Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday Update

I am still very busy with moving so no Tawhid post today; look for a short version tomorrow to make it's way up onto the blog in the late afternoon. With Budget calling me and telling me I might not have a truck - a truck I reserved in May - tomorrow morning, my world may be a bit hectic the next couple of days. I take possession of the townhome on the 1st at 3:15pm. Thursday's edition of Tawhid should be up at some point but I don't know when right now.

Take it easy my fellow sprinters.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Project Delay and Weekend Plans

I can already tell that I won't have enough time in the next few days to properly start my "A Letter to..." series. Moving is going to take up too much time. I will delay it by a week and try to keep up with the Tawhid series on Monday and Thursday.

Given the new anti-terror bill, the results of the pending Asian Cup final match, and the Bush Administration's proposed arms deal with Saudi Arabia there should be plenty to talk about in the interim.

I am off to Boone to see my grandfather as he is not recovering from his heart surgery very well. Then I am back in CR Sunday afternoon to welcome Ms. Lowe back to the United States from Tanzania. Sunday evening I'm watching 300 with Reis before he heads of to law school in Kansas. If I am not doing one of the aforementioned activities, I will be packing and cleaning.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tawhid: 26-Jul-07 ed.

Welcome to the first edition of Tawhid! Tawhid is a semi-weekly series on the Middle East, Islamic jurisprudence, and Islamic theology. The word "tawhid" (TAW-heed) roughly translates to "unity" or "oneness".


Football and Iraq

The 29th of July will mark a monumental event for the new democratic nation of Iraq. The Iraqi national team will face off against the Saudi Arabian national team for the Asian Cup. The match could rival the 1980 Winter Olympics hockey gold medal match as an ideological tour de force: Democracy v. tyranny; religious plurality v. religious extremism; the great hope of a poor nation v. pride of an oil monarchy. The match, and the game of football, certainly means more to the Iraqi people than just the title of "Asian Cup Champions."

The Iraqi national team has won over the hearts of a war-torn country and crossed sectarian lines. The team is comprised of Sunni and Shi'a Muslims; Arabs and Kurds play together for the pride of their country. Much has been made of the team's ethnic and religious plurality in international news.

The Iraqi people have found a common bond to share among sectarian and ethnic strife. Sunnis, Shi'a and Kurds celebrated in the streets after beating Asian powerhouse South Korea on penalty kicks to advance to the Asian Cup Final; they waved the Iraqi flag and for a moment were able to forget the bloody violence that defines Iraqi life.

However, their celebration was cut short by two suicide bombings. The bombings weren't targeting American, American "puppets", or other foreign forces; instead, they were targeting the Iraqi people for celebrating a moment of national pride and joy.

The bombings only further evince the fact that the United States cannot be to blame for all of the death and violence in the country - nor can we be completely accountable for the violence that will continue once we leave. The radical sectarian groups couldn't even tolerant their fellow Iraqis celebrating something that was totally and completely theirs; only the Iraqis were responsible for this grand moment of international fame in its short democratic history, not the United States, the British, the UN, or Iran. It's as if the terrorists couldn't tolerate happiness or the brief reprise from violence that occurred as the Iraqi people - regardless of religious creeds or ethnic background - gathered together to watch the football match. The Likud party and Hamas have a similar fear of peace and tranquility; both are infamous for causing violence just for the sake of starting strife or baiting a violent reprisal from their adversary during times of extended peace.

It seems football is the only Western export that holds unquestioned legitmacy in the Middle East. If social reforms, democratic reforms, or the promise of increased personal freedoms cannot pierce the veil of Islam's prejudice against the West or rouse public support to stop sectarian violence, it's good to know that nationalism, pluralism, and communalism haven't been completely killed off yet.

I, for one, hope the Iraqi team beats the Saudis. These people deserve something to cheer about, and more importantly popular support for local sectarian groups will hopefully decrease if the terrorist groups continue to kill civilians for being guilty of nothing more than existing in a state of brief peace and joy.

