Archive for Religion

The Muhammad Cartoons

As the worldwide furor over the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s Muhammad cartoons grows, with Muslims boycotting Danish products and even certain people in Syria torching embassies, many in Canada are probably wondering what the controversy is all about.

Danish writer KÃ¥re Bluitgen complained of the difficulty of finding an illustrator willing to draw Muhammad for a book he was writing on the Qur’an and Muhammad. In September of 2005, as part of a “discussion” on the freedom of speech and self-censorship with regards specifically to depicting Muhammad, Jyllands-Posten commissioned twelve artists to draw Muhammad.

Many strains — and certainly the mainstream strains — of Islam forbid depictions of God, Muhammad, and other prophets. This is, in part, to prevent the worship of images. Most Muslim art from days back that has waded into depicting Muhammad usually obscures his face with light. In 1976, Moustapha Akkad produced and directed a film about the beginnings of Islam — “The Message.” The epic film masterfully portrays the early rise of Islam, all without ever once showing Muhammad on screen. Recently, several Muslims protested Time and Newsweek magazines’ depictions of Muhammad. The magazines subsequently apologized.

Muslims typically do not respond to depictions of Moses, Jesus and other prophets — who are prophets of Islam. Many watch the Ten Commandments, many others have seen the Passion of the Christ. There are also several depictions and representations of Muhammad all over the place, spanning several centuries. Many have been done by Muslims. Sometimes such depictions are very visible, but rarely elicit such a response. Why?

Much of the reporting on the cartoons simplifies the matter — the implication being that hordes of uncivilized and ultra-fundamentalist Muslims are reacting wildly to simple portrayals of Muhammad. However, the images published by Jyllands-Posten go far beyond simply depicting Muhammad — and very little reporting has actually described the pictures themselves. Many of them are disgustingly racist and stereotypical. Some of the artists who submitted cartoons decried the provocative nature of the assignment.

Here is a summary of the twelve drawings:

Kurt Westergaard‘s drawing is perhaps the one that has been seen by most people. It depicts Muhammad with bushy, eyebrows and a bushy but close-cropped beard. His angry eyes have dark circles underneath. His turban, with “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger,” inscribed on it in Arabic calligraphy is actually a bomb ready to explode.

Jens Julius Hansen‘s drawing has an Irani mullah-looking Muhammad standing in heaven in front of a presumably endless line of suicide bombers. “Stop, stop,” he implores, “We have run out of virgins!”

Franz Füchsel depicts Muhammad inside an ornate palace, wearing a green robe and looking at a drawing of himself. He is telling two charging angry Muslims with swords and bombs and guns to “Relax guys, it’s just a drawing made by some infidel from nowhere.”

Arne Sørensen shows a nervous cartoonist leaning over his drawing board and looking over his shoulder. He is drawing Muhammad — wearing a keffiyeh and sporting a hooked nose and almost bulging eyes.

Annette Carlsen‘s drawing featuers a line-up of seven people. All wearing turbans that look more Sikh than middle-eastern. It is hard to tell who is who in the line-up, although a a hippie and a woman (the two on the left) are clearly identifiable, as is KÃ¥re Bluitgen on the right. He is holding a sign that says, “KÃ¥re’s public relations, call and get an offer.” A man assessing the line-up says, “Hmm, I can’t recognize him.”

Erik Abild Sørensen shows five symbols that are presumably burqa-clad women, with Stars of David as eyes and Crescents as mouths. A caption says something like, “Prophet you crazy bloke! Keeping women under yoke” or “Prophet! Daft and dumb, keeping women under thumb.”

Rasmus Sand Høyer draws Muhammad with a turban, and a tunic with a shawl draped over one shoulder. He is holding a scimitar and has another one hanging off a belt going from shoulder to hip. He’s got a long frazzled beard with similar eyebrows. His eyes are obscured by a black bar. Flanking him on either side are two women in black abayas that obscure everything but the eyes. Their eyes are wide open, as in an expression of surprise.

Claus Seidel shows Muhammad wearing an orange turban, a white tunic, and white pants extending to the shins, as well as slippers. He is holding a stick in one hand, and with the other hand he leads a donkey loaded with stuff.

Poul Erik Poulsen has Muhammad wearing a turban, a tunic and pants that go down to the ankles, as well as slippers. However, his hands are held together and the tunic’s sleeves obscure both his hands. He has a brown beard. Around his head is a supposed halo. It is a yellow crescent going around and behind his head so that it looks like he has two horns coming out.

Peder Bundgaard draws a stylized Muhammad’s face integrated with a green crescent and star. The crescent cradles Muhammad’s face, and the right eye is a star. He has a turban and quite a hooked nose.

