March 2013

Christians around the world celebrate Easter with thoughts of the empty tomb and resurrection of Christ. But there is more. Weather permitting, children are let loose in their Sunday best to hunt for Easter eggs, adding a secular, healthy, dietary blessing to the baskets of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans waiting at home. Even the White House lawn is set for the annual Easter Egg Roll (minus the Christian Rock) on Monday. It is as though many Christians are not content to leave the tomb empty. Apparently egged on by the spring fever of long forgotten fertility rites, the main message of Christianity gets sidetracked to a debate of anything but intellectual designing: which comes first, the Easter egg or the Easter bunny?

Eggs are not the exclusive mystical domain of Christendom (although the ludicrous lengths taken to parade a sacred holiday into outrageous bonnets and Texas-shaped eggs suggest we have entered the dispensation of Christendumb). Secular folk and agnostics eat their eggs for breakfast with bacon, toast and diner coffee. But all God’s children like eggs, including Muslims with internet savy and a taste for the miraculous. Take a gander (but do not confuse his spouse’s eggs with those shown here) at the three eggs shown below. What do you see different in the middle egg than the ones on either side (hint: the left is from the White House State of the Union Eggroll and the right is reported from last year’s Easter Sunday):


In the midst of all the bad news emanating from the Middle East, here is a youtube video of traditional Kurdish music with pastoral scenes in Kurdistan.

By Qasim Rashid and Chris Stedman, Religion & Politics, March 5, 2013

Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

For many of us, it’s easy to appreciate Jefferson’s eloquently stated advocacy of religious freedom of conscience, as well as the idea that all individuals should be able to express religious or nonreligious positions independent of others’ beliefs. Likewise, at the United Nations, both the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” to all individuals. But, in spite of international agreements and Jefferson’s beautiful words, the reality is that these tenets are often forgotten.

Today, few corners of the world are immune from the oppression of conscience. Last year, Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai captivated the world after the Taliban viciously attacked her for promoting education for girls and women. Nearby, Pakistani Christian Rimsha Masih’s future and safety are still uncertain after she beat a blasphemy charge. In 2010, the Taliban murdered 86 Ahmadi Muslims on account of their faith. In Indonesia, Alexander Aan continues to languish in prison for the “crime” of professing his atheism, and atheist Alber Saber has been persecuted in Egypt for his lack of faith. In Iran, U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini is serving an eight-year prison sentence for the alleged crime of preaching Christianity. And these examples are just a snapshot of what Pew reports as roughly 75 percent of the world—5.25 billion people—that live under some sort of social or governmental oppression of religious conscience. (more…)

Could the biblical Garden of Eden really be a reference to the gardens of Sanaa, Yemen? If you think this is a crazy idea, you simply do not realize the genius of Voltaire, the 18th century savant whose Philosophical Dictionary is in itself a garden of intellectual delights. In his commentary on Genesis, Voltaire rejects the idea that Eden was between the four rivers mentioned, claiming another explanation is needed and other rivers should be searched for. Then he drops this tantalizing datum:

In any case, the garden of Eden was manifestly taken from the garden of Eden at Sanaa, in Arabia Felix, famous throughout antiquity. The Hebrews, a very recent people, were an Arab horde. They prided themselves on what was finest in the best canton of Arabia. They have always used for their own purposes the ancient traditions of the great nations in whose midst they formed an enclave.

So Sanaa once was paradise. Let us hope that it shall return to that state again, with fruit only from the tree of the knowledge of good and rivers flowing with the water Yemen so desperately needs.

Harun Yahya, a.k.a Adnan Oktar

But what greater temptation than to appear a missionary, a prophet, an ambassador from heaven? Who would not encounter many dangers and difficulties, in order to attain so sublime a character? Or if, by the help of vanity and a heated imagination, a man has first made a convert of himself, and entered seriously into the delusion; who ever scruples to make use of pious frauds, in support of so holy and meritorious a cause?
David Hume, “Of Miracles” (1748)

David Hume, the eminent 18th century philosopher, was probably not thinking about Islam when he wrote his seminal essay “Of Miracles,” but his description resonates well with the media realm of the would-be Mahdi Harun Yahya (alias of Adnan Oktar). Put enough money and media-savvy glitz behind a delusion and the gullible will come to the trough. All you need to do is check out the main website of Harun Yahya to see a sexed-up Disney version of Islam. And even if you happen to be Igbo (yes Igbo), you can read what the Harun Yahya machine has to say about the “Koran.”

