August 31, 2007

"Only Hear the Good Stuff"

Speaking of good local TV commercials, this commercial for Gold 90FM is classic. And Gold 90FM's a pretty good radio station as well.

"There It Is!"

The local cable TV and Internet provider, Starhub, has a very cute commercial that's playing now. The commercial is for their HubStation product. The husband's dance at the end is funny, and I love how the wife keels over in a faint.

August 30, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prarie: Season 2

Good news. The Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prarie will return this fall. While the show was not universally loved by Muslims in its first season, I felt that the Muslim community benefited more from having the show broadcast than not. Yes, they didn't portray everything about Islam and the Muslim community correctly in the first season but, then again, who does? Hopefully, there are more Muslims involved with the writing and production for this season than there was last season (when, I believe, only the show's creator, Zarqa Nawaz, and actor Zaib Shaikh (Amaar, the young imam) were the only Muslims involved in the production) to help make the show more realistic in its depiction of Islam and Muslim life. From CBC News:

Little Mosque on the Prairie is back on the Prairies.

CBC's hit TV series about Muslims in a fictional Saskatchewan town is wrapping up production in Regina on its second season.

Producer Michael Snook says on-location shooting for parts of 12 episodes will begin Monday and continue into September. Broadcasts of the second season episodes begin Oct. 3.

"We'll be shooting five days in Regina over the next couple of weeks and we'll be shooting five days in Indian Head," Snook said.

The comedy originated in Regina, although CBC ended up moving more than half of the production to a soundstage in Toronto.

Even so, according to Snook, the sitcom has a strong Prairie component.
Continue Article

"The vast majority of our crew are Saskatchewan, some of our day player cast are from Saskatchewan and the core production unit in terms of producer, production manager and so on … are all from here," he said.

After a successful pilot season, the series is ramping up production from eight episodes to 20.

Little Mosque on the Prairie will be aired in a number of other markets this year, including France and French-speaking parts of Switzerland and Africa.

August 28, 2007

Thoughts on "Jesus Camp"

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the movie, Jesus Camp. The film must have taken the proverbial "slow boat" to get to S'pore because Milady and I only got our first chance to watch the movie at the theater this past weekend.

The movie was more or less everything I expected. The scenes with Ted Haggard were unintentionally amusing due to his hypocrisy, revealed by his scandal last year involving the gay prostitute. I could sympathize somewhat with the main characters; theologically, there are some similarities between what these evangelical Christians believe and what we Muslims believe.

I came away from the movie somewhat saddened, though; here is a group of people who have, IMO, debased a religion, saddling it with nationalism, militarism, sedition against their own government (the cup breaking scene), but also praising the President to the point where it bordered on idol worship. (I thought I saw a scene where the kids were bowing down to the cardboard image of President Bush; perhaps that was in the trailers. I expected to see it in the movie but didn't.) And then, of course, there is the politicizing of the children, the adults using them as pawns with regard to issues they don't necessarily understand.

Becky Fisher, the woman whom the movie revolves around, loves her American culture yet realizes that things there aren't right. And while there are many problems in American culture, I have to wonder if most of her discomfort was brought upon by herself.

August 27, 2007

Moon Over Singapore

I took this photograph last month from the parking garage next door to my block. No extra equipment was used (such as a telescope) other than my Nikon D40X and a telephoto lens (which is slightly discolored, giving the moon the slightly tan color). Also, no other phototrickery was used, other than cropping the photo to the 300 x 300 pixel size.

August 26, 2007

Du@n: Can You Spot a Hubber?

One of my bro-in-laws, Du@n (the video genius), has entered a local contest to produce a Starhub commercial. (Starhub is a cable TV and internet provider here in S'pore.) Du@n had told me yesterday he was looking for some footage we had taken of the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station several years ago. Apparently he found it because this is the visual portion of the commercial. (For the contest, everyone must use the Starhub theme song.) Unfortunately, Du@n also edited out Milady and I from the video because we were in the original footage. Please do us a favor and vote for Du@n's video!

For some other videos that Du@n's done, check out this post I made back in June.

Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 - Say What?

Is this a case where blonds should be seen and not heard? ;) (Update: Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss Teen South Carolina, ultimately came in fourth place.)

Fox Attacks! Iran

I remember very clearly the daily fearmongering led by FOX as they cheered for war with Iraq. The 24/7 images, sound effects, yelling and threatening were an ever-present drumbeat for war. We had to invade, and we had to invade now.. anyone who didn't see that was a traitor. They viciously attacked those of us who worked to get out the truth.

You'd think that with the complete failure in Iraq, those days would be behind us. Sadly, you'd be wrong.

FOX wants war with Iran.

It's almost too ridiculous to believe, but it's shockingly real. We've already compiled over 4 hours of FOX footage... the same images, sound effects, yelling and threatening that led the U.S. to invade Iraq is happening right now to sell a war with Iran. They are saying the exact same things!!

Here is the video evidence, side-by-side with what they said about Iraq.

This time is different though. We're prepared, and we have the means to alert people to what FOX is doing. Everyone has seen the terrible tragedy and the awful price paid by so many Iraqis and Americans. We know this is coming, and we can stop it.

It was about this time in the lead-up to the Iraq war when the other TV networks started following FOX's lead. As CNN's Christiane Amanpour says in the video, they were intimidated by FOX into cheerleading for the Iraq war.


This is a critical moment, and we must send a message to the major television networks urging them to ask tough questions, be skeptical, and tell us what is really happening. They must not follow FOX down the road to another war.

We've put together an open letter to the networks. Will you sign it?

August 23, 2007

The Difference Between the Qur'an and Its Translations

How do you describe a rainbow to someone who has been blind since birth? Wikipedia's defintion says:

Rainbows are optical and meteorological phenomena that cause a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines onto droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. They take the form of a multicoloured arc, with red on the outer part of the arch and violet on the inner section of the arch. More rarely, a double rainbow is seen, which includes a second, fainter arc with colours in the opposite order, that is, with violet on the outside and red on the inside.

Does that really satisfy? How do I describe the colors? By the frequency of their wavelengths? Red is any of a number of similar colors evoked by light consisting predominantly of the longest wavelengths of light discernible by the human eye, in the wavelength range of roughly 625–750 nm. Does that really satisfy?

