October 31, 2007

Islamophobia and the Self-Hating Arab

Ali Alarabi has an article on Nonie Darwish at The American Muslim, entitled Islamophobia and the Self-Hating Arab. Some excerpts:

Among those recruited to participate in Mr. Horowitz hatred campaign is an Arab and former Muslim woman, named Nonie Darwish. Darwish is an Egyptian who is going around the country defending Israel’s right to occupy Arab lands and kill Arabs. She is also speaking against Arab and Muslim Americans accusing them of supporting terrorism.

As if it’s not enough for Arab Americans and Muslims in this country to deal with bigots, racists and extremist pro-Israeli militants, they now have to deal with Nonie Darwish, who joins the racist cacophony in order to blemish the faith and culture of Arabs by falsely claiming Arabs and Muslims in America are about to or desire to “declare war” on America.

As ridiculous as this lie may sound, not surprisingly however, it finds fertile ground and receptive ears among those who has made it a career to tarnish Arab and Muslim Americans.

But you really have to be very stupid or just got off a spaceship from Mars to believe Darwish’s and Horowitz’s bucket of lies. To the usefulness of pro-Israeli militants, Nonie Darwish functions as the Native Informant who uses her knowledge of the Islamic faith and Arab culture to twist and bend the facts to serve her purposes.


The truth of the matter is that Nonie Darwish is an alienated and driven former Muslim woman who is angry at her former country Egypt and angry with the Arab/Muslim culture. Her anger for whatever reasons drove her into the arms of Horowitz and other pro Israeli supporters. Therefore she is not motivated by principles but rather by anger, greed and her desire for revenge.

I bring this up because it ties in with a surah I read last night before going to bed, Al-Mumtahinah (She That is to be Examined). When I read Alarabi's excerpt on Darwish I was struck by the similarity between her case and the passage in the Qur'an that forbids Muslims from taking non-Muslims as friends and protectors. Darwish has sold herself out, working as a tool against the Muslim community. But when the non-Muslims discard her, insha'allah, would the Muslims take her back? Of course not. She and the other tools (e.g., Irshad Manji) would have to make major amends to the Ummah first. (O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. (5:51))

Surah 60. She That Is To Be Examined

O ye who believe! Take not my enemies and yours as friends (or protectors),- offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Prophet and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure, (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path.

If they were to get the better of you, they would behave to you as enemies, and stretch forth their hands and their tongues against you for evil: and they desire that ye should reject the Truth.

Of no profit to you will be your relatives and your children on the Day of Judgment: He will judge between you: for Allah sees well all that ye do.

There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: "We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah. we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever,- unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone": But not when Abraham said to his father: "I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah." (They prayed): "Our Lord! in Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal.

"Our Lord! Make us not a (test and) trial for the Unbelievers, but forgive us, our Lord! for Thou art the Exalted in Might, the Wise."

There was indeed in them an excellent example for you to follow,- for those whose hope is in Allah and in the Last Day. But if any turn away, truly Allah is Free of all Wants, Worthy of all Praise.

It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.

Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong. (60:1-9)

HT: Islamophobia Watch

October 28, 2007


I had to run down to the supermarket before it closed, needing to buy a few last minute groceries. The young Chinese cashier told me the price in Mandarin, as she usually does. "Uh shye uh."

"Huh?" I say? "Uh shye uh?"

"Uh shye uh," she repeats.

"That's $22," says a Chinese man who's next in line.

"I know," I say.

The Chinese man looks at me, somewhat astonished. "Do you know Mandarin?"

"No," I say. "I can see the price on the cash register."

He closes his eyes for a moment while his face reads "Duh!" We share a laugh together.

Conversion vs. Reversion

I got an e-mail this morning from a man who read some of my comments on Daily Kos. He questioned why I used the word "revert" instead of "convert." Below is the comment he is referring to, which I wrote, except that he has capitalized all the times I used the word "revert":

“Yes, I'm well aware that people REVERT to Islam for petty reasons. That's not my point. My point is that Muslims would want people to have the right intention for REVERTING to Islam instead of a petty reason. In Islam, one's intention to behave in a certain way carries considerable weight, both in this life and the Hereafter. How much more forgiveness might Allah (swt) grant to one who REVERTED to Islam for His sake than for a person who REVERTED for a petty reason, like marriage or business?”

His letter:

I notice that you speak of Christians and others “reverting” to Islam and elsewhere put ‘“conversion”’ in quotation marks. Obviously you are making a point. What is it? That we once were all Muslim, and hence those who are not (really, no longer) within the dar al Islam are infidels?

And my response:

I wouldn't exactly put it the way you've described it, especially with the use of the word "infidel," which I rarely if ever use.

