tomb of Salman al-Farsi attacked

seems to be only minor damage, thankfully:

BAGHDAD, Iraq Feb 24, 2006 (AP)— Gunmen fired two rockets at a tomb sacred for Shiites south of Baghdad causing damage but no casualties, a Shiite official said.

The tomb of Salman Pak, also known as Salman al-Farisi, was attacked after sunset with two rockets, said Jamal al-Saghir, an aide to Shiite political leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.
One rocket hit the gate to the tomb while the other exploded a few meters from the structure, al-Saghir said.


is Partition equal to Victory?

My NEBV colleague Pejman alludes to the idea that an acceptable outcome in Iraq is to partition the country into three ethnic enclaves. Were most supporters of the war here polled a year ago as to whether partition was an outcome that fell into the "victory" camp, I think that the answer would have been a resounding No. It is telling that our expectations for the Iraq project have dropped to the point where our primary definition of victory appears to be avoidance of civil war rather than a free and stable democratic Iraq.

So, then, were the grand designs truly empty? Disillusionment certainly has afflicted notable neo-con war proponents such as Francis Fukuyama:

More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives both inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratizing Iraq and the broader Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that in the coming months and years will be the most directly threatened. Were the United States to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown in Iraq, it would in my view be a huge tragedy, because American power and influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and increasingly democratic order around the world. The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a "realistic Wilsonianism" that better matches means to ends.

Eric Martin of American Footprints points out that Fukuyama is essentially arguing for a return to liberal interventionism - in the mold of Bill Clinton and John Kerry. Martin follows up with a discussion of the strengths of a multi-polar approach to foreign policy - the advantages of which were well-discussed in detail by Gary Hart in his book, The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the Twenty-First Century.

Fukuyama is not alone in his disillusionment with neoconservative ideology. Conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. arguably a founder of mainstream conservative ideology, has declared the Iraq war a failure:

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.
...the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

(note: in this, Buckley has essentially aligned with Howard Dean, who said in December of last year, "...the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.")

There clearly is a rank pessimism about the viability of our venture in Iraq. To my mind though, civil war would hardly be staved off by partition. For a sobering preview of what lies in store down that road, one need only look at the history of ethnic partitions in recent times - notably in the Subcontinent, where the Partition into Pakistan and India (and later, the separation of East Pakistan) led to horrific violence whose legacy still poisons the well in Indo-Pak relations to this day.

Partition would create a Kurdish state free to align economically with China and foment separatist tensions with Turkey; a Shi'a state that would enormously complicate our attempts to isolate Iran; and a pitiable Sunni state with no resources or potential industry other than terror manufacturing. But worse, it would be tantamount to an acknowledgement that the base motivation for the Iraq war was never about freedom and democracy, but rather The Great Game redux. The result would be a true setback for the cause of what President Bush called in his State of the Union speech the "calling of our time."

I am less concerned with the legacy of the present Administration and more concerned with the legacy of American leadership as a beacon for freedom and liberal constitutional government. I don't see how anyone can in good conscience argue that partition would lead to anything but a repudiation of these ideals.

cross posted to No End But Victory.

Brass Crescent links roundup: carnivals of the Islamsphere

The Brass Crescent Awards were a great success - but you don't need to wait another year to sample the best of the Islampshere. Thabit of Muslims Under Progress (who won an Honorable Mention in the Best Thinker category) is hosting the next State of the Ummah blog carnival (as you may recall, Umm Yasmin of Dervish blog hosted the first SotUmmah carnival last year). The SotUmmah is a nice complement to the Brass Crescent Awards, since the former will occur a number of times throughout the year and be focused more at the level of individual posts, and posts on given themes, rather than at the blog level like the Awards.

In fact, the theme of this SotUmmah is Beyond hatred and apologia: contemporary Muslim responses to sacrilegious treatments of Islam. As Thabet explains:

The Danish "cartoon controversy" has become a huge story. The publication of those cartoons have been blown out of all proportion, but the issues raised are real enough. Of course, this isn't the first time such a "clash" has occurred. For this reason I've decided on a topic which revolves around Muslim responses to productions (novels, plays, visual arts) that are deemed sacrilegious. The emphasis is on responses to the arts, because equally offensive material is produced every year under the guise of news, history or politics, but there are no such widespread angry response (these might be considered worse because they are being passed off as "fact"). As the theme of the Carnival suggests, I am looking for those posts which engage with the issues, not merely suggest they stand for "free speech" or "against Islamophobia". Posts needn't be limited to the recent Danish controversy, although I suspect most of them will be about those 'toons (which, as an individual who grew up reading comics and watching animation, I have to say are aesthetically unpleasant. That's twice the insult!).