Does the translation of the Qur'an into English really satisfy? If you know any bit of the Qur'an in its original Arabic, you realize immediately that the Qur'an is somewhat poetic in its nature. Rhymes and near-rhymes. Rhythms and meter to the ayat (verses). Does this come out in the English translations? Not really. The translations tell you what the Qur'an says, but it provides little of the wonder and beauty of the spoken language. Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall knew this when he wrote the introduction to his translation of the Qur'an:

"The book is here rendered almost literally and every effort has been made to choose befitting language. But the result is not the Glorious Qur'an, that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy. It is only an attempt to present the meaning of the Qur'an-and peradventure something of the charm in English. It can never take the place of the Qur'an in Arabic, nor is it meant to do so..."

The Qur'an is not a book of poetry; the Prophet (pbuh) was not a poet. "We have not instructed the (Prophet) in poetry, nor is it meet for him: this is no less than a Message and a Qur'an making things clear:" (36:69) "It is not the word of a poet: little it is ye believe!" (69:41) But the Qur'an is poetic and reveals its divine nature through its organization and construction: revealed over 23 years, ayat being revealed now and then, gaps being filled like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle until the Qur'an stands revealed in its complete, comprehensive whole. (And let's not forget that the process was done not just once, but seven times, for seven Arabic dialects.)

The Qur'an is a wonderful book; I came to Islam without even having heard the Qur'an recited in Arabic. But to rely solely on a translation without hearing and understanding the Qur'an in Arabic is like trying to grasp the beauty of a rainbow when you've been blind all your life.

The painting is by John Everett Millais and is entitled "The Blind Girl." It was painted in 1856, and is located at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Birmingham, England.

August 22, 2007

Philip Atkinson, Fascist Xenophobe

Yesterday, I brought up the insane rantings of Philip Atkinson, who advocates the genocide of the Iraqi people through nuclear weapons, the transplanting of Americans into Iraq to replace the murdered Iraqis, and the transformation of George Bush from mere President into Dictator. (One wonders why Atkinson hasn't suggested that Bush be deified (astaghfirullah) considering how often he compares him to Julius and Augustus Caesar. Bad form, I guess. Anyhoo...)

More of Atkinson's insane writings have surfaced, despite Family Security Matters' (FSM) efforts at deep-sixing all of his work that they had previously published on their website. Dirt Rhodes Scholar has unearthed an article FSM published back in May in which Atkinson calls for the enslavement and murder of all Mexican immigrants into the U.S. and for the U.S. to invade Mexico (again):

Mexico is now colonizing America and imposing its language and culture on it. Though the Americans still have the strength of understanding to recognize that the Hispanic invasion should be stopped, they are unable to take the measures required to achieve this end. The very least that must be done to halt the Hispanic invasion is the mass enslavement, or execution, of the invaders, which must be followed by an American invasion of Mexico to enforce American language and values upon the Mexicans. But the citizens of the USA recoil from such ruthless violence embracing delusion instead. They pretend that their futile defense is not folly, ignore the slow but inevitable takeover of their country and persecute anyone who tries to dispel their illusions. America has lost its ability to defend itself and must eventually be overrun by people from other cultures.

My emphasis.

Atkinson is apparently ignorant of - or ignores - the history of the North American continent when he writes such trash as:

The result of this migration is inevitable. The invaders take over their new homeland by sheer weight of numbers. The original manners, customs and beliefs of the destination country are slowly replaced by those of their invaders. This can be easily seen in the USA where the actual border with Mexico is slowly moving further north every year. The culture of the white Americans is being displaced by their mainly Hispanic invaders; peace and wealth created by the white American culture are being replaced by poverty and crime brought by the invaders. This represents a take-over made obvious by the replacement of the use of the English language with Spanish. Miami is now a Spanish-speaking city even though it is technically in America -- an English-speaking country.

The Spanish colonized what is now the southwestern United States and Florida long before the Anglos arrived in those areas. (Apparently, Atkinson doesn't know this.) In fact, the bulk of the southwestern states (all of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming) belonged to Mexico in the first place, until Mexico was forced to cede that land to the U.S. under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo in 1848. (The remainder of Arizona and New Mexico were purchased by the U.S. in 1853 in a deal known as the Gadsden Purchase. Florida was purchased from Spain in 1819 as part of the terms of the Adams-Onis Treaty.)

Atkinson is a fascist xenophobe; this one article (not counting the article I referenced yesterday) displays five of the fourteen patterns of fascism. It's no surprise that even his colleagues at FSM are washing their hands of him.

Geert Wilders, Coward.

The principles of The Party of Hate and Cowardice™ extend beyond the borders of the U.S., including various countries in Europe. The Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders has recently shown us his true color (yellow). For those not familiar with Wilders or his story, he's the head of the Dutch Freedom Party PVV, which holds nine seats out of 150 (6%) in the second chamber of the Dutch parliament (Tweede Kamer). Like other tiny extremist political parties, Wilders is trying to exploit an incident to raise publicity for himself and his party through demonization of "the other," this time through attacks on the Holy Qur'an.

On August 8th, Expatica reported that Wilders proposed to ban the Qur'an in the Netherlands; the Qur'an could only be used as "an object of study," but to own or use the Qur'an in a masjid or the home would be "punishable." (This, despite the fact that Adolph Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" which, while banned from being sold in the Netherlands, is freely available to read in some libraries and is legal for private citizens to own.)

Wilders hopes that the ban "will send a signal to radical Muslims who use the Koran to justify violence. He cited the 'attackers' of Ehsan Jami as an example. They assaulted the chairman of the committee for ex-Muslims last Saturday – presumably because of his controversial statements on Islam. Wilders says that the perpetrators found an excuse for using violence against Jami in the Koran."

Wilders realizes, of course, that his proposal would never pass: "Unfortunately our proposals are often rejected with a vote of 141 against 9. But if I were to let myself become dissuaded by that then I would be better off just stopping my efforts. This book incites hate and murder, and therefore does not fit in with our rule of law. If Muslims want to participate, they must distance themselves from the Koran. I know that is asking a great deal, but we have to stop making concessions."

(This is not the first time Wilders has spoken against the Qur'an, either. Earlier this year, Wilders had stated that Muslims who want to stay in the Netherlands should tear out and discard half the Koran. These comments led to commotion both in the Netherlands and abroad. Saudi Arabia and Iran made their displeasure at the statement clear.)

The Dutch government swiftly rejected Wilders' proposal. On August 9th, the government said Wilders' comments were damaging to integration.

The cabinet and Parliament rejected Wilders' call. "It must be entirely clear that the cabinet has no intention of banning the Koran in the Netherlands and that it will never consider this in future," said Integration Minister Ella Vogelaar. She said Wilders' comments were "damaging to Dutch social relations because he is portraying one population group in a bad light and could drive even more of a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims. This urging is insulting to the large majority of Muslims."

