Monday, February 21, 2005

Our Islamic Jurisprudence insitutions here do in fact have exceptions to the rule...a graduate from their classes can end up being a progressive, creative, intelligent thinker...but maybe that has less to do with studying here than it has to do with further studies at Yale, Princeton and U.Penn...I am talking about Khaled Abou El Fadl...Law professor at UCLA...He was at one point on the path to becoming a militant...fortunately his father and a religious scholar/Imam saved him, and we are the luckier for it.

He has written several terrific books...One called Conference of the Books which is a poetic inspiring journal written over the span of a few years...the chapters are short and beautiful to read and he covers topics such as Islamic history, marriage, prejudice, extremism, love and just about anything you can think of...and he does all this with an open heart and a sense of the complexity and wonder that comes with this life we all live.
Another one is Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women...The title pretty much says it all..and again it is well written and you can't help but be impressed with how obvious it is in his writing that he is kind and fair in the way he approaches anything and anyone.


"Besides influencing the theological discourse, Abou el Fadl is also considered one of the world's leading Muslim feminists; he rejects all puritanical requirements such as the wearing of veils by women."The Wahabis' claims about women reflect their preferences and are not based on classical sources. There are no textual sources that say that the government can force women to wear a veil," says Abou el Fadl. For example, the Wahabis expect women to obey their husbands blindly. "For me, that is idolatry; it makes demi-gods of men," says Abou el Fadl."
Not only are all his works banned in Saudi Arabia, the professor of Islamic law has for years been receiving death threats from Wahabi activists.
Be that as it may, it does not stop him criticising Wahabism: "Wahabism is despotism. There is never any mention of love; music, art, everything human, beautiful, and delicate is banned. Wahabism is a harsh theology; as hard, Arabic, and hostile as the desert itself."
Taken from Qantara

Khaled Abou El Fadl's UCLA Faculty web site.

Further Reading on progressive Islam:
Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism Edited by Omid Safi
Liberal Islam Ed. by Charles Kurzman
Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush
Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective Amina Wadud
Women in the Qur'An, Traditions, and Interpretation Barbara Stowasser

Islam's new voices see faith with critical eye Scholars, activists favor democracy, gender equality


Quote from Conference of the Books:
It is Jum'a and the Imam rambles on and on. The topic is as unclear as the grammar. A boundless web of familiar terms and phrases are woven, but they all dissipate the second they leave the Khatib's mouth. The endless rhetoric stupefies the intellect and puts one in a trance-like state. The numbed brain yearns for signs of life but like a drug, rhetoric is addictive. It induces a state of intellectual paralysis that is as ugly and comfortable as death. Once one is accustomed to this state of dullness, any vibrant or critical thought is bound to cause a profound state of disturbance.Weeks ago, a young man gave a simple but beautiful Khutba. Someone in town had issued a fatwa that it is more important to memorize and learn to recite the Quran than it is to understand it. The young man wondered, how is it possible to search the Divine Will and to obey God if one does not understand God's speech? The most surprising aspect, and a rare quality in the culture of sermons, was that he spoke meticulous English and Arabic.And now you find yourself in this town again. You ask about the young man and you are told that "There are issues, brother." What issues? you inquire. "He does not fulfill the qualifications, brother; his appearance is not Islamic." How so? you ask. "He does not wear a beard, he tucks his shirt in, and, in addition, he is not married."
... The imam giving the khutba blows his nose and you awaken for a moment. You notice his watch and you wonder if that is part of a proper Islamic appearance? Absurdity begets absurdity and you find yourself wondering: how about buttons on a shirt or socks on feet? How about eyeglasses, underwear, zippers, velcro, tennis shoes, sneakers, jeans, pantyhose, brassieres, ties, raincoats, gloves or earmuffs? Which of these, if any, are consistent with a proper Islamic appearance? How do we generate a systematic way of distinguishing between an untucked shirt and other items? Well, at least in the case of the brassiere, Shaykh Bin Baz issued a fatwa saying a woman may not wear it if the purpose is to commit fraud. Fraud is never a good thing. But what if a man wears a shirt larger than his size to conceal the fact that he is overweight? Yet the illal (legal operative causes) of fraud are very different than those that pertain to an Islamic appearance. The analysis must be consistent, systematic and coherent. I suddenly remembered that a month ago an imam in the same mosque led Jum'a with his shirt tucked in. But he was married. Perhaps married imams may tuck their shirts in and unmarried imams may not. Perhaps the distinction is that ...I felt the intellectual rigor mortis that follows insanity setting in; I felt the Conference distant and fading away. I was dying before reaching the end of the bridge. Blissfully, the call to prayer started, and a breath of life seeped in again.They got their married imam with his beard and untucked shirt. They got their imam with the numbing rhetoric and incomprehensible broken English. But what they perpetuated is intellectual death. (taken from the site Scholar Of The House)