2-1 Freedom and hope trump racism and oppresion

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Great Soccer Quest

My previous hate-hate relationship with soccer was founded upon the type of people involved with the game at my high school - okay the boys involved, most of the girls were pretty damn cute. Most of them were spoiled brats and acted the the part too; in response, most of the people I knew called them "lawn faeries." A lot of the guys that played soccer were in track and cross country with me, so I'm not speaking to their character or interactions with society without firsthand knowledge of their ass-clownery.

As I have aged and grown away from high school politics and American xenophobia, I have taken greater pleasure in watching soccer. It's no longer the sport to take a nap to, or wholly foreign to me. I always enjoyed playing the NES soccer game as a kid, and now I enjoy the FIFA 2007 game I have for my Xbox. Playing video games of sports has always given me a greater appreciation for the rules. I have learned a lot more about defensive and offensive schemes for American football through playing video games. Anyway, I have come to really enjoy watching soccer and even found myself getting involved in the matches.

I was actually outwardly upset when a referee no-called a sliding tackle by a Mexican player against the United States in the CONCACAF Cup final. Much like the Olympics, I have always enjoyed watching the United States play in matches against countries in the World Cup. However, now I actually want them to win and expect US Soccer to catch up to the global standards, whereas before I viewed it with a detached indifference or even a low standard of expectations. I hope more American fans join the soccer bandwagon in the Post-Beckham era. I recently heard that 20 million American youths participate in the sport, making it more popular amongst children than the "Big Three" (Football [American], Basketball, and Baseball). Although to be fair, girls aren't allowed to play football and are quickly escorted to females-only softball after teeball baseball.

All of the soccer education lead me to ponder the origins of the word "soccer". I couldn't understand why we were the only country to use the term and where it could have come from. Foot + ball is not fuzzy math given the rules and skill of the game; similar to Base + ball and Basket + ball. The equation falls apart with Socc + er, right? Not exactly. Evidently, "soccer" fits that equation perfectly and even has its roots from across the pond.

Wikipedia was of little help on the subject. Typing in soccer provided a vast amount of knowledge on the rules of the game and the history of football, but it did little to answer my question about where "soccer" came from. Luckily, and the online etymology dictionary were of some assistance.

"Soccer" is a diminutive form of association football. Late 19th century Brits - like the youth of today - liked to truncate words; they also like to add "er" to the end of words. In an effort to distinguish between rugby football and association football they coined the terms "ruggers" and "soccer". Evidently, "assers" wasn't a viable option.

According to my research (online etymology dictionary and, the reason this British slang term was originally used in the United States was largely pejorative. Baseball was "America's pastime." Until the mid to late-nineteenth century football/soccer was a sport of hooligans and pub patrons. It was lawless and violent until the rules were codified in England. The civilized sport of baseball was chosen and modified from the British games of rounders and cricket as America's sport. Soccer was a sport of foreigners and violence. Football - America-style - became popular through Ivy League sports. The elite promoted the sport and called it "football." You can thank the ivory towers for the need to clarify these days when speaking of "football."

If you are ever harassed by a non-American fan of football/soccer about the American use of the term "soccer", feel free to point out its the Brits fault, not ours.

Biweekly Reports and a New Project

As the deadline looms for my first installment in my semi-weekly Middle East editorials and reports, I have decided on my first topic. Tomorrow will showcase a look at the impact of football (soccer) on Iraq during their current run in the Asian Cup.

However, I have greater ambitions on the horizon. It will be hard to do more than just regurgitate international news during the biweekly updates without reader participation. It will be much easier if you submit comments or ideas for issues you would like discussed. For example, I thought about using one of the days to talk about doctrines within Islamic jurisprudence or theology. I would love to hear feedback on what would be interesting to read about.

That being said, I may truncate the biweekly posts to weekly posts beginning next week for a three-part series that I am considering. The series will be titled "A Letter to..." and will have one letter each week for three weeks. A moment on the purpose and inspiration behind the series may to help to shed light on why I am taking on this project.

