February 2010

Dr. Jamil Khader, Stetson University

A little more than a week ago a story was reported about an experiment at Stetson University by Professor Jamil Khader. The idea was for 15 coeds to wear veils and see the reactions of their fellow students. But that is only part of the story. First read the story, then check out the comments by the readers. The comments are somewhat chilling, demonstrating once again the extraordinary extent of Islamophobia out there.

Stetson students don veil for diversity experiment
By MARK HARPER, Dayton Beach News Journal Online, February 11, 2010
Education writer

DELAND — For five days, Andreana Mangie wore a pink veil on and around campus.

At the student union, people stared at her. Another student in line near her told another, “Muslims aren’t worth anything.” She was denied entrance to a party.

“This needs to be thought about,” she told a group of about 150 students Wednesday. “This is a big deal.”

Mangie was one of about 15 Stetson University women to participate in the experiment dubbed “Veil for a Day” by Jamil Khader, a professor of English and gender studies. The women discussed their experiences as part of the DeLand school’s Town Meeting on Diversity.

The university canceled classes Wednesday so students could, for one day, go outside their comfort zone and learn about others. Other sessions touched on residence hall life, environmental justice and “How We Live Homophobia.” (more…)

Anyone following the news the past couple of days may have noticed that the current government of Turkey has arrested a number of former military offices and accused them of plotting a coup. Consider this report on the al-Jazeera website today:

The action over the alleged plot, known as Operation Sledgehammer, has seen Turkey’s largest-ever crackdown on the military.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, said on Friday that no one should consider themselves “above the law”, in what was seen as a warning to the army.

“Those who make plans behind closed doors to crush the people’s will must see that from now on they will face justice,” he told a gathering of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“No one is above law, no one has impunity,” he said.

At a time when Turkey is trying to show that it’s Asiatic geography and Islamic polity overlay do not block entry in the EU, this may be a political move to show that democracy has trumped the long history of secular military hegemony. Why Turkey would still want to join the EU, given the debt crisis in neighboring Greece, is another issue. But I can think of several reasons why Turkey should be given top priority for entry into the regional entity that the Ottomans never fully conquered. There but for a successful capture of Vienna goes a different history, as even Martin Luther knew at the time. I think the best rationale is that modern Turkey is just as crazy and mixed up as the diverse nations currently allied in the EU. If you want proof, I suggest you look no further than Youtube. Check out the final scenes of the Turkish made-over version of Star Wars here on Youtube. But first check out the trailer. Eat your heart out, Flash Gordon fans…

Luke R. E. Publican

An Elementary Treatise on Physical Geography at the start of the civil war. While rummaging through old books and pictures of my late grandmother I found a copy of the 1873 edition of Warrens’ basic geography text which belonged to my great, great aunt, Ida Hoyt. There are several interesting lithographs in the text on Middle Eastern themes, which I show here.


The British Residency Office, Aden


by Adam Curtis, BBC blog, January 8, 2010

What I find so fascinating about the reporting of the War on Terror is the way almost all of it ignores history – as if it is a conflict happening outside time. The Yemen is a case in point. In the wake of the underpants bomber we have been deluged by a wave of terror journalism about this dark mediaeval country that harbours incomprehensible fanatics who want to destroy the west. None of it has explained that only forty years ago the British government fought a vicious secret war in the Yemen against republican revolutionaries who used terror, including bombing airliners.

But the moment you start looking into that war you find out all sorts of extraordinary things.

First that the chaos that has engulfed the Yemen today and is breeding new terrorist threats against the west is a direct result of that conflict of forty years ago.

Secondly it also had a powerful and corrupting effect on Britain itself. To fight the war both Conservative and Labour governments in the 1960s set up international arms deals with the Saudis. These involved bribery on a huge scale which led to the Al Yamamah scandal that still festers today. (more…)

Secularism vs Islamism

By Iqbal Akhund, Dawn.com, 22 Feb, 2010

In a recent TV debate on this subject, the applause meter would have given the win to Islamism. The debaters, three on each side, faced a small mixed audience — quite a few girls, many wearing hijabs, also young men in jeans and a handful of beards.

The ‘secularists’ appealed, in measured tones, to the intellect, made references to European history, called for tolerance, pluralism and progress. The ‘Islamists’ were assertive, emotional and received applause when they spoke of the ‘moral decadence’ of the West and condemned, to louder applause, the West’s aggression against Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Iraq.

So do the people of Pakistan want an Islamist state? Well, yes and no. (more…)

Bedouin from Bir Nabala village near Jerusalem

The controversy over displacement of Palestinian Arabs from Jerusalem is the subject of a British program called “Panorama.” This is available on Youtube. It is also enlightening to read the comments posted on the website.

Note: As a reader discovered recently, the episode has been removed from Youtube; it is available from the BBC Panorama website but only for viewing in Britain… However, an excerpt is posted at The Palestine Center.

Shoes failed flat out. Then there was a glitch in the underwear. So what next for the fashionable terrorist with no baggage and a one-way ticket to paradise? If this was the plot for a Monty Python sketch, why not bring in a sexy woman with big siliconcocted breasts? Then replace the silicon with a more volatile substance, turn the nipple into a fuse and it’s bombs away. Well, reports are now flowing through cyberspace about British intelligence intercepting Al-Qaeda cell phone chatter about this very thing. Here is one from February 5 in the online version of the Detroit Free Press:

British intel: Breast implants may hide bombs

WASHINGTON, DC — British intelligence agencies have reportedly monitored terrorist communications bragging that women suicide bombers have already undergone surgery to hide explosive bombs in their breast implants.

“You could certainly put a liquid of any kind in a saline device, and a gel implant theoretically could be opened and replaced with a different type of gel,” said Maryland plastic surgeon Dr. Craig Person.

“I believe that any liquid in a breast implant, or any gel with a silicone-type of implant would be hard to detect with a body scanner,” Person told 9NewsNow. (more…)

Students at Dar al-Mustafa in Tarim, Hadramawt

The image of the Islamic madrasa is severely tainted in the West. One of the oldest educational institutions in the world, and a pedagogical system that had influence on the evolution of colleges in medieval Europe, is generally portrayed in the media as a reactionary base for hateful anti-Western propaganda. Now that Yemen has surfaced as yet another “terrorist haven,” the idea of Islamic education in Yemen is likewise viewed negatively. One of the most important historical centers of Islamic education in Yemen remains Tarim in the Hadramawt valley. Yes, indeed the very Hadramawt from which the ancestors of Osama Bin Laden migrated. But Tarim has an international focus that many people are not aware of. For centuries Hadramis, including Sufi missionaries, have established strong ties with the people of India and Indonesia. The largess of Hadramis abroad has led to substantial support for schools back in Tarim. These are not backward enclaves with firebrands but devout Sufi masters who have long preached tolerance and the quest for spiritual truth. There is a video report posted on Al-Jazeera by Hashem Ahelbarra on “Students in Yemen fight Stereotypes” that is worth watching. For more information on Dar al-Mustafa, which is featured in the video, click here.

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