August 2005 Archives
August 31, 2005
The Bridge Stampede: Iraq, Chaos and Security
The deadly accident today in Iraq, where several hundreds (and indeed perhaps near a thousand) pilgrims were killed in a stampede over a bridge over the Tigris calls for some reflexion and comment. (See The Financial Times Up to 700 Iraqis feared dead in bridge stampede
Well nigh a thousand dead. Certainly it is rightly the prime lead on the Arab Sats (excuding CNBC which weirdly is trying to reproduce American dot com day-trader obsessiveness over the Saudi stock market) and the tragedy, the sheer pathos of the event - a stampede based on a false (or who knows, perhaps not....) rumour of a suicide bomber that ends up killing far more than any single suicide bomber (ex of course a truck or car bomber) might.
(As an aside, does that ridiculous Fox News call these Iraqi/Arab on Iraqi bombers 'homocide bombers' in its continued flaunting of absolute illiteracy?)
'Aqoul - Damned by Faint Praise
Me that is. Not 'Aqoul, just yours truly.
Well, here we are, well loved by Bou Aradvrak. I quote " Aqoul is a fun group MENA blog, and the home of Lounsbury (if you think that's a good thing)" in honour of New Blog Day.
Humph. If, he says, If!
Well, just wait until your next edition of Sheikhly Love Investigations comes out, eh? With charts and graphics.
That or my "Why its Good not to be a Belgian" magnum opus on sex in the Maghreb.
[adding a self plug: I may add in true The Lounsbury self indulgence that Gulf readers I have a purely perso question for here]
Lebanese Media: As-Safir, Intro and August 31
I was planning, upon completing my Arabic course and resuming my new career as a gentleman of leisure, on doing a daily translation of the front page of one of the big Lebanese newspapers, preferably one that doesn't have an English edition already on line. Sadly, having attempted that the other day, I now understand why all the big-name middle east bloggers tend to translate little bits and pieces of news reports: because doing full translations is bloody exhausting.
So I'll be trying to do a daily headlines-and-summary report of the front page of As-Safir, a leftist-Arabist newspaper ("The newspaper of Lebanon in the Arab World and of the Arab World in Lebanon") which has the virtue of (1) being cheaper than most of the other papers and (2) not already having an English edition on line, so that this little exercise might add a little value for someone, somewhere.
August 30, 2005
Veiling the lady
Visit for many more examples.
Public Service Announcement No. 1: aljazeera.com still not al Jazeerah.
A small note, one which I like to make whenever I run across someone in the English language world (online) citing to aljazeera.com as "al Jazeera(h)" clearly thinking it is the famous Arab TV Sat station. aljazeera.com is still not al-Jazeerah, which you can find online at aljazeera.net.
I will continue with this small public announcement until, at some point in a likely far distant future, the error is expunged. Or I get blown up. One or the other.
Two notes from Lebanon
After a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing, the international commission investigating Rafiq Hariri's death has taken into custody the four senior security chiefs at the time of the assassination, including the serving head of the Presidential Guard. They're only in for questioning, rather than under any sort of arrest or indictment, but it's still a pretty big deal.
As a side note, when I was picking up my dinner, the restaurant's owner was complaining about how everyone else knew something big was going down except him: he had had only five delivery orders the day before, and practically no eat-in customers, apparently because everyone was keeping their heads down. "This is supposed to be an international commission ... what kind of secrecy is this?"
Also, tomorrow (August 31) is the twenty-seventh anniversary of Musa Sadr's abduction. Sadr, who founded the AMAL movement and was the first person to bring Shi'ite Islam into the political sphere in Lebanon, was kidnapped on a visit to Libya in 1978 and has not been heard from since. (Qaddafi is not a very popular man in Lebanon.) There are signs up all over Beirut, and ads in all the paper, commemorating the day. I don't know if this is a trick of selective memory or not, but I at least don't remember this much of a fuss being made in previous years - it sure looks like an attempt to compete with the Hariri cult. (Which has subsided somewhat, but there are still a lot of big official posters of Hariri, and a fair number of the unofficial private ones as well. And you still see the big black "the truth / al haqiqa" signs up in places.)
