Tuesday, February 28, 2012

American judge rules in favor of Sharia

Sometimes I am surprised by Americans and their perspectives on Islam. It is very strange to read about an American judge who ruled in favor of Sharia and against American law.

Addicting Info: "It was clearly an open and shut case of harassment but a judge in Pennsylvania didn’t see it that way and ruled against the victim. Of course, this happens sometimes in the American judicial system, only this time the ruling appears to have been entirely unconstitutional and may give conservatives a reason to ramp up their religious crusade.

Ernie Perce was seriously just walking down the street minding his own business while participating in a parade, when Talaag Elbayomy rushed from the crowd and harassed him.

Perce, an atheist, was dressed as a zombie version of Muhammad. Elbayomy, a Muslim, became offended and attacked him, grabbing Perce’s arm and trying to rip away the sign he was carrying. Open and shut, right? Wrong.

Despite admitting that Elbayomy harassed Perce, Judge Mark Martin ruled that Elbayomy had every right to do so because of Islamic law, which bans the insulting of Muhammad. In other words, Judge Martin ruled in favor of Sharia law.

Judge Martin didn’t just rule in favor of religious law, he also lectured and humiliated Perce. Martin told the court all about the time he has spent in Islamic nations and even gestured to a Koran he had in the courtroom. He then called Perce a ‘doofus.’ "

According to the court transcript, the Judge said:

“Well, having had the benefit of having spent over two-and-a-half years in predominantly Muslim countries, I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam. In fact, I have a copy of the Quran here, and I would challenge you, Sir, to show me where it says in the Quran that Muhammad arose and walked among the dead. I think you misinterpreted a couple of things. So before you start mocking somebody else’s religion, you might want to find out a little more about it. It kind of makes you look like a doofus.

In many other Muslim-speaking countries, err, excuse me, many Arabic-speaking countries, predominantly Muslim, something like this is definitely against the law there, in their society. In fact, it could be punished by death, and frequently is, in their society."

The judge is correct: dressing up as a zombie version of the Prophet Muhammad would be punished in many Muslim countries, but I find it astonishing that an American judge would rule in favor of Sharia and would disregard Pennsylvania and US laws.

"There is no hope left in your kingdom"

A great song by Thievery Corporation encapsulates the feelings of poor people all over the world and how they feel about their kings:

There is no quidance in your kingdom
Your wicked walk in Babylon
There is no wisdom to your freedom
The richest man in babylon

Your beggars sleep outside your doorway
Your prophets leave to wonder on
You fall asleep at night with worry
The saddest man in Babylon

The wicked stench of exploitation
Hangs in the air and lingers on
Beneath the praise and admiration
The weakest man in Babylon

There is no hope left in your kingdom
Your servants have burned all their songs
Nobody here remembers freedom
The richest man in Babylon

Si la lou babylon go 'dain
Babylon gon' be rich again
But to we don' sick again
But no we no weak again
Babyloooon on on on on
(Rasta scat)
Sal la lou ca uba whoa
Si la douba douba do wa bay
Si la loo babylon come 'round
You better know you better understand
'Fact you know you better hear what they say
Babylon this is your final day
Babylon this is your final call
Read the writin' it's on the wall
Said United we stand
And together we fall
And if I know that
You're not 'gon catch me in a rat pack
We not go fallin' on your death trap
No way...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Remembering Arab Perspectives on Iraq

On fb last night and this morning I read a comment by an Arab American (half Moroccan, half Italian, presumably living in USA) who said that Iraqis lived better under Saddam. She claimed "Iraqis had electricity and running water and all the basic needs under Saddam. Now I'm not saying I like the guy, but I am pointing out that Iraqis lived better under him. Setting foot in Iraq to "free" them was the worst thing the Americans could ever do."

I was surprised by her comment and I responded: "In general Iraq's Sunni Arabs lived better under Saddam. People who believe all Iraqis lived "better" under Saddam simply do not understand what Iraqi Shia went through for 24 miserable years. Iraqis had electricity and running water and all the basic needs under Saddam? Really? LOL! I guess the Sunni Arabs think so!"

I wanted to give her an example of how Iraqis in Basra were suffering in the 90s, so I transcribed a couple of paragraphs from Iraq Under Siege in which a Basrawi doctor was interviewed in 1996:

“Dr. Tarik Hasim Habeh, the young director of residents, had taken us through several children’s wards. Infant after infant lay wasting and skeletal in squalid conditions. We saw children suffering severe malnutrition, respiratory diseases, leukemia, and kidney disease. In one room, fourteen incubators were stacked against the wall, useless because of the lack of repair parts. The blood bank consisted of one miniature refrigerator and an ancient centrifuge.

Dr. Habeh explains that the hospital is chronically short-staffed. Doctors can’t earn enough to feed their families, sometimes making no more than $3 per month, so some work instead as taxi drivers, street vendors, or waiters. Many nurses also find it impossible to continue the work for which they were trained.”

