Tag Archives: yellow journalism

OH NOES! A Scary Name is Popular

I found a lovely blog today, Mail Watch, which I’ve barely looked at so far but which seems to do a valuable service: exposing sensationalist journalism. How I wish I had the time and patience to run a similar blog.

The article I stumbled upon, while researching stories about Muslim taxi drivers who refuse to take guide dogs (which is not all Muslim cabbies, obviously), is about recent (and also old) news about the popularity of the name Muhammad in England.

Please go over there and read it. Here’s an exerpt:

■It’s a crap trick. Adding together 12 variations of a name and saying the official list has Mohammed at number 16 without pointing out that the official list doesn’t add any variations of names together is just a bit dishonest.

■As is not bothering to mention exactly how popular a name Mohammed is among Muslims.

■Or that altogether, boys named every variation of Mohammed made up around just 2% of all boys. Actually, the number of boys named all variations of Mohammed actually took a slight drop since last year, but you didn’t mention that either.

■It’s an old crap trick. I was mentioning it on my blog back in 2007, when the trick made it look as though Mohammed was the second most popular boy’s name.

UPDATE: ha! Tabloid Watch has an even funnier takedown here.

This one is less funny, has more statistics.

Yet another way of looking at the facts here.

You may know that American “comedian” Bill Maher said stupid nonsense about this “alarming” naming trend a few days ago. So while I’m at it, I’ve always wanted to know, is there a woman alive who doesn’t get a creepy vibe from Bill Maher?

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Filed under bigoted idiots, Blogroll, names

Okay to Beat Wife in UAE? Really?

This AFP article, which I read after Gawker linked to it, says that the UAE Federal Supreme Court ruled that husbands can beat wives and children.

The AFP article says:

DUBAI — The Federal Supreme Court in the United Arab Emirates has ruled that a man can beat his wife and young children as long as no marks are left, The National newspaper reported on Monday.

The court ruled that “a man has the right to discipline his wife and children provided he does not leave physical marks,” the Abu Dhabi-owned newspaper reported in its online edition.

“Although the (law) permits the husband to use his right (to discipline), he has to abide by the limits of this right,” it quoted Chief Justice Falah al-Hajeri as having written in a ruling released in a court document on Sunday.

The court ruled that a man who “slapped and kicked his daughter and slapped his wife” violated his “right” under sharia, or Islamic law, to discipline his wife and children, as he beat his wife too severely and his daughter, aged 23, was too old for such discipline, the newspaper said.

Hey, despite the inflammatory headline, you can actually tell from the article that the man in the court case was ruled to have violated the law by beating his wife and daughter.

But that’s practically the entirety of the AFP article. Let’s read the full article from the UAE’s English-language newspaper, The National, and see if it says anything that will shed more light on this.

The court ruled that the bruises were evidence that the father had abused his Sharia right.

According to Islamic law, a man has the “right to discipline” his wife and children, which can include beating them after he has exhausted two other options: admonition and then abstaining from sleeping with his wife. Although scholars differ in their definition of “beating”, all agree it must not be severe.

In the case of the wife, it was the degree of severity that put the man in breach of the law. The daughter, however, was 23, and therefore too old to be disciplined by her father.

He claimed he did not mean to harm either of them, and had hit his wife by mistake while trying to discipline his daughter.

Sharjah Court of First Instance fined the father Dh500 for abuse. The decision was upheld by the Sharjah Court of Appeals on February 14. He appealed against the verdict at the Federal Supreme Court.


The court also ruled that a father does not have the right to beat his children after they become adults. In Sharia, reaching the age of puberty is evidence of adulthood.

“He is not allowed, according to Sharia, to beat his daughter, who is 23 years old,” wrote Chief Justice al Hajeri.

Jihad Hashim Brown, the head of research at Tabah Foundation, said: “It’s unlawful in Sharia – if taken in its entirety – to injure one’s wife. It’s unlawful to insult the dignity of one’s wife.

“That is if we look at the tradition as a whole: the Quran, the hadith and writings of Islamic jurists.”

He said beating one’s wife was in conflict with “clear and concise” Islamic texts, which encourage Muslims to treat their wives in “love and kindness”.

He said a Quranic verse might appear to allow certain things but if the verse was not “clear and concise”, it should not enter courts of law.

“The vast majority of scholars overwhelmingly agree it is forbidden to injure or insult the dignity of one’s wife,” Mr Brown said. “If there is no clear text, then the court should treat it as a criminal act.”

He added that Islamic texts stipulated the essence of healthy marriage was constant and mutual love. When any one of the couple felt there was need for beating, he said, “it’s time for divorce”.


“The law does not ask husbands to beat their wives, it only means a man cannot be charged with anything if the beating did not leave any marks,” Dr al Shamsi said. “It is a beating for discipline, not a violent or a vengeful beating. The Prophet said: “Only a wicked person hits his wife.”

So the breathless headline that the supreme court ruled that a man can beat is wife, as if that were the outcome of the court case, is pretty contrary to the facts of the case. But we wouldn’t want to disabuse any Islamophobes of their cherished beliefs.

Freaky weird, huh?

Christian domestic discipline is a growing trend among very conservative Christian groups in the United States. These groups tend to be somewhat reclusive, although they can sometimes be found online. Aware that their practices would be quite controversial in the secular world, and even in many Christian circles, people who live this lifestyle tend to keep themselves anonymous.

