Sat 21 May 2011
John J. Mearsheimer
by John J. Mearsheimer, Pink Tank, May 19, 2011
Barack Obama gave a major speech on the Middle East today and it is clear from the subsequent commentary that he impressed few people. The main reason is that he did not say much new or indicate that there would be any serious changes in US policy in the region. It was essentially more of the same with the some tweaking here and there. Nevertheless, he did manage to anger some people. For example, Israel’s hard-line supporters were outraged that he said, “Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” For them, the 1967 borders are “Auschwitz borders” and thus can never serve as a basis for negotiations.
Many Palestinians, on the other hand, did not like Obama’s assertion that it made little sense for them to go to the UN General Assembly this September and win recognition for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Surely they also noticed that shortly after saying that “every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself,” the president said that the Palestinians would have to be content with “a sovereign non-militarized state,” which means that they will not be able to defend themselves against Israel or any other state for that matter. Hypocrisy appears to be wired into the DNA of American foreign-policy makers. (more…)
Fri 20 May 2011
If you are reading this post today, one of two things may happen in the next day (May 21, 2011): (A) the Rapture will occur and you will not be chosen, or (B) the Rapture will be miscalculated yet again. I suppose the Rapture could happen and no one will be chosen; things are rather evil these days so maybe this time the Godhead will be totally pissed off and we are all on our way to hellfire and brimstone.
So let’s assume, for insanity’s sake, that it is option B. Move over Bishop Ussher, the alpha and the omega have been revised again. Bishop Ussher was the Irish prelate who in 1654 published a tract that calculated the creation of the world commencing October 23, 4004 BCE. This was the date that became embedded in many editions of the KJV, although there were other counts of the biblical begats that came up with different dates. You would think that a loving God would at least give his creation an exact time rather than this “one day is as a thousand years” nonsense. Bishop Ussher sure thought that.
Now one of the current daze of judgment scenarios making the rounds among bibliolaters of this age is for May 21, 2011, tomorrow by my reckoning, but I do hope God is using the Gregorian and not the Julian calendar. The folks at ebiblefellowship.com have pushed creation back to 11,013 BC, bumped the birth of Jesus back to 7 BC, initiated the “great tribulation” back in 1988 (the year the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was released) and now predict the rapture for May 21, 2011. I, for one, will be checking their website on May 22 to see what I might have missed, since I do not have reservations myself for the Last Trump (and I do not mean the Donald). I can’t even get Broadway tickets for “The Book of Mormon” before mid-June. (more…)
Thu 19 May 2011
[Webshaykh’s Note: There is a definite frost on the Arab Spring in Syria. Read the chilling report by reporter Dorothy Parviz, who was detained and describes the horrors of those held in detention and beaten.]
Inside Syria’s secret prisons
by Dorothy Parviz, Al Jazeera, May 18, 2011
I was standing in two fist-sized pools of smeared, sticky blood, trying to sort out why there were seven angry Syrians yelling at me. Only one of them - who I came to know as Mr Shut Up during my three days in a detention center, where so many Syrians ‘disappeared’ are being kept - spoke English.
Watching them searching my bags, and observing the set of handcuffs hanging from the bunk bed wedged behind the desk in the middle of the room, I guessed that I was being arrested - or, at the very least, processed for detention.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked.
“Shut up! SHUT UP!” said Mr Shut Up.
I’d arrived there moments before, dragged by a handful of hair from a car where I’d been wedged between two armed men. They’d tried to convince me that they were taking me to my hotel, but, of course, I knew that there was no way plain-clothed security personnel would be kind enough to escort me to my accommodation.
I did, however, manage to resist being forced to wear a blindfold, figuring that if they were going to shoot me, they really didn’t need a reason to do so.
After about 20 minutes, we pulled off the highway and through two checkpoints. By this point, the rather handsy security guard to my left had pulled my scarf over my eyes. (more…)
Wed 18 May 2011
For both a delightful read and a handy recipe book I suggest Ziryab: Authentic Arab Cuisine by Farouk Mardam-Bey and illustrations by Odile Alliet. This was published in 2002 by Ici La Press.
