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Sunday Open Thread – 3/14/2010 – Intellectual Grab Bag


Going back to the Open Thread’s roots this week with a healthy sampling of interesting stuff.

First, an article that lit up the Egyptian twittersphere: Why do Egyptians love Avatar? Joseph Mayton, editor and founder of Bikya Masr, argues that the region’s enthusiasm for the film relies on flawed parallels to Arab struggles against oppression. Specifically, he contends that the film’s logic would imply that the Palestinian people are in need of a foreign savior who will free them of Israeli occupation. Along these lines, Mayton asserts, quite controversially, that “Egyptians want something to believe in and Avatar offers a vague picture that is being co-opted into something it isn’t.”

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Youssef Chouhoud is an assistant professor of political science at Christopher Newport University, where he is affiliated with the Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. Youssef completed his PhD at the Political Science and International Relations program at the University of Southern California as a Provost’s Fellow. His research interests include political attitudes and behavior, survey methodology, and comparative democratization.



  1. Youssef Chouhoud

    March 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    A quick note on the Ehrman interview. He’s an agnostic who approached the discussion of Jesus from the perspective of flawed Biblical accounts. Therefore, he’ll necessarily say things about Isa (AS) that, as Muslims, we find repugnant. His interview is nonetheless worth a listen not simply for the criticisms of Biblical narrative, but also for the glimpse one gets into the psyche of Christian scholars.

    Ehrman was a self-described evangelical before he began his academic study of Christianity. It’s amazing how the more Christian scholars look into the history and documents of their religion, the weaker their faith becomes while the EXACT OPPOSITE holds for the scholars of Islam. The more one studies the Quran, hadith, and seerah, the greater their iman. SubhanAllah.

  2. Abd- Allah

    March 14, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    I don’t know much about avatar, but that statement was interesting:

    the film’s logic would imply that the Palestinian people are in need of a foreign savior who will free them of Israeli occupation.

    What is interesting about this is that many Muslims are waiting for the Mahdi to come and just save the day, and where as we do believe in the Mahdi and that he will come, but we were never commanded to sit and do nothing while waiting for the Mahdi to come.

    The breaking point occurred when the woman again refused to take off the niqab, though teachers had stressed it was essential they see her face to correct her enunciation and facial expressions.

    I find it amusing how people try to find the lamest excuses to attack the niqaab or anything relating to Islam. May Allah make it easy for all the sisters that wear the niqaab and hijaab. Now with the new “jihad jane” issue, it will be just another excuse for discrimination.

    And I agree brother Youssef, you see plenty of christian scholars who turn atheists or agnostics because they learned more about their religion. I think that these people are the closest to Islam, because they already rejected the notion of worshiping a man, so Islam would probably make sense to them and they would accept it right away if they knew the true message. I guess this shows our own shortcomings in spreading Islam and conveying the true message to others.

  3. UmmD

    March 14, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    Interesting articles, jazak Allah for sharing!

  4. UmmD

    March 14, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    Since its an open thread, i just want to share this link

  5. Gurabah

    March 14, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    salamu alaykum,

    I hope the foreingner savior “Saving the Palestinians and all muslims in the world” from occupations and oppression is not but a muslim leader and imam inshAllah. No white dude or any country even if they are the super power of the world will help free the palestinians or muslims but muslims. They haven’t done it now so they will never do it. Tables will be turned one day for SURE!!! Of course this will happen by Allah’s leave only.

    As muslims we all know the prophecies of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Salal Lahu Alayhim Wa Salam regarding what will happen in the future and some of the signs and conditions of the muslim ummah. TODAY muslims everywhere are targeted, harassed and discriminated against because of simple being a muslim and practising their faith.

    Every empire falls!!! Nothing remains but what is true and pure.

    About the sister in Quebec who stood her ground and chose not to remove her niqab i applaud you. May Allah reward you. may prayers are with you. Remember we are here on this earth only to please Allah, the Creator of everything. Not a country or a system.

    wa salam

  6. Anonymous

    March 15, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    In Christianity, there is a distinction between those who study the bible and Christian history in academic settings and those who study it in ecclessial settings. They should not be confused or conflated. The fact that some, though not nearly all, scholars of the bible in academic settings drift further from faith does not mean that studying the bible reveals all its flaws and destroys faith. The suggestion is repugnant.

