Archive for Arabic

Why Do They Hate Us? They Don’t.

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2012 by loonwatch

Mona Eltahawy, an Arab-American journalist, created a firestorm when Foreign Policy Magazine published her article “Why Do They Hate Us?”.  If you thought the they and us refers to Muslims and Americans, you’d be wrong.  In fact, they is Arab men, and us is women.  Her article is a stabbing critique of Arab culture, which she finds to be heavily misogynistic.

If that wasn’t provocative enough, she goes further: according to her, these Arab men hate women.  ”Yes: They hate us. It must be said.”  To prove her argument, she issues a challenge: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses [against women] fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion.”  The rest of the article is a recitation of that litany, interspersed with jazzy catchphrases such as “[w]e are more than our headscarves and our hymens” and “poke the hatred in its eye.”

There is no way to deny the basic premise that the status of women’s rights in the Arab world is abysmal.  Why then did Mona Eltahawy evoke such a hostile reaction from even the Arab women whose rights she seeks to protect?  The easy answer, one that Eltahawy and her supporters might argue, is that these women are simply brainwashed.  Too much “Islamism” in their little brains.  The problem with this argument is that it’s sexist.  It’s basically saying Arab women are too stupid to think for themselves.

The real reason that Arab women recoil after reading Eltahawy’s article is that, while she tries to connect to them based on their gender, she attacks other aspects of their core identity: their race, nationality, religion, and culture.  In fact, her racist (and somewhat babbling) screed is nothing short of a vicious attack on their entire civilization.

Eltahawy cites “a toxic mix of culture and religion” as the source of the abuses against women.  Oddly, she later says, “You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.”  Yet, it is Mona Eltahawy herself who is arguing precisely that.

By attacking their core identity, Eltahawy has succeeded in alienating her own audience.  Imagine, for instance, an American feminist arguing for greater rights for African women, while at the same time assailing the black race, African culture, and traditional tribal religion.  How receptive or thankful do you think these African women would be?  How pleased would the black or African community be if someone was writing articles about how backwards their culture is?

Mona Eltahawy’s article engages in trite, racial stereotypes.  Legitimate problems in the Arab world are sensationalized.  They hate women.  What an absurd exaggeration!  They have mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters–and it is reasonable to assume that, like other human beings on earth, they love them.

A man can love his wife and still abuse her.  He can have undying affection for his daughter but still wrong her in horrible ways.  But, by going so far as to say they hate women, Eltahawy has dehumanized them.  One recalls similar invective against Palestinian parents: they don’t love their children.  The message being sent is: they are worse than animals.

Women’s rights is an area of concern in many parts of the developing world, not just the Arab world.  Why single out Arabs?  Women face major obstacles in India.  Should we demonize the Hindu religion and the great Indian civilization?

Eltahawy lists off “a litany of abuses”, bringing up extreme cases to make her point.  By citing isolated cases and stacking them all up together, she ends up portraying an imbalanced and biased picture of the Arab world.

Racists don’t see nuance.  They lump all people of a certain group altogether.  That’s exactly what Mona Eltahawy does in her article.  She paints the entire people of that region–or at least its men–with one broad bush.  They hate women.  All 170 million of them.

In fact, not all Arabs are alike.  During my travels in the Muslim world, I saw all sorts of people, with a broad diversity of views.  I met conservative Muslims, liberal Muslims, atheists, Christians, Communists, hippies, you name it.  No sweeping generalization could be made about them (aside for, perhaps, their disgust of American foreign policy).

It is true that I was deeply disturbed by the mistreatment of women, religious and ethnic minorities, poor people, servants, and animals.  But, I also met people there–men, no less–who were also deeply disturbed by these things and would have no part in it.

Just as the viral Kony 2012 video drew criticism for reinforcing the idea of White Man’s Burden, so too does Mona Eltahawy’s article tap into historically racist Orientalist attitudes towards the Arab world.

By firmly pegging abuses against women to the Arab culture and Muslim religion, Mona Eltahawy’s article was nothing short of bigotry.  Indeed, one could hardly tell the difference between Eltahawy’s article and what could normally be found sprawled on numerous Islamophobic websites, such as Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch and Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs.  It is almost a surety that her article will be approvingly cited on such sites, which pit “our civilized, freedom-loving civilization” against “those barbaric, women-hating peoples.”

Had Mona Eltahawy been just any ole’ Islamophobe hacking away at the keyboard–had she been a Robert Spencer or a Pamela Geller–her article would hardly have made headlines.  It would have been just one of thousands and thousands of such hateful rants on the internet by anti-Muslim trolls.  But, like Irshad Manji and Asra Nomani, Mona Eltahawy has an official “I’m a Muslim” card.  That’s even better than the official “I’m an ex-Muslim” card that bigots like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nonie Darwish proudly carry.  It’s probably even a step above the “I’m a former jihadi terrorist” gold card.  Eltahawy holds the platinum card and gets extra points for being a woman.