 (a cousin of the Iraq Sadrs)
August 29, 2005
Iraq: Lessons from History
Wilson was a confident and bullish colonial official who was wrestling with a serious dilemma. How, under intense international scrutiny, could he control a well-armed society that had become increasingly resentful about the occupation of their country? Wilson himself never found satisfactory answers to this question. On July 2, 1920, a revolt, or thawna, broke out along the lower Euphrates. Fueled by a population resentful at the heavy-handed approach of the occupying forces, the rebellion quickly spread across the south and center of the country. Faced with as many as 131,000 armed opponents, the British army did not regain full control until six months later in February 1921. The cost in lives and money of the revolt made the continued occupation of Iraq very unpopular with British public opinion. It also cost Wilson his job. From 1921 onward the British continually strove to cut the costs of their presence in Iraq. Ultimately the decision was made to extricate themselves from he country as quickly as possible. The result was a failure to build a liberal or even a stable state in Iraq. (Toby Dodge - Inventing Iraq)
This passage gets creepier every time I read it. I’ve mentioned Toby Dodge’s book before, partly for historical value and partly as a cautionary tale for people who can’t grasp the complexities associated with “remaking” a region. The reason I am flogging this dead horse yet again is a recent Washington Post article about the US struggle to foster a liberal democracy in the face of strong ethnic and sectarian pressures:
Hijab Fashion, Getting Noticed in Your Slinky Little ....
In keeping with purient interests, as well as our commitment to rooting about the dark corners of the MENA world and its cultural off-shoots, I draw your attention to this amusing little article in The Washington Post entitled
While the arty actually deals with surburbanite sub-Con muslim girls in the Washington DC area, the actual issues therein are very familiar to the MENA region proper.
There is also a helpful little slide show to introduce you to Hijab sexy chic. Actually one of our young subjects is quite fetching in the scarfy hijab she chose. Fashion accessories...
August 26, 2005
Allow me to present to you snippets from an article from my local newspaper:
Polygamy can solve some social ills, such as reducing the number of women turning into spinsters and the natural longing to have children in the case of an infertile wife, Muslim scholars have said.
"Polygamy is beneficial for women more than men."
"Women are known for their jealousy which has been taken into account by the Islamic Sharia. But because the public interest is always above personal interest, women must accept their husbands having a second wife."
"In the UAE and some other countries, the media has ruined the image of polygamy to the extent that it became a socially unaccepted phenomenon, especially among women. Yet, polygamy is a solution and helps women avoid becoming spinsters."
And my favorite:
"Through experience, I've noticed that when a man marries a second time, his relationship with his first wife strengthens. A second marriage is a psychological drive."
I suggest you read the whole article.
I wonder whose consumption this could have been meant for - I'm guessing it was not for the typical reader of an English-language paper here. In fact, I'm more curious about why this was printed than about the content itself.
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development (bis)
Added Thoughts on Private Equity for Devleopment MENA
I neglected to touch on a few key points in my original note, below are further thoughts on private equity and economic development for the MENA region.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 08:16 AM
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Filed Under: Business, Private , Economic Development , Economic Policy , Foreign Policy & MENA , MENA Region General , US Foreign Policy
Economist - a fine arty on Jihadis as Anarchists
A bit late I admit, but I get my Economist a week late, and very much prefer the print edition to online reading. Being primative.
I very much enjoyed this as this is something that I have been making as a point in several conversations online, in regards to the neglected similarities to the radical anararchist movement of the end of the 19th century in Europe and the Americas.
August 25, 2005
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development
A few weeks ago I raised the subject of emerging markets private equity in particular in the context of US Gov efforts to utilize the vehicle to further its political / development goals in the Middle East – North Africa region. One of our online world colleagues if you will posed a question to me as to what the “The Lounsbury” approach would be, in the context of my expressed skepticism in regards to the investment vehicle / definition chosen by The Overseas Private Equity Corporation.
Ironically (well not really) at present I am working on materials closely related to just this question, although not really in regards to development – but as much of the private equity activity in region has been international development institution driven there is a clearly overlap. Now, having sent drafts of my materials off for comment I can take a moment to sketch out some preliminary thoughts on the issue that will be the basis for future comment.
First, my assumptions, based on personal experience in the region and in the “sector” if we can call it that. Again, these are my a priori assumptions and principes.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 11:34 AM
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Filed Under: Business, Private , Economic Development , Economic Policy , Foreign Policy & MENA , MENA Region General , US Foreign Policy
Water, Business & Privatisation
A fine comment in The Financial Times today on water services privatisation that has no small meaning for the MENA region.
