August 30, 2006

Lie by Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold: August 1990 to March 2003

Lie by Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold: August 1990 to March 2003

The first drafts of history are fragmentary. Important revelations arrive late, and out of order. In this timeline, we’ve assembled the history of the Iraq War to create a resource we hope will help resolve open questions of the Bush era. What did our leaders know and when did they know it? And, perhaps just as important, what red flags did we miss, and how could we have missed them? This is the first installment in our Iraq War timeline project.

"Lie by Lie" is a massive Flash database of events leading up to the Iraq War. The "mechanism" for using this database is a little unwieldy and requires a "fine touch," but the amount of information in it already is enormous, and should be of good use for trying to understand recent US history. Check it out!

Cosmophilia: Islamic Art from the David Collection, Copenhagen

The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College is presenting an exhibit of Islamic Art called Cosmophilia, from the David Collection, Copenhagen, from September 1 through December 31, 2006. (Note: Details from each of the following photos can best be seen at the McMullen website. Click on the category titles to go to the individual webpages.)

Cosmophilia (literally "love of ornament") is an exhibition comprised of 123 of the finest examples of Islamic art from the C. L. David Collection in Copenhagen, Denmark. "Islamic art," a term coined by Orientalists, refers not only to the arts made for the faith of Islam, but also to all arts created in lands where Islam was the principal religion. Ornament is one of its most characteristic features, as can be seen from the objects in this exhibition. The works presented incorporate the full array of Islamic art from its origins to modern times, representing vast spans of time (seventh-nineteenth centuries), space (Western Europe to East Asia), and media (textiles; ceramics; metalwares; carved ivory, wood, rock-crystal and stone; parchment; and paper). Rather than the typical organization by chronology, place of origin, function or technique, these works are presented visually to reveal how artisans in the Islamic lands explored four major themes of decoration.

Picture's Caption: Fragment of a Silk lampas, 14th century, Central Asia or China, silk and gilded paper lamella both spun around silk and woven flat, 228 x 63.5 cm., 40/1997

Many people think that Islam prohibits figural representation, but this is not true. The Koran, the Muslim scripture, bans idolatry, or the worship of images, so images are not found in mosques and other religious settings. But many Muslims—like people everywhere—enjoyed pictures of people and animals in their everyday lives. Sometimes figures are shown realistically, as in this beautiful velvet from seventeenth-century Iran or India, inwhich an elegant lady sniffs a flower in a garden surrounded by birds and animals. in other cases, the figures are more abstract, making it possible to interpret the representation in several different ways.

Picture's Caption: Velvet with lady in a niche, 17th century, India or Iran. Silk and metal lamella spun around silk, 143 x 69 cm. 37/1995

The central miracle in Islam is the Koran, which Muslims believe was revealed in Arabic to the Prophet Muhammad in early seventh-century Arabia. Reverence for the word therefore became a primary theme of religious art, as artists endeavored to make the physical presentation of God's word as beautiful as its content. These two lines come from one of the largest manuscripts of the Koran ever made, a loose-leaf copy produced about 1400 for the congregational mosque built by the warlord Timur at Samarkand in Central Asia. Artists everywhere used verses from the Koran to decorate Islamic art and architecture, and the appreciation of beautiful writing led them to exploit the decorative potential of Arabic script by developing many styles to use in different media and contexts.

Picture's Caption: Leaf from a large Koran manuscript written in Muhaqqaq script, 1400-1405, Afghanistan. Ink and gold on paper, 45 x 98 cm. 20/1987

Artisans in the Islamic lands expanded the pre-Islamic repertory of geometric designs to create stunning compositions based on strapwork and tile patterns of triangles, squares, polygons, stars, and other regular forms. Many designs start from 45° or 60° grids that yield patterns of 8-pointed stars and hexagons, while others, such as this panel from a pair of seventeenth-century Iranian doors, are based on an extremely complex arrangement of pentagons and ten-pointed stars. Each individual element is made up of hundreds of minute rods of wood, bone, and metal that were glued together in other geometric patterns and then sliced to form tiles. Mathematicians in the Islamic lands were extremely sophisticated (algebra and algorithms, for example, were brought to the West by Muslim scientists), but artisans seem to have worked out most of these designs—even the most complex examples like this one—using traditional "tricks of the trade" without recourse to higher mathematics.

