the tragedy of moderation

Go read. ALL of it.

Hizbollah has won. again.

And to those who have so little faith in the power of the Enlightenment, who argue that the sole route to victory requires the West to abandon its soul, then my response is that the West has already lost and does not deserve to win.

While you look at this picture of this man, keep in mind what Alan Dershowitz has said. And then ask yourself just how falsely the claims of sorrow from Israel must ring in his ears.

UPDATE: Jonathan Edelstein aka the Head Heeb sums it up: the attack on Qana was stupid.

O, Israel! You are your own worst enemy. Jan Egeland's proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire, seems like such a lost opportunity now. Israel will now suspend aerial attacks for 48 hours, but the damage is done and Israel has lost.

Had the Egeland proposal been accepted, precious time would have been secured for Hizbollah to succumb further to domestic pressures - Hizbollah had already agreed to the 7-point plan that subtantially achieved most of Israel's strategic objectives!

But Israel pressed on and now they have lost. Hizbollah is supreme in Lebanon, it's national reputation reclaimed from the abyss it faced just three days ago. Oh, you fools!

CAIR statement on the Seattle synagouge shooting

CAIR has issued official statements on the Seattle incident - wherein a muslim-American opened fire upon a synagouge, claiming it an act of revenge for the violence in Lebanon by Israel. CAIR's and the Seattle muslim community's condemnations are clear and unequivocal and I am reprinting it because already accusations have arisen against CAIR that it is a qualified condemnation, that they actually blame Israel or take sympathies to the bomber, etc. These are typical slanders of CAIR and while I have serious concerns with the national leadership, I consider the organization as a whole to speak for me and has my support.

(WASHINGTON, DC, 7/28/06) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned an attack on a Jewish community center in Seattle, Wash., that left one person dead and several more injured. (A statement signed by representatives of the Seattle Muslim community, including CAIR-Seattle, is attached below.)

A lone gunman who reportedly said, “I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," entered the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and began shooting. The alleged gunman was later arrested.

In a statement, the Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said:

“We condemn this senseless attack on a religious institution and offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of those killed or injured. The American Muslim and Jewish communities must do whatever is within their power to prevent the current conflict in the Middle East from being transplanted to this country. We also urge local, state and national law enforcement authorities to step up security measures at synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions of both faiths.”

CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 32 offices, chapters and affiliates nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

- END -

In addition, the Seattle muslim community released the following statement:


The Muslim community of the Greater Seattle area watched in horror as news broke of a shooting at the Jewish Federation building. While many of the details of this shooting remain to be determined, what is clear is that a senseless and ruthless act of violence has taken place and resulted in the loss of at least one life.

We categorically condemn this and any similar acts of violence. We pray for the safety and health of those injured and offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the victims of this attack. We also hope that the perpetrator of this crime is brought to justice.

There is no room for such acts of violence in our city and community. When one of us is attacked, none of us are safe. We refuse to see the violence in the Middle East spill over to our cities and neighborhoods.

We reject and categorically condemn any attacks against the Jewish community and stand in solidarity with the Jewish Federation in this tragedy.

Statement issued by:

Council on American-Islamic Relations, Seattle
Ithna-Ashari Muslim Association of the Northwest
Muslim Association of Puget Sound
Islamic Educational Center of Seattle
American Muslims of Puget Sound
Arab American Community Coalition
Islamic Center of Tri-Cities

There's really nothing more I have to say on the matter.


Barrett and bin Laden

via Glenn, This is an affront to me on multiple levels of identity - as a muslim, sure, but also as a proud Badger alumni:

A letter sent Thursday and signed by 52 Assembly representatives and nine state senators condemns a decision to let Kevin Barrett teach an introductory class on Islam this fall.

U.W.-Madison Provost Pat Farrell launched a review after Barrett spoke last month on a talk show about his views that the terrorist attacks were the result of a government conspiracy to spark war in the Middle East. After the review, Farrell said Barrett was a qualified instructor who can present his views as one perspective on the attacks.

Barrett has said he thinks the most likely theory about the 9/11 plot is that it was an "inside job" organized and commanded by Vice President Dick Cheney.