As other pundits have noted, Mona Eltahawy is–along with Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani, Tarek Fatah, Zuhdi Jasser, etc.–acting in the role of the “native informant.”  Monica L. Marks writes on the Huffington Post:

Why Do They Hate Us?” asks the latest cover of Foreign Policy magazine. Beneath the title stands a cowering woman wearing nothing but black body paint resembling the niqab, or full Islamic face veil.

Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy authored the article. Her central contention — that Arab Muslim culture “hates” women — resurrects a raft of powerful stereotypes regarding Islam and misogyny. It also situates Ms. Eltahawy’s work within a growing trend of “native informants” whose personal testimonies of oppression under Islam have generated significant support for military aggression against Muslim-majority countries in recent years.

Books by these “native voices” — including Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel,” Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita” in Tehran, and Irshad Mandji’s “Faith Without Fear” — have flown off the shelves in post-9/11 America despite being roundly rebuffed by leading feminist academics such as Columbia University’s Lila Abu-Lughod and Yale’s Leila Ahmed. Saba Mahmood, another respected scholar, noted that native informants helped “manufacture consent” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by serving up fear-inducing portrayals of Islam in “an authentic Muslim woman’s voice.”

Although such depictions have proven largely inaccurate and guilty of extreme generalizations, they have become immensely popular. Why? Because these native “testimonials” tell us what we in the West already know — that there’s something inherently misogynistic about Muslims and Arabs.

By stirring up our sympathies and reinforcing our prejudices, individuals like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Eltahawy have climbed to the top of the media ladder. Their voices are drowning out the messages of more nuanced, well-respected scholars.

Marks goes on to say:

Her fault lies in extrapolating broad cultural judgments from context-specific abuses, implying that Islam and Arab culture writ large are have toxically combined to create a hopelessly backward region that “treats half of humanity like animals.”

These native informants just tell us what we want to hear.  Their job is to increase hatred of Arabs and Muslims, something that is needed in order to sustain our multiple wars of aggression in that part of the world.

Native informants do not help fix the problems they point to.  Why, for example, did Mona Eltahawy choose to publish her article in Foreign Policy, an American magazine?  Why didn’t she write it for an Arab/Arabic publication, with a primarily Arab readership?

Instead she chose Foreign Policy Magazine, which was founded by none other than Samuel P. Huntington.  His famous Clash of Civilizations theory pit the Judeo-Christian West against the Muslim world.  How very fitting that Mona Eltahawy’s us vs. them article was published in the magazine he founded.

Eltahawy’s audience is clear:

You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.

Monica Marks writes:

 It is important for her readers, however, to understand the dangers of sensationalist coverage that over-simplify complex matters of gender, politics, and religious observance in Muslim-majority countries.

History is rife with examples of seemingly women-friendly arguments hijacked in the service of imperialistic and aggressive ends. While emotional and sensationalist portrayals such as this most recent Foreign Policy cover will sell copies, they do little to deepen our understanding of the contexts and conditions shaping women’s oppression in Arab countries today.

Indeed, the issue of human rights was routinely used by the colonial powers to justify the conquest and expropriation of land.  The Americas, including the land that is now the United States, was brutally conquered and stolen by Europeans on this very basis.  The indigenous peoples were portrayed as savages needing civilizing.  The white man would bring them “democracy”, “freedom”, and “civilization” (Operation Iraqi Freedom?).

In her article, Mona Eltahawi enumerates numerous abuses Arab women face.  However, none of these inhumanities–not even female genital mutilation–can be considered as problematic as the cannibalism and human sacrifice that the indigenous peoples of the Americas sometimes engaged in.  And yet, whatever failings the indigenous peoples had in their culture and civilization, it is now widely understood who the real savage was.

We can continue to pat ourselves on the back for how civilized we are, how free our women are, how we are so much better than them.  But, none of that will change the fact that we are the ones waging wars of aggression and occupation in the Muslim world.  We are the ones killing hundreds of thousands of their innocent men, women, and children.

It was in another article, also published in Foreign Policy with almost the exact same title–Why They Hate Us?–that Prof. Stephen Walt calculated the number of Muslim lives the U.S. has extinguished:  “a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities…is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.”  To use a jazzy catchphrase of my own: mutilating a baby girl’s genitals is horrible, but dropping a bomb on her head is much worse.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

The Word “Haboobs” Causing Chaos in Arizona?

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2011 by loonwatch

What is going on in Arizona? The word “Haboobs” is being criticized because it is Arabic? Ridiculous, I thought the objection might be that to some ears the word is close to a certain slang term referring to women’s breasts? That would be reason to keep the term, it would be great fodder for comedians or regular citizens playing off the term!

‘Haboobs’ Stir Critics in Arizona

(NYTimes)

PHOENIX — The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”

Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such.

