Today, in the West, there are no good excuses for religious belief - unless we think that ignorance, reaction and sentimentality are good excuses.This kind of statement, which I personally sympathize with, is not really helpful in understanding a thoroughly religious society -- and, in case Amis hadn't noticed, there are still plenty of religious people in the West too. Where the essay really falls apart is at the third part, which is so full of bad arguments and mangled facts that it barely makes any sense. We learn, for instance, that:
Like fundamentalist Judaism and medieval Christianity, Islam is totalist. That is to say, it makes a total claim on the individual. Indeed, there is no individual; there is only the umma - the community of believers.Because there is no concept of individuality in the Muslim world, nor many varied interpretations of what Islam is, how it is practiced, or the degree to which it informs everyday life. We also get the obligatory reference to the number of books the Islamic world publishes or translates and an approving reference to Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong. This is then followed by comparisons between Islamism (again, with no notion of nuance and what a broad label that term is) and Nazism and Bolshevism. The worst is kept for last:
First, the Middle East is clearly unable, for now, to sustain democratic rule - for the simple reason that its peoples will vote against it. Did no one whisper the words, in the Situation Room - did no one say what the scholars have been saying for years? The 'electoral policy' of the fundamentalists, writes Lewis, 'has been classically summarised as "One man (men only), one vote, once."'Rather strange, considering that democratically elected Islamist parties in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Turkey (among others) have reiterated many times their commitment to democratic processes. In Turkey, they are actually in power. The track record of Islamist governments that reached power by force may not be great, but thus far the ones who have come through a democratic process have not proved a threat to that process. Also:
Second, Iraq is not a real country. It was cobbled together, by Winston Churchill, in the early Twenties; it consists of three separate (Ottoman) provinces, Sunni, Shia, Kurd - a disposition which looks set to resume.I'm not sure what country is "real." I suggest that Amis should prepare himself for the inevitable dissolution of his own England, which surely will return to its Anglo and Saxon components anytime now. I could go on -- just after this comes a great line about the fall of Baghdad being particularly painful for Muslims because it is the seat of the Caliphate (actually many Arab and non-Arab Muslims recognized the Caliphate in Istanbul until 1921) -- but it all gets rather tiresome. Yes, Martin Amis, some Islamists are repellent, reactionary people with a bankrupt philosophy. But we hardly needed an examination of Islamism that reads like a hastily-researched essay of an Oxford undergraduate (i.e. wittily written, smug with borrowed moral authority trying-to-please-his-tutor-a-little-too-hard but ultimately utterly mediocre) when, five years after 9/11, newspapers should be educating their audience about the many fascinating, occasionally worrying but also often positive, trends in contemporary Islamism.
Out of his many options, he picked driving around DHL cars. No surprise actually, as he told the media in spring 2005 how much he has to sacrifice for serving his country, such as simply strolling Cairo's streets.
I think we should understand that he is still very much into his old job, as you can see on this video clip, that has now been youtubed.
September 11, 2006
It was a graveyard. That was the only way to describe it. The place where old war machines came to die. Row upon row of massive sand-colored metal tanks, their huge guns each raised to a different height, sat there like a frozen image of a clumsy chorus line.
There weren't just tanks either, massive artillery pieces, trucks, strange amphibious vehicles that looked half boat – an automotive mating ritual gone horribly wrong, and all covered in the graffiti of their conquerors.
Beneath the layers of black spray paint could be seen the original unit designations of these shattered old Iraqi tanks left to rust in a field at the edge of Taji base, somewhere north of Baghdad.
Despite the huge potential for Arabization, companies face several hurdles in adapting western software for Arabic users, says Maged Makram, localization project manager at Microsoft Egypt. â€œArabization is much more challenging than converting to another western language. For example, if converting to French, a company simply has to replace the English text with French text, then do a quick check on the interfaces, and then theyâ€™re done. For Arabic, it is completely different. All screens need to be mirrored (switched to read right to left), icons and arrows need to be flipped, and menus need to be reversed.â€�
Another difficulty is the lack of agreement over PC-related terminology. â€œSome companies use one Arabic word, while others use another,â€� Makram says. For example, some software companies translate the word â€œdisk driveâ€� as â€œsawaq al-aqras,â€� literally â€œdriver of the disk.â€� Microsoft, however, prefers â€œmuharrik al-aqras,â€� literally â€œdisk engine,â€� which is closer to the original English meaning. Such discrepancies can confuse users when switching between programs, especially those unfamiliar with computers.....and on the English characters domain name system:
Perhaps the last major barrier to a fully Arabic Internet is the domain name system â€“ traditionally the realm of English characters. As it stands, at least a basic familiarity with English characters is necessary to browse websites. However, the latest versions of web browsers such as Internet Explorer 7 beta and Firefox 1.5 make it possible to type in website addresses in non-English scripts including Arabic, Cyrillic and Chinese. These browsers have a built-in conversion tool that changes the non-English characters of so-called internationalized domain names (IDNs) into Punycode, an encoding system that lets browsers visually represent domain names in multilingual script.
