Monthly Archives: December 2011

One Step Towards a Girl, One Huge Step for Mankind


This post is about arts and technology, about street arts and telecommunication, about Graffiti and ALOHA.

Here is an litmus test to check if you are wasting your time in anything that you might be doing. Take a moment and as yourself, what for? Depending on your values and the goals you have set for yourself, you inform yourself on whether to carry on or to quit. Your goal may be as deep as “to have a good after life” or as shallow as “to taste a piece of that chocolate”. Other times, as in this one, time tells us better.

It turns out that the manifestation of the above art (Graffiti) and technology (ALOHA) resulted from the same but unconnected endeavours. Yes the endeavours were worth doing because it has given us the two.


Some call it tagging, printing, spraying, marking but I call it street caligraphy.

Grafitti became popular in the 70s. It proliferated when young downtown new york kids wanted to create their identities from a Nobody to a Somebody. Under-priveledged kids reacted with drawings and paintings on public spaces when their feeling of neglect was high. They wanted to be known and they were… so much that they were being arrested for deforming public property.

The need for identity in the graffiti movement had been in play before reaching the minds of New Yorkers. Cornbread is the guy creditted with  bringing graffiti to the forefront in 1967; called the father of Graffiti.

Cornbread was living in Phildelphia and he started marking his name on the train and other selected places so that he can gain the attention of a girl. There were many Cornbread-tag where the girl hangs around. By flambouyantly displaying the name, the girl will end up reading and noticing many Cornbread-tags a day. Cornbread’s crush popularized grafitti.

Cornbread later became famous for painting his name on an elephant and on the plane of the Jackson-Five.


Yes, it all started in Hawaii. It is said that an electrical engineer (Norman Abramson) working at the University of Hawaii had a sweet-heart while working on the mainland. Circumstance necessitated his relocation to a close-by Island. This genius created a way to communicate over the air (radio frequency) between the two islands. Now the engineer can signal his damsel with no distress. This technology was called ALOHA.

ALOHA gave birth to wireless packet communication which has led to mobile phone GSM as we know it today. It is said that it wouldn’t have been difficult if he didn’t have a damsel he so wanted to communicate with.

Litmus Result

What did the artist and the technologist do? They tried to impress and get-attention of girls. Was it worthwhile for them? yes because they achieved their goals. As for us, it was very worthwhile because it gave hip-hop one more element and it gave us mobile phones.

One step towards impressing a girl, one huge step for mankind.


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Hip-Hop Reading of the Quran

Hip Hop

Hip Hop is the successor of Jazz. Like its predecessor, it changed how we listen to music. Classic symphonies tell stories using all the elements of a good play: surprise, suspense, joy, sorrow etc. The elements are knitted different arrangements with their intensity fluctuated in peaks and troughs. When DJ Kool Herc noticed that, he gave the crowd the instrumental breaks they want without waiting long. He said “Forget melody, chorus, songs – it was all about the groove, building it and keeping it going”. Then he created the Merry-Go-Round style where a good break was continuously looped using two records. Afrika Bambaata knew that secret well too. Hip Hop is exciting music. Grand Master Flash took an exciting music and made it ultra exciting. For an exciting instrumental, the story was told the old fashion way; by talking in rhymes.

In the foundation years of Hip Hop, soon-to-be DJs would go dumpster diving to get vinyl records hoping they can get good short sounds. At other times they hear a sound on the radio (or someone’s speakers), they go to record stores searching for the record just so they can get that sound they fell in love with. Hip-Hopers kept their ears open for a tight sound and you couldn’t just google back then.

By extending Hip Hop’s hunger for excitement, we started recording mixtapes on cassettes. Rather than listen to an album from start to finish, we would record a selection of our favourite tracks on tape. Big-ups to anyone who remembers buying a normal or chrome cassette to record a selection.  With access to computers, CDs and burners we moved to making playlists of our favourite tracks.

Reading The Quran

I find my reading of the Quran very Hip-Hop-like. The very few times I have read contiguous chapters of the Quran, I was with my pencil making notes of my favorite range of verses that I will come to recite later on. I am like an ambitious DJ-to-be trying to find my sounds.

