I must be a very attractive fellow! Once again, lightning has sought me out and found me, or at least my Internet facilities. A strong thunderstorm on Monday – not related to the recent Hurricane Irene – popped a lightning bolt overhead. And once again, the bolt was so close and so strong that it shot through surge protectors. Instead of frying my computer as it did a couple of years ago, this one only toasted my DSL modem and gave my computer a slight case of amnesia.

I won’t know how fully until a replacement modem arrives later today. In the meantime, it’ll have to be limited posting until things get back to normal.

August:31:2011 - 10:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink

The Daily Caller political website reports on the most recent study from Pew Research Center, looking at how American Muslims see extremist activities and generally feel about being Muslim in the US.

Interestingly, the study breaks out attitudes expressed by foreign-born Muslims and born-in-the-US Muslims, further separating this late group into African-American Muslims and all others.

In sum, there’s little support for extremism among all groups, significantly less than in the foreign Muslim groups interviewed. There is great concern about it, though, among all US Muslim groups. American Muslims feel far better about the US and the direction it’s moving in than does the general public. They are also far more supportive of Pres. Obama than other American groups and strongly support the Democratic Party.

The whole study is worth reading.

Poll: Muslim Americans more satisfied than Americans in general with U.S. life
Jamie Weinstein

Muslim Americans are more satisfied with their life in the United States than the American public at large, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday.

Eighty-two percent of Muslim Americans said they were satisfied with the way their life is going, compared to 75 percent of the American public. Muslim Americans are also significantly more satisfied with the direction the country is going in than Americans generally, 56 percent to 23 percent.

Though only 46 percent of Americans said they supported President Obama in a June Pew Poll, 76 percent of Muslim Americans say they approve of the president, which is significantly higher than the 15 percent that supported President Bush in a Pew poll taken in 2007.

Muslim Americans also overwhelmingly believe that the Democratic Party is friendlier to Muslim Americans than the Republican Party. Only 7 percent said they thought the Democratic Party was unfriendly toward Muslim Americans, while 48 percent said the Republican Party was unfriendly.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/08/30/poll-muslim-americans-more-satisfied-with-life-in-u-s-than-american-public-generally.

August:31:2011 - 10:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

I’d like to wish all a happy Eid on the completion of Ramadan.

August:31:2011 - 09:59 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

The message is losing out to the medium when it comes to the adhan or call to prayer in Saudi Arabia. Arab News reports that mosques are competing to see who can come up with the loudest sound systems and it’s causing a problem.

It’s actually been an international problem, particularly in Bahrain. There, Saudi mosques have raised serious complaint that the not only drown out local muezzins – who frequently use only their unamplified voices – but disturb people for blocks, if not miles around. Bahrain had to pass sound pollution regulations to control it. The Saudi government has tried to do the same, but the egos of imams and muezzin seem to be winning the battle, at least in some places.

For some imams, directive to lower sound of loudspeakers
not yet loud and clear enough

JEDDAH: Despite the directives given by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, many imams of mosques across the Kingdom increase the volume of loudspeakers, disturbing people living in the neighborhoods, especially children and patients.

An Arabic daily recently reported that some mosques in the Asir province were not following the ministry’s instructions. There are several mosques in Abha that are located close to one another and the sounds of the azan (call for prayer) overlap.

As a result of this, some imams and muezzins increase the volume of their loudspeakers in order to make their voices distinguishable.

Some imams are very much concerned with the sound systems in their mosques and ask the faithful to contribute money in order to purchase the most advanced systems.

A survey of mosques in Abha and Khamis Mushayt found that most of them compete with one another in obtaining the most advanced sound systems, the Arabic daily said. Some imams keep loudspeakers in various parts of the mosque, bringing the total number of speakers to 16.

August:29:2011 - 07:40 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

The ban on women’s driving in Saudi Arabia creates very real problems, especially for the increasing number of women who work. Saudi Gazette runs this piece that shows the contortions various governmental agencies – male, all, of course – are going through to find some way to keep women from behind the wheel.