The former member of parliament for the Muslim Brotherhood, Mukhtar Nouh was planning on releasing his first CD with political songs, when reaching a dead end, in form of the entertainment cencorship committee. The committee, refused to comment on why they decided not to give Nouh´s CD the license and the go ahead, but judging from this following quote, the critical lyrics is behind the decision. "One song in the album talks about a ruler who tours his country every year. In one province, one of the citizens stops the ruler to ask why food, medicines and jobs have become so scarce," recounts the bearded Nouh. "The next year, another citizen asks the ruler the same question, but adds where has the first citizen gone!"As Fustat points Nour is a middle-generation Brother. A lawyer and former treasurer at the Bar Association, he was arrested in 1999 and put on military trial at Huckstep army base over a long period before being sentenced in 2001. In the early 1990s, Nouh was instrumental -- some say the key strategist -- in the Brotherhood's push in syndicate elections. He was released, I believe, in 2002. If anyone has Muslim Brotherhood political songs, or any other interesting political songs, do let me know. I'd love to create an archive of Egyptian political songs (I have a pretty big Sheikh Imam collection, but would like Islamist stuff too.)
Masked gunmen bundled Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, editor-in-chief of the private daily Al-Wifaq, into a car outside his home in east Khartoum late Tuesday. Police found his severed head next to his body today in the south of the capital. His hands and feet were bound, according to a CPJ source and news reports. Mohammed Taha had previously angered Islamists by running an article about the Prophet Muhammad. He had also written critically about the political opposition and armed groups in Sudan’s western Darfur region, according to press reports. No group has claimed responsibility for the killing, Reuters reported. Mohammed Taha, 50, was an Islamist and former member of the National Islamic Front. But in May last year, he was detained for several days, his paper was closed for three months, and fined 8 million Sudanese pounds (US$3,200), after he offended the country’s powerful Islamists by republishing an article from the Internet that questioned the ancestry of the Prophet Muhammad. Demonstrators outside the courthouse demanded he be sentenced to death for blasphemy. Sudan is religiously conservative and penalizes blasphemy and insulting Islam with the death penalty.A crackdown on the press seems to have intensified over the past year, although Sudan had until then a lively and diverse press (even if it was mostly not free.) On the bright side, Chicago Tribune correspondent Paul Salopek, who had been charged with espionage, has been released thanks to the efforts of New Mexico's governor:
EL FASHER, Sudan, Sept. 8 -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek said from a Sudanese prison Friday night that the government would soon release him and two Chadian colleagues after a 34-day confinement on charges of espionage and producing "false news." President Omar Hassan al-Bashir agreed to release Salopek after meeting with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) in Khartoum, Sudan's capital. The three men are expected to be freed Saturday, Richardson's office said in a statement. Salopek, a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, was arrested Aug. 6 while working on a story for National Geographic magazine about the Sahel region that runs along the southern edge of the Sahara.
BAGHDAD — Death squads move with impunity after curfew. Abductions are rampant, but kidnappers are rarely caught. Corruption has poisoned every layer of government, yet few have faced criminal charges. Double-park a car on a Baghdad street, however, and you can be sure of this: The law will hunt you down. Abdel Nasser, a 32-year-old traffic officer, describes himself as a "mujahid," or holy warrior, battling evildoers in a city without signs, traffic lights or speed limits. In this pandemonium of sputtering wrecks and speeding U.S. military Humvees, directing the flow of traffic is a religious duty, he said. Nasser and his colleagues are beacons of civility in the choppy waters of Baghdad traffic, where the term "riding shotgun" is taken quite literally. Until recently, they valiantly defended deadly intersections with only a whistle. Now they have a handgun too.The writer got a little carried away with that lead... (Thanks, E.H.)
Some fellow passengers are questioning why an Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada Jazz flight in Montreal last week for praying. The man was a passenger on a Sept. 1 flight from Montreal to New York City when the incident happened. The airplane was heading toward the runway at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport when eyewitnesses said the Orthodox man began to pray. "He was clearly a Hasidic Jew," said Yves Faguy, a passenger seated nearby. "He had some sort of cover over his head. He was reading from a book. "He wasn't exactly praying out loud but he was lurching back and forth," Faguy added. The action didn't seem to bother anyone, Faguy said, but a flight attendant approached the man and told him his praying was making other passengers nervous. "The attendant actually recognized out loud that he wasn't a Muslim and that she was sorry for the situation but they had to ask him to leave," Faguy said.Can you believe that? They kicked him off the plane even though he wasn't a Muslim.