Monday, September 29, 2008

Film: War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death

Film: War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, produced by The Media Education Foundation and narrated by Sean Penn, is a 72-minute documentary documenting how mainstream media, contrary to right-wing commentators, generally supports U.S. militarism. The documentary shows how long it took for U.S. media outlets to begin to question the government's narrative in Vietnam. Of course, the situation with regards to the 2nd Iraq war is much worse. Watch it and feel your righteous rage!

Film: No End in Sight: Iraq's Descent into Chaos

No End in Sight: Iraq's Descent into Chaos, the Inside Story from the Ultimate Insiders is a 102-minute documentary detailing the errors (deliberate sabotage?) the U.S. did in Iraq from the beginning of its occupation in 2003 until the film's end in 2007. A great summary for those who have not been following this crime from the beginning.

Film: The Fog of War by Errol Morris

The Fog of War, by Errol Morris, is a series of interviews and commentary with Robert S. McNamara. Slate.com published a review which best explains the value of this film-that even a person at the center of the U.S. wars of imperialism and the brutality of modern warfare can remain lost in the fog some 40 years later.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Review: Haleem & Kaleem's Eid Gifts by Fawzia Gilani

Haleem & Kaleem's Eid Gifts (ISBN 978-983-065-253-5) by Fawzia Gilani and illustrated by Muslimah Williams. Published by A.S. Noordeen, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. First published 2008.

The author sent me the copy I read, so I cannot comment on purchasing from the Halalco book site, although I believe I've made successful purchases from it in the past.

The story is engaging, the morality is simple and important and the illustrations are attractive. The book meets my criteria for Muslim children's media.

Review: Ismat's Eid by Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Ismat's Eid (ISBN 978-81-8146-405-7) by Fawzia Gilani-Williams and illustrated by Proiti Roy. It is published by Tulika Publishers, Chennai, India.

I read it in English, but it is also available in Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati and Bangla. The author sent me the copy I read, so I cannot comment on purchasing from the Tulika web site. As of September 22, 2008, I did not find it at astrolabe.com or IslamicBookstore.com.

I like this story a lot. It celebrates Eid, it shows Muslims hard at work, and it shows a Muslim family performing kind deeds for each other and laughing together. The illustrations are excellent as well.

Although I've never seen this before and I have no idea how helpful this is, the book is rated for listening to by children four years and older and for reading by children six years and older.

Film: A Garden in Cairo

The United States public TV show e2 opened its third season with an excellent episode entitled "A Garden in Cairo" about the Aga Khan Foundation project to establish the Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt and the impact of the project on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Film: Rumi Returning

Rumi Returning is a wonderful documentary about Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi's life, focusing on the historical events and places which provided the context for his example and his writings, rahmat allah alayhi.

I saw it on United States public TV.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Review: Film "Seniors for Peace" by David L. Brown

David L. Brown produced and directed the film "Seniors for Peace: A Portrait of Extraordinary Senior Peace Activists." This film contains footage from 2003 and 2004 and was broadcast on United States public television.

This 27 minute documentary is extraordinary because the elderly interviewed have so many important life experiences and have such deep outrage towards the war in Iraq. Seeing it should inspire people young and old to become more active in their opposition to war in general and this occupation of Iraq in particular.

I purchased it from the dlbfilms.com web site with no problem.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Review: Ayaan Hirsi Ali "Infidel"

Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Infidel. Free Press: New York; 2007.
ISBN:0-7432-8968-4

I read this book at the request of a friend. I honestly had a lot of hostility towards the author, partly because interviews I heard or read in which she, in my opinion, presented her distorted ideas of Islam, partly because I thought she was a tool of neo-conservative warmongers, and mostly because I was sick of johnny-come-lately, new-kid-in-town pundits feeding crap to ignorant U.S. citizens. I waited until the book became available at the public library, and I still ignored it for several weeks, accumulating fines, until I’m just now reading it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Review: CDs-Foundations of the Deen

Foundations of the Deen: Islam, Iman, & Ihsan by Zaid Shakir and Abdullah Ali.

This is a 5-CD set from the Zaytuna Institute which cover the topics mentioned in the hadith of Jibril, islam, iman and ihsan.

The speakers did a good job of balancing a scholarly treatment of the topic with an engaging mix of beneficial sidetracks.

The sound quality was good. My purchase was without difficulty and the item arrived quickly.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Film: Can We Talk About God? Devotion and Extremism in the Modern Age

This DVD, entitled "Can We Talk About God?: Devotion & Extremism in the Modern Age," consists of two talks by Zaid Shakir and Roger Scruton and their participation in a Q&A with the moderator and some audience questions.

I was disappointed in this DVD because the participants did not really address each other's concerns adequately due to the differences between the United Kingdom's experience with religion and that of the United States. When Scruton described the orthodoxy of agnosticism and atheism among U.K intellectuals, the experience of Zaid Shakir taught him that religious people, acting out of conviction that God forbade injustice, improved the United States by lifting government support of racial and other forms of discrimination. Many of the Muslim dysfunctions of Europe are not widespread here, and hence we U.S. Muslims can't understand European intellectuals' anti-religious impulses.