The belief goes like this. God is the authority in the church and in the Christian family. Next in command is the husband, who has authority over the wife and children. The wife then has authority over the children. Each authority figure is responsible for the spiritual growth and development of those under his or her authority. Parents show this authority over their children through discipline, and for conservative Christians that often means spanking. Those who practice Christian domestic discipline believe that authority to discipline also extends to the husband and wife relationship.

The reason this scares many in the secular world in particular is that these same patterns of controlling behavior can be found in abusive relationships.

Here’s an eHow article on the Christian spanking of one’s wife:

If you intend to use spanking in your Christian Domestic Discipline marriage, sign a consent form giving the husband permission to spank. This may not necessarily help in the case of legal problems, but it certainly cannot hurt. It is not wise to allow your kids or many others in your life to learn you practice CDD. Since the legality of CDD has never been established, people who do not understand the relationship could cause a lot of problems for you.

This delightful page is full of Christian scriptural justifications for beating wives and children, mostly children. The best part is that some Christians today live by it!

Such as:

Pro 23:13, 14 – Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver (snatch away, defend, preserve, deliver) his soul from hell.

Why get bogged down in details? Nothing says that a beating can’t leave marks.

I will not get bogged down in the specifics of “how” discipline was carried out during Bible times, “what implements” were used, or “how” God disciplines people today. My point for this article is that in both Old Testament and New Testament, we find Scriptures which indicate that adults can be, and often were, physically disciplined. We find numerous Scriptures that indicate a loving God chooses to use physical discipline on those He loves.

The Bible indicates that Jesus never sinned. If physical discipline of one adult by another adult was a sin, then Jesus would not have done this. Jesus had the authority to discipline. I believe, in like fashion, the husband has authority, and even the responsibility to discipline his wife and children.

The mantle of authority and rod of discipline must be carried with humility, prayer and serious consideration of the inherent responsibility. Our ideas of obedience, discipline, and even love, can be drastically out of line with God’s ideals. Isa 55:9 reads, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Is CDD the be-all, end-all, the medicinal balm for marital bliss, the holy grail for all hurting marriages, the savior of all sinking relationships? Is it commanded in Holy Scripture that a husband must physically discipline his wife? I answer “no” to both questions. However, I do believe it is an acceptable tool, and well within the Scriptural rights and responsibilities of the husband to decide whether it is right for their marriage, and if it is right for their marriage, to so implement it.

From another page on the same website:

Maintenance Discipline: Discipline, usually spanking, given at regular intervals for the purpose of maintaining a submissive mindset in a wife, correcting minor faults, and/or reinforcing marital roles.

Whether to use maintenance or not is a decision best left up to the individual couple. Though it is ultimately the decision of the husband, he should be careful to take into consideration his wife’s thoughts, actions, and reactions to maintenance discipline.

Okay, I don’t want to compare apples and oranges. On the one hand we have the highest court in a country, the UAE, ruling that a man can discipline his wife and prepubescent children in a way that doesn’t leave marks. Not that he should, just that he can. And the word “discipline” rankles when we’re talking about grown women, no doubt about it.

On the other hand, we have a Christian movement that an unknown number of Christian households practice, and the supreme court of the US is not backing it up at all.

So you can’t compare the two. However, since Islam is an Abrahamic religion that’s 600 years younger than Christianity, it should be no surprise to anybody that if Christianity and Judaism sanction some form of wife “discipline,” Islam does, too.

I just thank my lucky stars that my country keeps church and state separated. Alhamdulillah!


Filed under church and state, Islamic relations

Just Once

Just once I’d like to read a news article in the western media that talks about Yemen without including the line “…is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden.”

I know Yemen is exotic and mysterious to most Americans, but come on. How ’bout shaking it up a bit with a “…where the kingdom of Sheba was believed to be located,” or “…famous for its unique architecture”? After all, they manage to describe England without including the line, “…where Osama bin Laden’s son Omar lives.”

Yemen has some beautiful spots. If they’d make a point of attracting tourism, they could make a fortune. And as one of the world’s poorest countries, they could sure use it. A serious obstacle to that, though, is the local tradition of kidnapping people for ransom.

But just look at it! So pretty.


Filed under arab, arabist, pedantry

Organ Snatching; WSJ Thinks Arabs are Iranians

Here are a couple of stories to look into. The Arab News reports:

RAMALLAH: The chief Israeli pathologist and director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, professor Yehuda Hiss, has admitted harvesting organs from the bodies of dead Palestinians without the consent of their families.

You can read more at the link. And the other story, found at BoRev.net, is about a Wall Street Journal article conflating Iranians with Venezuelans of Arab descent. To make it more scary.

From the penultimate paragraph of the WSJ article:

What do Fadi Kabboul, Aref Richany Jimenez, Radwan Sabbagh and Tarek Zaidan El Aissami Maddah have in common? The answer is that they are, respectively, executive director for planning of Venezuelan oil company PdVSA; the president of Venezuela’s military-industrial complex; the president of a major state-owned mining concern; and, finally, the minister of interior. Latin Americans of Middle Eastern descent have long played prominent roles in national politics and business. But these are all fingertip positions in what gives the Iranian-Venezuelan relationship its worrying grip.

