In Muslim culture, Nasheeds are a popular form of spiritual music that are typically sung cappella and accompanied by limited instrumentation. Nasheeds are growing in popularity amoung young Muslim artists and their fans, and are beginning to cross over into the mainstream.
However, our favorite Talibanette, Yvonne Ridley, is not too happy about this development. Last month she wrote a column:
Eminent scholars throughout history have often opined that music is haram, and I don’t recall reading anything about the Sahaba whooping it up to the sound of music. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for people letting off steam, but in a dignified manner and one which is appropriate to their surroundings.
The reason I am expressing concern is that just a few days ago at a venue in Central London, sisters went wild in the aisles as some form of pop-mania swept through the concert venue. And I’m not just talking about silly, little girls who don’t know any better; I am talking about sisters in their 20′s, 30′s and 40′s, who squealed, shouted, swayed and danced. Even the security guys who looked more like pipe cleaners than bulldozers were left looking dazed and confused as they tried to stop hijabi sisters from standing on their chairs. Of course the stage groupies did not help at all as they waved and encouraged the largely female Muslim crowd to “get up and sing along.”
It’s the Devil’s music! It’s the Devil’s music! Ridley also lashes out at British Nasheed artist Sami Yusuf, who studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London:
The source of all this adulation was British-born Sami Yusuf, who is so proud of his claret-colored passport that he wants us all to wave the Union Jacks. I’m amazed he didn’t encourage his fans to sing “Land of Hope and Glory.” Brother Sami asked his audience to cheer if they were proud to be British, and when they responded loudly, he said he couldn’t hear them and asked them to cheer again.
How can anyone be proud to be British? Britain is the third most hated country in the world. The Union Jack is drenched in the blood of our brothers and sisters across Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. Our history is steeped in the blood of colonialism, rooted in slavery, brutality, torture, and oppression. And we haven’t had a decent game of soccer since we lifted the World Cup in 1966.
Well, Yvonne’s column prompted alot of debate. The publication Daily Muslims has just posted some letters, including this one from Azhar Usman:
It is a rant written by a new convert (who saw the “beauty of Islam” at the hands of the Taliban, incidentally), based on a literalist and highly ideological, fundamentalist understanding of the religion of Islam.
Sadly, the notion that “the world is so terrible and Muslims are being bullied and killed all over the world; therefore, they should be sad, crying all the time, and never enjoy happiness” is a common fallacy believed in and advocated by countless Muslims. As a matter of fact, many new converts (and born-Muslims who come to religion later in life) get sucked into this short-sighted, irrational sort of thought almost immediately after their conversion. Invariably, the vast majority of such people either give up on the religion (b/c such a state is neither healthy nor sustainable), or they temper their views over time.
As for Sami’s respect for and pride in his home country of Britain, this is neither here nor there. The notion that Britain’s being the “third most hated country in the world” as a proof for anything is categorically unpersuasive. By Ridley’s logic, all Muslims should abandon their faith–or at least be ashamed of it– since Islam is the most hated religion in the world. Public opinion on such issues should not become the basis of pride or lack thereof. Instead, one’s pride in one’s culture, tribe, or country should be understood in context. I highly doubt that Sami Yusuf is proud of the terrible things that the British government and law enforcement has done throughout its history. Obviously, this is not what he is referring to. Just as conscientious and PROUD Americans condemn the wrong, immoral, and brutal actions and policies enacted by their government throughout its own bloody history. Just as conscientious and PROUD Muslims condemn the acts of vigilante violence carried out by Muslim terrorists in the name of Islam, as well as the political violence and senseless killings that have been a hallmark of the political history of the Muslim world, pride in one’s country or religion is by no means an endorsement of bad actions done by others in the name of said country or religion; this is clear to any thinking person.
Meanwhile, I see that at Marxism 2006, Yvonne is scheduled to speak on the same day that “jazz musician” and judeophobic conspiracy nut Gilad Atzmon will be performing. Apparently, some musicians are more tolerable to Yvonne than others.
Wow, I can’t believe that people fell for that fake “yellow badges” story in Iran. I mean, really, why would anyone expect the worst from a theocratic government that denies the Holocaust and executes teenage homosexuals?
