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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baithak World Apr 16: What Muslims Think, Palestine, Tarek's Illusions, Indian Holocaust, Aga Khan, Toronto 18, Rebecca Solnit, Bush-Iraq, Pope,

Gallup conducted research in 35 Muslim countries, interviewing more than 50,000 people, to come up with what it calls the first comprehensive survey of Muslim world opinion. And the results have also given birth to a book called, Who Speaks for Islam? What a billion Muslims really think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. There are other findings that are equally interesting. Contrary to common perceptions in the West, the majority of respondents think men and women have equal rights. A whopping 94 pc of Indonesians, the world's largest Muslim nation, share this view. In Islamist Iran, the figure is 89 per cent. And in the much-reviled Saudi Arabia, it's 73 percent. A great majority of Muslims also believe a woman can work outside her home in any job for which she is qualified (88 pc in Indonesia, 72 pc in Egypt and even 78 pc in Saudi Arabia). And they also believe women should be able to vote without interference (87 pc in Indonesia, 91 pc in Egypt, 98 pc in Lebanon). What about the legendary Muslim sympathy for terrorism? While 6 pc of the Americans think attacks involving civilians are 'completely justified,' in Saudi Arabia, this figure is 4 pc. In Lebanon and Iran, it's 2 percent. And mark this, it's important. The majority of Muslims absolutely rejects violence and terrorism. In fact, many of the respondents quoted Quranic verses to point out that extremism goes against Islamic teachings. What a Billion Muslims Think? - By Aijaz Zaka Syed

In the end it came down to a single-page letter, written in Hebrew and Arabic and hand-delivered by an Israeli army officer who knocked at the front door. The letter spelt the imminent destruction of the whitewashed three-storey home and small, tree-lined garden that Bassam Suleiman spent so long saving for and then built with his family a decade ago.It was a final demolition order, with instructions to evacuate the house within three days.
Palestinians watch an Israeli bulldozer destroying a Palestinian house in a village in the West Bank

Palestinians watch an Israeli excavator destroying a Palestinian house in a village in the West Bank. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty images

Area C covers 60% of the West Bank, home to around 70,000 Palestinians. It is also the area in which most Jewish settlements, all illegal under international law, are built. Compelling statistical evidence shows that while it is extremely hard for Palestinians to obtain building permits, settlements continue to grow rapidly.Research by the Israeli group Peace Now found that 94% of Palestinian permit applications for Area C building were refused between 2000 and September 2007. Only 91 permits were granted to Palestinians, but 18,472 housing units were built in Jewish settlements. As a result of demolition orders 1,663 Palestinian buildings were demolished, against only 199 in the settlements. "The denial of permits for Palestinians on such a large scale raises the fear that there is a specific policy by the authorities to encourage a 'silent transfer' of the Palestinian population from area C," Peace Now said. Area C strikes fear into the heart of Palestinians as homes are destroyed

Since 1967, more than 18,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the Israelis and fewer than 10% have had anything to do with security reasons (Area C strikes fear into the heart of Palestinians as homes are destroyed, April 15). There are many "legal" pretexts, but essentially homes are destroyed to free up land for Israeli settlements, to build settler-only highways, to construct the "separation barrier" and to build massive military installations. Through house demolitions, over 100,000 Palestinians have been made homeless. This is part of a long-term strategy that aims to inflict collective punishment on Palestinians and break their will to resist the occupation of their land. It is part of the silent ethnic transfer which will make life so unbearable that Palestinians will leave their country. This strategy prevents the creation of a viable Palestinian state and ensures permanent Israeli control of the occupied territories and their resources. The destruction of homes and the displacement of innocent Palestinian families directly violates international law and human rights standards and treaties. It is in violation of the road map to which the US and Europe claim to be so committed. Who is going to call Israel to account? Linda Ramsden Director, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK

Tarek Fatah, a pacifist, a controversial leftist activist and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, recently published a book challenging Islamism, which he refers to as Islam's right-wing. The book is called Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State.
Fatah argues that since Islam's advent, there have been two parallel strains of the religion that are in clash. The first, "state of Islam" is a person's moral compass; the way Islam governs an individual's personal life. Fatah has no issues with this Islam. In fact, he says that whether one is ultra-conservative or a secular Muslim should be no one else's concern. In contrast, the second -- "Islamic State" -- occurs when a political entity uses Islam to govern and control society. Fatah has a great problem with this phenomenon, as he believes it connected to terrorism, fundamentalism and subjugation of women. His book is a sustained critique of the historical, political and theological bases upon which the idea of an Islamic state is premised.


