In case you were wondering what kinds of books Bin Laden was reading, at least in his Pakistan compound before his demise, the U.S. Government has provided a list. This is at Some 75 of over 400 items listed were publicly available U.S. Government reports; it seem he could have written a thesis in International Relations while in hiding. It is an odd collection, from current political accounts to the bizarre. I am sure that finding Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier will spring several new conspiracy theories. I just wonder how far Bin Laden read into a book of 624 pages…

[This story of incredible bravery needs to be widely distributed. As we try to make sense of such a senseless cowardly act, it is well to remember such bravery by these incredible women]

Pakistanis for Gender Equality, December 18, 2014

As the nation mourns the Peshawar school attack, let us also commend the exemplary bravery shown by these women (amongst others) who gave their lives in the hopes of protecting Pakistan’s tomorrow. Who says women are weak? Can our leaders show this kind of resolve to save this country from the TTP barbarians? Let us not let their sacrifices be in vain.

1) Tahira Qazi. Her personal assistant says she had the opportunity to escape the school but instead chose to stay with the students. As the militants fired shots, she rushed from classroom to classroom, shouting at those inside to lock themselves in. She consoled, protected, and ushered many students to safety. She even phoned parents to come and collect their children. One source says, “the honourable principal was asked by the terrorists ‘where are the students and why are you hiding them?’ She replied: ‘Talk to me, I am their mother.’ The terrorists replied ‘Ok, you die first, in a miserable way.’ She was burnt and bullets were fired in her head directly.” (more…)

By Amanullah De Sondy, Sacred Matters

A recent Pew Research Center study indicated how “people” in various Muslim countries “prefer” Muslim women to dress. The results are varied from fully veiled dress to no veil at all. There seems to be no turning away from public interest in Muslim women and the flurry of commentaries from public intellectuals has begun. Beyond the polemics of discussions on Muslim women, I’m interested to interrogate the notion of “preference” in this matter and ask, “Who are these ‘people’?”

Issues of women and veiling may seem simple at face value but in fact, they are complex and require interrogating a variety of themes and concerns in Islamic cultures and societies.

The way in which anyone covers his or her body is bound to considerations of gender, culture and politics. (more…)

How people in Muslim countries prefer women to dress in public

By Jacob Poushter, Pew Research Center, January 8, 2014

An important issue in the Muslim world is how women should dress in public. A recent survey from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducted in seven Muslim-majority countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey), finds that most people prefer that a woman completely cover her hair, but not necessarily her face. Only in Turkey and Lebanon do more than one-in-four think it is appropriate for a woman to not cover her head at all in public.

The survey treated the question of women’s dress as a visual preference. Each respondent was given a card depicting six styles of women’s headdress and asked to choose the woman most appropriately outfitted for a public place. Although no labels were included on the card, the styles ranged from a fully-hooded burqa (woman #1) and niqab (#2) to the less conservative hijab (women #4 and #5). There was also the option of a woman wearing no head covering of any type. (more…)

This photograph taken on May 2, 2013 shows Pakistan man, Abdul Razzaq holding the national identity card of his brother Amanatullah Ali, who has been detained for the last nine years in Bagram jail in Afghanistan, in Faisalabad. Guillaume Lavallee/AFP/Getty Images

Abu Zubaydah and the banality of ‘jihadism’

by Terry McDermott, al-Jazeera,December 19, 2013

The world is full of dangerous goofballs, but we can’t treat them all as threats to civilization

The Abu Zubaydah diaries recently made available to the public by Al Jazeera America might seem interesting only to security officials or 9/11 obsessives. To regard them as such would be a mistake, for they contain the most detailed portrait of the interior life of a dedicated jihadi that we have ever seen, and that we might ever see. They also help substantiate what should by now be clear: The U.S. has made significant, basic errors in its response to 9/11 and the threat of radical Islam.

Zubaydah, born in Palestine and raised in middle-class comfort in Saudi Arabia, rose through the 1990s — by what abilities it is not clear — to a position of some stature within radical Islam. He recorded his rise in hundreds of diary entries addressed to his future self. Written over two decades, the diaries track him from an early adulthood spent studying computer programming at a technical college in India through early 2002. Further diaries, written while he has been in U.S. custody, including at Guantánamo, have yet to be revealed.

Zubaydah was captured in the spring of 2002, the first significant Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist to be caught after 9/11. It turned out the link to Al-Qaeda was more tenuous than the U.S. government had imagined. For years, the U.S. government had viewed him as a major figure within the group, at one point even elevating him to the No. 3 position on what turned out to be a fanciful Al-Qaeda organizational chart. (more…)

This video interview with Talal Asad (Professor of Anthropology, Graduate Center of
the City University of New York), recorded in 2008, is well worth watching. Harry Kreisler welcomes Professor Talal Asad who reflects on his life and work as an anthropologist focusing on religion, modernity, and the complex relationships between Islam and the West.

Most of the debate over a Muslim woman who wears the burqa, niqab or hijab centers on how this restricts her freedom of choice. Those who are against the burqa argue that it is a preeminent icon of patriarchy and that societal pressure, valorized with religious rhetoric, does not give a Muslim woman a true sense of choice. The issue is hottest in Western contexts, where a woman wearing a burqa or niqab stands out almost as much as if she was walking around naked. On the other side, there are Muslim women who insist they are exercising free choice and choosing to dress in the conservative manner they want. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the burqa is inevitably seen as an item that limits a woman’s movement or protects her, not one of empowerment.

So here comes Burqa Avenger to the rescue. This is a video cartoon series in which the star is a female Superwoman/Spiderwoman/Batwoman takeoff, a contemporary way of commanding the right and forbidding the wrong. The series itself is state-of-the-art in its cinematic presentation. You can even get a free app for a Burqa Avenger game on your iphone. As in all cartoons, the characters tend to be stereotypes. Of course, this makes the good stand out from the evil in a stark way that is seldom the case in real life. But the inspiration for the series is to provide young Muslim girls with a positive role model. (more…)

by Rafiq ur Rehman,, October 25, 2013

The last time I saw my mother, Momina Bibi, was the evening before Eid al-Adha. She was preparing my children’s clothing and showing them how to make sewaiyaan, a traditional sweet made of milk. She always used to say: the joy of Eid is the excitement it brings to the children.

Last year, she never had that experience. The next day, 24 October 2012, she was dead, killed by a US drone that rained fire down upon her as she tended her garden.

Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day. The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 67-year-old grandmother of nine.

My three children – 13-year-old Zubair, nine-year-old Nabila and five-year-old Asma – were playing nearby when their grandmother was killed. All of them were injured and rushed to hospitals. Were these children the “militants” the news reports spoke of? Or perhaps, it was my brother’s children? They, too, were there. They are aged three, seven, 12, 14, 15 and 17 years old. The eldest four had just returned from a day at school, not long before the missile struck.

But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this. (more…)

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