Jesus, save us!

September 30, 2008 at 3:34 pm (Amusement, Christianity, Islam, The United States, US Government)

I thought this was interesting:
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act – abbreviated to EESA, modified to Eesa, the Muslim Arabic name for Jesus (in full: عيسى بن مريم Eesa bin Maryam, Jesus the son of Mary).

Trivia: Muslims refer to Jesus as عيسى Eesa (عيسى بن مريم Eesa bin Maryam (Jesus the son of Mary) or عيسى المسيح Eesa-l-Maseeh (Jesus the Messiah)). Christians, however, refer to Him as يسوع Yasoo’ (يسوع إبن اللة Yasoo’ ibnillaah (Jesus the son of God) or يسوع المسيح Yasoo’ al-Maseeh (Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus Christ)). The Christian form is closest to the Hebrew form of the Lord’s name.

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September 29, 2008 at 12:30 am (Uncategorized)

Due to not having been very well yesterday, I was not able to compose a post for this morning. Depending on work load, there may be one up later today. If not today, then certainly tomorrow.

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An interesting take on the Qur’ān

September 28, 2008 at 1:51 am (Islam)

In spite of the etymology of the its earliest self-designation as qur‘ān, which is a loanword from Syriac qeryānā, meaning a lectionary, recital or pericope to be recited in liturgical services, far too often the Qur‘ān is implicitly treated as a written literary work, imagined to have been authored by Mu[h]ammad. This approach is apparent in frequent criticisms that blame the text for not fulfilling particular literary standards.

Angelika Neuwirth, “Structural, linguistic and literary features,” in Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Qur‘ān (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 101.

She goes on:

To reclaim the pre-redactional Qur‘ān, it is essential to understand that the Qur‘ān is not meant to be a book to study but a text to recite. Kristina Nelson, who researched the recitation of the Qur‘ān, has stressed that that transmission of the Qur‘ān and its social existence are essentially oral. ‘Qur‘ānic rhythm and assonance alone confirm that it is meant to be heard…The significance of the revelation is carried as much by the sound as by its semantic information.’12 This observation has important implications. If the Qur‘ān was meant to be recited, its actualisation as oral performance should be evident in the composition of the text itself. Where can we trace the intrinsic orality of the Qur‘ān?

As was mentioned above, the early – and densely structured – parts of the Qur‘ān reflect an ancient Arabic linguistic pattern, termed saj‘, a prose style marked by very short and concise sentences with frequently changing patterns of particularly clear-cut, often expressive rhymes. In the later sūras once this style has given way to a more loosely structured prose, with verses often exceeding one complete sentence, the rhyme end takes of the form of a simple –ūn- or –īn- pattern. In most cases this is achieved through a morpheme denoting masculine plural. One wonders how this rather mechanically achieved and inconspicuous ending could suffice to fulfil the listeners’ anticipation of an end marker for the long verse. Upon closer investigation, however, it is apparent that the rhyme as such is no longer charged with this function, but there is not another device to mark the end. An entire, syntactically stereotypical, rhymed phrase concludes the verse. It is tempting to call this a cadenza in analogy to the final part of speech units in Gregorian chant which, through their particular sound pattern, arouse the expectation of an ending. In the Qur‘ān what is repeated is not only the identical music sound, but a linguistic pattern as well – a widely stereotypical phrasing. The musical pattern enhances the message encoded in the qur‘ānic cadenza-phrase that, in turn, may introduce a meta-discourse. Many cadenza-phrases are semantically distinguished from their context and add a more comment to it, such as ‘verily, you were sinning’ (innaki kunti min al-khā[t]ī’īn, Q 12:29). They thus transcend the main – narrative or argumentative – flow of the sūra, introducing a spiritual dimension, i.e., divine approval or disapproval. They may also refer to one of God’s attributes, like ‘God is powerful over everything’ (wa-kāna llāhu ‘alā kulli shay’in qadīrā, Q 33:27), which in the later stages of qur‘ānic development have become parameters of ideal human behaviour. These meta-narrative insertions into the narrative or argumentative fabric would, in a written text meant for silent reading, appear rather disruptive, delaying the information process. They add essentially, however, to the impact of the oral recitation. The Qur‘ān thus consciously styles itself as a text evolving on different, yet closely intertwined levels of discourse and mediation. Although it is true that not all multipartite verses bear such formulaic endings, cadenzas may be considered characteristic of the later Meccan and all the Medinan qur‘ānic texts. The resounding cadenza, thus, replaces the earlier expressive rhyme pattern, marking a new and irreversible development in the emergence of the text and of the new faith.