Some Muslims will talk about people converting to Islam, others (perhaps the majority) talk about "reverting" to Islam. I use the latter word. The reason why Muslims like me use "revert" instead of "convert" is due to some passages in the Qur'an.

The Qur'an states that mankind was brought forth before Allah (swt) long before we were born. In one particular passage, it is said that mankind swore an oath confirming that Allah (swt) is the one God:

"When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): 'Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?'- They said: 'Yea! We do testify!' (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: 'Of this we were never mindful': Or lest ye should say: 'Our fathers before us may have taken false gods, but we are (their) descendants after them: wilt Thou then destroy us because of the deeds of men who were futile?'" (7:172-3)

In this regard, Muslims believe that through this oath we all became Muslims prior to birth. It is after birth where we may lose our innate sense of the oneness of Allah (swt) (such as through the teachings of our parents, teachers and others). In that sense, those people who come back to Islam (such as myself) are not "converts," but "reverts."

Another explanation, by Muhammad Asad:

"According to the Qur'an, the ability to perceive the existence of the Supreme Power is inborn in human nature (fitrah); and it is this instinctive cognition - which may or may not be subsequently blurred by self-indulgence or adverse environmental influences - that makes every sane human being 'bear witness about himself' before God."

So, in this respect, yes, we were all once Muslims, but after birth some of us are taught to be other than Muslim.

Salaam 'alaikum (peace be unto you).


October 27, 2007

Would You Have Sex With This Man?

This guy, 77-year-old Rolf Eden, is laughable. He's privately humiliated by a 19-year-old girl, who wisely refuses to have sex with this lecher, only to set himself up for public humiliation by filing a frivolous lawsuit against the girl. Can you spell "S-E-N-I-L-I-T-Y"? From Der Spiegel:

According to Bild Zeitung on Thursday, the 77-year-old Eden has filed suit against a 19-year-old Berlin woman for the following reason: Despite a night on the town with Eden, which ended back at his place, she refused to have sex with him, saying the he was too old for her.

"That was shattering. No woman has ever said that to me before," Eden told the tabloid. "I was crushed." He has filed charges with the prosecutors' office, he said. "After all, there are laws against discrimination."

Eden is well known to older Germans for having been the king of Berlin nightlife in the 1950s and '60s. Indeed, he is said to have opened up Germany's first-ever discotheque. He's also known for popularizing stripteases in post-war West Germany and for doing his best to emulate Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

In 2002, Eden -- who claims to have bedded between 2,000 and 3,000 women in his long life -- raised eyebrows with an article in a Berlin tabloid saying he would like to die while having sex. He wrote: "I would like to die as I have lived -- on a woman."

Despite the storied past, his most recent attempt ended in embarrassing failure. Even serving his 19-year-old quarry champagne and playing the piano for her didn't help.

"There are a few years separating us," the almost-octogenarian admits. "And there are some women who are too old for me. But in that case you have to be more diplomatic and say, 'Sorry, you're not my type.'"

Kick @$$, Sister!

As one Muslim woman put it, "'Muslim women' are often presented as meek, vulnerable and in need of state protection from a hostile culture." Does this woman really strike you as meek, vulnerable, and in need of state protection? ;) Alhamdulillah! Kick @$$, sister!

Clerk Swings Ax to Chase Away Would-Be Robber
By Andrew Strickler, Newsday
24 October 2007

Fair warning, criminals: Do not mess with Hafize Sahin.

Not letting her slight frame deter her, Sahin wielded an ax against a masked man who tried to rob her at gunpoint on Saturday, swinging with gusto at the would-be robber before he fled empty-handed.

“I said, ‘Get out, get out!’” recalled Sahin, who was back at work at the register yesterday. “I didn’t want to hit him. I just wanted him to get out of here.”

The diminutive clerk - somewhere shy of 5 feet tall and just 90 pounds - was behind the counter at her family’s business, Southaven Convenience on Montauk Highway in Brookhaven, about 8 p.m. when the man, his face covered with a bandanna, walked in, pointed a gun and demanded cash.

A store surveillance video, released yesterday by Suffolk police, shows Sahin, wearing a long dress and a headscarf, stalling the intruder for several seconds, pecking at the cash register and searching with one hand for a panic button.

Suddenly, she grabs a 2 1/2-foot ax from under the counter, cocks it over her narrow shoulder, and takes a half dozen chops at the man, even reaching over the counter at her 6-foot target. The frightened intruder steps back and aims his gun again. But apparently confused by the onslaught, he then runs out the door with Sahin in pursuit to the parking lot.

“It’s something I haven’t seen before,” said Det. Lt. Edward Reilly of the Suffolk police’s Fifth Precinct. Reilly said Sahin, 27, acted in self-defense but that the public should “think twice” before trying to fight off a robber.

“The recommendation of the police department is, if someone is robbing you, you give them what they want,” Reilly said.