A subject of long interest to me, as some know, dating back to my time in Egypt where I was appaled at the sheer madness of Egypt's water policies.
Well, actually I spent much of my time appalled by everything in Egypt, but that is another matter.
It is an abiding shame that the idiot anti-globalisation fools opposed sensible privatisation of water services under emotive and illiterate cries of "human rights" and the like, while all too typically ignoring the fact of real costs of water services which get borne by the poor one way or another.
August 24, 2005
Aqaba, some moderately ignored items
Oddly the Aqaba attack, no doubt to the sheer pitifulness of our fine rocketeers' aim (really no respect for the craft of rocketing these days), seems to have generated relatively little attention.
Yes, the usual bleating about terror this and that in the usual places, a rather typical and in my mind largely posturing claim on behelf of Zarqaouie via the internet.... but little attention to the idea of Aqaba as the first Iraq spillover event (although one might suggest the truck bomb "chemical threat" thing of last year which I very much enjoyed personally (emptied out my fav places in Amman, great seating to be had) was something of a spillover.
Pity, it should have been a point of heated speculation.
August 23, 2005
Sheikhing up UAE education
The UAE's education minister, Sheikh Nayhan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, is planning a massive overhaul of the country's education system. He has been highly critical of the current system: "Exam papers are poor and do not evaluate students' achievement. The entire teaching and evaluation systems are appalling. They allow every student to pass whether he or she studied or not."
UAE blogger Sandsoftime relates her own experience of the country's public education, and why radical reform is desperately needed:
"I had the unfortunate pleasure of going through the public education system here. I am not exaggerating when I say that I still mourn the wasted years of my youth spent in the hell hole that was my school. List of things wrong with school: Poorly paid idiotic teachers typically from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Somalia, etc. A curriculum that you can pass by just memorizing your way through, poorly written text books, crumbling infrastructure (On a side note, I visited my school a few months ago. The desk I used to sit in when I was 10 years old is STILL there more than 15 years later), widespread bullying. In other words, the entire system is designed to kill off whatever latent creativity the students may have. Those who succeed after graduating do so DESPITE their schooling and not because of it.
"Why is our education system such a mess? Because like everything else, we imported it during the 70's. We however made the dumb mistake of basing ours on the Egyptian system and other Arabic systems which themselves are based on the Ottoman System. The Ottoman system was designed around creating subservient civil servants and soldiers out of its population. Have you ever wondered why much of the Arab world is dysfunctional? Because it goes hand in hand with an equally dysfunctional education system.
"This is why national parents prefer to spend the expense on sending thier kids to International Schools here in the UAE. Despite being very expensive, the International schools here are actually pretty good and do an excellent job of preparing the students for their future. One of the side effects is the kids don't have a strong command of Arabic as thier parents, something which has become prevalent among the children of well-to do nationals.
"Our public education system needs to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch. You cannot reform a system that was built on perpetuating repression."
In the news of the Odd: Arab syn for begger
This little news item offered me a bit of bemusement insofar as it is just plain odd:
The primary question in my mind is not the 'pejorative' synonyms per se, but their.... well oddness. I mean if I ponder I am certain I can think of pejorative synonyms for Arab, but begger and 'welfare bum' certainly don't crop up.
Really quite peculiar.
August 22, 2005
'Aqoul in the News
Some otherwise serious bloggers have spent the summer fascinated by a niche in romance literature with its own fan website: Sheikhs and Desert Love. Eerie, a contributor to 'Aqoul, a blog mostly about news from the Middle East, noting a significant increase in the number of romance novels featuring handsome desert nomads, provided a helpful graph documenting their rise. Yin Shui Si Yuan dismissed these romance novels as "incredibly ill-informed, orientalist, romantic fantasies involving oil sheikhs." Political Animal's Kevin Drum and Abu Aardvark's Marc Lynch have found the subject an amusing distraction from the August doldrums.
The graph was also mentioned on a German site, accounting for the massive traffic spike last week:
Thanks to all the degenerate 'Aqoul authors and like-minded bloggers for their contributions to this now-infamous bit of trivia.
