March 2008

It has been said that music is able to soothe the savage soul, so perhaps it can help reduce the bias that assume Muslim souls are innately savage. A recent video, called Yeh Hum Naheem, with several Pakistani pop stars, has been released and can be seen on YouTube.

Here is the description from the website:

Yeh Hum Naheen has become a truly unprecedented musical movement. Featuring the vocal talents of some of Pakistans biggest music artists, including Haroon, Ali Haider, Ali Zafar, Shufqat, Strings, Shuja Haider and Hadiqa Kiani, uniting to sing out the message the world needs to hear.

Written by Ali Moeen, Pakistans foremost lyricist, with music composed by Shuja Haider, its the central message of the song that has compelled so many people to become involved. It is a message of reconciliation, a message of peace and a message of truth. Capturing the imagination of people across the board, Yeh Hum Naheen has given a voice to the silent majority, those in the Muslim world who have for too long been mis-represented. These are the people who although not appearing on our television screens are saddened and shocked at the high-jacking of Islam by terrorists, and want to stand up and shout “This is Not Us”. The song is the brainchild of Waseem Mahmood, author and media consultant, who took inspiration for the project from his children. They were tired at the way a minority of misguided young people were vehemently putting forward a message of radicalization and terrorism which was at odds with what the majority of Muslims believe. It is time to re-address the imbalance, and from the smallest child to the oldest person, Yeh Hum Naheen seeks to give a voice to the voiceless.

The Iraqi Poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

[Note: This is the 18th in a series of translations of selected letters of the noted Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab. For more information on the poet, click here.]

Letter #18

20 July, 1963

My Dear Brother Abu Arwad (Adunis),

Your letter made me very happy because it came to me from my dearest friend after a long interruption. It also brought me the news that I have long been hoping for. It is rather a pity, Adunis, that the starlings should soar in the sky of poetry while the eagles remain with their wings folded and for no good reason other than incrimination and falsification.

My health is improving extremely slowly; nevertheless, there is an improvement. I hope it improves enough so I can come to Beirut this winter.

Currently, I am not writing anything. I am experiencing a period of stagnation after the period of that worthy activity in England where I produced “ Manzil al-Aqnan,” which has already been published. I will send your copy as soon as my personal copies arrive. I also have a new poetry collection still waiting for a publisher.
Perhaps it will be the best that I have written so far. [He is referring to “Shanashil Ibnat al-Halabi.”] (more…)

by Victor Navasky & Christopher Cerf
The Nation, March 17, 2008 (web only)

Who said the Iraq War would pay for itself? Why, the experts did.

To mark the fifth anniversary of America’s Iraq debacle, The Nation offers daily words of wisdom from those who led us there, courtesy of a new book by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, Mission Accomplished! Or, How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak (Simon & Schuster).

Here’s our thought for today:

Things are better and there are encouraging signs. I have been here many years–many times over the years. Never have I been able to drive from the airport, never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today. The American people are not getting the full picture of what’s happening here.

Senator John McCain
at a news conference in the Green Zone
after completing a “walking tour” of the Shorja market
April 1, 2007.

More pearls of wisdom from Navasky and Cerf:

More people get killed in New York every night than get killed in Baghdad. The fact of life is that there will never be such a thing as one hundred percent security–it doesn’t exist.

L. Paul Bremer III
Director of the Coalition Provisional Authority
August 2003.

“Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will.”

Richard Perle, chair
The Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board
July 11, 2002 (more…)

by Max Hastings, The Guardian, Monday, March 17 2008

[This article appeared in The Guardian on Monday March 17 2008 on p32 of the Comment & debate section. It was last updated at 00:05 on March 17 2008].

The Iraq war has shown how high is the pain threshold of the west. Five years after the 2003 invasion, the daily roll call of Iraqi suicide bombings, murders, firefights and body-bags has become as familiar a part of our landscape as traffic jams on the M1 and Los Angeles freeway.