On October 24th, 2002 Osama bin Laden is credited with authoring an essay entitled A Letter to America. (If you would like to read the essay here is one site and a second site that have the transcript in English. Note: "Ummah" is the Arabic word for the entire community of Muslims. Muslims believe that all Muslims, regardless of nationality or ethnicity are members of this faith-based community.) The essay is the first attempt by al-Qaeda to discuss and justify their reasoning behind the 9/11 attacks which occurred just over a year prior to the release of the essay.

What made the document interesting was that it was directed at the American people, rather than the United States government or the Bush Administration. Of particular note is answer (3) to question one ("Why are we fighting and opposing you?"); here bin Laden uses our democratic process and ideals against us in order to advocate that in American there can be no "innocent civilians" or noncombatants.

My three-part series will be in the same vein as bin Laden's "letter", in so much as he was trying to appeal to a certain audience with his message. I intend to write three "letters" to three different audiences. The first "letter" will be to the American people; the second will be to the United States government/Bush Administration; and the third will be to the ummah. Hopefully I can write one each week discussing topics like the war on terror, the future of Islam and the Middle East, and democracy in the Middle East.

I would love to hear your comments and concerns as the process unfolds.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Crisis of Islam by Bernard Lewis

Preface: Lewis is a professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. His works on the Middle East, Islam, and the West's interaction with Islam have spanned the latter part of the 20th century. He coined the phrase "clash of civilizations" that Samuel Huntington made infamous. Lewis is a proponent of Turkey - as the democratic hub in Islam - and largely focuses on the clash of the two monolithic religions - Islam and Christianity.

Review: The Crisis of Islam is a quick read at just under 170 pages. This Middle East primer was written in 2004 as a collection of expanded essays on the basic idea of: "What went wrong in Islam?" What Went Wrong? is actually the title of an essay written for The Atlantic in 2002. Crisis covers a breadth of topics in a cursory fashion to give the reader a better understanding of why the Middle Eastern culture/Islam harbors such hostility and antipathy towards the West.

Lewis makes some good points and "The Failure of Modernity" offers sobering statistics on the economic, educational, and social status of Islamic - or largely Muslim - countries. His brief discussion on jihad is enlightening to those that may be ignorant on the subject. Lewis points out that jihad has been adulterated by radical Islamists/terrorists; he even provides evidence of how suicide attacks and killing noncombatants indiscriminately is not only an innovation in Islamic doctrine, it's an illict doctrine.

While Lewis provides some answers to the "humiliation" felt by Islamic culture, - an element frequently cited by bin Laden, Zawahiri, and other radicial Islamists as justification for offensive and defensive jihad - the reader must remember that Lewis has spent the majority of his academic career speaking of the decline of Islamic culture at the hands of the superior West. Certainly, some of his argument rings true given the difference in GDP and economic development -aside from oil money. However, Lewis places more stock in his belief that Islam's Western envy has more to do with decline than the impact of imperialist rule and poor management after imperialism left the region.

The book has a lot of good nuggets one can take from it and I would recommend it to anyone interested on the subject. It's not a definitive work on the subject of Islam or Islamic relations with the West, but it's a decent jumping off point.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Sorry for the delay in postings. I have been busy helping with Valerie's wedding and getting ready to move. I hope to have a review of The Crisis of Islam by Bernard Lewis up soon. I also intend to start a biweekly commentary on the Mideast/World politics to be posted on Mondays and Thursdays.

In between the Mideast postings I will throw out any banter or musings I come up with or find of import.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Monty Python's Spamalot

Last night I went to the opening night of Spamalot in Des Moines at the Civic Center. We were in the middle and in the double letter sections (that means way in the back). Despite the distance, we could still see quite well and I didn't feel as if my Spamalot experience suffered tremendously from my inability to see faces or costumes with hawk-like precision and detail.

Missi and I attended the show with some of her friends, all of whom are big fans of Monty Python - one even being a Cornish immigrant to this country. Missi and I were the youngest in the group and the least exposed to the antics of MP. However, the show follows the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail quite closely - and I have seen that movie.