My beef isn't with Barett's comments - hey, free speech, whatever - but rather that they reveal a mentality that is very dangerous for a professor teaching introductory Islam. Barrett has a clear agenda and is going to use his class as a vehicle for it. Rather than be taught about the great history of jihad, the critically differing interpretations of it between (as an example) the Umaiyyads and the Fatimids, the students will be taught a bland version of the concept that ultimately takes away the power of jihad as a principle of Islam.

This is my beef with progressivism in general - it seeks to neutralize the power of faith and the vibrancy and potency of its ideas. Islam is not easy. It isn't meant to be distilled into coffee-cup aphorisms or worn on the sleeve. It's not a pet cause to be trotted out in service of political posturing. It means something, it has a real depth and a real heft, but people like Barrett (and bin Laden) cannot allow that wondrous complexity to distract their audience from their own petty agendas.

Ann Althouse comments that not firing Barrett is probably the best way to deal with him:

Why would anyone who cared about left wing politics want to be associated with Barrett? He's obviously wrong! It would only make your beliefs seem like a load of lies and idiocy. I think people on the left and the university are simply trying to isolate and endure him as he passes through the system in his one semester. Do you hear any university lefties praising him? Do you hear anyone here praising him? I think not. You're only hearing the most minimal statements, all designed to encapsulate him so that he can pass through the system doing the least harm. These bland statements are like the milk you're supposed to drink if you swallow vitriolic acid. Refusing to fire him is like following the do-not-induce-vomiting advice. I think they are right that firing him would do more damage than passing him through the system.

Damage to the University, sure, but what about the damage to the young students who take the class?

UPDATE: from a comment left at Ann Althouse's blog:

I don't disagree that Barrett is a loon. But what most people don't realize is that Barrett *has* co-taught this class in the past, several times, w/ a member of the faculty (who is I believe tenured, tho I'm not positive). In fact, this is what got him the job: he had been TAing the course for years, he received decent reviews for doing so, and when the usual prof went on sabbatical, he was the logical person to take over it. Oh, and he also happened to be the only applicant.

So I'm just not sure what else the university should have done here. Not offer the course at all?

This is a fair question. But at the very least Barrett's views on 9-11 should get attention so that the students taking the course have that information as they assess and critically evaluate what they are taught. After all, as another commentor says, "We should have more faith in the intelligence and common sense of the students." Fair enough.


progressive muslims

I note that the attempt to create a "muslim daily kos" has failed, with ProgressiveIslam.org essentially chasing away Ali Eteraz (who has returned to his old blog haunts).

The basic problem I have with the so-called "progressive" muslim movement is the deep infatuation it has with "progressive" American political leftism. The very fact that a contributor to PI.org would choose the name "muslim hedonist" is in some sense indicative of the general "salad bar" attitude towards faith that makes a mockery of the very concept of Islam - asubmission to truth. Verily I will support the right of any muslim to define and interpret the truth as they see fit; but there is an engrained hostility towards faith - and particularly those who take a less "hedonistic" and more traditional interpretation of faith - that undermines their very claim to diversity. As with leftist groups in general, diversity is a thing in the abstract, whereas the reality is a strict code of orthodoxy not that different from the uber-religious muslims; yin and yang, on the surface different as night and day, yet in true shape completely alike.

Good luck to ProgressiveIslam.org, but they do not speak for me, I speak for myself. And I respect genuine defenders of the right to have faith - a freedom that I have never felt that PI.org or their supporters ever acknowledged - such as Thabet and Haroon far more than I do the narcissistic essays of Michael Muhammad Knight or Muslim Hedonist or Amina Wadud.

On this blog I strive to integrate modernity with faith and I succeed. I will not give up either; both are precious to me. That is my heritage and I am not ashamed to express it - with brass.