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has also openly distanced himself from Wilders' statements. He thinks that the PVV leader oversteps "the bounds of what is decent." Both freedom of religion and freedom of expression are foundations of the Dutch constitutional state, Verhagen said. Minister Verhagen sent a letter in which the cabinet distances itself from Wilders' comments to the Dutch embassies abroad on Wednesday, in case they are questioned about the matter.

Liberal VVD MP Halbe Zijlstra thinks that "Wilders has lost his way." "He claims to stand up for Dutch standards and values, but at the same time he puts one of these values out with the rubbish: the freedom of religion." Christian democrat CDA MP Madeleine van Toorenburg also said Wilders' disregard for this freedom was remarkable.

Religious representatives also condemned Wilders:

Representatives of Dutch Muslim organizations responded stoically to Wilders' most recent attack on their religion. Chairman of the Dutch Muslim Council Abdeljamid Khairoun: "Wilders suffers from a religious syndrome. He has said repeatedly that the Koran is a bad book. I expect he will also ask for a ban on the Torah and the Bible." Khairoun felt that Wilders had pulled passages from the Koran out of context.

Secretary of the Advisory Body on Muslims and the State (CMO) Nasr Joemman says Wilders is primarily trying to garner more support. Joemman suspects that the PVV leader is trying with his rhetoric to push Muslim youth to become more radical so that he can take a stand against them.

Cardinal Ad Simonis said the proposal to ban the Koran was "too ridiculous for words." "Just the idea! Every word that is wasted on proposals like this is one too many."

Still, the Dutch Muslim Council extended its invitation again to Wilders and his party to "take part in a 'constructive dialogue' aimed at putting an end to the polarization and feelings of fear in Dutch society."

The council understands the concerns of Wilders and the many Dutch who voted for his party, but feel that the PVV leader cannot blame the Koran for the violent actions of individuals or groups.

And this is where Wilders shows himself to be the gutless coward. Eleven days after Expatica reported the invitation made by the Dutch Muslim Council, Wilders has refused to engage in any dialogue with the group out of hand.

The PVV leader said in the AD on Saturday that he was not interested in a talk with the organization. "I will refrain from doing that not because I don't want dialogue, but because a debate on this is not possible. It is pointless," says Wilders. The Muslim Council has proposed a "constructive dialogue" to combat polarization and feelings of fear in society.

Wilders contests in the AD that he is sowing hate. "That is what the Koran does. It is a fascist book. That is not a book we should have here. Maybe if you take all the harmful verses out of it, but then there wouldn't be much left. Then the Koran would be about as thick as a comic book."

What are you afraid of, Geert? Are you scared to talk to Muslims? Can't you defend your position to those people whom you would adversely affect the most?

No, I guess not.

Geert Wilders, coward.

Update: Daniel Pipes argues against Wilders' proposal to ban the Qur'an. Shocking, ain't it? Of course, Pipes remains a goof, but it's a step in the right direction. HT: Islamophobia Watch

August 21, 2007

"Bad, Democracy! Down, boy, down!"

Truly, verily, the Party of Hate and Cowardice™ is filled with the mentally insane. Consider the following essay written by one Philip Atkinson, writing for the Family Security Foundation, which sponsors a wingnut Islamophobic website called Family Security Matters. Mr. Atkinson espouses the nuclear annihilation of the Iraqi people and the dictatorship ("President-for-Life") of George Bush. I'm only a little surprised that this essay was pulled from the FSM website - (What's the matter, guys? Can't walk the talk? No courage of your convictions?) - although not before Google made a copy for its cache. (Ain't technology wonderful?' ;) ) More on this at Digby, Free Democracy, Ether Zone (essay by Justin Raimondo) and Dirt Rhodes Scholar. My comments below are in blue, and I've emphasized certain portions of the essay in bold.

Exclusive: Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy
Philip Atkinson
The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
August 3, 2007

While democratic government is better than dictatorships and theocracies, it has its pitfalls. FSM Contributing Editor Philip Atkinson describes some of the difficulties facing President Bush today.

President George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. He was sworn in for a second term on January 20, 2005 after being chosen by the majority of citizens in America to be president.

Yet in 2007 he is generally despised, with many citizens of Western civilization expressing contempt for his person and his policies, sentiments which now abound on the Internet. This rage at President Bush is an inevitable result of the system of government demanded by the people, which is Democracy.

The inadequacy of Democracy, rule by the majority, is undeniable – for it demands adopting ideas because they are popular, rather than because they are wise. This means that any man chosen to act as an agent of the people is placed in an invidious position: if he commits folly because it is popular, then he will be held responsible for the inevitable result. If he refuses to commit folly, then he will be detested by most citizens because he is frustrating their demands.

When faced with the possible threat that the Iraqis might be amassing terrible weapons that could be used to slay millions of citizens of Western Civilization, President Bush took the only action prudence demanded and the electorate allowed: he conquered Iraq with an army.

This dangerous and expensive act did destroy the Iraqi regime, but left an American army without any clear purpose in a hostile country and subject to attack. If the Army merely returns to its home, then the threat it ended would simply return.

The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life.

"Kill 'em all; let God sort 'em out?" Is that what you're trying to say? Bush's "demands" had no basis in reality in the first place but, "dammit, you're gonna give me that there oil or I'm gonna kill you all!"

The simple truth that modern weapons now mean a nation must practice genocide or commit suicide. Israel provides the perfect example. If the Israelis do not raze Iran, the Iranians will fulfill their boast and wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Yet Israel is not popular, and so is denied permission to defend itself. In the same vein, President Bush cannot do what is necessary for the survival of Americans. He cannot use the nation's powerful weapons. All he can do is try and discover a result that will be popular with Americans.

Or you can use diplomacy and try to live in peace with your neighbors, but I guess you've never thought of that. Guess who said: "We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace."

As there appears to be no sensible result of the invasion of Iraq that will be popular with his countrymen other than retreat, President Bush is reviled; he has become another victim of Democracy.

Oh, dear! Bush is a "victim" of Democracy. I guess he'll have to give up his Presidency; after all, it was "Democracy" that gave him the job in the first place.

By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government. President Bush must overcome not just the situation in Iraq, but democratic government.

"They hate us for our freedoms!" So we'll give them democracy in the middle east; after all, You can't put democracy and freedom back into a box..

However, President Bush has a valuable historical example that he could choose to follow.

When the ancient Roman general Julius Caesar was struggling to conquer ancient Gaul, he not only had to defeat the Gauls, but he also had to defeat his political enemies in Rome who would destroy him the moment his tenure as consul (president) ended.