I felt Ali Eteraz's critique somewhat shallow and lacking in sources. His personal familiarity with Tarek Fatah overshadows a critical examination of the book. Instead of citing sources and events that weaken Fatah's assertion and logic he only hinted at them and goes on a personal tangent and writes:

Finally, there is the figure of Fatah himself. Formerly a Marxist leader and activist for Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan, ever since his arrival in Canada he has had a love-hate relationship with the Muslim communities. He has accused CAIR, ISNA, MSA and ICNA of being shadow-Islamists, which has earned him little love. His own efforts to create a North-America-wide Muslim group called Progressive Muslim Union of North America, were a failure largely because many progressive Muslims, like Muqtedar Khan and Omid Safi, were put off by Fatah's confrontational style and left the group. Further, even as he fought against Sharia in the Canadian legal system, he had a public falling out with Irshad Manji (though he thanks her in the acknowledgments). In other words, there are few Muslim figures who generate negative vibes from both the conservative and liberal side of Islam and Fatah is one of them. I, personally, don't agree with many of Fatah's positions -- having criticized him in the past. I, personally, come from the contingent of activists who thought that Fatah did create some of the tension that led to the downfall of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (I say that as an observer as I was not a member). Unlike him, I don't think Islamic finance as practiced by Western banks strengthens Islamists, rather it forces the entire scheme to be more beholden to international regulation. Unlike him, I don't find any thing particularly threatening about the free and consensual wearing of the hijab. Unlike him, I believe that the theologian Ghazali and segments of Islamic traditionalism are not natural allies of Islamism (of clericalism, certainly). Illusions of an Islamic State, Ali Eteraz

The battle of Cawnpore, India

The battle of Cawnpore - the entire British garrison died at Cawnpore (now Kanpur), either in the battle or later massacred with women and children. Their deaths became a war cry for the British. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

The battle of Cawnpore - the entire British garrison died at Cawnpore (now Kanpur), either in the battle or later massacred with women and children. Their deaths became a war cry for the British. Photograph: Hulton Archive/GettyA controversial new history of the Indian Mutiny, which broke out 150 years ago and is acknowledged to have been the greatest challenge to any European power in the 19th century, claims that the British pursued a murderous decade-long campaign to wipe out millions of people who dared rise up against them. In War of Civilisations: India AD 1857, Amaresh Misra, a writer and historian based in Mumbai, argues that there was an "untold holocaust" which caused the deaths of almost 10 million people over 10 years beginning in 1857. Britain was then the world's superpower but, says Misra, came perilously close to losing its most prized possession: India. Conventional histories have counted only 100,000 Indian soldiers who were slaughtered in savage reprisals, but none have tallied the number of rebels and civilians killed by British forces desperate to impose order, claims Misra.
The author says he was surprised to find that the "balance book of history" could not say how many Indians were killed in the aftermath of 1857. This is remarkable, he says, given that in an age of empires, nothing less than the fate of the world hung in the balance. "It was a holocaust, one where millions disappeared. It was a necessary holocaust in the British view because they thought the only way to win was to destroy entire populations in towns and villages. It was simple and brutal. Indians who stood in their way were killed. But its scale has been kept a secret," Misra told the Guardian. India's secret history: 'A holocaust, one where millions disappeared...'Randeep Ramesh [thanks YA]
CNN) -- The leaders of three world religions will be visiting the United States this week, and although the media spotlight is focused on Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama, thousands of Ismaili Muslims are celebrating a rare U.S. tour by the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan says a "clash of ignorance" has led to friction between Islam and the West. The Aga Khan doesn't exactly fit the image that may be expected for the spiritual leader of 20 million Ismaili Muslims across the world; he usually wears a suit and tie. But his followers see him as the final authority on interpreting the Quran. One one Muslim scholar said that in that regard, "he is more powerful than the pope." The Aga Khan, 71, arrived Friday in Austin, Texas, where he met with Gov. Rick Perry and signed a memorandum with the University of Texas on behalf of his Aga Khan University. The two schools agreed to share research and cooperate in what was described as "a move towards narrowing the gap between the West and Islam." Aga Khan University is an international University with teaching sites in eight countries: Afghanistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Syria, Egypt and the United Kingdom. The agenda for the Aga Khan's first U.S. tour in 20 years includes stops in Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; and Atlanta, Georgia; places he described as having "particular importance to the Ismaili Community over the last half century." Aga Khan makes rare visit to U.S.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has a name for all those books that aim to refute his popular treatise on atheism: With a nod to Yeats, he calls them "fleas." The latest flea at which he deigns to flick his tail is The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, published (in earnest) on April 1. But this one may have more legs than its Bible-press kin. Billed as "the definitive response to the New Atheists," it's the first such book to come from a mainstream publisher, the Crown Forum division of Random House. An extended excerpt has already earned a prominent spot in the April issue of Harper's. And its author—the erudite and infuriating David Berlinski—isn't anything like a Christian doctrinaire. Berlinski is a critic, a contrarian, and—by his own admission—a crank. But he is not a religious man. He's a zealous skeptic, more concerned with false gods than real ones. According to The Devil's Delusion, the emergence of the New Atheists—i.e., Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and the others who have lately ridiculed the belief in God—marks the consolidation of science as its own religion, a hateful "militant church" that demands strict adherence to the First Commandment. The scientists speak of incontrovertible fact, but Berlinski wants to show otherwise; he subjects scientific belief to his own rigorous investigation and finds it riddled with uncertainty. Like the theorists of intelligent design, he sees little in the fossil record that would account for sudden leaps in biological complexity. He considers the evidence for the Big Bang and learns nothing about the origins of the universe. In short, he assesses the evidence for the death of God and reports back with reasonable doubt. This is his book-jacket promise: to "turn the scientific community's cherished skepticism back on itself." The Paranoid Style in American Science - Part I