Still, as to be expected, Juan Cole was in full smug mode after the story was retracted:
The whole thing is a steaming crock….There are still tens of thousands of Jews in Iran, and expatriate Iranian Jews most often identify as Iranians and express Iranian patriotism. I was in Los Angeles when tens of thousands of Iranians immigrated, fleeing the Khomeini regime. I still remember Jewish Iranian families who suffered a year or two in what they thought of as the sterile social atmosphere of LA, and who shrugged and moved right back to Iran, where they said they felt more comfortable.
Yeah, Iran does sound like a great place to live. And, my suspicions were further confirmed by a post by Matt Barganier over at the Antiwar.com blog. Reflecting on the 13 Jews who were accused of spying for Israel and arrested in 1999, he writes:
I’m sorry, but this doesn’t sound like the Third Reich to me. First, to paraphrase Woody Allen, even paranoid tyrants get spied on. I’m sure that Israel, for perfectly understandable reasons, has plenty of spies and other operatives in Iran. I’m equally sure that these particular fellows were railroaded, given the fact that they were released so quickly. But that’s the amazing part – three were acquitted right off the bat, and all had been released, three under direct pardon from the Aya-freaking-tollah, within a few years of their arrest…13 Jews were executed between 1979 and 1998, but again, a lot of people are executed in Iran for a lot of reasons, and 13 isn’t genocide.
Hey, thanks Matt! On behalf of Jews everywhere, I’m profoundly relieved to hear that the Iranians are equal-opportunity executioners! You should write ad copy on behalf of the Iranian government (“Visit Tehran: No Executions of Jews Since 1998!”) I guess over at Antiwar.com and Informed Comment, a theocratic regime that doesn’t commit genocide is considered “progressive.” It kind of reminds me of that Onion article about Patrick Buchanan a few years back:
Eager to gain momentum in the fight for delegates, Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan reached out to gay voters Monday at a stump speech in South Carolina, pledging that he would not incinerate homosexual Americans if elected. “In a Buchanan presidency, gays would not be incinerated,” Buchanan said before a crowd of 2,000 in Spartanburg. “I will not rule out public floggings, horse-propelled skewerings, iron-bar impalings or churchyard genital chainsawing, but I will draw the line at incineration.”
But, I digress…After reading these posts, I was half-prepared to pack my bags and move to Iran myself, since, according to Juan Cole, it’s sooo much nicer than that whole fake, sterile LA scene. But, then I read this account, by an Iranian Jewish ex-patriate in LA that Juan Cole apparently neglected to speak with:
There had been a noticeable increase in the amount of anti-Semitism coming from the Iranian press beginning around 1993. By 1995, Jews were accused of bringing AIDS into Iran and causing economic chaos….That same year, Fayzollah Mekhubabt, a 78-year-old cantor in a Teheran synagogue, was taken to prison. His eyes were gouged out before he was executed. Mekhubabt was buried in a Muslim cemetery. His family was forced to disinter his remains in order to bury him in a Jewish cemetery.
And, then there’s this report from the JTA:
Despite the official status of Jews as a tolerated minority, several Iranian Jews living in America interviewed by JTA attested to popular, even “rampant,” anti-Semitism in Iran in the form of job discrimination and the destruction of personal property. “You lived quietly and into yourself,” said one Tehran native who moved to the U.S. in 1982 and asked to remain anonymous. He described the communal philosophy as “You don’t bother them; they don’t bother us.”
Jews in Iran try to “minimize contact” with their Muslim neighbors “out of fear of exactly these kinds of incidents,” he said, referring to the arrests. In 1998, Iran executed a 60-year-old Iranian businessman for allegedly spying for Israel, according to Human Rights Watch. A year earlier, two people were hanged after they were convicted of espionage charges, according to Amnesty International. In 1996, an anonymous Iranian Jew testified in the U.S. …that he was imprisoned for more than two years because he was suspected of spying for Israel.
The man reportedly said he had been arrested, held and then released “suddenly, with no explanation.” But he said he was “under constant surveillance” and told to leave Tehran. His case was “extreme,” he told the committee, but exemplified the “constant state of fear” in which Iranian Jews live.