Actually, Caesar was proconsul at the time, the provincial governor of Gaul, not consul.

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome. This brilliant action not only ended the personal threat to Caesar, but ended the civil chaos that was threatening anarchy in ancient Rome – thus marking the start of the ancient Roman Empire that gave peace and prosperity to the known world.

Ended the personal threat to Caesar? You seem to forget that he was assassinated shortly thereafter. And the Roman civil war raged on for another fourteen years...

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege [sic] while terrifying American enemies.

C'mon, folks! Move to Iraq. It's just like Arizona. Don't worry about the's a dry heat!

He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.

Hmmm, too bad Caesar forgot to take seriously the fortune-teller's warning of "Beware the Ides of March!" The Romans of that era didn't take too kindly to permanent dictatorships.

President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming “ex-president” Bush or he can become “President-for-Life” Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.

Is that crack you're smokin'? Or were you just born that way?

Update: I came across the following at Crimes and Corruption of the New World Order:

Meanwhile, the blogger Gonzo Muckraker got in touch with Philip Atkinson by e-mail, and their exchange demostrates [sic] all too well that the author’s delusions are sincere. When GM first writes Atkinson, he replies:
The article…was aimed at finding a defence [sic] against the awful threat of anonymous nuclear attacks upon the USA. A solution must be found to this catastrophic probability if humanity is not to be plunged into a dreadful dark age, and if that solution is to slaughter whole nations, then it must be better than allowing the destruction of humanity.

Paradoxical, yes? A second exchange results in Atkinson, advocate of genocide, accusing GM of being a “madman” and a “beast.”
What separates humanity from beasts is the ability to recognise right from wrong independently of our feelings: by use of a moral code. You tell me what moral code you use to understand right from wrong or stand condemned as just another madman.

But isn’t Atkinson a right-wing nutcase who represents no one but himself? To the contrary, he is listed as “FSM Contributing Editor” on the original version of the article. Links are given to seven other articles he has written for FSM, and his personal biography. However, since the controversy has erupted, all trace of him has disappeared from the FSM website. Such a rapid and complete scrubbing looks like the work of someone with a guilty conscience, does it not?

August 18, 2007

Alice Cooper: School's Out

Alice Cooper was briefly mentioned on TV last night, and Milady wasn't too familiar with who he is. I, on the other hand, had grown up listening to Cooper's music, and Alice is well known and loved in Phoenix, where both of us lived for many years. This video is of the classic 1972 hit, "School's Out," the anthem for my childhood friends and I every June. (Run time: 3:30)

Daisy, Daisy...

Yesterday, Milady and I were driving home past the Fullerton Hotel when we came across 50 bicyclists. I just happened to have my camera with me, so I took a few quick shots. None of the pictures came out as well as I would have wanted, but I do like this shot. This is actually a small part of a much bigger picture, but the young Muslim woman (wearing a small tudung underneath her helmet) just happened to look at me as I was taking the photo. The bicyclists were at the tail end of the Penang (Malaysia)-Singapore Homecoming Challenge Ride sponsored by NTUC, and were being given a police escort through the financial district.

From Channel News Asia:
It was a long ride for some 50 NTUC members who cycled the 1,000 kilometres from Penang to Singapore in the past week.

And joining them was Member of Parliament Teo Ser Luck, who came in at the last 40 kilometres of the journey.

The event is part of the Penang-Singapore Homecoming Challenge Ride, the third and final leg of the NTUC Challenge Ride series.

The team is the biggest this year and the average age of the participants is 40.

The oldest is 70 years old - which goes to show that age is no boundary when it comes to keeping fit.

Mr Teo said: "They're using cycling not just for healthy lifestyle but also for making more friends across the border. This is the third time they are doing it and in the last two times they have also ventured to other parts in Malaysia."

[The name of this post comes from the 1892 Harry Dacre song, "Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built For Two)"]

August 17, 2007

Web Trend Map 2007, v. 2.0

Yesterday, in a comment to my post about the Antipocentric World Map, I mentioned another map that's based on the Tokyo subway system map. Here it is:

This map, by Information Architects Japan, shows the 200 most successful websites on the web, ordered by category, proximity, success, popularity and perspective. Their webpage has several different versions of this map (by size and resolution); the map above is their most readable version (1600 x 1024). Below are some of IAJ's comments to help decipher the map:

What’s New?
First of all, the new trend map features much more websites than the previous one. While the focus is still on English language websites (because that is where it’s at), we have added some Japanese sites (a mystery to most of you gaijin), some German sites (yeah, there are some popular ones) and a Chinese line (the second Internet).

More Consistency
The different trend lines have been renamed, simplified and cleaned up. Now, if you follow the tech line – you will find tech sites, if you follow the news line – you will find news sites.

Less Japanese Jokes
There are less insider jokes about the different stations and more consistency within the connections and the neighborhood of the different sites. People who know Tokyo will still find lots of little hints and sarcastic comments hidden in there.

Some Interesting Things to Note
* Google has moved from Shibuya, a humming place for young people, to Shinjuku, a suspicious, messy, Yakuza-controlled, but still a pretty cool place to hang out (Golden Gaya).
* Youtube has conquered Shibuya.
* Microsoft has moved to Ikebukuro, if you know what I mean.
* Yahoo is in Ueno, a nice place but nothing going on there.
* Wikipedia now is in Shimbashi, the place for the square and hard-headed Salaryman, like the Wikipedia watchdogs.
* The Chinese line runs parallel to the “share line” which starts with the main pirates…
* Paper info designer Tufte is right below the Federated Media, right before joining with the interactive information design circle in a 90 degree angle.
* "You" are in the Emperor’s palace, in the center of the network.

More Revealing Coincidences
* The main Japanese sites are all on the money line. I never notice before, but most big Japanese sites are financially successful.
* The northern part of the Yamanote line (”main sites”) is a boring unknown territory (just as in real Tokyo).
* Ze Frank ended up close to the German carousel.
* iA ended up close to the pirates.
* Adobe moved from Ginza (high class) to Tokyo station (anonymous, lots of money there), which is pointing at the fact that they continue to move towards the center of gravity without being too loud about it.
* Skype has conquered a place that doesn’t exist.

Trend Forecast
Of course you will notice that we added a weather forecast. The weather forecast is our six months prognosis for each candidate (no big surprises there).

