Thursday, August 31, 2006

Everyone wants to go back to Lebanon

Lebanese blogger Charles Malik is saying that planes heading to Lebanon are all booked by those Lebanese, Arabs, and Europeans who want to go back. This is very refreshing. I am really thinking about going to Lebanon myself. The problem is with my mother. I just hinted that I wished to go to Lebanon and she started screaming. "What if war broke out again??" she shouted. Now I know my mother, her head can break a pyramids brick, she will never ever change her mind, and just like numerous other times, I'll have to do what she wants just to avoid the arguments. Plus, I don't want to go and leave her freaking out here, I can't do that to her.

  Posted by BP at 10:31 pm Comments (6)

Meanwhile in Iraq

Iraq had another "Iraq day"

At least 43 people have been killed and 112 wounded in a series of rocket and bomb attacks in Baghdad.

The blasts occurred in predominantly Christian and Shia areas of the Iraqi capital. They come one day after a deadly strike in a busy market.

The attacks include a car bomb at a popular market, while mortar rounds, a roadside bomb and a bomb in a building have also been reported.

And of course the Arab media/street which is basking in Hezbollah's "victory" and is very very angry at what happened in Lebanon reacts in the strongest of manners:

A for apple

B for banana

S for smartass

H for ……..

  Posted by BP at 10:11 pm Comments (14)
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An Arab, A Muslim, and A Pilot

A year after 911 one of my friends wanted to apply for a tourist visa to visit relatives living in the US. He called another friend who works in the US embassy to get more information about the new post-911 procedures.

"You got to be kidding," the guy who works at the embassy told my friend. "You won't get it even if you managed to see your ear's lope. You're an Arab, a Muslim, and above all a PILOT!"

The guy was right. My friend application was rejected.

I remembered this story when I read that today most Americans back racial profiling at airports and train stations. It's sad how terrorists managed to create such hysteria and tarnish our image to such an extent. It's equally sad that Americans have fell into their trap and are willing to compromise the openness that America is so special in.

I don't believe racial profiling will be of any effect. First, not all Muslims come from the Middle East. In fact, most Muslims live in Asia. Second, profiling based on religion or race is wrong wrong and something that definitely shouldn't be in America. I guess that's an enough reason.

  Posted by BP at 6:55 pm Comments (14)

Only in Lebanon

  Posted by BP at 12:02 pm Comments (5)

R.I.P Naguib Mahfouz

Photo

One of Egypt's pyramids has just passed away. Literature Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz died this morning after he was admitted to the hospital last month. He was 94.

Mahfouz is the first Arab writer to win the Nobel prize. One of his most famous novels was his masterpiece "Awlad Haretna" or "The Children of our alley." The book was attacked by the religious authority when it was published over 40 years ago. It was accused of being blasphemous and propagating athiesm. It was banned from being published in Egypt. In 1994, a member of a terrorist group who didn't even read the book stabbed Mahfouz damaging nerves leading to his right arm seriously impairing his ability to write.

Imported copies of Awlad Haretna continued to be available in very few  bookstores and over the internet. A decision to lift the ban was taken last year. Mahfouz though insisted that a moderate religious thinker write the novel's introduction as well as get the official approval of the highest religious authority. Several intellectuals criticized Mahfouz for this yet it seems that the great man who knows Egypt just as he knows the palm of his hand knew that a religious seal of approval is a must if the book is to be released to the public.

Awlad Haretna is now available everywhere.

Today Egypt lost one of its great sons. Someone who, just like Ahmed Zewail, made every Egyptian proud. R.I.P Naguib Mahfouz.

  Posted by BP at 7:52 am Comments (7)
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Forget Popularity, Be Effective

American policies and rhetoric in the past three years has created a rise in anti-U.S. sentiment among the world's Muslims, some of whom are turning to violence. Should it be a goal of the U.S. to reduce that hostility and, if so, what's the best way to do it?

As usual, Michael Young says it just as it should be said.

No nation wants to be hated, least of all the United States, which aspires to be loved. But as far back as I can remember in the Middle East, no one has collectively loved — even liked — the Americans. So the pursuit of love as an aim of foreign policy seems, as always when the U.S. deals with the region, a parochial debate with little resonance for Arabs or Muslims.