Kevin Klein, 49, a family friend who also works at the store, said he was not surprised at Sahin’s gumption. “I’ve seen her roughhouse with a friend,” he said. “I knew she was tough.” The store has been robbed five times in the last two years, Klein said, and recently upgraded its surveillance system.

Sahin, who moved to the states from Turkey with her sisters in 1998, said the ax was there “to clear roots” and that she was emboldened because she believed the gun was a fake. “But even then I was scared,” she said. “I thought he might come behind and fight me.”

Police asked yesterday for the public’s help in locating the suspect, described as a man between 28 and 30 years old, 6 feet tall, and a medium build. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and white gloves.

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.

Hat tips to: Austrolabe and Umar Lee, and to Age of Jahiliyah for the Newsday article.

October 25, 2007

Vietnam's Paris Hilton Moment

I thought this story was an interesting contrast between American and Asian society. Two female entertainers are videotaped having sex; one society applauds the woman to the benefit of her career, the other society scorns the woman to the detriment of her career. Can you imagine Paris Hilton being scorned by American society for her sex tape? Which society is @$$-backwards?

Vietnam is having a Paris Hilton moment.

An online sex video featuring a popular celebrity has riveted the nation for more than a week now, much as Hilton's clip seized the attention of Americans when it hit the Internet several years ago.

But unlike Hilton, the 19-year-old woman at the center of Vietnam's sex scandal won't be able to capitalize on her newfound notoriety.

Hoang Thuy Linh's show has been canceled and the actress has made a tearful farewell on national television.

"I made a mistake, a terrible mistake," said the doe-faced teen, who had cultivated a good-girl image. "I apologize to you, my parents, my teachers and my friends."

Her fall from grace has highlighted the generational fault-lines in Vietnam, a sexually conservative culture within which women have been taught for centuries to remain chaste until marriage and stay true to one man — no matter how many times he cheats on them.

Like everything else in this economically booming country, ideas about sex and gender roles are quickly changing as satellite TV and the Internet bring Western influences to a society cut off by decades of war and economic isolation.

But for many in communist Vietnam, new ideas about free love are much harder to accept than the free market. And unlike men, women who break the old sexual taboos are not easily forgiven.

"Kids today are crazy," said Nguyen Thi Khanh, 49, a Hanoi junior high school teacher. "They often exceed the limits of morality. They have sex and fall in love when they're much too young."

In the old days, Khanh said, a woman who had sex before marriage would be ostracized.

"A good girl must keep herself clean until she is married," Khanh said. "Thuy Linh should be condemned. If I ever see her again on TV, I will turn it off, for sure."

In "Vang Anh's Diaries," Thuy Linh portrayed an earnest high school girl, modern and stylish but determined to uphold the traditional virtues of "cong, dung, ngon" and "hanh," which promote women as tidy, charming, soft-spoken and chaste.

Then the 16-minute video hit the Internet on Oct. 15 featuring Thuy Linh in bed with her former boyfriend, both of them apparently aware that they were on camera.

On Thursday, Hanoi police detained four college students accused of posting the sex clip to the Internet. They could face charges of "spreading depraved cultural items," which carries a sentence of six months to 15 years if convicted.

Police identified the man in the clip as 20-year-old Vu Hoang Viet, who is currently studying overseas. They said a friend copied the film off of Viet's laptop, and passed it along to other friends who then posted it online.

Most of the public's wrath has been directed at Thuy Linh rather than Viet.

"People will forgive him, but not her," said Tran Minh Nguyet of the Vietnam Women's Union, which promotes gender equality. "Vietnamese think it's OK for a boy to have sex at that age, but not for a girl. It's absolutely unfair."

The video has been the talk of Vietnam. Even members of Vietnam's National Assembly were overheard gossiping about it last week at the opening of the new legislative session.

A few lonely voices have sprung up in Thuy Linh's defense. But in most newspapers and on blogs and Web sites, the video has become the target of jokes and condemnation.

VietnamNet, a popular online newspaper, said the episode underscored the "dark side of globalization" and warned that a flood of foreign influences "threaten Vietnam's cultural foundation."

The scandal also has disillusioned many of Thuy Linh's biggest fans.

"She was supposed to set a good example for Vietnamese students nationwide," said Chi, 14, a Hanoi junior high school student who declined to give her full name. "Now this scandal has ruined everything. It's completely destroyed her image."

Hilton's sex tape, made with then-boyfriend Rick Salomon in eerie night-vision green, surfaced just before the start of her reality TV series, "The Simple Life" and helped propel her to superstardom.

But in Vietnam, the video scandal is certain to destroy Thuy Linh's career, said Nguyet of the Vietnam Women's Union.

