October 27, 2005

Arabic Courses at Corning C.C.

I was wandering around the Internet a little bit tonight, and visited the website of my old hometown's newspaper. Hey, my high school won the Erie Bell game for the third year in a row! ;) (That's nice, dear; now, what were you saying?) Anyhoo... I came across an article on how Michael Beykirch of Corning Community College was going to start Arabic language classes there, and there were two comments in this article (from June 2005) that struck me. First was a comment that really helps to shed light on America's cultural ignorance about other cultures, in this case Arab culture:

"Beykirch hopes the classes will help shed some light on a very misunderstood part of the world. For instance, he told his students that he obtained some really neat dance music, and one student was surprised to learn that 'they dance over there,' he said."

Yes, folks, Arabs dance. (Ever heard of belly dancing?) I even dance for Milady, although that tends to create howls of laughter. ;)

The second comment was in line with a recent blog post that I wrote, Our Diplomats' Arabic Handicap. You may recall that I made the suggestion to parents that their children should be learning second and third languages, and not just European languages at that.

In the article, "R. Kevin Lacey, who chairs the Classical and Near Eastern Studies Department at Binghamton, said he was ecstatic that instruction in Arabic is expanding to community colleges. Given the climate of misunderstanding that surrounds the Middle East, it is long overdue, he said. 'It's high time. Even high schools should start thinking about this,' Lacey said. 'This should have happened a long time ago.'"

So this is a positive development.

October 26, 2005

Islamophobia Down Under

Being American, I normally follow American news with regard to happenings about Islam and Muslims (the CAIR newsletter helps tremendously in that regard). However, I came across the following Australian news story today that, alhamdulillah, was resolved in our favor. What follows are several news stories that chronicle this case of Australian Islamophobia, along with a few of my own comments.

Scarves more rebellion than religion: Lib
Samantha Maiden and Nicola Lipman, The Australian (26 August 2005)

LIBERAL MP Sophie Panopoulos has backed a ban on Muslim girls wearing headscarves to school on the grounds it is "more an act of rebellion" than religion.

Attacking "politically correct" orthodoxy that a ban should not be debated, Ms Panopoulos said girls attending school in Australia should wear the official school uniform.

"For a lot of younger people it seems to be more an act of rebellion than anything," she said yesterday.

Hmmm, perhaps you would wear a hijab for rebellious reasons as it seems like that's the nature of your personality. However, just because you think that's so doesn't make it so. In fact, I suspect that you don't know anything about how Muslim women think regarding hijab because, if you did, you wouldn't have made any of these silly comments.

"My personal view is I would put a ban on those headscarves, as governments have overseas. That's up to individual schools and state governments but if a school has a uniform that's pretty much it."

Her comments sparked a sharp reaction last night from Sydney's Minaret College principal Mohamed Hassan, where students and staff are required to wear the hijab. "If you go to any beach, you will see people who are almost naked, and nobody tries to make a law about that," he said. "So you have the right to be almost naked but not the right to keep yourself covered?"

Great riposte, brother!

Sydney's Lakemba Public School students Katelyn Hamilton, 11, and her twin Courtney said they proudly wore the headscarves "for our religion". "We should be able to wear them to school. I like wearing it," Katelyn said.

Courtney said: "We wear it so you can tell Muslims apart from other religions. Our God says it's the right thing to do."

Mariam Basheti, 9, who attends Rissalah College, also rejected suggestions that young girls wore it as an act of rebellion against Western culture.

"No, I wear it for the sake of my God, Allah," she said.

Ali Roude, principal of Rissalah College in Lakemba, was one of 14 Muslim leaders invited to meet John Howard in Canberra on Tuesday. He said the right of women and girls to wear the hijab was raised at the meeting.

"I mentioned this to the Prime Minister," Mr Roude said. "If we are talking about tolerance, freedom, Australian values, then we are talking about the right to wear what you want, including the hijab."

Opposition education spokesman Jenny Macklin said yesterday that the ALP would not support a ban, describing the proposal as "extreme".

"There is no place for extremism in Australian society and Sophie Panopoulos's extreme comments are at odds with important Australian values such as tolerance and respect," Ms Macklin said. Education Minister Brendan Nelson told The Australian last night he did not back a ban on Muslim headscarves in Australian schools as long as students' dress was compatible with the school uniform.

"I strongly defend the right of Islamic students, female students, to wear dress to their schools ... which comply with their religious convictions," he said.

Alhamdulillah. May Allah (swt) bless you for this.