“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”

Dust storms are a regular summer phenomenon in Arizona, and the news media typically label them as nothing more than that. But the National Weather Service, in describing this month’s particularly thick storm, used the term haboob, which was widely picked up by the news media.

“Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”

Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.

Although use of the term often brings smirks, Mr. Cerveny said the walls of dust could have serious consequences, toppling power lines and causing huge traffic accidents. Although ultradry conditions in the desert are considered one cause for the intensity of this year’s storms, Mr. Cerveny pointed to another possible factor: the housing bust that left developments half-finished and unmaintained, creating more desert dust to be stirred up.

Army Investigation Over False Accusations Ruined Our Lives, Say Muslim Soldiers

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by loonwatch
“I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ This is not America, that’s not why I joined the Army,” said one of the men, 34-year-old Khalid Lyaacoubi on the right walking with another Muslim recruit, 27-year-old Yassine Bahammou. (ABC News)

Even while serving in the Army, Muslims suffer harassment and suspicion.

Army Investigation Over False Accusations Ruined Our Lives, Say Muslim Soldiers

By JOSEPH RHEE AND CHRIS CUOMO

May 13, 2011

Five Muslims who joined the Army to work as military translators say their lives and careers were ruined after they were falsely accused of trying to poison their fellow soldiers. In an interview for ABC News, two of the men say an Army investigation into the matter has cast a stigma on their lives, preventing them from gaining citizenship and employment.

“I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ This is not America, that’s not why I joined the Army,” said one of the men, 34-year-old Khalid Lyaacoubi.

The men are all citizens of Morocco who were permanent “green card” residents of the U.S. They joined the Army in 2009 as part of a special program called “09 Lima” that would train them to work as Army translators in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous jobs in the military. In return for their service, the men would be fast tracked for U.S. citizenship.

“We want to prove to Arabic nations, ‘we are Arabic and we live here. We lived with Americans and socialized with Americans.’ We know they are good,” said Lyaacoubi.

“The United States is known for fighting for other people’s freedom, and I like it and I wanted to help doing that,” said another Muslim recruit, 27-year-old Yassine Bahammou.

Trouble at Fort Jackson

The five men successfully completed basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, which they say was a positive and rewarding experience. However, it was during specialized training as translators at the Advanced Individual Training school on base that they say their lives were upended. They say it all began in November of 2009 when Major Nidal Hassan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and wounding 31. In the wake of the shooting, Lyaacoubi and Bahammou said some of their fellow soldiers began to turn on them, calling them “terrorists” and “Hajis” behind their backs.

Then in November of 2009, the five Muslim recruits were arrested by the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) over a tip that they were allegedly plotting to poison their fellow soldiers at Fort Jackson. The news of the investigation broke on the Christian Broadcasting Network and quickly became national news.

Without being formally charged with a crime, the men were questioned about the poisoning allegation and accused of larceny, mutiny and conspiracy. The recruits were detained in their barracks building for 45 days and were escorted by guards wherever they went, including the bathroom. They said they were prohibited from speaking Arabic to each other or to family members on the phone. All along, the men said they told investigators they had no idea where the poisoning allegation came from and they vigorously maintained their innocence.

During this time, the men also said they were subjected to anti-Muslim harassment and abuse by authorities. The recruits claim they were told they would be sent to Guantanamo and one of the men said a CID agent told him he would be sent back to Morocco “in a box”.

“They were treating us as a terrorist,” said Lyaacoubi. “I never forget what this agent, she told me. She was like, “We are at war against Islam and you are a Muslim. Well, what are you going to do about that.”

“I see that my religion is the problem, or the part of the world that I am from is the problem,” said Bahammou. “I asked them to take me to church so I can change my religion, if that’s the problem.”

Investigation Lingers On

>> Continue reading: Army Investigation Over False Accusations Ruined Our Lives, Say Muslim Soldiers

Book Review: Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2011 by loonwatch

Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain, by Maria Rosa Menocal, ISBN-13: 978-0316566889

Maria Rosa Menocal published this gem of a book just before the events of September 11th, 2001, when a cadre of young Arab Muslim men driven by the politics of occupation, empire and rage combined their grievances with a religio-ideological veneer and flew out of a clear blue sky into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

The infamous day was seared into our collective conscious just as deeply as the burning aftermath that smoldered into the earth at Ground Zero, and with it a whole new era was upon us. One in which our confidence, our ideas, our principles and our policies were shook in a seismic way.

How did we react as a society and as a nation?

We clamped down on civil liberties, expanded surveillance on citizens to unfathomable and previously unheard of levels. We compromised the Constitution, built and invested even more in the Military Industrial Complex and invaded two nations while outsourcing torture. We paid lip service to Democracy while compromising with despots and apartheid regimes.

Initially, politicians, including President George W. Bush made statements to the effect that “we aren’t at war with Islam” and “Islam is a religion of peace.” Despite these fluffy statements, Islamophobia increased and cynical politicians and organizations oiled the machinery that would churn out the new bogeymen: Islam and Muslims.

