July 2010

August 9, 2010 cover of Time Magazine

As usual for the end of the week, my Time arrived yesterday. It seems a bit unusual that I should receive the August 9 issue a week early, but then Time is not always accurate. The cover photograph is startling, haunting, disturbing and an unfortunate example of sensationalized news reporting. I cannot help but compare this to the widely traveled National Geographic photograph of an Afghan woman. I have no objection to covering a human tragedy etched in the face of young Aisha, the 18 year old girl whose nose and ears were cut off by self-righteous extremists who practice a brand of Islam that would make the Prophet Muhammad roll over in his grave. But the cover’s prominent announcement of the article inside by Aryn Baker is in fact not the title of the article, nor the main message of the author. “What happens if we leave Afghanistan” is a lot more sensational than “Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban,” which is why it graces the cover. Tragedies, like sex scandals, sell. The issue for me is how they should be reported responsibly.

Afghan woman holding 1985 National Geographic issue with her picture on the cover



As noted in a previous post, I recently went through a late 19th century scrapbook that belonged to my great, great aunt. She had cut out pictures that interested or amused her. Several of these have Orientalist themes. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words; other times the picture says enough for itself. In this series, I leave the image to speak for itself. If you would like to comment on what you see or imagine, please do so in the comments section.


For #5, click here

Islam’s beginnings

Mohammed’s early movement was a surprisingly big tent, says historian Fred M. Donner

By Thanassis Cambanis, The Boston Globe, May 2, 2010

The first followers of Christ didn’t consider themselves ’’Christians’’; they were Jews who believed that a fellow Jew named Jesus Christ was the long-awaited messiah. It took centuries for Christianity to evolve and solidify as a distinct faith with its own doctrine and institutions.

In ’’Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam,’’ University of Chicago historian Fred M. Donner wants to provide a similar back story for Islam — a religion which, in the popular imagination, sprang wholly formed from the seventh-century sands of Arabia. Mohammed preached at the juncture of the Roman and Sassanian empires, winning support from Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and various deist polytheists. According to Donner, Mohammed built a movement of devout spiritualists from many faiths who shared a few core beliefs: God was one, the end of the world was near, and the truly religious had to live exemplary lives rather than merely pay lip service to God’s laws. It was only a century after Mohammed founded his ’’community of believers” and launched the great Islamic conquest that his followers started to define their beliefs as a distinct religious faith. (more…)

Note: The following images were taken in the early part of the 20th century when the British were in control of the Aden Protectorate.

Shibam, looking down the Wadi Hadhramaut towards Seiyun. Shibam is built on a low hill at the tip of a plateau spur and, for lack of space, grew upward; the buildings are eight to ten stories high. The landlord occupies the upper stories and these parts are whitewashed; the more whitewash, the wealthier the owner. Note the abandoned fields embanked to prevent runoff of water. The upper right-hand margin shows the plateau topography in the direction of the sea, a hundred miles distant.


Genetic damage and health in Fallujah Iraq worse than Hiroshima

Brussels Tribunal, Press release
July 2, 2010

Results of a population-based epidemiological study organized by Malak Hamdan* and Chris Busby are published on 03 July 2010 in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health (IJERPH) based in Basle, Switzerland. They show increases in cancer, leukemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Results of a survey in Jan/Feb 2010 of 711 houses and more than 4000 individuals in Fallujah show that in the five years following the 2004 attacks by USA-led forces there has been a 4-fold increase in all cancer. Interestingly, the spectrum of cancer is similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionizing radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout. By comparing the sample population rates to the cancer rates in Egypt and Jordan, researchers found there has been a 38-fold increase in leukemia (20 cases) almost a 10-fold increase in female breast cancer (12 cases) and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults. (more…)

-“Blessed is Allah” and “This is what GOD has given me (Ma Sha Allah)” Artist: Baker Masad

Islam has long history downtown: Why the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ belongs in lower Manhattan

By Edward E. Curtis, The New York Daily News, Friday, July 23, 2010

Rick Lazio, the gubernatorial candidate from Suffolk County, doesn’t like it. Sarah Palin, though not exactly a New Yorker, has resoundingly “refudiated” it. More importantly, plenty of ordinary citizens vocally oppose the establishment of a Muslim community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site.

But no matter how offensive their presence may be to some people, Muslims have always been a part of lower Manhattan’s past. In fact, Islam in New York began near Ground Zero. From an historical perspective, there could hardly be a better place for a mosque.

One of the first Arab-American enclaves in New York City was located on Washington St. in lower Manhattan – the very area in which the World Trade Center was later built. Founded by Arabic-speaking Christians and Muslims from Ottoman Syria in the 1880s, it was called Little Syria.

The heart of Little Syria was full of outdoor cafes where non-Arab visitors sometimes gawked at men smoking hookahs and trading gossip about the Ottoman Empire. In a 1903 article, the New York Times called the neighborhood “quaint,” noting the “uniform politeness” of its inhabitants.

Lower Manhattan is also the final resting place of Muslims and other Africans, often slaves, who were forcibly resettled in New York when it was still New Amsterdam. The African Burial Ground, discovered in 1991, is six blocks away from the proposed Muslim community center. Scholars continue to debate the religious identity of the hundreds buried there, but the fact that some of the dead wore shrouds and were interred with strings of blue beads, frequently used as Islamic talismans, suggests Muslim were among the enslaved people who helped build Manhattan into a bustling city. (more…)

Attacking Muslims Is In Vogue Again Among Conservatives

by Jason Linkins, Huffington Post, July 21, 2010

Recently in the land of the demented, it’s become ultra-voguish to hate Americans who are practitioners of Islam. Loud, angry, scare-bears have made their position very clear. Muslims aren’t allowed to have mosques in lower Manhattan or Staten Island or Tennessee or Southern California. In Jacksonville, Florida, anti-Muslim extremists can mount acts of terrorism without being concerned that the national media will get too heavily involved in covering the story. And among Alaskan celebrities of certain renown, the hatred of Muslims is threatening to rip the very fabric of the English language.

And now, Glenn Beck has decided that he cannot tolerate the thought of American Muslims riding around on rollercoasters for fun! This is what Beck bleated out to the world, via email: (more…)

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