Moreover, Zaid Shakir did not address Roger Scruton's concerns that committed Muslims could accept legal and social structures in conflict with Islam except by saying that these Muslims always had the option of leaving and that most Muslims in the U.S. did not care about these things anyways. So Imam Zaid did not address why a devoted Muslim would continue to participate in a society which forbids polygyny, allows same-sex marriage, handles divorce in a different way than Muslim jurists recommend, etc. At the same time, I don't think Professor Scruton had enough background in Islamic sciences to be able to understand an Ash`ari theological defense or a juristic defense of Muslim accommodation to liberalism.

Imam Zaid did make an excellent point that the bigger problem is society's prejudice against religous behavior even when it does not conflict with civil law. If the anti-religious claim that they are fighting religion to preserve human rights and scientific progress, then why are they also against manifestations of religion that have nothing to do with either?

Both speakers maintained a high and civil level of discourse.

I'd recommend that people read The True, the Good and the Reasonable: The Theological and Ethical Roots of Public Reason in Islamic Law by Mohammad Fadel. It is a much better treatment of how a devoted Muslim could live in a liberal society.

I purchased the DVD from the link at the beginning of the blog entry. I had no problems with the transaction or delivery.

Film: Jerusalem, the East Side Story

Jerusalem: The East Side Story is a 57-minute documentary film by Mohammed Alatar. Those familiar with the history of Palestine will be bored by the first 10 minutes, which consist of a History Channel type narrative of the partition, the 1947-8 war and the 1967 war. But the rest of the documentary is extremely informative in its description of the tremendous excercise of control the Isreali government excercises over its non-Jewish subjects in Jerusalem. Despite the inhumane and oppressive policies, the non-Jews of Jerusalem still grow at a faster rate than the Jews in Jerusalem. This documentary exposes many of the contradictions of a government promoting a single religious identity as the basis for citizenship and not recognizing the indigenous people with different religious identities.

I purchased the DVD from the official web site, and it arrived in a timely manner.

Review: I am a Muslim-Shekh Abubaker Najaar

I am a Muslim by Sheikh Abubaker Najaar (Part 1 & Part 2)
Part 1 was originally published in 1962. Part 2 was originally published in 1978. This volume includes the 6th edition of part 1 and the 2nd edition of part 2. Publisher Formeset Printers. ISBN: 0958395616

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Film: USA v al-Arian

Just purchased the DVD of USA vs. Al-Arian from DaWorks. I've also got a copy of Shackled Dreams and Conspiring against Joseph. In sha Allah, reviews coming soon.

I wrote the above September 9, 2008. I just watched the film today, November 5, 2008.

I'm not sure how to react to the film. It's well done and well-edited as a documentary. There is a quality animation effect used to portray important courtroom scenes. All of the elements of the case through October 2006 are included, including the despicable sentence of Judge James Moody of Professor Sami to 57-months in jail (minus time served) despite a prosecution recommendation that Professor Sami be released based on time served. There are extensive sound bytes from the federal prosecutor, Walter E. Furr, whom I also come to dislike intensely by the end of the documentary.

I think the documentary gives too much time to Furr and not enough time to explaining why the plea bargain to which Professor Sami agreed was the result of extreme government coercion and deception. What's the point of asking a federal prosecutor if justice was done? In any prosecutor's opinion, the harsher the sentence, the more just the outcome.

Having said this, the film does do a good job of portraying Professor Sami's family as normal people and the tremendous pain the government inflicted on them. And perhaps the film needs to be low-key in order to take the message to those who have not followed the case closely.

In any event, the film's new North American distributor is Kudos Family. When I called, Ms. Klara Grunning-Harris of Kudos Family informed me that they hoped it would be available in NTSC format before the Christmas holidays, 2008. If you can play it in PAL, it is still available from DaWorks.

I've not yet watched the special features. In sha Allah, an update when I finish that. Remember, visit http://www.freesamialarian.com to get the latest information on the case and to help him out.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Ann Arbor Palestine Film Festival

People in the Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA area might want to check out the Ann Arbor Palestine Film Festival, which debuts in March 2009.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Film: Mesalla: Activists in Iraq

LaOnf is an Iraqi organization working to promote non-violence in Iraq. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is promoting screenings of the film in the United States.

As far as I know, the film has not been released for distribution in the United States. I believe its production company is Doble Banda, a Spanish company.

There are some videos on blip.tv about the actions of LaOnf.



There is also a YouTube video:


I have not seen the movie. There are at least two values I hope this movie can convey. The first is Iraqis' agency. The second is my hope to learn more about the acceptance among us Muslims of nonviolent resistance. This latter goal is a big topic, so I'm not going to discuss it in this post.

And before I forget, there is a channel on YouTube entitled Nonviolence in the Middle East.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Film: Shame by Mohammed Ali Naqvi

The film "Shame" by Mohammed Ali Naqvi is scheduled for screening at the Imperial Theater in Augusta, GA as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. I'm looking forwarding to meeting Mohammed Ali Naqvi and watching the film. Afterwards, in sha Allah, I'll update the blog entry.