Fear-mongering, especially amongst the Right continued apace and was given a new impetus with the election of Barack Hussein Obama (the “secret Mooslim”). This past summer 2010 saw the greatest backlash against Muslims since 9/11, the scene once again was Ground Zero.

A group of Muslim developers led by Sharif El-Gamal and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf created a project that according to them would mirror all the best in Islamic values, while also being an inclusive space that welcomed all faiths. It would be designed to facilitate events, programs, lectures, debates, studies, and in theory would be quite similar to the 92nd StreetY– they named the project Cordoba House.

Cordoba House was the perfect name for a project with such lofty aims. It immediately evokes images of the beautiful palm-like arches of the Cordoba Mosque and stirs the memory of Andalusia.

Anti-Muslims opposed to the mosque raised hackles at the name Cordoba, and with their usual blustering ignorance and foolhardy arrogance put forward the bizarre and illogical lie, that, by using the name Cordoba for their project, the developers were trying to build a “triumphal mosque” to mark the conquest of Islam.

Such mendacity is dangerous because it seeks to alter reality by revisiting history and washing it of truth so as to fit a particular agenda. Cordoba was the capital of Andalus, a culture, in fact a civilization that stands as a beacon and a warning to humanity.

Menocal’s book deals with this subject, and in contradistinction to the Islamophobes, relates that Cordoba and Andalus was for a moment in history the epitome of tolerance, culture, civility and harmony.

The story of Andalus is about,

a genuine, foundational European cultural moment that qualifies as “first rate,” in the sense of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wonderful formula (laid out in his essay “The Crack-Up”)–namely, that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time.” (p.10-11)

Cordoba is therefore not separate from the West, it is not the “other” as some wish to cast it, but rather it is quintessentially Western.

Andalusian culture viewed contradictions within oneself and ones culture as having the possibility of being “positive and productive.” These contradictions consisted of differing religions, philosophies, languages, races, etc. Something which we take for granted in our societies but which is under pressure from fanatical and retrograde forces who mirror the forces that brought down the Andalusian civilization.

The founding stone of this culture was one of the last survivors of the Umayyad dynasty, Abd al-Rahman who traversed from Damascus to Muslim Spain “Aeneas-like,”  to become “the first, rather than the last, of his line.”

His arduous journey and homesickness for his native land were evident throughout his life. He wrote in verse his feelings of “exile”:

A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,

Born in the West, far from the land of palms.

I said to it: How like me you are, far away in exile,

In long separation from family and friends.

You have sprung from soil in which you are a stranger;

And I, like you, am far from home. (p.61)

Not for much longer were his descendants to feel like “strangers.” Andalus and its jewel, Cordoba became home to a glorious civilization in which everyone, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike took part:

It was there that the profoundly Arabized Jews rediscovered and reinvented Hebrew; there that Christians embraced nearly every aspect of Arabic style–not only while living in Islamic dominions but especially after wresting political control from them; there that men of unshakable faith, like Abelard and Maimonides and Averroes, saw no contradiction in pursuing the truth, whether philosophical or scientific or religious, across confessional lines. (p.11) (emphasis mine)

Andalus produced such prominent Jewish poets, military leaders, governmental leaders, philosophers, theologians, architects, and intellectuals as: Dunash Ben Labrat, Hasdai Ibn Sharput, Maimonides, Samuel the Nagid, Ibn Ezra, Judah Halevi, Moses of Leon and a plethora of others. I cannot do justice to their contributions to humanity in this short review, for more on their works and lives read Menocal’s book.

These Arabized Jews ushered in a Jewish Golden Age and contributed to the redemption of Hebrew which had become a near dead language, relegated to the realm of liturgy,

The brilliance of the Golden Age came from Hebrew’s redemption from its profound exile, locked inside temples, never speaking about life itself. Maimonides, born in Cordoba just five years before Halevi left al-Andalus, described this post-exilic, pre-Andalusian state of things in his Laws on Prayer: ‘When anyone of them prayed in Hebrew, he was unable adequately to express his needs or recount the praises of God, without mixing Hebrew with other languages.’ It was not that Jews should speak other languages but that the Hebrew they spoke was no longer the language of true love, of complex emotion, of seemingly contrary ideas and feelings: maternal, erotic, spiritual, material, transcendent. Maimonides, Andalusian that he was, believed that God needed and wanted to be spoken to in a language alive with that whole range of possible emotions. It was an attitude that later allowed English to find its voice in the love sonnets of Shakespeare as well as in the prayers of the King James Bible. The prayers prove more satisfying, perhaps even more true, for being in the language of the love songs.