From BoRev:

Wow, was your mind just blown? Iran is infiltrating the highest levels of the Venezuelan oil sector using…Christian immigrants from Lebanon! I don’t mean to add fuel to the fire or anything, but I think I saw a Sikh cab driver in Caracas once too.

The commenters at BoRev are pretty sure that all those guys are of Lebanese Christian descent, but I can’t verify it. After all, most people don’t have to declare their ethnic descent and religion to the world. A google search on their names mostly brings up dozens of blog posts about this WSJ article. Plus the dismaying realization that attempts to link Iran to Venezuela through Arab Christians has been going on for a while.

There are several sites out there linking Venezuelan Minister of the Interior Tarek El Aissami to Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in the sense that his great uncle was a Baathist, and I can’t figure out if that’s true or not, but I can pretty much guarantee that a tie to the Iraqi Baathist party is pretty much the opposite of a tie to Iran.

Plus, why did the WSJ writer, Bret “They All Look Alike to Me” Stephens, include Tarek El Aissami’s middle name and maternal last name? He doesn’t go by them, and his name is plenty scary-Arab-sounding without them.

See more mocking of Bret here. I only regret that there isn’t a lot more mocking.

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Filed under arab, arabist

Cop Killer Thought He Was Jesus; Christian Law to Kill Gays

Maurice Clemmons Christian Terrorist Extremist

No sooner did a photo of alleged cop-killer Maurice Clemmons appear in the news than the screeching began. “He’s a Muslim” “He was radicalised in prison” “He’s another domestic terrorist!” Presumably this is because his visage is swarthy and he’s not smiling a genial smile, although the smile wouldn’t be necessary if he were paler in hue.

Once it became apparent that the late Maurice Clemmons was a Christian, nobody cared anymore. Most news article failed to mention it. Those that did buried it several paragraphs down the page. Because somehow when a American who practices Islam mows down soldiers, it’s terrorism, extremism, and an indictment of Islam, but when an American who practices Christianity mows down police officers, it is none of those things. And Mr Clemmons wasn’t just a cultural Christian, he thought he was Jesus.

“The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus,” a Pierce County sheriff’s report said.

Clemmons was charged in Washington state earlier this year with assaulting a police officer and raping a child, and investigators in the sex case said he was motivated by visions that he was Jesus Christ and that the world was on the verge of the apocalypse.

Within a couple days after the Fort Hood shooting, we knew more about Major Nidal Hasan than we’ve ever known about any spree killer, ever. The media gave us its analysis of a PowerPoint presentation he gave to his colleagues, encouraged us to gasp at his email exchange with an American imam in Yemen (and I still haven’t heard a single peep from anyone complaining that we spied on an American citizen’s correspondence with an American citizen–which was judged by the FBI to be innocuous), and found a blog comment on the internet that sounded like he might have written it and attributed it to him. I imagine there are hundreds or thousands of people posting on the internet every day who say things that sound like something I would say. Please don’t attribute them to me. Thanks.

Christian evangelical minister ex-governor Mike Huckabee did not actually pardon Clemmons, so what I wrote the other day is not accurate. Huckabee recommended clemency, basically making him eligible for parole. Huckabee was prudent enough not mention the religious angle in any explanation for this clemency, so we can’t actually know that Huckabee gave Clemmons another chance because he felt he had truly repented and accepted Jesus into his heart.

Salon article on Huckabee’s dealings with Maurice Clemmons.

Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state’s draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.

No doubt word spread among the prison population that the affable governor was vulnerable to appeals from convicts who claimed to be born again. Clemmons too was among those who benefited from Huckabee’s tendency to believe such pious testimonials. “I come from a very good Christian family and I was raised much better than my actions speak,” he explained in his clemency application in 2000. “I’m still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought upon my family’s name … I have never done anything good for God, but I’ve prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start. Now, I’m humbly appealing to you for a brand new start.”

New York Times article about Huckabee’s clemency issues.

Mr. Huckabee, who rode a brand of prairie populism to finish second in the Republican presidential primaries in 2008, granted more than 1,000 pardons or clemency requests as governor. As his reputation for granting clemency spread, more convicts applied. Aides said he read each file personally.

In most cases, he followed the recommendation of the parole board, but in several cases he overrode the objections of prosecutors, judges and victims’ families. And in several, he followed recommendations for clemency from Baptist preachers who had been longtime supporters.

Robert Herzfeld, then the prosecuting attorney of Saline County, wrote a letter to Governor Huckabee in January 2004, saying his policy on clemency was “fatally flawed” and suggesting that he should announce specific reasons for granting clemency. Mr. Huckabee’s chief aide on clemency wrote back: “The governor read your letter and laughed out loud. He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.”

After the Fort Hood shooting, public figures called for ousting Muslims from the US military. They shouted that Maj Hasan was allowed to remain in the Army due to “political correctness” and claimed that Muslims are a protected class in the United States. As if Maj Hasan wouldn’t have been able to shoot anybody if he’d been kicked out of the army, which by the way he had been trying to leave for years, to no avail. As if any Muslim can commit any kind of crime in the US without his religion making the headlines.

Meanwhile, some Christians in America are howling that they are the underclass, that everyone makes fun of them, that public entities sometimes acknowledge that there is some religious diversity in America. The “war on Christmas” is a good example.

Here’s a scientific study whose conclusions will come as no surprise to most:

For many religious people, the popular question “What would Jesus do?” is essentially the same as “What would I do?” That’s the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

Obviously, this is what Huckabee was drawing on when he was pardoning Christians and what Bush was drawing on when he decide to war on Muslims and when he looked into Putin’s eyes and “saw his soul.”