Picture's Caption: One side of a double door, 17th century, Iran. Several types of wood; patterns inlaid with brass, ivory, and wood, 242.5 x 74 x 8.7 cm. 35/2000

Artisans in the Islamic lands also inherited a rich tradition of decoration with vines, stems, leaves, and flowers. Vegetal ornament was used regularly and consistently in all the arts throughout the region. The depiction of lush vegetation and verdant gardens was undoubtedly attractive to the inhabitants of this dry and often dusty part of the world, and these designs may also have recalled the Garden of Paradise promised to Muslims in the Koran. Sometimes artists depicted gardens realistically, but their most distinctive achievement was the transformation of naturalistic vegetal ornament into the arabesque, an abstracted form in which plants and leaves grow according to the laws of geometry rather than nature. In these large tiles from the hood of a fourteenth-century Persian mihrab (the niche in the Mecca-facing wall of a mosque), for example, the vines and leaves grow in choreographed symmetry from a central source.

Picture's Caption: Mihrab tile, late 13th century, Kashan, Iran. Fritware, cast in two parts and painted in blue and turquoise in, and in luster over, an opaque white glaze, 76 x 74 cm. 1/1968

Artisans often combined these four themes within single works of art. This stunning doorknocker, probably made in southern Italy around the year 1100, for example, takes the shape of a lion's head which grasps a cock-headed ring in its maw. His mane is geometricized into a flame-like halo, and the whole composition is surrounded by an Arabic inscription set on a vegetal ground. The inscription, written as if the lion itself were speaking, states "I attest that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His prophet." The inscription is thus a visual pun, written so that when the cock's head strikes the plate, it is as if the lion were roaring forth, attesting to his faith in Islam.

Picture's Caption: Lion-headed doorknocker, 11th century, Southern Italy. Cast and engraved bronze, partly inlaid with niello, 44.3 cm. 50/2000

Curated by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, Cosmophilia was organized by the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College in collaboration with the David Collection, Copenhagen. Major support has been provided by the Calderwood Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum. The exhibition is dedicated to Norma Jean and the late Stanford Calderwood, who did so much to foster the study of Islamic art at Boston College. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

August 26, 2006

Maynard Ferguson: 1928 - 2006

Maynard Ferguson: 1928-2006From Allah (swt) do we come, and unto Allah do we return. I'm sorry to hear that Maynard Ferguson has passed away. He was 78.

For those of us in the drum corps activity, Maynard was a major inspiration. My corps in 1978, the Empire State Express, played Maynard's arrangement of "Scheherazade," from the "New Vintage" album. It's a great song, and very typical of Maynard's style, with the elongated, park-and-blow double high C. On the recording, Maynard holds that double high C for - oh - 45 seconds or so. Our lead soprano could only hold it for about 20 seconds at the most. Maynard Ferguson: New VintageTheories abounded as to how Maynard could hold the note for so long, the most popular being "circular breathing," where Maynard could somehow both breathe in and play the trumpet simultaneously. The article linked above suggests that Maynard credited yoga for his ability to sustain his notes.

Maynard: You will be missed.

What is Islam?

And so I write about our need to do da'wah intelligently and I come across this video, which is very nicely done and provides basic answers to non-Muslims about Islam. Run time: 4:54.

Willful Ignorance About Islam

Izzy Mo had an interesting comment on her blog: "Yesterday, a coworker asked me if there was a difference between Islam and Muslims. Really, she did. She thought that Islam was something different from what Muslims practice. It was then when I realized just how much work we have to do. I forget that there are millions of Americans who don’t know the basics of our deen. And you’re a genius if you know that Muslims don’t eat pork."

The fact of the matter is that everything written above is true. Milady and I stumbled upon a short Youtube video (run time: 4:37) by the Muslim comedian Mo Amer who asked a number of Americans outside a Houston comedy club questions about Islam and Arabs. Even Izzy's comment, "'re a genius if you know that Muslims don't eat pork" is correct to a degree: in the video, five of seven respondants got the question right, but one answered "beef" and another "cow."