OK a couple of things in the papers were just too much today and surprise surprise they both have to do with Ahmed Baqer...Firstly he and his son apparently stopped a group of 12 Shia youths in Qadsiya, on their way to a 7sainiya on 3ashura...His son took pictures of the boys and they forced the woman who accompanied them as a guardian in her car to go down to the police station and sign a forced 'pledge of good conduct'...Apparently it is against the law in Baqer's head to go as a group to your 7sainiya on a holy day...

Then in Al-Seyassa he says that the we don't have a large number of terrorists in Kuwait (or even extremists), in fact the amount of people arrested for Homosexuality in Kuwait is bigger than those arrested for terrorism
وأشار »مازحاً« الى أن عدد الذين قبض عليهم كما نشر قبل أيام من »الجنس الثالث« هم أكثر عدداً من المتهمين بقضايا الارهاب والخلايا المتطرفة
Ok firstly, what the hell does one group of people have to do with the other?...I'm sure there must be more people arrested for signing false checks ...but they have as little to do with the terrorist issue as people with a different sexual preference than Baqer approves of...secondly the fact that our security forces are violating people's human rights by arresting people for being gay (not for hurting, killing,or burning people, or for corruption) does not somehow make it ok that there are less terrorists than gay people in jail...maybe if they were going after people who are planting hatred and prejudice and narrow mindedness in our community they would be better at stopping terrorists than if they were wasting their time arresting people for being different than the heterocentrist patriarchal hate-filled buffoons we have as religious/legal authorities...

Thursday, February 17, 2005


More Scandals:
New abuse/torture/rape and photo ops in yet another scandal for the US forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq..
One prisoner reports: "After they tied me up in the chair, then they dislocate my both arms. He asked to admit before I kill you then he beat again and again," the prisoner says in his statement. "He asked me: Are you going to report me? You have no evidence. Then he hit me very hard on my nose, and then he stepped on my nose until he broken and I started bleeding."
Another prisoner: ""They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum," he reports. "It was excruciatingly painful ... Only when the pain became overwhelming did I think I would ever scream. But I could not stop screaming when this happened." Quoted from the Guardian

Background to Torture Scandals:
"This month, British readers get the chance to study in full the catalogue of leaked memos and government investigations which track the evolution of the White House's torture policy from 9/11 to Afghanistan, Guantánamo and Iraq, with the publication here of Torture and Truth by the US journalist Mark Danner, and The Torture Papers, edited by two US lawyers, Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel"

Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story NYRB
The files that detail the new abuse scandals are with the ACLU...

Tsunami Update:

  • The Tsunami seems to have uncovered an ancient city in India, dating to the 7th Century.


News Mix:

Richard Perle had a shoe thrown at him by a member of the audience in a debate between Perle and Howard Dean--A new study says that antidepressants like Prozac make people twice as likely to kill themselves---Iran continues to jail its bloggers---Hunter S. Thompson has been found dead in his home...Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela says tha the US plans to assassinate him---

Monday, February 14, 2005

Updates on Beirut blast

يا ستَّ الدنيا يا بيروتْ
من ذبحَ الفرحَ النائمَ في عينيكِ الخضرواينْ؟
من شطبَ وجهكِ بالسّكّين
وألقى ماءَ النارِ على شفتيكِ الرائعتينْ؟
ماذا نتكلّمُ يا بيروتْ
وفي عينيكِ خلاصةُ حزنِ البشريّهْ
وعلى نهديكِ المحترقين
Nizar Qabbani wrote these words for a different moment in Beirut's life, but these words seem appropriate today...for a new reason..


