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DoubleQuote: “forgoes a headscarf and sparks a backlash”

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — diplomacy and dispute.. ]
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One of the simplest uses of the DoubleQuotes format is to take the sting out of an accusation. Michelle Obama was recently criticized for not wearing a headscarf during the Obamas’ recent visit to Saudia Arabia:

SPEC DQ 1st ladies Saudi

Barbara Bush did the same…

**

But of course, the gander can be cooked as easily as the goose, so a DoubleQuote can also be used to put the sting into the accusation — as when the complaint is made that the First Lady did indeed wear a headscarf in Indonesia — so why not in Saudi Arabia?

SPEC DQ Michelle O x 2

Maybe the fact that she was visiting a mosque in Indonesia has something to do with it?

**

On the subject of diplomatic protocol, there’s a terrific quote about Queen Elizabeth II and the late Crown Prince Abdullah going the rounds. You’ve probably seen it, but I’m thinking of making it the opening anecdote of my upcoming book on coronation and monarchy — yup, I have an agent nibbling at the idea — so here it is, as I first encountered it in tweet form from Shashank Joshi:

**

Sources:

  • White House photograph, Michelle Obama without scarf
  • GW Bush White House archive, Laura Bush
  • USA Today, Michelle Obama with scarf
  • Mother Jones, Badass Feminist Queen Elizabeth II
  • **

    And for extra points, Her Majesty the Badass Feminist in her Range Rover:

    queen over drive

    Sorry, no headscarf — you’ve already seen HM in hijab in my post Birmingham, a little light relief in tough times.

    Furnish on Pew findings re: Islam

    Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

    [ Charles Cameron presenting guest-blogger Timothy Furnish ]
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    I’m delighted to welcome Dr Timothy Furnish as a guest-blogger here on Zenpundit. Dr Furnish has served as an Arabic linguist with the 101st Airborne and as an Army chaplain, holds a PhD in Islamic history from Ohio State, is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden (2005), and blogs at MahdiWatch. His extended piece for the History News Network, The Ideology Behind the Boston Marathon Bombing, recently received “top billing” in Zen’s Recommended Reading of April 24th.

    **

    Does This Paint It Black, or Am I A Fool to Cry? Breaking Down the New Pew Study of Muslims
    by Timothy R. Furnish, PhD
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    Pew has released another massive installment of data from its research, 2008-2012, into Muslim attitudes, entitled “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society.” Over 38,000 Muslims in almost 40 countries were surveyed, thus constituting a survey both statistically sound and geographically expansive. Herewith is an analysis of that information and what seem to be its major ramifications.

    The first section deals with shari`a, usually rendered simply as “Islamic law” but more accurately defined as “the rules of correct practice” which “cover every possible human contingency, social and individual, from birth to death” and based upon the Qur’an and hadiths (sayings and practices attributed to Muhammad) as interpreted by Islamic religious scholars (Marshal G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Vol 1: The Classical Age of Islam, p. 74). Asked “should sharia [as Pew anglicizes it] be the law of the land,” 57% of Muslims across 38 countries answered “yes” — including, most problematically for the US: 99% of Afghans, 91% of Iraqis, 89% of Palestinians, 84% of Pakistanis and even 74% of Egyptians. Should sharia apply to non-Muslims as well as Muslims? Across 21 countries surveyed on this question, 40% answered affirmatively — with the highest positive response coming from Egypt (its 74% exceeding even Afghanistan’s 61%). And on the question whether sharia punishments — such as whippings and cutting off of thieves’ hands — should be enacted, the 20-country average was 52%, led by Pakistan (88%), Afghanistan (81%), the Palestinian Territories [PT] (76%) and Egypt (70-%). On the specific penalty of stoning for adultery, the 20-country average was 51% — with, again, Pakistan (89%), Afghanistan (85%), the PT (84%) and Egypt (71%) highest in approval. Finally, 38% of Muslims, across those same 20 nations, support the death penalty for those leaving Islam for another religion.

