Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mugged by Iraq's reality

"The shipment of computer laptops that arrived in Iraq's main seaport in February was a small but important part of the U.S. military's mission in Iraq to win hearts and minds. What happened afterward is a tale of good intentions mugged by Iraq's reality.

The computers — 8,080 in all, worth $1.8 million — were bought for schoolchildren in Babil, modern-day Babylon, a gift of U.S. taxpayers. Only they became mired for months in customs at the port, Umm Qasr, stalled by bureaucracy or venality, or some combination of the two. And then they were gone.

Corruption is so rampant in Iraq — and U.S. reconstruction efforts so replete with their own mismanagement — that the fate of the computers could have ended as an anecdote in a familiar, if disturbing trend. Iraq ranks above only Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia on Transparency International's annual corruption index."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Atheists know religion

'Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.
That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

Among the topics covered in the survey were: Where was Jesus born? What is Ramadan? Whose writings inspired the Protestant Reformation? Which Biblical figure led the exodus from Egypt? What religion is the Dalai Lama? Joseph Smith? Mother Teresa? In most cases, the format was multiple choice.'

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Iran must release American hostages

I can't believe the Iranian government is still holding American tourists hostage more than a year after they allegedly crossed into Iranian territory while hiking the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. I admire those Americans who decided to spend their vacation hiking in northern Iraq. They should not have been taken hostage by Iranian goons.

I read somewhere that Sarah Shourd, the female tourist among them who was recently released, had to pay a half million dollars in "bail" for her release. Shouldn't the Iranian government be paying Shourd for the year of her life they took away from her? From this article I just learned that Oman mediated the bail. Bravo Oman! It's good to see Arab countries like Oman helping Americans.

"Her 410 days of solitary confinement in an Iranian prison were mostly cramped quarters and endless monotony, but Sarah Shourd chooses to savor the few moments of joy: a proposal from her boyfriend and a birthday celebration complete with a chocolate cake.

Shourd, her boyfriend Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal were captured in 2009 while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border. Shourd talked about her experiences Thursday with The Associated Press in one of her first interviews since her release on Sept. 14 after officials in Oman mediated bail."

Shourd was smart to meet with Ahmedinejad yesterday in New York to try to make him understand that she and her friends are not spies. Hopefully he will understand and release the two Americans still in a prison in Tehran.

I heard this on BBC the other day:

"Of all the places I have ever been to in Iraq, this is by far the most beautiful, and the most peaceful.

This is not the Iraq we know from our televisions screens. Not the Iraq of "Shock and Awe", nor the Iraq of the near-daily suicide bombings. This is Kurdistan.

Wedged in between the borders of Iran and Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan runs its own affairs in the north-east of the country. It is mountainous rather than flat, green rather than arid. And most importantly, it is relatively safe."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

10 Riveting Reads About Iraq War

"The titles on this list are jaw-dropping in their honest and frank depiction of the politics and battles involved in the Iraq War (with some examining Afghanistan, as well), and they offer a variety of eye-opening viewpoints that bring home the complexity and brutality of war. For anyone who cares about what’s happening in the country today, they’re required reading."

Iranian government is embarrassing

Ahmedinejad gave a speech at the UN today and he suggested that maybe 9/11 was an inside job and that an independent investigation should be launched to determine who was really behind the attacks. The US and other western representatives walked out of the room!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, September 20, 2010

New order, same abuses?

Democracy Now calls it "New Order, Same Abuses": Amnesty Condemns Iraq for Holding 30,000 Prisoners Without Trial.

"Amnesty International is condemning Iraq for holding an estimated 30,000 prisoners without trial, including 10,000 prisoners who were recently transferred from US custody. In a new report, Amnesty documents that Iraqi prisoners are being arbitrarily detained and often beaten to obtain forced confessions."

I have read a few of Amnesty's reports on Iraq before 2003. Some reports are quite gruesome. I remember reading an Amnesty report in 1984 about Saddam's henchmen using snakes to threaten the children of prisoners, so that the parents would talk. Some pre-2003 Amnesty reports are still available online, like this one, which documents the beheading of an Iraqi woman in front of her home. Is the new order engaged in that kind of torture and murder? Is the new order really as bad as Saddam's? Really? How sad, if true.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

As the war continues....

"Wednesday's raid, in which at least six people were killed, was in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah — highlighting the persistent danger that al-Qaida-linked militants still pose despite years of efforts by both Iraqi and U.S. forces to root them out.

Insurgents seem to have redoubled their efforts this summer to target Iraqi security forces taking over from the departing Americans — nine Iraqi soldiers died Wednesday in a roadside bombing while two police officers in Baghdad were shot and killed. The militants are trying to undermine the so-called "Sons of Iraq" — the anti-al-Qaida militia that was instrumental in reducing violence.