The show was funny and seemed to go quite quickly. The first act was under an hour. They even had audience participation at one point and used local lore to make the show more personal. I was most impressed by the use of pyrotechnics and computerized projectors. Broadway musicals are keeping up with the technology of the day.

I found Spamalot much more entertaining than Wicked -even the atmosphere of Broadway and third row seats can't take Wicked over the hurdle. I would pay to go see Spamalot again, I don't know that I would pay to see Wicked again.

Don't be a tit, go see Spamalot!

Monday, July 16, 2007


With birthday money to burn I picked up the Wacom Graphire 4x5 after seeing Josh tinker with it on his blog. After much playing around I still can't draw anything of substance. So I drew/wrote out my name in Arabic calligraphy. Enjoy.

My name is the darker blue; the frills are the lighter blue and swirly lines.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Quatorze Juillet

Joyeux Fête Nationale! That's right my non-cultured friends, it's Bastille Day across the pond in France. Today they celebrate the over throwing of the King by the elite - not quite a real independence in the manner in which we Americans view it but hey, whatever floats your boat - and the storming of La prise de Bastille.

I got to thinking about what other interesting historical facts occurred on this date and with the help of Wikipedia I have compiled a list of important historical events:

July 14, 1223: Louis VIII is crowned in Reims, France. Three years of turbulance and in-fighting ensue among the Christians, Jews, and French provinces.

July 14, 1789: Storming of the Bastille in Paris, France. Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin would have his surname attached to a vital and historical instrument during the Reign of Terror a few years later - replacing the breaking wheel as the preferred method of capital punishment in France.

July 14, 1798: The Sedition Act was passed by the United States Congress; making a federal offense to write, publish, or say false or malicious statements about the U.S. government. It was one of four laws that comprised the Alien and Sedition Acts. The purpose of the laws were to protect the United States from alien citizens (French at the time) and to attentuate seditious attacks. The Alien Enemies Act is still on the books, allowing the President to "disappear" resident aliens if the U.S. is at war with their homeland.

July 14, 1865: The first ascent of the Matterhorn in the Alps is completed by Edward Whymper + six others. Four die on the descent in an accident; the golden age of alpinism dies with them.

July 14, 1933: All political parties, except the National Socialist German Workers Party, are outlawed in Germany; an act within the doctrine of Gleichschaltung.

July 14, 1958: The British imposed Hashimite monarcy in Iraq is overthrown by Arab Nationalists during the Iraqi Revolution. Abdul-Karim Qassem assumes control of the country and King Faisal of Iraq and Shaykh 'Abd al-Ilāh - ruler of Kuwait - are executed. Qassem rules until 1963 when he is assassinated by the Ba'ath Party.

July 14, 1966: In Chicago, Illinois Richard Franklin Speck kills eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital. His death penalty sentence was overturned and he was ordered to serve 400 to 1200 years in prison. A statute later set a maximum of 300 years for a sentence in the state of Illinois. Speck was believed to have had XYY syndrome, however that was later proven erroneous.

July 14, 1968: In Atlanta, Georgia Hank Aaron becomes the eighth member of the 500 home run club.

July 14, 1969: The Federal Reserve makes the $100 bill the largest denomination in circulation, citing "lack of use" for the removal of $500, $1000, $5000, and $10,000 bills from ciruclation.

July 14, 1980: Kathleen Schuett will give birth to a 5lb 7oz jaundice Neal Darwin Schuett in Des Moines, Iowa after going into labor during the night. At 10:14am, the 15th of July, 1980 many Parisians have a hangover and Neal Schuett is brought into this world.

July 14, 1995: The MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 - MP3 - format was named.

July 14, 2000: French President Jacques Chirac escapes an assassination attempt during Bastille Day celebrations. (Brings a nice symmetry to the post)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Crime of Jihad

I was reading a BBC Article about the extradition of Abu Hamza today when something in the article struck me as interesting. The article in itself is worth the read if you would like to find out more about why were are trying to extradite Hamza - I wonder if his plane will "accidentally" end up at Gitmo? Hamza is currently imprisoned in Britain for inciting violence and race hate.

