I Am a Muslim Because of Saint Thomas

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Dear World,

If I you label me a Christian, due to my love for Jesus Christ and Mary, my adherence to the lessons taught by him, it is because I learned Christianity not from colonizers but from Saint Thomas.

Saint Thomas was the apostle of Jesus who migrated to South Asia and guided many towards the love of Jesus, and worship of God almighty.  What he taught was so close to the principles in the Old Testament that when Western Christians encountered the Malabar and Tamil Christians they exclaimed that these Christians were too Jewish in their practice.  They avoided pork and observed the Sabbath and these were qualities that seemed far from the practice of Roman Catholicism.

The Christians in Asia at that point had not been edited by the Council of Nicea, nor were they split in thought by a break in Eastern Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism, and they also weren’t part of the narrative that would see Martin Luther and John Calvin amongst others challenge the power of the Church.  King James hadn’t issued the Bible they were reading and somehow they were coexisting alongside the oldest Jewish Community of the Diaspora, Hindus of various practices and varnas, as well as Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims, not to mention Buddhists and Jains.  This was a pluralistic society that saw commonality and love.  This is the Christianity I know and practice, though you see my practice as a Muslim—the essence is the same.

I have Saint Thomas to thank for that, and to honor him, I created this piece:

Peace,

Ali

Merry Christmas.

Happy Tamil New Year! (Puthandu Vazthukal!)

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Puthandu Vazthukal! (Happy Tamil New Year!) by Professor A.L.I.

This morning my children awoke, like I did as a child, came downstairs with their sleepy eyes and looked upon the Tamil New Year display with mango, guava and green bananas representing the fruits of our people, betel leaves showing our fortune, turmeric for our health, gold jewelry passed down my family for generations, coins from places we as Tamil people have lived in the Diaspora, next to it is an open copy of the Tirukkural showcasing the spiritual knowledge of our people and a mirror to reflect on our past. Next to the table were gifts for my two children and this year we celebrated the new year of our people by playing Tamilmatic, a piece of art, telling the Tamil story of struggle, sacrifice and survival.

2pac in Tamil explores the impact of the Kavi, or poet on society

Tamilmatic, the album, is in a way, its own display for the Tamil New Year. For example we Tamils great each other on this day by saying “Puthandu Vazthukal!” or “Happy New Year!” and Tamilmatic opens with an introductory track that introduces the album, greeting the listener with a Sanskritic hymn/prayer that is cut short by a the nadaswaram, a Tamil clarinet, and affirmation of the Tamil culture. The rest of the album is like the Tamil New Year display itself. The song Vampire Kiss, talks about the history of the gold jewelry and Red Dot traverses the planet, like the coins on display, and speaks to the Diaspora of our people. The fruits of the album are Saint Thomas, Herstory, and Our Queen, which pay homage to figures from Tamil History who had a profound impact on humanity. Coolie High, Mappila! and Serendipitious showcase our survival and like the turmeric our health and longevity on this planet, in spite of the challenges we faced. 2pac in Tamil, which explores the power of words, of our Mahakavi, or greatest poet, Bharatiyar, and is like the holy text the Tirukkural; and Card Game, which tells the story of our people’s success, despite our hurdles and shows our fortune like the betel leaves in the New Year’s display. 

Our Queen tells the story of Queen Velu Nachiyar who defeated the British East India Company

Tamilmatic follows the following three branches of our global journey: the Coolie Slave trade, Post-Colonial migration and a refugee crisis stemming from a brutal war and it finds a way to remain upbeat and positive, like the impact our people have had on this planet. So please celebrate Tamil New Year with us by getting a copy of Tamilmatic on iTunes or Amazon, or streaming it for free on Spotify and through the music, walk the journey made by millions of Tamils.

 

 

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter – The Story of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ by Professor A.L.I.

Most Christians hearing the name of Thomas remember him as having “doubted” in the resurrection event, celebrated as Easter, of Jesus Christ. This has given rise to the phrase “a doubting Thomas,” which describes/disparages a person who doubts in an event that has happened and has been witnessed, simply because they have not seen it themselves. The irony, is that many European Christians, especially those who lived during the days of colonization of South Asia, believed in the myth that it was they who brought Christianity to the “heathen” South Asian, when in fact it was the efforts of Thomas, the apostle of Jesus that had brought millions in South Asia into the knowledge of the Gospel; so in fact Eurocentric Christianity was the “doubting Thomas,” in that they doubted in Thomas in the first place!