The anger with which Fallujah officials reacted to the raid — conducted by Iraqi troops from Baghdad instead of local forces — spotlights another persistent threat to Iraq's security: deep divisions between the minority Sunnis in places like Fallujah and the Shiite majority that rules the country."

French Senate bans the veil

"The French Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill barring women from wearing the full facial veil anywhere in public. If the law is approved by France’s constitutional council, it will go into effect next spring and set a range of fines for women, including tourists, who wear the full veil. It also provides criminal penalties for those who force women to wear it. The vote was 246 to 1, with many abstentions from left-wing legislators; the bill passed the lower house in July."

Part of me wants to remind readers how much more tolerant America is than France, but the secular part of me that hates Wahhabis (the scum of the earth) is cheering this decision by the French Senate.

Thanks Q for reminding me about this.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taqiya by Sunni Muslims

A discussion about taqiya on IraqPundit reminded me of an article I read recently in the NYT:

'There is a notion in Islamic thought called taqiya, in which believers can conceal their faith in the face of persecution. Hamid’s family, Sunnis in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad, engaged in their own.

As sectarian killings intensified in 2005 and Shiite militias stepped up attacks, they hung two posters of Shiite saints near the apartment’s windows, shattered in car bombings and patched with cardboard. To strangers, they changed their tribal name from Izzawi to Mujahadi, hoping to blend in. They learned not to say, “Salaam aleikum” — peace be upon you — in farewell, as more devout Sunnis will do.'

It's a sad story that reminds us that Sunnis too had to engage in taqiya. But what does the author mean 'they learned not to say "Salaam aleikum", as more devout Sunnis will do'? Salam aleikum, as opposed to "aleikum al salam" (upon you be peace)? I've been saying both all my life, and I'm not devout nor Sunni.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Iraq to compensate US victims of Saddam

I wonder when Iraqi victims of Saddam will be compensated. $400 million is a large amount of money. That's $16 per Iraqi, assuming an Iraqi population of 25 million. So Iraqi victims of Saddam have to pay American victims of Saddam. It seems strange.

'Iraq has agreed to financial compensation for Americans who say they were mistreated by executed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime during the 1990-91 Gulf war, the US embassy said on Saturday.

"The agreement was signed on September 2," US Embassy spokesman David Ranz said.

He could not confirm the size of the settlement, but the Christian Science Monitor reported that Baghdad had agreed to hand over 400 million dollars (314 million euros) in compensation.

The deal was signed between Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and US Ambassador to Baghdad Jim Jeffrey.

Iraq's August 2, 1990 assault on neighbouring Kuwait was rapidly met with a concerted international military response that pushed Saddam's forces out of the emirate and eventually ended in his ouster by a US-led coalition in 2003.

Several US citizens were held by Saddam's regime during the war over Kuwait and used as human shields to deter coalition attacks, with some claiming they were mistreated and tortured by Saddam's forces.'

Saturday, September 11, 2010

False conspiracy theories about 9/11

On the 9th anniversary of 9/11, a reference to my post on the 6th anniversary of 9/11.

Amazing how popular those conspiracy theories were.

There was a mosque in the WTC

'Over the next few days, noticing some fellow Muslims on the job, Mr. Abdus-Salaam voiced an equally essential question: “So where do you pray at?” And so he learned about the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower.

He went there regularly in the months to come, first doing the ablution known as wudu in a washroom fitted for cleansing hands, face and feet, and then facing toward Mecca to intone the salat prayer.

On any given day, Mr. Abdus-Salaam’s companions in the prayer room might include financial analysts, carpenters, receptionists, secretaries and ironworkers. There were American natives, immigrants who had earned citizenship, visitors conducting international business — the whole Muslim spectrum of nationality and race.'

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The diverse interpretations of the Qur'an

'The diverse ways of understanding of the Qur'an are echoed in the documentary by Dr Scott-Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle of Swarthmore College in the United States, currently a research fellow at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He believes that sharia – Islamic law – is determined by male jurists whose interpretations of Islamic texts are based on cultural assumptions situated in particular times, and particular political and geographical locations. Rather than sharia being divine, Kugle believes that it offers different avenues for Muslims to live their lives. He also points out that there is no word in the Qur'an for "gay" or "homosexual", and no mention of lesbians.'

Parts of the Qur'an are incompatible with modern society

'We, as Muslims, need to tear a few pages out of the Quran—symbolically, at least, by rejecting literal adherence to certain problematic verses.