Rafik Hariri's mororcade was bombed on the next to the st George hotel...between 6-9 dead...including Hariri, although some reports first suggested he was alive in are some updates...The news is on all the channels..

"The front of the famous St George Hotel was devastated in the blast, with several balconies blown off. Along the Mediterranean corniche, at least 20 cars were in flames or destroyed, and the fronts of several other buildings were heavily damaged, including a British bank and the landmark Phoenicia Hotel". Scotsman

"The explosion near Beirut's Saint George Hotel set half a dozen cars ablaze and severely damaged several buildings.
The blast caused a large crater in the street, which was thickly carpeted with debris. The facades of neighboring buildings were reduced to rubble.
The explosion was heard outside Beirut and it shattered windows in buildings hundreds of meters away" Reuters

"Witnesses report nine people killed in the blast, and more than 10 injured."BBC

over 20 cars were set on fire and 100 people were injured according to the Herald Tribune---the explosive material found seems to be high grade and advanced, according to the tv channels now--- Hariri's supporters are out in the streets and protesting in front of the American hospital ---Saida (Hariri's home town) is also witness to protests and tire burning and barricades..

Spokesman for a group claiming responsibility for the blast has just been screened on Al-Jazeera--they call themselves 'Jama3at al nusra waljihad fi bilad ilSham' and they claim that Hariri's connections to Saudia Arabia were reason for the attack and that this is the first of many such attacks to come. ---Their attack was in response to the Saudi Security forces attacks on militants apparently---commentators are doubtful that an unknown group could have carried out such a large and delicate operation on their own..

The Day After

The streets are empty, shops closed for the three day strike after the murder of at least 14 people along with Hariri...a huge crater marks the spot where murderous hands set a bomb that they can somehow find space in their minds to justify...I hope I never know how they can do that...posters of Hariri are on every shop window, hanging from every balcony, plastered on every car...most people pass through the streets in black, others are sitting in groups too stunned to talk, or else weeping and saying that the 'father of all the poor is dead'...these are the scenes on our televisions here in Kuwait...and all over the Arab world...his sons are receiving thousands of mourners...his son saying that 'there is no grief here, Rafik Al-Hariri is with us..I don't want to see any crying in this house'...crowds of people come out in spontaneous rallies shouting their support for Hariri and his son Baha' ilDeen who it seems they hope will take his place...grown men and women are shown weeping as they speak about how 'the hope of the nation' has he had helped people in need, how he had rebuilt Beirut...the people who died with him had children and families and lives greater than the aims of criminals who use death as a tool in their selfish political games... Candles filled the empty streets in the silence of last night..and white flowers were taken by hundreds of young people to be laid at the spot of the assassination...many flowers were given to the guards at the site who wouldn't let anyone near the crater..

Wednesday 16th, The Funeral

The streets are full, just full of people following the body of former PM Hariri's funeral procession---lebanese flags in the hundreds are carried by the people---many in tears---hundreds of thousands of people---Huge posters of him are carried above the crowds---the Church officials have asked that all the church bells in the city are to ring at the same time today in his memory. That is something that is rarely done..let alone for a Sunni Muslim---a man who was human, both good, active and controversial, imperfect as is everyone... has now been catapulted to semi-sainthood in death...may he and those who died with him rest in peace .

About Hariri:
The Hariri Foundation
Profile on Al-Jazeera
BBC Obituary

"This is the work of an intelligence service, not a small group. Whoever did it aimed at creating chaos in Lebanon and pointing the finger at Syria. I can't believe anyone in Syria could be naive enough to think that this would help them."