Saint Thomas, the apostle of Jesus came to India, arriving by ships that frequented the South Western coast, known as Malabar or Kerala, as part of the lucrative Indian Ocean trade, and upon disembarking, sought aid for the sailors who had fallen sick on his ship. One of the great miracles of Christianity is Pentecost, which gives the Apostles of Jesus the ability to speak in the various tongues of humanity. So when Thomas communicated to the people, he may have been speaking Malayalam (a sister language to Tamil) or Tamil, but whether one believes he did this in the native language, in the very least he conveyed the idea that the sailors needed medical attention. There was a Hindu family that lived near the beachhead that responded by giving the sailors limes, which began to cure them. Most likely they had come down with scurvy (which can be treated with a dose of vitamin C). Thomas paid this family with the coins he had in his pocket, which were Jerusalem shekels. This family, never converted to Christianity, but recognized Thomas as a special person and kept the coins, which they passed down generation after generation and nearly 2000 years later those coins still remain in the custody of the family bloodline in modern day South India!

Thomas then began to proselytize and he is directly responsible for the conversion of so many souls to Christianity in South India, the numerous ancient churches in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It was in Tamil Nadu that his preaching became targeted by the Bhramins, who saw his growing following as a direct threat to their hierarchical supremacy in that area. They cast him out and still unsatisfied, they committed the unforgivable act of murder, hence making Thomas a martyr. His grave is remains are not shrouded by a special Church, in what is called Saint Thomas’s Mount, and is nearly adjacent to the Chennai (Madras) airport in Tamil Nadu, India.

In the following song, I recount the story of Thomas, the eventual colonization of my people and end with the phrase “Saint Thomas came to save Tamil people; he was murdered for trying.” This line foreshadows the struggles faced by Tamils afterwards, which has led to a diaspora throughout the world:

TAMILMATIC

 

tamilmaticTAMILMATIC: Releases on Tamil New Year, April 14th, 2016.

Tamilmatic is the latest album, from Professor A.L.I., a Bay-Area based Hip-Hop artist and educator of Tamil ethnic origin.  “This is a Hip-Hop album that tells the Tamil story of Diaspora & [our] post-colonial survival, [it] captures lost narratives and showcases the Tamil spirit; in both English and Tamil,” says Professor A.L.I., and was co-produced by the artist using Tamil music samples and as a result is a true example of cultural syncretism.

Professor A.L.I. spits rhymes in both English & Tamil on the album, exploring figures from Tamil history like Queen Velunachiyar (who sparked the first rebellion against the British East India Company in South Asia), Thillaiyadi Valliammai (the ideological mother of Non-Violent Resistance, Anti-Apartheid movement & South Asian Nationalism), Saint Thomas (the Apostle of Jesus, martyred and buried in Tamil Nadu, South India), and Subramania Bharati (Tamil poet and freedom fighter).

The album also explores themes related to the Tamil experience such as the Coolie-slave-labor system, the multi-layered Tamil Diaspora, the Mappila Rebellions in Malabar, Tamil-Moorish contact and connection, the Tamil separatist movement in India and the war for Tamil independence for a Tamil Eelam in Ceylon.

The beats on the album were co-produced by frequent Professor A.L.I. collaborator: Blue Jones.  The album was mixed by D. M. Adams and was mastered by Glenn Schick.  Tamilmatic is a testament to the adaptability and Tamil people, who have been flung far and wide from being wage laborers and indentured servants in the Middle East, to woven into the fabric of the Maldives, East and South Africa, to their historical importance in Laos and Malaysia, to having linguistic and political influence in Singapore, India and Ceylon, and finally by having a multi-faceted impact on the West through burgeoning Tamil populations in Norway, Germany, Australia, London, Toronto and the United States.

Stay tuned to this page for exclusive videos as we get closer to Tamil New Year and the release of Tamilmatic.

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