Whenever I hear this question posed, I wonder what good explanation we have for the 9/11 attacks, which took place before the Bush administration's supposedly reprehensible policies and rhetoric provoked a spike in anti-U.S. sentiment. 2001 began with Secretary of State Colin Powell trying to "engage" Syria's despot, Bashar Assad, over Iraq, and the young president played him for a fool. The Bush administration had taken a step back from stalemated Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, and generally preferred to ignore the Middle East. Neither Arabs nor Muslims could complain of undue suffering from this policy of benign neglect…

America's primary goal in the Middle East and Muslim world should not be to reduce hostility, since in many cases it won't work; nor should it be to allow foolish policies to unnecessarily increase hostility either. What the U.S. must do is show more competence in its dealings with the region, more foresight in determining how its actions might be interpreted, more understanding of the cultural and political complexities required to mount a successful campaign in our lands. The ongoing headache in Iraq shows what happens when these qualities are lacking.

Read it all

  Posted by BP at 8:29 pm Comments (96)

Zewail calls for jihad for modernity and enlightenment

Ahmed Zewail, Egyptian-American Nobel Prize winning chemist and one of my favorite human beings on this planet, wrote an superb article about how the Arab world can cure itself  of its predicemanets. The article hits the nail squarely on its head. The entire article is below. (h/t The Arabist)

Ahmed Zewail: We Arabs must wage a new form of jihad

We must not be distracted by old ideologies and conspiracy theories

Published: 24 August 2006

The cataclysmic wars in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq have uncovered the reality of Arab unity and plight, and the collective conscience of international society. It is abundantly clear that the Arab people must themselves build a new system for a new future. The current state, as judged by a low GDP, high level of illiteracy, and deteriorating performance in education and science, is neither in consonance with their hearts and minds nor does it provide for their political, economic, and educational aspirations.

Yet this is the same Arab world that produced leading civilisations, world-class universities, and renowned scholars and scientists. Clearly, something has gone seriously astray.

As someone from, and directly involved with, this part of the world, I am convinced Arabs are qualified to regain their glorious past. Arabs have two-thirds of “proved oil reserves”, and copious sunlight for possible alternative energy. They have their own market, the potential for an Arab Union, and many Arab countries are strategically positioned, geographically and politically. The people have a unique culture of community and family values, and their faith is inclusive and pluralistic. Above all, the Arab world has people with talent and creativity, with nearly half of the population in its youth. These are forces for progress, but without nurturing intrinsic talent and establishing a cogent system of governance the status quo will prevail.

In my view, there are four “pillars of change” that would support an imperative historic renaissance for transforming the current state of affairs. First, a new political system must be established with, at its core, a constitution defining the democratic principles of human rights, freedom of speech, and governance through contested elections. A select delegation of honorable intellectuals, respected political personalities, and thoughtful religious scholars, perhaps under the patronage of supreme-court judges, should form a council to debate and chart a new constitution for a final referendum involving the people.The co-existence of religious values in the lives of individuals and secular rules in the governance of the state should be clearly defined. There is no need to fear conflict, as reason and faith are driving forces in western democratic societies and in some Muslim countries such as Turkey and Malaysia.

Second, the rule of law must in practice be applied to every individual, independent of caste, faith, or background. Currently, some rules of law are either unenforced or selectively enforced, resulting in demoralising practices. Besides being a prime cause of poor economic growth, poor governance breeds corruption which cripples investment, wastes resources, and diminishes confidence. If rules are applied fairly, people acquire security and faith in their system.

Third, the methods used in education, cultural practices, and scientific research must be revisited, reviewed, and revitalised. The goal should be to promote critical thinking and a value system of reasoning, discipline, and teamwork. The government should remain responsible for the primary education of all. Higher education should be based on quality not quantity, receive merit-based funding, and be free of unnecessary bureaucracy. Not the least of the benefits of educational reform is to foster the pride of achievement at national and international levels.

Fourth, an overhauling of the Arab media is necessary. Currently, there are numerous satellite TV channels and several so-called media cities generously financed, perhaps much more than research institutions. Yet people are inundated with mind-numbing and propaganda programmes. The conceptually new al-Jazeera has become a very effective news media among millions of Arabs; similar media outlets concerned with cultural, social, and educational events should be established.

The primary objective is to stimulate minds and encourage critical thinking for civilised debates and dialogues. Governments should control neither the news nor appointment of editors; quality and appropriateness should be controlled by the judgement of professionals and the wisdom of society in accordance with the rule of law.

