White Minority

Sharon Gallagher is white but she knows what it is like to be part of an ethnic minority. For the past 18 months she has lived with her three children in the predominantly Asian district of Manningham in Bradford. This was once a white area, but over the past 30 years most of the whites have left; today Manningham is home to Pakistanis and Bengalis, halal
butchers, Islamic book stores and mosques. And it is home to the Gallaghers. They are the only white family on their street and one of the last left in

Putera Buana forwarded me this great article from UK’s Gaurdian. For the kids in the neighborhood, you’re either a Paki, that is, a muslim, or a Porkie, that is, everybody else. I also grew up as a white minority, in Detroit, so I giggled to read the 11-year old son in the family say

know they have troubles in places like Detroit,” Jake
tells me, “but if a white person from there came to
Manningham for a week they would come home crying.”

I never had trouble getting along though. I had more animosity for the white folk who had fled the city than I did for the black people who I lived among. And the only violence I ever received was at the hands of white Detroiters. That’s beside the point anyway, since Jake’s take is a little off. Manningham isn’t like Detroit, despite what he may think from listening to too much Eminem. Jake and his sister’s experience is probably closer to white kids in Dearborn or Hamtramck, where the majority population is or is fast becoming muslim. And it’s his sister’s story that is really amazing: she wants to be a muslim. The full article is here.

About Ghetto Palm

These entries are dedicated to chronicling the growth of Ailanthus altissima in cultural consciousness. Simply put, I’m collecting any reference to the tree in art, literature, movies, music, etc. and putting it on the web. I also may include ecology of the tree, but it’s not my principal focus.

Why am I doing this? People have in their contact with nature developed sets of ideas related to many different trees. Individual species of trees represent different things to us, and have wound up in our cultural memory. The willow tree can be “Old Man Willow”; we tie yellow ribbons around oak trees; President Andrew Jackson was nicknamed “Old Hickory”, children sing “here we go round the mulberry bush”, and so on.

In the past, the bulk of the world population lived in the countryside, and contact was with the agricultural and unmanaged landscape. My assumption is that as the majority of the world population has moved to the city or suburb, our principal contact with nature will be with whatever is common in cities. That will certainly include Ailanthus altissima.

Some have predicted the emergence of new urban ecosystems that will span the globe, meaning the plant assemblages found in any one northern city will be much the same as in any other. If a Detroiter moves to Germany or Northern China, the urban landscape will be very much the same. Ailanthus altissima is the urban tree, able to survive in the most desolate urban environments, and adaptable to a wide range of climate. It follows that as more and more people spend their lives in proximity to the tree, they will start to attach meaning to it, and that will slowly seep into our culture. I want to catalog that and share it here on this website.

Why the name “ghetto palm”? I am interested in the meaning people attach to the tree Ailanthus altissima. In Detroit, where I grew up, ghetto palm is a name give to Ailanthus. It flourishes all over the city, in neglected lots, abandoned homes, old industrial sites, everywhere. The more dilapidated the district, the more prevalent the tree. I don’t know who coined the term, and as I’ll show in later posts, I don’t think it’s unique to Detroit. It is to my mind a perfect example of people recognizing and reacting to their natural environment.

If you have links, images, or even personal stories about this tree, you are most welcome to contribute. I will post whatever I am given, with credit and a link.

City of Barking Dogs

In the city of Detroit, dogs may outnumber people. Packs of wild dogs roam and reproduce in the empty areas of the city. The block I grew up on had a dog or two in every yard except ours. I didn’t hold anything against dogs as a kid, except for the incessant barking. The dogs belonging to our neighbors on either side never stopped barking at me even though they saw me every day for years. Whenever I would get close enough to the privacy fence to be smelled, on the one side, or just showed myself in the back yard on the other, the dogs would bark and bark. And that would set off a barking chain reaction down the block, as one dog after another joined in. I always assumed that barking and the irresistable urge to nuzzle your crotch was an inborn, irremovable part of dogness.

As I learned about Islam, this became all the more off-putting, since dogs are considered ritually unclean*. Being touched by the tongue or nose of a dog requires serious effort to purify. And the barking of dogs is said to keep away angels, according to prophetic hadith.

It has been a pleasant surprise these last few months here in our new neighborhood. Our chinese neighbors are quite fond of dogs; about one house in three keeps them. And there are plenty of wandering wild dogs here too, just like home. But they don’t bark! And they don’t approach people! And they never try to sniff you! They are dogs who know their place. It is truly a wonderful thing.

All this of course is just to say Hello and Thank you to The Talking Dog, who has been kind enough to throw a bone to Bin Gregory Productions. Talking Dog blogs about current events from a left-leaning perspective. There’s an annotated blogroll a mile long that I’ll have to peruse. Welcome, make yourself at home, just don’t pee on the couch.

*In three of the four madhabs, or schools of law. If I’m not wrong, dogs are pure in Maliki fiqh.


