Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Running Late

I'm a little under the weather, but there's lots of news so I'll post soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's Wrong with Muslims?

Seriously, what's wrong with Muslims? Campbell Brown of CNN has a commentary on the McCain supporter who called Obama an Arab. And I agree with her. So what if Obama was an Arab or Muslim? What would it matter? When did being an Arab or a Muslim become an insult? If I said I wouldn't vote for someone because he was black or because he was Christian, people would think I was some kind of crazy racist. But apparently some people think it's legitimate to not vote for someone because they're an Arab or a Muslim.

First of all, most Muslims are not Arab, they're South/Southeast Asian. Secondly, not all Muslims or Arabs are terrorists! Calling all Arabs terrorists is like saying all Hispanics are drug-dealers because of the cocaine coming from Columbia (I think that's decreased a lot recently). It's a stupid stereotype that has become pervasive in America since 9-11. After Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, people didn't say that all white former military men were crazy sociopaths. When wacko Christians blow up abortion clinics and murder doctors and patients, no one says that all Christians are terrorists. But if someone with darker skin does something wrong, it seems to tap into this crazy white-person fear of people who are different. Let's hope a black president can change this shit.

All About the Emirates

First, the fun news. Abu Dhabi Media Company is teaming up with National Geographic to produce 10-15 films with some actual money behind them.

The bad news. The Emirates are cracking down on everything. This is mainly in Dubai. Dubai has been billing itself as very open and accessible for everyone, not some scary Muslim place. But if you remember, a boy was raped there last year [can't find my post], and several people have gone to jail for drug possession, even for something as stupid as poppy seeds off a bagel. Now, two Brits have been accused of having sex on the beach (for real, not the drink) and sentenced to 3 months in jail and a fine.

The BBC even has a little video of what you can do in Dubai.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Top Stories 10/13

Al-Ahram (Egypt): Post-Eid freefall - The economy in Egypt is taking some hits.

Haaretz (Israel): Labor Party, Kadima sign coalition agreement - "A coalition agreement to bring Labor into a cabinet headed by prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni was signed Monday after over 18 hours of talks and two days after a draft agreement was formulated between Labor Party chairman Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Livni."

Hurriyet (Turkey): Turkey intensifies contacts with regional administration in N. Iraq - Turkey should be meeting with the Kurdish administration of northern Iraq tomorrow.

Yemen Times: Yemeni farmers threaten to swap grapes for qat - Apparently the farmers weren't able to sell all their raisins because of Chinese raisins being smuggled into Yemen and sold for cheap. So the farmers are threatening to start growing qat. Qat is a plant that is legal in Yemen, but not in a lot of other countries. It's a stimulant that can be addictive, and I've heard it's pretty endemic in Yemen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid

Yes, an old Clinton line. BBC News had an article earlier this week about how the Middle East stock markets are falling. And a brief glance at a few Middle East news sites show headlines about the economy. This is definitely world-wide now, which makes sense as so many economies are globalized. Who knows where things will go from here.

The Jewel of Medina: Update

More news. I hadn't realized that Random House was the original publisher, who had decided not to publish the book. It was subsequently bought by Beaufort Books. They're trying to publish the book in the US before any violence starts. Link to an article on Beaufort Books' website from All Things Considered (NPR).

The UK attack story made the Khaleej Times out of Dubai. They also have a Reuters article from September that says the book had already been released in Serbia, was pulled after complaints, but will now be released again. There's also a really good article about Freedom of Speech, by a Muslim who was at UC-Berkeley when The Satanic Verses was published.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain is an Idiot

Again, he's talking about Ahmadinejad attacking Israel. First of all, Ahmadinejad is the president of Iran, but he does NOT run Iran. The clerics run Iran, and the leader is Ayatollah Khamenei. In layman's terms, Khamenei has his finger on the button NOT Ahmadinejad. Secondly, Ahmadinejad is a blow-hard. He's specifically antagonizing the US and Israel with his talk about a "stinking corpse." It's a great distraction for the Iranian people so he can rally them and keep them from seeing their internal problems. To put it another way: it gives him street cred; he's standing up to the man (the US).

Next, the entire purpose of diplomacy is to sit down and talk to each other so that you don't go to war! So what the hell is wrong with talking to Iran? McCain keeps harping on Obama sitting down without preconditions. Personally, I think it makes McCain look like an idiot to keep repeating this phrase that most Americans probably don't even understand. And yes, in the interests of disclosure, I am in favor of Obama (if you couldn't tell by now).

No Cold War!

Hey, you heard it at the debate! McCain says there will not be another Cold War with Russia. (What does this have to do with the Middle East? The Middle East was one of the areas being fought over during the Cold War.) I seem to remember from my course work many years ago, that a bipolar world is pretty stable. And that's what we had during the Cold War - 2 poles, the US and the USSR. Then we went to a more unipolar world. Now, we're getting multi-polar: US, Russia, EU, China, etc. And I seem to remember that is fairly unstable. We live in interesting times.

The Jewel of Medina

That's the name of a new book coming out any time now. It was originally going to be published in England first, but the publisher's office was attacked. So what's the big deal? Well, this is the story of A'isha, the Prophet Muhammad's favorite wife, who was only about 9 years old when they were married. This is not a scholarly work, it is a novel, and I've heard it referred to as "historical fiction." The big problem is that in the book, Muhammad consummates the marriage immediately.

Now, is that historically accurate? I don't know. I will say that from a historical viewpoint, there were many cultures and societies that arranged marriages with underage children, and usually the marriage was not consummated until the child was of age. This was still going on in Egypt in the twentieth century. I will also say, that in some cultures and societies a girl became a woman once she started menstruating, which could happen at a young age. Remember the young girl in Yemen?