Installing them tonight. Apologies to everyone receiving odd emails.
Update: Installed, please let me know if you encounter any problems.
Cole - Analysis of What to Do with Iraq
A bit pressed for time, so let me share this excellent piece from Juan Cole on Iraq. I am not sure I entirely agree, but I think his thinking and analysis is about as clear and grounded as one can get. Not defeatism, not simple minded self deception either.
This is why one should read Cole even though he tends to the annoying Left when commenting on economics and the like.
Critiquing the Arab World (update link)
A small note of reflection on critiques of the Arab world, Daniel Drenzer’s blog, the weaknesses of the commentary and other points raised.
[An interjection, on reading this AM’s comments and in particular Britt’s mendacious reply, I have to say I was too generous, the fellow is in fact a political hack interested in talking points, not getting up to speed, pity that, but more below.]
August 21, 2005
Nur al-Cubicle writes about a website that surpasses any definition of obscenity and inhumanity.
www.nowthatsf**kedup.com basically offers free access to its pornographic content in exchange for graphic pictures of war and bloodshed:
"If you are a US soldier deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or any other theatre of war and you would like free access to the site, upload the photos which you and your buddies took during your service."
According to Nur, the discovery was first reported by an Italian blogger and the story has been carried by the Italian press agency ANSA:
"Browsing through the posts is like a descent into hell. Each post contains the most graphic of images, escalating in barbarity and viciousness and accentuated by the comments left by posters. The posts exalt the violence of the images, shot in a theatre of war. You see headless, armless burnt bodies, a face in a bowl, the remains of suicide bombers, an arm or a leg accompanied by inhuman comments, extolling the horrors..."the only good Iraqi is a dead Iraqi." The comments are stupefying in their cynicism...there is even a barbaric quiz, asking the question, "what body part is this"...?"
It's likely that a site like this will get taken down, for proof Aqoul has saved screenshots but will not be posting them.
Snap-unhappy in Manama
Bahrainis are less than snap-happy after an international photography exhibition was forced to withdraw some of its images, after earlier attempts at moderate censorship failed:
They had originally censored some pictures featured in the World Press Photo exhibition with black tape, but had to take four down because people kept removing it.
The photographs taken down were of a naked tribal man, a semi-naked drug addict, a topless model during Paris Fashion Week and naked portraits of South African women who have been the victims of domestic violence.
Manama Municipal Council chairman Murthada Bader clears up any confusion about what is and what isn't acceptable in the Island Kingdom:
"The exhibition shows the world the truth about death, murder, famine, poverty and happy times, but nudity is not an issue we will accept here in our country."
August 20, 2005
The Real Reason for the Iraqi Constitution's Delay
Nasar is trying to build a Constitution. His efforts are, he believes, noble, and will, as he imagines them, meet the deadline given to him.
Then he sees the telltale animation for Force of Aggro.
"Ack! I'm being pulled!" he says.
What Next in Iraq
Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber discusses what can be done about the situation in Iraq:
Orin Kerr recently proposed a useful simplified framework of possible outcomes in Iraq:
- The U.S. beats back the insurgency and democracy flowers in Iraq (call this the “optimistic stay” scenario),
- The U.S. digs in its heels, spends years fighting the insurgency, loses lots of troops, and years later withdraws, leading to a bloody and disastrous civil war (the “pessimistic stay” scenario);
- The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out relatively soon, and things in Iraq are about as best as you could hope for, perhaps leading to a decent amount of democracy (optimistic leave), and
- The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out soon, and plunges Iraq into a bloody and disastrous civil war with the bad guys assuming control eventually (pessimistic leave).
Speaking only for myself, I’m entirely confident that we could achieve outcome 4, believe that staying the course will continue to lead to outcome 2, and can scarcely imagine outcome 3. What about outcome 1? Is it achievable?
There’s a well-known prayer that asks for the courage to change the things that can be changed, the serenity to accept the things that cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. I find myself short on all three.
I believe that Greg is right about the consequences of letting Iraq collapse into civil war. It’s terrible to contemplate. A civil war or a failed state could lead to tens of thousands of deaths, maybe more. It would be a moral travesty and a terrorist breeding ground. It would make a mockery of the goal, however idealistic, of transforming a bloody dictatorship into a stable, democratic, normal country. “Serenity” hardly seems like the appropriate response. When I look at the situation through the eyes of an idealistic war supporter, some of the vitriol is easier to understand; they’re appalled at war opponents who would abandon the people of Iraq to this fate.