On the Changes at Sunni Sister

Umm Zaid had a recent post about several changes at her blog: a new (old) background (she's back to her "veryplaintxt" theme), turned-off comments, and no blogroll. She asked, "Should I turn comments back on? Return the links to normal?" but then neglected to turn the comments back on for that particular post. These are some of my thoughts regarding her changes:

For long-time readers, backgrounds don't matter and will probably become even less important as more people switch to RSS feeds. I've got over 30 blogs linked to Google Reader now, which keeps me updated far better than if I visited each blog separately. Google Reader doesn't show me the background for any blog, just the contents of the posts. And that's what's most important to me anyway, the content. Not whether you've got your cartoon pirate showing up or not. Still, for the first-time or casual reader, a nice looking background may be important.

Likewise, I think blogrolls will become less important over time due to RSS feeds. Still, they're important to maintain over time. For me, the blogroll is an indicator of the company a blogger keeps. Who do you read? Yes, I do judge bloggers by who's on their blogroll (especially if they write often about religion or politics).

As for comments, I can't really imagine not allowing comments except under special circumstances. I don't have a problem with bloggers who censor comments coming onto their blogs; I do it myself. I don't have a problem with people who turn off comments for specific posts. I can even understand why a blog like Islamophobia Watch keeps their comments off all the time; I'd probably do the same if I had a similar blog. But to shut comments off willy-nilly? No, not my style. I don't know about Umm Zaid but I want to encourage a community of people visiting my blogs, to read and comment about my posts. To cut off commenting for no good reason is a slap at the readership. "Sorry, I don't care what you think!" No, that's definitely not my style.

August 16, 2007

Antipocentric World Map

I had to download a world map yesterday for one of my classes, and happened to stumble upon The Upsidedown Map Page, a webpage devoted to various published maps of the world that have south at the top and north at the bottom.

If that wasn't odd enough, this guy had, in turn, referenced the website of a British artist, Gallerisation, who has made a series of world maps that are based upon an underground/subway-system map template. The above map is one example. The name of the map is "Antipocentric." The map is both upside down and Pacific-centric. Instead of the North American-style of world maps, where the Pacific Ocean is split into two parts and the Atlantic remains whole, this map has a whole Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic is split into two. (This type of Pacific-centric map is very common in Asia, BTW.) Check out the Gallerisation website to check out other subway template world maps.

On Dr. (In)Sanity and Other Islamophobes

The other day, I wrote about a Glenn Greenwald post where Glenn was referring to irrational Republicans who do the Islamophobic variation of Chicken Little:
Every now and then, it is worth noting that substantial portions of the right-wing political movement in the United States -- the Pajamas Media/right-wing-blogosphere/Fox News/Michelle Malkin/Rush-Limbaugh-listener strain -- actually believe that Islamists are going to take over the U.S. and impose sharia law on all of us. And then we will have to be Muslims and "our women" will be forced into burkas and there will be no more music or gay bars or churches or blogs. This is an actual fear that they have -- not a theoretical fear but one that is pressing, urgent, at the forefront of their worldview.

I got several hits over the past few days on that post through trackbacks, and visited some of the sites that had also referred to Glenn's post. One of these sites, The Carpetbagger Report, used a recent post by a "Dr. Sanity" as an example to prove Glenn's point.

I come across loons like "Dr. Sanity" all the time. Type the word "Islam" into Google's blog search engine or into Technorati, and you'll see that about 75% of all the posts are Islamophobic screeds. These are people who have drunk the kool-aid of the Party of Hate and Cowardice™. They may be well educated and act normally in almost every respect, but they are largely provincial when it comes to understanding the rest of the world and are all too often arrogant in their ignorance. They are following their forefathers in a long path of hate for "the other," we Muslims being only the hate du jour, behind the Catholics, Irish, Communists, Japanese, Jews, Blacks, and many other groups.

I think what has surprised me about all this is that well respected blogs like Glenn Greenwald's and the Carpetbagger Report have needed to point out what seems to me something very obvious. I largely ignore people like "Dr. Sanity" and their writings. I used to think that education was the key: that helping to provide information about Islam and the Muslim world would help to defuse some of the tensions and increase understanding... And maybe it has, but - if so - only to a very small degree. I've come to realize that most people don't want to learn. They are perfectly comfortable in their delusions, and suggesting ever so mildly that what they believe is wrong makes not the slightest difference in their outlook. Yes, there will be some whom one can have a reasonable conversation with, who have an open-enough mind to consider a new thought, but they are very much in the minority, a very tiny number indeed.

August 15, 2007

He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not...

A strange story out of Texas: The Houston Chronicle reports of a man who, while cheating on his wife, had the receipt for the flowers - along with his romantic message to the mistress - sent to his home, which his wife discovered. The wife, of course, is filing for divorce, but the man is suing the flower company,, for breach of contract, saying that a company representative promised him that they wouldn't send anything (such as the receipt) to his home. Now that they have, he feels they should pay the extra amount of money he will owe to his wife because she now has written proof of his infidelity.

Leroy Greer meant to say it with flowers to his girlfriend, but his wife heard about it too, and now the whole arrangement is in federal court.

Claiming made his life considerably less rosy, Greer sued the flower delivery company, alleging it made his divorce case thornier by faxing his wife a receipt for flowers he had sent his girlfriend — along with the romantic words he wrote for the card.

The suit, filed this week in Houston, asks that the company pay for his mental anguish and for the increased amount he figures he'll have to pay in his divorce case, pending since 2005 in Fort Bend County, because his wife has new evidence against him.

Greer, a luxury car sales manager, complains the florist breached the contract made when he called and ordered long-stemmed red roses and a stuffed animal for his girlfriend. He says the florist broke its own privacy policy and a specific promise that nothing would be sent to his home.

The company said it will not comment on the lawsuit but also will not take responsibility "for an individual's personal conduct."

Written 'proof'

His conduct isn't the issue, said one of Greer's lawyers, Tara N. Long. "Our client is not saying the circumstances of his relationship are not his fault," she said.

But Long said harmed Greer, who alleges that what had been an amicable divorce case bloomed into a hellish fight, and that he could lose more money because his wife now has written proof of his relationship with another woman.

"We didn't file this frivolously. We tried to talk to All indications were they were willing to settle, then they stopped communicating," said Kennitra M. Foote, Greer's other lawyer. They asked for $1 million in a demand letter to the florist. They said the extra divorce costs alone could be more than $300,000., a publicly traded company based in Carle Place, N.Y., responded to an inquiry about the suit Thursday with a written statement from Steven Jarmon, vice president for brand communications and partnership marketing:

"At we take pride in creating relationships with our customers by recognizing and thanking them for their business. We take all matters relating to our customers seriously; however, we are not responsible for an individual's personal conduct. Beyond this, it is the company's policy not to comment on pending litigation and legal matters."