The Christian faith had to deal with problematic verses from the Book of Deuteronomy that sanctioned violence. Jews have had to confront rigid readings of the Old Testament that sanctioned stonings. Muslims, too, must re-interpret verses that aren't compatible with life in the 21st century.' --Asra Nomani

I agree. Thanks MG for posting this on IP.

The innocent Muslims who died on 9/11

"Mrs. Traoré is the widow of one of roughly 60 Muslims — cooks, businessmen, emergency responders and airline passengers — believed to have died on 9/11. It is a group that has been little examined, and no precisely reliable count of their ranks exists. But their stories, when told, have frequently been offered as counterweights in the latest public argument over terrorism and Islam."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

America is a nation of tolerance

Tonight I watched a bit of Anderson Cooper and saw Eliot Spitzer remind us that we are a nation of tolerance. It's one of the great things about America, the country that we (my parents) sought refuge in after we escaped the horrors of Saddam's regime in 1982. We came to America for the freedom, which may be America's most important asset. We have freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Sometimes we must deal with contentious issues, like allowing the building of mosques. Spitzer pointed out that 200 years ago George Washington had to step in and convince a country of Christians to allow the building of a Synagogue.

Also on CNN I saw part of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's interview with Soledad O'Brien. The Imam said that if they move from that location in lower Manhattan, the message in Muslim countries will be that Islam is under attack. Really? I don't think so. National security may be compromised? How so? Should we be afraid of how Islamic extremists react? I don't think so. I don't care how they react. But I think we should convey to the world that America truly is a tolerant nation. We should show the world we really do have freedom of religion in America, unlike in Saudi Arabia. We Americans will not conflate Islam with terrorism.

I understand why a relative of a 9/11 victim would not want to see a mosque near Ground Zero, and I think the Imam should consider those feelings and try to accommodate the people who lost loved ones on 9/11. Can it be a multi-faith community center? The Imam says "There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks."

Abdul Rauf seems to be seeking compromise, and that is what he should be doing. He should be talking to as many New Yorkers as possible, and if a majority of New Yorkers don't want a mosque near Ground Zero, the Imam should be prepared to change his plans and do something else with the building. But that may tarnish the image of American tolerance, of freedom of religion. And that's not a good thing for America, I believe. Allowing Cordoba House to be built near Ground Zero would show the world that we truly are a tolerant nation, and it would show the Wahhabis and Salafis and Al Qaeda that we Americans are so much better humans than they are.

Mary mentioned a lot in the Qur'an

"Mary, mother of Jesus, is mentioned more in the Qur'an than in the entire New Testament.[21] She enjoys a singularly distinguished and honoured position amongst women in the Qur'an. A chapter in the Qur'an is titled "Maryam" (Mary), which is the only chapter in the Qur'an named after a woman, in which the story of Mary and Jesus is recounted according to the Islamic view of Jesus."

Maybe that book-burner-wannabe in Florida should know this!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Iraq war deadliest for journalists since WWII

'THE Iraq war has been the most lethal for journalists since World War II, with 230 journalists and media staff killed since the conflict broke out.

The figures, compiled by french-based international press freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres (ReportersWithout Borders) run from March 20, 2003 until the present day.

The figure is more than the number killed in 20 years of the Vietnam War or during the Algerian civil war, RSF said.

The latest fatality was 35-year-old Al Iraqiya TV journalist Riyad Assariyeh, who was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he left his home in Baghdad this week.

RSF said that "clearly targeted murder" brought to 15 the number of Al Iraqiya journalists killed since coalition forces removed Saddam Hussein from power.'

Suspicion of outsiders an element of the human condition

'Suspicion of outsiders, of people who behave or worship differently, may be an ingrained element of the human condition, a survival instinct from our cave-man days. But we should also recognize that historically this distrust has led us to burn witches, intern Japanese-Americans, and turn away Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.

Perhaps the closest parallel to today’s hysteria about Islam is the 19th-century fear spread by the Know Nothing movement about “the Catholic menace.” One book warned that Catholicism was “the primary source” of all of America’s misfortunes, and there were whispering campaigns that presidents including Martin Van Buren and William McKinley were secretly working with the pope. Does that sound familiar?

Critics warned that the pope was plotting to snatch the Mississippi Valley and secretly conspiring to overthrow American democracy. “Rome looks with wistful eye to domination of this broad land, a magnificent seat for a sovereign pontiff,” one writer cautioned.

