Archive for May, 2009

Violence in Yemen Shows Growing Power of Insurgency– NYT

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A separatist movement in southern Yemen has gained political momentum and grown more violent recently, with a series of demonstrations and armed confrontations that have left at least eight people dead and dozens injured in the past week… .

The most recent round of violence began last Tuesday, when government troops established an additional checkpoint in the town of Radfan, in the southern Lahij Province. Angry local men attacked the checkpoint, killing two soldiers and injuring others. In the days since, demonstrations and violence have broken out in other towns, with three people killed in gun battles on Sunday. In recent weeks, a number of political figures have begun openly demanding independence for the formerly socialist south, which was autonomous until the two Yemens unified in 1990. A brief civil war in 1994 left many southerners resentful of the north, and in the past three years grievances have steadily grown.

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“THE 99”: Muslim Superheroes

there is nothing fundamentally different between Islam and any other belief on Earth or any other way of being human… For me, in the end, the 99 attributes of Allah are attributes that not only all Muslims value, but humanity values. Things like generosity, strength, wisdom, foresight, mercy… So my point of what I was trying to do was try to bring us together, versus pull us apart.

when i first heard about this muslim comic book called The 99, i thought it was a cheesy attempt by some apologetic opportunist. but after looking into it and the writer’s background, i think it’s kinda cool. an animated version of the comic book is in the making…i’d write more about it but i’m busy at work and i just finished explaining it to a friend…so i’m just going to copy and paste our convo, links and all… you’d probably enjoy the convo more anyway…it includes munchkins…and bacon…

c: man i just want to go home but i have to go to the other place after this
c: and work till midnight
a: think of munchkins plotting to bring down humanity
a: evil little munchkins
a: with superpowers
a: the ability to sweat cheese
a: so they can stink up any room they’re in
a: and cause others to pass out
c: does this world include hallucinogens?
a: of course
c: fun world
a: a friend of mine is a teacher
a: so he asks his students on the first day of class
a: if you could have any super power what would it be
a: this guy raises his hand and says the ability to sweat cheese
a: my friend thought it was the greatest thing he ever heard
c: i would have so many questions for that dude
c: what would your power be?
a: read minds
c: hmm that is risky business
a: theres a new islamic comic book
a: with 99 superheroes
a: 99 representing the 99 attributes of God
a: which Muslims believe in
c: really
a: so each superhero personifies an attribute
a: so this one character, Noor
a: possesses the attribute of Light
a: and she can strike light and holograms anywhere but the downside to her power is
a: she can see the bad in people as well, so she develops a cynical view of the world
c: wow
a: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/kuwait605/index.html
c: sounds interesting
a: theyre screening a documentary about the making of the comic book
a: but the film is also a look at how the comic book has caused controversy in the muslim world
a: religious conservatives hate it
a: one criticism is that its idolizing these superbeings, and only God is to be idolized
c: religious conservatives hate everything except god
a: they hate god too
a: i think its funny that many of these same imams
a: praise suicide bombers and yet believe chidren shouldn’t read about muslim superheroes
a: like if he blows his limbs off and takes out others with him, hes a hero
a: and it’s ok when muslim kids look at this and see it as a positive thing
a: but they cant read a comic book that promotes God’s attributes through his creation
a: it’s like shutup and go away
c: well put
a: i went to get a halal bacon sandwich
a: and the guy forgot the bacon
a: thats the only reason why i went to get it
c: so its just a halal sandwich…
c: i love turkey bacon
a: supposedly its really good at this place
c: go back and throw it in his face like you are a rockstar
a: word
a: wheres my bacon bitch
c: exactly
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WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! is the story of Naif Al-Mutawa and THE 99- the first comic book rooted in Islamic history and culture. Since its launch in 2006, THE 99 has been both an international media sensation and a lightening rod for controversy. An intimate look at an entrepreneur and his daring venture to build a new pop-culture for young Muslims, WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! examines the shifting definitions of the sacred and the secular across the Islamic world at the dawn of the 21st century.

For more info about Wham! Bam! Islam!
http://www.endeavorfilms.com

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stereotypes n’ truths

ive been meaning to blog about this incident for some time but never really got around to it. i meet a lot of interesting people in the area where i work and some of them leave impressions on me, although i would never blog about any of our clients. recently, a photojournalist for a well known New York newspaper came by and started discussing his work with me while he was waiting (i repeat, not a client). he showed me pictures he’s taken in the middle east, mainly of children living in slum conditions. i asked him about the places he’s been to and he mentioned Iraq.

he developed enough of a rapport with me to discuss his own beliefs but he was still nervous enough to punctuate his speech a few times with the statement “between you and me…”

“between you and me” in this particular context meaning he was privileging me with his insight and trusting me with his thoughts…

he began to talk about encounters he’s had with Saddam Hussein’s personnel and how he had the honor once of meeting the man himself, and he thought him a great leader who had the courage to stand up to the U.S. government and Israel. i interrupted at some point to ask what he thought of those who consider him a brutal dictator, and what about the experiences of persecuted minorities like the Shia. he dismissed it as American propaganda and said that Saddam in fact never went after women and children, unlike our government…and how he was forced to be a firm leader because of people who threatened his rule…nevermind the historical inaccuracies of his views which i’m not about to get into.

there was one particular incident he remembered fondly, when he got to see Saddam in person…although he didn’t get to actually talk to the man, he got to watch him swim…yea, the degree to which this guy idolized Saddam did border on creepy homoeroticism…

and if his views on saddam weren’t enough, he then thought it would be a good idea to let me in on his views on the jew. the jew, a singular thing used by bigots to describe an abstract, conspiring multi-headed monster. the jew, according to the photojournalist, is cursed by God and forever marked, hence the crooked nose. the jewish bankers and politicians are why we’re in a recession, why the economy tanked, probably the reason for every bad thing to ever occur to him since birth. and then there was his theory, although technically it isn’t a theory because according to him its been foretold in the bible…of course…that there will be another great depression, even worse than the first, and the jew will assassinate Obama in order to incite a race war that will distract people from the economic situation.

ok. so i know there are lots of crazies out there running around with their crazy beliefs…but this is still kind of surprising (and slightly horrifying) because the dude works for the popular press…and although i know the world’s kooks aren’t limted to insane asylums and the east village, this encounter still bothered me mainly because of his assumptions and the reasons behind them. he thought he could expose me to his bigoted, ignorant beliefs because by virtue of my background, i could only serve to validate them…because i guess all muslims hate jews and love saddam? what i think is even more disturbing though are the reasons for his assumptions…and there is definitely a reason for why he felt he could share his warped beliefs with this particular muslim, whom he had just met. i’m not a real person to him in the sense that he knows nothing about me personally, so his openness wasn’t due to some genuine bond or trust between us. im just another arab face he’s stereotyped and he wanted me to join him in his hate fest, to nod my head in approval, to validate every word…and he’s no doubt talked to other arabs who’ve done just that. he’s talked with enough of “us” to come to the conclusion that these are the standard views of arabs/muslims, and so it wouldn’t be presumptive and just plain wrong on his part to think he could approach any one of us and expect an affirmation of his hateful views. and that’s what made this encounter especially sad.

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