The line that struck me as interesting was this: "At the earlier hearings, the US government accused Abu Hamza of being part of a 'global conspiracy to wage Jihad against the US and other Western countries'."

We're accusing people of waging jihad now? I didn't realize it was an offense worthy of extradition, or for that matter that you can collude to wage jihad.

The doctrine of jihad is a convulted doctrine that is the subject of much scholarly debate; so is it's role in Islam. I presume that the jihad referred to in the article is the "lesser" or militaristic jihad, commonly referred to as 'holy war' here in the West.

However Hamza isn't being charged with a violent crime against a particular person or group; he's being charged with incitement and conspiracy. It would be like us trying to extradite priests, bishops, and cardinals during the Crusades for inciting violence and conspiring to overthrow the Islamic empire.

I find this all interesting because of the article that I tried to publish in 2005. It examined the jihad doctrine under a constutional lens - as in THE Constitution. One of the scenarios I discussed in the article was whether or not we would prosecute imams for calling their fellow Muslims to fulfill their duty of jihad.

Abu Hamza isn't an American citizen, so he is afforded no protection under the First Amendment regarding his speech or his freedom of religion. However, their are a substantial number of salafi and Wahhabi imams in this country that are afforded such rights. Will the government prosecute them as well?

It's not personal; it's just business

For those of you that are looking for a new home - which isn't many people these days, leading to the decline of the dollar in the markets - consider yourself lucky because you could be the new proud owner of a piece of cinematic history. The home of the fictional Hollywood director Jack Woltz in the Godfather is on the market. For a low price of $165M, you can have the 1920's era palatial estate - 6.5 acres - complete with 29 bedrooms, 3 pools, a nightclub, tennis court, and cinema. The home was originally purchased for $120,000 in the forties.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The War for Muslim Minds by Gilles Kepel

Preface: This book was written in 2004 - prior to the London bombings; just a minor fact to keep in mind when reading the book and Kepel's analysis of "Londonstan." Also of note, Kepel is a French political science professor; alors - thus - his analysis of American policy is hardly apologetic.

Review: I liked this book. Despite his critical analysis and tone of American policy post 9/11, I didn't feel the critique was unwarranted or overtly anti-American. Kepel does an excellent job of wading through the different Islamist doctrines and groups to provide the reader with a better understanding of the internal strife within the umma and young Muslim minds. The book starts with the Second Intifada in Palestine/Israel and the failure of the Oslo Peace Accord. He quickly jumps to the influence of the Neocons on Washington policy before addressing the events leading up to and immediately after 9/11. His discussion and explanation of the jihad doctrine is clear, as is his differentiation of Islamist groups like the salafis, the Wahhabis, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda to name a few. He also discusses the power struggle of the within Saudi Arabia between the Islamic scholars and the house of Saud. His ability to cover one topic and tie it back into a later chapter makes the connections of the groups, ideologies, and political jockeying even more clear.

Kepel has been criticiseized for his castigation of the Bush Administration and neocon officals, and for portraying the threat of Islamization as a weak adversary to the Western society. Kepel's critiques of the Bush Administration - and his chapter on the failure in Iraq - are no more harsh than current public sentiment. While he does argue that Islamists are no longer a real threat to Western society, he bolsters his argument with cogent arguments and empirical evidence. Kepel doesn't argue that terrorism from jihadi elements is no longer a threat to our safety, rather he argues that 9/11 failed to galvanize the Muslim world as al-Qaeda had hoped. The umma has turned its back on al-Qaeda, Kepel argues; mainstream Muslims are not interested in martyrdom operations and joining bin Laden's "war on America."

Kepel ends the book with a look at Muslim immigrant communities within Europe - a subject that receives little press in the US unless their are riots. Kepel has an uncanny ability to summarize detailed histories and ideologies in a few paragraphs. The reader can understand the plight of the Muslim immigres in France and Britain, and why the radical views of the Muslim Brotherhood or the salafi imam is more appealing than the status quo. Kepel argues in the end that this Euro-Muslim (my term) youth decides the future of Islam. A generation exposed to and benefiting from Western Democracy will either chose to embrace Western ideals and combine them with their Islamic faith, or they will reject them and embrace the hatred and separatism espoused by radical imams.