I've had my own experiences with people who are ignorant about Islam although, thankfully, incidents like Izzy's aren't too common here in S'pore where the Muslim community has been living for centuries and the non-Muslims are relatively knowledgeable. Most of my experiences have been on the Internet (Beliefnet in particular, when I used to be a regular there).

I do agree that there's a strong need to educate people around the world (not just Americans) about Islam. The problem, IMO, is that many people have hardened attitudes about Islam that are wrong. Not only do these people not have open minds about Islam, but they tend to have both a shallow understanding about Islam and Muslims while being argumentative (the "insta-expert" syndrome). This past week, I came across a post that seems to sum up the depths to which Islamophobes sink. This clown says, "Oh, yes, we're willfully ignorant about Islam," to which I would agree, but his solution is that people should read the various websites he's linked to, all of which are stridently Islamophobic (the usual suspects, most of which should be familiar to my Muslim readers and none of which are deserving of additional attention). To the clown I would say, "Yes, you and people who think like you are willfully ignorant of Islam, very much so, but your sources of information about Islam will only make you more ignorant, not less." (Not that I think the likes of him would care.)

And so, while I agree with Izzy when she says, "...we need some dawah power", we must also do our da'wah intelligently, applying the principles of advertising when we can*, so as to counter the propaganda of the "willfully ignorant" and change some attitudes, insha'allah.

* For who has the most experience in trying to counter negative attitudes publicly than advertisers?

August 17, 2006


'Abd al-Hamid ibn Yahya al-Kitab, an Umayyad official credited with the creation of this genre, defined its aims as follows:

"Cultivate the Arabic language so that you may speak correctly; develop a handsome script which will add lustre to your writings; learn the poetry of the Arabs by heart; familiarize yourself with unusual ideas and expressions; read the history of the Arabs and Persians, and remember their great deeds."
-- Paul Lunde, Islam: A Brief History, p. 88

August 14, 2006

1988 Velvet Knights (2 Cool; in 4 parts)

Been wandering around Youtube again and came across a video of the 1988 Velvet Knights at DCI (held in KC that year). One of the benefits of my having started Copper Star (the senior corps) back in '98 was getting to meet and know a bunch of guys who had marched in VK over the years.

This particular video has been cut up into four parts (the songs and run times are below), but all four make up the entire show. Highlights include the bull fight during Malaguena (I've been told that Copper Star alumnus Sean C. was the back end of the bull), the "Pee Wee Herman" bicycle ride during the Cannibal Fun drum solo and, of course, the bikini girl popping out of the hat at the end of the show. Sorry, no shark this year. :P

Magical Mystery Tour - Part II:
Part 1: Magical Mystery Tour * Zorba The Greek (run time: 2:04)
Part 2: Malaguena (run time: 3:39)
Part 3: Cannibal Fun Drum Solo (run time: 2:37)
Part 4: There's No Place Like Home * America The Beautiful * Yankee Doodle Dandy * You're a Grand Old Flag (run time: 2:52)

Ahree Lee: Me

This is an interesting short film (run time: 1:08) of an Asian woman (Korean?) who took one photograph of herself every day for three years, beginning on 1 November 2001. It's worth running through several times to watch various aspects of herself change over time, in particular her hair, her lips (whether she's got lipstick on or not), and her glasses.

Update: I've discovered that the film playing on Youtube is the "short" version. The full length version (run time: 3:00) of "Me" can be found at To be honest, there's little difference between the two versions, except for two additional minutes of flickering Ahree's. Trivial factoid: One second's worth of film has about seven day's worth of photographs (another hint that the Youtube version of this film only shows one year out of the three that have been filmed).

Ahree's website also has another short film worth watching: Everyone. "This counterpart to Me, comprising images of everyone I could convince to let me take their picture in the fall of 2001, fleshes out the other end of the spectrum of homogeneity to heterogeneity."