The lawsuit alleges that when Greer sent posies to his girlfriend in April, he was promised that the florist would send nothing to his home. But sent a discount coupon and a thank-you card to Greer's house.

Greer's wife saw it, called the company and was faxed the receipt, according to the lawsuit. On the receipt was the name of the woman who received $100 in gifts, invoiced as "Occasion: Love & Romance."

And the message on the card: "Just wanted to say that I love you and you mean the world to me! Leroy."

This receipt is attached to Greer's lawsuit, along with a handwritten note on the bottom of the page: "Be a man! If you got caught red handed then don't still lie."

Greer said Thursday that his wife included that note when she faxed the receipt to him at work.

"Yes, it was my conduct," Greer said of the relationship and the gifts.

And he accepted the florist's conduct, to a point. "The thank-you note was fine. It was sending all that information to my wife that's the problem," Greer said.

L. Mickele' Daniels, the divorce lawyer for Greer's wife, declined to comment on the lawsuit, and said nothing has happened on the divorce since February 2006. Greer's wife also did not want to comment.

County records show the couple filed and withdrew divorce actions twice previously.


Greer said he expects this divorce to go through and to cost him a lot more than it would have before sent that fax.

Richard Alderman, a consumer law expert and University of Houston Law Center professor, said lawsuits against companies that break promises can have merit.

"But the real question here is are there any damages, is he entitled to anything?" Alderman said.

He said under contract law Greer has to show his damages were foreseeable. Under the deceptive trade practices law, he would have to show the florist made a promise it knew it wouldn't keep. And Greer would have to prove the divorce, if ever finalized, cost him more because of the fax.

As for sending flowers you want kept secret, Alderman said: "I'm a big consumer advocate, but in this case I'd have to go with caveat emptor" — let the buyer beware.

August 14, 2007

The Islamists are Coming

Crooks & Liars has referred to a recent Glenn Greenwald piece over at Salon about the wingnuts' fear of Islamists. Greenwald was commenting on an article by Roger Simon by Pajamas Media that is typical of the right-wing "the left must join us in resisting Islam" garbage:
I call on my friends on the Left –- straight or gay -– to help defend that real source of liberalism the Enlightenment, because if we lose and fall under religious law, there not only will be no gay marriage, there will be no women's rights, no freedom of the press, no basic human rights, not even – as in the case of Iran – any music.

Greenwald writes:
Every now and then, it is worth noting that substantial portions of the right-wing political movement in the United States -- the Pajamas Media/right-wing-blogosphere/Fox News/Michelle Malkin/Rush-Limbaugh-listener strain -- actually believe that Islamists are going to take over the U.S. and impose sharia law on all of us. And then we will have to be Muslims and "our women" will be forced into burkas and there will be no more music or gay bars or churches or blogs. This is an actual fear that they have -- not a theoretical fear but one that is pressing, urgent, at the forefront of their worldview.

And their key political beliefs -- from Iraq to Iran to executive power and surveillance theories at home -- are animated by the belief that all of this is going to happen. The Republican presidential primary is, for much of the "base," a search for who will be the toughest and strongest in protecting us from the Islamic invasion -- a term that is not figurative or symbolic, but literal: the formidable effort by Islamic radicals to invade the U.S. and take over our institutions and dismantle our government and force us to submit to Islamic rule or else be killed.

They actually think this is going to happen ("read Zawahiri's speeches about the Plan for Caliphate!!") and believe that we must do everything in our power -- without limits -- to stop it. And there are a lot of them who think this.

In his update, Greenwald further writes:
One way to look at the threat posed by Islamic radicalism (let us call it Option A) is to see it as the Epic War of Civilizations, the Existential Threat to Everything, the Gravest and Scariest Danger Ever Faced which is going to take over the U.S. and force us all to bow to Islam.

Another way to look at it (let us call this Option B) is to dismiss it entirely, to believe there is nothing wrong with Islamic radicalism, to think it should just be completely ignored because it poses no dangers of any kind.

There are, however, other options besides A and B. Therefore, to reject Option A is not to embrace Option B. [Your typical wingnut "If it ain't Christmas, it must be the Fourth of July" "logic." - JDsg]

One would have thought that logical principle too self-evident to require pointing out, but as is typically the case when one assumes that, one is proven wrong.

On a different note, is the curriculum for history classes in some American states restricted to learning about Hitler and the Nazis and 1938 and Hitler and Germany? It must be, because there are many right-wing fanatics whose entire understanding of the world is reduced in every instance to that sole historical event -- as though the world began in 1937, ended in 1945, and we just re-live that moment in time over and over and over:

Love war? You are Churchill, a noble warrior. Oppose war? You're Chamberlain, a vile appeaser. And everyone else is Hitler. That, more or less, composes the full scope of "thought" among this strain on the right.

The Economist: Rules of the Game

In this week's The Economist (August 9th), there is a book review on Olivier Roy's "Secularism Confronts Islam." The title by itself suggests an anti-Islamic tome but, apparently, the book is anything but. From the blurb by the publisher, Columbia University Press:
The denunciation of fundamentalism in France, embodied in the law against the veil and the deportation of imams, has shifted into a systematic attack on all Muslims and Islam. This hostility is rooted in the belief that Islam cannot be integrated into French - and, consequently, secular and liberal - society. However, as Olivier Roy makes clear in this book, Muslim intellectuals have made it possible for Muslims to live concretely in a secularized world while maintaining the identity of a "true believer." They have formulated a language that recognizes two spaces: that of religion and that of secular society.

Western society is unable to recognize this process, Roy argues, because of a cultural bias that assumes religious practice is embedded within a specific, traditional culture that must be either erased entirely or forced to coexist in a neutral, multicultural space. Instead, Roy shows that new forms of religiosity, such as Islamic fundamentalism and Christian evangelicalism, have come to thrive in post-traditional, secular contexts precisely because they remain detached from any cultural background.

In recognizing this, Roy recasts the debate concerning Islam and democracy. Analyzing the French case in particular, in which the tension between Islam and the conception of Western secularism is exacerbated, Roy makes important distinctions between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, hegemony and tolerance, and the role of the umma and the sharia in Muslim religious life. He pits Muslim religious revivalism against similar movements in the West, such as evangelical Protestantism and Jehovah's Witnesses, and refutes the myth of a single "Muslim community" by detailing different groups and their inability to overcome their differences.

Another positive review of Roy's work is located at A Fistful of Euros.