Currently, women working in governmental offices receive a special allowance to pay for transportation to and from work. At its best, that means that women are in vehicles driven by strange (i.e., unrelated) men, a religiously questionable act. Those strange men may be no great shakes as drivers. In fact, they may have learned how to drive when they were told, upon arrival in the Kingdom, that that was to be their job. Allowances may not cover the actual cost of hiring a driver, even though drivers’ salaries are shockingly low. Some government offices, such as the Ministry of Education, try to provide mass transportation through the use of buses and vans. That works for some, but not all, particularly those who have to travel long distances.

There’s discussion of expanding the public transportation system. That, besides being expensive, only works in the densely populated urban areas. But it seems that cost may not be a barrier when it comes to keeping women from driving. If nothing else, this suggests how very deeply people feel about the issue.

It’s not clear, though, that expanded public transportation isn’t being raised because cost is a factor that some consider. Coming up with a feasible plan, but one that stretches governmental budgets – even Saudi budgets – may be an effort to show how ridiculous the ban on women’s driving is.

Shoura members want urgent, safe transport solution for women

JEDDAH – Amid the high costs to Saudi families that employ drivers, the suffering of female employees due to the lack of means of transportation to their jobs and regulations barring women from driving, suggestions have been put forward to develop safe means of transport that are similar to those in foreign countries.

Experts said there is a serious need to address the matter because some families are forced to pay thousands of riyals to drivers, which can cause a financial burden on the families. Some drivers demand higher salaries, which can make it unbearable for families in need of their services. Taking taxis every day adds up to a considerable expense and male family members are often unavailable.

Dr. Mish’al Al-Ali, a member of the Shoura Council and chairman of the Petitions Committee, called on the government and the private sector to create a temporary system, which would replace payment of transportation allowances, to safely transport female employees to and from their jobs, Al-Hayat Arabic daily reported Friday.

August:28:2011 - 08:35 | Comments Off | Permalink

Despite the belief in the power of jinns and Quranic quotations, the Saudi form of Islam is particularly intolerant of superstitions based on talismans. This Saudi Gazette article notes that there are still strong superstitions based on the power of different kinds of precious and semi-precious stones, particularly aqiq (akeek) or agate. The article notes that belief in talismans is haram, but it seems to be such an ingrained part of the culture that many still seek whatever advantage a stone might give them. The jeweler being interviewed has the best advice: find a stone you like, perhaps one that goes with your clothing, but don’t expect anything more than a pretty stone.

Note that the preference for rings is that they be made of silver. This is in line with hadith that consider it not acceptable that men wear gold jewelry, if they must wear any jewelry at all.

Customers buy rings on superstitious belief
Naif Masrahi

Saudi Gazette — JEDDAH – It may come as a surprise to learn that some people who buy rings with gemstones have superstitious beliefs about the colors, designs or sizes of the stones.

Al-Alawi market, located in Jeddah’s Al-Balad district, is home to many of the oldest stalls and shops selling silver rings with a wide range of gemstones.

Saudi Gazette met Abdulhalim Al-Shumairy, 35, who has been selling rings in the market since he was a child.

He said some customers recite the Holy Qur’an once they select their gemstones for their rings.

“I still remember an old man who asked me to bring all the stones I had,” Al-Shumairy said. “He started looking at them one by one, focusing on those that contained thin lines. He believed that all the brown stones were good for bringing good luck.”

August:27:2011 - 07:55 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

As regular as the phases of the moon, Saudi Arabia is back to its annual debate about when Ramadan ends and the Eid begins. Over the past decade or so, there’s been a growing movement to have the lunar, Hijri calendar handled in a more ‘scientific’ way, that is, to use mathematics and astronomy—skills well developed by Muslim scholars—to determine the beginning and ends of the months. The traditional practice of having a human sight the first glimmer of a crescent moon is still the one used in the Kingdom.

When science and the human eye do not reach the same result, then confusion reigns. Islam is no longer a matter conducted primarily at the village level, where a day’s difference doesn’t, well, make much difference. Now, with international business, with the requirements for exact dates for airline tickets, for visas, for having products and services available when they’re needed, confusion can be expensive. Resolving the procedures for marking the start of a month is a good idea.