Background info:
Chronology of assassinations in Lebanon---Documentaries and films about lebanon at Arab Film Distribution---Books: Pity the Nation, Beirut Blues, Beirut City Center Recovery: The Foch-Allenby and Etoile Conservation Area, Transit Beirut, Hizbullah: The Story from Within ...

Goodwill work in Lebanon:

SOS Children's Villages---Handicap International---Children's Cancer Center Lebanon---Save the Children...

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The holiday is coming to an end...can't wait for the next one coming right can't be healthy to be so spoiled in February...March is suddenly like a Monday morning (I use the western version of the first day of the week because here it's Saturday for half the people, Sunday for another bunch and no day at all for people who don't even bother to show up for work, so the Monday is easier..) Maybe it's because I have reached the point of disillusionment with my job that I worry about being given so much time off from it...waking up for the 40 minute commute is beginning to really get painful...During the honeymoon phase, I loved the commute, I even prepared all the books on tape I could find around the house...Traumatized a lot of folks who got into the car and turned it on only to have the speakers blare out the scene where Raskalnikov murders everyone in a very annoying reading of Crime and Punishment...But yeah in the first days of a new job..where you are loving your co-workers (still love them to bits, very lucky) and loving the challenges and the fresh flavor of work, everything is this point however, when the bureaucratic forces of the corrupt system have sunk their claws in so deep that even your own optimism, your 'let's just do our best anyway, let's show 'em' attitude has become another dusty relic you left somewhere you don't even remember...It seems that the system is there to make sure that things do not go forward..and the desires of those on top will be carried out without any input from those, like us, who have actually been hired to steer and direct the movement of the now landlocked ship of fools we seem to have joined...I am smarting from the bitterness yes..I guess I am annoyed that they have even managed to suck the last drops of hope I had in somehow finding a place that wasn't entirely corrupt...I would have been happy with just 90% corrupt, at least we could have had wiggle room and something good might have come of it..
well that's my good morning to the last day of the looong weekend.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Progressive has an article by the professor, historian and social activist Howard Zinn. Here's a little of what he has to say...which I just thought I would put down here because it seems to deal with the same issues that are confronting people here these days...As we ask ourselves why the militants are the way they are and how we can change their kind of thinking..and as we deal with the bigger question of how to change a society like ours and a world that have mixed up the labels of freedom and justice and right and real with everything that isn't any of those things...

"What does it take to bring a turnaround in social consciousness[....] We desperately want an answer, because we know that the future of the human race depends on a radical change in social consciousness.
It seems to me that we need not engage in some fancy psychological experiment to learn the answer, but rather to look at ourselves and to talk to our friends. We then see, though it is unsettling, that we were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness--embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television.
This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas. It is so simple a thought that it is easily overlooked as we search, desperate in the face of war and apparently immovable power in ruthless hands, for some magical formula, some secret strategy to bring peace and justice to the land and to the world." Changing Minds, One at a Time

Each type of person has a moment like this i suppose...there was a moment when someone who wants to grow a mile long beard, wear a mini length dishdasha and accessorize with a kalashnikov decided that would be what he was about...but anyway..the point of this quote is that those whose consciousness turned them towards peace, fairness, social justice and compassion, should probably search for that inspiration that transformed them and start spreading it in the beautiful ways that they can...and with the same tirelessness exhibited by those who want to close people's minds, who want fear and fighting and stupidity to be what the world is all about ...

Wednesday, February 9, 2005


As expected, the states that pledged all that money to help the poor victims of the Tsunami disaster have ...(can you guess?) ...yup, have failed to pay up to two thirds of the promised amounts...Its been over a month...aid groups and suffering people are waiting to be helped..Oxfam says that the pledges that the public made (that is the real people of the planet) were immediately fulfilled...and the states/governments/countries (the ones who hold all the real people's tax money, oil money, whatever money) are not paying up...some even played with their books...did a little Enron accounting 101... so that they would sound like they were going to give more than they actually intended to give..PR accounting more in The Guardian, MSNBC, Scotsman..

