May 2010

Iraqi students on road trip to Niagara Falls

[Editor’s Note: Below is information about an organization devoted to helping Iraqi students. Details are at]

Iraq: A Cradle of Civilization in Ruins

Iraq’s people were among the first to learn irrigation, to invent the system of writing sounds that is key to our own alphabet, to create a legal system that is the foundation of modern law. During the early Islamic centuries Iraq was a center where ancient learning was translated and preserved, where poetry and music and medicine flourished. In modern times Iraqis have built a thriving system of higher education and have sent thousands of students to study all over the world, returning to teach and work in Iraq. Western institutions of higher learning benefit from the contributions to scholarship and human development that have taken place across the centuries in Iraq. (more…)

Muslims can be sexy and cool. Check out the recent Time video by Mona Eltahawy.

Edited Transcript of Remarks by Professor John J. Mearsheimer
Transcript No. 327 (29 April 2010)

To view the video of this briefing online, go to

The Palestine Center
Washington, D.C.
29 April 2010

Professor John Mearsheimer:

It is a great honor to be here at the Palestine Center to give the Sharabi Memorial Lecture. I would like to thank Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, for inviting me, and all of you for coming out to hear me speak this afternoon.

My topic is the future of Palestine, and by that I mean the future of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, or what was long ago called Mandatory Palestine. As you all know, that land is now broken into two parts: Israel proper or what is sometime called “Green Line” Israel and the Occupied Territories, which include the West Bank and Gaza. In essence, my talk is about the future relationship between Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Of course, I am not just talking about the fate of those lands; I am also talking about the future of the people who live there. I am talking about the future of the Jews and the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, as well as the Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories.

The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans – to include many American Jews – Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa. Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term. In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream. (more…)

Prophet Muhammad with the Angel Gabriel. Miniature from the Ottoman Empire, c. 1595 CE (Topkapi Museum, Istanbul)

Why Islam does (not) ban images of the Prophet

By Omid Safi, Newsweek, May 2, 2010

When a pair of adolescent and anonymous Muslim bloggers (“Muslim Revolution”) threatened the producers of South Park for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit in an April 2010 episode, pundits responded by saying that the “Muslim Revolution” folks were extremist idiots (true) and that they were offended because Islam bans the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad (not true).

When the Danish cartoon controversies broke out in 2005, many pundits–and some Muslims–stated that Muslims were offended because Muslims have never physically depicted the Prophet.

That is actually not the case, and marks yet another example of what is at worst an acute sense of religious amnesia, and at best a distortion of the actual history of Islamic practices: Over the last thousand years, Muslims in India, Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia and Turkey did have a rich courtly tradition of depicting the various prophets, including Prophet Muhammad, in miniatures. (more…)

I thank a friend for sending along these images of Aden, taken in 1906 while the Yemeni port was under British colonial control.

Jopp Gardens and Jopp Promenade


by Kamran Pasha, The Huffington Post, May 23, 2010

As a Muslim and an American, let me say this loudly and clearly — Anwar al-Awlaki is a servant of evil and a traitor both to Islam and to America. He is intent on misleading the world by spreading the lie that Islam permits the killing of civilians. It does not.

Prophet Muhammad forbade the killing of non-combatants and reacted with horror when he heard of civilian deaths on the battlefield. In order to expound his own political agenda, Al-Awlaki is defaming the Prophet and the global Muslim community, which rejects terrorism. And in the process, he is revealing himself to be a modern Jim Jones — a narcissist creating a death cult.

In 1978, Jim Jones led 900 of his devoted followers to mass suicide by forcing them to drink cyanide mixed in a fruit beverage. The term “drinking the Kool-Aid” has since become synonymous with people who blindly follow their leaders to their doom. And it is clear that al-Awlaki’s followers are very much drinking his brand of Kool-Aid. Indeed, the alleged Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was apparently a follower of al-Awlaki before he turned on his fellow soldiers in an orgy of murder. Like Jim Jones, al-Awlaki has remarkable charisma and uses it to lead his followers down a very dark path.

I say all of this with great grief. Al-Awlaki was once a highly regarded Muslim scholar who taught a message of peace and brotherhood. But his story is like that of the archetypal villain of the movie Star Wars — Anakin Skywalker, a defender of justice, who devolves into Darth Vader, a monster who cares only for his own twisted quest for power. (more…)

Even if the theology seems mixed, the spirit behind a recent music video by Tania Kassis promoting peace between Christians and Muslims is worth listening to. Check it out on Youtube.

Who’s Afraid of the Free Speech Fundamentalists?: Reflections on the South Park Cartoon Controversy

by Jeremy F. Walton, The Revealer, April 28, 2010

Recent days have, alas, been marked by a sense of déjà vu all over again for scholars of contemporary Islam. On April 14th, the American cable network Comedy Central aired the first half of a double episode of the immensely-popular cartoon sitcom “South Park.” The episode specifically parodied Islamic prohibitions on the pictorial representation of the Prophet Muhammad by portraying him in concealment, first within a U-Haul truck and then inside an ursine mascot costume. On the day prior to the episode’s airing, the American website posted the following comments by one Abu Talhah al-Amrikee:

We have to warn Matt and Trey [Matt Stone and Trey Parker, co-creators of South Park] that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.


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