When is Eid? Debate is on

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has called on Muslims in the Kingdom to look for the new moon of Shawwal on the evening of Monday, which is the 29th day of Ramadan (Aug. 29) and report the matter to the nearest court if any one sights the new moon either by the naked eye or with help of lenses.

The court directed that the lookers for moon join the committee for the purpose in each region.

The end of fasting and the day of Eid Al-Fitr are decided by the sighting of the Shawwal moon.

But astronomers, who differed on the start of the holy month of Ramadan based on astronomical calculations, are at it again. They are now debating whether Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month, will fall on Tuesday or Wednesday. The controversy over the start of Ramadan is also driving the debate.

August:27:2011 - 07:37 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette carries a more informative article about the discovery of paleontological evidence suggesting early domestication of the horse in Arabia. It also says that these discoveries point to an entirely new Neolithic culture, the Al-Maqar. The report notes that the climate of Arabia was vastly different at the time, with grasslands, streams, and likely lakes in the still-fertile Asir.

The article doesn’t go into detail about the horse domestication, though. We still don’t know—absent the original study report—whether horses were being domesticated for food, for ritual purposes, or for draft/riding. The study may indicate the origins of the deep Arab love affair with the horse than previously expected. But then, it may not. I do look forward to finding the study.

Asir discovery sheds light on 9,000-year-old civilization

JEDDAH – Saudi Arabia has found traces of a civilization that was domesticating horses about 9,000 years ago, 4,000 years earlier than previously thought, said Ali Al-Ghabban, Vice-President of Antiquities and Museums at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities at a press conference here late Wednesday.

The discovery of the civilization, named Al-Maqar after the site’s location, will challenge the theory that the domestication of animals took place 5,500 years ago in Central Asia, he said.

“This discovery will change our knowledge concerning the domestication of horses and the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period,” Al-Ghabban said.

“The Maqar Civilization is a very advanced civilization of the Neolithic period. This site shows us clearly, the roots of the domestication of horses 9,000 years ago.”

The site also includes remains of mummified skeletons, arrowheads, scrapers, grain grinders, tools for spinning and weaving, and other tools that are evidence of a civilization that is skilled in handicrafts.

August:26:2011 - 08:46 | Comments Off | Permalink

As we know, women aren’t permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia. That proscription doesn’t seem to apply to women’s flying airplanes, however. Arab News reports on a Saudi flight school preparing to take on female students. They don’t have government authorization yet, but expect it and are hiring female trainers from abroad to prepare.

The article notes that there are currently two female Saudi pilots, both of whom received their training outside the Kingdom.

Flying academy ready to take in women trainees

JEDDAH: Kameel Abu Joudah, director of the Rabigh Wings Aviation Academy, said there were many Saudi women eager to join the academy to learn flying.

The academy will consider the applications if regulations permit women to learn the skill, Abu Jouda said.

He said there would be no separate training regulations for women trainees. “The same academic rules applicable to men students will be implemented in the case of women students as well. However, women trainers will be recruited from Lebanon or the United States to teach them after getting the approval of the General Authority for Civil Aviation,” an Arabic newspaper quoted Abu Jouda as saying.

The director also thanked GACA for issuing licenses to young trainees who completed their training successfully. He said the licenses varied from 40-hour flight log to 190 hours.

The Wings is a newly established modern flight training school located in Rabigh, 115 km northwest of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast and minutes away from King Abdullah Economic City.

August:25:2011 - 06:55 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News reports that Humaidan Al-Turki was unable to convince a parole board in Colorado to release him from prison. He will get another parole hearing in a year or two. Al-Turki was sentenced to 28 years in prison following his conviction on numerous counts of abusing the Indonesian maid he had brought to the US. An appeals court reduced his sentence to eight years, of which he has yet to serve half. Once he gets past the 50% mark, the parole board may be more receptive to his plea, but as I’ve noted earlier, parole boards truly look for a prisoner’s willingness to acknowledge his wrong-doing and to accept responsibility for it. Repeated claims of innocence work against early parole.