Bob Katzennelson draws KÃ¥re Bluitgen wearing a turban. An orange falls on his head and on the orange it says “PR-stunt.” Bluitgen is holding a stick figure drawing of Muhammad.

Lars Refn draws a young boy named Mohammed using a pointer to highlight a statement written in Farsi on a blackboard. It translates as something like “Jylland-Posten’s journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs.”

I’m not going to bother, right now, with an actual analysis of the images. I’ll leave that up to you.

Most are presenting this as a bipolar issue. On one side are the defenders of the freedom of speech who argue that anything goes. On the other side are Muslims who argue that any depiction of Muhammad is blasphemy.

Water that polarity down a little and you get one one side people who admit that the images may have been offensive, but nevertheless defend the freedom of expression. On the other side are Muslims and progressives who agree that freedom of expression is very important but has its limits when it is likely to stoke such strong passions.

Free criticism of Muhammad and Islam is very important, just as criticism of Jesus and Christianity is important. If a religion is, indeed, the truth then it should be able to stand up to the criticism and if these men are indeed flawless messengers of God then their behaviour should stand to criticism as well. Muslims should be willing to receive and respond to such criticism, rationally and reasonably. This doesn’t always happen. Very often Muslims simply respond with attempts to shut down public discourse.

What’s also true is that recently there has been a hegemonizing and ossification of Islamic opinion. Whereas in the past depictions or at least modified depictions of Muhammad were permitted, recently the flexibility inherent in Islamic tradition has become rigid and has tilted toward absolute prohibition of such depictions. (However, this prohibition is not without basis in Islamic scripture and history. Muhammad is said to have taken out pictures of Jesus from the Ka’bah and to have destroyed them as well as other idols.)

At the same time, it’s not simply a matter of Muslims silencing any criticism of Muhammad. It has to be accepted that Muslims have a deep reverence and respect for Muhammad, above and beyond all other prophets. Popular depictions of Jesus and Moses don’t arouse Muslim passions. No Muslim burned copies of the Da Vinci Code, despite its tremendously blasphemous depiction of Jesus. Many countries have laws that prohibit the use of freedom of expression in such a way that may incite violence or be construed as a hate crime. The blatant and shameful racism and insensitivity shown in many of the above cartoons was simply a provocative action on the part of Jyllands-Posten. Hiding behind freedom of expression is a convenient defense, but it’s hard to believe that this is really what it was about in the first place.

It’s great to see the Muslim grassroots sticking it to Danish and other corporations by boycotting their products. It’s not that great to see them burning embassies and kidnapping foreigners. Somewhere along the line, though, they have to be able to distinguish between a newspaper in Denmark, its government, and its corporations.

There are plenty of problems in the Muslim world, many of these problems are a consequence of Muslim ignorance coupled with foreign interference. The links are clear. Why not channel such efforts toward ameliorating those conditions? Boycott American products, and maybe they’ll stop propping up the dictators. Stop buying SUVs, start buying Japanese hybrids. Why not use this anger to burn government buildings, where corrupt dictators have been picking off billions and billions that should have been going to the people of those countries? Why not protest racism and blatant xenophobia in the Arab world?

As for the Europeans and North Americans, it’s great to pretend to be defenders of rights and freedoms, while actively and covertly denying the majority of the world their rights and freedoms. That’s all that needs to be said on that matter.

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conversating with yaser…

nomes says:
damn, i never knew supporting israel was in the bible
nomes says:
he has me sold
nomes says:
now i’m going to do all i can to support it

(refer to yaser’s post here)

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red msn conversation

the following is an excerpt from a conversation that took place between sanjeyan and me concerning our friend who is currently in china …

nomes: china’s communism and moral depravity is corrupting shawn
ksnite: <high five>
nomes: <high five>
nomes: i could use more communist friends with no morals
nomes: just like stalin
ksnite: damn, stalin may not haven’t known a lot … but he could maintain a moustache like there was no tomorrow
nomes: in my books, that is a lot
nomes: that moustache is what every man aspires to
nomes: george bush
nomes: saddam hussein (who came close)
nomes: tony blair
nomes: everyone
nomes: elton john
nomes: john mayer
nomes: jesus
ksnite: i bet on good moustache days, he executed less men
ksnite: he had a heart of gold
nomes: just like jesus
nomes: yet so much more
ksnite: some consider that jesus was a little stubborn with the cross
ksnite: complaining about how heavy it was like every 10 minutes
nomes: did stalin ever complain about managing the largest country on earth? about world war two? about america’s nuclear capability? about rebellions and the immense material cost of perpetrating genocide?
nomes: no my friend, he carried that cross
nomes: and did not shed a tear nor ask for any sympathy
nomes: which is more than what we can say about jesus there, some reports allege someone else carried his cross — can you believe this guy? he’s GOD and still someone ELSE carries his cross
ksnite: i heard he was walking in all directions…couldn’t walk a straight path
ksnite: broke some vases, broke windows, snapped a few power lines
nomes: were there ever power outages under stalin?
nomes: NO! never! nein!
ksnite: he made sure to electrocute men on days when energy use was low
ksnite: he cared for his people
nomes: i think the world’s been worshipping the wrong guy for the past fifty years
ksnite: i propose we start STALINISM!!!