    Ehrman is not a Christian and many of his ideas are rejected by both secular and Christian scholars. He certainly does not offer a glimpse into a Christian scholars psyche. I say that as a Christian scholar. He is an agnostic and he is from a fundamentalist background–one of the most intellectually flimsy segments of Christianity. The fact that his faith lacked an intellectual foundation when he started to study the bible academically has everything to do with his conclusions. The New Testament does not.

    Moreover, to focus only on questions like whether the New Testament explicitly declares the divinity of Jesus as you think it should is a complete misapprehension of Christianity, which requires both the text and a tradition of interpretation.

    If you want to critique Christianity, understand it first. Otherwise, keep doing the good work you’re doing talking about Islam in a way that is both profound and accessible.

    • Abd- Allah

      March 15, 2010 at 12:45 PM

      Anonymous, here are a few examples of those who have studied in ecclessial settings and used to preach christianity but then became Muslim. So that statement which was made is not only based on Ehrman, because if it was, then I agree that it would be a weak argument. But this statement was a general one based on the numerous others who studied the bible and “understood it” before they realized and come to accept the flaws in bible. Here are a few of them:

      * Dr. Jerald F. Dirks – Former minister (deacon) of the United Methodist Church. He holds a Master’s degree in Divinity from Harvard University and a Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Denver.
      * Abdullah al-Faruq – Formerly Kenneth L. Jenkins, minister and elder of the Pentecostal Church
      * Viacheslav Polosin – Former Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church
      * Anselm Tormeeda – 14th century CE scholar and priest
      * Khadijah ‘Sue’ Watson – Former pastor, missionary, professor. Master’s degree in Divinity
      * Ibrahim Khalil – Former Egyptian Coptic priest
      * Martin John Mwaipopo – Former Lutheran Archbishop
      * Raphael – Former Jehovah’s Witness minister
      * George Anthony – Former Catholic priest
      * Dr. Gary Miller (Abdul-Ahad Omar) – Former missionary

    • Youssef Chouhoud

      March 15, 2010 at 4:09 PM


      Your point in well taken. My language was probably a bit imprecise and, admittedly, I have not studied the Bible or its interpretations. So, not wanting to misspeak, I will indeed refrain from offering further critiques of Christianity.

      Could you clarify a couple of things for me though? You make the distinction between academically trained scholars and those who studied in an ecclesiastical setting. Yet, would not the Princeton Theological Seminary that Dr. Ehrman received his PhD from count amongst the latter? Also, he states that he was quite devote for a number of years after receiving his degree, so could he not rightly have been called a Christian scholar during that time?

      Lastly, I fail to see how the lack of explicit references to the divinity of Jesus outside the gospel of John, which happens to be the last gospel written, isn’t a fundamental issue on its own – regardless of any interpretations. Now, again, I haven’t combed through the Bible myself, I’m merely taking the word of Dr. Ehrman who I doubt would put something so controversial out there without first doing his homework. That said, please feel free to correct me if that supposition is in error.

      Thanks again for the comment.

  7. Manas Shaikh

    March 15, 2010 at 8:07 PM

    I find this trouble between Israel and US interesting. Is it real or a show?

    It seems that the idea of many Americans that Israel is their ally and a democracy might just be busted. We’ll see.

    • Youssef Chouhoud

      March 16, 2010 at 9:56 AM

      America is toothless against Israel. They ask them to stop all settlements, and Israel ignores them. They ask them to stop some settlements, and Israel ignores them. Now I think the US is concentrating on just ONE settlement. Is there any suspense to the outcome?

      • Abd- Allah

        March 16, 2010 at 10:49 AM

        Now I think the US is concentrating on just ONE settlement.

        … the usual script.

        and Israel ignores them.

        • Manas Shaikh

          March 16, 2010 at 2:44 PM

          The US needs to set it’s priorities right.

          • suhail

            March 16, 2010 at 4:03 PM

            We muslims should set our priorities straight. If we expect Kuffar to help us than we are living in a dream. Allah is the one who grants Victory but it comes with a price which is Muslims going to back to Allah and setting there record straight with Allah(SWT). Relying on Kuffar is not the way of the muslims.

            I think these days we blame US, UK, Israel for everything while forgetting that we do not do anything what is expected of us by Allah(SWT).

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