"Vietnam is changing quickly, but there's no way Thuy Linh will be forgiven," Nguyet said. "That will take another generation."

October 23, 2007

Movement and Energy

About two months ago, I discovered a local photography magazine, PhotoVideoi. The magazine has a monthly photography contest in which the winning photograph and the top seven or so honorable mentions are published in the magazine (and also entered in the "Photographer of the Year" contest). This past month's contest was on the theme "Movement and Energy."

I found this a somewhat difficult theme to select a photograph for. On the one hand, photography as an artistic medium doesn't work very well (IMO) to show movement or energy, seeing how we're dealing with images taken in a fraction of a second. On the other hand, many people use a blurring effect to create movement and energy in their photos and I, generally speaking, don't like blurry photos. So I chose the opposite tact, taking a recent photo where I had used a very fast shutter speed; in the above photo, the shutter speed was 1/250th of a second (the fastest speed I could manage while using my flash).

Here, of course, the water is falling from the fountain, at first as part of the sheet of water, then releasing to be captured in mid-air, falling as individual droplets or as clumps. I find this photograph creates an emotional tension in me: I want to see the water fall, can visualize it falling but, of course, it just hangs there, forever frozen in the image.

Of the other photos that are in this month's contest, I also like some of the other water images, Andrew JK Tan's "Wakeboarder" and Sahari Sariman's "Splashing," both of whom used the same technique as me. Of the "blurry" photos, Wee Keng Hor's "Porter" is good; I also like Suhaimi Abdullah's black-and-white photo of the fire handler.

To vote for the contest, you have to sign up for HardwareZone's forum. Be sure to vote for #6 before 5:59 pm (Singapore time) on October 28th! ;)

October 21, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie, 2.2: "Public Access"

The second episode of the season, entitled "Public Access." When the host of a Jewish public access TV program quits, the local station manager asks Amaar to host a new show that has "something to do with Muslims." However, when the first attempt goes badly (a comedy of errors), Amaar asks Rayyan to be a guest on the next show. Her appearance goes well, which then brings in too many "chefs," quickly spoiling the "broth."

The subplot involves Baber's daughter, Layla. A friend persuades her to bleach highlights into her hair. Realizing that her dad will go ballistic about the dye job, she begins wearing a hijab, even at times when she normally wouldn't (such as at home). Eventually he discovers the truth.

IMO, this was one of the better episodes so far, with a number of LOL scenes.

(Note: Because the videos are jumping around again, the order to view is: first, "Layla," wearing a pink shirt, looking at her friend; second, "Layla" looking into her compact as her friend looks on; and third, "Yasir" looking into the camera.)

October 19, 2007

Levi's Copper Jeans X-Ray Female and Male

While walking to lunch today, I came across the above poster for Levi's Copper Jeans, featuring an x-ray of a young woman wearing the jeans (below is the poster for a young man's x-ray). Per Ads of the World:

"Reconstructed" is the new Fall/Winter 07 print campaign for Levi's Copper Jeans. Much the same way Copper Jeans' seams and pockets are held in place with metal rivets, broken bones can be reconstructed with metal pins and plates. The vintage x-ray treatment is a nod to Levi's 154 year heritage, as well helping to showcase Copper's product features in an interesting, new light.

Advertising Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty Asia-Pacific, Singapore

October 18, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie, 2.1: "Grave Concern"

This is the first episode of the second season, entitled "Grave Concern." The primary plot line concerns Yasir and Baber. In order to keep his landscaping contract with an older cemetery, Yasir convinces the cemetery owner that he can sell a number of plots to the Muslim community. Yasir then convinces Baber to put down a $5,000 deposit on a plot, but when the rest of the Muslim community shows up at the cemetery to view the land, they discover that there is a country music/sports bar in line with the qiblah. Of course, at this point the rest of the Muslim community doesn't want to purchase the plots at that particular cemetery.

The secondary plot line concerns community announcements at the masjid. Baber normally makes the announcements but, due to an injury, Rayyan offers to take his place. Instead, Amaar asks Rayyan's mother, Sarah, to make the announcements.

(Note: Sometimes I see the videos flipping around on my screen when they should be remaining in the set order of the episode. To make sure you're watching in the correct order: the first segment's screen shot shows "Yasir" standing outdoors next to a pickup truck; the second segment shows "Sarah" indoors with a hijab partially draped over her head; the third segment shows "Yasir" indoors.)

Myth #278 of Islam

I had an odd conversation recently over at Daily Kos, albeit on an old topic. The comment that I responded to said, in part:

Another is the limitation that Koran only be used in the original Arabic, so that many followers are actually unaware of the actual or precise content of their own holy book - a true "reformation" problem.

