September 2013

The latest issue of CyberOrient is available online.


Online and Offline Continuities, Community and Agency on the Internet
Jon W. Anderson

The Earth Is Your Mosque (and Everyone Else’s Too): Online Muslim
Environmentalism and Interfaith Collaboration in UK and Singapore
Lisa Siobhan Irving

Telling the Truth about Islam? Apostasy Narratives and Representations
of Islam on
Daniel Enstedt and Göran Larsson


Digital Images and Visions of Jihad: Virtual Orientalism and the
Distorted Lens of Technology
Raymond Pun


Review: Arabités numériques. Le printemps du Web arabe
Luboš Kropáček

Review: Media, Power, and Politics in the Digital Age. The 2009
Presidential Election Uprising in Iran
Zuzana Krihova

Review: iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam. Islamic Civilization
and Muslim Networks
Vit Sisler

Mandrake (gr. ΜΑΝΔΡΑΓΟΡΑ, in capital letters). Folio 90 from the Naples Dioscurides, a 7th century manuscript of Dioscurides De Materia Medica (Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, Cod. Gr. 1).

Ancient sportsmen took doping too, findings show

AYDIN – Anadolu Agency, Hurriyet Daily News, September 13, 2013

A large number of Turkish and international athletes recently banned for doping might have been born just 2,000 years too late, according to new archaeological findings in the Aegean province of Aydın that suggest using performance-enhancing drugs in ancient Greece was not only permitted but celebrated.

Locals living in the ancient city of Magnesia produced potions from the mood-altering plant mandrake, researchers have said, noting that their involvement with the drug gave them pride of place.

“Part of the [local] stadium was allocated for people who came from the ancient city of Ephesus. It is also observed that some political groups as well as bakers, gardeners, bird sellers had combined tickets. A tablet shows the most important part of the stadium, which has a capacity of 60 persons, was spared for a group of people called ‘Mandragoreitoi,’” said Turkish Professor Orhan Bingöl, who is leading archaeological excavations at the site, located in Aydın’s present-day district of Gemencik, noting that the Mandragoreitoi produced mandrake, the genus of which is mandragora. “That indicates that doping was not a crime back then, but rather that those who produced that substance had a special place in society and were encouraged.” (more…)

Martyrdom is the inheritance of the Prophet and his family to their followers (translated title). Three-storey high mural located on Mudarris Freeway, Abbas-Abad, Tehran, Iran, Fotini Christia, photographer.

Harvard College Library site. Here are two examples.

“You athletes should follow Ali (peace be upon him)”, Fotini Christia, photographer,

The artificial polarization of “communities of suffering”: when political violence paves the way to a common ground

by Estella Carpi

I still remember when the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, in the speech he held on occasion of the Martyr’s Day on 12th November 2012, used the term munafis (rival) to indicate the Lebanese opposition parties, instead of ‘adu (enemy), which is only used by the party to point to their enemy par excellence, the Zionist entity. This detail helps create a picture of the Lebanese political scenario of the last two years, in the constant attempt of local parties to maintain relative stability within the country’s boundaries, in spite of the aging bloodshed in neighbouring Syria.

In the currently increasing insecurity of life in Lebanon, community as an interpretation grid – and specifically the “belonging” to a given community – seems to be, again, a sine qua non of any understanding of local suffering, historical scars, and individual worldviews. Community, meant as a primordial notion, has always been used as a protective identity shelter in time of crisis: Lebanon constitutes the perfect historical case in point. As such, community is imagined by all of us as a comforting source for empathy and solidarity, particularly in the chronicity of a fragmented and flimsy state sovereignty. After the bombing in Dahiye – as the southern suburbs of Beirut are locally called – last 15th August, and in Tripoli, in North Lebanon, last 23rd August, all residents apparently have come to reshape two separate communities of suffering. (more…)

In today’s New York Times columnist Nick Kristoff responds to critics of his support for targeted missile strikes on Assad’s regime to send a lesson about the use of poison gas. I agree with his opening comment that columny (whether by a columnist or not) is not a very useful way to think about a complex issue. There is indeed a lot of bluster, so much so that one might metaphorically call the debate over the use of a retaliatory strike on Syria poisoned from the start. For President Obama, drawing a red line in a public speech was bound to be seen as a red flag by the bullshit artists of the Tea Party anti-Obama-anything club. For Republicans who wore their hawkishness on their sleeves under Bush to criticize Obama for daring to apply American military power to a foreign conflict, the irony is very much the epitome of politically expedient hypocrisy. Then we have the normally peace-promoting liberals who want to make a principled statement about the horrific results of using chemical weapons. How could there be anything but contentious calumny?