Angelika Neuwirth, “Structural, linguistic and literary features,” in Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Qur‘ān (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 103-104.

Footnote 12 is:

K. Nelson, The art of reciting the Qur’an (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985; repr. Cairo/New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2001), p. xiv.

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A glimpse into the mindset of Islamist extremists: the movie “Traitor”

September 26, 2008 at 12:30 am (Islam, Islamism, Leftist idiocy, The United States, World War III)

For a class, I chose to watch a movie, Traitor. A very interesting movie indeed. It can be considered an interesting exposé of the mindset of many Muslims when it comes to the West (particularly America) and terrorism. The line/thought of “We’re not terrorists; Americans are terrorists” is quite common albeit untenable.

There is a fundamental difference between civilian casualties in American campaigns and in militants’ campaigns. In the former, it’s collateral damage. In the latter, it’s the goal. Americans do not intentionally target civilian targets whereas Islamist militants overwhelmingly do. More civilians have died because of Islamist extremism than because of America’s War on Terrorism. More Muslims have died because of Islamist extremism than because of America’s War on Terrorism.

One point a character in the movie made was that terrorism was all a theater with a clear audience. Terrorism’s goal is to terrorize people so they’re weakened or they surrender. It’s perhaps one of the only weapons the other side can use in this disproportionate war. But that does not mitigate the sheer evil of terrorism.

I friend of mine is having troubles with religion, saying he likes things to be rational. I told him that rationality should never be one’s sole guiding light. All sorts of abominations can be justified, explained, or made acceptable through reason and logic. What scared me, thoroughly, many years ago was to read Hitler’s Mein Kampf and realize, to my horror, that in many cases his logic made sense. The outcome was evil; the foundations were shaky; but if one accepted his premises, the conclusions made sense. It is extremely easy–as we have seen many, many people (including Islamists, people in the pay of Islamists, self-defending or blinded Muslims, and even a whole coterie of Leftists) do–to justify, explain, and make acceptable terrorism.

We need to understand the terrorists’ mindset in order to realize just how deep this cancer has set in. And we should formulate our policies accordingly, realizing that winning hearts and minds, while laudable, is far more difficult than we might imagine. These people, whether Islamists or the average Muslim, simply think differently than we do in the West.

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How Pakistanis as a people react to tragic attacks

September 24, 2008 at 12:30 am (Uncategorized)

Whenever a major tragedy strikes, Pakistanis tend to react in certain ways.

First, they are incredulous. They can’t believe what happened. They want verification.

Then, they begin to formulate explanations. Based on how they understand the world, the attack was done by so-and-so for such-and-such reason, agenda, and motive.

Finally, they begin to share and swap theories. Some are parrots, basically: “A said X, N said Y, C said Z,” widening the confusion and spreading stories.

And then there is the spin. Pakistani reporters report one thing; foreign reporters report another thing; official authorities say many things. In these things, there are many misconceptions; some of these things are driven by a certain understanding (true or false) of issues involved; some are driven by conspiracy theories or by some agenda through which all facts, players, and events are filtered; and some things (particularly from official sources) are deliberate misinformation.

So it becomes exceedingly difficult to ascertain what actually happened. And the people are far more fond of using these incidents to bolster their paradigms or support an allegation, rather than finding out, spreading, and adhering to the truth.