Blogging carnivals are driven primarily by submissions by the authors themselves - in other words, a chance for you to promote your own work. To participate, simply send an email to thestateoftheummah [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk with the following information:

- The name of your blog with a link (with a hyperlink).
- The title of your submitted post and a link to the post (with a hyperlink).
- A couple of sentences to describe your submitted post (which may be edited by the host).
- Optional (for host and blogger): a trackback link.

NOTE: Submission deadline is March 6th.

In addition to the SotUmmah, the group blog Living Tradition (which won a Brass Crescent Award in the Best Group Blog category) is also hosting a blog carnival, dedicated to the Prophet of Islam, Mohammed Rasulullah SAW. The carnival is entitled In Honor of the Prophet and is a truly wonderful collection of tributes.

I consider it a source of pride that these two blog carnivals are how we in the Islamsphere have responded to the Danish cartoon issue. The one is our assertion in favor of our dignity in the face of gratuitous insult levied at ourselves and our Prophet SAW. The other is an outpouring of love, a triumph of the infinite Deen against the vulgarities of Dunya.

Let me also take time to mention the most recent Carnival of the Liberated, hosted by Dave Schuler at Dean's World, which regularly features the voices of Iraqi bloggers across the spectrum. In any roundup of Islamsphere carnivals, the CotL deserves equal standing, and Dave sincere kudos for his tireless work in that regard.

No word on whether the Brass Donkey Awards will be held this year or not. We can only hope. Surely the jafis must be given their due...


2nd Annual Brass Crescent winners

With a final tally of 165 votes, the results are in - I am pleased to announce the following winners of the 2nd Annual Brass Crescent Awards:

BEST POST OR SERIES: Truth & Beauty, On Illness

BEST FEMALE BLOG: Shabana Mir (Koonj)

BEST THINKERS (tie): Haroon Moghul (avari/nameh) and Mere Islam


BEST GROUP BLOG: Living Tradition



BEST BLOG: Sunni Sister

Visit BrassCrescent.org for the category descriptions, as well as to see who earned Honorable Mention awards in each category. Congratulations to all!


Battlestar Lincoln

Ron Moore, in his Galactica blog, quotes Abraham Lincoln. The television show Battlestar Galactica was not intended to be a commentary upon our times, but has certainly become in some aspects allegorical. Science fiction is unique in that while its settings may be the far future or of technological prowess, it always has its roots firmly in the here and now of its authorship; the new Galactica is no different. Fitting, then, that via this artificial and fictional show we are reminded of these words from our greatest President. It is incumbent upon us to reflect upon them as we ponder our nation and the course we are upon. Read!

"The world has never had a good definition of the word 'liberty.' The American people just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty. But in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing.

"What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts — these are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosom. Our defence is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own door.

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow?


"All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers.

"As a nation of free men, we must live through our times or die by suicide. Let reverence for the law be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in the schools, in the seminaries and in the colleges; let it be written in primers, in spelling books and almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls and enforced in courts of justice; and in short, let it become the political religion of the nation. And let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly at its altar. And let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence, trusting that in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.

"Let us not be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves.

"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

decentralized video

There's a revolution afoot.

I have been using the BitTorrent client "µtorrent" for a few weeks now, primarily to snag episodes of Battlestar Galactica. The way BT clients work is, you install the client (in µT's case it's literally only a few hundred kilobytes in size - lean, and fast). To download a given video, you search for .torrent files on the web (there are BT-specific search engines like Mininova and The Pirate Bay). The .torrent file is typically only a few dozen kilobytes, and when loaded into the client starts to download pieces of the much larger video file (typically a few hundred MB) from other connected peers.

BT is revolutionizing television. Dean already pointed to a landmark article about how BT downloading is thought to be increasing Galactica viewership, and obsoleting the old revenue model of interstitial commercials. But the same dynamic can apply to movies as well as TV - for example, consider Japanese anime. Steven recently mentioned to me that he was waiting for the second volume of Bottle Fairy; looking on IsoHunt there are torrents for the first 13 episodes already posted online. If you upload torrents and make your own copies of movies available to others via the BT system, you can even earn preferential downloading priveleges at BT communities like PBNova. The BT system makes it easy to share your content and thus help raise the tide towards near universal availability of anything and everything out there that is worth watching.

But BT is not the whole story, either. There are also sites like the US-based iFilm and the Korean PandoraTV which allow you to search and browse through various video shorts and (in the latter case) even full length movies. The movies play in real-time stream mode rather than being downloaded to your computer, for instant enjoyment. Google Video has been trying to replicate this model, and while their interface has some interesting functionality, they are still way behind on the content side.

What's even more interesting are tools aimed at distribution of privately-made video. The best of these is YouTube, which is like a Flickr for video clips rather than photos. I've uploaded videos of my own to YouTube from my trip to Kyoto in 2004, here's an example.