And along those lines, let’s talk about religion and its pernicious effects on the law. Take Uganda. It has no state religion, but the majority religion makes up 84% of the country and influences the legal and political system there. On top of that, a powerful and wealthy foreign country dominated by coreligionists has been exporting religious materials of the most extreme flavor to Uganda, and foreign fundamentalists attended a conference there earlier this year that led to an anti-homosexuality bill that if passed would impose the death penality for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Many speakers at that conference think that homosexuality is an illness that can be cured. One wrote a book that equates Nazism and homosexuality and one works at a foundation which ostensibly “cures” homosexuals.

“They told us all things are going wrong because the family is being neglected. Not having more children is one of the things that they said are going wrong. Homosexuality is a way of stopping us from having more children,” said Senyonjo.

Macauley, who fled Nigeria last year after receiving death threats for hosting a gay-friendly church, added that the harsh law comes in a context of perceived challenges to men’s role in society. Women’s increased agency, including deciding whether to have children and how many, is experienced as a threat by some men. A relationship between two men raises the fear that one of the men will behave “like a woman” in the household, which undermines any supposedly natural definition of men’s position in society.

One of these imported fundamentalists probably also met with a number of Ugandan parliamentarians.

A bill has since been drafted and was tabled on Oct 14 in Uganda’s parliament, legalising not only the persecution of lesbians and gays but also of straights that “support” them. The bill applies to Ugandans inside and outside the country. It nullifies Uganda’s ratification of any international treaties that support LGBTI human rights and explicitly rejects the notion that homosexuals have human rights.

Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities face fines of 2,650 dollars or three years’ imprisonment. Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil faces the same punishment.

Senyonjo believes that the Ugandan law stems from the urge to protect patriarchal arrangements: “It is men who want the law. They have a very loud voice. The church is still very patriarchal. They want the man to be the head of the family. Even at weddings they say the man is the head and the woman has to be obedient.”

Shariah Christian law truly is harsh and blood-soaked. If only the close-minded fundamentalists who can’t get it enacted here in the US wouldn’t export it to the rest of the world. We excoriate Saudi Arabia for funding fundamentalist schools around the world, but turn a blind eye to Christian proselytizing of the most foul kind.

Alhamdulillah we have a wall of separation between church and state here in the US! Let’s hope politicians such as Huckabee, Palin and Bachmann are never able to tear it down.

For readers outside the US who may not know who Mike Huckabee is, he is a former candidate for president who in a Gallup poll published in early Nov 2009 was the Republican frontrunner for a presidential run in 2012.

71% of Republicans say they would seriously consider voting for Mike Huckabee.


Filed under bigoted idiots, church and state, domestic terrorism

Vintage Yellow Journalism

I just found this post from 2007 over at the Undercover Black Man blog. It’s amazing. A whole bunch of newspaper headlines from around the turn of the last century, all dealing with giant negroes.
It’s a must read, simply mind-boggling. Attack of the Giant Negroes.

And I thought today’s media were being ridiculous about Arabs and Muslims.

Gather round, dear readers, and you will hear of a time when “giant negroes” roamed the earth. These giants committed shocking crimes. Newspapers from sea to shining sea documented their foul deeds.

Especially the New York Times.

The Times first acknowledged the existence of these fearsome creatures on August 5, 1897. The headline was “Insane Negro Giant in Newark.”

Over the next four decades, the New York Times provided all the news that was fit to print about “giant negroes.” Articles with headlines such as these:

“Giant Negro Attacks Police.” [Sept. 24, 1900]

“Negro Giant Guilty.” [July 28, 1905]

“Armed Negro Giant Goes Mad on Liner.” [May 15, 1916]

This is just a small sample. It’s really amazing.

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Filed under miscellaneous

Homegrown or Home-Concocted?

This story has been bugging me since it first broke about a week ago. Not the facts, but the way it was hyped in the press. The first headline I saw included the words “jihad plot.” This kind of sensationalist coverage is something I’ve been frustrated by for years.

Huffington Post has an excellent post by Ahmed Rehad about this latest FBI arrest. Here are some highlights:

At first glance, media headlines gave the impression of a contiguous homegrown “Islamic” terrorist threat, a local outgrowth of the ominous global “Jihadi” network, secretly thriving in our midst but foiled by the FBI at the last minute. It had Islam written all over it, once again implicating American Muslims and spiking fears and suspicion that ours is a problem community, part of a foreign civilization ever at odds with the West, that wants to destroy the United States from within.

But as more facts have begun to emerge, it turns out that the suspects, one of whom is a crack addict and the other with a history of mental illness, once again, are troubled oddballs operating well outside the mainstream of the American Muslim community and its institutions, with no ties and no support from Mosques, Imams, community leaders, members at large, or even real terrorist threats like Al-Qaeda. Once again, however, it turns out that the radicalization “tipping factor”, if you will, was none other than a paid government agent-provocateur.

The suspects are petty career criminals with lengthy criminal records (one of them was arrested 27 times); most of their crimes were committed before they converted to Islam in jail.

Were they perhaps Christians at that time?