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in the shadow of the prophet…

it was barely half an hour before the afternoon prayers, asr, and the unforgiving arabian sun beat down on the sprawling complex of the masjid-un-nabi, the mosque of the prophet, in medina

the elderly couple seemed iranian, they were both easily over seventy years old — the man held his wife’s arm and guided her to the ladies’ entrance to the actual masjid itself

unbeknownst to him, he violated the sacrosanct border of properness and, sitting in the shadow of a little outpost (wherein was drinking water from the holy well of zamzam and seating for several — access limited the employees of the “custodian” of the two holy mosques), the arab guard barked out at him: “hajji! ya hajji!

in his aggressive arabic, he went on to explain at the old man that beyond this point no male may pass — there were still fifty or so metres to the actual entrance of the building, an oppressive fifty metres over which women dressed in their black, synthetic abayas had to tread under the glaring heat and beat of the sun

the man tried to argue back, in his broken arabic and farsi, that he simply wanted to guide his wife to the building and give her guidance on how to perform the ziarat, paying respects to the prophet mohammed

of course, he would not be able to pass despite all his feeble protests, and so he told his wife he would wait for her, outside

many laypersons were standing in the shade of the outpost, the real estate was choice, but there was none for the old man, and so he leaned against the outpost with the sun beating down on him

one young man, seeing this, discreetly stepped out of the shade and into the sun, and the weak old man took his place — the unspoken thanks met an unspoken welcoming

then a young policeman with a pious scrabble of a beard, having just taken a sip of the cool refreshing and spiritually rewarding zamzam, emerged from the outpost with a folding chair which he placed directly in front of the old man

forgive him for thinking it was meant for him — it wasn’t

the policeman forced the man out of the shade and took up his place, reclining on the plastic, green cushion of the chair, exchanging platitudes and anecdotes with the religious guard whose duty it was to condemn young and old alike to stay outside of the ladies’ section and to stand in the blistering heat without any respite from the oppression of the sun

the young man who had just, moments ago, given up his place in the shade to the old man looked on and shook his head

here, in the city of the prophet, madinat-un-nabi, madinat-ul-munawwarah, the enlightened city, a simple, elementary and well-known hadith of the prophet flashed in his mind:

you should not be sitting down while an elder is standing up

clearly, he thought to himself as the rage built up inside, inhabiting the enlightened city is not a guarantee of your own state of manners

as is most often the case, the would-be guardians of islamic behaviour are principally the ones who detract from it

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t-shirt idea

“jesus got crucified and all i got was this lousy t-shirt … and eternal salvation!”

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why jesus was an african-american:

i) his first miracle was to change water into bacardi
ii) he respected martin luther king jr. but acted like malcolm x
iii) he wore baggy ‘phat kibbutz’ clothing
iv) his rap outfit: jay-c and da dirty dozen
v) he consorted with ho’s
vi) he was always being chased by the police

[if this offends you, remember -- what would jesus do, ma nizzle?]

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capitalism, zionism, etc.

so i went to a typical desi party and as usual the males gathered in one room to discuss international politics, as usual
more often than not i don’t dip my foot into these forays as the uncles believe they can solve the problems of the world in their living rooms
but today, i decided i’d step into the fray because, well, it’s been a while since i had a debate

many muslims have this paranoia about zionist jews, that everything the united states does is because of the zionist desire to establish the true eretz israel (or the true land of israel — some call it greater israel) which extends really really far and takes a massive chunk out of the rest of the middle east
interpretations vary, some renditions go north into syria and iraq, west into egypt, some go … well, a lot more than just that

and so many muslims believe that the only reason america is waging a war in iraq is for the territorial expansion of israel, saying that those who believe the war is being waged for the entrepreneurial expansion of corporations are being blinded by a zionist agenda