Hebrew’s redemption had come at the hands of writers who were masters of Arabic rhetoric, the Andalusian Jews, men as thoroughly and successfully a part of the cult of Arabic grammar, rhetoric, and style as any of their Muslim neighbors and associates. A century before Halevi took his final leave to find Jerusalem, Samuel the Nagid had first made Hebrew perform all the magic tricks that his native tongue, Arabic, could and did. He had been made vizier because his skill in writing letters and court documents in Arabic surpassed that of all others. He then went on to write poems in the new Hebrew style, among them verses recounting his glories leading his taifa’s armies to victory. In one fell swoop, Samuel’s Hebrew poetry, with its Arabic accents and prosody –the features essential to making alive for the Arabic-speaking Andalusian Jews–vindicated and completely exceeded all the small steps that others had taken in the centuries before him to revive the ancestral language, to reinvent it as a living tongue. Everyone, from Halevi to the nineteenth- century Germans who made the Andalusians into the noble heroes of Jewish history, knew that Hebrew had been redeemed from its exile thanks to the Andalusian Jews’ extraordinary secular successes, first during the several Umayyad centuries and then in the taifas. Because they had absorbed, mastered, and loved the principles that made Arabic easily able to sing to God and Beloved in the same language, they had been able to revive Hebrew so it could, once again, sing like the Hebrew of David’s songs, and Solomon’s songs. It was a great triumph…(p.161-62) (emphasis mine)

One of those whose story I found very intriguing was Judah Halevi who encapsulated all the contradictions and creativeness that was Andalusia. He was a profound poet, much admired by his peers and was considered one of the “greatest champions” of the Andalusian ethic. However, he transformed over time and turned his back on Andalusian culture, “he declared that it was all folly and inimical to Jewishness and had to be forsaken, in spirit certainly and — if possible, as he intended to do — physically. People were astonished, and some of them offended.”(p.163)

This sort of destructive change and move away from the Andalusian ethos afflicted Muslims and Christians as well.

[T]he first significant instances of cultural puritanism in the Iberian Peninsula were imported from places with little of the Andalusian experience. The Berber Muslims of North Africa never quite understood the Andalusian application of the dhimma, and they mostly disapproved of the syncretic culture that resulted from it. From the Berber sack of Cordoba at the beginning of the eleventh century on, a variety of “reform” movements swarming northward from across the Strait of Gibraltar always threatened to remake Andalusian politics and culture in their own image of Islam. At the same time, the Berber obtuseness was mirrored by the incomprehension with which the peninsula’s Christans were viewed by their coreligionists north of the Pyrenees. This was especially evident after Castile began to expand into territories that had been under Islamic rule for three and four centuries, and to incorporate their thoroughly Arabized populations, Muslims, Jews, and Mozarab Christians alike. An often stark difference in worldview separated the Roman Church as it had evolved outside the peninsula from the Christian communities within it. And these differences grew more profound in the decades and centuries that followed the Christian expansion southward…

During the second half of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth, more puritanical visions of these cultures converged in Iberia. The determinedly crusading forces from Latin Christendom and the equally fanatic Berber Almohads became influential parts of the landscape and inevitably met, head-on, on the plains between New Castile and old al-Andalus, at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, with disastrous results for the Almohads. The effects of the long-term presence of two expansive religious ideologies, each originally foreign to the Andalusian ethic, transformed the nature of the conflicts at hand. They made religious-ideological warfare a reality, cultural orthodoxy a real possibility, and monochromatic identity a realizable ideal.(267-68)

I have not recounted the amazing and spectacular contribution of Muslim scholars, philosophers, scientists, poets, musicians, theologians, architects, statesmen and leaders. This review would become very long if we recounted the lives of: Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Tufayl,  Ibn Hazm, Abd al-Rahman, Abd al-Rahman III, Muhammad Ibn Abbad, Ibn Arabi, Ibn al-Khatib, al-Idrisi and the many others.

AlCazar, the Church on top of the hill

Nor have I recounted the glorious arabized Christian production and contribution in this period: the Alcazar, the syncretic identity of theMozarabs, the development of Mudejar architecture, the “for hire” activities and sagas of ElCidPeter of Castile, the Abbot of Cluny’sQur’an, the translations by Christians of Arabic works into European languages and how it effected the diffusion of knowledge in Europe and the age of exploration.

How can I do all this justice, when even Menocal’s book seems to only give us a tantalizing glimpse and a thirst for more?

The dynamic, intellectual, creative, unique output in regards to language, literature, philosophy, theology, politics, and science serves as an ultimate rebuke to the concerted effort of Anti-Arabs and Islamophobes who claim that Muslim peoples accomplished nothing, were intellectually bereft, culturally barren and uncreative. The well worn talking point that makes frequent rounds in Islamophobic circles, the idea that ‘anything of value that Muslims created or invented was stolen’ is forever put to rest and quietly mocked by al-Andalus.

Menocal’s book on Andalusia gives us insight into the possibilities of various religions, ideas, identities to not only coexist but to exalt in differences and to view them positively. It also warns us against the insular, narrow view of nationalism, fanaticism, supremacism, both religious and cultural. It is a warning that we would do well to listen to and comprehend for our own time and place.