I've heard this argument before: Many Muslims, not being Arabic speakers, don't know what's really in the Qur'an and, presumably, if they did know, would be appalled at the real contents and leave the religion. Not that this is what the guy at Daily Kos actually wrote but, as I said earlier, I've heard this particular argument before. Regardless, the argument as quoted above is still a load of crap. But, being the polite person that I am, I wrote the following response:

This is one of those odd myths of Islam that has little relationship to reality. Yes, the Qur'an is only the Qur'an when it's published in Arabic. Yes, formal prayer (salat) is performed only in Arabic. No, we Muslims do understand what is in the Qur'an. For one thing, there are such things known as "translations." ;) And even in those places in the Qur'an where there can be multiple meanings to a particular word (fairly commonplace in a language that is highly metaphorical), some of the translators will provide the other possible meanings in the footnotes to clarify matters. And then, of course, many (if not most) Muslims learn Arabic anyway, if only to understand the Qur'an in the original language.

The real reformation is in trying to remove all the ignorance and misunderstandings from the minds of non-Muslims and providing a true knowledge of Islam in its place.

Here is the original writer's response to me:

Catholics said the same thing before vernacular.

Sorry, but I don't think the little boys memorizing their Koran in Pakistani madrassas are so aware as you suggest. At minimum, the necessity of a conduit to the words themselves reinforces outside authority - as it did prior to Luther in Germany.

And the imported imams at European mosques in the likes of Hamburg and London are not always reliable interpreters of subtle concepts to their second generation immigrant followers; teachers for whom German or English may be a second or barely understood language.

I know as well, Jewish boys learning their Bible in Hebrew at yeshiva, are far from the level of comprehension that would permit them their own individual understanding.

And on understanding one's holy books generally, that is a swamp all by itself, and I doubt that the world's Muslims have a special leg up. Learning a "highly metaphorical" book, if even without language problems is rather challenging.

And I didn't mean to suggest anything I didn't explicitly say, but to the larger issue - you don't think Islam is unique, as I said... or are you just trying to pick a fight?

And my first thought was "little boys?" Why would we base the argument about comprehension of the Qur'an on "little boys?" No one expects perfect comprehension of any religious text from any child. They may understand the text well, but probably not as well as most adults. And as for "imported imams," while I granted that there may be cases such as he suggested (where "German or English may be a second or barely understood language"), this hasn't corresponded to my experience with "imported imams." I don't think this guy really understands all of the duties an imam plays within the local community. To be an imam is more than just leading prayers or teaching classes. The "imported imams" I have known had pastoral duties similar to what any priest or minister would perform outside of their churches. In such an environment, where dealing with other people is the primary responsibility, being fluent in the local language is an absolute requirement. So I responded:

No, not trying to pick a fight...

...just trying to give some straight dope to a topic that's often misunderstood. You are not the first person who's raised this particular - and IMO, erroneous - argument before.

Yes, of course, when kids are learning the Qur'an at a very young age, they are often taught by rote. But little boys eventually become big boys, and most of them learn the meaning of the Qur'an, either in their own language or by having learned classical Arabic. I wouldn't expect little kids to have comprehension necessarily of any particular religious text, but I would expect this of adults.

As for "imported imams," what you said may be true for some, although the "imported imams" that I've met have all been fluent in English. Even so, there are many other educational resources available worldwide besides imams, native or imported. One of the things that has struck me in my travels and in meeting other Muslims from around the world (from about two dozen countries so far) has been the similarity of understanding about Islam. It hasn't really mattered how one has learned about Islam (from one's parents, from an imam, from a madrassah, from the Internet, and so on), most Muslims have very similar understandings about Islam. Of course, there are disagreements on particular details, but considering the potential for confusion that could result, the disagreements are, for the most part, not that common.

What I'm trying to say is that, you've made this assumption that Muslims don't understand the Qur'an very well, and that this assumption doesn't correspond with reality. But don't take my word for it; go talk with Muslims in your neighborhood and see what they have to say.

There's been no further response to this last comment so far. I do think that this particular myth about Islam - Muslims don't understand their own Qur'an - is based on wishful thinking. After all, how would they know what's in the Qur'an? Are they so knowledgeable in classical Arabic that they've no need for relying upon translations from others? Have they even read a translation of the Qur'an? I think the fundamental problem can be summed up (yet again) by the Qur'anic ayah:

Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: "The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance." Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah. (2:120)

October 11, 2007

Blue Marble: The Next Generation

Credit: Reto Stockli, NASA

Above are two new "Blue Marble" images of Earth's Eastern and Western Hemispheres, including cloud cover, oceans, phytoplankton activity, topography, and city lights in the nightime part of the hemisphere.

The original project, Blue Marble 2000, was completed for the 30th anniversary of Earth Day and aimed to recreate the view of Earth that Apollo astronauts had from space. The final image, released in April 2000, displayed cloud cover from a single day, the oceans, exaggerated topographic features and vegetation for the Western Hemisphere.