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Tragedy in Pakistan

September 22, 2008 at 12:02 pm (Islamism, Pakistan, Personal)

Around 8 pm Pakistan Standard Time, a large explosion shook Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The explosion targetted and destroyed the Marriott Hotel.

About 60 people have died (including two US Marines), and hundreds are injured. Casualties are expected to rise as injured people succumb to their injuries and as more bodies are found.

This attack has sent Pakistan into a panic. Now, this is not a new terrorist attack. There have been terrorist attacks going on for some time now, particularly as the Pakistani military has stepped up its campaigns against terrorists and militants. However, the symbolism of this attack is staggering. The Marriott was a very prestigious hotel, and was frequented by foreign officials, foreign reporters (Christiane Amanpour of CNN would broadcast from the roof of the Marriott), foreign visitors, and even well-connected Pakistanis visiting Islamabad. It was supposed to be the most secure hotel. It was also used extensively by government officials for functions, receptions, dinners, and whatnot. That such an attack could be made, practically destroying the entire hotel, has sent confidence in Pakistan plummeting. Even Pakistanis are extremely shocked and upset.

Now, there were terrorist attacks against the Marriott, but none were as massive as what happened on Saturday, September 20, 2008.

In a flashback to September 11, 2001, people were leaping from the top floors of the building to their death when fire made any other form of escape impossible.

There was a personal edge to this for me. My father had left for Pakistan a few days before, going to Islamabad. When he’s at Islamabad, he stays at the Marriott. When I found out about the attack, I began to panic mightily. I called his cell phone, but there was no answer. In fact, I got a message saying the call could not go through. So I called home (I was at school at this time), and Mom picked up. I panickedly asked her what city Dad was in. She said he was in Karachi. I was able to calm down a bit. I then explained to Mom what had happened in Islamabad.

There are many stories going around and, as is the wont for Pakistanis, it’s impossible to tell which are true, which are embellishments, which are crackpot conspiracy theories, and which are deliberate lies for misinformation.

One explanation that seems plausible is that the high-ranking officials of the Pakistani government were going to hold a reception at the Marriott in honor of Asif Ali Zardari’s first address as president. At the last moment, the venue was changed to the Prime Minister’s House. The attack could have been against the government officials expected to be there, who were spared by this last-minute decision.

(As a point of reference, the key buildings of the Pakistani government – the National Assembly, Prime Minister’s House, President’s House, Supreme Court – are walking distance from the Marriott.)

I’m still sifting through various conflicting reports in American and Pakistani media. It’s way too confusing right now. But hopefully we shall see the facts.

Just when I thought Pakistan was making some progress, something like this comes along and throws everything into chaos again.

Update: According to Dawn News (a respected Pakistani newspaper), Marriott representatives said there was no reservation by or for government officials at the Marriott.

Also, a commenter left a comment comprising of a link to a post of his/her alleging that The United States did the attack. The comment was not approved, and no such comment will be approved.

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September 22, 2008 at 1:33 am (Uncategorized)

A post on the recent tragedy in Islamabad will be up later today.

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Celebrate Humanity

September 21, 2008 at 12:30 am (Amusement, Sunday inspiration)

Dunno why, this makes me tear up every time. His part in India was touching. (I last saw this in class last week…thank goodness the lights were off: no one saw me react as sentimentally I did.)

The more different we are, the more similar we turn out to be.

Celebrate humanity!

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Posts on Pakistan coming next week

September 19, 2008 at 1:20 am (Uncategorized)

Next week, there will be posts detailing the issue with Pakistan. XBradTC asked some good questions, which I intend to shed light on if not answer.

In short, the issue is complicated yet important, and there is hope yet.

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Good news from Pakistan WRT the war on terrorism?