I keep promising to go away, and yet here I still am, blogging as before. How can I miss you if you won’t go away, you may be saying to yourself. Well, this time I mean it. I’m waiting for the shipping company to arrive as I type this who will pick up our 27 cardboard boxes. The boxes will go from here [Lapeer, MI] to Chicago by truck. In Chicago they’ll be shrinkwrapped and palletized and sent by train to LA. In LA they will be loaded onto a freighter and sail across the Pacific to Singapore. In Singapore they will be transferred to another ship and brought to Kuching. They tell me it will take 4 weeks.

Meanwhile, we fly at the end to week. From Lapeer, we’ll drive to Detroit where we’ll be checked and securitized and sent by plane to Newark. From Newark across the Atlantic to Dubai, Dubai to Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur to Kuching. That’ll take about 30 hours, depending on layovers.

So our bags go West, we go East. East or West, it’s all the same. You can’t get any farther away than that before you start coming back again.

I have every intention of blogging as soon as I arrive, but I imagine I’ll be shut down for two weeks or so. So to any first time visitors who may stop by between then and now, please have a look at the great selection of links down the left hand side of the page. In particular, I should draw your attention to the Islamic Supreme Council of America , the most courageous Islamic organization you’ve never heard of.

I’ve been writing about political issues quite a bit lately. I don’t intend to return to that after this break. Less Warblog, More Travelog. Have a look at the links under “Migration” to see blogs of this kind, the likes of which I can only aspire to. Hunkabutta’s got pictures from Japan, BWG has stories from Hong Kong, So Many Islands, so little time has news and more from Indonesia.

To my regular readers [yes, both of you] who I’ve never met, and more to my family and loved ones who I’ll never stop remembering, if there is anything I have done or failed to do by you, by intention or by mistake, by thought or by word or by deed, hidden or evident, please forgive me and pray Allah to forgive me. Emigration is the Blessed Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, and I intend this emigration of mine to be an imitation of that, in the way of Allah, through the example of the Holy Prophet, and in what follows that, Allah is my Guardian and sufficient is He as Disposer of my Affairs. May Allah grant this request and forgive me, bi hurmatil Habib, bi hurmatil Fatihah.

Forgotten Detroit This is a

Forgotten Detroit
This is a very nicely designed site that showcases ruins and vacant buildings of Detroit. The photography is excellent, and the commentary is well-informed, too. I was always aware of the vacant lots, junkyards, burned down and abandoned homes that are all over Detroit. Even downtown has gaping holes where buildings once were. But it wasn’t until last year at an MASLA conference that I realized that every other huge towering gorgeous building still standing right downtown is vacant and abandoned. Empty skyscrapers!

Another great site with more pictures including the demolition of the Hudson’s Building is here.

PittsburghLIVE.com – A call for

PittsburghLIVE.com – A call for jihad — special reports from the Pittsburgh Trib

The Pittsburgh Tribune published more than a half-dozen articles on jihadi activity in the Pittsburgh area. Each one is enough to be deeply troubling on its own. Read together, they are damning. I won’t quote from the pieces at length, but one article deserves special mention because it is about a group so close to my heart er, house: the Packard Street Lions of Islaaam, the Pittsfield Township Titans of Jihad, the Islamic Assembly of North America (iananet.org).

A militant religious message is spread worldwide from this city outside Detroit by a group of Islamists with connections to Pittsburgh.

and God Knows Best.

Thx again to HN for the link

The Big Move

The Big Move

Time is moving quickly. The exact date is constantly morphing, but March is a late as it could be, and it could be as early as December. Suddenly, dozens of tasks are popping up. Everything from the hugely obvious (finishing that thesis) to the easily overlooked (laminate those birth certificates) are now time critical.

So many things are nearly impossible to make educated decisions about: is it more economical to buy consumer good X here and have it shipped, or save the freight and buy it there? How much does a nice queen sized bed cost in Kota Samarahan, anyway?

One thing is for sure: I’ll be driving a Proton! Other vehicles are on the market, but the tariffs are skyhigh. It’s the right thing to do anyway. Here I am, a foreigner coming to work over there as a guest. What would it look like to drive a Buick? I’ve been assured by friends that nobody would think twice about my choice of a ride, but I’m not so sure. I’m from Detroit after all. I may drive a Honda with impunity through Flint, but I’m white. If I was a Japanese on a work visa, I’d sure as hell drive a chevy.

Not that I approve of auto patriotism here in the states. It’s more or less meaningless these days. (Malaysia’s a bit different: the Proton is a state industry, at least for the time being.) Over here, we’ve gone from the Big Three to the Big Two And A Half, at best. John Deere tractors have Mitsubishi parts.


Yes! John Deere! I couldn’t believe it either. Your apple pies are probably baked with New Zealand apples, too. The Traderists have already won, I think the saying goes. But I’m not complaining. If it’s a global economy, with global capital and global companies, I might as well be a global citizen. December. Or maybe March.