And, then, of course, the text of a letter sent by Iranian Jews to their president:
How is it possible to ignore all of the undeniable evidence existing for the exile and massacre of the Jews in Europe during World War II? Challenging one of the most obvious and saddening events of 20th-century humanity has created astonishment among the people of the world and spread fear and anxiety among the small Jewish community of Iran.
Ya know, if you want to make the case against bombing Iran, be my guest. I also happen to believe it would be a bad idea. (So, in fact, do Iranian Jews.) But don’t make your case by whitewashing the Iranian regime. You can oppose a war and oppose theocratic fascism at the same time.
A column in the Los Angeles Times discusses the latest brouhaha at UC Irvine, where the Muslim Student Union has been holding events with such titles as “Holocaust in the Holy Land” and “Israel: The Fourth Reich.”
If nothing else, the week will show that no one group corners the market on hypocrisy. When the cartoon issue flared, Muslim students and others conceded the right to show the cartoons but argued that Muhammad was a sacred figure and pleaded for sensitivity. Although the 1st Amendment is my calling, I agreed with them. I thought the cartoon display wasn’t about freedom of speech but more about baiting Muslims.
So now we have a Muslim student group in the role of the provocateur. Under the guise of free and unfettered debate, it chooses to link “Holocaust” and “Third Reich” to its criticisms of Israel.The group isn’t unaware of the insult; it just breezes right past it. Earlier in the week, [spokesman Kareem Elsayed] told another Times reporter that “Holocaust” isn’t a word that, by literal definition, is connected to Jews or Judaism. True, but to the rest of the world, it has a clear link to the Nazi death camps.
If Elsayed were true to his intellectual argument, he’d have to say that “crusade” isn’t, by dictionary definition, specifically connected to Muslims. Yet we remember the unease in the greater Muslim community and elsewhere when President Bush cavalierly (and unwisely) used the word after the 9/11 attacks. Words matter. Baiting someone or being intentionally offensive isn’t on the same plane as honest free speech.
Recently, 80,000 Orthodox families in New York and New Jersey received a DVD in the mail. The package was written in Hebrew; it had a disc tucked inside with a drawing of a robed, Old Testament figure blowing a shofar. Anyone who played the DVD found a smoothly produced recreation of biblical stories with a voice-over in the familiar cadences of Yiddish.
But the DVD, carried an unexpected message for intensely religious Jews awaiting the arrival of the Messiah: He already came.
A few months ago, I posted about Stephen Zunes, a lefty professor at the University of San Francisco (and no fan of Israel) who nontheless surprised me by publishing an article taking the anti-war left to task for blaming the Iraq War on a Zionist cabal.
Well, Zunes is back, and this time his target is Walt-Mearsheimer and their groupies.
For starters, he chides his fellow “progressives” for rallying around two academics who are, er, less-than-progressive:
With some notable exceptions, Mearsheimer and Walt have been largely supportive of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and subsequently. For example, during the 1980s, Mearsheimer—a graduate of West Point —opposed both a nuclear weapons freeze and a no-first-use nuclear policy. A critic of nonproliferation efforts, Mearsheimer has defended India’s atomic weapons arsenal and has even called for the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states such as Germany and Ukraine. He was also an outspoken supporter of the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War. It is ironic, then, that these two men have suddenly found themselves lionized by many progressive critics of U.S. foreign policy as a result of their article.
What progressive supporters of Mearsheimer and Walt’s analysis seem to ignore is that both men have a vested interest in absolving from responsibility the foreign policy establishment that they have served so loyally all these years. Israel and its supporters are essentially being used as convenient scapegoats for America’s disastrous policies in the Middle East.
As for Walt-Mearsheimer’s argument that the “Israel Lobby” (capital L) was responsible for the war in Iraq:
Perhaps the most twisted argument in their article is the authors’ claim that the 2003 invasion of Iraq “was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.” This is ludicrous on several grounds. First of all, Israel is far less secure as a result of the rise of Islamist extremism, terrorist groups, and Iranian influence in post-invasion Iraq than it was during the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, when Iraq was no longer a strategic threat to Israel or actively involved in anti-Israeli terrorism. Indeed, it had been more than a decade since Iraq had posed any significant threat to Israel and some of Israel’s biggest supporters on Capitol Hill were among the most outspoken voices against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Zunes dismisses accusations of anti-semitism against Walt-Mearsheimer, but nonetheless notes:
There is something quite convenient and discomfortingly familiar about the tendency to blame an allegedly powerful and wealthy group of Jews for the overall direction of an increasingly controversial U.S. policy. Indeed, like exaggerated claims of Jewish power at other times in history, such an explanation absolves the real powerbrokers and assigns blame to convenient scapegoats.