UPDATE: Mohja Kahf, writing at MWU:

The lazier among the progressives in the U.S. and Canada tend to act like House Slave Muslims. Too much reliance on what is pc in left-liberal Western discourse and what is au courrant in postmodern thought as the basis for their critique rather than a truly independent grounding in alternative spiritual paths. Here they should take a cue from the South African progressives & others abroad. If only the U.S. progs had experience with any sort of extra-systemic thought, with environmentalist thought, black radical thought, anything that would give them some backbone, some honest-to-goodness principles of their own. Instead, they run the other way wringing their hands abjectly whenever the nasty Field Slave Muslims say something Not Nice to Massa. Hey proggies, sometimes the Field Slave Muslims get it right, you know, even when one disagrees with their brute violence.



a muslim at Daily Kos

(below is a diary posted at Daily Kos, in response to one by NYCeve. I repost it here verbatim. I hope more muslims join the community at DailyKos so that our voices are heard as well.)

UPDATE: comments enabled. With over 300 comments and counting, the discussion at DK is starting to become rather initimidating...

I read NYCeve's essay, I am a Jew, with great interest and a strong feeling of identification.

As anyone who follows my blog, City of Brass, knows - I have always been a defender of Israel's right to exist. I have been severely critical of Israel as a nation, for its policies alone, not for its Jewishness. In fact, the very idea of a homeland is one that I can identify with, powerfully.

But there is no such thing as a muslim homeland the way there is a Jewish one - and nor should there be.

I have often said - in response to muslims who argue the need for an "ummah" or speak of political Islam - that America is the greatest Islamic country in the world. My loyalty, my allegiance, my identity - are American.

When another country, to which I may be bound by ties of ethnicity (such as Pakistan) or of religion alone (such as Iran) misbehaves or acts in a manner that I feel is wrong - I say so. I do not feel a loyalty to these governments because I share faith, or history with them. The single nation that receives the most "free pass" from me is India, but I can defend that nation of my parents' birth on the merits of policies alone, and my cultural affinities truly are separable. (I can't prove that to you, so either take my word for it, or discount me.)

So what is it to be an American muslim? NYCeve speaks of rising anti-semitism in the world, and of how "being openly Jewish might engender an unwelcome encounter." I am not a victim - but I think that muslims in America have more to fear than Jews do. Do you think that the attitudes at LGF are fringe? I surf the red-sphere every day; I contribute at RedState; I live in Texas and listen to the callers on talk radio. Muslims are the new Jews in the US. How much longer can I say that the religious freedom which permits my faith to flourish here as no where else, will persist?

And what about Eurabia? please. If muslims in the US are the new Jews, muslims in Europe are the new Mexicans. Bat Ye'or hysterics aside, the demographic reality is quite simple: muslims are headed towards permanent underclass status. Maybe in a sense, then, they are the new Jews there as well.

And what of the world beyond?

Israel must be defended. It has a right to exist. Despite believing these words utterly, despite having repeated them several times, what I write below will earn me yet again the sting of the anti-Semite accusation again. (It doesn't bother me anymore; I get called a murdering Zionist sympathizer about as often). But Jews do have Israel, a strong (nuclear-armed) state supported by a superpower. They are well and truly safe there, a safety that no Katyusha or suicide bomber can really threaten - those are the tools of fear alone and the Jews have long ago learned that fear can be overcome. I wish the American public faced the fear of terrorism with half the composure that Israelis do - we might be sacrificing fewer of our own society's basic principles of liberty were it so.

Muslims in the middle east have nothing like Israel. Ordinary muslims are always caught between terrorists, tyrants, mullahs, and madmen, and now - the wrath of Israel as well. Lebanese people, who have no control over Hizbollah, who have just escaped decades of civil war, and only recently in the Cedar Revolution thrown off the yoke of Syrian dominance and seized their destinies for themselves - are being killed. Why?

NYCeve asks, "could you crawl inside the skin of a Jew, just to read this?" I have crawled inside that skin for four years at City of Brass. I support the Wall, I support the IDF (which I have said has a noble mission), I have condemned in the strongest possible religious terms the slaughter of innocent Israeli children. And I have always critiqued Israel on the basis of policies alone - and yes, pulled my punches for teh past few years after finding that no matter how balanced I tried to be, no matter how fair, I would still be accused of blood libel.

I know some Lebanese. All, as they grapple with fear and pain and concern for their families, still try to make a point of "crawling inside the skin of a Jew". They condemn Hizbollah's attacks on Israel but ask, rightly, "why does Israel attack US?"

I don't even want people to crawl inside the skin of a muslim. I just want people to look at the situation with open eyes.