She liked that comment and was friendly. She said she based her comment (the one about Iraqis living better under Saddam) on what her Iraqi Shia friends from college told her. Interesting. So Iraqi Shia have misinformed this woman, I thought. But most likely they were telling her that Iraqis had electricity and potable water in Baghdad before 2003. The fact is that "In the 1980s Iraq was producing around 9,000-9,500 megawatts. By 2002 it was only producing 4,075 megawatts."

The south was neglected during sanctions, and most Arabs don't understand this. They have the impression that all Iraqis lived better under Saddam. In the Arab mind, if Iraqis suffered in the 90s, it was because of US-imposed sanctions, not because of Saddam. I find this frustrating, and wanted to document a perspective that is probably shared by a majority of Arabs.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

3 out of 4 Syrians want Assad out

This is an interesting article that argues "Most Syrians back President Assad, but you'd never know from western media." The article cites a poll that reveals 55% of Syrians want Bashar al Assad to stay, fearing civil war if he's overthrown, but half of those who want him to stay want to see free elections in the near future. So basically 3 out of 4 Syrians want Bashar gone.

"The key finding was that while most Arabs outside Syria feel the president should resign, attitudes in the country are different. Some 55% of Syrians want Assad to stay, motivated by fear of civil war – a spectre that is not theoretical as it is for those who live outside Syria's borders. What is less good news for the Assad regime is that the poll also found that half the Syrians who accept him staying in power believe he must usher in free elections in the near future. Assad claims he is about to do that, a point he has repeated in his latest speeches. But it is vital that he publishes the election law as soon as possible, permits political parties and makes a commitment to allow independent monitors to watch the poll."

An Iraqi American friend (another Shiite!) posted on fb a recent video by a French filmmaker in Syria, and he commented "Bashar will go, it is a matter of time." Another friend posted the link to the Guardian article.

Hopefully the Allawites will not be attacked if Assad is overthrown. That is a big fear among older Shia, evidently. Also I heard on CNN last night (from Anderson Cooper's guest Robert Baer) that Syrian Christians are afraid of persecution by Sunni extremists if Assad is overthrown. I wanted to link to that interview, but the part where Bauer talks about Syrian Christians (at the end) is cut.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Obama has done it better

Another great stand up by Bill Maher, and this time it's online. It's mostly about American politics, but at about 25 minutes he compares Obama's foreign policy to George Bush's. Very funny satire. He also made good points, including: Bush spent a trillion dollars to get Saddam, and then Obama spent a billion dollars (1000 times less than a trillion) to get Qadhafi.

Maher says Obama did it better, and it's true. "It's called doing things smart," Maher says. Obama was lucky he didn't have to deal with Iraq, I've said before, but it's not over for Obama. The conflict in Syria could explode. World powers are calling for intense pressure on Assad.

At 20 min he talks about John Steinbeck's quote about socialism, which I happened to see on fb today: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Bill Maher replaced "embarrassed" with "inconvenienced" but I think he got the message across. Great show.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Assad dictatorship is nearing expiration

Fouad Ajami wrote another great article. I'm glad to see another Shiite condemning the Assad regime:

"Plainly, the Syrian tyranny's writ has expired. Assad has implicated his own Alawite community in a war to defend his family's reign. The ambiguity that allowed the Assad tyranny to conceal its minority, schismatic identity, to hide behind a co-opted Sunni religious class, has been torn asunder. Calls for a jihad, a holy war, against a godless lot have been made in Sunni religious circles everywhere.

Ironically, it was the Assad tyranny itself that had summoned those furies in its campaign against the American war in Iraq. It had provided transit and sanctuary for jihadists who crossed into Iraq to do battle against the Americans and the Shiites; it even released its own Islamist prisoners and dispatched them to Iraq with the promise of pardon. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and an Alawite community beyond the bounds of Islam is facing a religious war in all but name."

I remember all the Arabs, including the Angry Arab, who ridiculed and hated Fouad Ajami when he wrote so eloquently (I've quoted him many times) in support of the American effort to bring democracy to Iraq. I wonder if those Arabs still hate him.

Dozens killed across Iraq

WSJ: "A barrage of explosions and drive-by shootings killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds across Iraq on Thursday, in one of the bloodiest episodes of renewed violence in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal from the country.

The attacks spanned six provinces, from Nineveh in the north, which borders Syria, to Babylon, south of Baghdad. They targeted security forces, local officials, busy neighborhoods, mosques and vital infrastructure such as telecommunications towers.

The capital, Baghdad, bore the brunt of the early-morning mayhem. Among the fallen were ordinary citizens, including a boy walking to school and office workers eating breakfast at a diner. By nightfall, security officials said at least 70 people had been killed and 374 wounded, with well over half of the casualties in Baghdad."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2 Western journalists killed in Syria

"A French photojournalist and a prominent American war correspondent working for a British newspaper were killed Wednesday as Syrian forces intensely shelled the opposition stronghold of Homs. President Bashar Assad's regime also escalated attacks on rebel bases elsewhere, with helicopter gunships strafing areas in the northwest, activists said."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some westerners charmed by Saudi Arabia, but...