Headscarves deny women rights: MP
Patricia Karvelas, The Australian (6 September 2005)

VICTORIAN Liberal MP Sophie Panopoulos has described Muslim women's headscarves as an "uncompromising retrograde curtailment of women's rights".

In a speech to parliament, she defended her recent call to ban Muslim girls wearing headscarves to school, arguing the hijab oppresses women.

No, you're suppressing women who want to dress as they feel is appropriate. Who gave you the right to decide how people dress?

"Why should one section of the community be stuck in the Dark Ages of compliance cloaked under the veil of some distorted form of religious freedom?" Ms Panopoulos said.

Oh, so then you admit that women have the religious freedom to wear hijab if they so choose! So why are you butting into a decision-making process that doesn't pertain to you? Is this "white woman's burden?"

She said it was wrong to compare the hijab to turbans or nun's habits, as her critics had.

"What's not mentioned is that none of these other articles represent the uncompromising retrograde curtailment of women's rights, as does the hijab.

Of course she's not going to like a comparison between hijab and a turban because men wear turbans and that's irrelevant to a feminist. She doesn't like a comparison between hijab and a habit because almost all Christian women who wear a habit are Catholic nuns, and they, of course, have segregated themselves from mainstream society and are few in number, so why should she care? But a hijab, now, that's a problem for a feminist like this woman, because lots and lots of Muslim women wear hijab, and that goes against feminist dogma! Muslim hijabis show an alternative way of life to everyday, ordinary women. Horrors!

"When a suggestion is made to remove from state schools a symbol of what is essentially, as one commentator puts it, 'sexual apartheid', the Labor sisterhood and the left-wing women's movement cry foul.

Hmmm, "sexual apartheid" vs. sexual decadence. I'll go with the so-called apartheid. So do millions of women around the world.

"As a female MP, I am concerned about women's rights in this country. There are those who subscribe to a belief system that devalues and degrades women, that accepts a legal system that would relegate women back to the Dark Ages."

She also warned against the emergence of a frightening "Islamic class" in Australia, supported by a "perverse interpretation of the Koran".

Thus speaketh the bigot who hath probably never read the Qur'an...or knows anything about Islam. Ignorance must be bliss.

Bishop's Comments of Hijab Un-Australian: Apology Demanded

Muslim Women's groups and Civil Rights groups have condemned suggestions by Bronwyn Bishop that the hijab should be banned in schools.

"Her likening of Muslim girls to slaves and Nazis demonstrate a complete ignorance of even basic Islamic teachings," said Ms Maha Abdo, spokeswoman for the Muslim Women's Association. "It is insulting, inflammatory and contrary to everything that the Prime Minister has said about respect for difference and religious tolerance. We are appalled and offended that Ms Bishop would compare Muslim Women to slaves or our religion to Nazism. We demand an unequivocal apology."

White woman's burden once more... After reading Ms. Bishop's biography, these comments sound like a last gasp from a fading politician, clinging to any radical position as long as it can secure her a few more votes.

"Ms Bishop's statements have achieved nothing other than inciting hatred and distrust of Muslims generally and Muslim women in particular, especially at a time when our elected representatives should be playing a role in uniting rather than dividing the community."

"Bishop's argument is Swiss cheese -- it's full of holes," adds Agnes Chong, co-convenor of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN). "On the one hand Ms Bishop claims it's a type of slavery, then she claims it's an act of defiance -- it can't be both. The argument itself is tainted with racist overtones, and assumes Muslim women are weak and not fully intellectually developed. We can assure her that this is absolutely not the case.

"Australia is about freedom and tolerance, and this shows neither. It is unAustralian to prohibit the free exercise of any religion. In fact, it is one of the few rights enshrined in the Australian Constitution."

We call upon the Prime Minister Mr John Howard to take on a leading role in this debate and openly condemn the statements of Ms Bishop. We urge Mr Howard to make it clear that neither he nor the Australian government hold such views nor would they consider any laws which infringe upon the rights of Muslim women in their choice of dress.

Have you noticed by now how these Australian politicians don't practice the Australian values they supposedly represent? Or is it that these two women, Panopoulos and Bishop, don't have any values (or retrograde values at best)?

Now, the good news:

Howard Opposes Bishop's Call For Ban On Headscarves
by Justin Norrie, The Sydney Morning Herald (29 August 2005)

Mr Howard [Prime Minister of Australia] said he opposed Mrs Bishop's push to ban Muslim girls from wearing headscarves at public schools because it would be impractical. But he defended Ms Bishop's "right to express a view".