    Huge majorities of Muslims across most of these surveyed nations say that “it’s good others can practice their faith” — but Pew’s imprecise terminology on this topic makes possible that this simply mean many Muslims are willing to grant non-Muslims the tolerated, but second-class, ancient status of the dhimmi. Majorities, too, in most countries say that “democracy is better than a powerful leader;” however, the latter was actually preferred by most surveyed in Russia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as by 42% of Iraqis, 40% of Palestinians and 36% of Egyptians. Most Afghans, Egyptians and Tunisians (and even 1/3 of Turks) believe that “Islamic political parties” are better than other ones, although 53% of Indonesians and 45% of Iraqis are also worried about “Muslim extremists.” (Curiously, 31% of Malaysians are, on the other hand, worried about “Christian extremists” — although evidence of such existing in that country is practically non-existent.) There is good news on the question of suicide bombing, however: across 20 countries, only 13.5% think it is ever justified — although the support is much higher in the PT (40%), Afghanistan (39%) and Egypt (29%).

    In terms of morality, large majorities in most Muslim countries (especially outside Sub-Saharan Africa) think drinking alcohol is morally repugnant, notably in Malaysia (93%), Pakistan and Indonesia (both 91%). Most Muslims in most countries surveyed consider abortion wrong, as well as pre- and extra-marital sex and, almost needless to say, homosexuality. (Although one wishes Pew had asked about mu`tah, or “temporary marriage” — a practice originally Twelver Shi`i which has increasingly become used by Sunnis.) Yet, simultaneously — following Qur’anic rubrics — some 30% of Muslims in 21 countries support polygamy, including almost half of Palestinians, 46% of Iraqis and 41% of Egyptians. There is also significant support for honor killings in not just Afghanistan and Iraq but also Egypt and the PT. Over ¾ of Muslims across 23 countries says that “wives must always obey their husbands:” an average of 77%. And Pew notes that there is a statistically very significant correlation between sharia-support and believing women have few(er) rights.

    Asked whether they believed they were “following Muhammad’s example,” 75% of Afghans and 55% of Iraqis answered affirmatively — although most Muslims were not nearly so confident. On the question “are Sunni-Shi`i tensions a problem,” 38% of Lebanese, 34% of Pakistanis, 23% of Iraqis and 20% of Afghans said “yes.”

    It is no surprise that huge majorities of Muslims in most surveyed countries believe that Islam is the only path to salvation, nor that most also say “it’s a duty to convert others” to Islam. It is somewhat counterintuitive, however, that many Muslims say they “know little about Christianity” — even in places with large Christian minorities, such as Egypt. Muslims in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most likely to agree that “Islam and Christianity have a lot in common,” and so are 42% of Palestianians, as well as some 1/3 of Lebanese and Egyptians. But only 10% of Pakistanis agree. Asked whether they ever engaged in “interfaith meetings,” many Muslims in Sub-Saharan Africa said that they did (with Christians), and a majority of Thais said likewise (albeit with Buddhists). But only 8% of Palestinians, 5% of Iraqis, and 4% of Egyptians said they ever do so—despite substantial Christian populations in each of those areas.

    Regarding the question “are religion and science in conflict,” most Muslims said “no” — with the exceptions of Lebanon, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Turkey where over 40% in each country (and, actually, a majority in Lebanon) said that they were at loggerheads. Most Muslims also say they have no problems with believing in Allah and evolution — the exceptions being the majority of Afghans and Indonesians. Regarding popular culture, clear majorities of Muslims in many countries say they like Western music, TV and movies—but, at the same time, similar majorities say that such things undermine morality (although Bollywood less so than Hollywood).

    Observations:

    1) The high degree of support for sharia is the red flag here. Contra media and adminstration (both Obama and Bush) assurances that most Muslims are “moderate,” empirical data now exists that clearly shows most Muslims, in point of fact, support not just sharia in general but its brutal punishments. Perhaps just as disturbing, almost four in ten Muslims are in favor of killing those who choose to follow another religion. And countries in which the US is heavily involved either diplomatically or militarily (or both) are the very ones where such sentiments run most high: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories. So are the “extremists” these very Muslims who want to follow, literally, the Qur’an and hadiths? Messers Brennan, Holder and Obama have some explaining to do.