No US parole for maid abuser

RIYADH: Family and friends of a Saudi research student convicted of abusing his maid have expressed dismay after his efforts to receive parole were dashed late on Monday.

Humaidan Al-Turki, who was jailed in 2006 in the United States, was left bemused after his review before a parole committee at Limon Correctional Facility, Colorado, was denied. The committee will now review the case next year, according to family spokesperson Fahd Al-Nassar.

Al-Turki was sentenced in August 2006 to 28 years in prison on 12 felony counts of false imprisonment, unlawful sexual contact with his Indonesian housekeeper, theft and criminal extortion.

Al-Turki had his sentence reduced on appeal. He received a revised sentence of eight years in jail in February this year.

August:24:2011 - 09:11 | Comments Off | Permalink

This is interesting! Arab News reports that Saudi paleontologists have discovered artifacts indicating that 7,000 years ago, man (perhaps not yet separated into an ‘Arab’ classification) was domesticating the horse. If true, this pushes back the date of domestication by a good 3,000-5,000 years. It also moves the site of domestication out of the Central Asian steppes. The article, unfortunately, gives no information about exactly what the artifacts are. I’m not yet finding collateral information through Internet searches, but presumably that will come over time.

Rare artifacts excavated in Kingdom’s Al-Maqar area

JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction over the discovery of rare antiques during recent excavations that revealed that people in the Arabian Peninsula were interested in horses 9,000 years ago.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, and members of the excavation team briefed the king on the importance of the artifacts that were found in Al-Maqar in the central region of Saudi Arabia.

“The antiquities proved that Al-Maqar was the oldest place in the world so far with people interested in horses,” an official statement said, adding that the artifacts also showed the cultural activities of people in the region during the Stone Age.

King Abdullah praised the excavation team and wished them greater successes in their efforts. He also urged the SCTA to publish the results of the excavation that proved that the Arabian Peninsula had precedence in taking care of horses.

August:24:2011 - 08:29 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

The German Qantara website runs this article by American academic Leila Ahmed that discusses feminism, Islam, and—for some reason–colonialism. In it, she asserts that feminists have strongly supported Muslim women, often disingenuously, by seeking to ‘save’ them.

First off, I have no idea what she’s talking about. American feminists whose writings I’ve read have uniformly thrown Muslim women under the bus, instead scoring their political points in anti-war sentiments rather than in support of Muslim women’s basic human rights. They have, in fact, been criticized for not caring enough about Muslim women to support efforts to liberate them from truly oppressive actors like the Taleban.

The resort to colonialist analysis doesn’t do much for me, either; it never does.

All this being said, Ahmed does make some useful points about how the ‘meaning’ of niqab or hijab is not universal. Different women wear it for different reasons, as she spells out clearly. She also notes that as individual women analyze their own positions on covering their heads, many discover that they can find no religious authority that requires it and, consequently, quit that practice.

Treacherous Sympathy with Muslim Women
Leila Ahmed

Ever since the attacks of 9/11, feminists in the West have increasingly used the theme of the oppression of women in Islam as justification for war and domination. This strategy of using this rhetoric of “saving the women” in the name of “civilization” is an old ploy used many times in the past by Western imperialists, writes Leila Ahmed

For those of us who have worked in the field of women in Islam for years the changes which overtook our field after 9/11 were dramatic and profound. Just on the most facile level for example, the topic went from being one that a few of us feminists and academics were interested in, to being one about which heads of state and world leaders – most recently for example France’s president Sarkozy, were apt to have strong opinions about. From being something we studied in libraries it became a topic we now followed in the media – where, under one guise or another, it often now figured on the front pages or in the headlines.

In particular of course the hijab – in any of its forms – burqah, hijab, niqab – would now periodically erupt as an issue of state in western nations. Previously hijabs had, of course, been matters of state in some Muslim majority countries – Saudi Arabia and Iran for example, where hijab was required by law, and Turkey and Egypt both of which had recently banned it from schools and other venues. But here it was now, in the post-9/11 era, beginning with France’s ban on the headscarf in schools in 2004, becoming a matter of national import to the West too.

August:23:2011 - 07:11 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink
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