Hajj Distress

And we seat and observe… yeah…. they r on their 15th century, as we were… and fighting religious wars as we did. Hmm…. history keeps rhyming.

The Accidental Theologist

I am distressed by this news report in today’s Detroit Free Press.  The first four paragraphs:

A group of metro Detroiters visiting Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim pilgrimage said they were attacked and threatened with death last week by a group of Sunni men from Australia because they are Shias, a minority sect within Islam.

One of the members of the group was strangled until his face turned blue and women in the group were threatened with rape, according to people who witnessed the attack last week. They allege that authorities in Saudi Arabia did not take their complaints seriously and deleted a video one of them had made of the incident.

A U.S. State Department official told the Free Press on Monday: “We are concerned by reports that a group of U.S. citizens was attacked … at a campsite for Hajj pilgrims located outside of Mecca. We take…

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Egypt: From MarienBad to MarienWorst.

So now, we are hearing rhetoric that is both disturbing and frustrating, along the lines of “let the state tighten its grip over protesters, we have had enough”, and “it is time to work and stop protests, we need to eat”, and “what has protesting done so far except damage to the whole country”.

Indeed, what has protesting accomplished? So far, none of the demands of 25 January have been met. The first demand, the first spark for that revolution, was to bring an end to the interior ministry’s brutality. Reforming that institution was the first reason people took to the streets (remember Khaled Said, whose killers are acquitted?) and now the protest law requires that same institution’s blessing to allow people to take to the streets. What happens now when Egyptians decide again to rise up against the brutal ministry? Go get approval from the ministry for their route, give the ministry the names and addresses and phone numbers of the organisers? Hell, you might as well detain yourself right then and there!

But then again, this is Egypt, where no law is enforced and those who should enforce it are the first ones to break it, so no need to fret. Right now, and without any law put in place, the amazing Ministry of Interior detains anyone anytime and for charges we only saw in movies criticising Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rule. Charges like distributing “papers” calling for protests, being in possession of the yellow Rabaa sign, or having “anti-regime documents” on your computer… and this is without even having protested yet! People are being tortured, sometimes to death, in detention facilities and police stations during questioning for such ridiculous charges. No need for a law or a fine or a prison sentence; our police are taking matters in their own hands anyway, and who is to tell them not to? Who is to hold them accountable? No one did during Mubarak’s rule, nor SCAF rule, nor Morsi’s rule, and obviously not now (whoever’s rule this is!)

via The right to say NO!

 Daily News Egypt.

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And Elbaradei saw it coming… and he was right… and then he was called “traitor”. 

Ah… Misr, Misr… how much can you keep doing it wrong?

…4 days for Bassem to come back. Counting.

Why are so many modern British career women converting to Islam?

‘I know women born Muslims who became disillusioned an d rebelled against it. When you dig deeper, it’s not the faith they turned against, but the culture.

‘Rules like marrying within the same sect or caste and education being less important for girls, as they should get married anyway —– where does it say that in the Koran? It doesn’t.

‘Many young Muslims have abandoned the “fire and brimstone” version they were born into have re-discovered a more spiritual and intellectual approach, that’s free from the cultural dogmas of the older generation. That’s how I intend to spend my life, showing the world the beauty of the true Islam.’

While I don’t agree with their sentiments, I admire and respect the women I interviewed for this piece.

They were all bright and educated, and have thought long and hard before choosing to convert to Islam — and now feel passionately about their adopted religion. Good luck to them. And good luck to Lauren Booth. But it’s that word that sums up the difference between their experience and mine — choice.

Perhaps if I’d felt in control rather than controlled, if I’d felt empowered rather than stifled, I would still be practising the religion I was born into, and would not carry the burden of guilt that I do about rejecting my father’s faith

via jafrianews.com – magazine

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(Not a woman, but… Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) is a proper example of properly converting:  God is the answer. Nothing mostly limited to reject alcohol or social relativism)

…. and that’s how many can feel right now.

Decency, religious and family values, control of physical needs, strict limits on inter-sex contact, etc can already be achieved in our decadent society, you can be vegetarian or abstemious by choice and you can have all that without need of becoming a muslim. It may be a surprise, but…. there’s many people that lives that way. Not needing to be catholic…. nor protestant…. nor even being religious at all. 

If I say this, it’s because any of them (except Lauren Booth, who particularly became a Shia muslim in Iran) expressed any kind of trascendental need, neither said that they turned into Islam because they felt that they were following the right God’s way, or that they want to go to next life through the proper path, or that they are fulfilling Lord’s plan for their life, or that they wanted to dedicate their life to improve the life of others,or gain a full spiritual experience, etc,… 

All they said is that converting to islam fulfilled their needs for letting aside alcohol, wild nightlife and the naivity of a decadent society in search for the fastest satisfaction… and also for having a stable marriage and a family life, being kind and living according to a strong moral code of values, and also for feeling liberated when covering up to protect themselves from men’s sexual looks… 

Dear ladies… I am happy that you found happiness in life.