Anyone with a digital camera that takes video clips (and most do, nowadays) can use this for free.

You might argue that the handheld video hardware market is also important; I remain unconvinced since toys like the video iPod are still expensive, and suffer from small screens and limited storage. I used my laptop to watch episodes of Galactica while traveling to Cleveland this week; nothing beats a laptop for true video enjoyment (and you don't need to break the bank, either).

But overall, we certainly are not limited to our TV sets and the broadcast schedule anymore for enjoyment of video, be it TV or movies. These new tools and communities are really rewriting the rules.


provoked introspection

On my recent post at Dean's World, a commentator made an observation that the cartoon StupidStorm has had a deeper current of positive effect, which the traditional media here and abroad utterly failed as usual to notice - an infrastructural blindness.

Namely, while the overall effect in Europe is negative (as moderate muslims feel drawn closer to the extremists as their feeling of being under a cultural siege intensifies), a positive effect of emboldened moderates in the middle east may be developing. To re-quote Abu Aardvark,

The only bright side is that voices of reason are beginning to assert themselves in the Arab media, even if they may be having trouble getting traction in the hyper-politicized environment. I've seen at least a dozen op-eds in the last few days saying some variation of "shame on you for offending the Prophet, but shame on Muslims for reacting as they did." A lot of ordinary Muslims - not extremists - are genuinely upset about this, and their legitimate anger should not be conflated with the manufactured "rage" of the extremists.

Count me among the genuinely angry - though my anger at the deliberate insult is because of the manner in which the Prophet SAW was depicted, not the fact of his depiction. I reprinted several depictions myself and I also endorse this one, which is quite beautiful for its elementary geometric aesthetic. And this is just too clever to spoil.

But the images of the Prophet SAW with a bomb in his turban, or informing bombers that heaven is fresh out of virgins, or even just represented as a fat and pudgy guy holding a sword - these seek not just to depict, but to perpetuate stereotypes about Islam and Muhammad SAW that are patently false. Islam is not a religion of war (nor peace - but rather, justice). Muhammad SAW would never sanction terrorism, murderers of children are not rewarded in heaven and virgins are not a prize for piety. And above all, Muhammad SAW was not a warmongering conqueror who sought domination via the sword. THAT is why the non-telegenic muslims like myself are angry, and why our entire premise in Iraq is fundamentally threatened.

There is irony in that the muslims who rioted and committed violence on pretext of these cartoons are in fact living up to all the stereotypes of Islam I decried above. But they lack the faculty to even perceive Islam in its beauty; they only see Islam as a code by which they benefit, crudely, in their societies, primarily over their women. Their passion is not insult to a deep faith, but a tool in the hands of their tyrants who thereby keep them enslaved, and I pity them more than I resent them.

But while the fools ruled the TV footage, in print a quiet pushback has been building. Jane Novak's superb article was printed in numerous outlets including the Middle East Times, the Bangladesh Daily Star, the Arab Times in Kuwait, and translated to Arabic in the Yemen al-Shoura. Dean also pointed out a thoughtful piece by Amir Taheri, who has been writing pro-freedom articles for the Arab News for many years. And Bill at INDC has a comprehensive (and righteously snarky) roundup of condemnations of violence from Islamic organizations both at home and abroad. Of particular note is Ayatollah Sistani's comments:

Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, made no call for protests and suggested that militant Muslims were partly to blame for distorting Islam's image.

He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."

"Enemies have exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms," he said of the cartoons.

The pushback against the obscene protests in Britain is also notable:

Asghar Bukhari said the demonstration in London on Friday should have been stopped by police because the group had been advocating violence.

The chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee said the protesters "did not represent British Muslims".

More protests over cartoons of Muhammad on Saturday passed off peacefully.

Mr Bukhari told the BBC News website: "The placards and chants were disgraceful and disgusting, Muslims do not feel that way.

"I condemn them without reservation, these people are less representative of Muslims than the BNP are of the British people."

Across much of the Islamic world, a debate has indeed been sparked - about free speech, about religion, and above all, about tyranny.

And there is a counterpart to that debate occurring here in the non-muslim world, arising in reaction to the shameful xenophobia of those conservatives who see the entire cartoon episode as an opportunity to advance their agenda - which includes cessation of all muslim immigration to the United States and the opposition to Turkey's admittance to the European Union. And I won't even link to or reproduce what Ann Coulter said, though I think that this call for conservative organizations to distance themselves from her is wise.