The checkered history of Adnan Oktar is hardly a secret, especially in Turkey. But his cyber-reach is massive, with multiple websites available in many different languages. If you have time to spare, spend a few minutes perusing some of his 160 websites devoted to attacking evolution, proving miracles, calling for an Islamic Union led by Turkey, the coming of the Mahdi, hell, atheism and beyond. Oktar recently made news by interviewing Israeli guests, despite earlier writings which include holocaust denial.

The latest twist in the televised adoration of Adnan Oktar might best be labeled “Harun’s houris.” (more…)

Photo by Jerome Delay/AP

by Orit Bashkin, Jadaliyya, March 20. 2013

During the past week Americans, Europeans, and Middle Easterners were reminded of Iraq. A stream of photos, articles, essays, and analyses has tried to make sense of the situation in Iraq during the last decade. One group, however, does not need to be reminded of the gravity of the situation—the many Iraqis, men and women alike, whose lives have been irreversibly changed during the last decades.

In this piece, I want to reflect on the kinds of themes historians have been writing about in the present, and those we ought to write about in the future. In the last ten years, we seemed to have learned much more about Iraqi history; probably more than any of us has ever imagined upon entering graduate school, as our field witnessed the publication of dozens of academic books, articles (including ones published in The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies), and dissertations. Thus, we now seem to better understand gender relations in Iraq as well as the country’s Diasporas and trans-regional and social networks. We are more knowledgeable about Iraqi patriotism and Arab-Iraqi nationalism. We have learned to appreciate Iraq’s culture, namely its astonishing literary production, the ways in which Iraqi poets revolutionized the field of modern Arabic poetics, and the writings of Iraq’s gifted novelists, whose works have appeared in translation in the last decade. We comprehend better various mechanisms related to the state: the development of its health system, the production of its social memory, its disciplinary institutions—especially its education system—and, significantly, its production of sectarian policies. Historians have likewise attempted to analyze Iraq’s relations with the British Empire, and the modes of resistance to empire, especially the 1920 Revolt. The controversial move that brought the Baath Party archives to the United States in 2008 will enable those who work in these archives, as well as their readers, to know much more about the Baath regime and the ways in which it functioned, possibly more than any other Middle Eastern regime. (more…)

المساء برس- المساء برس التاريخ : 21-03-2013

أمة العليم السوسوة ظلت تبحث عن مكان للمرأة في الصفوف الأولى لمؤتمر الحوار الوطني فلم تجد أي مكان شاغر لها أو لغيرها حتى في منصة القاعة التي كانت مخصصة للرئيس ولرؤساء الأحزاب السياسية نواب الحوار الوطني .

السوسوة لم تعترض على ذلك كما فعل البخيتي ولكنها أكتفت بتوجيه رسالة عبر وسائل الإعلام حول غياب المرأة عن قيادة الحوار وإختراقها لمستوى التمثيل وظهور بعض الوجوه الجديدة من خلال بعض القوائم .

السوسوة كانت حرة في طرح آرائها ولم تنقاد وراء القوى السياسية وهذا ما جعلها تكسب إحترام الجميع وتقود قضية المرأة اليمنية بإمتياز فتاريخها يدل على ذلك فيما تسعى بقية المشهورات من النساء اليمنيات الى الصعود السياسي من بوابة الأحزاب ما جعلهن يتعرضن للنقد بسبب إتباع مواقف بعض القادة السياسيين ومراكز النفوذ كما فعلت توكل كرمان مؤخراً من إتباع لحميد الأحمر في الإنسحاب من الحوار بعد كانت تستجدي ضمها للحوار وهو ما جعل الرئيس في نهاية الأمر يوافق على ضمها في قائمة بعد أن تخلى الإصلاح عنها حتى أنها اشادت بقرار الرئيس وأعتبرت هادي أنه باقي في قائمتها .

For an interesting article on the death of the Syrian religious scholar Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Bouti, see the article by by H.A. Hellyer at Tahrir Squared.

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