If you're looking for more detailed analysis of the Lebanon-Israeli conflict, do stop by Nation-Building blog.


Dan Simmons responds, sorta

I had not really expected Dan Simmons to read my response to his April message in full, let alone follow the extended links to supporting arguments. I did post a link to my argument on his web forum, and he has now responds without responding:

Obviously if you oppose something or its effects, you must be afraid of it; obviously if you are afraid of it, the fear is based upon unreasonable and discriminatory biases.

This is in allusion to my use of the word Islamophobe. As I stated above, I used the term for the purposes of this essay in the non-racist sense of the word; ie I am not accusing Simmons of being a racist (how wouold one be a racist with respect to a religion, anyway?). I don't know what Simmons' views are towards Arab culture but they are irrelevant to my argument, which took issue with two basic assumptions of his essay. He has still not addressed them. Perhaps I should have written this essay in a more politically correct form so as not to offend his sensibiilties.

Still, if it's a semantic argument he desires, then I note that the word "phobia" has two meanings:

1. A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.
2. A strong fear, dislike, or aversion.

If it was not clear enough before, then let me be again explicit. I am using the word Islamophobe in the sense of meaning #2 above, not #1. If anyone reading my essay, especially any muslims, interpreted my use of the word Islamophobe as per meaning #1, please re-evaluate accordingly. For what it is worth, I think that Mr. Simmons' arguments are not irrational at all; I just think they are flawed. If in fact the two foundational assumptions he makes (which I have tried in good faith to address above) are actually true, then I would be hard-pressed to find a reason to disagree.

The value of further dialouge with Simmons is probably zero, unless he does decide to engage me on the issues I raised rather than search for semantic loopholes with which to dismiss. I am at least grateful to him for not deleting my link to my response on his forum. My goal was simple; to register my dissent. That much I think I have accomplished.


Israel and Lebanon

All my commentary on the issue is over at Nation-Building blog, so come on over.

However, I think the overwhelming tragedy of the situation is reflected painfully in the personal commentary of Jonathan Edelstein:

It should be obvious to readers of this journal that I have a strong identification with Israel. What may be less obvious is that I have a similar affinity for Lebanon. Early last year, in an attempt to understand what was happening in the wake of Rafik Hariri's assassination, I undertook extensive research into Lebanese politics. That inevitably led to study of Lebanon's ten thousand years of history, the cultures of its amazingly diverse ethnic groups, the achievements of its worldwide diaspora and its construction of a modern and thriving society from the ashes of civil war. To know these things is to admire them, and Lebanon, like Israel, has long since become a country I'd be proud to call my own.

It's no different at the level of personal connections. I have family in Israel - in the north, as it happens, in harm's way. There are Lebanese people who I consider the next thing to family. There are others, Lebanese and Israelis, who I've come to know as friends and with whom I've shared long conversations that have shaped my views of the world. We all see with the eyes we've been given by others, and the eyes I see with are, among many other things, part Israeli and part Lebanese.

Jonathan, add the prayers of this believer to yours.

in comments to his post, he observes:

I think the Israeli response is exactly what it appears to be: an inexperienced government acting out it's people's fears. Not that this justifies the response or makes the situation any better, of course, but it means that there can be an end to both.

... it's generally considered a bad idea to punish people for things they're incapable of doing, and that applies equally to nations. Hizbullah is autonomous and is beyond the control of Lebanon's government, and bombing Lebanese targets won't change that. And besides, hitting the wrong target only makes Israel look weak - if it bombs Lebanese targets but doesn't beat HA, then it will be the country that has overwhelming force but can only use it to destroy things rather than to defeat its enemies. Even aside from the moral considerations, how will that help Israel achieve safety?

all I have to add is, I miss Ariel Sharon.


the Century War with Islam-phobia

While I am not a die-hard fan, I have thoroughly enjoyed SF author Dan Simmons' works before - particularly the Hyperion series (though some aspects still don't fully made sense to me yet). I especially admired his portrayal of a reborn Catholic Church in the aftermath of humanity's diapora from a ravaged Earth.