Really, I do. 

Everyone should congratulate when others reach a nice level of personal completion and stability… but…

Honestly… you did not need to convert to Islam for that. 

You didn’t even need to become religious at all.

Even in the faith you were grown up and abandoned without ever finding a way to live it properly.

There is a difference between having a religion and changing our lifestyle for good.

That difference is God. It’s searching and finding peace in God. Whatever the God we want to believe in.

And that is the key fact that defines living a religion. Whatever the religion. 

So…. after reading about you, my dear ladies… i don’t feel convinced by what you transmitted to me.

Even the hard insistance in covering up, looks to me more as an armor to reinforce your position and resist social judgement than a real improvement in life.

One girl can be decent and discrete, and dressed as a nun, and still there will be a man looking at her disrespectfully. The habit does not make a monk, as we say in Spain. 

So… all together… this is not inspirational at all. And looks more like a radical way to reinforce a personal decission on daily life values than in a true trascendental religious and spiritual liberation. 

And without that, I wouldn’t even ask you to convert to my own belief. 

Catholicism or whatever it could be. 

Good luck you all. 

And islam keeps destroying itself… thru the absolutism of ignorance and apathy.

Two million Muslims have flooded into Saudi Arabia\’s Mina Valley from Mecca for the start of the Hajj pilgrimage this week. Dressed in simple white garments and freed from their worldly possessions, they are following in the footsteps of the prophet Muhammad. But in Islam’s holiest city, there is increasingly little sign of the prophet’s legacy – or the frugal life he espoused.

“The authorities are trying to destroy anything in Mecca that is associated with the prophet’s life,” says Irfan al-Alawi, director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, who recently returned from a trip to the city. “They have already bulldozed the house of his wife, his grandson and his companion – and now they are coming for his birthplace. And for what? Yet more seven-star hotels.”

At the foot of the Khandama mountain to the west of the Grand Mosque, an innocuous white building stands alone, cast adrift in a sea of paving and tarmac. This small library was built to mark the site of the house where the prophet was born, known as the House of Mawlid, the remains of which Alawi says still lie beneath its raised plinth. But it is now in the path of bigger plans.

Across the road, the house of Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, has already been replaced with a block of 1,400 public lavatories. Further up the hill, centuries-old neighbourhoods have been flattened to continue the marching line of steroidal hotel towers. Its neighbours already swept away, the library is next in the firing line, standing in the way of plans for an underground car park and a metro line extension – needed to cope with the huge influx of visitors, set to reach 17 million a year by 2025.

As if to preempt any outcry, the building now bears a sign in five languages declaring: “There is no proof that prophet Muhammad was born in this place, so it is forbidden to make this place specific for praying, supplicating or get blessing.” A booth manned by the religious police ensures that no visitors step out of line.

It is, says Alawi, just the latest move in a series of state-endorsed acts of cultural vandalism, urged on by the hardline wahhabist sect, which perceives historic sites and the veneration of the prophet as encouraging sinful idolatry. A 1,400-year-old well, Bir e Tuwa, where the prophet spent a night, now stands alone as another endangered fragment marooned in a rubble wasteland. Its neighbours have been razed for hotels, and it looks to be going the same way.

via: Center for Islamic Pluralism.

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It’s not that these places, houses and remains have a religious importance for me.

If I complain is because every human works, buildings, tools… human heritage, belongs to all humans, and tells our global story. And that’s why it’s important for me. Even a broken piece of pottery from that crucial time would be important for me. 

What anthropologists and archaeologists use to know how we were hundreds of thousands of years ago are little things, few rests of that past. And future generations of saudis and arabs from all over will ask to know about Mecca and the origins of islam and how were arabs as a people, in the future, when all the kings, imams and business lords of nowadays are dust in the wind. 

I am a vocational historian, a humanist and someone absolutely passionate about what Middle East can apport to our common cultural baggage as humans. The good and the bad.

And for me, to see the world silent letting these things happen is simply a loss for all of us, specially for saudis, who are loosing their historical roots as a people.

We can compare this as if Egyptians had not transported Abu Simbel and other heritage treasures when they made the dam in Aswan. Not only them but also us would have lost a lot. 

Beyond any kind of religious implication, what has happened and keeps happening in Mecca is terribly SAD for this spaniard.

Islam keeps destroying itself. Thru sponsorized ignorance. Thru preached intolerance. Thru funded religious oscurantism.