We Arabs can accomplish the transition to the world of the 21st century, but the people and leaders must embark on a new course. Incremental changes – so-called gradual reforms – are inappropriate for a system that has been ineffective for decades. We should have confidence in ourselves and in global participation, and not blame others for current calamities or use religion for political gains. The responsibility of the individual for self and societal improvement is clearly stated in The Koran: “Indeed! God will not change the good condition of the people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves.”

I appeal to the Arab people to participate in this process of historic change and not to be distracted by the ideologies of the past and conspiracy theories of the future. Being passive creates a state of apathy and legitimises the status quo. I call on intellectuals to focus on the greater good, not just for personal gain. Conscience and integrity are national responsibilities in this critical period of history. I urge the leaders of the Arab world to implement these historical changes and, in so doing, become makers of history. A genuine and peaceful transition to democracy is both legitimate and timely.

Before too long the oil will run out and human talent will migrate, but if we commit to “pillars of change”, with jihad for modernity and enlightenment, we will realise our rightful place in the future.

The writer is the only Arab to receive the Nobel Prize in Science, 1999

Thank you. If only we had more people who think like you.

  Posted by BP at 6:31 pm Comments (12)
Monday, August 28, 2006

Now Tongues Are Loose

As you all know, Hassan Nasrallah today told Lebanon "ops, I'm sorry folks, if I only knew it would be that harsh I wouldn't have done it." Yea right. Well, too late mister.

I logged on Al Arabiya website to see what people wrote in response to Nasrallah's statement. I was greeted by a very pleasant surprise. Many of the comments were lambasting Nasrallah. I didn't do a count and I don't expect these voices to be the majority on this particular thread. But if they were a minority, they were definitely very significant.

I have wrote before that I believe the eyes of the Lebanese, at least the non-Shiite among them, will turn to Hezbollah once they are lifted away from Israel. It looks like this is actually happening now. I don't have a doubt Nasrallah's confession today emanated from the heat he's feeling coming from a wide array of Lebanese as well as the undeniable fact that Hezbollah's organizational infranstructure and Shiite areas were severly bombed resulting in loss in propety worth billions of dollars (my heart goes out to the Iranian taxpayer who will pay for this!)

I'll translate a number of these comments for you.

"This is a very strange statement from the secretary general of Hezbollah and pushes us to consider him fully responsible for the crisis and ask him to forsake his weapons and allow his ranks to join the national army"

"What is this crap and political ignorance! Were you overtaken by machoism and adventured with the lives of the Lebanese without calculating Israel's reaction."

"Sayed Nasrallah says that if he knew Israel would react that way he wouldn't have kidnapped the 2 soldiers. However, he previously said that his party knew Israel was planning to bomb Lebanon and they were prepared for this?????"

"Hehehehehehe. He started to admit his defeat."

"Hassan Nasrallah admitted that he destroyed Lebanon and pushed the Lebanese into a political maze that they will find it very hard to come out from. The bitter truth is that he admitted defeat."

"So it turned out to be true afterall…an uncalculated adventure" (BP: uncalculated adventure was the term used by Saudi Arabia to describe the Hezbollah operation)

"Mr. hesen if you are aman you must resign .you have distroid labanan. whwat doyou wont from labanan ,because of your folish bhavear you have killed 1000 peopls of labnan" (BP: this person's English is very poor yet I chose to post exactly what he wrote)

There are numerous comments like the ones above. My guess is that they mostly came from Lebanese and a few non-Lebanese Arabs who dared to think.

  Posted by BP at 10:34 am Comments (4)
Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bully Boys Strategy

Dry Bones cartoon - Ahmadinejad wants Syria to taunt Israel into further conflict.!

  Posted by BP at 11:10 pm Comments (3)

Hezbollah head didn’t foresee such a war

One after another, Hezbollah leaders said that they didn't anticipate the magnitude of Israel's response. It finally came from Hezbollah's number one.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a TV interview aired Sunday that he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war.

"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," he said in an interview with Lebanon's New TV station.

It's clear Nasrallah is trying to whitewash his tarnished image in Lebanon especially among the non-Shiite communities who are not so happy with what he did.

Actually what he's saying is complete nonsense. Who didn't anticipate full fledged war after the kidnapping of the 2 soldiers. This is my post on July 12. I said "brace yourself for real war." He might have expected a much milder war though.

Besides, didn't Nasrallah "win" the war? How come he has some regrets now?

  Posted by BP at 6:56 pm Comments (15)