September 17, 2008 at 12:30 am (Afghanistan, Islamism, Military, Pakistan, The United States, World War III)

XBradTC of Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid, a great and patient guy, asked me on a thread over at The Hostages to look at a story: “A Pakistani ‘awakening’?” posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 by Neptunus Lex.

Later, we learn that the armed services of The United States conducted raids across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, into Pakistan, attacking militants.

On September 11, 2008 (fortuitously), Neptunus Lex put up an interesting post on President Bush’s authorization of such raids, in his post “Gloves Off“.

It would be an understatement to say that relations between The United States and Pakistan have taken an interesting turn.

The problem has to do with the Pakistani military’s inability or unwillingness to take action against militants within its border.

Now, one may ask: Was it a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty to conduct this raid? The answer is: Yes. The next question is: Were The United States justified? The answer is: Yes.

When elements within one country are conducting attacking against another state or its interests, the attacked state has the right to respond, by force if necessary. If, after so many years of threatening and cajoling and persuading Pakistani forces to take action against militants to end their incursions into Afghanistan, the state that has sovereignty does not cease and desist such acts (or cause them to stop), the attacking state may be attacked as retaliation, to take out offending elements, or as an invasion. This occurred, I hope people will remember, between Turkey and Iraq where the offending elements were Kurdish terrorists and the offended party was the state of Turkey. Although a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, Turkey was within its rights to respond as it did.

However, this discussion skirts the real issue: what is to be done about terrorist, militant elements in Pakistan that are attacking American interests, interests of allies in Afghanistan, and Afghani interests?

I see the raids not as a true attack to eliminate militants (if it were, they would be much more extensive and would take many, many such raids). I see this as part of the delicate relations between Pakistan and The United States: this is The United States sending a strong message to Pakistan.

The United States could not conduct these raids while Musharraf was in office because doing so would mean he would be ousted, resulting in immense chaos. With Musharraf out and there being no strong ties between The United States and Asif Ali Zardari, the new president of Pakistan, The United States could send a strong message. The message was: Get to work, and eliminate the militants, or we’ll do it.

I think this message was also to assert that The United States will not allow Pakistan to dictate terms. The United States will pursue their interests, and the Pakistani forces ought to get in line.

In response, the Pakistani military revealed that the Pakistani military has orders to fire back if any foreign entities violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. So, if Americans try to do the thing the Pakistanis have failed to do, the Americans will be attacked, rather than the militants.

However, this is all part of a face-saving campaign. Many Pakistani authorities have made somewhat staunch and belligerent stances against America. This is essential, otherwise the public will think that Pakistani authorities were allowing Americans to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty, which could result in chaos and riots if not all-outs coups.

Furthermore, not one American thing will be hurt. While the Pakistani military may be jingoistic, in fact they will not do anything. The fallout of such an incidence would be immense. Additionally, the orders seem to be allow the Pakistani military room to not attack – it has to be unmistakably and verifiably a foreign entity, and likely by the time such a thing could be verified, it would be too late.

The raids also made the Pakistani authorities perk up. There were a number of meetings between Pakistani and American military officials to discuss the issue. Now the Pakistanis know they’ll have to do something. And while the public may or may not support them, at least the Pakistani military will know it has to get to job done.

The good news, which the post by Neptunus Lex on August 27 mentioned, is that the Pakistani military has been getting more active with regard to taking action against militants. The result is painful for Pakistan: there is a wave of suicide attacks. But the military is pushing forward.

So while things seem chaotic and perhaps discouraging, I think through the clouds we can see quite a bit of sunshine. The Pakistani military has begun taking its job a little more seriously, and it may be that with local help, the militant threat will be eliminated.

Issues will he rehashed, and others will be elaborated on later.

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Getting My Act Together

September 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm (Uncategorized)

So, as you can yell, I have been slacking off majorly. Well, end of vacation for me.