Other times, I hear a recitation of verses while praying behind another or while flipping channels of the TV and I tell myself: Man, I gotta get me some of those verses. I note them down and mark them on my Quran copy. Listening to the Quran like a hungry Hip-Hop fiend listening to a good record for the first time. The Qur’an Fiend.

As a result, my Quran recitation is quite exciting. I rarely read complete chapters, unless on special occasions. I read a group of favourite verses then skip verse or chapters to read another favorite.

My Quran copy is a playlist of my favourite bits. I am looking forward to making an audio playlist of my favorite parts. It will be a mixture of whole sections, using the translation-copies to identify sections so that I don’t end up with verses that dont really have a subject or focus; the Quran verses are sectionalized.

Success Secrets

DJ Kool Herc’s father (who is a sound-system player) adviced his son “Hide the name of your records because thats how you get rep. Thats how you get your clientèle. You dont want people to have the same record from down the block.” The advice is aims to create artificial scarcity so that only the one with the secrets can create a certain mix. However, with the Hip-Hop-Quran-Reading, there is no such scarcity or competition. The Quran cannot be made scarce even if there are no papers to print it.

In the spirit of Hip-Hop-Quranic-Reading, I can gladly share my favorites, just ask if you want. If you have favorites too, Hip-Hop-Quranic-Reading requires that you dont hide yours. The Quran is a Message to Mankind anyway.

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How Bad is Arab?

First listen to the skit below from Low-Key‘s album “Soundtrack to the Struggle“. (Wait for it to load by pausing if you have a slow connection, its short)

The clip is basically talking about Senator McCain who responded to a concerned woman by implying that “Arab” and
“Good-person” cannot coexist as features of a single human being.

Now listen to it the second time but this time  focus on the audience response.

The first 25 seconds: the audience dont seem to understand what why the sentence “he is not an Arab, he is a good man” is absurd or funny.

Second 25 to second 30: the speaker now substitutes the word “Arab” with “Jew” and now the audience see the absurdity in the statement.

I can’t see the audience so I can’t tell their response by looking at them but based on the audio, it makes you wonder how many people unconsciously equate Arab = Bad in their heads; it had to be that for one paying attention not to see the absurdity in the statement until it is expounded.


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Rise of a Two-Way Imperialism?

What Goes Around comes Around

KRS-One rapped “what goes around comes around i figga. Now you got white boys calling themselves Niggas“. He was refering to the (New York) uptown priveledged white kids who identify with hip hop. Now there is a new breed of “white boys” who find themselves on the wrong side of orthodoxy; and these ones are not as excited (nor willing) to be “niggahs” (who would in their right senses?!). The whip of fate is now in possession of their former victims and guess who is about to take a lashing.

Angola State of Mind

Like the stinging voice of the “house nigga“, I am begining to wonder if there is truth in the inexhaustible excuse by Africans (esp Nigeria) when they blame their countries’ lack of progress on premature independence from colonial masters. They say the reason they are steeped in corruption is because they have not been well nurtured (in other words trained like pets) enough to hold a running country on their own. Of course, this view is promoted by the colonial masters… but what do you expect. I am begining to believe it is true because the powerful position Angola is in today.

Many African countries were in colonial rule for a shorter duration than Angola, which lasted for 400 years. Liberia which got its independence after a mere 25 years of American colonization is one state that has not lived up to expectations of a nation. Nigeria got its independence after about 200 years of british colonization. Angolan’s might have been a complacent bunch because even after a long over-due colonization, their independence was more of a convenient move than driven by nationalists. It happened as a side-effect of a coup in Portugal, their colonial masters, which made Portugal incapable of dealing with the colony.

Today, Angola is doing well. Its got about as much oil reserve as Nigeria, which makes it the second (if not first) producer in Africa. May be Angola has been trained well, may be their oil reserve is tremendously helping their luck… bottom line is that Angola (the colonial slave) is now the master to Portugal (the former colonial master). Say what?! Yes the slave is now the master.