The suspects appear to be gullible and naive — hardly the breed of ruthless masterminds that the global terrorist networks like Al Qaeda tend to recruit and deploy. The New York Post called them “a bunch of terror dummies” while the AP describes them as “down-and-out ex-convicts living on the margins in a faded industrial city.”

The sister of another one of the men, James Cromitie, called him “the stupidest man on the planet.” The lawyer of a third man, Laguerre Payen, described his client as “intellectually challenged” stating that he had “a very low borderline IQ.” Indeed, Payen, who was on medication for schizophrenia, was deemed too insane to be deported after a previous assault conviction.

The suspects appear to have a weak — even perverse — understanding of Islam. Salahuddin Muhammad, the Imam of the mosque that one of the men visited, publicly challenged him on his incorrect understanding of Islam stating that the man had “a fundamental lack of knowledge of Islam.”

Media reports reveal that the informant is a man who has had his own troubles with the law and had been coaxed into working as an informant in order to avoid deportation. He would drive up in his expensive car to the Mosque and offer community members free dinners, cash, or jobs to try to lure them into his fictional Pakistani terrorist connections.

Mosque members seemed to suspect that he was a possible agent-provocateur and were creeped out by his aberrant ways and views. But why was he not reported? Imam Muhammad said he wondered whether he should have done anything differently once he had suspicions about the informant who went by “Maqsood.”

“How do you go to the government about the government?” he asked.

Exactly. What are you supposed to do in a situation like that? Who do you contact? Can you possibly think it’s going to go well for you?

But this debate is not so much about the Bronx four, their fates are for the courts to decide. It is, in the end, about understanding the nature of the real terrorist threat against us and raising responsible objections against self-deluding initiatives that seem to seek terror-case quotas by entrapping “intellectually challenged” outcasts and then deceptively marketing their isolated cases as evidence of an imminent and contiguous global threat with homegrown components.

The Times Online had a terrific headline: FBI ‘lured dimwits’ into terror plot.


“This whole operation was a foolish waste of time and money,” claimed Terence Kindlon, a defence lawyer who represented the last terror suspect to be tried in New York state. “It is almost as if the FBI cooked up the plot and found four idiots to install as defendants.”

“One question [about the synagogue case] that has to be answered is: did the informant go in and enlist people who were otherwise not considering trouble ?” said Kevin Luibrand, who represented a Muslim businessman caught up in another FBI sting three years ago. “Did the government induce someone to commit a crime?”

The other question that US security experts were debating was how much had been achieved by assigning more than 100 agents to a year-long investigation of three petty criminals and a mentally ill Haitian immigrant, none of whom had any connection with any known terrorist group. “They were all unsophisticated dimwits,” said Kindlon.

“Did they really need all those men in ninja suits with M16 rifles to arrest four idiots?” wondered Kindlon, a former marine sergeant whose main concern is that real terrorists may be plotting undisturbed while domestic US agencies focus on fantasists. “Somewhere, someone in Al-Qaeda must be laughing.”

Concern about the FBI’s tactics heightened after Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, imam at the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, revealed that when Hussain first came to the mosque and started talking about jihad (holy war) – apparently to identify radical elements for his FBI handlers – several members immediately concluded that he must be a government agent.

The FBI is known to have infiltrated mosques, and many anti-terrorist experts believe a mosque is the last place a serious Islamic terrorist would plot an attack. “Anyone with any smarts knew to stay away from [Hussain],” said Muhammad. Yet nobody will accuse Cromitie and his cohorts of being smart.

Meanwhile, the white guy who manufactured ricin and took it to Vegas was assessed to be no threat, the white guy who was building a dirty bomb at home (who is admittedly dead now) was assessed as not a threat, and the white boys who planned to assassinate President Obama were laughed out of the newspapers.

Described by the authorities as neo-Nazis, Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman allegedly planned a deadly rampage through southern states, beheading 14 of their victims in a brutal homage to skinhead culture before ultimately gunning down the man who hopes to become America’s first black president.

I surely hope the FBI is as serious about infiltrating white groups as it groups of swarthy folks.

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Filed under domestic terrorism, Islamic relations

An Alarming Video! ZOMG!!!1!

Two different people sent me a link to the same video recently, breathlessly titled, “An Alarming Video Every Westerner Should See.” In one case the video was posted on an obnoxious right-wing site and in the other case on a Christianist site. The video itself is a product of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, which cherry picks the most outlandish media coming out of the Arab world, edits it for effect, translates it mostly accurately, and hopes it will frighten American voters. Although you’d think that since Israel is part of the Middle East, MEMRI would sometimes translate and disseminate rantings of delusion Israeli figures, it doesn’t. Just Arab ones.

Mantiq al-Tayr, though, is there to pick up the slack and point a finger at Israeli whackaloonery. See this post on his blog about Israeli politician and anti-Christite (needless to say anti-Arab and -Muslim) Obadiah Shofer.

Mr. Shoher does not think that Jews should just engage in suicide attacks. Rather, he believes they should be much more on the offensive. Among the tactics he endorses is the murder of POWs. He acknowledges that Israel has killed “a lot” of Arab POW’s and he approves.

The MEMRI clip is just under nine minutes long. It starts out in the middle of a press conference, with a guy wearing Arab garb talking casually and matter-of-factly about how four pounds of anthrax could kill 330,000 Americans in an hour. I have no idea if this is true, but true or not, it’s certainly not the same as saying, “I demand that someone kill 330,000 Americans with anthrax!” But the title has already alerted me that EVERY WESTERNER SHOULD SEE this, so I’m already primed to tremble with fear at the sight of a bearded Arab guy standing in front of a backdrop with terrifying Arabic writing on it.