American public and political outrage at Assad’s callous use of poison gas has a red line as well: virtually unanimous agreement on all sides that there shall be no American boots-on-the-ground. Given that the U.S. has an arsenal that makes that possible, as was evident in Kosovo and Libya, we can forge ahead with smug assurance that as long as our sophisticated missiles do not carry any Sarin gas we are on higher moral ground. There is an ethical dilemma here that transcends who you support in the civil war that is raging in Syria. In sheer numbers Assad’s forces have killed 1,000 times more with so-called “conventional” weapons than the lobbing of several canisters of gas at a Damascus neighborhood. Even if you believe that poison gas is so horrific that its use must be punished, then there is the obvious retort that the U.S. knew Assad had used poison gas earlier, as it knew Saddam used it against the Kurds and against Iranian troops. At best this is a case of situation ethics, where the ethical point only matters if the situation is politically expedient.

Also in today’s news on Al Jazeera is a report that Philippine troops are securing the southern port city of Zamboanga, where an estimated one hundred Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas have taken a number of hostages in a failed attempt to take over city hall. Although the “Moros” are a nationalist movement, they are also a brand of Muslim extremists who kill fellow Muslims, like the current morass in Syria. I suspect that most Americans are unaware that the Philippines were once under the direct control of the United States, as part of the spoils of the Spanish American War. (more…)

By Samson A. Bezabeh,

The World War II war time correspondent Emie Pyle once said that “there is no atheist in the fox hole”. What he meant does not only indicate the brutality of war but the honesty that can come out in war. In pronouncing these words, Pyle was pronouncing the truth about mankind, a deceptive being with layers of ideas. The whole thinking behind Pyle’s statement is that man need to be cornered to shade the various facades that he has adopted. As a Christian, the core for Pyle was the presences of God.

I am not here interested in Pyle or for that matter his view of God but on Putin and his recent comment on the ongoing Syrian affair in New York Times. Russia has been deeply enmeshed in the Syrian affair as a result of a number of strategic interests that the Assad government has been able to give to Russia. Yet Putin goes on to lecture about issues of morality to the American government without mentioning these issues. His focus in that essay was about the animosity as well as cooperation that his country had and is still having with the USA. His other focus was on the American exceptionalism that was pronounced by President Barack Obama. This point he apparently obtained after deeply studying Barack Obama’s recent speech.
Putin’s moralizing article was even more moralizing in its conclusion. Putin invoked the power of the people as he claimed that his article is addressed to the people of America. In his conclusion he even invoked a much higher power: God. He tells us:

There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal (emphasis added).

Although hearing this from an x communist and a former KGB spy is stunning, it is even much more shocking when one realize the dishonesty that is embedded in Putin’s statement. (more…)

Predator drone

by Abdullah Hamidaddin, al-‘Arabiyya, September 11, 2013

On May 23, 2013 in a wonderful speech, that is yet to be translated into action, President Obama declared an end to the Global War on Terror (GWOT) which the U.S. has been waging since the early days after 9/11. Yet, killing terrorists is still on his agenda and that of other leaders around the world, albeit in a more “moderate” fashion. So here are some preliminary thoughts which I believe should guide this policy of killing.

The golden rule for killing a terrorist, actually the two golden rules, are simple and direct. The first golden rule is: do not become a terrorist in the process. The second rule is: do not create two or more terrorists for every terrorist you kill.

Very simple!

Yet the record of the past twelve years tells us that those two rules have been broken again and again and again. Some of those fighting terrorism have become as bad, and sometimes worse, than the terrorists they are fighting. Consequently, a new generation of terrorism has been born out of the very war that was supposed to fight and end terrorism. Moreover radicalization in our region has reached new and unprecedented limits; which is in itself a threat to civil peace. So what I will do here is register some of the ways in which those two rules have been broken, as things to be avoided in future killings.

Before I start with the first rule, I need to define what I mean by a “terrorist.” (more…)

A recent Jon Stewart episode pokes fun at the artificial boundaries of the colonially constructed states of the Middle East. Check it out here at The Atlantic online.

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