The new images have combined even more of Earth's features into more complete, higher-resolution images of both the Eastern and Western hemisphere. The data used to create the new images span a longer period of time than the original and have a resolution of 500 meters (1,600 feet), versus the 1,000 meters (3, 273 feet) resolution of the older image.

Measurements of reflected sunlight taken by the NASA instrument Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) (aboard both the Terra and Aqua satellites) in July 2004 were used to recreate the land surfaces. MODIS observations of daytime sea ice between late August and early September 2001 were used to recreate polar sea ice in the image.

The ocean was generated by combining Terra MODIS observations of the reflectance of sea water with Aqua MODIS observations of chlorophyll content data over the open ocean to represent the activity of phytoplankton.

Cloud cover is taken from a single-day snapshot by MODIS on July 29, 2001.

City lights as they would appear on Earth at night were taken from data collected by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program mission between 1994 and 1995.

Topography is based on radar data collected by the Space Shuttle Endeavor during an 11-day mission in February 2000.

The new project, dubbed Blue Marble: Next Generation, also includes other images that are monthly composites of the Earth that show the seasonal variations in vegetation and ice cover over an entire year.

October 7, 2007

Should All US Muslims Carry a Special ID?

Tariq Nelson has a satirical video where various Americans are interviewed about their attitudes toward American Muslims.

The thing that strikes me about the responses is how much the people sound like Germans during the Nazi era. In 1996, Daniel Goldhagen argued in his book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, that "...ordinary Germans not only knew about, but also supported, the Holocaust because of a unique and virulent "eliminationist" antisemitism in the German identity, which had developed in the preceding centuries." These people interviewed and their answers differ from their Nazi predecessors only in the details: substitute the word "Jews" with "Muslims," and the responses are identical. Some of the questions asked:

Do you support the proposal for all US Muslims to carry a special ID card?

ID card issued in Mainz by the Nazis in 1939. The bearer of the card is identified as a Jew by the large Gothic letter "J" and by the addition of the middle name "Sarah" to her original name. (Records of the Institut der NSDAP zur Erforschung der Judenfrage—Frankfurt am Main) YIVO Archives

Do you think US Muslims should also wear a badge with the word "Muslim" on it?

Two little boys marked by the Star of David, 1941 (Photo Credits: USHMM and The History Place) (Source)

Which Muslims should have a special security number tattooed on their arm? Only the evil Muslims, only Arab Muslims, or all Muslims?

John Steiner of Novato, California, displays tattooed numbers on his arm from his internment in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Steiner was later transferred to Dachau. (Source)

Would you support the proposal for Muslims to be converted to Christianity, converted to Judaism, or incarcerated until the war is over?

"Selection" on the Judenrampe, Auschwitz, May/June 1944. To be sent to the right meant slave labor; to the left, the gas chambers. This image shows the arrival of Hungarian Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia, many of them from the Berehov ghetto. It was taken by Ernst Hofmann or Bernhard Walter of the SS. Courtesy of Yad Vashem. (Source)

And I'll bet not a single person interviewed realized what they were saying. Jews rightfully tell us that we must never forget what happened during the Holocaust, but these Americans have.

The Tonight Show: Photo Booth at the LA Fair

I happened to catch this on TV just before going to bed last night. It's rather cute.

October 4, 2007

Glenn Greenwald on the Right's Paranoia of the "Grave Muslim Threat"

Glenn Greenwald has had a couple of interesting posts in recent weeks regarding the American right's paranoid fantasies regarding the so-called "grave Muslim threat." In mid-September, Glenn wrote:

Our Civilization Warriors like Kirchick -- last seen justifying multiple new Middle Eastern wars -- are either so fearful of Muslims or so eager to demonize them as the Greatest Threat Ever (and, in the process, depicting themselves as Brave and Courageous Warriors for Freedom) that they live in a world that exists only in their imagination. If there is one thing that exists in abundance, it is anti-Islamic commentary in the U.S. Does Kirchick's paranoid claims about what happens to the brave souls who express such thoughts bear any remote relationship to reality?

Of course, none of this is new to us Muslims, who have read and listened to numerous examples of hate and incitement against Islam and Muslims over the years. Greenwald runs through a list of various Islamophobes (Michelle Malkin, Charles Johnson, Marty Peretz, Norm Podhoretz, Mark Steyn, Robert Spencer, Glenn Beck, etc., ad nauseum), most of whom are familiar names (unfortunately). Greenwald then continues:

Obviously, there is an extremist sect of Islam that is prone to violence, and there have been acts of violence or threats of violence directed against those perceived to have offended Islam, with some truly outrageous and tragic results. The same is true for Christianity, Judiaism and many other religions. And while one can, if one is so inclined, engage in the rather adolescent exercise of claiming that "one side does it more," the very notion peddled by Kirchick and his anti-Islamic warmongering bosses -- that one cannot speak out against Muslims or make a joke about Islam without endangering one's life, and that Americans live in fear of uttering any comments against Muslims -- is fear-mongering and/or paranoia of the highest order.

