November 2010

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words. Surely the above photograph above of two aging heads of state on opposite sides of the Mediterranean is worth a thousand or even more or less. If you did not know the headline, what do you think these two men would be talking about? If you guessed immigration, you would be almost right. If you guessed romance and cross-cultural marriages, you would be exactly right, if The Guardian is to be believed. The Libyan government is using the services of an Italian match-making site called hostessweb to bring Italian women to Libya. The site is even available in 53 different languages, including Arabic, Swahili and Persian. All you need is an Internet connection and a credit card and some mutual language besides the universal code of love.

It seems that both Colonel Gaddafi and Silvio Berlusconi are friends. One might speculate on what they have in common. Being unpopular perhaps for their dictatorial ways? A soft spot for the gentler gender? Or maybe just a penchant to do favors for nephews. It seems that Colonel Gaddafi is worried about his nephew’s matrimonial future. As The Guardian reports: (more…)

In yesterday’s post the cover of a recent book published in Yemen was featured. This book is a pictorial introduction to the art of traditional cooking in rural Yemen. It was published in 2008 by the Center for Heritage of Sanaa University. The picture on yesterday’s cover was of a Yemeni woman preparing to bake bread. The steps above illustrate the preparation and baking of round barley bread, known as malûj in Yemen’s central highlands. The bread dough is formed into a ball and then stretched out with a makhbaza (see below) to a flat found shape that can be patted to the sides of the tannûr oven. The taste is hard to describe, since it is almost impossible to find pure barley bread in America. It is a hard, crisp bread and tough to break apart, but goes well with a variety of traditional stews.

to be continued

Readers who know Arabic will realize that this blog entry is not about terrorism. Even if you do not know Arabic, what do you think the book cover in the picture above is about? Details coming tomorrow.

to be continued

Bayt al-Hilali. Lighted middle floor was Wyatt’s home in Sanaa,Yemen (1970-72); Photo by Peggy Crawford (1988)

Announcing Susan C. Wyatt’s new book: Arabian Nights and Daze: Living in Yemen with the Foreign Service

Is Yemen Really a Hotbed of Terrorism? “No,” says Author.

Arabian Nights and Daze Evokes a Friendlier Yemen than the Media Presents

Americans today have a negative image of Yemen and its people in the aftermath of media focus on radical Islam and terrorist activities in that country. Susan Clough Wyatt’s Arabian Nights and Daze: Living in Yemen with the Foreign Service provides timely insights into this vulnerable country, its history and culture, and the enormous challenges Yemen faces today. Arabian Nights and Daze has been selected as part of the Memoirs and Occasional Papers Series of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) in Arlington, Virginia.

Journey back to 1970 when Wyatt and her Foreign Service officer husband reopened the U.S. diplomatic mission to the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) after its closure at the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Arriving only eight years after progressive revolutionaries ousted a thousand-year-old dynasty of conservative Shiite Muslim imams, they found the mission in a shambles. Under the protection of the Italian embassy, they built it back in stages prior to full resumption of diplomatic relations with the YAR in 1972. (more…)

by Reidar Visser, Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11 November 2010 22:00

In a repeat of the procedure used in April 2006, the Iraqi parliament today met and elected not only its speaker (Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya) but also the president (Jalal Tabalani of the Kurdish alliance). Talabani went on to nominate Nuri al-Maliki as premier candidate of “the biggest bloc in parliament” – the National Alliance, consisting of Maliki’s own State of Law alliance (89 deputies) plus its newfound partners from the disintegrated Iraqi National Alliance including the Sadrists (40 deputies), Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi. It is noteworthy that constitutionally speaking, parliament could have delayed the president election until one month after the speaker had been elected and then the president in theory would have had 15 days to nominate the premier candidate. For some ten minutes of the session, this appeared to be a real possibility as Iraqiyya deputies objected to persevering with the election before parliament had discussed the political deal by bloc leaders that brought about today’s meeting, including the question of the de-Baathification status of some of its leaders. They also correctly pointed out that the original invitation to the session did not have the presidency question on the agenda, only the speakership, and there were outright lies about the constitution from some Shiite Islamist leaders, with both Humam Hammudi and Hassan al-Shammari erroneously claiming the election of the president in the same meeting was stipulated in the constitution. However, instead of using his newfound authority to throw the session into disarray, Nujayfi continued to chair the session for a while even as many of his fellow Iraqiyya deputies stormed out (some reports say in the range of 50 to 60). Eventually Nujayfi himself temporarily withdrew, allowing his newly elected deputies, Qusay al-Suhayl (a Sadrist from Basra) and Arif Tayfur (of the Kurdish alliance and a deputy speaker also in the previous parliament) to go along with orchestrating vote on the president. Nujayfi returned to chair the final part of the session, and embraced Talabani as he entered the stage to make his acceptance speech. (more…)

Hurlbutt’s Atlas, p. 16

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). Hurlbutt includes two diagrams showing cross-sections across Palestine. That shown above is an east-west transect, showing the Dead Sea level at 1,300 feet below sea level. These were indeed better times, more than a century ago. Today the Dead Sea has dropped at least another 85 feet and continues at an alarming rate. The north-south transect is shown below. In order to be able to read it here, I have split it, but originally it was a single horizontal diagram. (more…)

Performing Islam is the first peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal about Islam and performance and their related aesthetics. It focuses on socio-cultural as well as historical and political contexts of artistic practices in the Muslim world. The journal covers dance, ritual, theatre, performing arts, visual arts and cultures, and popular entertainment in Islam influenced societies and their diasporas. It promotes insightful research of performative expressions of Islam by performers and publics, and encompasses theoretical debates, empirical studies, postgraduate research, interviews with performers, research notes and queries, and reviews of books, events and performances.

Call for contributions for the second issue: (more…)

Islam and the Goal of Love

by William C. Chittick, The Huffington Post, November 6, 2010 08:20 PM

Muslim scholars who claimed that Islam specifically and religion generally are based on love were not simply talking through their hats, as many readers of my previous post seem to think. They offered plenty of evidence. In order to see its logic, however, we need to remember the two axioms upon which all Islamic thought is built: the reality of God and the messengerhood of Muhammad.

The first axiom does not depend on the Quran. It needs to be accepted before there is any reason to consider Muhammad and the message. If God is not real, then God’s “messages” will be even less real.

This first axiom states that there is only one true reality. Everything else — the universe and all it contains — derives from it. What we call “realities” are in fact non-realities dressed up in fancy clothes.

In the language of Islamic theology, this axiomatic notion is called tawhid (pronounced “toe-heed”), meaning “the assertion of unity,” that is, the unity of the ultimate reality, which is commonly called “God.” Any close reading of the Quran (and the works of practically any Muslim theologian, Sufi or philosopher) will show that tawhid is taken as self-evident to any healthy intelligence. If people miss it, the problem is “forgetfulness,” the outstanding characteristic of the human race. According to the Quran, Adam did not “sin”; rather, “He forgot” (20:115). (more…)

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