Mrs Bishop has called the headscarf "a sort of iconic item of defiance", and echoed the call of the Victorian Liberal MP Sophie Panopoulos for a ban. Mrs Bishop's remark prompted much criticism, including a rebuke from the NSW Minister for Education, Carmel Tebbutt, who yesterday ruled out any change to the uniform policy, which allows schools to develop a dress code in consultation with the community. She said she supported the right of students to wear the headscarf as long as it was within the school code.

Mr Howard said: "I don't think it's practical to bring in such a prohibition. If you ban a headscarf you might for consistency's sake have to ban a yarmulke or a turban."

He said he could understand why "people might be affronted by a full coverage including the face. I don't think that is desirable."

However, Labor's education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said Mr Howard had not gone far enough in opposing the MPs. "John Howard must show leadership and pull [them] into line over their calls. We need national leadership … not extremist knee-jerk reactions."

The federal Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, John Cobb, said Mrs Bishop's comments were ignorant and an insult to many Australians. In a statement he said: "The government does not seek to impose cultural sameness on Australians … Do we ban nuns from wearing a habit?"

Emphasis mine.

I can relate...

'Armchair Jihad?' 'Cricket.'

...to the guy. :) From Q-News.com

October 21, 2005

Islamophobes/Hypocrites in Indiana

Just gotta love them yahoos in Indiana! From the Northwest Indiana Times:

A presentation about Muslim culture last month to students at Porter Lakes Elementary School upset parents and sparked an argument about the role of religion in public schools.

On Sept. 30, a second-grade class and the entire third grade listened to a cultural presentation by the family of some Muslim students who are new to the school. In addition to talking about Muslim traditions, the children were read the book "Ramadan" by Carol Gnojewski.

"The presentation was intended to share information, hopefully to answer some of the questions children had," Porter Township School Corp. Superintendent Nick Brown said.

The presentation involved a lot of religious content because religion is heavily intertwined with the Muslim culture, Brown said.

The religious aspect of the assembly angered parents, who say that religion has no role in the public school setting. Several parents intend to discuss the issue at tonight's School Board meeting.

Oh yeah, right! Give me a freakin' break! Such hypocrites! No Christmas or Easter celebrations for your children in the schools then. No Christmas trees, no Christmas carols sung, no mention of the name Jesus (pbuh). After all, religion has no role in the public school setting!

Brown said the assembly was never meant to offend anyone. The school teaches its students about a variety of cultures with the hope of widening their world views, he said.

"We have Chanukah presentations, we do Christmas," Brown said. "It falls just within enlightening people."

How about enlightening your students' parents? It sounds like they need it more than their kids.


Having the new Muslim students in the small, rural community has gotten the rumor churning, including gossip about a possible terrorist search inside the school. None of those threats, including the spotting of a suspicious van, have been substantiated.

Next, the suspicious van will turn into black helicopters.

"We do not have a van or a license plate of interest to the FBI, nor do we have an individual or individuals in the area that are of interest to the authorities," Brown said.

There are also allegations of a special prayer room set aside for use by the Muslim students. Brown would not confirm such a room had been created, but said the school district tries to accommodate the needs of all its students.

"We make accommodations for students for many reasons -- health, academic -- as long as it doesn't interrupt the instructional day," Brown said.

Islamophobia - and jealousy - rearing their ugly heads once more. On the one hand, horrors! Muslims praying in the schools! (No doubt transported there by the black helicopters! ;) Or should that be, "a suspicious van?" ;) ) On the other hand, how that must rankle! Muslims praying in the schools when Christians have been fighting over this issue for years. But, then again, as you all said, "...religion has no role in the public school setting." You can't have it both ways, folks.

Welcome to the wonderful world of hypocrisy.

Note: Emphasis mine.

October 18, 2005

Technical Note and Some Comments for Guys Looking for Sania Material

I've added another section to my sidebar, of "Noteworthy and Popular" posts. I've categorized those posts into various topics, which will undoubtedly grow in number as time goes on, insha'allah. What may surprise some of you is that I've added a section for my three posts regarding Sania Mirza. Not that I consider those posts earth-shattering, but she is incredibly popular based upon my hit-counter statistics. (Right now, over half of all my search engine hits have to do with Sania.) I figured I might as well make it easier for those guys who want to read about her to find the other, related posts.

While I've brought up the topic of Sania Mirza, I'd like to make some comments to those guys who are looking for information and/or pictures of her:

  1. I have NO pictures of Sania Mirza naked or semi-naked. If that's what you're looking for, you've come to the wrong blog. (I never thought I'd say this, but you're making me feel dirty!)