This lie is also very familiar, and one I've had leveled at me and other Muslims; one woman I knew would wildly criticize Islam and Muslims on Beliefnet... but never on the numerous boards set up to discuss Islam, including the Islam Debate board, which was the appropriate forum set up by Beliefnet for that very purpose. The reason? Muslims would become so incensed by her criticisms of Islam that they would find out her address, come to her house, and kill her. Yeah, right.

So, naturally, Greenwald was criticized by the wingnuts for his daring to upset their fantasy, and he's apparently come up with a theory as to what's driving that fantasy. Glenn published an e-mail he had received, of which I'm including the second paragraph:

I picture this moment, Glenn, and it brings me a little chuckle. It's you, begging some terrorist for your life, pointing out all the wonderful things you wrote that undermined America's resolve to fight against Islamic terrorism. "Look," you say, pulling articles out of your pockets with shaking hands, "I have served you! Clearly this means that I deserve to be spared!"

I won't tell you how it ends, Glenn.

Glenn responded:

One can only marvel at how developed and richly detailed is the fantasy that he has created and carries around with him -- being on one's knees before a Muslim terrorist, begging and pleading and shaking, dialogue about "having served you." It is really right out of some cheap, trite sadomasochistic pornography script, and yet these fears and truly creepy fantasies are the foundation for their political beliefs, driving most of our political discourse and policy.

And this bile that spewed forth really illustrates so much about why we continue to fight one of history's most absurd wars ever, whereby we occupy Iraq indefinitely even though the original justifications for invading have long ago vanished and even those who want to stay have no idea what we are trying to accomplish. It is the same dynamic that fueled so much of the intense and obsessive hatred for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and which drives the insatiable quest for new Enemies to attack, including what looks increasingly like the new War with Iran.

Bombing and killing Muslims is the only path for avoiding the humiliating scenarios which our nation's war cheerleaders carry around obsessively in their heads, and which are currently filling my inbox. They're not going to be the ones on their knees, begging. They're not going to be the "faggots." Instead, they are going to send others off to fight and bomb and occupy and kill and thereby show who is strong and tough and feel protected.

Homosexuality and humiliation. That seems to be what's driving the American right. Is it any wonder the Republican party has gone through so many homosexuality scandals in recent years? No, I don't think so. I think there is a disconnect in the minds of many men on the right, who are seeking the forbidden fruit they have been told all their lives they can't have, yet pursue it anyway, even at the potential cost (and, perhaps, subconscious fulfillment) of being caught. I think they may be enjoying a psychological game, call it "Catch me if you can," and the humiliation of being caught is the payoff. (Now would be a good time for me to review Eric Berne's classic of Transactional Analysis psychology, "Games People Play". ;) I suspect we could find a "game" in there that matches up to this scenario.)

Muslims, of course, by and large don't practice homosexuality, which may be driving the fantasy further: to seek the forbidden fruit among those men who are least likely to succumb to their seductions. Muslims then are "punished" through vilification for both being an object of desire and to prove to the non-fantasizing right that these men are hetero and macho.

Of course, all this is purely speculation and certainly there are other factors at work, but I wouldn't be surprised if the above isn't at least partially correct.

October 3, 2007

Dana Perino, Hypocrite

You just gotta love the hypocrisy of the Bush Administration. The following is taken directly from the White House's website, which has a transcript of Dana Perino's briefing to the White House Press Corps:

Q: And the protests, themselves, seem to have been stilled. What do you make of that?

MS. PERINO: Well, unfortunately, intimidation and force can chill peaceful demonstrations. And reports about very innocent people being thrown into detention, where they could be held for years without any representation or charges, is distressing; and we understand that some of the monasteries have been sealed. Now, obviously, this has, again, a chilling effect on protestors, but we would ask that everyone show restraint and allow those who want to express themselves to be able to do so in Burma. (Emphasis mine.)

Gee, innocent people thrown into detention, held for years without representation or charges, where have I heard that one before?

Oh, yeah.

HT: Crooks & Liars

October 1, 2007

Finding the Inner Muslim Princess

This last excerpt from Eric Walberg's article, Finding the Inner Muslim Prince, deals with two women who have reverted to Islam: Yvonne Ridley and a woman whom I've never heard of before, Elizabeth L. Ridley was actually the subject of the second blog post I wrote, way back in August 2002.