Here is a selection from the foreword:
Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Nafi’ was born in Iraq in 789 C.C. His family, however most likely originated in Persia. With a melodious voice, dark skin, and gentle manners, he was nicknamed Ziryab, the name of the harmoniously mellow black bird. He received a solid education in the humanities and sciences, especially in geography and astronomy, and eventually became the favorite disciple of Ishaq al-Mawsili, the Abbasid court’s most famous musician and singer. Nevertheless, resentment replaced the preferential treatment he received by his master Ishaq al Mawsili who became envious of Ziryab’s immense success with the great caliph Harun al Rashid to whom he had introduced his protègè. As a result, Ziryab had to leave his country when he was just thirty years old. (more…)
Tue 17 May 2011
[Webshaykh’s Note: The pseudoscientific nonsense of Harun Yahya has upended the recent burqa controversy. It is one thing to cover one’s body from head to toe, and quite another to cover one’s mind from the consensus of all contemporary science. In a sense arguing that only atheists accept “evolution” is not unlike those who insist that a woman’s body must be totally taken out of view. Both do a disservice to Islam by only encouraging the negative stereotyping so prevalent against Muslims in the West.]
Muslim creationists tour France denouncing Darwin
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters, May 16, 2011
AUBERVILLIERS, France (Reuters) - Four years after they first frightened France, Muslim creationists are back touring the country preaching against evolution and claiming the Koran predicted many modern scientific discoveries.
Followers of Harun Yahya, a well-financed Turkish publisher of popular Islamic books, held four conferences at Muslim centers in the Paris area at the weekend with more scheduled in six other cities.
At a Muslim junior high school in this north Paris suburb, about 100 pupils — boys seated on the right, girls on the left — listened as two Turks from Harun Yahya’s headquarters in Istanbul denounced evolution as a theory Muslims should shun.
“We didn’t descend from the apes,” lecturer Ali Sadun told the giggling youngsters. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, he said, was “the scientific basis to defend atheism.” (more…)
Mon 16 May 2011
Spiritus, by Sami Rifai, Lebanon, Micheal-Angelo white Marble, 133×40x40 cmby, 1988
Ghazal 98: News From Abroad
by Hafiz, translated by A. Z. Foreman
Last night, the wind brought wind of one I love who’d gone away.
I too shall yield my heart unto the wind, now. Come what may.
At length my love has come to this: I can confide in none
but blazing lightnings every night and dawn winds every day.
Defenseless in your deep curled locks, and out of me, my heart
never once said “Let me recall the body where I lay”
Today, I see my friends were wise to counsel against lovefall.
Elate my counselors’ souls, O Lord, for all the truth they say.
Remembering you, my heart was bloodstruck every time wind blew
open the rosebud’s robe out on the grass in gentle play.
My weakened being leaked out through my fingertips till dawn,
whose wind blew hope of you, and brought the life back to my clay.
Your spirit of good will, Hafiz, will earn you what you yearn for.
When good-willed men cry out, all souls are ransomed to obey.
Sun 15 May 2011
Iran’s spiritual leader isn’t a hardline Islamist, but a mystic poet
By Melody Moezzi, Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 2011
Iran’s officially recognized “spiritual leader” today may be Ayatollah Khamenei, but for hundreds of years before the current establishment of mullahs and ayatollahs, Iranians of all creeds have looked to another spiritual leader: Jalal ad-Din Rumi. While this 13th century Persian Sufi poet is known in much of the West as “Rumi,” he is referred to more affectionately in Iran as “Mowlaana,” or the master.
Among Iranians, he is a spiritual guide and guru whose words hold unmatched moral authority. Over 700 years after his death, it is nearly impossible to spend a day walking around any Iranian city, suburb, or village and not hear his echo. His words live on in everyday parlance: No matter one’s station, religion, or occupation, everyone in Iran knows at least a handful of Rumi’s poems by heart. They are taught in classrooms as an essential part of the basic curriculum, but more than that, they are learned in homes, cafes, bazaars, parks, and houses of worship. No place is beyond this poet’s influence. (more…)
Fri 13 May 2011
[With this post I start a new series dedicated to photographs in an “Orientalist” mode. In addition to Reading Orientalism (which is also the title of my last book), the creation of an imagined Orient is very much a pictorial voyeuristic voyage. In this series I focus on Western images of the Middle East and North Africa, both those that perpetuate stereotypes and those that chip away at the bias. Readers of the blog are welcome to send in images they have found and want to share.]
