August 2011

With the virtual flood of book digitalization online quite a few obscure books are now available online either at or through Google. I recently came across a gem: a translation of a high school Arabic text used in Aden by the British at the start of the 20th century. The title page was shown in a previous post. The full text can be downloaded as a pdf here. The excerpt below is from Ibn Jubayr’s travel account of a visit to Sicily. The Arabic text of Ibn Jubayr can be downloaded in pdf form here. Since my grandfather (hence the name Varisco) came from near Palermo, I take great pleasure in providing his account here.


One of these individuals makes sense, but only one

The media savvy, tea-partying, supersized stars Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann have trumped government agencies like the National Weather Service and FEMA by declaring why Hurricane Irene took a course up the Atlantic, bringing several billions of dollars worth of damage and knocking out my electricity on Sunday morning. Here is Bachmann’s take:

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?'” Bachmann, a third-term Minnesota representative, told a crowd in Sarasota that the St. Petersburg Times estimated contained around 1,000 people.

Unlike Glenn Beck, who said he had prior warning that God was sending this storm, Bachmann at least waited for a post hoc form of pseudo prophecy politicking. Beck, the stealth Mormon once in the Fox News orbit, suggested we count our blessings along with the days without electricity and number of feet of flood stage above record levels. Similar warnings of God’s use of the weather to judge us sinners here on earth were given by Pat Robertson, who had noted that God sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans to bash the gays living there. But then God appears to be indecisive, or at least highly selective, as reported on Robertson’s CBN:

The sun re-emerged Sunday, bringing with it relief from both the winds and the rain.

It was an answer to prayer for many people like Pastor Ken Gerry of the New Life Christian Center who had prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.

“God intervened with this. We were just praying that the storm would disorganize, dissipate, weaken,” he told CBN News.

So God answers some prayers, but then what about all those churches and God-fearing folk that got whacked in the storm. Couldn’t a God who could create the entire universe n a mere six days and give it the appearance of millions of years learn to use email or text messages? I think anyone who received such a message directly from God would change his or her ways in the twinkling of an eyelash.

But here is a thought for Michele and Glenn. If God has to get our attention by extreme weather conditions, then the prolonged drought in Texas, despite prayers by Gov. Perry, must mean something too. (more…)

According to all three major monotheisms even God needed time to take a rest and so the sabbath was created. With the spate of mosque bombings, torture of prisoners and outright mayhem dominating the news about the Middle East these days, it might help to sit back and read what the American humorist Mark Twain wrote about his Missouri-born creation Tom Sawyer set loose in the Holy Land more than a century ago. (more…)

علي فرزات يواصل الرسم ويوجه رسالة إلى النظام

Caption:”Every Mohammedan has the greatest reverence for the sacred scriptures of his religion, called the Koran, a word that means “book,” just as our Bible does. Mohammed pretended that the chapters of the Koran were brought to him from heaven by the angel Gabriel, and to confirm this, pointed to the fact that he himself could neither read nor write. But the general opinion of scholars is that he dictated the Koran.”

Exactly 90 years ago a four-volume set of encyclopedia-like human interest books was published as The Human Interest Library: Visualized Knowledge by Midland Press in Chicago. In a previous post I commented on its thoroughly “Orientalist” flavor. In a chapter on “Epoch Makers of History,” the founders of major religions include Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, Lao Tsze and “Mohammed.” In the account, Muhammad is summarily dismissed as a charlatan. To add insult to injury, a full page illustration is shown (as shown above) depicting Muhammad dictating the Quran. The narrative is utterly dismissive, as you can read for yourself:

And now, last of all, we come to the most recent of religious founders, Mohammed, who is the prophet to millions of the human race, and has sometimes, very ignorantly, been compared with Christ. (more…)

The recent breakdown in Yemen of basic services, including electricity and buta-gas, has not stopped the cartoonists…


There is the real world which we see nightly on the news, even if filtered through journalistic hubris in which people are killed, maimed, maligned and the gamut of human interaction. Then there are the “prophets” who keep cropping (usually crapping) up with visions of impending doom. The recent prayer event that Rick Perry attended was organized by some of the most bizarre religionists in our country. As noted on yesterday’s Fresh Aire, some individuals are crusading a brand of “spiritual warfare” that comes close to the real thing. These include what most normal people, including the vast majority of Evangelical Christians, would call nut cases: charismatic preachers who claim visions from God, but somehow need more money to get the vision across.

I visited one of these “prophet” sites of a fellow named Sid Roth. He looks like the kind of guy who you would meet at a Jewish Community Center and his site is all about Jews, that is all about how to convert Jews to his version of Christianity. You have to wonder about a flashy website that has a banner declaring “It’s supernatural!” as a registered trademark. There is also that “Messianic Vision”, which is blind to what most Christians believe and certainly to just about everything rational in the world today. One thing that is all over the site is the “Donate Now” prompt. However, I do find it ironic that one of the DVDs for sale at a discount is entitled “Will America Survive 2011?” Is it being discounted so more people will buy and view it (which I somehow doubt as a financial move) or because thus far it is surviving and probably will, so why not try to unload the DVDs now. Indeed there are people stupid enough in our land that will buy this DVD after 2011, just as those who predict the end of the world (or think it already ended) always keep a few followers.

A short surf of some of the sites on the network of media prophets came up not only with Sid (I do wish he were a professional comedian with that first name) but with a Faisal Malick, a Muslim who converted to Christianity and now tries to convert Muslims with slick media programs. (more…)

I wonder if CNN sent any reporters to Cairo, Illinois a few months back…

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