Surprisingly, almost as many Western women are converting as men. In America, one in four converts is a woman; in England, the figure is one in two. British journalist Yvonne Ridley converted to Islam after being held captive by the Taliban during the US invasion of Afghanistan. Working as a reporter for the Sunday Express in September 2001, Ridley was smuggled from Pakistan across the Afghan border. But her cover was blown when she fell off her donkey in front of a Taliban soldier near Jalalabad. The formerly hard-drinking Sunday school teacher became a Muslim after reading the Quran on her release.

She represents a trend of conversion in the West precisely among educated women, who like their male aspirants are in search of spiritual fulfillment, their own "feminist" holy grail. What do her Church of England parents in County Durham make of her new family? "Initially the reaction of my family and friends was one of horror, but now they can all see how much happier, healthier and fulfilled I am. And my mother is delighted I've stopped drinking." What does Ridley feel about the place of women in Islam? "There are oppressed women in Muslim countries, but I can take you up the side streets of Tyneside and show you oppressed women there. Oppression is cultural, it is not Islamic. The Koran makes it crystal clear that women are equal."


Elizabeth L, a graduate in political science and the daughter of affluent white British parents says very movingly: "I know it sounds clichéd, but Allah came knocking at my heart. That's really how it feels. In many ways it is beyond articulating, rather like falling in love." As she read the Quran and prepared for her conversion, the September attacks came and went and failed to derail her spiritual journey: "I can see why people get fed up with the West. Capitalism is enormously oppressive."

Finding the Inner Muslim Prince

The article Finding the Inner Muslim Prince, by Eric Walberg and published in Al-Ahram Weekly Online, is quite an interesting read, and I've decided to re-publish two more excerpts (in addition to the excerpt I re-published the other day on Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall). The first is of two men who reverted to Islam, Leopold Weiss (Muhammad Asad) and Charles Le Gai Eaton. Eaton's quotation, on Western mankind having substituted faith in "progress" and a "better future" for a faith in God and the hereafter, is rather thought-provoking. The next post will deal with two women who reverted to Islam.

...[T]he message of Islam continues to penetrate the Western mind, appealing to the spiritual hunger which is at the basis of the human experience. Just as Americans embraced Buddhism from defeated Japan after WWII, they are increasingly embracing the spirituality of the supposedly conquered Muslim world today.

Over the past 20 years, an estimated 20,000 people in England have converted and, as in many other countries, the movement toward Islam has accelerated. One Dutch Islamic centre claims a tenfold increase in converts since 9/11, while the New Muslims Project, based in Leicester and run by a former Irish Catholic housewife, reports a steady stream. A 1999 United Nations survey showed that between 1989 and 1998, Europe's Muslim population more than doubled. Today, about 13 million Muslims live in Western Europe: 3.9 million in Germany, 3.3 million in Britain, 7.5 million in France. Surprisingly, there has been a surge in conversions to Islam since September 11, especially among affluent young white Britons.

So the tradition that Pickthall embodied continues. Austrian correspondent for the Franfurter Zeitung Leopold Weiss (Muhammad Asad) left Europe in 1922 for what was supposed to be a short visit to an uncle in Jerusalem. Weiss counted himself an agnostic, having drifted away from his Jewish moorings despite his religious studies. There, instead of becoming a Zionist, he was struck by how Islam infused everyday lives with existential meaning, spiritual strength and inner peace, though he was disappointed in the corruption of Muslim society. In the mountains of Afghanistan a young provincial governor finally told him, "But you are a Muslim, only you don't know it yourself." When he returned to Europe, he saw that "the only logical consequence of my attitude was to embrace Islam.

"Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other: nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking, with the result of an absolute balance and solid composure. As a spiritual and social phenomenon, it is still in spite of all the drawbacks caused by the deficiencies of the Muslims, by far the greatest driving force mankind has ever experienced; and all my interest became, since then, centred around the problem of its regeneration."

After the establishment of Pakistan, he was appointed the Director of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction, West Punjab and later became Pakistan's alternate representative at the United Nations. He authored Islam at the Crossroads and Road to Mecca, published a monthly journal Arafat and, like Pickthall, an English translation of the Quran.

Charles Le Gai Eaton, a former British diplomat and author of Islam and the Destiny of Man, relates how he overheard a young woman telling a Christian minister she was not sure she believed in human progress. "The Minister answered her so rudely and with such contempt that I could not resist the temptation to say: 'She's quite right - there's no such thing as progress!' He turned on me, his face contorted with fury, and said: 'If I thought that, I would commit suicide this very night!' Since suicide is as great a sin for Christians as it is for Muslims, I understood for the first time the extent to which faith in progress, in a 'better future' and, by implication, in the possibility of a paradise on earth has replaced faith in God and in the hereafter. Deprive the modern Westerner of this faith and he is lost in a wilderness without signposts."