For our readers to savor a bit of the Andalusian experience, I provide two beautiful examples of Andalusian Music:

Ibn Arabi–”Her Words Bring Me Back to Life”:

Mozarabic Chant: “Alleluia” and Mauritanian Samaa:

Pamela Geller Watch: Arabic Language not to be Trusted or Taught

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2011 by loonwatch
Pamela Geller

Pamela Geller was on Fox Business News, or as some know it Circus TV advocating her wacky conspiracy theories. Her response might have elicited the Pamela Geller Quote of the Year or at least a candidate (the year is still young),

“Well Bob, there is conspiracy theory and then there is conspiracy fact, there is a global Jihad, (mumble)…Robert Spencer’s book, (mumble), there is a stealth Jihad, there is a war and you can avoid reality Eric but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

Pamela Geller, Bob Beckel, Eric Bolling and others on Fox Business/Circus News:

Islamophobia Today has a good rebuttal of the tripe from Geller on this subject:

Pamela Geller: Islamophobia/Arabophobia

Written by Admin of IslamophobiaToday.com

Pamela Geller’s Islamophobia has gotten so bad that she assumes the Arabic language is inherently “radical Islam” despite its existence well before Islam.  By this, she is implying that Arabs are only Muslims. I am not sure if Geller forgot or if she is plain ignorant but there are more Arab Christians in America than Arab Muslims:

Based on Zogby International Survey (200)

Not only does Geller exalt in her bigotry against Islam and Muslims (as the website LoonWatch has documented), but she is clearly manifesting her racist tendencies:

Good job, freedom lovers. You fought back against mandatory Arabic Classes in Public Schools in Texas.

“It shows how we mischaracterized, we willfully misunderstand Islam. Yes, on the face of it, yes, Arabic is a language. In a sense there would be no difference between opening a foreign language school — a Spanish language school or a french language school — but in fact Arabic is more than a language. It is explicated the language of Islam, so in that sense it is part of the Islamic religious imperial project. Radical Islam advances through the Arabic language. And you go all kinds of places that aren’t in the Arab world now, like Pakistan, Indonesia, Central Asia, the Balkans, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada and the United States, and you will here those Imams preaching in Arabic. Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.”

In Geller’s post, she selectively quotes from Mandatory Arabic Classes in Public School In Texas, omitting the fact that Arabic is not only the language being taught at the school:

The University of Texas, working with the Mansfield district, identified Cross Timbers Intermediate as a target since 10 percent of the district’s Arabic-speaking population attends the South Arlington school.

“The federal government sees Arabic, Chinese and Russian as critical,” Escovedo said. “Our country has a deficit in Arabic speakers and people who understand the Arabic culture.”

The Mansfield district also offers Chinese and Russian, among other languages. Students may begin taking language classes in middle school to fulfill their high school requirement of two years of foreign language.

Geller does not make any comment about learning Russian, Chinese, or any other language, but for some reason, Arabic is the language of terrorists. So her logic, or as I like to call it the Gellerian/Spencerian logic is as follows:

1)       Muslims are Evil

2)      They speak  Arabic

3)      Arabic is Evil

The semi-coherent ramblings of the uber-racist Pam Geller once again, betray her false claims towards being an advocate of freedom, equality, and justice. For Geller, Arabic equals Islam and Islam equals total absolute evil and therefore by extension Arabic speakers are likewise evil.

Arabic is a rich, classical language like Latin and Greek, branding it as an ideology is beyond ridiculous, it is a call to prepetual ignorance where by Geller wishes to deprive the coming generations of an experience that not only will enrich their lives, increase their knowledge but will also prove useful in their future careers. In reality what she is afraid of is the normalization of Arabs and Muslims in American society, and she will go to any lengths to ghettoize the former.

 

Robert Spencer v. Peter Kreeft: “The Only Good Muslim is a Bad Muslim”

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2010 by loonwatch
Robert Spencer is lost

Robert Spencer had a “debate” at Thomas More College recently with a former professor of his, Catholic Theologian and apologist Peter Kreeft. It was quite evident that the two were friends and they were quite chummy with one another, in fact it was pointed out by Kreeft that this wasn’t a debate as much as it was a “dialogue” or “discussion.”

The Debate:

The resolution being debated was that “the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.” Of course yours truly Robert Spencer, affirmed the resolution, defending it with the usual canard of ‘any Muslim who truly practices his faith is potentially dangerous and a threat to society.’ The “debate” was interesting as it exposed even more vividly the inherent biases and prejudices held by Spencer, the deep lack of understanding and knowledge of Islamic theology, belief and history as well as his limited command of the Arabic language.