Simmons maintains a blog ("Message from Dan") of his own, and in April posted a lengthy piece about a Time Traveler who comes back to 2006 and warns his own grandfather about the coming "Century War with Islam".

The essay, which foretells the rise of Eurabia and dhimmitude for all non-muslims worldwide, came under predictable fire. Simmons says that the essay was widely linked and pilloried, though I had never heard of it until now, several months later, by a rather roundabout click trajectory. He also describes the criticism as being largely of the "Bush is the true evil!" and "Christianity is as bad as Islam" types, which I am sure were out in force. But he errs in assuming that there is a more reasoned critique of the axioms he makes.

It is important to note though that arguing with islamophobes (and I mean that term in the phobic, not jafi, sense) is much like arguing with Creationists. As The Derb observed,

It’s a wearying business, arguing with Creationists. Basically, it is a game of Whack-a-Mole. They make an argument, you whack it down. They make a second, you whack it down. They make a third, you whack it down. So they make the first argument again. This is why most biologists just can’t be bothered with Creationism at all, even for the fun of it. It isn’t actually any fun. Creationists just chase you round in circles. It’s boring.

It would be less boring if they’d come up with a new argument once in a while, but they never do.

This is also why most muslims don't bother arguing with islam-phobes. The same tired tropes resurface: muslims do not condemn terror. (they do). The Qur'an calls jews apes and pigs. (it doesn't). Islam is anti-free will. (it's not). Islam was forced upon people at the point of a sword. (it wasn't - context). The Qur'an calls for violent jihad against unbelievers. (it doesn't - quite the opposite). Jews suffered immensely under muslim rule. (they didn't - as related by jewish sources). Islam needs a Reformation. (it already has one).

While Simmons' piece is lengthy, there were two central assumptions upon which most of its general argument rested. The first is that Europe is under demographic threat, and will become Eurabia (a hateful term coined by Bat Ye'or) by virtue of muslim fecundity. As I have summarized previously, these fears are simply not supportable by facts.

Randy MacDonald has perhaps the most definitive debunking of the Eurabia meme, with a detailed analysis of actual birthrate numbers and other hard data. It's a lengthy piece and deserves to be read in full by anyone professing to serious concern for the future of Western civlization (as Dan Simmons does). There was also a very good followup post by Scott Martens at Fistful of Euros blog. Scott adds this observation:

I think the French Muslim community is likely to sustain itself as a constructed French Islam, one with fewer elements of an ethnic identity and more along the lines of France’s other minority religions. In modern France, someone who wants, for whatever reason, to be religious is only being barely more contrarian by choosing Islam instead of Catholicism. Thus, I expect to see children and grandchildren of mixed-background homes adopting Islam.

By way of analogy, consider the Sunni Shia divide in Iraq. Anyone living in Baghdad can tell you that most families have both sunnis and shi'a. The jihadists and the foreign elements foment sectarian strife, but for the most part these two very opposed ideologies have demonstrably been able to coexist and foster bonds across their divide.

In a later post to GNXP, Randy analogizes Eurabia to the "Jew York City" meme for their implicit racist agenda:

Racism is, then, a critical element--perhaps a dominant concept--relative to these concepts. If European Muslims or New York City Jews are inherently subversive, undermining legitimate decisionmaking processes in political and social life, how can anyone who belongs to either category be allowed to participate at all? Eurabia and Jew York City are, at their roots, concepts which demand the ghettoization of the groups from which they take their names, their exclusion from any non-subordinate role. These terms' use is a good marker for some sort of highly exclusionary racism.

Randy argues that the real challenge for Europe is cultural assimilation of its immigrant minorities (including muslims), which as I have argued is a real problem they face (and which America does not), in no large part to due to institutionalized racist attitudes as a post-colonial legacy. These are not unsurmountable barriers and there are many voices in European islam - Tariq Ramadan most noted among them - who argue passionately for a European identity as a norm and who reject the idea that a muslim's loyalty should be to a diffuse "ummah" rather than their own host nation. After all, what's best for the ummah is not neccessarily best for Islam.