(Also, it’s just 22 seconds into the MEMRI clip at this point and I’ve already found terms I would have translated differently.)

Wait a minute, he just smiled while talking and gesticulating about anthrax, and then he said, “What a horrifying idea.” Isn’t he supposed to be scaring us? That’s not scary. But then he says if someone did that, that person would cry out with joy. Well, yes, I suppose he would, because if he did such a thing, he must have done it on purpose.

Then he goes into a digression about how al-Qaeda isn’t backwoods yokels living in caves, but has laboratories and produces weapons, as Hezbollah does. The MEMRI edits out something.

After MEMRI’s edit, the speaker says the so-called terrorists are the best people. He gets a round of applause. You’re familiar with the saying, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” He name drops Mulla Omar, who he says is a spiritual guy. Then he makes fun of politicians. Then MEMRI edits out something.

Then he says there are more than 300,000 white militia members in the US who wish to attack Washington. Again, I don’t know if his numbers are right, but domestic terrorism is certainly serious and we ought to pay some attention to it. Huh, for some reason MEMRI edits something out again.

Now he’s saying that the white militia racists want to bomb a nuclear facility in the US. This is alarming! Let’s round up those white militia guys before they can harm us! Ah, but then he jokingly wishes those guys well, and the audience laughs. The nerve! No American would ever make a joke about bombing any place where Arabs live. Then he makes another similar joke, and this time he even has a nasal, smirky laugh almost identical to ex-president Bush’s. The audience laughs again, but this time it sounds more like a courtesy laugh.

Then he says that God says in the Qur’an that hostility between “us” and “them” (MEMRI inserts ‘the Jews’ so you know it’s all about them) is eternal. I don’t doubt the guy’s knowledge of the Qur’an, because I’m confident he’s studied it a lot more than I have, but I couldn’t find such a passage and neither did the guy I go to with all my Qur’anic questions. Then he says something about cutting out tongues, and that definitely isn’t in the Qur’an.

Then he admits that he is a takfiri, meaning he’s an extremist who holds with accusing other Muslims of unbelief. He’s like that guy at church who thinks that everyone who goes to a different church is a bad Christian. Also, most of the people going to his own church. Also, his minister. And his wife, probably, too. Anyway, then MEMRI edits something out again.

Then he says we should support the resistance, the brave resistance to this campaign. But what resistance, what campaign? MEMRI has edited out all of that part. More on that later.

He says “we” should pressure journalists to present the facts correctly. Pressure them with phone calls saying we’ll take measures. I guess given that this guy’s eyebrows are somewhat similar to those of that guy Jafar in the Disney Aladdin movie, his eyebrows lend a certain scariness to this innocuous words. “I shall write a sternly-worded letter, and if you don’t capitulate, I shall write again.”

Then he urges the audience to pressure Arab journalists not to speak against the resistance, and they should pressure these journalists by any means necessary.

And then for some reason, the video ends right after he says that Hamas’s leaders are mujahidin, i.e. Muslims who are fighting the good fight. Where we would call someone a crusader for justice (or better cafeteria lunches, whatever), Muslims call the same person a mujahid.

So what questions are we left with? 1- Who is this guy? and 2- what opposition and what campaign?

MEMRI didn’t translate the backdrop for you. It says “Dr. Abdallah al-Nafisi’s Lecture ‘The Arab Before and After Gaza’,” and the date of the lecture was February 2nd, 2009. I know this because the whole, unedited lecture is also online. It’s an hour and sixteen minutes long! And it’s about the brutal, monstrous attack Israel waged on Gaza right before President Obama took the helm, while the younger Bush was still occupying the oval office.

Mr. Nafisi starts out much more solemn than he was later on, in the clip MEMRI made. He’s saying that America has something to do with Israel. Although most Americans don’t know it, the rest of the world does know that America makes it possible for Israel to get away with the destruction and killing that it does. He’s claiming that the west isn’t actually impartial. Heck.

Huh, he points out that the west usually deals with the east by waging war on it and divvying it up amongst themselves. Huh.

Anyway, to skip away from the content of his long lecture, he is Dr. Abdallah Fahd Abd-al-Aziz al-Nafisi. There’s no English-language Wikipedia page on him, but the Arabic-language one says he’s an intellectual and political analyst. So he is neither a politician nor a religious leader. He has no constituency nor congregation. I must confess this really makes me wonder why that right-wing site, that Christianist site, and MEMRI thought every westerner should see that clip.

Wikipedia says he’s a well-known writer who specializes in the struggle and dialogue between Islam and the west. This, even though in this speech he says there is no point in dialogue. People are paradoxical.

Also, he has a doctorate from Churchill College, University of Cambridge and was also a visiting professor at Harvard.

He has 761 fans on Facebook, his own web page (currently down), and is on LinkedIn. (Muntazar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who is serving a year in jail for slinging his shoes at Bush, has 47,897 fans)

At right around minute 30, Dr al-Nafisi says “China is America’s nightmare,” and in a scary voice. MEMRI must be slipping, leaving that out.