"But the Kashgari affair shows a Saudi underbelly that is just plain revolting. There is nothing romantic about beheadings, and there is nothing romantic about religious zealotry. The kingdom, in fact, was founded by marrying the House of Saud with the zealous and intemperate Ikhwan, a fierce Bedouin tribal army. The alliance enabled Ibn Saud to conquer much of the Arabian Peninsula. It has been an absolute and extremely conservative monarchy ever since. Its state religion is the severe Wahhabi strand of Islam."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Suicide bomber kills a dozen would-be students at Baghdad police academy

'A suicide car bomber has blown himself up in front of a Baghdad police academy, killing 15 people and wounding 21 others in the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital in weeks, security officials said.

At least seven other people were killed in attacks elsewhere in Iraq.

The suicide bomber "blew himself up at the entrance of the police academy on Palestine Street" an interior ministry official said, putting the toll at 15 dead and 21 wounded.

A police colonel confirmed the toll.

The ministry official said the assailant was at the wheel of a car rigged with explosives and that most of the victims were students applying to join the police force.'

It boggles the mind to think that there are Muslims who would volunteer to wage such war against a Shiite-led government in Baghdad, almost a decade after Iraqi Shia were empowered by elections, by Iraqi voters. Do these suicide bombers really believe they are going to heaven?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Iran is not all Persian

An interesting interview with Ali Soufan, who reminds us that Iran is not all Persian. Iran's neighbors Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Armenia have influence in Iran because of the high numbers of Turkic peoples in Iran. 51% of Iran is Persian, smaller than I thought. The rest are Turkic, Arab, and others.

PS: I just read the very interesting Wiki entry on Ali Soufan. His experience is the reason we know now that torture does not work, and at least in one case torture stopped the flow of information.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Guns used to come from Syria into Iraq

Now it's the other way around.

NYT: 'Like Iraq and Afghanistan before it, analysts say, Syria is likely to become the training ground for a new era of international conflict, and jihadists are already signing up. This weekend, Al Qaeda’s ideological leadership and, more troublingly, the more mainstream Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for jihadists around the world to fight Mr. Assad’s government.

Nowhere is the cross-border nature of sectarian hostilities more clear than in Iraq’s western desert, where Sunni Arabs are beginning to rally to the cause of the Syrian opposition and, in the process, perhaps strengthen their hand in dealings with an antagonistic Shiite-led national government in Baghdad.

A weapons dealer who operates in Anbar, who said he goes by the alias Ahmed al-Masri, said, “Five months ago I was told that the Syrian brothers are in need of weapons. I started to buy the weapons from the same guys that I previously sold to — the fighters of Anbar and Mosul. I used to bring them from Syria; now it’s the other way around.” '

Friday, February 10, 2012

Saudi arrested for "blasphemous" tweets

He may get the death penalty. Shame on Malaysia for arresting him. I thought Malaysia was more tolerant than the kingdom of backward Arabs.

CSM: "A 23-year-old Saudi Twitter user, Hamza Kashgari, fled the country Sunday to avoid being arrested for his religious tweets, only to find himself in the hands of the Malaysian police today. He had been heading to New Zealand to request political asylum."

Today is the Prophet Muhammad's b-day, and the courageous writer thought he had freedom in KSA to publish these three tweets:

"On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you've always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.

On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.

On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more."

Thanks Patrick for sharing.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

American justice may not be superior

Today I read about American-based Human Rights Watch's call on Iraq to end executions:"Iraqi authorities executed at least 65 people in the first 40 days of 2012 for various offenses, including 14 on a single day, Human Rights Watch said Thursday."

Today I also saw this on facebook:

I used to think American justice is superior to the rest of the world. The older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize American justice may not be superior.

CPA was a "disaster"

Joel Wing posted an interesting interview with Jerry Burke, an American who was head of the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management in 2003. Mr. Burke was asked to assess the Iraqi police force in 2003 and he found them to be in "disarray". He also described the CPA as a "disaster":

"The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was an unmitigated disaster. Many of the people in the CPA came with neo-conservative political agendas. I can't tell you how many times in military, police, and security briefings I heard the phrase, "To create a free market economy,” as one of the goals. The irony was that many CPA officials would have been for small, decentralized, states rights style government back home, but were trying to build a large, strong centralized government in Iraq. Also, many of the, I don't know what else to call them, young kids in their 20s, came with recommendations from the Heritage Foundation, and other conservative organizations. Many were just out of college or were taking a gap year to have an adventure in Baghdad. Most of them would have been doing unpaid internships if it weren't for Iraq."

The documentary No End In Sight corroborates this sad story.

Iraq would be hurt if Iran closes Hormuz

"Iraq will lose the capacity to export 1.7 million barrels of crude a day if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, the transit point for about two thirds of its production, an Oil Ministry spokesman said."

Thursday, February 02, 2012

It's good to be a liberal

In the last decade I have found myself at odds with some "liberals" (Arabs who are outraged by the murder of Iraqis only when Americans commit the murder, for example) but in the end I am a proud liberal. In American history, liberals have moved America forward, made America a better country. It's good to be a liberal!

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