My personal opinion is that the marriage was probably not consummated until A'isha was considered to be the proper age. I don't know what that age might have been at that time. But the marriage itself has been used as an attack against Islam. Right after 9-11, the Southern Baptist Convention referred to Muhammad as a child molester, because of A'isha's age. I guess it's too much to expect that they've ever read any historical documents or marriage records.

So, the big deal is that in this book Muhammad has sex with a 9-year-old girl. Many people are going to offended by that. And some are going to believe it's the truth, even if it's not. Just look what happened with the Da Vinci Code. Now, I'm not advocating censorship; I believe in Freedom of Speech. But as I've said before, just because you can say something doesn't mean that you should. But this is bound to set off massive protests in the Muslim world, and anyone writing about Islam in this day and age ought to be aware of that.

So I really have to wonder about the author's motivation. Why would you intentionally write something that might even set off attempts on your life? Remember Salman Rushdie? How many years was he in hiding? (Or is he still in hiding? I can't keep track.) So we have another wave of Islamic protests set to go off with the release of this book. [If they don't protest at first, they will once Westerners who read the book start bashing the Prophet Muhammad.] If I was a conspiracy nut I'd say it was a plot by the Neo-Conservatives to increase Islamophobia in America and sway the election. But I'm not that nutty.

Cars for Women

Woohoo! Women everywhere will be happy to find out that Iran is designing a car just for them. This car should be available in pretty feminine colors and even has a nice jack that won't get grease all over you. And there's even a modest bicycle, although I haven't found any photos of it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Top Stories 10/06

Asia Times - Hockey moms and capital markets - As I've said before, the US economy and the election are big news everywhere.

Gulf Daily News (Bahrain) - Call for Calm - "The Premier yesterday urged calm in the face of a GCC and global credit crunch. "

Jordan Times - Kidnapping - There was a kidnapping in Lebanon. The connection is a little iffy on their site.

Turkish Daily News - Turkey '68: A painful path toward revolution - Interesting article about a leftist movement in 1968. The leaders were hung a few years later.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hate Crime?

A 10-year old girl in a mosque was pepper-sprayed, but apparently that is not a hate crime. This happened in Dayton, Ohio not long after a DVD called Obsession was sent out in newspapers. This DVD talks about the threat of radical Islam, and was sent out by a non-profit organization, in advertising packs that are part of newspapers. But this only happened in election swing-states.

I watched a few minutes of the trailer, to see what it says. Some of it is actually correct: there are Muslim extremists out there who are attacking the West. But the best moment is a quote from the adult daughter of a martyr, who was interviewed for the film. She says the best way for extremists to couch a jihad is in terms of self-defense. Quote: "We are defending ourselves. There is an enemy out there who wants to get us." Hmmm. There is an enemy out there (radical Islam) and it's out to get US. Hey, as long as this movie keeps us safe from 10-year-olds, then I'm all for it.

Update: A lot of newspapers are getting flack for the DVDs.

Muslim Women in Thailand

There's a new movie about a Thai teacher. She started teaching in the Muslim part of Thailand and was kidnapped and beaten by Muslim women. She spent 8 months in a coma and then died. The film follows her story and the investigation into the attack. From the article, it sounds like it wasn't a personal attack; the women were attacking the Thai government. But that doesn't change the fact that a teacher who wanted to help is dead.

Tourists Snatched in Egypt: Update

I'm a little late on this one, but here are the update links.
Tourists released, Freed Western tourists back home, and Europeans describe kidnap ordeal.

The FBI Get It Right

If you read the online news, you've read about a number of FBI busts for terrorism that wouldn't have even been feasible without the FBI informant pushing the event forward. Well, this time they got it right. A man was arrested when he tried to buy grenades to set off by a shopping mall. The FBI had him under surveillance, and the guy he tried to buy the grenades from was also FBI. Kudos.

Saudi Eyes

This is just weird. A cleric in Saudi Arabia thinks that women should wear a full-face veil that only shows 1 eye. Because when women show 2 eyes they want to wear mascara and eye make-up and look sexy! Aside from the practical aspects of trying to walk with only 1 eye (but hey, you can't drive anyway!) I would like to suggest that the problem is not female but male. It wasn't that long ago in the US that a woman who had been raped was asked if she was wearing sexy clothes, as if it was her fault that she was raped (it probably still happens). I have no problem if your religion or your tradition wants women to cover up a bit; in the US, Pentecostal women don't cut their hair or wear pants. But I do have a problem when you force your rules on other women. Lately I've gotten the impression that having women cover up in Saudi Arabia is more about the men. If the women cover up, then the men don't have to have any kind of self-control; they don't need it. Why should they be forced to act like adults?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Movie News

There's a new film being made in Hebron by a young Israeli film-maker. You might want to check out the article. The film-maker said she's trying to illustrate what goes on in Hebron, because most Israelis have no idea about the restrictions placed on the Palestinians living there.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

US Politics

I've tried to stay out of this and continue with Middle East topics, but I'm a bit annoyed now. I'm watching the vice-presidential debate and Sarah Palin just said that the central area of the War on Terror is Iraq. She's wrong. Let me start at the beginning. Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9-11. NOTHING. There was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq until AFTER we invaded. And we didn't get rid of al-Qaeda in Iraq - it was the people of Iraq who had been supporting them who finally decided that al-Qaeda was the greater evil and at that point we started making headway against al-Qaeda. Most of the terrorists seem to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, but Sarah Palin thinks Iraq is where the terrorist battlefield is located.