The media class on both sides of the Atlantic is deeply engaged, indeed impassioned. The war is much discussed in the US presidential election campaign. But most Americans and Europeans display vastly less interest in the Middle East than in troubles closer to home – the global banking crisis foremost among them.

They have grown used to Iraq in the way they do to a chronic personal ailment. It is there. It is nasty. They wish that it would go away. But it does not inflict the sort of agonising pain that causes democracies to force urgent action upon their governments. (more…)

Muscat Harbor, ca 1677, attributed to the Flemish painter Jan Peeters (1624-ca 1677)

In Lleida, Spain, Muslims gathering in front of a cramped, converted garage that serves as a mosque. The congregation has grown to 1,000 members from 50 over the past five years.

Spain’s Many Muslims Face Dearth of Mosques

By VICTORIA BURNETT, The New York Times, Sunday, March 16, 2008

LLEIDA, Spain — As prayer time approached on a chilly Friday afternoon and men drifted toward the mosque on North Street, Hocine Kouitene hauled open its huge steel doors.

As places of worship go, the crudely converted garage leaves much to be desired, said Mr. Kouitene, vice president of the Islamic Association for Union and Cooperation in Lleida, a prosperous medieval town in northeastern Spain surrounded by fruit farms that are a magnet for immigrant workers. Freezing in winter and stifling in summer, the prayer hall is so cramped that the congregation, swollen to 1,000 from 50 over the past five years, sometimes spills onto the street.

“It’s just not the same to pray in a garage as it is to pray in a proper mosque,” said Mr. Kouitene, an imposing Algerian in a long, black coat and white head scarf. “We want a place where we can pray comfortably, without bothering anybody.”

Although Spain is peppered with the remnants of ancient mosques, most Muslims gather in dingy apartments, warehouses and garages like the one on North Street, pressed into service as prayer halls to accommodate a ballooning population. (more…)

[Editor’s Note: I include this article not because I agree with its spin, but due to the irony of someone attacking Bernard Lewis for being soft on terrorism in the name of Islam.]

By Andrew G. Bostom | Friday, March 14, 2008

Last week (March 6, 2008) The Jerusalem Post published an interview with historian Bernard Lewis that touched on a range of subjects, from Lewis’ own cultural identity, to his views on feminism and jihad.

Writer Rebecca Bynum has commented aptly on Lewis’ remarks about feminism, and the condition of women; I will confine my own analysis to Lewis’ remarkable statements on the jihad.

Lewis’ Claim (1):

What we are seeing now in much of the Islamic world could only be described as a monstrous perversion of Islam. The things that are now being done in the name of Islam are totally anti-Islamic. Take suicide, for example. The whole Islamic theology and law is totally opposed to suicide. Even if one has led a totally virtuous life, if he dies by his own hand he forfeits paradise and is condemned to eternal damnation. The eternal punishment for suicide is the endless repetition of the act of suicide. That’s what it says in the books. So these people who blow themselves up, according to their own religion – which they don’t seem to be well-acquainted with – are condemning themselves to an eternity of exploding bombs.

Doctrinal and Historical Reality (1):

But Lewis conflates “suicide”—as the tragic outcome, for example, in modern parlance, of clinical psychiatric depression, which is impermissible in Islam—with “martyrdom,” which is extolled.

“Martyrdom operations” have always been intimately associated with the institution of jihad. Professor Franz Rosenthal, in a seminal 1946 essay (entitled, “On Suicide in Islam”), observed that Islam’s foundational texts sanctioned such acts of jihad martyrdom, and held them in the highest esteem: (more…)

For readers interested in new religious movements, whether pasta, prego or in da futura, it should be noted that the FSM Pastafarian Movement now has a chapter in Iraq. So, while the DOD could find no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, it can now be stated al dente that the spaghetti has indeed hit the fan, regardless of the Surge.

Luke R. E. Publican

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