  2. My interest in Sania was primarily about the controversy surrounding her choice of clothing on the tennis court. Otherwise, I know rather little about her. You might want to visit Adarsh Krishna's blog about Sania Mirza instead.

  3. Yeah, I know, Sania's cute and all of you are secretly hoping she'll meet you one day and ask you to be her husband, but...it ain't gonna happen. Time for your reality check! Try asking the girl next door out for a date instead.

October 17, 2005

Our Diplomats' Arabic Handicap

There's a joke I've told my students numerous times over the past few years. It goes:

"A person who can speak three languages is known as?


And a person who can speak two langugages is?


And a person who can only speak one language?

An American!"

I tell this joke in part because I'm always amazed (and a little bit jealous) when my students can come to my lectures in business subjects - that are all given in English - and understand the difficult, theoretical concepts I talk about. After all, about 99% of all my students are non-native English speakers. We Americans have set ourselves up very badly in terms of our ability to speak in languages other than English. In fact, some backwards-thinking Americans have made matters worse, such as the 1998 passage of Proposition 227 in California and the 2000 passage of Proposition 203 in Arizona.

And, now, the chickens are coming home to roost. The Washington Post published an interesting article on Our Diplomats' Arabic Handicap. The United States' State Department has a grand total of eight (8) people worldwide who are able to speak Arabic at the highest levels of fluency. And I suspect that, while the article focuses on fluency in Arabic, the problem goes much deeper, that there are very few individuals employed by the State Department (and other agencies of the government) who can speak other important world languages. When do American school children begin learning foreign languages? When I was a teenager, my middle school had a short-lived pilot program to help teach Spanish. Regular foreign language instruction didn't begin until my sophomore year, with classes in Spanish, French and German - and these are still the only languages taught at my high school. That's waaay too late in life to start learning another language well.


...When I lived in Korea, foreign language instruction began for my university-aged students when they were in middle school. Today's Korean children begin learning English in primary school. Now, granted, most of those students use up all of their English conversational skills with a foreigner like me within a minute or two; however, I once had a 45-minute conversation with a group of ten or so primary school kids I had met at the beach. How many of us could have done the same at that age?

...Here in S'pore, all students learn both English and at least one "Mother Tongue" (either Mandarin Chinese, Malay, or Tamil - a language primarily spoken in southern India). Virtually all Singaporeans who are my age and younger are bilingual.

As Tom Friedman recently pointed out, the world is flat...and getting flatter. The need for Americans to speak another person's language, whether it's for diplomatic, military, educational, commercial, or just plain ol' social purposes is an absolute necessity. And I'm stunned that people still don't get this. For example, just now, while looking at Amazon's webpage for Tom Friedman's book, "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century", I found the following comment, "If the world is so flat, then why is everyone else in the world trying to beat a path to our door?" My response: Don't flatter yourself. Even if the United States opened up its doors to unlimited immigration, 99% of the world would still stay at home. You (Americans) will still have to deal with the rest of the world. And the only way you can really get to know someone is if you understand that person's language (which is also a gateway to understanding that person's culture).

This is an important topic, and one that I've only touched the merest surface of. Insha'allah, I'll write more about this in the future. In the meantime, my advice to those of you with young children is: get them started on a second and third language now!!! And don't just focus on European languages. Yes, Spanish is very helpful if you live in the Southwest, but the future belongs to Asia (if you haven't figured that out yet). Get those kids learning Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic. And it wouldn't hurt if you, mom and dad, joined in the language lessons either.

October 13, 2005

UPDATE: Muslims against Terrorism!


Brother Abdul has made a few more banners (Australia and Denmark), which I've added below. Insha'allah, he'll be coming out with a new banner for Malaysian Muslims soon.

Good reading

Here are a few links to blog entries and articles that I have found interesting recently...and maybe you will too. The first two are blog entries, the latter three are recent articles by Justin Raimando over at antiwar.com. Enjoy!

Thoughts on a visit to the Mosque

I have

AIPAC and Espionage: Guilty as Hell

Bush's Satanic Verses

Democracy: The God That Failed

October 12, 2005

Shepherds Wanted - Must Know Accounting!