In an extraordinary move, defence lawyers say Crown prosecutors have agreed to stay charges against four more suspects in the Ontario bomb plot trial. Last year, charges against three young offenders were also stayed. On Tuesday, in a Brampton courtroom, the Crown prosecutor asked for a stay of proceedings against four suspects — Quayyum Abdul Jamal, described in court documents as the alleged ringleader of the group, Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, Ibrahim Aboud and Yasim Mohamed. Outside the court, Jamal said he was happy to be released. "Now I feel really I'm free, and I can try to move along with my life and support my family." Jamal's wife, Cheryfa, was more critical of the case against her husband. "[It] goes to show how fabricated and inflated this really was," she said.Charges stayed against 4 more suspects in bomb plot trial

More About Toronto 18

Yes, guys like this pick on other men's books too, and people of both genders pop up at events to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they're talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I'm talking about. It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence. I wouldn't be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn't tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a "cakewalk." (Even male experts couldn't penetrate the fortress of their smugness.) Men Explain Things to Me- Facts Didn't Get in Their WayBy Rebecca Solnit

Here's a thought exercise. Imagine if the greatest minds this country has to offer were assembled in a conference room and tasked with drawing up a post-invasion plan that would lead to sectarian bloodshed in a country like Iraq -- where different groups had long lived side-by-side, intermarried and thought of themselves first and foremost as Iraqis, rather than as Shiites and Sunnis. Their first recommendation would probably be to create an environment in which conflict would be likely to flourish. It would be a good idea to go into the country with enough heavy weaponry and air power to defeat the national army, but too few troops to provide security on the ground after the fact. When anarchy reigns, people look inward -- to their family, neighborhood and, yes, their religious community -- and develop a distrust of members of other communities. The Bush Admin's How-to Guide for Using Religious Warfare to Destroy Iraq By Joshua Holland