And, same as happens with every bomb, every kidnap, every summary execution, every ethnic prosecution for those who represent diversity and progress among them… muslims will do nothing, except blaming others. Israel, the CIA, the Russians, the west, the saudi Royals…

Thus ignoring the fact that even if all these were to blame, the first spark of this was born at a pulpit inside a mosque or a madrasa. Ignoring the fact that all those supposed conspirating minds actually ARE BEING HELPED by those imams, those extremists and those MUSLIMS who behave as executive arms.

Lives will be lost… by thousands and millions, due to their words and actions. And most victims will be muslims. And those who fill their mouths saying “those are not muslims” will die seeing how the islam they think is the “true islam” will die and vanish… same as the dust in Mecca… while bearded guys wearing short thobes celebrate joyfully.

Ruth Benyamin – The Real Miss Iraq 2013

Sweden and the Middle East Views

Getting hold of Ruth Benyamin, the 67thMiss Iraq and winner of this year’s Miss Iraq competition, is not easy. The competition is no longer accepted by everyone, why in recent years Iraq’s beauty queens has stepped down one after another after death threats from hardcore religious groups, the competition had to move abroad – and Talat model agency that are handling the contest are careful. Over the course of a few months I exchange e-mails with the agency and upon request e-mail the questions that I want to ask in advance. Then all of a sudden I am in touch with the current Miss Iraq of 2013, or, as she boldly calls herself on Twitter and other social media: The Real Miss Iraq.

Ruth Benyamin was chosen in June this year after the first winner stepped down, but not due to death threats this time, according…

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Does the Brotherhood really think they work for Egypt? …at all?

The Brotherhood’s decision to pick October 6, when Egyptians celebrate their military, to hold demonstrations that condemn and denounce the army and lead to high casualties raises questions about the wisdom and efficacy of the Brotherhood’s strategy, if there is one.

Some Brotherhood members are wagering that continued clashes, demonstrations, civil disobedience and sabotage will disrupt the economy and push the country toward bankruptcy, which will result in the complete collapse of the state. The Brotherhood is also betting that the continued skirmishes and rising casualties will erode the legitimacy of the current regime and spark a rift within the June 30 alliance, providing them the chance to attract allies from the ranks of the revolutionaries. Furthermore, they are hoping that the mounting casualties will bring added international pressure and break the Egyptian people’s resolve under the weight of mounting bodies.

Without dismissing the negative impact of the Brotherhood’s strategy, its hopes seem futile even if they succeed in straining the resources of the state. Popular rejection and negative sentiments against the Brotherhood are only increasing with each episode of stalled traffic as a result of their demonstrations, with the growing number of those injured during confrontations with the Brothers and their supporters and with the continuing economic misery and hardships of daily life suffered by average Egyptians, who blame these problems on the Brotherhood and now the war of attrition they are waging against the people. As a result, it will be impossible for the Brotherhood to return to power for years, the number of which grows exponentially each time the Brothers push to implement their failed tactics.

At the same time, reconciliation with splinter factions of the Muslim Brotherhood, though important, will be met with rejection by the Brotherhood, which systematically accuses dissidents of never having been part of the organization in the first place. Unfortunately, Egyptians may have to move forward and hope the Brotherhood comes to its senses at some later date. Efforts to assimilate other Islamist factions, as well as possibly some Brotherhood supporters and defectors from the organization, should continue without expecting reconciliation with the Brotherhood itself any time soon.

via What Does the Brotherhood Want?

 Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

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And here I am…. observing, observing…. and waiting. 

Luckily Bassem Youssef returns on Oct 26th. Then many things will be clear. Inch’Allah.

The Kurdish sense of making it work.

In a city like Ras al-Ain, where graffiti celebrates the expulsion of the Arab opposition at the hands of the Kurdish People\’s Protection Units (YPG) on July 17 and rockets keep being launched from the neighboring villages controlled by the rebels, some Arab residents show no hesitation in praising the YPG.

\”Most Arab tribes are relieved by the departure of the Free Syrian Army [FSA] fighters,\” an Arab electrician told Al-Monitor. \”People initially welcomed them when they liberated the city from government troops [in November 2012], but they regretted this after the arrival of looters belonging to the brigades of Ahrar al-Ghoyran, Ahrar Manbij and others.\”

Despite the preference accorded to Kurdish militias, Arabs in Ras al-Ain are far from convinced of the merits of political decentralization without an effective Arab-Kurdish reconciliation.

\”Relations are tense; the percentage of mixed marriages is low. Before any self-management plan you need to clean hearts from fences — that means reaching an agreement between Arab and Kurdish tribes

via Kurdish Groups Take Control In Northeast Syria

 Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

DallasKurds

If kurds are able to get over tribalism, and find a negotiate way to fix historical issues with Syrian arab settlers and decades of baathist intervention, they will have a great chance to repeat a huge part of the success they achieved in Iraq,… that is… to be the only people building a place where things make some sense in the whole region.