Even more disturbing is the way that blaming the Israel lobby has been used in foreign capitals to get U.S. decision-makers off the hook for America’s controversial policies regarding Israel and Palestine….My interviews with a half dozen Arab foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers in recent years have confirmed that U.S. diplomats routinely blame the “Jewish lobby” as a means of diverting blame away from the U.S. government. This cynical excuse has contributed to the frightening rise in recent years of anti-Jewish attitudes in the Arab world.
In Zunes’s view, the “real lobby” that drives U.S. foreign policy is the “military-industrial complex.” (Yeah, I know, how original…) Still, I find this interesting. As I’ve noted previously, it seems to me that the Walt-Mearsheimer paper has exposed–and even accentuated–divisions within the poltical Left. It’s a throwdown between those who see Israel as just another pawn of U.S. imperial policies and those who see support for Israel as the driver of U.S. foreign policy.
Eve Fairbanks, a reporter at The New Republic, expected to find the Harvard faculty engaged in a spirited debate over the Walt-Mearsheimer paper. Instead, she encountered a deafening silence:
So is this collective campus lip-sealing evidence that Mearsheimer and Walt are right that the Israel Lobby squelches criticism? No, because professors fear taking a stand on either side.
Professors I spoke to offered various reasons they must tiptoe around the paper: That its style was too provocative. That they’re skittish after witnessing Harvard President Larry Summers’ ouster for making fractious comments. That the long-running PC wars have made them tired of controversy. That it’s too”personal.” Most interestingly, they explained that topics related to the Middle East, though they provoke some of the deepest divisions in opinion between faculty members, are just too strewn with ideological landmines for them because academics are supposed to be above dogma — an explanation that also sheds light on why most Middle East studies departments languish in mediocrity and lack influential senior faculty.
And most sadly, professors admitted that academia’s notorious office politics — in uniquely volatile combination with all these other reasons — interfere with natural reactions to the paper, resulting in a collective response that one described as “nervous laughter.” “A lot of [my colleagues] were more concerned about the academic politics of it, and where they should come down, in that sense,” another Ivy League professor told me, ruefully.
One observer close to the debate was profusely sorry to request anonymity, explaining that he had opinions concerning the paper but feared professional retaliation no matter what he might say. “People might debate it if you gave everyone a get-out-of-jail-free card,” he said, “and promised that afterward everyone would be friends.”
The Associated Press reports that the Democratic Party has belatedy come to realize that it has a PR disaster on its hands thanks to Larry Darby — a candidate for attorney general in Alabama who denies the Holocaust occurred and wants to “reawaken white racial awareness.”:
Larry Darby, the founder of the Atheist Law Center, made an abortive bid for the AG job as a Libertarian in 2002, but only recently have his views on race and the Holocaust come to light…The state Democratic chairman, Joe Turnham, said the party began an investigation last week after hearing about some of Darby’s comments in a television interview.
Sometimes truth is too painful to us, and in order not to bleed to death we pour on it a heap of lies that we invent and then end up believing.
One the strangest theories of come to hear came from a fellow Arab journalist, who told me the following: America has deceived the world, the toppling of Saddam’s statue was staged, and the people cheering and celebrating were fake Iraqis from brought in from America.”
Here, the conspiracy theory cuts through the Arab mind horizontally and vertically, and because of the pressure of need, the Arab media try and find anything that will breed doubt in the minds of the Arab reader. With this in mind, we can try to understand the big reception given to the book “9/11: the Big Lie” written by the Frenchman Thierry Meyssan, who’s book reads like a bad Agatha Christie novel. The French intellectual was invited to the Middle East on a book tour, and in the process become a shining star and sold air to our people. The book is an exercise in counter-productivity, because the first step in finding a solution is acknowledging the problem.