August 12, 2006

1974 Madison Scouts (DCI Prelims)

I'm quite surprised - and very pleased - to find this show on youtube. Madison fielded a great corps that year, but - alas - came in 2nd at DCI. (One of my good friends, Garry P., played with the 1st place Santa Clara Vanguard that year.) Still, this was the corps I was rooting for in '74 (and '75). DCI was held that year at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, 40 miles from home. So, yes, I'm in the crowd ... somewhere. :) (In the summer of '74, I had marched my first year in the Mark Twain Cadets at the ripe old age of ... 12. :) )

Repertoire: Ballet in Brass * Bond Street * God Bless the Child * Slaughter on 10th Avenue (from On Your Toes) * Brian's Song. Run time: 13:04.

August 11, 2006

Ann Coulter Gets Her Wish...

...and wears a burqa. :)

"I'm late, I'm late for a very important date..."

This story just cracked me up. Yeah, lady, all those speeding tickets are just so much garbage. Throw them away; don't worry, be happy. :) And, uh, make sure you don't smash into any cars as your roar back and forth on the freeway! From the August 11 Arizona Republic:

A woman who was caught 69 times by Scottsdale speed cameras since March told detectives she threw the tickets away because she didn't think anything could happen to her. Now, she faces jail and $11,000 in fines.

Five of the citations issued to Francesca Cisneros, 32, of Chandler, were criminal speeding violations. She also was caught once by a red-light camera, and she faces two counts of driving on a suspended license.

Cisneros told officers she speeds because she often is late for meetings, Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said.

All but five of her 69 speeding tickets were on Loop 101; her top speed was 86 mph. The unpaid tickets are a Scottsdale record.

August 10, 2006

On Da'wah in the West

The following is a comment I wrote to Emmanuel, a Catholic Malaysian blogger, who was responding to a post written by MENJ regarding South Korean missionaries who are being expelled from Afghanistan. After posting this comment, I thought I would cross-post it onto this blog and some others.

Emmanuel: Da’wah, as practiced by Muslims in the West, is almost invisible. I do not say this negatively, merely as a statement of fact. In the US (at least), da’wah to non-Muslims is rarely done face-to-face, unlike, say, the Mormons or JWs. We don’t ride around the neighborhood on bicycles in white shirts and dark ties, asking people to convert. We also don’t pass out cartoon tracts like Jack Chick’s or booklets like the JW’s, leaving them lying around for people to read (although I will say I don’t think badly of the JW booklets). In fact, the only Muslim da’wah group I’ve ever met members of face-to-face were only interested in meeting other Muslims, trying to get lax brothers and sisters to become more devout. Certainly no one ever came up to me and asked me to become Muslim, which is more than the Christians (including some members of my family) can say.

I see by your blog that you’re Catholic (as I was, once, long ago). Muslims are like Catholics in that neither group really needs to do da’wah. If someone is interested in Catholicism, you try to answer their questions and perhaps provide a Bible to help them understand the religion or direct them to other people who are more knowledgeable. That’s how it is in Islam. For many Muslims in the West, the greatest source of Da’wah is the Qur’an itself. It was my study of the Qur’an over a period of four years that ultimately led to my becoming a Muslim. A lot of questions were answered for me by people on the internet, whether in the form of reading articles or by sending e-mails to ask peoplle questions, but in all cases it was I who made the initial contact.

But far too many Christian missionaries use underhanded tactics in trying to convert people. Unlike MENJ, I do think it is constructive, both in the long- and short-term, to ban missionaries. Read the famous article, The Stealth Crusade, published in Mother Jones magazine four years ago, and you’ll begin to understand some of our concerns.

August 9, 2006

Happy B-day, Sg!

While I'm working on blogger, I should also like to say, "Happy 41st Birthday, Singapore, from one of your PRs!" :) Today is National Day.