So it seems unthinkable to declare victory and come home. Having said that, “what we must do” has to be constrained by “what we can do.” Imagine a village living in the shadow of a live volcano. Serenity is not an appropriate response to the threat of an eruption, but neither is a program of virgin sacrifice.
There's more, and links to much more, and a good discussion in the comments section.
August 19, 2005
For those of you who haven't seen http://syn.aqoul.com yet, it's an online media aggregator that collects MENA-related mainstream and blog items using RSS/XML/Atom feeds. Not quite finished, suggestions and comments are welcome.
On an unrelated note, for your Friday afternoon (or Friday evening, or Saturday morning...bloody timezones) enjoyment, here is an interesting photo (Source - From Cairo, with love):
There's an even funnier one on the front page, but it's going to be removed shortly.
Annoying grey ships at Aqaba piss me off: Shall Fire rockets at them. (US ships attacked) - updated
Well, this news in the AM bemused me:
It reports two missiles (in fact, it appears mortars, not quite the same thing, Mr. Halaby, or perhaps Katyusha rockets..... well something explosive in any case) were fired at US warships at Aqaba harbor.
[update: 17h00 GMT below]
Suppose this will do wonders for tourism. Might clear out the harbor though, reduce the backlog.
August 17, 2005
It appears that the Sheikhly Love item has legs
I draw your attention to the Aardvark's The Desert and the Dancing Girls.
Perhaps more expert authors can add to this small note.
August 16, 2005
Pimping Equity or Pissing it Away?: Private Equity & US Gov Efforts, some quick notes
A somewhat quick note building off of a comment by the esteemed Nadezhda in regards to my rapid note on a new US Gov private equity fund (also with more rough perso comments at Lounsbury ) backed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US parastatal investment insurance and financing house whose main line of business is political risk insurance on US direct investments in risky locales.
I have been intending - and still intend to - write some commentary on this specific issue of private equity (or in general equity finance) in the MENA region, but I thought some quick notes on this OPIC backed private equity fund for the MENA region are in order, and in response to some notes by Nadezhda - whose name I have learned to spell now.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 05:45 AM
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Filed Under: Business, Private , Economic Development , Economic Policy , Foreign Policy & MENA , Gulf , Levant , MENA Region General , North Africa , US Foreign Policy
August 14, 2005
But do they really mean it...? Or get it? This time?
From the Washington Post:
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning.
Flirting by Bluetooth in UAE
I don't recall the UAE being this conservative but I didn't interact with the "locals" as other Arab ex-pats from the Crescent called them (often with a tone of undue disdain). Indeed the indigenous folks played by more conservative rules, and so flirting and courting via electronic device, as the BBC tells us, makes sense, despite the oversimplified tone of this and related stories.
Ahmed Bin Desmal's friends joke that he is a "Bluetooth king". The 20-year-old says he has used the technology to send notes to girls he sees in public places.
"In our country it's very rude to go up and talk to them," he says. "I sent some notes, they liked them - they took my number and they called me. I say nice things - I'm into poems."
August 13, 2005
The Perverse Fascination Continues: Sheikh-Themed Romance Novels
Joining secretdubai, yinshuisiyuan and myself, the ever-thoughtful Jackmormon is also contemplating the mysterious popularity of sheikh-themed romance novels:
All mockery aside, I suspect that there is a statistically significant boom in such novels--one Susan Mallery began writing romance novels with "sheik" in the title in November 2001 and is up to eight in her series by now--but I can't really make the longitudinal argument I'd like to without more serious Library of Congress diving. And for that kind of research, I'll have to have an academic article in view. My hypothesis so far is that since romance novelists and readers are constantly in search of new diabolical male stereotypes, the recent media coverage of Arab masculinity has sparked an uptick in Arab-male leading roles in romance novels. And since the romance-novel writing business is so fast, I'll bet one could find one hell of a statistical correlation, if one knew how to look.
I suppose one might try to force such a survey through Amazon’s Advanced Search, but the speed at which these novels are published is probably comparable to the speed at which they drop off the face of the earth.