I will try to put up three posts a week. Topics covered will be Pakistan (political and cultural), religion (religion in general, Islam (various Sunni and Shiite groups), and Judaism (mainly on the Orthodox side of the spectrum)), and diabetes. I will not really discuss Christianity except in contrast to Islam or forms of Islam. I am planning on creating an entirely new blog where I will invite other “Morons” to blog about Christianity.

There may be some long posts, but I am going to try to break otherwise long posts into parts.

I plan to post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I will try to put up an inspirational quote for Sunday.

These are my plans, and I have begun lining posts up. Any advice, complaints, or comments would be highly appreciated.

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Never forget

September 11, 2008 at 12:30 am (The United States)

Firefighters raising the American Flag at Ground Zero

Firefighters raising the American Flag at Ground Zero

Nunca olvide.
کبھی نہیں بھولو!
कभी नहीं भूलो

(Picture from “My America” on Tuesday, September 11, 2007, by sara of the distressed futon.)

I don’t talk about it much, but my life changed completely on September 11, 2001. I pray for God’s protection upon this choice land, and that His hand be with our armed services as they seek to be His instruments in protecting The United States.

O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
‘Til all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine!

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The End of an Era

September 7, 2008 at 6:33 pm (Personal)

On Saturday, September 6, the end of an era for me came to pass.

For years, if not for more than a decade, I was using insulin pens to inject insulin. Using insulin pens was a far more convenient and discrete way to inject insulin compared to using syringes and vials.
For more information, see this article on insulin pens on Wikipedia.

Now that I am moving to an insulin pump (namely, the OmniPod), I will have no more use for insulin pens as the pump is filled from vials.

I am excited for the changes that are coming up, but it is bittersweet. An entire regimen, which I have used for so long, has come to an end.

The pen is dead. Long live the vial! (Pretty soon, specifically, beginning on Monday, Saturday 15, it will be: Long live the pump!)

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When does Ramadaan/Ramzaan start?

September 2, 2008 at 10:44 pm (Islam)

Ramadaan/Ramzaan Mubaarak!

Whether this greeting is timely or not depends on the community (or even sub-group) one is addressing.

The holy Islamic month of Ramadaan (pronounced as “Ramzaan” by South Asians) began on August 31, September 1, or September 2. It all depends on the community and even on individuals therein.

For centuries, the same debate has been raging throughout the Muslim world: when does Ramadaan/Ramzaan start? When does it end? How should this be found out?

This is significant because during the month of Ramadaan/Ramzaan, one fasts (from the first day of Ramadaan/Ramzaan through the last day). The first day of Shawwaal (the next month) is Eid al-Fitr, which is, celebration-wise, comparable to Christmas. On Eid al-Fitr, people go to the mosque for Eid prayers, they visit the homes of friends and relatives, they give and receive gifts, they dress up in good clothes, they have family dinners, and so on. It is forbidden, furthermore, to fast on the first of Shawwaal. (Muslims are obligated to fast during Ramadaan/Ramzaan; they may fast during most other days of the year for penitence or devotional purposes, however on certain days one is forbidden to fast for any reason.) Not knowing the correct dates of when Ramadaan/Ramzaan and Shawwaal begin means that one’s fasting may be incomplete or impermissibly extended.

There is no resolution to this debate. This is a debate because the Islamic calendar is exclusively lunar, and the beginning of a lunar month depends on the rise and sighting of the new moon in an area. The new moon does not rise in all areas on the same solar date, and so some places will observe one date on a certain solar date, while others will observe the same lunar date after or before.

According to the most stringent requirements, the new moon of Ramadaan/Ramzaan must rise in an area for Ramadaan/Ramzaan to begin therein. So while the Ramadaan/Ramzaan new moon rose in the Arab area of the world comparable to September 1 (meaning, the month started in the evening of August 31), the lunar month may begin the next day in the Americas due to the angle of the moon’s rising or setting.

But such scientific calculations are insufficient. According to the same stringent requirements, one must see the new moon in order for its presence to be verified. (And the very same phenomenon must be seen by a certain number of independent, trustworthy witnesses.)

