October 2009



Van-Lennep’s album cover

In 1862 Henry J. Van-Lennep published twenty original chromolithographs of life in Ottoman Turkey. These include two scenes of Jewish life in the Ottoman Empire, “A Turkish Effendi,” “Armenian Lady (at home),” “Turkish and Armenian Ladies (abroad),” “Turkish Scribe,” “Turkish Lady of Rank (at home),” “Turkish Cavass (police officer),” “Turkish Lady (unveiled),” “Armenian Piper,” “Armenian Ladies (at home),” “Armenian Marriage Procession,” “Armenian Bride,” “Albanian Guard,” “Armenian Peasant Woman,” “Bagdad Merchant (travelling),” “Jewish Marriage,” “Jewish Merchant,” “Gypsy Fortune Telling,” “Bandit Chief,” “Circassian Warrior,” and “Druse Girl.” The lithographer for Van-Lennep’s paintings was Charles R. Parsons (1821-1910).


Van-Lennep’s illustration of a Turkish Lady of Rank (At Home)

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AWAC Presents: Dr. William Beeman

Posted in AWAC Presents

Listen to Dr. William Beeman on U.S. – Iranian Relations During the Obama Era this week on KSKA’s Addressing Alaskans, Thursday (Oct 29) at 2:00 pm, repeating Wednesday (Nov 4) at 9:00 pm on FM 91.1. Recorded at the Alaska World Affairs Council luncheon on Friday October, 23 Dr. William Beeman is the President of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association and Professor & Chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota.

Audio will be available under Addressing Alaskans following the radio broadcast Thursday at 2:00 pm.

The most important historical port on Yemen’s Red Sea coast is no doubt the old port of Mocha, which gained fame in the West for its association with the Yemen coffee trade. In a new book, The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port, Nancy Um provides a fascinating social history of the trade through this seaport during the Ottoman period. Here is how the book is described on the publisher’s website.

Gaining prominence as a seaport under the Ottomans in the mid-1500s, the city of Mocha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen pulsed with maritime commerce. Its very name became synonymous with Yemen’s most important revenue-producing crop – coffee. After the imams of the Qasimi dynasty ousted the Ottomans in 1635, Mocha’s trade turned eastward toward the Indian Ocean and coastal India. Merchants and shipowners from Asian, African, and European shores flocked to the city to trade in Arabian coffee and aromatics, Indian textiles, Asian spices, and silver from the New World. (more…)


Van-Lennep’s illustration of a Easterner with outstretched arm in awe at the scenes under the Temple mount at Jerusalem

Heny J. Van-Lennep, missionary, author and artist of the Holy land, has no doubt that the “remarkable reproduction of Biblical life in the East of our day is an unanswerable argument for the authenticity of the sacred writings.” While the bias of this Christian writer is clear, it would appear to flow more from a sense of sectarian and cultural superiority rather than an innate desire to denigrate the people being studied. Because writers like Van-Lennep believed that current customs of the Arabs, in particular, had been preserved by God as a testimony to the truth of scripture, these customs were held in high regard. While I hesitate to label the efforts of these texts as “ethnography” in the contemporary sense, Van-Lennep (1875:6) is proud of the fact that he “enjoyed unrivaled opportunities of intercourse with all classes of people.”

Rather than using his text to criticize the “Orientals,” Van-Lennep (1875:7) is at pains to counter existing stereotypes of his day. Thus, he used “Mohammed” rather than “Mahomet”, “Bedawy” rather than “Bedouin.” Consider the rationale for recognizing how Muslims saw themselves: “On the other hand, we have not called the religion of Mohammed Mohammedanism, but Islam, its universal name in the East (not Islamism, nor the religion of Islam); and his followers not Mohammedans, but, as they call themselves, Muslims (not Mussulmans); Muslimin is the plural of Muslim.” To the extent that Van-Lennep believed that God had preserved these customs as a testimony, it was important to describe them as accurately as he could. (more…)


A boy who fled fighting between militants and government forces in a refugee camp near the town of Hadja, north west Yemen. Photo by David Bebber, The Times

Photographer David Bebber has produced a superb slide show in The Times on Yemenis, especially children, displaced by recent fighting in the north of Yemen between government forces and the al-Huthi rebels. To see a slide show of the 19 images, click here.


Photo by David Bebber, The Times


Tamanna Rahman: Even at home in Manchester, Tamanna is now wary of attacks

Tamanna Rahman spent two months living on a Bristol housing estate for the BBC’s Panorama programme Undercover: Hate on the Doorstep.

Here she explains her reasons for agreeing to take part in the programme and describes how it felt to be a daily target of racist abuse, both physical and verbal. Her report contains details of racial abuse.

by Tamanna Rahman, BBC Panorama, October 19, 2009

In 2000, as a 16-year-old at my culturally and racially diverse Manchester secondary school, I was asked by a local television news team examining the hopes and aspirations of the first class of the new millennium if I felt that racism in Britain was a thing of the past.

Fresh-faced, naïve and optimistic, I answered yes; racism is dead.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2009 and my answer is very different.

What changed? As part of a Panorama programme, I spent two months working undercover on a Bristol housing estate.

Over the course of our investigation I would have glass, a can, a bottle and stones thrown at me. (more…)


The “President’s Mosque” in Sanaa, Yemen

Mapping the Global Muslim Population
A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, October 2009

Executive Summary

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion.

While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa. However, the Middle East-North Africa region has the highest percentage of Muslim-majority countries. Indeed, more than half of the 20 countries and territories1 in that region have populations that are approximately 95% Muslim or greater.

More than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of the world’s Muslim population, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion. These minority Muslim populations are often quite large. India, for example, has the third-largest population of Muslims worldwide. China has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined. (more…)

The nineteenth century Rev. Henry J. Van-Lennep provided one of the most exhaustive (832 pages) compilations of contemporary customs of “Holy Land” peoples said to be “illustrative of scripture.” In a sense the popularity of the “Bible customs” genre, which included many of the travel accounts of ministers, missionaries and lay Christians, served as an antidote to the Higher and Lower Criticism of the Bible. To the extent the Bible was treated as a literary text, the divine luster wore thin for conservative Christians. By the mid-nineteenth century archaeological discoveries in the Holy Land seemed to vindicate aspects of recorded biblical history. Van-Lennep, however, was less concerned about the spoils beneath the soil than the customs of contemporary Arabs and other indigenous people in what he thought of as Bible lands. (more…)

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