Kreeft who didn’t provide much of a challenge to Spencer and who showed brightly his Ultra-Conservative Catholic belief essentially agreed with 95% of what Spencer was saying. While it is clear that Kreeft regards Muslim devotion to, and confidence in their faith in high esteem he nevertheless believes Islam is a “primitive,” “defective,” and “false” religion that has caused “more bloodshed” than Christianity.

Instead of challenging Spencer’s consistent distortions of Islam and Islamic teaching (he deferred to Spencer as an “expert on Islam”) he pivoted the argument to say that the greater threat to Catholicism is the Enlightenment and the Sexual Revolution.

Surprisingly, Spencer agrees with Professor Kreeft regarding the Enlightenment being a threat to Catholicism though he didn’t explicitly say that Islam was less of a threat. I can see how Ultra-Conservative Catholics may rail against the Enlightenment, it was the era which saw a secularist revolt in the name of Reason against the Catholic Church and which led to formulas for the Separation of Church and State, it also witnessed the decline of the power of the Catholic Church in the temporal realm.

However, it is quite hypocritical for Spencer to agree with such a premise, especially considering Spencer claims to be a defender of the West. Agreeing that the Enlightenment is bad is like saying that the Separation of Church and State is bad, or that Constitutional government is bad, all the things that Spencer claims to champion! (but which we have frequently shown is just a front for his own anti-Freedom supremacist beliefs).

A few other points were likewise revealed in this debate:

Spencer’s terrible command of Arabic and very poor articulation of Arabic. This has been revealed on other occasions such as when Danios slammed Spencer and one of his JihadWatch groupies‘ faulty understanding of the word dhimmi, which Spencer was trying to pass off as meaning “guilty people.”

Spencer said during the course of the dialogue on the topic of Islamic views of marriage that,

In Islamic marriage the woman is essentially chattel, and actually the word for marriage in Islam is an obscenity in Arabic, I am not making this up, the theological word for marriage in Islam is not a word that people say in polite company.

(Gasps from the crowd)

It’s because its a very degraded idea.

In this instance Spencer says that the theological word for marriage in Islam is actually an obscenity! A ridiculous notion that underscores the willful and deliberate ignorance of the so-called “scholar of Islam.”

The word that Spencer is likely referring to is “Nikah” which simply means “marriage.” In claiming that “Nikah” is an obscene word that cannot be uttered in polite company, “scholar” Robert Spencer is committing a laughable gaffe that underscores yet again the shallow nature of his knowledge of Arabic and Islamic terminology. He is confusing a classical Arabic word Nikah, with the colloquial word (“Neik”), a different word, just because they sound similar. This would be like Spencer suggesting that Richard is an obscene word, because a colloquial subtract “Dick” is used as a derogatory word for penis. Well, here Spencer is arguing that Richard is an obscene word. That’s your scholar.

Also, when Spencer attempted to say Arabic words such as madhabnasikhmansukh, etc. it sounded like an Arabic 101 student struggling with pronunciation, it was quite embarrassing.

Kreeft, in one of the rare instances where he pushed back against his buddy Spencer said,

Kreeft: Doesn’t the Qur’an say that you can only have four wives if you respect them and treat them equally?

Spencer: It doesn’t say respect all of them, I have it here, it says you can have four wives if you treat them all equally, in other words if you treat them all the same, if you’re beastly to all of them then you can have them. It doesn’t say anything about respect.

Here Spencer reveals more of his biases and readings of his own prejudice into Islamic text. He believes the Qur’an calls for men to treat their wives “beastly.” Can he provide us a quote, a single verse that says anything remotely near that claim? In fact his claims are belied by the fact that the Qur’an and Islamic teaching specifically call for love, harmony, and respect between a husband and wife.

Take this verse (30:21),

“And amongst His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you love and compassion. Indeed in that are signs for a people who contemplate.”

or this one (2:228),

“And they (women) have rights similar to those (men) over them in kindness…”

or this (2:187),

“They (women) are your garments and you are their garments.”

or take the saying of Prophet Muhammad,

“The best amongst you, are the best for their wives”

So much for all that chattel nonsense.

More disturbing was when the question shifted from one in which Islamic belief is questioned to questioning the mere presence of Muslims in the West.

In reply to a commenter/questioner from the audience who basically asked “what will we do with Muslims in the West, since they are in our midst now,” Spencer replied,

Anyone who professes the Islamic faith, if he delves into the teachings of his own religion, he can end up being someone who is very dangerous to us. Now that doesn’t mean that people should be round up into camps and such but we need to enforce our own laws about sedition and formulate some sane immigration policies and recognize that this is an ideological conflict and not a problem of racism.

Oh thank heavens! At least Spencer isn’t calling for camps! Though his buddy Michelle Malkin does. Muslims need to *just* be aware that for merely professing to follow Islam they can be convicted of sedition! That is really the import of what Spencer is saying, he is calling for Muslims to be locked up and denied entry to the USA. Very Geert Wilders-esque.