The Economist review:
It is a risky business nowadays to engage in debate about secularism; doubly so if the subject is French-style secularism (laicité) and its confrontation with Islam. As a respected French scholar of the modern Muslim world, Olivier Roy has clearly grown tired of the uninformed polemics of those he wryly dubs the "Islamologists of court, academy or cocktail party." In a work of sustained deconstruction, he takes apart the myths, clichés and prejudices which characterize the current conversation about Islam.

His central contention is that "[the] problem is not Islam but religion or, rather, the contemporary forms of the revival of religion." For the past 20 years or so, the notion that religion should be a purely private affair has been challenged by a new breed of charismatic (often born-again) Christians, Jews, Muslims and others. The new believers are often individualistic, rejecting conformity with either orthodox theology or institutionalized religion. The secular European state, where mainstream religion is in decline, is uncomfortable with this new, assertive and unconventional religiosity.

But Islam has been singled out, partly because of its terrorist fringe. Mr Roy argues that the "Islam" depicted as incompatible with (indeed threatening to) modern Western secular society is a one-dimensional construct wholly at odds with the diversity of life experienced by real flesh-and-blood Muslims, including those living in the West. The defenders of laicité, in their alarm at a largely mythical Islam, sense danger at every bus stop.

The wearing of the veil (seen, in the face of the facts, as involuntary) becomes an emblem of a deeply-laid plan of Islamic subversion. All arranged marriages are seen as forced marriages and therefore repressive. The ultimate aim of the well-known Muslim intellectual, Tariq Ramadan, is deemed to be to turn France into an Islamic state. The periodic riots in the Paris banlieues are seen as signs of Islamic revolt rather than social protest.

Mr Roy rejects all of these contentions and, along the way, has some fun at the expense of those who have created an Islamic exception. Why attack only Islam as discriminatory? Should we not stigmatize the Catholic Church for not allowing women to be priests? Why not ask Jews to give up the notion of the "chosen people?" More seriously, he suggests it might be honest, though hardly honorable, to admit that Islam is singled out because it is the religion of immigrants and because it is associated, in entirely negative ways, with the Middle East.

In truth, conservative Muslims view sex and family in essentially the same way as conservative Christians and Jews. Mr Roy argues that in all cases the state's attitude should be the same—to distinguish between moral values and legal norms. Those who regard abortion or gay sex as a crime are not required to renounce their views, only to respect the law (and not, for example, assault gays or set fire to abortion clinics). You can believe what you want provided you obey the rules of the game.

The relevance of all this goes well beyond France. Many in Europe, believing that multiculturalism in Britain and the Netherlands has failed, are wondering whether the stricter French were right after all. Olivier Roy's cogent little book may give them pause.

Update: Oddly enough, this post has been linked to by an Islamophobic blogger (no, I'm not going link back to him). I don't think, though, that he realizes I'm a Muslim. Weird.

August 11, 2007

On Chris Rock and Baseball

The Economist had an article ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") in this week's (August 9) edition about Barry Bonds and the various problems, drug related and otherwise, affecting baseball and some other sports. There was one comment made in the article by Chris Rock that was thought provoking:

“Babe Ruth didn't play with no brothers. What is more of an advantage, a pill or racism?”

That's a valid point, Chris, and we don't know how many fewer - or more - home runs Ruth might have hit if baseball had been desegregated in his era. But let's look at another factor: "What's more of an advantage: racism or money?" By money, I mean the ability for today's athletes to be able to focus on their sport to the exclusion of all other occupations. Today's athletes make enough money to train year-round if they so choose, without needing to worry about whether they have enough money in the off-season to support themselves and their families by taking a second job.

When I was a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, it wasn't unusual to see a sentence on the back of baseball cards telling fans what Joe Blow did in his off-season. My dad, who was a fan of the Baltimore Orioles' manager Earl Weaver, once sent me Weaver's autobiography when I was in my 20s. Weaver told about how he worked as a car saleman in his off-seasons. Think Barry Bonds spends his off-seasons at a car dealership, hustling cars? Think any major league baseball player spends any serious time working at another job to keep his kids fed? These guys have the time, the money, the technology and training to keep in shape and study the game and their opponents in the off-season that ball players up through at least the late-60s (if not the mid- to late-70s) never had. They can focus on baseball (and other athletes on their respective sports) to the exclusion of all else. Think that's not more of an advantage than the racism of Ruth's era? You're kidding yourself if you don't.

That's not to say that Rock's point isn't valid. Nor is it to say that Barry Bonds doesn't deserve his new record. There's a lot more to hitting a home run than just the muscle that puts the ball past the fence. But between a pill, racism, and money, I'd say that money is the biggest advantage of them all.

Oops!... I Did It Again

A very wacky and weird spoof on Britney Spears' "Oops!... I Did It Again," complete with flaming tuba! (Run time: 3:36)

August 5, 2007

The Economist: A Prisoner's Tale

I first heard about Burmese artist Htien Lin on BBC World a few nights ago; then I came across his story in this week's The Economist. His story is quite amazing and he has a very interesting, very unique style of painting, which he continues to use even now when he's living in the UK and has ample access to art supplies... Well, almost all. According to BBC World, he continues to use imported Burmese cotton cloth for his work.

The junta that rules Myanmar is not known for its love of art. The generals do occasionally pay for the restoration of an historic temple or the painting of an edifying mural. But inevitably, the resulting work aims more to nourish their self-esteem than to reflect the life or concerns of ordinary Burmese.

The paintings of Htein Lin, a former Burmese dissident who has given up politics for art, serve as something of an antidote to the regime's propaganda. They are not, as some democracy activists might have hoped, a crusading attack on military rule. To the extent that they carry any ideological message, it is a simple insistence on freedom of expression. Above all, the collection of works on display at London's Asia House until October 13th is a record of the misery of life in the junta's prisons.

The life story of Mr Htein Lin (who can be seen above sitting in front of one of his paintings) mirrors the recent history of Burma, as Myanmar was known before the army changed its name. In 1988, while still at university and dabbling in painting, he helped to organise the political protests that brought down the dictatorial regime of the day. When the generals subsequently reasserted themselves, he fled to the jungle, along with many other idealistic students.

But disillusionment set in. The army overran the rebels' camps, neighbouring governments refused them refuge and the pressures of fear, hunger and disease bred discord. Some of Mr Htein Lin's comrades were executed by other rebels on suspicion of spying for the junta; Mr Htein Lin himself was tortured. He escaped and, renouncing politics, returned to university.

Politics, however, soon caught up with him again: the secret police intercepted a letter that, unbeknownst to Mr Htein Lin, mentioned his name as a possible recruit to the opposition's cause. A military tribunal slung him in prison. Six years later, as a result of a power struggle within the junta, he was released.