August 11, 2005
Emory Law School: Islamic Family Law Resource
Currently reading Women's Rights & Islamic Family Law: Perspectives on Reform, based on a series of studies conducted by Emory Law School.
The book presents case studies of Muslim societies in Egypt, the West Bank & Gaza and the United States. It also includes a general survey of domestic violence in the Middle East. This study is particularly interesting to me because it attempts to describe the interaction between shari'a, social attitudes and state law in the region. I may write something about it later, but for now I offer this useful link to Emory's Islamic Family Law website.
Note that the data is current as of 2002 and may not include more recent legal reforms/reviews in countries like Morocco (I'm smirking at you, Lounsbury).
Market Madness or Brilliance? US Gov Private Equity for MENA Announced
At the risk of descending into flackery or something approaching it, I thought a brief comment here might be fun.
Certainly this plays into my personal interests.
[Updated with correction below]
[Update with a question: Is there a debate to be had here regarding using such tools for acheiving a policy goal?]
Posted by The Lounsbury at 01:06 PM
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Filed Under: Business, Private , Economic Development , Economic Policy , Gulf , Levant , MENA Region General , North Africa , US Foreign Policy
August 09, 2005
Fatima Mernissi: The Veil and the Male Elite
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about women, personal status law and gender inequality in MENA. While it is a common knee-jerk reaction to blame Islam for oppressing women in the region, one need only look non-Muslim communities in and around the Middle East to see that similar practices often cut across religions. Mistreatment and neglect of women and female children is perpetrated by Muslims, Christians, Hindus and others, justified to varying degrees by calls to religion, local custom or ancient tradition.
Having said that, it’s also quite common to see people claiming that Islam elevated the status of women, when compared to the jahiliyya (pre-Islamic period) in Arabia. This appears to be true (although it remains controversial to what degree), but these same writers generally fail to mention that both the Qur’an and the Hadith contain passages stating quite clearly that women are not equal to men in some rather important respects. For me, the inequality is exemplified by a verse in Sura 4 (here are two translations):
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what God would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for God is Most High, Great (above you all). – 4:34 (trans. A. Yusuf Ali)
Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made some of them excel the others, and because they spend some of their wealth. Hence righteous women are obedient, guarding the unseen which Allah has guarded. And those of them that you fear might rebel, admonish them and abandon them in their beds and beat them. Should they obey you, do not seek a way of harming them, for Allah is Sublime and Great! - 4:34 (trans. Majid Fakhry)
Guardianship, obedience and the “appropriate” interpretation of this verse have been widely debated by religious scholars. Based on the full title of Moroccan feminist writer Fatima Mernissi’s work, The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam, I expected a discussion of Qur’anic verses that suggested both equality and inequality in terms of gender. Of course, I had already been disappointed by Mernissi’s meandering style in Islam and Democracy, so it was not particularly surprising to discover the same unfocused, overly-poetic writing here. My guess is that this work is not a rigorous sociological study as much as it is a description of her personal journey, with a bit of history thrown in for interest.
Iraq - Reconstruction - Knowing when to get out of the way
This article from The Washington Post (Op Ed actually) struck me as if not important a useful point of reflection for a moment:
Less Is More in Iraq
By Michael Rubin
Tuesday, August 9, 2005; Page A17
Let us leave aside Rubin's sketchy history in regards to Iraq as part of what one might properly and non-abusively call a "Neo Conservative" circle in Washington re Iraq (and his direct and personal contribution to the fiasco via his work with CPA-Iraq). Let us leave aside as well the question of whether a US draw down of troops is a good or bad thing (I might argue either way on any given day). Rather, merely look at the question of the US contractor presence.
August 06, 2005
Who Speaks For Islam in the West?
After doing a bit of follow-up reading on secretdubai’s discussion of UAE government control over mosques, I came across an interesting article in the Globe and Mail (linking to Google results to avoid registration prompt, just click on the first result):
Leaders clash over who speaks for Muslims in Canada - July 29, 2005
As a small group of conciliatory Muslim leaders met with Prime Minister Paul Martin last night, a war of words broke out between two other leaders whose irreconcilable world views stand as bookends to the diverse opinions of nearly 600,000 Canadian Muslims.
