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4/17/2003

Field Trip

I'm going on a field trip to the Grand Canyon over the weekend, so I won't be blogging until Tuesday. Until then...
"The people don't know who we are"

The Washington Post has a report on the welcome the Iraqi exiles of the INC received on entering Baghdad. It is instructive, and shows (once again) the value of embedded journalists who can cut through the cant and propaganda and report on the reality as it happens:
A Pentagon-backed Iraqi militia composed mostly of exiles rumbled into town today on the back of U.S. military trucks.

Wearing U.S.-issued uniforms, the fighters waved their weapons. They pumped their arms. They chanted joyfully of their return.

And they were greeted with a cold-eyed indifference that finally silenced them.

...

"Chalabi, Chalabi," shouted some of the fighters today, as onlookers asked who these uniformed men with AK-47s were. But no one took up the chant as people had in towns in the south.

For every smile, and every cheer from the ubiquitous children hoping for a treat tossed from a truck, there were a hundred men and women who just looked and passed on, unimpressed or too busy with the toil of surviving.

"The people don't know who we are," said Ahmedizzet, who fled Iraq in 1998 and settled in Norway after his opposition activities were discovered by the government. "They are afraid. . . . We are going to face many problems here. But we want the people to know we are a part of them and we want all to be part of the new family in Iraq."


And these are the same people who, before the war, were preparing to declare a government-in-exile? Interesting indeed. Not that I'm surprised or anything.
Better than Google?

Wired has the low-down for a new distributed webcrawler: Grub.
Worst Creationist Argument Ever

Erik, an erstwhile creationist on talk.origins, who, like many of his kin, says things that he cannot possibly believe, has exceeded the boundaries of creationist idiocy (insofar as such boundaries actually exist). Here is the post in full (it isn't on Google Groups yet, but once it is I'll give a link):
I was thinking the other day and I submit I have found another arrow to sling at the current theory of the age of the earth.

Let us consider the earth as a closed system in regards to the passage of H2O in and out of the system. Clearly this is a safe assumption as it is manifestly evident that no water leaves the earth (ignoring space exploration).

Ninety-seven percent of the water on Earth is salt water. Fresh water resides on land or in glaciers. As this water is used, it trickles down by gravity to the oceans of the world and becomes mixed with the salt water. You will note that no water is trickling back up to land as this would contradict the energy law of fluid dynamics i.e. water cannot flow uphill without an external energy source.

I submit that if evolutionists were correct and the earth were over 4 billion years old that the supply of fresh water would have long run out. Four billion years of the fresh water flowing downhill to the oceans would result in dry lakes and rivers. Clearly this is a contradiction in the theory of evolution.

Just a thought. Can anyone counter the claim? Has my arrow hit the bullseye?


How about rain and snow? Just a thought.
Sharon says: There will be a Palestinian state

Ariel Sharon, in an interview with Ari Shavit of Ha'aretz, has stated his intent to make "painful concessions" to the Palestinians in return for peace and a vigorous war on terror. Sharon has been saying the same thing basically since he has been in office, but there was one element of the interview that may point to a new development: the fact that he mentioned the settlements of Shilo and Beit El by name. As Israel Harel, the token right-wing settler at Ha'aretz, pointed out,
Sharon's opponents, including Yossi Sarid, Haim Ramon and Amram Mitzna ... unanimously agreed that Sharon has made another tactical move. They are mistaken. Such statements that cut into the living flesh of he who utters them, are not spoken out of temporary necessity. Were those people as connected with the people and the places, they would have understood that this time his words are from the heart.

Here are a couple of relevant excerpts from the interview:
One day very soon the telephone might ring. The president of the United States will be on the line. He will tell you, Arik, I have removed an existential threat from Israel, I am fomenting a revolution throughout the region. Now the time has come for you to make your contribution. Let's have Netzarim, please."

"There are some matters regarding which we will be ready to take far-reaching steps. We will be ready to carry out very painful steps. But there is one thing that I told President Bush a number of times - I made no concessions in the past, and I will make no concessions now, or ever make concessions in the future, with regard to anything that is related to the security of Israel. I explained to President Bush and made it clear to him that this is the historic responsibility that I bear for the future and the fate of the Jewish people. You should know this - on this subject there will be no concessions. We will be the ones who in the end decide what is dangerous for Israel and what is not dangerous for Israel."

And what about Netzarim? [An isolated settlement in the Gaza Strip]

"I don't want to get into a discussion of any specific place now. This is a delicate subject and there is no need to talk a lot about it. But if it turns out that we have someone to talk to, that they understand that peace is neither terrorism nor subversion against Israel, then I would definitely say that we will have to take steps that are painful for every Jew and painful for me personally."

Isn't that phrase "painful concessions" a hollow expression?

