A Fair Witnessing (Gems from Scott Korb’s Light Without Fire)

 

Sweetness for the mind and  heart.

Sweetness for the mind and heart. (Soma Chocolate, Toronto)

Some books call out to you to share them with others. Recently I read Scott Korb’s book Light Without Fire about the first year at Zaytuna College, America’s first Muslim liberal arts college, and ever since I finished it, I can’t stop talking about it with others.

There are so many things to appreciate and admire about this book. To begin, it is rare to encounter an author who is able to talk about Islam/Muslims with honesty and sensitivity. In Light without Fire, the author’s admiration, warmth and connection with the people he meets shines from every page, and you get the sense that he is not a journalist simply watching Zaytuna from the sidelines, but someone who participates in the life of the community. When he visits the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland for Friday prayers for instance, he lines up shoulder to shoulder with others in prayer. When he attends the mawlids (a celebration of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him), at Zaytuna or in the broader community, over time he becomes familiar with the poetry and sacred music that is recited.

His curiosity and engagement makes the book a very readable, thoughtful, interesting, important read, and one that rewards its reader generously for their time and attention. It makes the book a light, a book of beautiful writing, subtle humour, and humanity, that helps the reader see and understand Zaytuna College more clearly.

“Always carry a little notebook around with you. Whatever inspires you, or rings true for you, was meant for you. So make sure you write it down.” Faced with what Faatimah called “the obvious way” that the Zaytuna classroom – or really any classroom – was not like the rest of the world, and vice versa, every moment deserved the attention of a notetaker. Though the Zaytuna classroom might be structured with the books and schedules and tests that are the trappings of any classroom, what’s “out here” is no less important, structured as it is, she said “so much more by the divine.” The whole world is the classroom. She saw in it signs and proofs of Allah.” ~ (Light without Fire, p.110)

In the spirit of this advice to be a notetaker (given by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus), below are a few thoughts from my read.

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Notes from the Human Rights, Religion and the Law Lecture at U of T (Jan 11th 2012)

In January 2012, the University of Toronto held a lecture called Human Rights, Religion and the Law as part of a series of events with the Ontario Humans Rights Commission (which was updating its policy on creed) and the University of Toronto Religion in the Public Sphere program. Every time I’ve heard Barbara Hall speak I’ve been moved by her warmth and powerful intellect, and that evening was no different. The other two speakers of the evening, Winnifred Sullivan and David Seljak were equally powerful, and scholars who I hope to continue to follow. What was powerful about that night was the widespread acknowledgement that we need to unpack our definitions and understandings of secularism, understand its foundations, and recognise the role of power in constructing what we assume to be natural. Once we do this, it is easier to see that models based on accommodation and tolerance are deeply flawed.

I mostly just listened to the speakers that night, but today I came across my (brief) notes from the lecture, and I’ve included them below.

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Awesome Event Alert! Human Rights, Religion and the Law

Check out this amazing event held at U of T this week. I’ll be there, taking notes and soaking in the amazing speakers. (For Barbara Hall alone, this event is worth it)

From the event page at : http://media.utoronto.ca/media-releases/event-advisories/human-rights-religion-and-the-law/

TORONTO, ON – The wearing of face coverings, the question of whether “Good Friday” at Easter should still be a statutory holiday, and prayers in the school cafeteria over the lunch hour are all questions of religious accommodation in civil society. Beginning January 11, the University of Toronto and the Ontario Human Rights Commission are facilitating a two-day policy consultation on religion and the law. The public is invited to join the conversation to explore the boundaries of religious expression and practice in the public sphere:

EVENT DETAILS:

WHAT:          Human Rights, Religion and the Law (Opening session)

WHEN:          Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 7:30 p.m.

WHO:             Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission

Pamela Klassen, Director of the Religion in the Public Sphere program, University of Toronto

Winnifred Sullivan, Director of the Law, Religion, and Culture, State University of New York

David Seljak, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Waterloo

WHERE:       U of T Multi-Faith Centre, 569 Spadina Ave TO, ON M5S 2J7

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WHAT:    Human Rights and Wrongs: Religion and Creed in the Public Sphere

WHEN:   Friday, January 13, 2012, 1:30 pm

WHO:     Richard Moon, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor, past President of the Canadian Law Society Association. Iain Benson, Senior Associate Counsel with the Litigationn

Practice Group and Senior Research Fellow with the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life, University of Alberta.

WHERE:       U of T Multi-Faith Centre, 569 Spadina Ave TO, ON M5S 2J7