Separation of Mosque and State

An old essay at eteraz's reminded me of a musing I had about the separation of Church/Mosque and state.

Separation of church and state is of course idea for a secular technocratic republic, such as we have seen the West evolve towards. However in a poostcolonial Islamic country, separation of mosque and state might be a disaster.

Turkey is an example of how poisonous the appeal of secularism has been. And the pan-Arab movement showed us how quickly ostensibly-Separated governments quickly lead to strongmen.

The end goal is a constitutionally-governed liberal state. The Constitution is the key. Why not let that document be drawn from Islam? As long as it is made flexible enough, it will suffice. When was the last time America executed someone for Treason? Or Habeus Corpus was formally rescinded?


Christians insist they worship same god as Muslims

Presented for your perusal without further comment.

A church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims.

In the Malay language "Allah" is used to mean any god, and Christians say they have used the term for centuries.

Opponents of the ban say it is unconstitutional and unreasonable.
There has been no official government comment but parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the decision to ban the word for non-Muslims on security grounds was "unlawful".

"The term 'Allah' was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed," he said.

Well, one comment: obviously, the ban is wrong and any muslim supporting it is an idiot.

via pixelisation.

UPDATE: Malaysia reversed the ban. Seems we are all the same mono in monotheist after all. All praise due to Ali Eteraz, even though I beat him to blogging about it :)


Benazir Bhutto killed

Benazir Bhutto is dead.

Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a presumed suicide attack, a spokesman for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) says.

Other reports said Ms Bhutto had only been injured and taken to hospital.

Ms Bhutto had just addressed a rally of PPP supporters in the town of Rawalpindi when the rally was hit by a blast.

At least 15 other people are reported killed in the attack.

Ms Bhutto has twice been the country's prime minister and was campaigning ahead of elections due in January.

Namaz Sharif might do well to consider leaving Pakistan for his safety.

UPDATE: Al-Qaeda claims credit:

Karachi, 27 Dec. (AKI) - (by Syed Saleem Shahzad) - A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the death on Thursday of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen,” Al-Qaeda’s commander and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location, speaking in faltering English. Al-Yazid is the main al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.

It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.

Why am I not surprised that the leader of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is named Yazid?


Suspicious things I've done in public

I am pretty sure I have taken notes on a pad, taken photos, and consulted maps while out in public. This means that when we go to Chicago this weekend to visit my parents, I'm "suspicious" according to the Chicago police:

In general, I'm a suspicious looking dude. First, airplanes, and now on the streets!

(via Sepia Mutiny and Boing Boing)


touching the untouchables

Artist Santiago Sierra has a new exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London, that is literally a pile of sh&t. But it's also a serious work:


The work is made of 21 modules of human faeces, each measuring 215 x 75 x 20cm. […] Workers of the sanitary movement Sulabh International of India are mostly scavengers who, by birth, have to undertake the physically and psychologically painful task of collecting human faecal matter, being charged with the blames of a previous life of bad deeds.

Yup, it's 21 monolithic blocks of sh&t. But the art forces the viewer to wonder how such an enormous pile of shi% could be assembled, and the physical reality of it in front of the eyes attunes their mind to the plight and working conditions of these laborers at the bottom of the bottom of India’s society, a depth which we simply cannot fathom from our everyday experience alone.

Like the Indian laborers in Dubai toiling on modern-day pyramids, the workers of Sulabh International are an exploited class whose working conditions are far worse than they need to be. Unlike the Dubai workers, they have much less recourse to assert themselves or bring attention to their plight, except perhaps via art such as this.


haraam isn't just spiritual harm

posted as a public service announcement, without further comment -

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that at least 70 percent of the antibiotics used in America are fed to animals living on factory farms. Raising vast numbers of pigs or chickens or cattle in close and filthy confinement simply would not be possible without the routine feeding of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying of infectious diseases. That the antibiotics speed up the animals’ growth also commends their use to industrial agriculture, but the crucial fact is that without these pharmaceuticals, meat production practiced on the scale and with the intensity we practice it could not be sustained for months, let alone decades.

Public-health experts have been warning us for years that this situation is a public-health disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later, the profligate use of these antibiotics — in many cases the very same ones we depend on when we’re sick — would lead to the evolution of bacteria that could shake them off like a spring shower. It appears that “sooner or later” may be now. Recent studies in Europe and Canada found that confinement pig operations have become reservoirs of MRSA. A European study found that 60 percent of pig farms that routinely used antibiotics had MRSA-positive pigs (compared with 5 percent of farms that did not feed pigs antibiotics). This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study showing that a strain of “MRSA from an animal reservoir has recently entered the human population and is now responsible for [more than] 20 percent of all MRSA in the Netherlands.” Is this strictly a European problem? Evidently not. According to a study in Veterinary Microbiology, MRSA was found on 45 percent of the 20 pig farms sampled in Ontario, and in 20 percent of the pig farmers. (People can harbor the bacteria without being infected by it.) Thanks to Nafta, pigs move freely between Canada and the United States. So MRSA may be present on American pig farms; we just haven’t looked yet.


The Brass Crescent Awards winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 4th Annual Brass Crescent Awards:

Do stop by the official site and check out the Honorable Mentions in each category, as well as the other nominees. Thank you all for participating and for making this the best BCA year yet.


CAIR membership

The Washington Times is being widely linked for a story about how CAIR's membership has "spiraled down from more than 29,000 in 2000 to fewer than 1,700 in 2006." based on tax documents obtained by the WT.