The Former Master

It is no secret that Portugal is one of the countries the European Union is not so proud of. In times of European crisis, the once glorified master looks south (but up) to its former slave who is making it big with the product that makes the US turn in to a monster, Black Gold aka Oil.

Now Portugese are moving to Angola at a rapid rate to serve the new found master. In fact, visa-acquisition processes are being reformed to ease movement between the two countries but the agreement favours Protugese coming to Angola; Angola is helping them out. It reminds me of refugees being helped with a loose-process of travel documents by facilitating and easing movement.

Currently Angola is “saving” Portugal by purchasing Portugal’s public properties as Portugal gets privatized. Angola is basically owning them, gradually. To Angola, the Portugese government is an investment while the Portugese citizens are accessible labour; the labour may not be cheap but it is not expensive for an rich country like Angola.


I have no crystal ball and I have not been paid to be an expert on the TV, so I will refrain from predictions and speculations. But its harmless and un-misleading to wonder. I wonder if the Angola-Portugal relation is the start of a new Imperialism, one unanticipated. Some colony-minded smart-arse is probably going to call it “reverse imperialism”, because the direction was assumed to default with the non-Europeans at the downstream. Another interesting international relationshipe is that of China and Europe. A BBC-World journalist said it best “Will Europe be saved by the country it humiliated?”.

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Sectarian Logic

Who is Going to Hell?

What is our preoccupation with WHO is going to hell, why do we feel the need to identify and point at that? If it is to correct them then we must ask instead who is practising religion wrong?. Practising religion wrong does not equate to going to hell. The religion under discussion is Islam.

By focusing on their hell-bound-ness it becomes a terminal condemnation. By focusing on their wrongness it becomes a criticism. A less rigid approach is an acknowledgement of different ways to doing a thing.

In psychology, fixation on condemnation (of bigotry proportions) is attributed to insecurity of one’s self with the issue. Hence the notion that homophobes are actually not confident in their sexuality and the way to balance that is by asserting themselves outwardly in condemning homosexuals. What does that say about Muslims who go out of their way to identify other muslims as Kuffaars?

Belief in only one right Islamic sect is a very common one. There is a popular hadith (sayings of prophet muhammad) that is used in defense of the-one right sect of Islam. Usually, the proposer of the hadith is convinced that his/her “sect” or doctrine is the right one. This post is about an alternative interpretation of the hadith and an excursion to available interpretations.


These are the available hadiths garnered and which are repeatedly used in support of the existence of the one true sect. Most of use of the hadith in support of the ineluctiblility of sects is achieved by a literal reading. Here they are:

  • My ummah will be divided into seventy three sects. All of them will be in the Fire except one? [Saheeh Muslim, no.976]
  • A group of my ummah shall remain steadfast, on the truth, victorious, unharmed by those who oppose them, and do not support them, until the death or until the Day of Resurrection [Saheeh al-Bukhaaree, nos.71 and 3641, and Saheeh Muslim, no.1920] 
  • The Jews were divided among themselves into seventy one or seventy two sects, and the Christians were divided among themselves into seventy one or seventy two sects. And My Ummah will be divided among itself into seventy three sects. [Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi, Al-Hakim and Ahmad]
  • The People of the Two Scriptures divided into seventy-two sects. This Ummah will divide into seventy-three sects, all in the Fire except one, that is, the Jama’ah. Some of my Ummah will be guided by desire, like one who is infected by rabies; no vein or joint will be saved from these desires. [Abu Dawood (2/503), Ahmad (4/102) and al-Haakim (1/128) 

What is a Sect?

If we are to take a literal reading (of the above hadiths) then we cant make assumptions of what a sect is. Even though someone has pointed out that the arabic word used as sect has other meanings (group, expedition, contingent) we must decide on a meaning to carry on.