Historically, unreal suspicions were sometimes rooted in genuine and significant differences. Many new Catholic immigrants lacked experience in democracy. Mormons were engaged in polygamy. And today some extremist Muslims do plot to blow up planes, and Islam has real problems to work out about the rights of women. The pattern has been for demagogues to take real abuses and exaggerate them, portraying, for example, the most venal wing of the Catholic Church as representative of all Catholicism — just as fundamentalist Wahabis today are caricatured as more representative of Islam than the incomparably more numerous moderate Muslims of Indonesia (who have elected a woman as president before Americans have).'

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Considerable distrust of Muslim Americans

"A New York Times poll of New York City residents that found that even this city, the country’s most diverse and cosmopolitan, is not immune to suspicion and to a sadly wary misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans.

The poll found considerable distrust of Muslim-Americans and robust disapproval of the mosque proposal. Asked whether they thought Muslim-Americans were “more sympathetic to terrorists” than other citizens, 33 percent said yes, a discouraging figure, roughly consistent with polls taken since Sept. 11, 2001. Thirty-one percent said they didn’t know any Muslims; 39 percent said they knew Muslims but not as close friends.

A full 72 percent agreed that people had every right to build a “house of worship” near the site. But only 62 percent acknowledged that right when “house of worship” was changed to “mosque and Islamic community center.” Sixty-seven percent thought the mosque planners should find “a less controversial location.” While only 21 percent of respondents confessed to having “negative feelings” toward Muslims because of the attack on the World Trade Center, 59 percent said they knew people who did."

Mosques in America

The only mosque in America I've been to is the King Fahad mosque in LA. It's a nice mosque, no doubt built with Saudi money.

From Wiki:

"Small-scale migration to the U.S. by Muslims began in 1840, with the arrival of Yemenites and Turks,[32] and lasted until World War I. Most of the immigrants, from Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire, came with the purpose of making money and returning to their homeland. However, the economic hardships of 19th-Century America prevented them from prospering, and as a result the immigrants settled in the United States permanently. These immigrants settled primarily in Dearborn, Michigan; Quincy, Massachusetts; and Ross, North Dakota. Ross, North Dakota is the site of the first documented mosque and Muslim Cemetery, but it was abandoned and later torn down in the mid 1970s. A new mosque was built in its place in 2005.[28]
  • 1906 Bosnian Muslims in Chicago, Illinois started the Jamaat al-Hajrije (Assembly Society; a social service organization devoted to Bosnian Muslims). This is the longest lasting incorporated Muslim community in the United States. They met in coffeehouses and eventually opened the first Islamic Sunday School with curriculum and textbooks under Imam Kamil Avdih (a graduate of al-Azhar and author of Survey of Islamic Doctrines).
  • 1907 Lipka Tatar immigrants from the Podlasie region of Poland founded the first Muslim organization in New York City, the American Mohammedan Society[39] .
  • 1915, what is most likely the first American mosque was founded by Albanian Muslims in Biddeford, Maine. A Muslim cemetery still exists there.[40][41]
  • 1920 First Islamic mission station was established by an Indian Ahmadiyya Muslim missionary, followed by the building of the Al-Sadiq Mosque in 1921.
  • 1934 The first building built specifically to be a mosque is established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
  • 1945 A mosque existed in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Arab-American population in the U.S.
Construction of mosques sped up in the 1920s and 1930s, and by 1952, there were over 20 mosques.[28] Although the first mosque was established in the U.S. in 1915, relatively few mosques were founded before the 1960s. Eighty-seven percent of mosques in the U.S. were founded within the last three decades according to the Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey. California has more mosques than any other state."

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A third of New Yorkers think Muslims are more sympathetic to terrorists than non-Muslim Americans


"Nearly a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks ignited a wave of anxiety about Muslims, many in the country’s biggest and arguably the most cosmopolitan city still have an uneasy relationship with Islam. One fifth of New Yorkers acknowledged animosity toward Muslims. Thirty-three percent said that, compared with other American citizens, Muslims were more sympathetic to terrorists. And nearly 60 percent said that their friends had negative feelings toward Muslims because of 9/11."

Two-Thirds of New Yorkers want planned Islamic center moved

"Two-thirds of New York City residents want a planned Muslim community center and mosque to be relocated to a less controversial site farther away from ground zero in Lower Manhattan, including many who say they favor the project, according to a New York Times poll."

Saddam wanted WMD

'The definitive account of Saddam's WMD ambitions is the Duelfer Report, issued by the Iraq Survey Group in 2005. Yes, the Duelfer Report concluded that Saddam didn't have active WMD. But at numerous points in the 1,000-page document, it asserted (with quotes from Iraqi politicians and scientists) that Saddam's goal was to free himself of U.N. sanctions and restart his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and other WMD.

The report: "Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq's WMD capability. . . . Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability." The Survey Group described Iraqi plans to develop three long-range ballistic missiles.'