That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.  – Malcolm X

"We must never, ever give up. We must be brave. We must be courageous." John Lewis, activist, congressman. 1940-2020 

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama

"Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public."  Professor Cornel West.

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat."  Audre Lorde

"The serious function of racism is distraction". 1995, Toni Morrison; Portland lecture, Playing in The Dark

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.” Nora Ephron

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

"We are more alike than we are different" ~ Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singe


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


Passing Pilgrims


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

They’re gone now. But not long ago, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims passed through this port. They are communities in a common spiritual pursuit yet they thoughtlessly walk past one another meters apart, each returning from their once-in-a-lifetime endeavor-- long anticipated, scrupulously prepared, sometimes painfully endured. One has returned from Mecca, the other from mountain shrines in the Himalayas.

Unknown to one another, they cross paths in the transit lounges of Abu Dhabi Airport. Here is where flights arrive from and depart to Mecca and Jeddah and to and from Kathmandu in the opposite direction. The most recognizable of these pilgrims will be the Muslims. And among them Pakistanis seem the most numerous. Bearded with heads shaven, they glide through the corridors in simple sandals and wrinkled white cotton shirtsuits. Their sisters and mothers, wives and aunts rest in whatever seats they could commandeer to guard suitcases and bottles of zamzam water.

By mid October, we're in the latter half of the 12th Muslim month, Dhu al-Hijjah, and these travelers have completed this year’s hajj, undertaking Islamic rites at Mecca, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, back to Mina before the final circumambulations of the Kaaba. Exhausted and anxious, they now wait along with Indian, Malaysian, Bangladeshi, Indonesian and perhaps some fellow Chinese Muslims for homebound flights.

None seem interested in fellow travelers, especially the European and American pilgrims who on their side are oblivious to their counterparts returning from Mecca. Although if pressed the Caucasians might admit that they too are pilgrims. For them the Emirati airport is an inconvenient stopover where they’ll board planes to Seattle, Naples, Oslo or Manchester. These men and women are as homogeneous and as self-centered as the Muslims are.

They pace the airport corridors, water bottles in hand, shouldering multi-zippered packs. Their obligatory boots are now scruffy, their baggage augmented by prayer flags, a volume by the Dalai Lama, perhaps a stone picked up on their circumambulation of Lake Manassarovar in Tibet or Annapurna in Nepal, certainly packets of incense purchased at Bodhnath temple in Kathmandu, maybe a statue from Bhaktapur.

Like their Muslim counterparts, these pilgrims avoid duty free shops and bars. Some scratch entries into diaries-- no computers on a mountain trek-- while others doze with arms clutching unwieldy rucksacks. They huddle in pairs, two women, three perhaps. No children in these parties either.

I can’t help thinking what an enchanting conversation might happen if a couple from Nepal and a family from Mecca smiled at one another and asked “Where have you come from? Why did you go there?”

If we could set up an audio booth (like Story Corps in the US) inside Abu Dhabi Airport and invite them in pairs to relate the meaning of their circumambulations to one another.

There’s one limitation to this project: lunar timing. The Muslim calendar will define the Dhu al-Hijjah 11 days earlier in 2014, and another 11 days earlier in 2015. So next October when western pilgrims pass here en route to Nepal, the Muslims will be long gone. We need 33 years before Dhu al-Hijjah moving 11 days a year through the Gregorian calendar arrives in the October season of Himalayan pilgrims.

When I reached New York’s JFK airport 15 hours later, I found myself in the US citizen section with a new group of pilgrims-- the most talkative, happy arrivals I have ever shared this slowly moving line with. American Muslims. I looked around but couldn’t see any backpackers to introduce them to.  

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