So since it's us who end up keeping our promises...if members of the public are still loking for places they can donate money, or volunteer or just get an update look at Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Oxfam, and don't forget to spread the word, complain, make a fuss to get your countries to pay up!

ETA has bombed Madrid, injuring 15

Kuwait News
Kuwaiti newspapers are being threatened with closure if they print any details about the investigations into militants---Questions about the effect of long-term clashes with militants on the economy are being raised---Amer Khlaif al-Enezi has allegedly died of a heart attack in police custody, what will this mean?---

News Bag of oddities:
Channel 4, UK is planning a show called 'The Guantanamo Guidebook' , which will be a reality show based on the torture instructions and reports that have come out of will take 7 men and see what the effect of mild torture would be on them--- Female soldiers mud wrestled in their undies, with the guys cheering them an Iraqi prison camp...what will they get up to next?---

Saturday, February 5, 2005

In the Press:
A moving article from Thursday's Al-Qabas by Ahmad Essa "Terrorism in Kuwait...We are all Responsible"...he includes a saddening comparison between both the shaheed Hamab Al-Ayoubi and the militant Sami Al-Mutairi..both of whom he knew...In the same edition is an interview with the lawyer Hamad Al-Essa titled "The Government is Reaping what it has Sown"

Weird last pages in the Rai Al'3am yasterday and today, about a girl who was prostituted by her father for starters and then went onto complicated life in prisons and brothels and is now saying she has 'repented' and wants someone to mary her to 'yastir 3alayha'..

The Guardian has an interactive guide that takes you through the Iraqi elections...simplifies the process for anyone who is curious.

Fish lovers, here is a list of the best and worst fish to eat based on ecological standards---

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

  • 5,000 people went out into the street in Morocco to support (yes you read that correctly, support) an article saying the Tsunami was 'divine retribution'...because remember guys, God must think that poor villagers and children are evil; just because we can't accept natural disasters and the human error of not warning people.
  • In the UAE, a worker who had not been paid for 5 months killed himself. He had borrowed thousands to be able to get to work in the Emirites. 350 co-workers protested their wages not being paid by the same company (why dont the press name the company?? it should be shamed) Story must sound very familiar to many people here.
  • A Swedish police officer robbed a bank, only to come back and lead the investigation of it...the investigation included raiding a home and arresting two people for the crime...then he went and suspiciously bought a new car with the money he which point do you think he should have stopped and said "wait this is going too far"...?

And Head for the Hills:

"Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey believe that the rise in sea levels around the world caused by the melting may have been under-estimated."(BBC)

"Temperatures around the world could rise by as much as 11C, according to one of the largest climate prediction projects ever run"(BBC)

"a massive Antarctic ice sheet previously assumed to be stable may be starting to disintegrate, a conference on climate change heard yesterday. Its collapse would raise sea levels around the earth by more than 16 feet."(Independent)

"LOWLAND areas of Britain, including London, will need to build new sea defences or they will be swamped in the not-too-distant future by sea levels 15ft higher than they are today, according to new research." (Times)

So what can we do?

Earthaction has some suggestions, so does the's not that hard really.

CO2 is the main gas responsible for climate change.: so we need to help save the Rainforest and forests in general. We can do that here, here and here (Sting fans alert) and if you're really lazy here too with just a click---We need to decide to drive more efficient cars, or find an alternative---be energy efficient, now that's super easy---minimise or eliminate consumption of polluting things that we throw away..

The BBC has a few tips:

1. Don't waste electricity

2. Turn the lights off when you leave a room
3. Buy products with less packagingLess packaging means less waste.
4. Don't run the tap when you brush your teeth

5. Have a shower instead of a bath Showering can use two to three times less water than having a bath.
6. Don't leave TVs and hi-fis on stand-by Leaving things on stand-by uses large amounts of energy unnecessarily.
7. Stop getting junk mail...tell the bank that u do online banking only.
8. Wherever possible walk, cycle or use public transport
9. Don't drive a 4X4 Driving a small petrol car instead of a 4X4 could make the same environmental saving as a whole family recycling bottles for 400 years!
10. Recycle. Recycling just one plastic bottle would save enough energy to light a 100 watt bulb for up to six hours. (BBC)

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Militant group puts out a statement of war...

