December 2008

“A Street in Damascus” from Bible Lands by Henry Van-Lennep, 1875, p. 456

Watching vivid color, cable television on an HD screen obscures the art of old black and white movies, which were once able to conjure up fantasies in black, white and shades of gray. Glancing at glossy National Geographic photographs similarly buries further into the archived past all those simple lithographic line drawings storehoused in 19th century travel accounts, Orientalist writings and Bible Custom compendiums. I admire the fruits of progress, but the nostalgia for reaching back into the museum of my book-reading memories demands equal time.

For those who share the tactile thrill of fingers thumbing through brown-edged paper and caressing delicate bindings of century-plus-old books, I dedicate a new theme on Tabsir devoted to the art of lithographic representation of the Middle East. Lithographica Arabica — long live the line drawings and antiquated woodcuts of bibliophilic bliss. (more…)

If you are in any way involved in the academic study of Islam, the acronym ISIM is no stranger. This International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, based in The Netherlands, has served as a welcome resource for information on Islam, especially in contemporary contexts. The free journal (ISIM Review), available online and in print, has been one of the most diverse, interesting, informative and accessible forums on Islam. The institute itself has sponsored conferences, workshops and fellows. Yet, if you click on to the main website today, here is what you see:

ISIM to be closed as per 1 January 2009

The International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) will be closed as per 1 January 2009, due to the lack of adequate funding. ISIM was set up ten years ago by the universities of Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen, and the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The objective of the institute has been to carry out innovative research into the social, political, cultural and intellectual trends and movements in present-day Muslim communities and societies worldwide. (more…)

President-elect Barack Obama gestured during a news conference in Chicago, Thursday. He plans to deliver a major speech in an Islamic capital, perhaps within the first 100 days of his presidency. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Obama plans major speech in Muslim world to ‘reboot’ America’s image abroad

How Obama addresses sensitive issues of democracy and human rights could help set the tone for efforts to distinguish himself from President Bush’s administration.

by Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, December 11, 2008


During the campaign, President-elect Obama put the goal of repairing America’s image abroad – and in particular in the Muslim world – at the top of his foreign-policy agenda. Mr. Obama began defining how he intends to do that this week by discussing his plans to deliver a major speech in an Islamic capital, perhaps within the first 100 days of his presidency.

Obama’s plan, still in the formative stages, immediately set off speculation over where the new American president would choose to deliver his message and what he would say. (more…)

The Mothers Of The Lashkar

by C.M. Naim, Outlook India, Dec 15, 2008

The book is titled Ham Ma’en Lashkar-e-Taiba Ki (‘We, the Mothers of Lashkar-e-Taiba’); its compiler styles herself Umm-e-Hammad; and it is published by Dar-al-Andulus, Lahore. Its three volumes have the same garish cover, showing a large pink rose, blood dripping from it, superimposed on a landscape of mountains and pine trees The first volume, running to 381 pages, originally came out in November 1998, and was reprinted in April 2001. The second and third volumes, with 377 and 262 pages, respectively, came out in October 2003. Each printing consisted of 1100 copies. Portions of the book—perhaps much of it—also appeared in the Lashkar’s journal, Mujalla Al-Da’wa.

Here is how the publisher, Muhammad Ramzan Asari, describes the book’s contents and purpose. (more…)

Sydney art fuses surf with Islam

By Nick Bryant, BBC News, Sydney, December 6, 2008

An Australian artist has produced a range of Islamic surfboards in an attempt to create a greater understanding between East and West.

Phillip George was inspired by his trips to the Middle East and by riots in 2005 when Lebanese Australians were targeted on a beach in Sydney.

He has called the range the Inshallah – or God Willing – surfboards and has put them on exhibition in Sydney.

There are 30 surfboards in all, each adorned with intricate Islamic motifs. (more…)

Virtual world for Muslims debuts

BBC News, 2008/12/09

A trial version of the first virtual world aimed at the Muslim community has been launched.

Called Muxlim Pal, it allows Muslims to look after a cartoon avatar that inhabits the virtual world.

Based loosely on other virtual worlds such as The Sims, Muxlim Pal lets members customise the look of their avatar and its private room.

Aimed at Muslims in Western nations, Muxlim Pal’s creators hope it will also foster understanding among non-Muslims.

“We are not a religious site, we are a site that is focused on the lifestyle,” said Mohamed El-Fatatry, founder of – the parent site of Muxlim Pal.

“This is for anyone who is remotely interested in the Muslim culture and the Muslim lifestyle,” he said. (more…)

The shoe-thrower, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network

Farewell Iraqi-style: How Iraqis bid vilified leaders goodbye

by Amr al-Azm

As I sat there watching with incredulity and a sense of Schadenfreude that an Iraqi journalist sent one shoe and then the other hurtling at George Bush’s head, I could only reflect on how the same Iraqis, some five year ago, were directing the very same shoes at the face of another much vilified leader: Saddam Hussein.

In Arab culture, showing the soles of the shoes is a sign of great disrespect; throwing a shoe then becomes a symbol of even greater contempt. Bush’s recent unscheduled visit to Iraq, as part of a supposed victory lap, crowning the achievements of his eight-year presidency, ended in ignominy with a shoe in the face. (more…)

Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, tried to block President Bush when a man threw his shoes at the president during a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday.

There is not a lot of humor coming out of Baghdad these days. So leave it to a surprise visit by our lame duck President Bush to lighten things up. Snuck into Iraq with the secrecy of a Harry Potter sequel plot, the joint press conference deep in the Green Zone with Nouri Al-Maliki would seem to be a safe venue. Yet the moment Bush was introduced to the Baghdad press corps, the shoe leather hit the fan. A local television reporter stood up, shouting “This is a goodbye kiss, you dog.” Well, it sounds a bit more sinister in Arabic. But this was not the sole agenda of the media heckler. He threw both his shoes at Bush, who ducked both. There was a bit of confusion and seemingly no secret service agent paying attention. Bush stood his ground, waving off the double shoeing with a joke that all he knew was that they were size 10. (more…)

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