    2) Afghanistan would appear to be a lost cause. Afghans are at the top of almost every list in support for not just sharia, suicide bombing, honor killing and — ironically (or perhaps not) — confidence that they are emulating Islam’s founder, as well as dislike for democracy. In light of this clear data, two points about Afghanistan become clear: tactically, ostensible American befuddlement as to the causes of “green on blue” attacks and the continuing popularity of the Taliban in Afghanistan appears as willful ignorance; strategically, the US decision to stay there after taking out the al-Qa`ida [AQ] staging, post-9/11, and attempt to modernize Afghanistan was a huge, neo-Wilsonian mistake. 2014 cannot come soon enough.

    3) In some ways Islam in Southeastern Europe, and to a lesser extent in Central Asia, seems to be a more tolerant brand of the faith than the Middle Eastern variety. For example, the SE European and Central Asian Muslims are the least likely to support the death penalty for “apostasy,” and the most supportive of letting women decide for themselves whether to veil. And Muslims in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most likely to know about Christianity, and to interact with Christians. On the other hand, African Muslims are among the most enamored of sharia, and Central Asian ones fond of letting qadis (Islamic judges) decide family and property disputes. So there does not seem to be a direct link between Westernization and moderation; in fact, the influence of Sufism — Islamic mysticism — in the regard needs to be correlated and studied (beyond what Pew did on the topic in last year’s analysis).

    4) One bit of prognostication based on this data: Malaysia may be the next breeding ground of Islamic terrorism. It’s home to some 17 million Muslims (61% of its 28 million people), who hold a congeries of unsettling views: 86% want sharia the law of the land; 67% favor the death penalty for apostasy; 66% like sharia-compliant corporal punishments; 60% support stoning for adultery; and 18% think suicide bombing is justified. PACOM, SOCOM and the intelligence agencies need to ramp up hiring of Malay linguists and analysts.

    5) Finally, some words for those — like FNC’s Megyn Kelly and Julie Roginsky (on the former’s show “American Live,” 4/30/13) — who pose a sociopolitical and moral equivalence between Muslim support for sharia and Evangelical Protestant Christian support for wives’ obedience to husbands: that’s a bit too much sympathy for the devil. Yes, Evangelical Christian pastors hold some pretty conservative views of the family, as per a 2011 Pew study of them; for example, 55% of them do agree that “a wife must always obey her husband” (compared to 77% of Muslims). And, ironically, many such Evangelicals agree in large measure with Muslims on issues such as the immorality of alcohol, abortion and homosexuality. However, one searches in vain for any Evangelical (or other) Christian support for whippings, stonings, amputation of thieves’ limbs, polygamy or suicide bombing.

    Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, numbering some 1.6 billion humans (behind only Christianity’s 2.2 billion). There is, thus, enormous diversity of opinion on many issues of doctrine and practice, and essentializing Islam as either “peaceful” or “violent” is fraught with peril. Nonetheless, this latest Pew study provides empirical evidence that many — far too many — Muslims cling to a literalist, supremacist and indeed brutal view of their religion. Insha’allah, this will change eventually — but time is not necessarily on our side.

    Of ID cards and innermost mysteries

    Thursday, November 29th, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron — just another angle on personal identity and ID, nudged on by two news pieces I saw today, and written to set the thought juices flowing ]
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    Life’s four deep questions are often listed thus: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? and Where will I go? We humans can spend a lifetime in search of the answers, and Paul Gauguin made three of them them the title of what some consider his greatest painting:

    Paul Gauguin: D'où je viens, qui je suis, où je vais?

    **

    These are deeply personal questions — and now governments and bureaucracies everywhere would like to know the answers to them, too:

    **

    The poet Hopkins, in his tightly compressed way, teaches us that we are not our driving licenses, we are not files in a desk drawer or on a computer, we are not our photos, we are not numbers, we are not even our names, we are… that which is most natural to us, that which is most essential about us, what you might call our “true natures”:

    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
    Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

    We selve, we go ourselves — most precisely, we deal out that being which dwells within us.