I look forward to picking up Kepel's other book: Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam in the near future.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Preface: This book was given to me by my friend Josh shortly after my return from Egypt in the summer of 2005 (I believe it was a birthday gift). Time travel, Egyptian gods, and anachronistic hijinx, what isn't to like?

Review: The first time I tried to read the book I was a bit put off by the paragraph-long first sentence. However, this time I paid no attention to the Dickens-like intro and was soon sucked into the adventures of Prof. Brendan Doyle.

As a matter of forewarning, the book was written in 1983, so the "present time" is a time jump in itself for the modern day reader. Doyle is the unknowing pawn of a dying wealthy old man at the beginning of the book. He travels back in time with the help of a super high dose of radiation and the adventures of Prof. Doyle ensue.

Not to spoil the book, but everyone's favorite fuzzy Egyptian god Anubis appears only on the cover; he never actually appears within the story. For your Anubis fix you'll need to watch The Mummy Returns or Stargate.

Powers' book is an enjoyable read and does a fairly good job of keeping the story moving along. At just under 400 pages, it's not your normal summertime or airplane flight read, however it's a story you can keep your imagination wrapped around.

If you have a hankering for historical fiction, time travel, and the cosmic battle between good and evil The Anubis Gates should fill that void in your soul.

The Warrior Prophet by Richard Gabriel

The Quarterly Journal of Military History (MHQ)
Summer 2007 ed.


While I was home in the Des Moines area I stopped by Borders after catching a movie with some family. As I was perusing the magazine aisle I noticed a magazine with a front cover that read: "Muhammad the ingenious military mind of the first insurgent." My first reaction was a mixture of shock, curiosity, and offense.


As stated above, I did not begin reading this article with an open mind. I expected it to be offensive article. The cover of the magazine - as well as a picture of the relief in our Supreme Court of the Prophet- portrays Muhammad with a sword in one hand and the Qur'an in the other. Most - a product of our right-handed society, mostly - place his scimitar in his right hand, with the last message of Allah in his left. Minor problem: in Arabic culture placing the Qur'an in Muhammad's left hand is offensive because that is the hand traditionally used to clean oneself after defecation.

The article was not as offensive as I feared it would be. The majority of the article is spent discussing the ingenuity of Muhammad's military stratagem. Gabriel makes the fairly obvious argument that if not for Muhammad's military success, the faith of Islam would have either died a quiet death or remained a regional sect.

Gabriel's article is different from the apologist writings that fill the bookshelves these days. Modern day Islamic scholars deplore the categorization of the spread of Islam via "the sword and the book," as the West is keen to describe Islam's impressive conversion rates over the last thirteen centuries - hence the aforementioned depictions of Muhammad. Far from the apologetic and modern day writers on Islam, Gabriel's article embraces the militaristic elements of Islam's roots and the proliferation of the faith.

Despite the interesting military strategy discussion, I had three problems with the article:

1) The label "insurgent"
- While Gabriel's description of an "insurgency" was educational for me, as I do not have an military training, I do not feel the term is correctly applied to Muhammad. Webster's defines "insurgent" as "person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent" and defines "insurgency" as "the quality or state of being insurgent; specifically : a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as belligerency."

I would submit that the so-called "insurgents" in Iraq and Muhammad rise to the level of belligerent. The Qur'aysh (the dominant tribe in control of Mecca during Muhammad's life) viewed Muhammad's military battles to be a matter of war. The Muslims certainly did as jihad doctrine is based largely on the battles with the Qur'aysh (both in the Qur'an and the Sunna). While al-Qaeda or local terrorist cells, as well as Muhammad, may not be combatants under the command of a state they certainly qualify as "inclined to or exhibiting assertiveness, hostility, or combativeness." Regardless of the modern day parallels, the Qur'aysh weren't a nation state either, merely the strongest and most wealth tribe in Arabia. The term "insurgent" is erroneously applied to Muhammad with respect to actions against other tribes. Moreover, the umma was the a faith based community with its own government and military elements. One could - and many have - argue that the umma was a nation.

