The following is a list of books for which there is not enough time to review in detail but deserve praise. Some of them are in French. They are not ranked. Most were read in the last two or three months. A few notes on books that stuck out come after the list. Continue reading Recent Reading: Some Good Books
So, more on Mr. Hussain. In announcing his appointment, Obama again chose recherché speech. Or, to be more precise, a word he did not know. Hussain is a hafiz of the Koran—he’s memorized it all—and, as such, “he is a respected member of the Muslim community.” I can’t believe that Obama knew what hafiz meant. It may just be another one of his affectations. And as for a hafiz, I’d bet that many schoolboys who attended madrassas, which are mostly centers of ignorance like many ultra-Orthodox yeshivot, also have memorized the holy text and that says nothing about the respect in which the community holds them and certainly says nothing at all about their wisdom.
“Assalamu Alaykum, Another Special Envoy And Obama’s Impoverished Grasp Of The Muslim World,” Marty Peretz, 17 February, 2010.
Here it is clear that Peretz has no idea of what a hafiz is or what his place is in Muslim communities and societies or has no idea of what madrasas are in Muslim communities and societies in the traditional sense or that he is being both disingenuous, disrespectful and contemptuous all at once.
As in practically all other instances where Peretz looks to pity President Obama’s lack of knowledge about Islam and Muslims he has ended up exposing his own lack of knowledge and bigotry toward Muslims (and Arabs, too).
Following President Obama’s famed Cairo speech, there were those who were excited, those who were nettled and those who were simply unimpressed. Among the nettled were some American conservatives — of the Wingnut, moderate and innovative sorts — who objected to the the speech’s content and tone on a number of grounds. Most notable were those around it form a part of an “apology tour” or that it was too harsh on the Israelis. Another objection was that Obama took too conciliatory a tone with American Muslims, especially his remark that Islam has “always been a part of America’s story.” Those came from the right but they spoke to something much bigger. Continue reading On America’s Muslim problem: I
I should like to direct my readers to a fellow Bostonian blogger, of Mauritanian origins, writing especially on the Ould Abdel Aziz’s government’s attacks on Hanevy Ould Dahah of Taqadoumy, which remain on going. Hanevy has been locked up, been due for release and then locked right back up again for around six months or so. He is the editor of Taqadoumy. He is on the fourth day of a hunger strike at the moment. The blog’s clever title is Dekhnstan.
This past week the New York Times published three pieces on the minaret issue on its opinion pages. There was one, quite Neanderthal, written by Ross Douthat, the Times‘s resident conservative who has opined on the dangers of Islam before; another — by Peter Stamm, a Swiss writer — bland and half-way apologetic, and a third more courageous and reasonable than much of what the Times has published on European Islam recently. Unsurprisingly the third piece was written by the senior director of Amnesty, Claudio Cordone. The second piece shows at once the inevitable truth that tolerant voices still exist in Europe and that too often such voices fail to grasp the gravity of the problem with their compatriots’ “Muslim problem”.*
Douthat’s is more pressing from the American standpoint than either Cordone’s or Peter Stamm’s. Ross Douthat’s writing on Islam to date is disappointing from the standpoint one concerned with the well-being of western Muslims, and it deserves examination and criticism, as it represents the provincialism and bad judgment that persists in even the “reformist” set among the new generation of conservatives and Republicans, so rooted in the Culture War and revenge politics. This is not surprising, though it is disappointing and worrisome nonetheless.
Douthat has been labeled by liberals and conservatives all over, magazine and newspapers, as one of American conservatism’s up-and-coming leaders. In 2008, with Reihan Salam (whose piece on the Fort Hood massacre is worth reading), Douthat authored Grand New Party: How Conservatives can win back the Middle Class and save the American Dream (Doubleday) a tract on how to make the Republican Party credible with its “base” once more. In Douthat’s writings on “Islam,” one finds a provincialism and illiteracy that reinforces the dogmatism that make so much of American conservatism inaccessible to minorities, American Muslims in particular. Pity his lack of creativity in the time of Obama. Continue reading On Ross Douthat and Islam
One should register no surprise that the continent which produced the Inquisition, anti-Semitism, the Crusades and the Holocaust would give rise to a sentiment that would lead 57% of Swiss voters to ban the construction of minarets. It should be even less surprising that this would come round in a country where the largest party in parliament made itself so by posting up images of white sheep bucking black ones off of the national flag. Proponents of the Swiss ban on the construction of minarets say they fear the imposition of sharia law; that the towers rising off of mosques illustrate Muslim dominance over their society. They go on that Muslims, unlike Christians or Jews, make “political and legal demands.” To preserve Swiss culture and law, no more minarets ought to go up. Some feminists, representing the most assuredly misguided sect yet to speak, added that the minaret is a phallic symbol, representing male oppression of women. Cutting minarets from the skyline would, in their minds, take a stand against misogyny. “If we give them a minaret, they’ll have us all wearing burqas,” as one put it. The Muslims don’t believe women to have any worth and we ought to convince them otherwise by keeping them from building vertically, to paraphrase another. We should be eager to catch a flier compelling us to a rally urging a ban on the construction of bell towers and spires, of slender and high reaching sculptures. Such a hope would only yield disappointment, though. For even if we would like to assume the good and honest intentions of the ban — to accept the line of one parliamentarian that the trouble isn’t Muslims as people, but merely the legal implications of their religion — we would be stupid, foolish and criminally gullible to do so. It would be disingenuous to call the majority decision on the matter anything but an expression of popular and growing racism and bigotry in Swiss society. Worst of all is that we may not say that a wretched government is responsible for this violation of religious freedom. It was the Swiss people — though it is better to say the unenlightened among them. Continue reading On the Minaret ban
Here are some stories on the region worth checking out:
- “As Algeria grows more Islamic, nightlife suffers,” 8 August, 2009. The premise of the article is somewhat wrongheaded, as its title suggests. Algeria has been Islamic for some time. That its nightlife is struggling is only slightly newsworthy but does show, as the author intends, that “reconciliation” has meant acquiescing to demands of popular Islamist (not “Islamic”) sentiments.