I start with images from a 1933 edition of Richards Cyclopedia, with 24 volumes published in New York by J. A. Richards, Inc and edited by Ernest Hunter Wright and Mary Heritage Wright. This is an unusual encyclopedia, arranged by topics in a more or less arbitrary order but replete with images. One of the articles is called “The Green Girdle of the Sahara” (vol 18, pp. 4631-4636). The subtitle is: “What Men Live Now along the Northern Strip of Africa, Where the Egyptians Started the Clock of History and Where Grim Carthage Used to Frown across the Sea at Rome?”
The article starts out by describing the Barbary coast and then adds this comment:
Although the Barbary Coast is not an Eastern, or oriental, country, lying as it does due south from Europe, it seems to visitors from Europe and America like a corner of the Orient. It has a religion out of the East, Mohammedanism (mô-hâm’êd-ân-îz’m). Among the farming peoples who make their living from its soil are many restless Jews and fierce Arabs, whose Eastern ways have been taken up by the native peoples. Thus the Berber of this small fertile strip treats his women folk as an oriental might treat them, and he has an oriental’s indifference to dirt. Yet the Berbers are cousins of the northern races, many of them having blue eyes and fair hair.
To be an Oriental outside the literal Orient, to have an indifference to dirt and to be a Mohammedan: such is the fate for the Berber in 1930’s stereotyping. The image above illustrates the sentiment of an Algerian woman who has “much to learn about hygiene.” Given the Islamic duty of ablutions before prayer and the long history of anti-bathing practice in Europe, this is a very narrow put-down indeed.
The picture immediately above shows both the hardship of being female (carrying market items on one’s head) and the beauty of the maid with flowers in her hair. Exotica über alles.
to be continued
Daniel Martin Varisco
Thu 12 May 2011
Call for Papers: Muslim Women and the Challenge of Authority
A conference to be held at Boston University, March 31, 2012
“The gender jihad is a struggle to establish gender justice in Muslim thought and praxis. At the simplest level, gender justice is gender mainstreaming – the inclusion of women in all aspects of Muslim practice, performance, policy construction, and in both political and religious leadership” Amina Wadud, Inside the Gender Jihad
Scholarship on female religious authority in Islam dates back at least to the 1970s and has gone through several important phases. For two decades, most scholarship focused on demonstrating Muslim women’s poor social status and sought to locate the source of women’s oppression within religious doctrine. By the 1990s scholarship had turned to locate an egalitarian impulse within Islam that had been thwarted by the pressures of its patriarchal contexts. Over the next decade, female authored studies of the Qur’an claimed an unimpeachable basis for female rights by holding up the Qur’anic ideal of equality as a standard by which to judge social realities. More recently, scholars have sought to complicate the view of Muslim women’s unrelenting oppression. They have worked instead to recover evidence of past and present female resistance and agency, demonstrating that Muslim women are carving out spheres of interpretive autonomy and successfully negotiating their public and private lives within the constraints of broader social structures. This conference builds on the foundation of the foregoing work and aims to bring together considerations of religious, social, and interpretive authority across geographical and temporal boundaries. (more…)
Wed 11 May 2011
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) was one of the most colorful and literary of British Prime Ministers in the latter half of the 19th century. Among his novels was one about a young conservative English lord named Tancred who made a spiritual quest to the “Holy Land.” This is his Tancred, of The New Crusade, originally published in 1877. In the novel Tancred is disillusioned with the lack of morality in British politics. Instead of taking his inherited place in high society, he chooses instead to go on a quest for spiritual meaning to the land where his religion began. Disraeli, as novelist, uses the Levant as a backdrop for his psychological portrait of young Tancred, but it is as much about the foibles of the British political scene as it is an “Orientalist” rendering of the cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The novel is full of intrigue, as adventure stories should be. It has not made canonization as a “great” work, but it is still worth a read (if you can find a copy). (more…)
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