Parsing definitions aside, the term "insurgent" to the general public is one that carries a negative connotation. I cannot imagine that to state officials or trained military officials the term is positive either. In the end, it is the implied negative representation that was offensive to me.

2) The label "terrorism"
- Much like the negative term "insurgent," the argument that Muhammad used "terrorism" to spread his faith and as the predominant military strategy of his army is again offensive.

"Terrorism seems to be an indispensable element of a successful insurgency, and it was no less so in Muhammad's case. He used terrorism in two basic ways: First, he ensured discipline among his followers by making public examples of traitors and backsliders...Second, Muhammad used terrorism to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies to a large scale."

Acts of treason and military defection punished by death are not limited to Muslim armies. Gabriel references the execution of Jewish tribes - Arabs of Jewish faith - as an example of terrorism against his enemies. However, what Gabriel fails to mention is that the tribes sold out Muhammad to the Qur'aysh - in fact leaving the Muslim army to die - before and during battles. According to Arabic tribal law his reprisal - death of their men for his - is not without precedence. It was less an act of terrorism ("the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion") as it was a matter of retribution. Gabriel also mentions Muhammad's execution of Meccans after he finally conquers the city, however this was limited to "pagans." Converts to Islam or dhimmi - people of the book; Christians and Jews - would not have been killed. Muhammad and his men probably did kill many Meccans after they overtook the city; I am sure that many died at his command. Does that make him any different than any other military conqueror after years of war? (Fallujah anyone?) If the answer is "no" then either every military leader is a terrorist or Gabriel is singling out Muhammad for his own personal reasons.

Despite Gabriel's claim that the faith Muhammad founded and spread should not be measured by the brutality of its Prophet, the tone of the article and the terminology used does little to bolster Gabriel's claim. The last two sentences of the article are:

"Conservative Sunnis, such as the Wahhabis of Arabia, and modern militant jihadis in Iraq and Pakistan still adhere to the traditional doctrine [of jihad]. It is among these militant conservative Muslims that the military legacy of Muhammad is most alive today."

It's not much different than telling the populace of the Middle East that the raping and pillaging campaigns of the Vikings and Genghis Khan are most alive today in the United States armed forces. Or compairing our forces to that of the Crusaders as Islamist rhetoric is quick to do.

3) The last section
- Gabriel ends the piece by trying to summarize complex theological and juristic differences with Islam in seven paragraphs. This section does little to clear up the readers questions regarding Shi'ism v. Sunnism, the legitimacy of the doctrine of jihad, classical v. modern interpretations of the jihad doctrine, and what constitutes jus ad bellum and jus in bello under Shari'a. The last seven paragraphs did nothing more than paint Islam as a religion of blood thirsty torturing heathens. By the end of the article you may believe that Muslim warriors are likely to come out of the closet and kill your children at night for not eating the their vegetables as they complete a nightly raid of your neighborhood.

While Gabriel does acknowledge Muhammad's - and his advisers' - military prowess, he also takes the opportunity to paint Islam as a backwards blood thirsty religion by using terms such as "terrorism," and "insurgent," and by adding convoluted and highly debated theological and legal doctrines into the article. The article is not devoid of merit, but it is also not devoid of polemics.

Irony for the day: Gabriel is the angel that acted as the medium between Muhammad and Allah. The Revelation passed on to Muhammad and contained in the Qur'an are the words of Gabriel.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Independence Holiday

I will be off for the homeland of Ankeny Iowa soon. I may or not may have an internet connection at my mom's, so there may be a lapse in new musings. I'm sure my small reader community will survive.

I intend to catch some Triple-A baseball and a Barack Obama speech while I am in the Des Moines area, so look for some thoughts when I return.

Have a safe and fun holiday!

Monday, July 2, 2007

The New Boogeyman

Over the last few days al-Qaeda has been linked to three terrorist attacks outside of Iraq: Yemen, Scotland, and London.