Juan Cole on the Misnomer of "Islamic Fascism"

Juan Cole, whom you should read if you don't already, has been on a roll since the crisis in Lebanon began. His latest post, Bush, Islamic Fascism and the Christians of Jounieh, has a very good passage about how Bush's reference to "Islamic fascism" is both incorrect and offensive. First, some background:

Bush is on vacation, his favorite place to be during a major crisis. The August retreat is the only open admission he makes that Cheney and Rumsfeld are actually running the country, and he just doesn't need to be in his office. The only difference between his stonewalling of Lebanon and the way he let New Orleans drown is that he has put away the banjo this summer, at least in public view. He had someone tie a necktie on him and stopped manically clearing brush for long enough to come out with Condi and hold a press conference. He lied, saying that no one wants to see the violence continue. He wants to see the violence continue. Otherwise he would insist on a ceasefire. You see, if you don't have a ceasefire, the violence continues. If you oppose a ceasefire, you are saying you want the violence to continue. He does.

Then he tried to explain the war in Lebanon by saying this,

'They try to spread their jihadist message -- a message I call, it's totalitarian in nature -- Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.'


...[T]here are other problems with what Bush said. He contrasted "Islamic fascism" to "democracy," presumably a reference to the Lebanese Hizbullah.

This point is incorrect and offensive for many reasons.

It is a misuse of the word "Islamic." "Islamic" has to do with the ideals and achievements of the Muslims and the Muslim religion. Thus, we speak of Islamic art. We speak of Islamic ethics.

There can be Muslim fascists, just as there can be Christian fascists (and were, in Spain, Italy and Germany, and parts of Central and South America; the Spanish fascists and the Argentinian ones, e.g., were adopted by the United States government as close allies.)

But there cannot be "Islamic" fascists, because the Islamic religion enshrines values that are incompatible with fascism.

Fascism is not even a very good description of the ideology of most Muslim fundamentalists. Most fascism in the Middle East has been secular in character, as with Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Fascism involves extreme nationalism and most often racism. Muslim fundamentalist movements reject the nation-state as their primary loyalty and reject race as a basis for political action or social discrimination. Fascists exalt the state above individual rights or the rule of law. Muslim fundamentalists exalt Islamic law above the utilitarian interests of the state. Fascism exalts youth and a master race above the old and the "inferior" races. Muslim fundamentalists would never speak this way. Fascism glorifies "war as an end in itself and victory as the determinant of truth and worthiness." Muslim fundamentalists view holy war as a ritual with precise conditions and laws governing its conduct. It is not considered an end in itself.

Another excellent post by Dr. Cole is One Ring to Rule Them All, in which he speculates that the US-Israeli war on Lebanon is merely phase I of a larger strategy to deprive Asian economies (China and India in particular) of access to middle eastern oil in favor of the American economy:

Destroy Lebanon, and destroy Hizbullah, and you reduce Iran's strategic depth. Destroy the Iranian nuclear program and you leave it helpless and vulnerable to having done to it what the Israelis did to Lebanon. You leave it vulnerable to regime change, and a dragooning of Iran back into the US sphere of influence, denying it to China and assuring its 500 tcf of natural gas to US corporations. You also politically reorient the entire Gulf, with both Saddam and Khamenei gone, toward the United States. Voila, you avoid peak oil problems in the US until a technological fix can be found, and you avoid a situation where China and India have special access to Iran and the Gulf.

This one little paragraph is only a tiny bit of the larger argument; I suggest you read the entire post. (The whole post has created 81 comments to date - some of which have their own excellent analyses - which is about 3-4 times the number that Dr. Cole normally receives on any given post that he writes.)

August 6, 2006

It's the End of the World as We Know It...

And I feel fine.

Milady and I had a good laugh over the following Daily Show clip on the apocalypse (run time: 5:15):

This clip made me wonder, the American news industry has been stupid for a long time, sure, but just how completely retarded has it gotten since I left home? Then again, when I read about what's going on at the White House...

Asked what "types of people" have offered the White House advice on the Middle East, [White House Press Secretary Tony] Snow said, "Again, at this point, I really don't want to do it." Asked if "religious leaders" have been part of these meetings, Snow said, "Again, I'm just not going to go any further."

Why all the secrecy? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that White House recently invited a Christian apocalyptic fiction writer to chat about biblical prophecy.

The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin spoke with Joel C. Rosenberg — who recently told CNN that the rapture may be near and it'd be a good idea for people to start taking care of unfinished business — who explained that he was invited last year to "speak to a 'couple dozen' White House aides in the Old Executive Office Building — and has stayed in touch with several of them since."