Some time ago, a number of Islamic organizations decided to abandon the traditional method and establish a scientific lunar calendar. This way, the dates of the lunar months would be established long beforehand, allowing people to prepare accordingly. There would be no last-minute stress or wondering, nor would there by any doubt as to when Ramadaan/Ramzaan begins and when it ends. However, a good number of other organizations condemned this move as being practically apostate. More importantly, a number of people, whether affiliated with any organization or not, decided not to follow such a policy: they would still call reputable organizations who have sent their trustworthy witnesses to see if they can spot the moon, or continuously refresh the homepage of such organizations, awaiting the notification of whether the moon has been sighted or not. Phonelines are jammed and websites often are overwhelmed. But no problem: this is the traditional (and only) way to do things.

One of the biggest concerns was comparing Muslim holy days with Jewish and Christian ones. Jews and Christians know long beforehand when what holy day will fall. They can ask for days off and they can prepare, all in advance. There is no question or doubt whether the holy day has arrived or not: everyone knows the date and time of a holy day’s arrival. In contrast, Muslims would have to ask for a day off the morning of said day (or put in the notice the day before), because they have no idea when the actual holy day will fall. In most workplaces, this is not permitted: they ask for a few weeks’ advance notice, which is impossible for Muslims to give. But this did not pacify the traditionalists, who accused the experts using scientific methods of apostasy (if not being in the grip of some conspiracy to weaken and destroy Islam). They also point out that Jews have a set calendar (that is, they don’t wait to observe the moon), and so such organizations using a scientific calendar are mimicking the Jews, which is anathema to Islam. Some go further: this attempt to fix the Islamic calendar (or predict it) is a Jewish plot against Islam. Or the Islamic scholars are being fooled by Zionist/Crusader operatives. Such accusations certainly make rational debate on this issue impossible.

Ramadaan/Ramzaan has 29 or 30 days. At the end of the 29th day, witnesses are sent out. If the moon is sighted, the next day is the first of Shawwaal and, therefore, Eid al-Fitr. If the moon is not sighted (or, because of weather conditions, unable to be sighted), the next day is proclaimed to be the 30th day of Ramadaan/Ramzaan, the day after that being the first of Shawwaal (and, therefore, Eid al-Fitr). But communities will still dispute whether the moon is sighted or not.

What may complicate matters is diaspora communities. From what I have noticed, South Asian Islamic authorities are the most stringent, demanding that the moon be sighted in an area for the month to have started therein. But Bosnians, for example, will go by when the lunar month begins in Bosnia; Arabis likewise will go by when the lunar month begins in their lands. So South Asians traditionally celebrate things one day after many others, because the lunar months seems to start a day later in the Americas compared to Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, or the Pashtun areas. (In Pakistan, the Pashtun areas were notorious for celebrating one day earlier. Some say because they’re heretics; others say because the lunar month begins earlier there.)

But here’s something that really strikes me as strange. My parents are very rational people. My father doesn’t really believe in Islam. My mother strongly identifies as Muslim but doesn’t practice Islam. And yet neither of them accept the scientific calendar approach. To them, the only way is the old-fashioned way: find out if trustworthy witnesses have spotted the moon. And so for them, too, one doesn’t know until the day before when the holy day will fall.

People talk a lot about reform in Islam. But for those of us who have seen these calendar wars, we know reform will be slow in coming, if it comes at all. If Muslims cannot agree on the simple matter of how to fix the calendar issue, how can we expect them to solve women’s rights, democracy, civil rights, pluralism, tolerance, rule of law, and modernist interpretations?

I was going to rejoice that Eid al-Fitr coincided with Rosh haShanah this year. But such a coincidence is limited: it applies only to those who’ll celebrate Eid al-Fitr on September 30. Some will celebrate it on September 29, and maybe some on October 1. Who knows.

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