Perhaps I under estimate the power and reach of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri but it seems like anything that goes wrong is linked to al-Qaeda. They are the modern day boogeymen. The Yemenese are blaming al-Qaeda for the deaths of Spanish tourists in an attack that echoes the much deadlier attack at Luxor in 1997. An attack that was not committed by al-Qaeda but Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya and Jihad Talaat al-Fath - while al-Qaeda claims al-Gama'a Islamiyya has since joined the ranks of al-Qaeda they were autonomous in 1997. While the Yemenese government believes "al-Qaeda could be involved" the article also mentions that they are prone to blame unrest on al-Qaeda.

The car bomb threat in the UK is also being linked to al-Qaeda. The UK officials stated that the threat is linked to al-Qaeda personnel or associates in a "general way."

If al-Qaeda is as far reaching and influencial as the media and government agencies tell us then the "war on terror" is going to end up with the "evil" side winning. Al-Qaeda is like The Hand or the Illuminati. They seemingly control the world and are behind every crime committed on the planet. It may be true they al-Qaeda inspires regional groups to cowardly attack civilians but that doesn't mean that al-Qaeda organized it or aided the attack in anyway. If inspiration is enough the United States would be behind every attack linked to al-Qaeda. The United States not only trained and aided some of al-Qaeda's top officials, it inspires them to kill noncombatants through our Israeli support, "immoral" lifestyle, and prescence in the land of Islam's holiest cities.

While linking every terrorist attack on the planet to al-Qaeda certainly rallies the victims to support their repsective governments in their fight against Islamist radicals and the "war on terror", it also has the equally damning result of making al-Qaeda that much more mythic. We are feeding the myth that al-Qaeda can take down the "Crusaders" and the powerful West.

Pack Your Knives

It seems Padma Lakshmi is in the market for a new 'Top Chef' of her own. At her bequest, Salman Rushdie has agreed to end their marriage. I don't mention this as a matter of gossip, but because I found the BBC blurb to contain unnecessary information.

While I understand the reference to the knighthood and the international row that it caused. I found the mention of the life threatening fatwa and "Islamic condemnation" to be superfluous in an article about a celebrity split.

The article doesn't even place the mentioning of the fatwa in succession with the blurb about the knighthood row. Not to mention that the statement referring to "Islamic condemnation" strikes me as essentializing the Islamic world. Not every Muslim condemned the novel. And when did the BBC News turn into a tabloid rag reporting celebrity gossip?

So it begins...

The Bush Adminstration has finally stated that Iran is responsible for the death of American troops in Iraq. NY Times article and a
BBC article on the subject.

Prayer to whomever it is you pray that we don't invade Iran.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mouse Trap

It appears the Islamists are starting to recruit school children now for their campaign to defend the umma against the "Crusaders and the Jews." The Hamas affiliated TV station in Palestine was using a Mickey Mouse look-a-like to indoctrinate children with Islamist dogma and racism. Farfur's - the Mickey wannabe - last show was Friday after complaints from Israelis and some Palestinians. Of course Farfur couldn't just leave the show to go on a pilgrimage or something benign, oh no. Farfur was stabbed to death by an "Israeli agent" and proclaimed to have died as a martyr.

It's as if Hamas wanted to get the last jab in by making sure Farfar died under the same banner and cause that he lived. It's not bad enough that radical Islamist imams and leaders are indoctrinating poor unemployed young men to kill themselves in contradiction to Islamic law and basic Islamic values, now they are targeting children too. Reaching the disaffected youth of Palestine is hard enough with limited access to a free flow of information about the world. It would be like Big Bird giving speeches about the benefits of waterboarding and why habeas corpus shouldn't apply to the prisoners of Gitmo.

I'm an advocate for free speech as much as the next guy. But using brainwashing techniques on small innocent children to incite them and spread hate speech is not acceptable. If Islamists want to target young adults with their hate filled propaganda, then fine target individuals that have the free will to listen or not. Don't disguise your murder and hatred with giant Mickey Mouse suit. If yours is the "divine" cause then people will be drawn to it because it is the will of Allah not because you are targeting innocent children.