July 2009

The Desert Horned Viper lurks in sand, only eyes, nostrils and horns above the surface.

Webshaykh’s Note: Cyberspace harbors a host of apocalyptic websites that relate current events in the Middle East to biblical prophecy. From the site Heaven Awaits it would seem that even Iraqi snakes are suspected of being terrorists… after all these snakes have horns. The following commentary stems from a news item in The Independent.

Snakes preparing the way for demons?

from Heaven Awaits website

The Desert Horned Viper lurks in sand, only eyes, nostrils and horns above the surface. Interesting ….that it has “horns.”

The Bible predicts that the Euphrates River will dry up, and demons will come out. See the latest headlines from Iraq. (more…)

During the Israeli attacks on Palestine earlier this year, I was in Indonesia. I was struck by both media coverage and discussions with students about the conflict. At that time, I co-authored a paper with Mark Woodward which analyzed Indonesian press claims that the Israelis used “Nuclear Weapons.” To Western readers these reports appear to be wildly inaccurate, but they reveal local interpretive strategies that bring order to a complex body of information concerning the conflict. The coverage analyzed here evokes the shared Jewish, Christian and Muslim narrative of David and Goliath, and is an example of demonization that is common in such conflicts. Such narratives construct reality for local populations regardless of whether they are literally true. It has been published, in pdf format, by the Consortium for Strategic Communication here.

Ron Lukens-Bull

Hooked on Hookah, 1909

No, this is not another post about terrorism, nor the violent protests following the recent Iranian election, nor more reports of suicide bombs in hotel lobbies. The smoke from these tragedies is not about to disappear any time soon. The smoke I am talking about is from the tobacco industry. Newsweek (July 27 issue) provides a breakdown of smokers worldwide. While China leads all populations with almost 334 million smokers (32% of the overall population), they are actually lower percentage wise than Turkey with its 19 million users, accounting for 36% of the population. Other Middle Eastern countries surveyed fare a bit better than the United States (24% of the population) with 21% (28 million users) in Pakistan, 17.6% (9 million users) in Iran and only 14.2% (2.4 million users) in Iraq. I suspect even these numbers are under reported, given the ubiquity of cigarettes in the region. Health warnings or not, tobacco is still sultan in the Middle East and indeed the entire world. (more…)

Eyes wide shut in the Islamic world

by Tarek Fatah, Globe and Mail, Toronto

THE CRISIS IN ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION by Ali A. Allawi. Yale University Press, 320 pages, $33.50

LOST IN THE SACRED: Why the Muslim World Stood Still by Dan Diner. Princeton University press, 214 pages, $35.95

The Muslim world seems to be caught up in a crisis that shows no end in sight. If there is a single image that reflects this ongoing catastrophe, it is captured in the haunting eyes of a dying Neda Soltani, the 24-year-old woman shot dead on the streets of Tehran.

Since Bernard Lewis’s tome What Went Wrong, much has been written on this subject. Now, two books shed new light on the fall and decline of Muslim civilization. Both authors, Ali Allawi, an Iraqi politician-academic who teaches in the U.S., and Dan Diner, a Jewish professor of modern history in Germany, not only study the decline, but also look into the reasons why attempts to resuscitate the Ummah have failed. (more…)

A Turkish Barber: Constantinople

From Mary Mills Patrick, “The Emancipation of Mohammedan Women,” published in the National Geographic Magazine, January 1909 (Volume XX, No. 1, pp. 61-62).

My fascination with flipbooks continues. For an interesting read about Yemen just over a century ago, check out the flipbook version of Walter Harris’s travel account. This has a number of illustrations, as illustrated above.

Among his exploits, Harris obtained an interview with the Sultan of Lahj at the time. Here is his description of the trial of smoking a hubble bubble:

The hubble-bubble was a sore trial. I was gradually, under the guidance of Said, learning to inhale it; but to have constantly to fill my lungs with the strong smoke was by no means a pleasant task to a novice like myself. (more…)

Just before the election last November there was an attempt by the extreme religious right to literally do a Jeremiah on candidate Barack Obama. One of the more bemusing commentaries, still prominently posted on the web on an apocalyptic website, is by a Protestant prophet whose visions from God have all come true, as he believes. Thus, either God’s message got garbled in the prophet Steve’s ears or we are living under the most ungodly president ever, in which case the rapture is only a nanosecond away (which may be the real reason Sarah Palin resigned). Take your pick and enjoy (probably not the right word here) the read:

A Prophetic Warning from Pastor Steve Foss

Date: Saturday, October 25, 2008, 12:49 PM

I am writing to you today an urgent message concerning the coming American election. God has released me to share with you a powerful prophecy He gave me eight years ago. I have shared this prophecy in a number of public meetings, but I have never published it for all our friends and partners.

In January of 2000 God gave me an incredible insight into what was about to happen in the coming elections in America over the next decade. I am not using this e-mail to tell you, who are citizens of America, who to vote for. However, you need to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. Never in my 22 years of ministry have I seen such a spirit of delusion released upon our country. (more…)

Figure 1: Google Earth map of the southern edge of the fortress area, with north to the top of the picture

[Note: This is the second in a series on a visit to the fortress castle known as Qa‘lat Salah-al-Din, near Lattakiya Syria. For the first, click here.]

Before continuing with my recollections of a tour of the castle fortress of Robert of Saone and Salah al-Din, it might be useful to take an aerial view. Thanks to Google Earth, you can get a bird’s eye view of the fortress, indicated in the above photo (Figure 1) only partially, but available with functions here.

In the Google Earth image above, the formal entrance today is through the tower in the bottom center of the picture, with the mosque and madrasa to the north. The mosque and madrasa were reconstructed with support by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in 2000. This involved a careful rebuilding of the minaret, which had partially collapsed (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Reconstructed Ayyubid minaret


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