It turns out that the country of Hungary is in need of shepherds for its million-plus sheep. And not just that: "...shepherds must have accountancy skills and, since the country joined the EU last year, be capable of applying for grants..." After all, as one former architect turned shepherd says of his new profession, "Being a shepherd isn't just sitting next to your dog on the field all day, smoking a pipe." :)

I don't think becoming a shepherd is going to be one of my occupations anytime soon. ;) While I do have the accounting skills, here in S'pore we have a distinct lack of sheep. :) Still, some of history's greatest men were shepherds in their day: Amos (a Jewish prophet who is not mentioned in the Qur'an), Ibrahim, Musa, Daud and, of course, Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

October 5, 2005

Muslims Against Terrorism

First, let me say Ramadan Mubarak to all my Muslim brothers and sisters out there. Ramadan got off with a bang this morning, almost literally, as we had your classic tropical thunderstorm at 4:20 a.m. (I had set the alarm for Milady and I to get up at 4:30, so I didn't lose that much sleep.) So, another Ramadan begins (my 6th).

A week or so ago, I discovered the blog of Shaik Abdul Khafid, Spiritual Tendencies. Brother Abdul is also a graphic designer, and he had this very nice banner, Singapore Muslims against Terrorism, on his blog (see below). I liked the banner so much, I put it on my own blogs. When he left a comment saying that he liked that I had put his banner on my blogs, I wrote back and suggested that he create some more banners. A lot of my readers on this and my other blogs tend to be American, Canadian and British Muslims, and I think a lot of you would be receptive to the idea of putting a similar banner on your own blogs. Brother Abdul was more than receptive to the idea: he made the banners overnight, and has posted them on his blog, saying, "Go ahead and use 'em people. Show the world where we stand."

Below are the four banners that he has made so far. [Note: Obviously, I have updated the banners below to show the now six banners Brother Abdul has created.] Please feel free to copy them and insert them on your blog templates, and be sure to spread the word!!!

October 2, 2005

Seven Things

I've been tagged on Izzy Mo's blog for the "Seven Things" meme. This was much tougher than it looked. My wife made at least half of the suggestions (if not 2/3s); I wonder if I could do as well if we did this meme for her. :) Anyhoo...

Seven Things I Plan to do Before I Die, Insha'allah
  1. Go on hajj.

  2. Start a business ASAP.

  3. Have lots of kids (preferably, at least three).

  4. Start another non-profit organization (started one once before); not sure what this one would do just yet, though.

  5. Visit the ruins of Hisarlik (the site of ancient Troy), Mycenae, and Knossos; also, to visit the Roman Forum.

  6. Collect as many flags from around the world as possible. (It's a hobby; I collect flags from different countries/states. I've got about a dozen flags in my collection so far.)

  7. Get my friggin' things out of storage back in the States. :)

Seven Things I Can Do
  1. Make my wife laugh. :)

  2. Make ramen, macaroni and cheese, and sandwiches. :)

  3. Play the baritone bugle (I used to be in drum corps) and the trombone.

  4. Write and edit articles (although I prefer editing to writing).

  5. Take decent photographs. (I prefer using my 35mm SLR, but the tiny digital has been used more often in recent months.)

  6. Navigate. :) (My wife may have been born and raised in Singapore, but I'm the one who tells her how to get from one place to another while she drives. ;) )

  7. Read and recite very slowly from the Qur'an. (I've been learning in recent months.)

Seven Things I Cannot Do
  1. Speak fluently in any language other than English (although I know lots of words and phrases in many languages).

  2. Cook or sew very well. :)

  3. Be patient with bureaucracy. (Too true.)

  4. Take too much sugar/carbohydrates. (I'm diabetic.)

  5. Tolerate humidity (which is ironic considering where I live now).

  6. Tolerate racist speech.

  7. Stay away from my computer. ;)

Seven Things I Say Most Often
  1. "Tschhh." (A noise I often make...I think I do it mostly when I'm annoyed by something, but my wife says I do it "whenever." :) Actually, my wife often makes this noise now as well. :) )

  2. "Good morning." (I say this to people regardless of the time of day.)

  3. "What do you care what other people think?" (Picked up from the Richard Feynman book of the same name.)

  4. "No, I don't!"

  5. "Y'all." (I picked this up from my relatives down South.)

  6. "Salaam 'alaikum."

  7. "Terima Kasih/Sama sama." (Malay for "Thank You/You're Welcome." "Terima Kasih" literally means "Received love.")

Seven Things That Attract Me to the Opposite Sex
  1. 1) Personality

  2. Piety/religious values (I needed to find someone who had the same values as me; alhamdulillah that I did).

  3. Someone who wanted to have a family and would be a good mother for my children, insha'allah.

  4. Similar lifestyle. (A friend recently said that my wife and I lead a "boring lifestyle," but that's OK with us because it's the lifestyle we want to live right now.)

  5. Someone who will tolerate my eccentricities. :)

  6. Someone who can comfort me when I'm down and nurse me when I'm sick.

  7. Someone who could cook and sew, because I sure as heck can't. :)