Are sects Sunni, Shi’a, Sufis and others? But doesn’t Sufi’s cross Sunnis and Shi’as?  Are sects the different school of thoughts within each large category? does that then make Sunni and Shi’a Super-sects? It seems defining a sect is also a question of defining the level of making distinction; at Sunni-Shia level, at madhhab (school of law) level or at Aqida (creed) level. Or is Sect a subjective and derogatory word used to refer to any that does not align with your ideas or exact practice? If we are to read the hadiths literally, then we might have a help. We can then be certain that at whatever level we decide to classify a sect, the total must not be greater than 73. If we can find a division that is close to 73, then that may be it. On the other hand, we might consider a non-literal contextual reading of the number 73.

Before presenting my case, let us explore a reading of the hadiths by Samir Ibn Zarfarkhan (his part of the posts)which I found on the ‘net and it seems to me the most comprehensive argument I have come accross in support of the hadiths.

According to Samir

The hadiths are warning against divisions by reference to Jews and Christians. This makes sense since there were no divisions as such in Islam at the time. Since Muslims believe they worship the same God that the Jewish and Christian prophets preached and they learn from “people’s mistakes” in these religions, then this argument is in point. But division on what basis?

He pointed out that according to the Quran, the Jews and Christians disagreed on the following: Messengers, Books and called each other unbelievers. This means that the hadith warns Muslims to divide in Books and Messengers and not to call each other unbelievers. The definition of a sect may then be said to be a division in Messengers and Books and the calling of another group unbelievers. Since most Muslims dont differ on the first two, it seems you become a sect when you see other muslims as unbelivers. But then again, there are Islamic fundamentals without which one can’t be a muslim (thus an unbeliever)?

Next Samir says Muslims can’t differ in their fundamentals but the branches (Furoo’) can differ.  Not believing in the declaration “There is only one God and Muhammad is his messenger” makes one a non muslim. But prefering the Ahl-Al-Bayt over the Khulafaa’ur-Rashidun is hardly fundatmental to Islam (even though it may seem so).

Basically, a sect (based on my understanding of Samir) is group of Muslims that see as unbelievers other Muslims that differ from them in non-fundamental tenets of Islam. This is one reading but I propose an alternative reading.

My Humble Reading

I focus on the number of sects mentioned in the hadiths and without reading it literally, but contextualize it. Just as division was warned-against in the context of Jews and Christians, the number 73 is in the context of “71 or 72”. There is a progression which mentions the Christians and Jews as having “71 or 72” sects but the Muslims will have 73. Why just one extra? The significance here is that Muslims will have more sects than the Jews and Christians had at that time; it must have seemed unthinkable to early Muslims. The common number in the numbers is 7, which is known in Arabic  to symbolize a large amount (wonder why rewards are in multiples of 7?). Therefore the 70 means many and the remaining numbers serve to make one greater or less than the other. Mathematically 73 > “72 or 71”.

Secondly, as long as the division of the Muslims refers to the whole Muslim-Ummah, then there could be one “sect” which basically consist of Musilms that don’t belong in any sect. Let us call them the circumstantial-sect. These Muslims can be classified as a sect just so that they can be compared against other real sects. Another way to look at this is that having 73 sects could mean 72 sects plus 1 group of others who belong in no sect. The only way this may not be the case is if every Muslim belongs to a sect but that is unlikely.

IF a Muslim sect is as we have defined it (viewing disagreement in non-fundamental issues as unbelieving) AND there may exist a circumstantial-sect, THEN it logically follows that the only unique (distinguishable) sect is one that refuses to be a sect; the circumstantial-sect. Becareful though, a group that describes itself as non-sectarian yet displays pretentious-ness of sects, qualifies as a sect in this discussion. Afterall there is a consumer label called No Label.

Thus is the alternative Sectarian Logic.

In Conclusion

This is a praise-song to those who claim no sect. It is not a case for their legitimacy as better than sect members. It is to debunk the sect member who thinks his sect is not among the “72 going to hell”. As long as the authenticity of the hadiths remain verified, hopefully we will realize how it is not our job say who is going to hell or not. We might eventually see the absurdity in sectarianism.

As for those who get offensive for sectarian allegience, that is not the point of this post but if i may spare it a sentence: that is wack!

