June 2008

[The following tribute by Alvin Tay is more than a year old, but for those who were unaware of the passing of Prof. Alatas, it is a reminder of the value of his scholarly work, which remains unappreciated in many university settings. Webshaykh.]

23rd January 2007 was a sad day for sociology, Singapore sociology in particular, with the sudden passing of Professor Syed Hussein Alatas, former Professor in Malay Studies at University of Singapore and a pioneer of the kind of sociological theorizing that Singapore, and indeed the region of Southeast Asia, could truly call our own. I did not have the opportunity of the many sociologists before me who had passed through the doors of the department and were taught by him in the university, and so I speak only from the position of one who regrets deeply the loss of a formidable sociologist, and yet feels greatly blessed by the corpus of sociological knowledge which he has left behind. It is the imprint of his many works on me, ranging from religion to race to colonialism, amongst other substantive issues, which impels me to proceed with this modest tribute, albeit with a heavy heart and a prayer for love and peace. (more…)

MPS say: no to genital mutilation, 18 is minimum marriage age, juveniles cannot be punished as adults

By: Kawkab Al-Thaibani For the Yemen Times

SANA’A, June 24 — A two-day workshop in Parliament concluded that the minimum marriage age in Yemen should be 18, and the sponsors of both brides and grooms should be punished if they allow them to marry under this age.

The workshop’s participants also concluded that juvenile delinquents between the ages of 15 and 18 are not equal to adult criminals. They further recommended laws banning female genital mutilation.

The workshop covered three main areas: the criminality of juveniles, female genital mutilation, and the minimum age of marriage. These three subjects were chosen because the existing laws concerning them are not specific enough and are often ignored.

This workshop was arranged by Parliament, the Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and the Yemeni Network Combating Violence Against Women known as SHIMA, under the sponsorship of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), OXFAM International, and Save the Children, a worldwide children’s rights organization. Attendees included members of the Sharia Committee, who matches the constitutional laws with Islamic sharia law, Parliament members (MPs), doctors and human rights activists. (more…)

[Note: IsIAO teaches and researches most Oriental languages and cultures. More information on the situation is available here.]
Dear colleagues and friends,

I have been informed of the shocking news that a decree has been passed by the Italian Council of Ministers to shut down the famous Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO). It is inconceivable that such an extraordinary institution which has been active during the past 100 years in promoting a knowledge of Iran, India, Afghanistan, the Far East, and recently also Africa with amazing success should be abolished.

Professor Giuseppe Tucci and his successor Professor Gherardo Gnoli have done wonders in spreading the knowledge of Iranian lands, their archaeology, their history and their culture. To deprive the Iranian Studies from the services and contributions of this marvelous institution is a severe blow to the promotion of the knowledge of Iran on the international scene.

Professor Tosi has sent an email requesting all supporters of Iranian studies to sign a letter written to the President of the Italian Republic to support the continuation of IsIAO. Please by all means add your signature to this letter and encourage your friends and colleagues to do so as well.

To add your signature visit http://iranica.c.topica.com/maalZ1nabItGzaE1MJ2b/ and please do this as soon as possible, hopefully before the end of the week. Thanks.

With best wishes,

Ehsan Yarshate, Encyclopaedia Iranica

I tried to publish this as feedback to the post Obama’s Other Muslim Problem. Something failed when I tried to do so, so, I thought I would post it normally and then expand on it a bit.

In a real sense this is not Obama’s “other” Muslim problem as distinguished from the recent flap about hijab wearing women not being allowed to sit behind him at a rally. Both are part and parcel of the same problem — some rabid right wingers think that Obama is a crypto-Muslim who upon his election will jump out and cry “Gotcha, you infidel suckers.” Thereupon, in their fevered fantasies, he will insist on swearing in on the Quran and establish the Islamic Republic of America. Obama’s Muslim problem is symptomatic of America’s deep xenophobia and racism. Funny, coming from a nation of immigrants. I mean, I can see if Timucuan (if any were still alive) or even if Cherokee or Sioux (or other Amerinds) were xenophobes, but the rest of us, I don’t get it.

… and don’t forget to tell your child not to talk to strangers…

In Kenya on Sunday [August 27, 2006], US Senator Barack Obama on a visit to his late father’s homeland, is pictured with a camel at an animal market in Wajir, an area hit by a severe drought.

By Mark Levine, ALJAZEERA, June 25, 2008

As soon as Barack Obama rose to the top of the field of Democratic presidential contenders, he developed a “Muslim problem” based on false accusations that he is, or once was, a Muslim.

There is little doubt that these accusations will be raised again, however unfairly, when Obama squares off against John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, in November’s election.

But if we were to assume that Obama overcomes this and other obstacles to win his historic bid for the White House, a far more serious Muslim problem awaits “President” Obama: A majority of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims have an utter lack of trust in the US.

Senator Obama’s experience of living in a Muslim country (Indonesia, where he attended school during his childhood), along with his relative youthfulness and message of hope, have the potential to heal this rift, however.

He has the merits which can energise young Muslims in the same way he has inspired millions of young Americans. (more…)

“Crowd of Persian Revolutionists, Who, fearing the vengeance of the royal troops, took refuge int he British Legation in Teheran in 1906, and insisted on remaining there until the Shah gave them a parliament.”

Revolution is no stranger to modern Iran. In the May, 1908 issue of The National Geographic Magazine, published just a century ago, there was an article by W. P. Cresson entitled “Persia: The Awakening East.” Here is an excerpt from Cresson’s account of the newly formed parliament:

The strong nationalistic spirit that marks the new era in Persian affairs is one of the most interesting features of the present movement in Persia. It is not among the frock-coated European dandies of the court that we must look for the men who are now taking the leading part in the new agitation for reform. Many of the constitutionalistic leaders wear the flowing robes and white turban of the Mohammedan priesthood. Recently the Liberal Parliament by an overwhelming majority voted to suppress the publication of a Teheran newspaper which had dared to propose the substitution of a new civil code modeled on European lines for the old common law based on the precepts of the Koran. One of the chief causes of popular complaint against the leaders of the Court party is their subserviency to foreign influences and their unpatriotic policy of importing foreign officials into Persia, notably in the case of the customs administration. (more…)

Identity and Religion in Palestine: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories by Loren Lybarger (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007)

This remarkable book examines how the Islamist movement and its competition with secular-nationalist factions have transformed the identities of ordinary Palestinians since the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, of the late 1980s. Drawing upon his years living in the region and more than eighty in-depth interviews, Loren Lybarger offers a riveting account of how activists within a society divided by religion, politics, class, age, and region have forged new identities in response to shifting conditions of occupation, peace negotiations, and the fragmentation of Palestinian life. (more…)

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