"Definitely not. It comes from the depth of my soul. Look, we are talking about the cradle of the Jewish people. Our whole history is bound up with these places. Bethlehem, Shiloh, Beit El. And I know that we will have to part with some of these places. There will be a parting from places that are connected to the whole course of our history. As a Jew, this agonizes me. But I have decided to make every effort to reach a settlement. I feel that the rational necessity to reach a settlement is overcoming my feelings."

You established the settlements and you believed in the settlements and nurtured them. Are you now prepared to consider the evacuation of isolated settlements?

If we reach a situation of true peace, real peace, peace for generations, we will have to make painful concessions. Not in exchange for promises, but rather in exchange for peace."


We should all pray that peace comes sooner rather than later.

4/16/2003

Why Islam doesn't need a central authority

On February 14, 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, in response to a book he had never read, but which ostensibly profaned the Prophet Mohammed: The Satanic Verses. Copies of the book were burned publicly, and Muslims, who undoubtedly were no more familiar with Rushdie's words than the Ayatollah, from London to Los Angeles to Tehran called for the head of Rushdie. This led Rushdie into seclusion, and he went from place to place only with a large contingent of security personnel. That was a story of an Islam attempting to rid itself of a heresy and a profanity, but that has not always been the way of Islam from time immemorial.

As Bernard Lewis, in this month's Atlantic Monthly, points out:

The concept of heresy—in the Christian sense of incorrect belief recognized and condemned as such by properly constituted religious authority—was unknown to classical Islam. Deviation and diversity, with rare exceptions, were persecuted only when they offered a serious threat to the existing order. The very notion of an authority empowered to rule on questions of belief was alien to traditional Islamic thought and practice.

However,
It has become less alien.

That is an understatement, to say the least. The rise of the cult of Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula has led to the shattering of the classical tolerance within Islam of thousands of individual interpretations in favor of a puritanical form of Islam that wishes to purge apostasy from its midst. Prior to the Wahhabi takeover of Arabia (and by extension Islam), there were over a hundred different recognized schools of Islamic thought, ranging from rationalism (mu'tazila) to literalism (ahl-al-hadith) to strict constructionism (usulis). Under the Wahhabis, not only was tolerance for differing schools of thought brought to an end, but holy places revered by non-Wahhabist were trashed and desecrated.

In the 18th century, when the Wahhabi and Salafi sects were conquering Mecca and Medina for the House of Sa'ud, they destroyed places of worship built in the tombs of the Prophet Mohammed's family that had served Muslims for generations. Reportedly, they even considered destroying the tomb of the Prophet himself, although they acceded to public opinion and left it standing. The Wahhabi/Salafis argued that worshipping at such tombs was a concept that came from the Jews and Christians, and that it was forbidden in the Hadiths. This penchant for tomb-raiding is one of the defining characteristics of the Wahhabis, and it has been reported in every region which they have invaded: Saudi Arabia (as just mentioned), Yemen, Chechnya, Northern Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia just to name a few.

Here is one report from Bernard Heykel in Yemen on the oppression the Salafis have caused Yemeni Shi'a of the zaydi:

On no issue was the Wahhabi onslaught more heartfelt among the Zaydis than over the matter of Zaydi tombs. Muqbil al-Wadi'i, who is generally regarded as the Salafi ideologue par excellence in Yemen, lives in Dammaj among the Wadi'a tribe of Hamdan just outside Sa'da -- a bit too close for comfort for the Zaydis. While Wadi'i openly declares his intention of destroying the tombs of the Zaydi Imams and their domes in Sa'da, I was told that, in the meantime, his acolytes were destroying many of the grave stones in the cemeteries just beyond Sa'da's city wall. I went to see for myself, and effectively most had been broken into pieces which were strewn all over the place. I was told the Salafis came in the middle of the night to do this but none had been caught and punished.

And another from Hedieh Mirahmadi on the situation in Northern Iraq, prior to the ousting of the Kurdish terror group Ansar al-Islam:
The jihadists have not only destroyed the centuries-old tombs: They have stolen the corpses and decapitated them in the streets as a show of defiance of local traditions and beliefs. Ironically, these atrocities took place near the town of Halabja, infamous as the site where Saddam Hussein launched his chemical- and biological-warfare attacks against Iraqi Kurds in 1988. Sheikh Muhammad Masum, a U.S. resident and the grandson of one of the scholars whose remains were violated, has issued a worldwide appeal to prevent the further destruction of the holy sites.

Muslims are in need not of a centralized authority to make declarations on what is and is not Islam, but of a vigorous battle against the puritans and a widespread return to the liberalism of Classical Islam. Diversity is strength, not weakness.

4/15/2003

Welcome

This blog is still under construction. You can enjoy my other blog Souls on Fire, or just cool your heels until I get this sucker up and running. Thanks for coming!

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