February 2006

[Photo of Muhammad al-Asadi by Mohammad al-Sharabi for Newsweek.

If your down and confused
And you don’t remember who your talking to
Concentration, step away
‘Cause your baby is so far away
And there’s a rose and it fits me close
And the eagles fly with the doves
And if you can’t be with the one you love honey
Love the one your with
Love the one your with
Love the one your with
You gotta Love the one your with
— Will Young

There is no dearth of Islamophobic and outright anti-Muslim rhetoric in both American and European public opinion forums. A litany of recent events, from the 9/11 Twin Tower tragedy to the Danish cartoon controversy, makes it seem to many people that Muslims are on the attack against “civilized” secular society. Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine (perhaps even Dubai these days) look at their nightly news and see an indiscriminate political war against their moral principles as well as individual lives. The rash of suicide bombings against Western targets, especially U.S. and British military in Iraq, gets precedence because it falls into the usual tit-for-tatness that uncontrolled violence feeds on. But how are we to understand the increasing threats and actual mayhem between fellow Muslims? (more…)

The tension over the now infamous, even if not very funny, Danish cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad has taken on a grave dimension, specifically the desecration of a number of Muslim graves in western Denmark. There are two lessons that immediately come to mind about this latest twist, but first the story as reported in The Washington Post:

Vandals in Denmark Strike Muslim Graves
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, February 13, 2006; Page A16

COPENHAGEN, Feb. 12 — About 25 Muslim graves in western Denmark were vandalized late Saturday night, bringing swift condemnation from Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as tensions simmer from a Danish newspaper’s publication last year of cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

“I strongly condemn this disgraceful act, and I deeply regret the desecration of Muslim graves,” Rasmussen said in a statement released by his office Sunday night. “I have made it clear that the Danish government condemns any expression or any action which offends people’s religious feelings.” (more…)

Published: New York Times February 12, 2006

IN a world of wrenching change, the Danish cartoon affair has widened a growing fissure between Islam and the West. The controversy comes at a time when many in the Islamic world view the war on terrorism as a war on Islam. They draw on memories of colonization and of the Crusades, when Western invaders ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad as an imposter.

Sadly, the recent polarization obscures a rich humanistic tradition within Islam — one in which cosmopolitanism, pluralism and a spirit of open-minded inquiry once constituted a dominant ethos. (more…)

Mr. Prime Minister,

In the spirit of ‘Freedom of Expression’ that you and we all value so much, I have taken the liberty to write this letter to you.

You stand as the leader of a democratic society which has promoted itself as a peace loving member of the international community of nations, valuing the spirit of human co-existence. Yet, recently, both, you as the leader, and your country have failed the test. Under the pretext of freedom of expression you have allowed, with impunity, freedom of insolence, totally disregarding the fundamental requirement of harmony and peaceful co-existence. (more…)


There is an inherent danger in all archaeological and archival research. What if we find that a cherished truth may not be something worth cherishing any longer and what if it does not even appear to be truth? In today’s front page of The New York Times, in tandem with National Geographic online, it seems that the Gospel has been turned on its head. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as a group make Judas out to be a goat, the evil quisling who betrayed Jesus. But now a new discovery of an ancient manuscript, reputed to be the Gospel of Judas, points to a good Judas. If this news had come out before Mel Gibson’s Passion, God only knows how it would have affected box office receipts. Of course coming as it does near the premiere of The Da Vinci Code, Hollywood may be in for a windfall. But why wait, since there are already at least two books and a television special for this Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.


President Bush delivered a highly scripted and hyperbolically enriched “State of the Union” address last night. The time has long since passed when Presidents actually had the writing skills to prepare their own speeches so in a sense the speech is no more copywritable to George W. Bush than the White House is his White castle. The reaction flooding the airwaves and bloggy-eyed net this morning is, if I may go out on a limb here, partisan as usual. Historians of American history might wince at the opening salvo that “Yet the state of our Union has never been stronger,” but this line probably netted a few amens from executives of Exxon, whose 32 billion dollar profit last year was the most in history. (more…)