Ostensibly this is because CAIR does not suitably critique or condemn terror attack. Assuming its true, that seems to be a quantitative measure of the moderation of the American muslim community. However I find that explanation rather unserious, since CAIR has been at the forefront of every public condemnation of terror that American muslims have made.A casual google search or review of CAIR's website makes this obvious. The one thing muslims can count on is that no amount of condemnation of terror is ever enough to satisfy those who insist that muslims have such a duty to do so; in fact muslims do not have any such duty whatsoever.

If there is a decrease in membership, it is probably more due to the routine bad press that CAIR gets and the foolishness of some of the national figures at the national organization leadership. However, on a per-chapter basis, CAIR is a solid organization with good people who do good works. If you ignore the bloviating of the ego-driven leadership at the top, who of course are totally isolated from the daily activities of the independent regional chapters, you will see a very different picture of CAIR emerge.

Of course, such a picture does not mesh well with the inclination of some to distrust any gathering of muslims for any purpose. The subtext is that CAIR is a vehicle for domestic terror and treason, and every piece of (bountiful) evidence otherwise is dismissed as taqqiya. The foundation for that is, of course, the sentiment (dominant on teh right, but not wholly absent from the left either) that muslims cannot be trusted, their numbers should be limited, and their freedom of expression of faith curtailed and monitored.


Pharoah over ourselves

The indentured servant immigrants from India and Pakistan who comprise the majority of the laborers in Dubai are now being hit hard again, because their wages are pegged to the (declining) US dollar:

In the four years that it has taken laborers to climb more than 150 floors over Dubai's congested freeways and skyline, the U.S. dollar has fallen with equal steadiness. Its decline has helped trigger unprecedented wage strikes and a rock-throwing protest this fall by the foreign construction workers, who are paid in local currencies pegged to the dollar.
To build and tend their kingdom, the Emirates' 800,000 citizens imported millions of foreign workers, including 700,000 construction workers. Nearly one in five people in the kingdom is a construction worker; most are from India.

As recently as last month, some construction workers on the Burj Dubai and other projects made the equivalent of as little as $109 a month. Back home in India, where the dollar has fallen 14 percent against the rupee in the past 18 months, remittances that workers here sent to their families steadily lost value.

It should be noted that the living conditions for these workers are a century behind, reminiscent of 1900s-era American labor, which is ironic given that they are working on 21st-century projects like Burj Dubai:

"I work here, and I can't save anything. I'll ruin my family," said Ram Chandra, 33, a mason from the north Indian state of Rajasthan.

Chandra spoke in Sonapur, outside Dubai. Though its name means "City of Gold" in Hindi, Sonapur is a bleak, sand-blown labor camp housing 50,000 construction workers. Men sleep 10 to 12 to a room in tightly packed rows of concrete barracks. Chandra sat with four other workers perched on cots or squatting on the concrete floor. They wore sleeveless T-shirts and shorts or faded towels worn like the wraparound dhoti skirts commonly found in India.

Other barracks had laundry strung from bare beams. A sewage tanker made its evening rounds of the camp's septic tanks, filling the air with a gurgle and reek.

What bothers me most about this is that Dubai's wealth is built on a service industry that caters directly to the Asian middle class. Wander the ultramalls of Dubai (including the airport) and you find mostly Asians - especially Indians - shopping till they drop.

The workers themselves can exert pressure by striking, since any work slowdown impacts Dubai's image, and an article in the Washington Post is assuredly far more negative press than Dubai's elite would like to see. But a boycott of Dubai shopping districts by Asians would have a complementary, and force-multiplying, effect.

Can we restrain ourselves? For our own sake?


the Islamphere grows up

This is the 4th year for the Brass Crescent Awards, and it seems that the Awards have achieved a kind of critical mass. We received over 300 unique blog nominations during the nomination phase! Not only that, but in two days of voting, there have been more votes cast than in the entire two week voting period last year. These statistics suggest that this is the year that the BCA really arrived as a phenomenon worth taking note of.

However, there's a more subtle form of recognition that I think also speaks volumes about the growth of the Awards, and that is the attention the Awards are drawing from muslims online. For one thing, this year even larger blogs such as 'Aqoul have taken notice of their nominations and are urging readers to vote. Other bloggers like Dal Nun Strong are smartly leveraging their nominations to welcome new readers and invite them to peruse a selection of their best work. And don't miss Naeem's hilarious post on how he should have been nominated for all categories. These are all great examples of publicity for the Awards and perfectly reasonable, positive strategies for nominee blogs to pursue.

Of course, there's the other kind of publicity as well. Ijtemaa.net has a fairly harsh post and even harsher comment thread about the perceived idoelogical bias of the BCA. Abul Layth at Seeking 'Ilm is even more explicitly hostile in his disdain for the Awards, though that doesn't stop him from urging readers to vote for certain nominees "so that a Sunni blog will win." Both Ijtemaa and Abul Layth succumb to the takfiri impulse in their disdain for some of the BCA nominees, particularly Ali Eteraz who ably and masterfully defends himself with far more grace than his detractors muster.

And what would a muslim social event be without an accusation or two of Shi'a conspiracy? :) I don't believe for a minute that Deenport or Ijtemaa.net sanction such nonsense, but roaches do crawl out of the woodwork of even the nicest houses from time to time.

All in all, the BCA are attracting a lot of heat and light. And that's good, because just like the Carnival of Brass, the main purpose of the Awards is to create more awareness of the diversity and talent within the Islamsphere. If the sole achievement of the Awards is to get muslim bloggers talking about muslim blogs they disagree with, then it's already a success, because sectarian or ideological silos are harmful to the online Islamic community as a whole.