The above examples, like the muslim violence and rioting,is simply not representative of the debate. For a more balanced discussion, see this thread at Gene Expression, which starts out poorly but then has this masterful observation, a true diamond in the rough (hat tip: matoko-chan). The parent post, by Matt McIntosh (and x-posted with discussion at Winds of Change, kudos to Joe Katzman for inviting it), is a very thoughtful analysis which is best summed as: the "Muslim problem" is just a special case of the "human problem." Essential reading! Over at Abu Aardvark, Prof. Lynch patiently engages Diana Moon in the comment thread, though ultimately Diana can't seem to move beyond her focus on anti-semitism (an important and acknowledged symptom of the malaise fomented by political tyranny in the middle east, but rather tangential to the broader issues). There's a sort of follow-up debate in this thread at GNXP. Finally, also see this debate at Sepia Mutiny (which incidentally was nominated for Best Group Blog in the 2nd Annual Brass Crescent Awards. Voting ends Friday!).

Ultimately, the cartoons were a pretext for all concerned. If the extreme fringe can make use of it, let us also do so for opposite ends. There is indeed a Clash of Civilizations brewing, but in it, the frothing conservative fringe and the seething Islamic fringe are allies, against we, the true scions of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance. The cartoons have therefore served a useful purpose indeed, by revealing clearly who is for an Enlightenment, and a Renaissance in the Islamic world, and those who are not.

I close with this wisdom:

"Do you know what guerrillas often say? They claim that their rebellions are invulnerable to economic warfare because they have no economy, that they are parasitic on those they would overthrow. The fools merely fail to assess the coin in which they must inevitably pay. The pattern is inexorable in its degenerative failures. You see it repeated in the systems of slavery, of welfare states, of caste-ridden religions, of socialising bureaucracies in any system which creates and maintains dependencies. Too long a parasite and you cannot exist without a host." -- Leto II, God-Emperor of Dune


There is no insult to Islam

I'd like to see, just once, someone in the Islamic World who has a real soapbox and access to the media stand up and say,

"Islam is infinite. They can burn the Qur'an, or insult the Prophet SAW, or outlaw the hijab. But they can never erase the delicate calligraphy of Deen upon the muslim's soul. Our religion is infinitely greater than the sum of their scorn, and as such we have no opinion on their insults as they matter, in the end, not even the tinest whit."

Well, I have a soapbox here, but it's probably too small to make much of a difference. Tawakatullah.

Related: Great discussion at Mahmoud's Den on the topic, if you're looking for where the rational muslim majority is sheltering from the idiocy storm.

Also, sepoy at Chapati Mystery points out that the Prophet SAW has been depicted before, by muslims. There's even an example of the Prophet SAW looking all "Jesus-y". If the so-called defenders of free speech and Arab democracy had used that one as their protest, or maybe the respectful depiction of Muhmmad SAW on the Supreme Court freize as one of the great lawgivers of history, rather than the vile and crude cartoons that equate my faith to terrorism, they'd be on far stronger ground.

I have reproduced those examples of depiction, not because I personally believethat such depictions are compatible with Islam, but because I believe them to be non-offensive expressions that are done without malice (as the depictions that spurred the present controversy certainly were). I am not offended by these depictions I have reprinted here even though I would not sanction them. (astaghfirullah).

Depiction of the Prophet SAW in Iran
Depiction of the Prophet SAW at the Supreme Court as a lawgiver

And finally, I of course completely agree with Dean. If you don't understand how freedom of speech is the guarantee of religion's pursuit, then you're an ignorant fool and you'll never have my support or brotherhood, even if you do claim to follow the true Deen.


Jesus H Christ!

but is the blogsphere abuzz today or what on this cartoon thing?

I have many observations on it, but the only two that really matters are 1. that people are free to do what they want, and 2. actions have consequences. What few commentators on the topic seem to appreciate is how these two facts form a feedback loop.

You can print, say, or draw whatever you want. Just don't be surprised when - and let's frankly admit this - the people you are deliberately trying to provoke conclude that you're a complete jafi. A jafi, whose soaring rhetoric about freedom and respect for Islam and the sacredness of the cause to bring liberty to the middle east as a grand antidote for tyranny and oppression, just came off looking a lot less sincere. A lot less.

And if someone chooses to be offended at these cartoons, I say to them lakum di nakum valaya din. or in a more vernacular sense: get over it.

UPDATE: Neil Stevens at RedState steps up to the plate. Would that his fellow conservatives follow his example.

UPDATE 2. Some of his fellow conservatives have followed his example. Hugh Hewitt for example, says that we should not "cheer the vulgar and the stupid."

The jihadists are the enemy, not the Muslim world. Refusing to recognize how idiot cartoonists can indeed offend Muslims who are not only not Islamofascists but also our allies and even our fellow citizens is to refuse Muslims the right to at least the same level of disgust that Christians display when they denounce stupid NBC series like The Book of Daniel or shows like Will & Grace.

If this is a free society in which people have the right to be vulgar and stupid, then why is being offended at a deliberate insult akin to imposing dhimmitude?