Oh hey, this is the part right before the MEMRI clip started. Okay, what he was doing just now was talking about America’s three main fears. Number one was China, and keeping China from becoming a military powerhouse by letting it become an economic powerhouse. Number two is weapons of mass destruction. And this is where the MEMRI clip starts.

In other words, MEMRI took his statement out of context and implied that he meant it in a way completely different from how he meant it. Big surprise.

And that edit before he talked about the white militias? That’s when he said that the United States’s third great fear is domestic terrorism. And then he starts with his examples.

The next of MEMRI’s edits is where al-Nafisi explains that Israel attacked Gaza when it did as a means of grandstanding for its election shortly afterward. He talks about Netanyahu and Livni and what they were willing to do for Israeli votes. He talks about the 2006 war with Hizballah. You know all this stuff. That’s probably why MEMRI edited it out. *rolleyes*

He mentions how both Bush and Obama turned away from doing anything about Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

Now I know al-Nafisi is confused, because he thinks Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote The Arab Mind, when it was really Raphael Patai. al-Nafisi talks a bit about the way Arabs were portrayed in that book, a favorite of neoconservatives who read. al-Nafisi thinks the peace process the US has pursued is a ploy to lull the Arabs into complacency, following Harkabi/Patai’s advice.

So the part MEMRI didn’t include, which precedes the part about eternal hostility with the Jews, is about how the Arab Muslim countries would do well to unite, because there is strength in unity. So what he says about “there is no dialogue,” is referring to what he perceives as the phoney peace dialogue on the part of the west.

And in the end, it finally becomes clear that the opposition he mentioned is “the Islamic opposition,” presumably opposition to normalization of relations with Israel.

My verdict: not an alarming video.

However, here’s a page where Arab liberals denounced al-Nafisi for what he said in this speech.

I’m not sure I exhausted this topic, although I have now exhausted myself. I may have to come back to it later. Have a good one.
Update: I just took a second look at the web page where Arab liberals denounce al-Nafisi, and it’s also full of misrepresentations of his speech!


…which urged the killing of more than 300,000 Americans in an anthrax [attack] and called the 9/11 attacks just ’small change.’

Not what happened. Not what he said.

He made a motion with his hand as though he were holding a razor or a knife, alluding to slaughter!

No he didn’t. I watched the whole damn thing. Never happened.

Here is their ‘Dr.,’ publicly and without fear delivering threats about killing Americans

He never made a threat. Didn’t happen.

Rather, he travels throughout the Arab world giving speeches unabashedly encouraging terrorism, slaughter, and suicide [attacks].

Perhaps, but he wasn’t doing any of that in this speech.

Is dispersing deadly anthrax powder in Washington, as ‘bBin Laden’ Al-Nafisi called for…

He certainly did not.

Anyhow, there’s some good criticism there, despite the inaccuracies. He’s in some ways nearly as offensive as a Limbaugh, and people like that can be toxic. It’s encouraging that al-Nafisi only has 761 fans on Facebook.


Filed under arab, arabic, domestic terrorism, Islamic relations

On Beheading

By early September of 2008, almost 200 people had been beheaded in Mexico that year, according to this Time magazine article.

The biggest mass beheading in recent history caused widespread revulsion in Mexico but little surprise. Decapitations have become as commonplace in the increasingly vicious narco turf battles as stabbings are in London. During August alone, gangsters hacked off 30 craniums across the country — adding to the total of almost 200 beheadings in 2008 so far. Heads have been stuck on crosses, shoved into iceboxes and left in car trunks along with snakes.

Decapitations were almost unheard of here before 2006. The first case related to the drug wars occurred in April of that year, when thugs left the craniums of two policemen in the seaside resort Acapulco, apparently in revenge for the shooting of four traffickers in a prolonged gun battle. The following September, thugs in ski masks rolled five severed heads onto a dance floor in the mountainous state of Michoacán. The cycle of beheadings intensified throughout 2007 until every gangster in Mexico seemed to have an executioner’s ax in his arsenal.

Why beheadings? The Time article gives us three theories.

Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna claims the inspiration for the terror tactic had been al-Qaeda in Iraq. “This began after there was an image that al-Qaeda sent out to the world via the Internet showing the execution of a prisoner in Iraq,” he told a news conference after the 2007 video.

Is that why? Or is it this:

There may also be more local influences at work. Following some early beheadings, Mexican police arrested former members of Guatemala’s élite Kaibil military unit, which carried out bloody atrocities against rebel villages during the nation’s four-decade civil war. “We have testimonies of the Kaibiles hacking off the heads of living people with knives to terrorize communities,” said Guatemalan Representative Otilia Lux de Coti, who served in the nation’s Truth Commission following the 1996 peace accord. “Many continue to be dangerous killers after they leave the military.” The Kaibiles are alleged to work with Mexico’s Zetas, many of whom were themselves defectors from élite military units. Beheadings are also a favored tactic of Central America’s bloody Mara Salvatrucha gangs, who have been enlisted as muscle by the Mexican mafias.

Isn’t there a more wacky theory out there, though?

Archaeologist Ernesto Vargas says the tactic could even reflect the pre-Columbian use of beheadings, a common tactic of the Mayan people who dominated southern Mexico and Guatemala before the Spanish conquest. “The Mayans cut off the heads of prisoners as a symbol of complete domination over their enemies,” Vargas says.

Yes. The recent spate of beheadings in Mexico started in 2006, but let’s trace it back to the Mayans.