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School has found that 25% of adult African-Americans, 15% of adults earning below $35,000 annually, and 18% of seniors over sixty-five do not possess government-issued photo ID. While various studies -- such as a 2006 Election Assistance Commission report by Tova Andrea Wang and Job Serebrov, and a 2007 study by Lorraine Minnite of Barnard College -- have found modern claims of a voter fraud "crisis" to be unfounded, that has not stopped states from adopting remedies that impose burdens across their electorate and on voter registration organizations. "Across the country, voter identification laws have become a partisan mess," Loyola University Law Professor Richard Hasen said in an Oct. 24, 2006 column, speaking of one such remedy. "Republican-dominated legislatures have been enacting voter identification laws in the name of preventing fraud, and Democrats have opposed such laws in the name of protecting potentially disenfranchised voters." Hasen was commenting on a little-noticed 2006 Supreme Court ruling, Purcell v. Gonzales, which upheld Arizona's new voter ID law. The court unanimously affirmed the state's 2004 law, writing that, "Voter fraud drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and breeds distrust of our government. Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised." How Republicans Quietly Hijacked the Justice Department to Swing Elections By Steven Rosenfeld

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Tuesday he was "deeply ashamed" over sexual abuse by clergy in the United States and vowed to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood, as he began his first U.S. trip as pontiff. "We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," he told reporters accompanying him on his flight to the United States, adding "pedophiles cannot be priests". "We are deeply ashamed and will do whatever is possible so that this does not happen in the future," he said on board the plane to Washington. "Ashamed" pope vows no more pedophile priests

Chavez has already nationalised part of the country's
oil industry [EPA]

Venezuela's congress has approved a law forcing foreign oil companies to pay a tax on "windfall" earnings when crude oil prices top $70 a barrel.
The measure imposes a 50 per cent tax when the average monthly price for Brent crude exceeds that amount and a 60 per cent rate when the price tops $100 a barrel.

The law, approved by Venezuela's parliament two weeks ago, is expected to generate around $9bn for the Latin American country, which Hugo Chavez, the president, has earmarked for social programmes.
It will come into full effect this week, officials told national media- Venezuela approves oil tax law

The physicist John Wheeler, who has died aged 96, was a key figure among the international scientists who formed the Manhattan Project and created the first atomic bomb. But he is likely to be better remembered as the man who coined the term "black hole", and that remembrance will be appropriate, because Wheeler was also a talented and committed teacher, and a philosopher of science on a quest for a unified theory of existence, what he called "the perception of how things fit together". These two strands of Wheeler's career reflected his friendship with the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, which proved crucial to the Manhattan Project. Wheeler's parents were librarians, who moved the family frequently around the US, and encouraged their children's curiosity. Wheeler recalled asking his mother, at the age of four, where the universe ended; his dissatisfaction with her reply led him to science. As a child he developed a fascination with home-made rockets, and once touched an 11,000-volt power line to find out what would happen. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, he went to high school in Baltimore, Maryland, and in 1933, still only 21, he had earned a doctorate in physics from nearby Johns Hopkins University. John Wheeler - Michael Carlson

The painter Josef Mikl, who has died from cancer at the age of 78, was one of the most distinguished abstract artists of his generation. Though relatively little known in Britain, in his native Austria he received many honours, including a commission to decorate the state room known as the Redoutensaal, in Vienna's Hofburg Palace, after its destruction by fire in 1992. As well as its impressive size and vibrant fields of colour, the hall's painted ceiling includes 34 verses by the early 20th-century author Karl Kraus, handwritten by Mikl on such a small scale that they are invisible to the spectator below. Public art and personal expression have rarely been so deftly combined. Mikl was born in Vienna, where he started his training at the end of the second world war. After three years at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt (Vienna Training and Research Institute of Graphic Arts), in 1949 he began studying under Josef Dobrowsky, who had recently been appointed to the Academy of Fine Arts, the institution in which Mikl was himself to become a professor 20 years later. Dobrowsky's vivid landscapes and genre paintings had a significant effect after the cultural sterility of the Nazi era. However, together with his fellow academy student Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Mikl helped to open Austria to more radical foreign influences, especially the expressive abstraction of French art informel - Josef Mikl - Christopher Masters

Paul Jay presents Real News
Iraqi law to isolate Sadr
Pepe Escobar : Bill would outlaw political parties with militias; Sadr City being turned into a "gulag" view

Growing US majority staying out of housing market
AP: 1 in 4 homeowners worry their house will lose value; 1 in 7 fear they can't make payments view

Election brings sweeping change to Nepal
Maoists' landslide victory means country's monarchy could soon be abolished view


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