatry, the mistaking of the human, the temporal, for the divine, the elevation of Muhammed and representations of him to the level of God.

No, it isn't, Amardeep. The reverence for the prophet led to the Muslim reaction but the reverence itself cannot be conflated with idolatory (at least not in the literal sense, which is how Muslims interpret it. One can, of course, argue that excessive reverence is equivalent to idolatory in a non-literal sense but again we are creatively reinterpreting the term).

I think Muslims know the Quranic injunction to not mistake the Prophet for God but theyr'e clearly revolting over what they perceive as disrespect shown to the Prophet as a prophet, not as a God.

Finally creative reinterpretation of the divine texts can only take us so far. Burke's technique (also the choice of many commentators) is to say that Muslim actions are unIslamic, by his interpretation. There's no reason that his interpretation is truer than the ones that the aggrieved Muslims feel.

Just wanted to clarify the point, I don't find the Muslim outrage necessarily justifiable but Burke's argument is unsound.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amardeep, reading your blog is like a breath of fresh air. It is honest and inclusive to address a wide variety of topics.

Thank you for such a treat.

A. P. Singh

2:41 PM  
Blogger Manorama said...

I just posted on the cartoons over on my blog. I think the idea that the protestors have somehow made a theological mistake is silly and overlooks their justified outrage.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Chai said...

I just read Rage's post and really liked it. I think his point (and why he isn't linking) is that when someone holds themselves out to be the voice of all things South Asian, that comes with some sort of responsibility, which many bloggers are fear. It's this reactionary, "But it's just my blog," and "my" being the operating word there. However, it's not "my" blog when you claim responsibility to a community, issue, or concern.

It's an issue that I debate about a lot and am trying to come to terms with still.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Sözlük said...

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5:00 PM  

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