"Imams like Aly Hindy are holding the entire Muslim community as a hostage. A vast number of Muslim Canadians don't want to have their leadership from almost medieval imams," Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress told the CBC yesterday.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hindy -- who has given more than 20 news media interviews this week urging Muslims not to co-operate with Canadian security agencies -- once again took to the airwaves to say that people like him, and not Westernized Muslims like Mr. Fatah, are the true voice of Islam in Canada.
The controversial imam defended his decision not to put his name on the recent sheaf of signed statements from Islamic leaders condemning recent terrorist strikes in the United Kingdom. "We've already condemned terrorism, this is obvious," Mr. Hindy said. "Why don't the churches, for example, condemn terrorism done by George Bush and Tony Blair?"
UAE message of peace
Abu Dhabi: Imams of all mosques across the country have strongly denounced the stream of bloody violence in Muslim countries and the entire world, describing those who carry out bloody acts as evil. [...] The imams said terrorism is against Islamic teachings and all other religions and human principles, because Islam is the religion of peace, justice and tolerance. Those who carry out bloody acts are not Muslims and have nothing to do with Islam.
There are several reasons why things are different in the UAE. The first is that the population - national especially - tends to be more highly educated and suffers less poverty than a lot of muslims living in more deprived areas elsewhere in the world.
"The Federal Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes weekly guidance to both Sunni and Shi'a Sheikhs regarding religious sermons and ensures that clergy do not deviate frequently or significantly from approved topics in their sermons. All Sunni imams are employees of either the Federal Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs or individual emirate ministries. In 1993 the Emirate of Dubai placed private mosques under the control of its Department of Islamic Affairs and Endowments. This change gave the Government control over the appointment of preachers and the conduct of their work."
Western governments should have the guts and wisdom to do likewise.
August 05, 2005
Whose first posting, a cross-post, on King Abdullah is below. Yinshuisiyuan is a welcome addition to 'Aqoul and I personally hope to hear more from him.
King Abdullah takes the throne
King Fahd, as most will doubtless know by now, has died. The playboy-turned-diplomat-turned- moderniser-turned-COTTHP1-turned-invalid has finally shuffled off this mortal coil, ten years after his last attempt and somewhat more conclusively this time.
I'm not about to praise Fahd for his reign; nor do I feel the need to blame him for the world's ills. He was a man like any other, with a man's strengths and frailties – though perhaps, like many of us, with more of the latter than the former. His incredible wealth exaggerated those traits beyond imagining.
I'm far more curious about what happens next.
There's a tendency on the part of us hacks to look for drama in a situation. It makes it more interesting to read, for sure. But in the case of a subject as complex and as opaque as the House of Saud, it doesn't really help our analyses. I will try to bear that in mind as I run through my thinking on what we're looking at in the Kingdom.
August 04, 2005
Site Update: Comment Subscriptions
In response to drdougfir's request here, I have set up comment subscriptions for individual entries on 'Aqoul (currently NOT enabled for lounsbury.aqoul.com, because I have to paint my toenails). Subscribed readers will receive a notification email every time a comment is posted to a subscribed entry.
Earlier, someone asked about setting up threaded commenting (used in Livejournal and some message boards). I'd like to implement this in the near future, but right now there isn't much incentive (am interested in writing for 'Aqoul, not just coding) and the process is somewhat involved.
BTW, contributors do not have to subscribe to their own entries, they will receive comment notifications automatically.
British MP George Galloway praises Iraq 'martyrs'
From BBC article:
"It can be said, truly said, that the Iraqi resistance is not just defending Iraq. They are defending all the Arabs and they are defending all the people of the world against American hegemony."
He told Syrian Television: "Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad.
"The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will.
"The daughters are crying for help and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters."
Even as someone who is generally sympathetic to Arab causes and who thought going into Iraq was a bad idea, I really have to wonder sometimes which planet this man has come from, and how he convinced his constituency to elect him to Parliament.
If the insurgency in Iraq is being run by groups as disparate as Al Qaeda and former Baathists, what would happen if America were to withdraw? Would the insurgents start fighting among themselves? Do they agree on anything besides from their short-term goal of ridding Iraq of American troops? Is Bush right when he says they have no productive goals, and only want to intimidate people?