The second assumption is that all muslims carry the same seed of hate, intolerance, and willingness to sacrifice themselves solely to force non-believers into submission. Simmons goes as far as to have his Traveler state:

Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill you,” said the Time Traveler. “Your enemies are they that wish you and your children and your grandchildren dead and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support those fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you and your institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured that out yet – the majority of you fat, sleeping, smug, infinitely stupid Americans and Europeans.”

He stood and set the Scotch glass back in its place on my sideboard. “How, we wonder in my time,” he said softly, “can you ignore the better part of a billion people who say aloud that they are willing to kill your children . . . or condone and celebrate the killing of them? And ignore them as they act on what they say? We do not understand you.”

My emphasis above - what Simmons writes is tantamount to blood libel. Do the "better part" of a billion muslims really "speak aloud" of killing non-believers' children? In a followup defensive essay, Simmons justifies the implication with a reference to the 2002 Pew Global Attitudes Survey. Actually, he doesn't link to it himself, he just quotes the interpretation of the survey from Sam Harris' book The End of Faith. In a nutshell, Harris argues that the responses to the question "Is suicide bombing in the name of Islam justified" indicate a deep-seated malevolence lurking in teh average muslim mind. However, if you compare the results from the 2002 survey to the same question asked in 2005, there is a clear evolution over time. Rather than provide counter-spin to Simmons' and Harris take on teh raw data, I wil just link the relevant results (click on the tables below to read the full reports).

The Pew Research Center summarizes these results as follows:

The belief that terrorism is justifiable in the defense of Islam, while less extensive than in previous surveys, still has a sizable number of adherents. Among Nigeria's Muslim population, for instance, nearly half (46%) feel that suicide bombings can be justified often or sometimes in the defense of Islam. Even among Europe's Muslim minorities, roughly one-in-seven in France, Spain, and Great Britain feel that suicide bombings against civilian targets can at least sometimes be justified to defend Islam against its enemies.

Note that the validity of targeting of civilian populations is hardly under dispute. Were I to be asked the question, "Is the bombing of civilian populations justifiable in the defense of the United States" I'd answer with an unqualified yes. Israel also lays claim to the same right of self-defense and all rational observers agree.

Do the results above really support Simmon's contention that the "better part of a billion" muslims want to see his children enslaved? It flies in the face of observed reality, where there are vibrant non-muslim minorities in muslim countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan (accounting for a sizable fraction of the muslim population worldwide). In India muslims account for a massive (10%) fraction of the populace and while there certainly is communal violence and domestic terror, much of the former is provoked by hardline political parties sowing dissension for political gain (with victims more often muslim than not - see the Gujrat riots where muslims were singled out with complicity of state government records). As for the latter, the primary driver is the Kashmir conflict. India does not have massive riots likein France arising from failure to assimilate; muslims are an integral part of India and proud of their Indian identity (as I am of my Indian origin).

Simmons labors intensely to support his future thesis. For example, his Traveler alludes to the beginning of the Century War as being June 5th, 1968 - the assasination of Robert Kennedy by a Palestinian, the Jerusalem-born Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. The fact that Sirhan was not a muslim, but actually Christian, is omitted. I assume the omission is one of ignorance, a simple failure of due diligence, which is rather ironic given that Simmons describes a future America where the right to vote is contingent upon having read Thucydides. The latter is a reference to the Peloponnesian War, which Simmons goes to great lengths to analogize as an argument for victory belonging to the most ruthless. And therein lies the greatest tragedy of this strain of thought. Simmons eulogizes Enlightenment values as "ours" and says that Islam is at odds with them; yet he would cast these very ideals aside.

(I have posted a link to this essay on Simmon's web forum and invited his response.)

UPDATE: Dan Simmons responds to my response to his April Message... sort of.


bomb blast in Mumbai

apparently a bomber struck a crowded commuter train in Mumbai (also known as Bombay), India. Few details as yet, butt there were definitely casualties.

Up to 100 feared dead in Bombay blasts
Associated Press

BOMBAY, India - Seven explosions hit Bombay's commuter rail network during rush hour Tuesday evening, killing as many as 100 people, the city's police chief said. Chaos engulfed the crowded rail network in India's financial capital following the blasts that ripped apart train compartments.