- “France’s Algerian shadow,” Aljazeera English, Veterans, August, 2009. An interesting segment on the memory of the Algerian War of Independence and its post-war maltreatment of Muslim harkis (Algerians who fought for the French; who were relentlessly driven from their homes, hacked up, or forced into dreary exile in France, or quiet shame within Algeria; the term is taken to mean “traitor,” the opposite of a patriot, the moral antithesis of the moudjahid or chahid). The program is interesting, interviewing harkis, Algerians, French vets and the like. French and Algerian viewers may take issue with its framing.
- “Qadhafi’s Time in the Limelight: Impact on U.S. Interests,” Dana Moss (WINEP), 28 August, 2009. Interesting summation of Qadhafi’s 40th anniversary, his upcoming visit to the United Nations (and his desire to pitch a tent in New Jersey), the release of Meghrahi, and so on and so forth. According to Moss, the Brother Leader heads “an opportunistic regime,” that “may no longer be an enemy, but it is a very unreliable friend.” She notes that the US has little to offer Qadhafi, though he may embarrass his hosts with typically ridiculous speech-making, or work contra US efforts in Africa should he feel that American engagement does not sufficiently match his liking.
- “Libya Marks 40-Years of Qaddafi,” Aljazeera English, 1 September, 2009. Describes the ghoulish glitz and kitch of Qadhafi’s anniversary celebrations, asking few tough questions, quoting planners who compare the endeavor in relation to an “Olympic opening ceremony” and outsiders who remark on how little Libya’s massive oil wealth has benefited its puny population of but 6 million. An homage to misrule.
- “Gaddafi coup celebrations expose Moroccan land dispute,” Jerusalem Post, 2 September, 2009. The Moroccan delegation stormed away from Qadhafi’s party because Mohamed Abdelaziz, president of the Saharawi SADR, was present. A set from Morocco’s security forces was to participate in the processions, but apparently no more. This mini-row is a wonderful illustration of the whole escapade’s stupendous stupidity. The celebration was also attended by Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his first foreign trip since the elections.
- “Moines de Tibéhirine : « une affaire franco-française », selon Ouyahia,” TSA, 2 September, 2o09. I received an email asking why I was not writing more about the controversy around the killing of the monks at Tiberhirine. The reason is that it is of great real consequence in the region. It holds significance in Franco-Algerian relations, and represents an effort from the French end to influence things on the Algerian side, but has more meaning for the French than the Algerians. Algerians very much see it as an attempt to undermine Ahmed Ouyahia, whom the French are said to dislike and who is thought to be a likely follow up to Bouteflika.
- “Larbi Belkheir hospitalisé à l’hôpital du Val-de-Grâce en France,” TSA, 2 September, 2009. Larbi Belkheir, once a major player in the generals’ regime during the 1990’s, before being shipped off to obscurity as Ambassador to Morocco, has suffered from complications from lung cancer for some time. This week he was sent of to the Val-de Grâce military hospital in Paris, after returning to Algiers earlier. Since his return to Algeria in 2008, his responsibilities were taken up by Boumediene Guenadi, the Deputy Ambassador. He has been dropped in a recent shuffle of Algerian diplomatic postings and the post in Rabat has yet to be filled.
- “La France et les USA rapatrient les familles des employés du pétrole,” Taqadoumy, 2 September, 2009. US and France bring home the families employees of oil companies in Mali and Niger. The State Department Reavel Warnings and Travel Alterts for Mali, and Mauritania have been updated with greater urgency. Numerous American aid and development projects (including the Peace Corps) are being scaled back or brought home from the Sahel, a reaction to increasing AQIM activity.
- Going back a few months, the Algerian-American community in Washington, D.C. has been grumpy since the new Algerian Ambassador, Abdallah Baali, failed to put on 5 July (Independence Day) celebrations for the Algerian community in the area, as per tradition. Local Algerians complain that while the embassy put on 4 July celebrations to mark American independence, it failed to mark its own national holiday, and that the two events could have been merged, if finances, time or whatever other possibilities were the concern. At the same time some feel disconnected from the new Ambassador, whose “style” they see as being rather different from the more personalized one of his predecessor. At the same time, personal feuds splintered celebrations elsewhere on the east coast, where multiple celebrations went on in the same city (in more than one city). In some places, communities economized and celebrated American and Algerian independence on one day, simultaneously. It said the embassy has taken note of the Washington Algerians’ concerns.
More meaningful blogging will soon commence.