On Terror, Tea Cups and Jumping - Re Conclusions
If I may permit myself a snide aside based on this article:
London Bombers Used Ordinary Materials, and in partial connexion with my own note, Tempests & Tea Pots regarding a rather overdone, hysteric to an extent and generally ridiculous and poorly informed online debate on terrorism.
August 03, 2005
Fresh News: Coup in Mauretania (The Question: Will Anyone Notice?)
I leave it to the wiser among us to give the True Meaning. And, yes, that headline is the Financial Times' own misspelling.
Armed forces seize power in Mauritiana
Mauritania’s armed forces have set up a military council to rule the country and end the ”totalitarian” regime of President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya, a statement broadcast on state media said on Wednesday.
More Motion and Commotion in Central Asia: Of Refugees and Power Politics
In a not-so-startling turn of events in Central Asia, the Uzbek government has just given the U.S. military six months to vacate the Karshi-Khanabad air base, which has been used to support military operations in Afghanistan. This development might have been more surprising if it hadn’t come the day after 400 refugees from a May demonstration in Andijon, Uzbekistan, (which turned bloody when government troops fired on unarmed protestors) were relocated from neighboring Kyrgyzstan to Romania , after the U.N. High Commission on Refugees and the U.S. applied pressure to Kyrgyz officials not to return the refugees to Uzbekistan, where they would likely face persecution and torture.
August 02, 2005
MENA go bragh!
Poet Thomas Lynch in a new book writes that "[m]aybe it is time we looked to Ireland again for some clues to the nature of our ethnic imbroglios, our jihads and holy wars, and to how we might learn to live peaceably in the world with our 'others.'.... For here is a nation with a history of invasion, occupation, oppression, tribal warfare, religious fervor, ethnic cleansing, sectarian violence, and the tyrannies of churchmen, statesmen, thugs and hoodlums. And yet it thrives on a shaky peace, religious convictions, rich cultural resources, and the hope of its citizens."
The New Month Blog Feedback Thread
Importing a tradition of mine (which I will impose on my sister blog as well, although not this month as too much work there), I like to begin each month with an open forum for comments on the blog as such. Insofar as 'Aqoul is a group blog, you can even aspire to having real customer service rather than my abusive replies. Regardless, now that 'Aqoul is a month old (sort of), it seems appropriate to solicit input as to developments desired etc. etc. etc.
Tsar Mubarek & Reforms for the Neo Mamlouks
An article that merits close reading and attention; in fact I believe it is deeply indicative of the real challenges in Egypt, and in some ways the wider Arab world in regards to transition costs - if in general with moderately less severity.
In Egypt's Countryside, Farmers' Anger Seen As 'Silent Time Bomb'
Recent Revolt Over Rents and Evictions Draws Support of Mubarak Opponents
By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 17, 2005; A16
I would cite this as something highly indicative of the real position of the Mubarek government as well as the liberal urban classes, what I might call the "kefaya" chattering classes in one of my less charitable moods (although one supposes one can validly ask if I have charitable moods). I mean by that, the generaly comfortable proper liberal opposition who rather uncomfortabley ressemble a similar opposition in the fading years of the tsarist empire in old Russia.
August 01, 2005
Sex and Citizenship: Morocco, Jordan, Foreigners Boinking and Children's citizenship
Our industrious friend Abu Aardvark(s) (known affectionately in our Maghrebine parlance now, in honour of the second Aardvark as Bou Aradvrak) had some interesting comments on Morocco's newly announced move, via the Moroccan King's Throne speech this weekend, to change Moroccan law to grant citizenship to the children of foreigners and Moroccan women. This will end, when eventually enacted, decades of paterfamilias centered citizenship policy.
Bou Aradvrak indicated he hoped this would have a positive effect on the Jordanian dynamic where similar liberalisation has been stalled:
Progress for Arab Women & Children as his blog arty is entitled.
Dead, also. John Garang
I suppose it speaks to the ambiguity of The Sudan that I hesitated as to the relevancy, but nevertheless, John Garang was killed in an apparently weather related helo crash. This set off, as al-Jazeera showed this AM violence in Khartoum.
King Fahd is dead
RIYADH, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Saudi state television interrupted regular broadcasting with recitations of the Koran and one Western diplomat said he had information that King Fahd had died in hospital on Monday.
"Sources at King Faisal Specialist Hospital have informed us that he (King Fahd) is dead," the diplomat said. He did not give further details.