Doors and windows were blown off the train cars, and luggage and debris were strewn about.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for what appeared to be bombings, but the blasts came in quick succession - a common tactic employed by Kashmiri militants that have repeatedly targeted India's cities.

Police Chief A.N. Roy said 20 bodies had been taken to hospitals, but "there are more casualty reports coming in."

Indian television broadcast video of badly injured people sprawled on tracks and being carried to ambulances. Witnesses reported seeing bodies parts strewn about the stations.

For anyone with family/friends in Mumbai who wants to get information, check out the Mumbai Help blog.

allez, Zidane

By some quirk of fate, I was actually watching the World Cup finals when Zidane head-butted France's championship aspirations. From what little I know of Zidane, it was extremely out of character. The man has struggled to craft an identity that is both proud of his Algerian roots and of his French identity simultaneously - and thus represents a genuine force for stability in a nation where most muslim immigrants feel a profound sense of alienation. Zidane represents the Americanization of French identity, and is in that sense a hero for all of us.

So what could have provoked Zidane? The concensus is that the Italian player taunted him at a critical moment, and Zidane just lost control. That anyone should snap after hours of grueling play, pummeled and exhausted, and carrying the hopes of their entire nation on their shoulders, is unsusprising. I think it's fairly reasonable to conclude that Materazzi made a calculation, and then acted deliberately to avoid the otherwise inevitable. We don't know yet what was said, and Materazzi predictably denies having taunted Zidane in any way, but some variation of "arab terrorist" is likely, though confirmation can only come from Zidane himself.

And as Ali Eteraz points out, were it indeed a taunt of racial or religious nature, then Zidane owes Materazzi no apology:

Zidane's act was spontaneous; borne solely out of his appreciation of the fact that he had been disrespected when he did not deserve to be. Perhaps Zidane should have been more like Jackie Robinson. But the fact remains that Zidane is not in Robinson's situation. Zidane is a colored player in a sport that has been full of colored players for almost a hundred years and yet still contains explicit acts of racism such that its governing body has to initiate a "Say No To Racism" platform. Jackie Robinson was a gentleman because he was the first to make it. Zidane is at a place where we should be far beyond the stage of gaining acceptance; where respect should be freely available.

And what of sportsmanship, some ask? In a sport where racism is as engrained as it is in the host culture of Europe as a whole towards its immigrant sons? Where Zidane himself was told in 1998 by his own team manager, "Zizou, the French team is not you, and you don't represent the French team" ?

And as for those who believe that Zidane, and muslims as a whole, are overly sensitive to racism and ethnic slurs, one need only look at this:

Sunday, July 09, 2006

More World Cup Observations [John Podhoretz]
This is astounding: A French player assaulting an Italian player during the finals match. I gather that the incident began when the Italian player said, "You know what? I like Jews."
Posted at 5:20 PM

there are jafis aplenty in the United States just as there are in Europe. Some people, Podheretz included, look at Zidane and will never see anything other than a dirty muslim. Zidane head-butted all of them with his act, and I am proud of him for it.

Eteraz goes on:

There are many who will decry Zidane having cost his country another cup. Others who will say that he "should have risen above it." But that's what is most wonderful about this situation: Zidane had already accomplished in 1998 all he needed to accomplish to prove himself. He had already brought one cup to his cup-less country. He had already, prior to coming to Germany 2006, "risen above" the entire cavalcade of history and bigotry, to become the "greatest footballer of our generation." So great was he that despite losing last night, and despite getting thrown out, he was still determined the winner of the Golden Ball Award as the best player of the tournament. When it came to football, Zidane didn't have anything to prove. He was the greatest football of our generation, and as such, what he deserved, was some respect. He did not get it. So he put the Italian on the floor. Zidane was always the best at getting what is most elusive. I believe in the end Zidane will say that he was wrong in what he did. That will make Zidane an even greater hero.

Yes it was wrong, but it was defensible. The reason it was wrong was because it was aan act for Zidane, not for the French fans. But Zidane in that moment was not an athlete - he had been reduced by Materazzi - for reasons of cold calculus and spite - to a mere thing. And so Zidane reclaimed his humanity and his dignity - a selfish act, but a neccessary one. Zidane should indeed apologize to the French fans - but not to Materazzi. We shall see.