And who is Joel Rosenberg?

Rosenberg — like Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the authors of the phenomenally popular "Left Behind" series — writes fiction inspired by biblical prophecy about the apocalypse. The consistent theme is that certain current events presage the end times, the Rapture, and the return of Jesus Christ. Rosenberg's particular pitch to journalists is that his books come true. ...

Rosenberg told Froomkin that a White House staffer contacted him and said, "A lot of people over here [in the White House] are reading your novels, and they're intrigued that these things keep on happening…. Your novels keep foreshadowing actual coming events…. And so we're curious, how are you doing it? What's the secret? Why don't you come over and walk us through the story behind these novels?"

So, why should I be surprised that this particular administration has an interest in the apocalypse? After all, there's little understanding at the very top about certain critical distinctions. You know, like the evil "Moozlems" are all the same, right?

Former Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith is claiming President George W. Bush was unaware that there were two major sects of Islam just two months before the President ordered troops to invade Iraq...

Galbraith, the son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith reported that he and an (unnamed) Iraqi American "...spent some time explaining to Bush that there are two different sects in Islam — to which the President allegedly responded, 'I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!'"

Now I know where the news industry's getting their cue from.

August 5, 2006

The Mansions of the Stars

I have been rather irritated by the Israelis, the Bush administration, and their various lapdogs over the past few weeks (for the obvious reason). Frequently, when I'm in this state of mind, I'll pick up the Qur'an and read randomly from it.

Sometimes, when I do this random reading, I get the feeling that the Qur'an knows what I need to read, whether it's to supply an answer to a question or to soothe an emotion. Last night, I came across the following passage. Insha'allah, it applies to those Israelis, Americans and others who support the Israeli killing of innocents:

"Woe to the makers of the pit (of fire), Fire supplied (abundantly) with fuel: Behold! they sat over against the (fire), And they witnessed (all) that they were doing against the Believers. And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah, Exalted in Power, Worthy of all Praise!- Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness to all things. Those who persecute (or draw into temptation) the Believers, men and women, and do not turn in repentance, will have the Penalty of Hell: They will have the Penalty of the Burning Fire." (85:4-10)

August 2, 2006

Rush ben Laden

Remember these comments the next time anyone complains about suicide bombings. All these "great religious scholars" agree: it's open season on killing civilians. /snark>

"Until civilians -- frankly, I'm not sure how many of them are actually just innocent little civilians running around versus active Hezbo types, particularly the men -- but until those civilians start paying a price for propping up these kinds of regimes, it's not going to end, folks. What do you mean, civilians start paying a price? I just ask you to consult history for the answer to that.”
Rush Limbaugh, on the Qana Massacre
July 31, 2006

"According to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as 'innocents' of the enemy. All of the discussions on Christian morality are weakening the spirit of the army and the nation and are costing us in the blood of our soldiers and civilians."
Yesha Rabbinical Council, on the IDF attack in Kfar Qanna
July 30, 2006

"We declared jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal . . . As for what you asked regarding the American people, they are not exonerated from responsibility, because they chose this government and voted for it despite their knowledge of its crimes in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and in other places."
Osama bin Laden, in his interview with Peter Arnett
March 1997

Hat tips: Billmon and Crooks and Liars.

August 1, 2006 Pre-Ramadhan Sale and August Wallpaper

Salaam 'alaikum. is happy to announce its Pre-Ramadhan Sale! Prices for all of our Sparkly tudungs have been cut by US$10 each. With Ramadhan starting next month, in late September (on or around the 23rd), insha'allah, many of us will be rather busy in preparing for Eid. Now is the best time to purchase one of the beautiful Sparkly tudungs, before you begin visiting family during the month of Shawwal.

The August wallpaper is also available for Mailing List Members. This month's picture is of Costus pulverulentus (and an ant). Sadly, we don't know what the common name of this plant is, but we do know that it's a perennial tropical herb distantly related to ginger. The photograph was taken here in Singapore, just outside the new National Library.