well that’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t explain american involvement in virtually all of south america and the far east (vietnam, korea), and so on so forth
because, hey, eretz israel doesn’t stretch that far — unless for some odd reason you think eretz israel stretches from venezuela to vietnam

which, to say the least, is a load of crap, i don’t think even the hardliners at ahavat israel are pining for that sort of territory

and i’m not saying that capitalism does not serve the purposes of zionism or vice-versa, because there is a massive israeli lobby in washington
and the fact is, the war also benefited israel because iraq has tangibly attacked israel before (with scuds) and was financing suicide bombers — or their families anyway, and so israelis wanted saddam out of the picture

but hey, get real

american involvement in all these areas, and yes even iraq (especially iraq), is particularly for the benefit of the corporate interests that grow richer and richer as the poor grow poorer

stephen bechtel: “We are not in the construction and engineering business. We are in the business of making money.”
(bechtel‘s is one of the companies contracted for the reconstruction of iraq)

if you have the will-power, please do read this article from zmag to understand what i’m talking about:

reconstruction’s bottom line

The problem is, as evidenced most clearly by the case of Bechtel and KBR, the job is not even getting half-done. Profit-maximization has not resulted in the most efficient restoration of power and oil production possible. On the contrary, it gets in the way of doing things right. The power plants will eventually be built and the oil refineries will run again, but not after unnecessary deprivation on the part of Iraqis and not after Bechtel has made the most of the opportunity.

This war to liberate Iraq was never about liberating the Iraqis.

you see, there’s a religion that neo-con’s and right-wingers practice, forget judaism, christianity, islam — capitalism

corporations worship the almighty dollar

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operation christmas fire alarm

they stood outside the math class handing out red pieces of paper
he took one and read it, ah yes, operation christmas child, fill a shoebox with candies, condiments, and items of personal hygiene — treats for kids who usually wouldn’t get something like this — in “third world” countries
“ah, and then you’ll slip in a pamphlet about jesus won’t you” he said
“that would be the best part!” one of the girls said
“right — receiving a pamphlet about jesus would just make my day” he retorted as he walked into math class

the fire alarm went off, he paused, “well,” he said to himself

he walked out, “you see this is what happens when you pass out red pieces of paper”
“no,” she replied, “this is what happens when you make fun of jesus”
“really? hey jesus, if you have a problem with me, why don’t you strike me down right now” he said, assuming a crucifix position and half-expecting the ceiling to fall on him
“you shouldn’t do that”
“naw, i don’t think jesus minds — i think jesus has a sense of humour”

they exited the building

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women, hijab, oppression

a comment i made on degrouchyowl’s web site a while ago was brought into question by someone
so let me now explain it

someone stated:
How patently strange that you people think a western woman exercising her right to choose is oppressed and a muslim woman under a dress code is free–very odd � very pathetic.

and to it i replied:
multi-culturalism is the way to go

diversity vs. assimilation

the non-muslims bring up some important points (though not all are valid) especially this last one
when a western woman chooses, she’s oppressed by the media
when a muslim woman chooses, she’s choosing (choosing not to choose)


go canada

what i mean is this, a common muslim argument to defend an islamic state where hijab would be mandatory is “but western women are oppressed by the popular culture and media to conform to rigid standards”
i don’t deny that pop culture has an immense influence upon the standards of dressing of women
however, it is not law
a girl who dons the hijab in canada or america is, by defintion, a western woman
but she has not been forced by the culture or the law to throw away the hijab and adopt the ‘western’ way of dress
on the contrary, her choice is (more often than not) respected by law
[this is not taking into account states like turkey, or france or the province of quebec, where hijab is in many cases not allowed -- i'm talking about canada, as my post says -- and even in france and quebec, the hijabi can take her case to court]

on the other hand, if we go to this ‘islamic state,’ women would be forced to wear the hijab, by law (e.g., taliban’s afghanistan)
they would not have the choice to remove it if they willed, and they would not be able to take their case to court

there are, here, two types of oppression, if that is a proper word to use
in the west, its media influence
in the case of the ‘islamic state,’ it’s a binding law that makes it illegal to choose or refuse the hijab

that’s the point i’m making

but let’s say you have a patriarchical family who’s moved to the west
and the father makes his daughters or wife wear the hijab
here, once again, is oppression

say you have a western family who move to pakistan or something
and the father disallows his daughters or wife from wearing the hijab
then yes, that, too is oppression

but the latter doesn’t happen much too often

of course, there are families where the parents disallow their daughters from wearing the hijab, for whatever reason
that, too, is oppression

i use the word broadly, there’s much to the issue of oppression

anyway, that was my point

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everything is religion
everything is politics
everything is business

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