October 2010

Yes, sanity through inanity, and certainly not with a talking (but brainless) head like Hannity. Yesterday comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert brought a few hours of utter sanity almost to the steps of Congress in their Rally to Restore Sanity. Fear and hate, the fuel of electoral robo-calling, were ridiculed. If, as Glenn Beck not long before sermonized, people in America have turned their back on God, perhaps they should back off a bit and act more like the Jesus of the beatitudes than Joshua at the battle of Jericho. All it takes to get back on track is for everyone to tone down the rhetoric and hear the laughter. For one sunny afternoon in our nation’s capital God finally had a reason to laugh, given the mess we humans have been making of things and each other. At least this time the stage featured two jesters who know they are jesters rather than Fox News’ gift to incivility. No one was compared to a Nazi, nor a Communist. As Stewart noted in an eloquent speech at the end of the show:

“This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and we have nothing to fear.”

It was, contrary to those steeped in Tea Party rhetoric, a clarion call for the values that have become antithetical to our political system: being calm, civil and accepting of differences. Stewart has not only read Rousseau’s “social contract,” but reminds us through humor of the central importance of tolerance for democracy to work. If the world was watching yesterday, they finally had something to smile about: I do not only mean the jokes but an American proud of his country for the right reasons.

One of the right reasons is the beauty of a Jewish comedian defending the right of Muslims to be American too. (more…)

Henri Matisse, The Moroccans, 1915-16,The Museum of Modern Art, New York,

A biography of defiance by Hassan El Ouazzani

It was better for the world not to have existed. It was better
for the dynasty to have kept its desire for another evening party.
It was better for the master to have been tired that night, for the earth
to have been dismal. It was better for something to have happened so that
the very semen be assassinated,
the semen whose descendant
is this one resident
in the home
of anguish.

That one
to whom the sky did offer but the robe of fire
now consuming his limbs. (more…)

British headquarters in Ramadi, 1918

Children in Ramadi, Iraq street, 1918

Jewish citizen of Ramadi, Iraq, ca. 1918

Almut Shulamit Bruckstein Coruh; photo by Simon Harik

by Almut Shulamit Bruckstein Coruh, Qantara.de

Every day in Germany, one hears talk of the Jewish-Christian tradition in the West. Usually, it is meant in the context of defending our system of the rule of law and the constitution, the liberal values of our society, and even “gender equality and the freedom of artistic expression, opinion, and religion”. On this battleground, there is one main opponent – Islam. And it doesn’t appear that any hyphen will come to our aid.

Islam is often reflexively equated with religion – one that cannot deny its “militant Arab” origins. It supposedly consists of Sharia and the Koran, explain the experts, TV presenters, educators, politicians, and journalists, all the while invoking the Jewish-Christian tradition.

They all unashamedly tinker around with concepts from a literary tradition that is foreign to them, and which, just as the rabbinical tradition, embraces a whole world of casuistic judgements. In all this, one thing prevails – a threatening, didactic tone of unambiguity: This is what it says in the Koran, Islam says this, that is what the Sharia commands. (more…)

Hurlbutt’s Atlas, p. 137

Hurlbutt’s Atlas, p. 133

The Christian fascination with the Holy Land as a window into interpretation of the Bible has a long and indeed fascinating history of its own. Here I continue the thread on Jesse Lyman Hurlbutt’s A Bible Atlas (New York: Rand McNally & Company, 1947, first published in 1882). As might be expected, a large part of the atlas is devoted to Jerusalem. Here are two century old pictures, one of the Dome of the Rock and the other a view of the Garden of Gethsemane looking toward an uncluttered landscape beneath the old city walls of Jerusalem.

left, Muslim Moroccan-French actor Said Taghmaoui does not care much for shirts; right, scary Muslim garb

The recent debate over remarks by NPR reporter Juan Williams on the Bill O’Reilly Show is quite revealing, although not in terms of fashion. Of late NPR has gone public with its No Partisan Reporting image, placing comments on Fox News atop the same perch as Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. Lost in the shuffle is the ultimate bottom line in media as business: Williams has just signed a multi-year contract with Fox News. In commenting on his statement that he personally feels uncomfortable traveling on an airplane with fashionably coded devout Muslims, Williams is quoted on the Fox News website (with the typographical error intact):

“They take something totally out of context,” Williams said Thursday night, adding that his point was that Americans must come to grips with their prejudices.

“I have always thought of journalism, in a way, as a priesthood. you honor it you protect it,” he said, before criticizing his former employer. “These people don’t have ay sense of righteousness, of what’s right here. They’re self righteous.”

Of course, we all know that Fox News, especially someone like O’Reilly is not at all “self-righteous.” (more…)

Heute, October 7, 2010, p. 5

While in Vienna earlier in the month I picked up a free Austrian tabloid called Heute. Leafing through the pages, it was obviously mainly about the upcoming election, lottery winners, local births in the Vienna zoo, movie stars and “Sexbombe Katy begeistert Fans.” But the layout on p. 5 was too precious not to comment on. Here is the fashion week model in a gold-laced dress with nipples poised not far over the head of Afghan President Karzai. One wonders if this was a total accident or if the editor was nurturing other fantasies.

[Webshaykh’s Note: In the current online issue of Foreign Policy there is an excellent essay by Robert Pape on the post 9/11 missteps and how a faulty narrative has not only bogged us down into two unwinnable wars, but also not made us safer from terrorism. Click here for the full article; I excerpt the ending here.]

by Robert Pape, Foreign Policy, October 20, 2010

Put differently, adopting the goal of transforming Muslim countries is what created the long-term military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, the United States would almost surely have sought to create a stable order after toppling the regimes in these countries in any case. However, in both, America’s plans quickly went far beyond merely changing leaders or ruling parties; only by creating Western-style democracies in the Muslim world could Americans defeat terrorism once and for all.

There’s just one problem: We now know that this narrative is not true.

New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. (more…)

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