"A website statement posted Tuesday in the name of a previously unknown militant group promised to carry on its fight against the Kuwaiti government and the United States despite the arrest of a Kuwaiti Islamic militant during fierce clashes with Kuwaiti police....

..."Don't think even the thought that we are finished following the arrest of Sheik Amer Khlaif al-Enezi, God grant him freedom. We have only began," the group said, addressing Kuwaiti state security. "God willing, the raids will include you. You will regret it, you pigs of Al Sabah (ruling family in Kuwait), you servants of the Americans."

The statement appealed to Kuwaitis to stay away from places where "infidel soldiers" congregate. Kuwait is a close ally of the United States and has been battling Islamic extremists who oppose the presence of American troops in the country.

"God knows we didn't come to fight you or terrorize you, but to fight the infidel soldiers who are occupying your land," the statement said..."(canadaeast)

So, they are waging a it a last gasp, or is it the first bellowing battle howl...we have yet to see I guess..
All the while, we will continue to be shown bloody corpses captioned with things like "dogs of hell" or 'rot in hell" ..and will it ever end?... one side being just as convinced as the other of the angels that flutter about it..
And we will continue to wonder if the sound on the street outside is something to fear, or whether we should worry about being in shopping centers and restaurants, getting on with our lives..or whether we should just be worried about how savage we will get the more things happen...
They have nothing against us? They didn't come to fight us?? Too bad we happen to live where they want to wage their little (un)holy war, where they end up as mangled martyrs for their other converts to salivate over...imagining they were covered in stars and blessings like figures of made up fairytales.
How sadly and unimpressively human they looked in the bloodied sweat suits and their 2kd Addidas rip offs, with their eyes half open as though still looking for something. Of course those who follow them will think there is something peaceful and serene in those dead stares and their enemies will continue to rage and spit as though those bodies had belonged only to labels like 'evil' and 'dog' and 'terrorist', and will we get anywhere?
What they do is criminal, what they think is twisted, their war is futile and misguided...they have had wrongs and lies and distortions piled so heavy on their fragile limited brains that they see nothing else...and perhaps what we think from our perches on the internet or in our homes is also not quite exact...because after all, when has there ever been one side explaining anything to the other? Will we ever get to that?
So good luck civilians, hope we manage to keep our humanity and keep asking questions. Maybe that way those we disagree with will learn to ask them too and not be so easy to tie by the nose and lead to slaughter...

Sunday's Events:
"THE family of a Bahraini student killed when he was caught in the crossfire as police battled terrorists in Kuwait told last night of their agonising grief. Bahrain University student Mahmood Abdulaziz Abdulla, 20, from East Riffa, will be buried this morning in Hoora cemetery...
...It is understood he was caught in the crossfire as he was looking out of the window when police cornered the militants"
Which is probably why you probably shouldn't corner militants by shooting at a residential apartment complex from the floor, and you don't evacuate innocent people before you do it.


"A passer-by was also killed in the incident. The shootout will forever be etched on the mind of M. M. Abdul Qadir who lives on the same street as the militants, for his lucky escape. He was returning from a diwaniya and has just got in front of his house when the shooting started....

...At the same time 2 shots hit the window of a room on the ground floor of House No. 14 where a maid was sleeping. Two other shots hit the house. The startled maid ran upstairs and woke up her sponsor Y. Mansour, who immediately called 777 and told them about the shooting and the sound from a car accident. He was told an operation was underway in the area and it will soon be over. Mansour said he went back to bed(!), woke up later and saw the Camarro with a bullet hole in the windscreen and a damaged Mitsubishi car parked in front of his house."

The degree to which the news is unimportant is expressed by how many news articles just copy the same headline and content off each other, they don't bother to get info themselves. Or they just don't have enough info to work with..
The headline on over 20 news copies around the world is:
Kuwaiti Police Arrest Reputed Terror Boss