Throughout all this upheaval, Mr Htein Lin tried to keep painting. In the jungle, he was reduced to sketching in the sand with sticks. But the hardest place to pursue his calling was prison. Brushes, paints and paper were not allowed. At first, he used his fingers to spread dye from the prison factory over empty food packets. Gradually, however, he discovered that the lungyis (sarongs) of the prisoners' uniforms made the best canvases, while almost anything, from the lids of toothpaste tubes to the wheels of cigarette lighters could be used as brushes. Sometimes, he carved stencils out of bars of soap; at others, as in the self-portrait on display in the show, he applied his improvised paints with a syringe.

His fellow prisoners kept an eye out for guards while he painted. In exchange, he put on “exhibitions” for them in his cell block, or painted scenes they requested. He hid his work in his bedroll and bribed friendly guards to smuggle it out. Once, a guard mistook a series of abstract paintings as blueprints for an escape attempt and destroyed them.

Many of the paintings show snapshots of prison life: convicts crouched in subservient squats for inspections, or curled morosely in tiny cells. One, made for a friend who pined for a pretty view, depicts a sunset. Another, painted at the turn of the millennium, presents an imaginary firework display.

Mr Htein Lin says that the constant struggle to obtain supplies and hide his work kept him busy and distracted. Moreover, in the face of these and other obstacles, simply continuing to paint seemed like an act of defiance. It is good that this small but dignified protest succeeded. And it is even better that the paintings have now been drawn to the attention of a much wider audience, thanks in part to the artist's recent marriage to a British diplomat. But perhaps it is also a little depressing to see how the daily struggle to lay his hands on this and that has subsumed Mr Htein Lin's grander ambitions—as it has for so many other Burmese.

The Economist: Food, Fashion and Faith

Note: Please see the update below.

The Economist, in this week's issue (2 August 2007), has a small article about how various companies around the world are beginning to reach out to Muslim consumers, especially in the West.

Marketers and self-proclaimed trendspotters in the Western world love slicing and segmenting consumers into an ever larger number of categories. They created the teenager, the yuppie, the baby boomer, the singleton and the metrosexual. For all of them they invented “needs” that could, inevitably, be met by whatever product they happened to be promoting. Yet to this day they tend to tiptoe around Muslims as a distinct market segment. Although they have settled into a fairly comfortable relationship with Jews and Christians whose cultures they feel they know and understand, the cultural divide with the Muslim world seems to be too daunting.

But a new study by JWT, an advertising agency, points out that the 6m or so Muslims in America are, on average, richer and better educated than the general population. Two-thirds of Muslim households make more than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000; the national average is $42,000. Two-thirds of American Muslims have a college degree, compared with less than half of the general population. Muslim families also tend to have more children. So the perception that marketing specifically to Muslims is not worthwhile would appear to be wrong.

According to JWT food, finance and packaged goods are the three consumer markets most affected by Islamic law. The global halal market is worth some $580 billion annually. In America an estimated 16% of sales in the $100 billion kosher industry comes from Muslims who lack adequate halal options. Manischewitz, the leading maker of kosher foods, has already spotted an opportunity. Last year it launched its first campaign under the theme “Simply Manischewitz” designed to reach out beyond Jewish customers.

Muslim-owned consumer-goods companies are also beginning to tap the Muslim market in the West. Since January the Burqini — a full-coverage swimsuit made by Ahiida, whose founder is a Lebanese immigrant in Australia—has been sold internationally, mainly online. As the name implies, the polyester suits are a cross between a burqa and a bikini, and are designed in accordance with Islamic law requiring women to dress modestly.

Similarly NewBoy Toys, a Syrian firm, has created Fulla as an alternative to the blonde, big-breasted Barbie doll made by Mattel, an American toymaker. Fulla has dark hair, brown eyes and a small chest, and wears a white headscarf and a coat. Unlike Barbie, Fulla does not have a boyfriend or a job, say her makers. She spends her time cooking, reading and praying.

Big Western companies have also started to reach out to Muslim consumers, albeit slowly. In April McDonald's, the biggest American chain of fast-food restaurants, began serving halal Chicken McNuggets and other food items permissible under Islamic law for a trial period at a restaurant in Southall, in west London. The firm is treading carefully: the new offerings are not advertised beyond the walls of the restaurant. Yet demand is strong, sales are increasing, and McDonald's is thinking about extending the experiment.

Such companies are also trying to be more sensitive and inclusive in their approach to Muslims. Each year Coca-Cola, the biggest maker of soft drinks, runs a series of marketing initiatives focused on charity and tolerance during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. An ad based on the concept of sharing food during iftar, the fast-breaking meal after sunset, is especially popular. Yet Coke is not adapting its global brands to Muslim consumers. “We don't segment our consumers based on religion,” says a spokesman for the firm.

Update: Amir at Austrolabe has written about this same article and asked the following:

In Australia and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom, the Muslim community is not necessarily known for its comparative wealth or relatively better education. So what makes the American Muslim community so different? Is it that American immigration policy has favoured the educated and affluent from the Muslim world or is there something intrinsic to the American system that has led to this?

This is most of my comment answering his questions:

Yes, I believe US immigration policy has primarily created this difference. Professionals, of course, are going to get preferential treatment in being allowed to live in the US (or any other country, for that matter), and with a large immigrant community (about 50% of the US Muslim population), I think that has largely skewed the results.

However, I also think there's one other factor that influences the higher income, and that's a large number of IT pros in the American Muslim community. I think a lot of American Muslims, in trying to avoid haram occupations, have moved into IT, which frequently pays higher wages than other occupations. That, too, has helped skew the results.

Do You Have a Flag?

I got a kick out of the following news story (more underneath)...

Canada on Thursday dismissed Russia's claim to a large chunk of the resource-rich Arctic, saying the tactic was more suited to the 15th century than the real world.

A Russian submersible on Thursday dived beneath the ice under the North Pole and planted a titanium flag on the seabed, staking a symbolic claim as Moscow seeks to extend the territory in the Arctic it controls right up to the North Pole.

"This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'," said Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay.

Why? Because it reminded me of this Eddie Izzard routine (click here for a longer version):

So there was a lot of that, and we built up empires. We stole countries! That's how you build an empire. We stole countries with the cunning use of flags. Just sail around the world and stick a flag in.

"I claim India for Britain!"

And they're going, "You can't claim us. We live here! Five hundred million of us."

"Do you have a flag?"

"We don't need a bloody flag; this is our country, you bastard!"

"No flag, no country! You can't have one. That's the rules... that... I've just made up! And I'm backing it up with this gun... that was lent from the... National Rifle Association."