Isn’t it interesting that with these various theories flying around, nobody is attributing the beheadings to Christianity? If Mexico were a majority Muslim nation, would there be any doubt in America’s collective mind that Islam was to blame for the beheading spree?

Mexico is 95% Christian. The Christians’ holy book is the bible, in which the heroic David slays the frightening Goliath and cuts off his head. Are we not to read this as a biblical endorsement of decapitation? Nay, an instruction from God to decapitate in his name? And Mexico has been Christian for several hundred years, much more recently than Mexico has been Mayan.

Dishonest debaters point to an Islamic verse instructing soldiers in battle to strike off their enemies’ heads as a blanket instruction to Muslims to behead at will. A truly dishonest debater even cites this verse as the reason a Muslim wife-abuser decapitates his wife, implying that all Muslim husbands will probably do the same, sooner or later.

Here is the verse in question. It is 8:12, al-Anfal, “the spoils of war.”

Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”

Can a reasonable person read that as an instruction to men to behead their wives? Is it any more belligerent than this verse from the bible?

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)

Interestingly, other translations change the word “sword” to “division,” which only makes me wish I read Greek, so that I could read the original and decide for myself. Fortunately for me, I do read Arabic, and can decide for myself about the Qur’an.

Here’s a little something from the old testament that might inspire bad behavior, if we believed that modern Christians or Jews were ever inspired by their holy book to behave badly:

1 Samuel 15
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ”

To go back to the Qur’anic verse, let’s get past our modern aversion to decapitation. This verse was revealed to the prophet in 624 CE, when a soldier’s weapon was a sword. If your weapon is a sword and your enemy is armored, it only makes sense to use your sword to strike off his head. It is true that today we’ve grown used to cutting our enemy in half with automatic weapons fire or atomizing him with a well-placed landmine, but are these methods actually any less icky?

As I mentioned in my last post, on The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, the crusaders cut off quite a few heads in their time. And it didn’t stop there. Several hundred years later, severed heads were regularly displayed on London Bridge as a disincentive to traitors and criminals. In 1789 the science of head chopping off was improved by the invention of the guillotine.

Christian hero Vlad III, prince of Wallachia, preferred impalement to beheading, but wasn’t always able to employ his favored method:

In Vlad’s own words -: “I have killed men and women, old and young…23,884 Turks and Bulgarians without counting those whom we burned alive in their homes or whose heads were not chopped off by our soldiers…”

Isnt that a stray head rolling on the ground?

Isn't that a stray head rolling on the ground?

In the days prior to the invention of the photographic camera, a portable piece of evidence testifying to a given individual’s death was his severed head, which could be packed in a box and sent to one’s sovereign. If you wanted to know how many folks you killed in a battle, you could do a headcount.

In the last few months, there have been three news stories about beheadings. In one case a mentally-deranged man cut off a young man’s head on a bus in Canada. In another case, a man cut off his estranged wife’s head, and in the third case, a foreign graduate student cut off the head of a fellow foreign graduate student.

You probably never even heard about the third case. You probably heard about the first case; but you most assuredly heard about the second case, because the perpetrator was a Muslim. Incidentally, the perpetrators in both other cases were Chinese immigrants.

Let’s go to the story that got all the headlines. The husband was a 44-year old man who has lived in the United States since he was a teenager, about two-thirds of his life. He has an MBA from Rochester. He was previously married and divorced that wife without any beheading issues.

I do see the irony of someone starting a television station to increase understanding between people of his religion and people of the dominant religion of his country, and that person then committing a heinous crime. The sad part is that he wasn’t wrong when he said

“The climate still remains rather anti-Arab and anti-Muslim…”


“The level of ignorance regarding Muslims and Islam is very high in the United States and it will take a lot of time for non-Muslim Americans to realize that they and their Muslim neighbors share many of the same values — raising families, pursuing careers and finding peace.”

There’s nothing Muslim about killing your wife right after she files for divorce and gets a protection order against you. That’s exactly when most American wife-killers do it. And they do it a lot.

In the U.S., estimates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) are that more than three women a day are killed by their intimate partners. Women are killed by intimate partners more often than by another acquaintance of stranger. Most of these murders involved were preceded by physical and psychological abuse.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, 1,055 women and 287 men were murdered by their intimate partners in 2005. These figures are striking, because in the past, in the 1970s and earlier, the numbers of men and women so victimized were about even. In other words, there has been a significant decline in the numbers of men killed by their partners but not for women.

Update: March 30th 2009 – another American beheads a family member. The article doesn’t mention anyone’s religion, so of course, he’s probably not Muslim. However, a neighbor who was quoted in the article has a Muslim-sounding name, so this one might get into the media.
But wait, there’s more. This Boston Globe article (I don’t recommend clicking it–it’s wreaking hell with my pop-up blockers) says this about the killer, Kerby Revelus:

Sometimes he would talk cryptically about God’s purpose for him, Kamara said, and other times he acted edgy and hostile.

My stars and garters! This decapitator was a Christian.

The Rev. Rosette Falaise, pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Haitian Church in Dorchester’s Fields Corner, said the mother was a member. She said Kerby Revelus did not attend church often, but that from what she could see he loved his younger sisters.

UPDATE: Aug 2009. Another non-Muslim, white dude beheaded a fellow human being. Nicholas Bendle of Santa Maria, California, chopped an elderly man’s head off.


Filed under bigoted idiots, outrages