The moderator asked the horrid question earlier to Kreeft and Spencer,

Couldn’t we learn from Muslims what we need to learn from reading their books but nevertheless energetically fighting their attempts to assert themselves in American society, restricting their entrance into our countries and just generally fighting political Islam, protecting our own religious freedom and our own political freedom by aggressively imposing our own values on our own societies. In other words, not permitting them polygamy, not permitting them honor killing, or wife beating or any of the other aspect of Sharia that they are asserting. In other words couldn’t we get all this from your book, your book tells us what we need to gain from Islam, and so, ok, fine, they can go home now?

(Laughter)

The framing of the question is terrible, which Muslim or Muslim group is asserting Sharia? Who is calling for polygamy and honor killings? Then look at the condescending way in which the moderator asks “why don’t we tell them to go home now?”

So I ask you who is for freedom? Democracy? Who is viewing the “other” as foreign and not belonging?

Kreeft who is supposed to be the “counter” replied,

the long and complete and nuanced version of my answer to your question is ‘yes.’

Spencer answered the question without any caveats simply saying,

yes.

Spencer also asserted that there are “20-30,000 polygamous groups of Muslims in the USA” but he didn’t provide any independent evidence. This is in fact all conjecture to further the “stealth-Muslims-in-our-midst-who-are-trying-to-advance-creeping-Sharia’ conspiracy theory.”

To cap it all off a Thomas More student who is joining the Israeli Army said,

You’re probably familiar with the supremacy clause in the Qur’an, “In order to honor Allah you must kill all the infidels, first the Saturdays and then the Sundays.”

Spencer replied accurately (he had no choice) for once, thereby sparing himself further ridicule from us that “such a verse doesn’t exist in the Qur’an,” but unable to help himself he went on to say,

There is a hadith, it isn’t in the Qur’an that says the Muslim must kill the Jews, and the Jews hide behind trees and the trees cry out and say, O’ Muslim there is a Jew behind me come and kill him, that is an authenticated hadith, and so it is considered to be a laudable practice for a Muslim to kill a Jew because it is something that hastens the coming of the end times in which all things will be consummated, but its not specifically in the Quran like that.

Unbelievable. A colossal falsity, an absurd statement that ventures on the ridiculous and is certainly slanderous. In this instance Spencer is attempting to advance the notion that a tenant of Islam is that the End Times can be hastened and brought quicker by killing Jews.

In fact, Spencer should focus more on his Christian brethren in the Evangelical movement who believe they can hasten the second coming of Christ by planting the seeds of the second Armageddon.

Such a theological precept doesn’t exist in Orthodox Islam. In fact it runs counter to Islamic theology to say that one can hasten the End Times, and if anyone were to claim they could they would be immediately considered a heretic. However, I will deal with this claim in more depth in a future article. Suffice it to say that it is a despicable statement that underscores Spencer’s profound ignorance of Islamic theology and belief.

 

The Weekly Standard Implies that Obama is a “Secret Arab Speaker”

Posted in Loon Blogs, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2009 by loonwatch
Michael Goldfarb

Michael Goldfarb

President Barack Obama is an iconic figure that inspires heated discussion on many topics as he is not easy to pigeonhole into one category or label. One topic that has and will continue to strangely garner absurd and heated discussion is the topic of Obama and his relation to Islam and Muslims.

In a recent manifestation of such absurdity, a blog post by Michael Goldfarb on The Weekly Standard surmised that Obama’s use of the Arabic word Shukrun, which means ‘thank you,’ somehow denoted that Obama knows more about Islam than he is letting on,

Obama has said before that he speaks “barely passable Spanish” and “a smattering of Swahili,” as well as some Bahasa from his youth in Indonesia. But Obama has at other times denied speaking a foreign language, saying in July of last year, “I don’t speak a foreign language. It’s embarrassing!“…One wonders if the president hasn’t been concealing some greater fluency with the language of the Koran.

The bigotry is on live display in the above quote and Eric Boehlert at Media Matters rightfully pointed out that “Goldfarb does his best to to raise doubts about whether or not Obama secretly speaks Arabic.” Goldfarb doesn’t pause to consider that not only is Arabic the “language of the Koran” but it is also the language of millions of Christians from various denominations, many of whom sing their prayers and recite their liturgy in Arabic — i.e. no one has a monopoly over a particular language.

Goldfarb also might have missed, probably because he doesn’t speak Arabic, that Obama mispronounced the Arabic word Hijab (veil) incorrectly as Hajib during his speech in Cairo.

So continues the theater of looniness in which Obama is considered a closet Muslim and because he used an Arabic word we should now be even more suspicious of him.

The truth is that this is just another manifestation of the unconscious hatred felt by many in the right-wing for all things Islam. The hope is to secure some cheap political points by somehow tainting all percieved enemies of the right-wing with associations to Islam and Muslims — the new boogey men of America. How long will the right-wing believe they can pull this on Americans? Only fellow Americans can answer that one.