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Criminals: Passport Portrait of Boko Haram

Know your Enemy

It is better to have an enemy you know than an enemy you dont. But is it? The question is: better for who? To you, may be it is but to the one seeking to control you, it is better to have your enemy be unindentifiable. There are two ways to achieve this: by shrouding the enemy in mystery or by inducing paranoia so that everyone seems to be the enemy (eventually even the reflection in the mirror).

Clearing the Air

First some issues should be put to rest regarding Boko Haram (they got a wikipedia link). If you dont know about Boko Haram, you probably shouldn’t be reading this post.

One issue is that of asking the wrong questions. Many radio shows, columnists and bloggers are preoccupied with the same questions: who is Boko Haram? The country’s president set the stage with his accusations of Northern Politicians who want to see his administration’s downfall which he launched before this year’s Boko Haram comeback. The president persisted on his accusations even while facing confessions (taking credit) from MEND concerning the bombings during the Independence day celebration of 2010. The question being asked is: who is Boko Haram? Once in a while someone asks a different question: where is Boko Haram? Both questions relevant but are equally over-signified.

Is there anyone asking: why is there a Boko Haram? I mean how did they come about, could it have to do with lack of justice? Let us move away from the one word answer that is said (by the critical thinkers) to be the cause: Corruption. Corruption is a wide concept so details should be investigated. Rather than the president’s quick accusations, it is while asking the right questions that we may ask: might Boko Haram have a connection with political entities?

By asking WHO and WHERE is Boko Haram, we are looking to treat symptoms. By asking WHY and HOW it came to be, we are going to the source to remedy the issue. Treating symptoms, if successful, is just a battle victory in a lost war.

The Faceless Threat

Although faceless, Boko Haram has a voice. Thank God for that because I can’t imagine the monster that would have been created by the media (and citizens) if Boko Haram had no voice. Presently the media and the frightened have used their artistic license to paint a thousand faces of Boko Haram. To some it is any northerner, to some it is any muslim looking person, to some its any one with a beard. To the media it is any bomber, house robber, bank robber and probably any bully.

In the successful creation of the Al Qaeda monster in the US, the politicians-controlled media had most control in deciding what is Al Qaeda and what is not? They were more eager to say every attack is Alqaeda and imagination of citizens completes the fear-politics cycle. The situation in Nigeria differs in that the politicians AND criminals primarily decide what and who is Boko Haram. Armed robbers now explain themselves as being Boko Haram; as if to offload their guilts and chanel the blame away from them, they still have conscience it appears. A bank robber is reported to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” during a bank robbery counting on witnesses to make the link to the notorious Boko Haram. In the US, domestic terrorists viewed Al Qaeda as a threat because it could over-shadow them and make their message lost.

On this side of the world, criminals are part of those who paint the face of Boko Haram. Criminals, as is their attribute, are opportunistic. They carry out their attrocities and they know people will blame it on the elusive Boko Haram. Some criminals have decided to throw distracting smells in the direction of Boko Haram by saying either “Allahu Akbar” (A muslim signature) or introducing themselves as Boko Haram members out on acquisition missions to fund their organization. Criminals are taking a free ride on the tide caused by Boko Haram. Even Non-muslim criminals have exploited this opportunity as reported from recent busts.

How do we know that it is not Boko Haram? well, we listen to the representative-voices (Abu Qaqa and co). After many of these tragedies and accusations, the voices have denied responsilibilities and claimed some. They have denied lacerny charges but claimed assasinations and bomb blasts. They were also the voice that corrected a voice when they denied affiliation with (according to them) a self-professed celebrity spokesperson called  Al-Zawahri. In the cases where some criminals identified themselves as “Boko Haram”, that by itself is a clear sign of not being Boko Haram because the group call’s itself “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal Jihad” not the un-prestigious “Boko Haram”.

Passport of Boko Haram

Criminals have hijacked the face of the faceless. Criminals have put their face on the faceless while maitaining the faceless’ identity. Am I a Boko Haram PR officer? No way! look what happened to the last person who claimed that. I am not endorsing their actions neither. This is just an interesting observation on the dynamics between stake holders in Boko Haram context: the Boko-Haramists, the Criminals, Media, Politicians and other Citizens.


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