    And to learn what that being is, that mystery which most richly propels us, is our life task.

    **

    In our desire to identify, classify, count and track everybody and everything, our governments and bureaucracies keep losing track (!) of the simple fact that a person’s person is that person’s innermost mystery.

    Techno-Mahdi?

    Saturday, August 4th, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron — of no practical importance, yet curious indeed, Mahdism, Pakistani history, shamanism, magic, the Kwakiutl / Tlingit, religion ]
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    Kwakiutl Salmon Dancer's mask

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    I really don’t have much to say about this, but I’d like to note it as one more instance of Mahdism cropping up in unlikely places. And a h/t to Scott McWilliams @macengr for pointing me to the story. I can’t entirely vouch for its accuracy since I don’t have easy access to 1970s Pakistani newspapers, but I’ve seen allusions to the same story dating back a couple of years

    When the Pakistani army and bureaucratic establishment realized that Mujib-ur-Rehman’s Awami League and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s PPP were attracting people—with no other party able to draw even 5000 to its rallies—they imported Zohra Fona, a woman from Indonesia, pregnant with Imam Mehdi. She had visited several Islamic countries, it was propagated, where rulers had offered prayers in her Imamat [i.e. she led the prayers even if a woman is not supposed to do that].

    Many Muslim intellectuals and scholars claimed through their writings and lectures that the time for Imam Mehdi’s appearance had arrived. A new Islamic world was about to emerge. During this period the Islamic parties, including Jamat-e-Islami, perpetrated violence. Members started attacking liberal and progressive professors, doctors, writers, journalists as well as their houses. They also burned many libraries and collections of books.

    Zohra Fona claimed that the child in her womb recited Azaan [call for prayers] and could lead the prayers. Ulema like Maulana Okarvi and Ehtesham Ul Haque went to see Zohra Fona and listened to Azan with ears close to lady’s womb. Prayer events were arranged for her in open places as well as in the larger mosques, and the Ulema [religious scholars] were praying behind her. She would stretch her legs towards Kaaba [Mecca], directing her womb toward the pulpit. Suddenly Azaan would start coming from her womb or from another private part. The Ulema were so shameless that they were offering prayers while focusing their eyes on her private parts.

    Back then the left was very organized so it was difficult to explain this farce. Finally the Pakistan Medical Association and doctors at Jinnah Hospital, Karachi decided to unearth the drama. Several lady gynecologists were asked to help; they knew that this kind of thing could not happen. But Zohra Fona was very clever. Whenever doctors were pursuing her to take a medical examination she avoided with help from the Pakistani security forces. But one day, when she was unable to escape, the doctors of Jinnah hospital, Karachi conducted an examination. The doctors recovered a small tape recorder from her womb.

    Does the bit about the tape-recorder in the womb sound a bit far-fetched? Here’s another version, this one from The [International] News:

    Zohra Fona, a blessed Indonesian woman, arrived in Pakistan just ahead its first general elections. She was said to be expecting a child who would be Imam Mehdi. She had visited several Islamic countries where, and it was propagated, that rulers had offered prayers in her imamat. Many ulema began to claim that the time for Imam Mehdi’s coming had arrived.

    Zohra Fona claimed that the child recited Azaan. Reputed ulema like Maulana Okarvi and Ehteshamul Haque met Zohra Fona and listened to the Azaan with ears close to the lady’s stomach. She began to draw huge crowds to mosques and parks where she led prayers. Our reputed ulema would join the prayers.

    Woe betide this country! Some leftist and agnostics at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital decided to put the legend to scientific test. It was revealed that the holy woman was not even pregnant with an Azan-reciting messiah but had a recording device tied to her body. She immediately left for Indonesia once the farce was exposed.

    That sounds more plausible.

    **

    A word of caution here.

    Just as theater and film sometimes deploy “deux ex machina” interventions to immerse their audiences more deeply into their created micro-worlds, so have shamanic performances.

    I’ve written about this before in an email to a religious scholars’ list, and in these days when even self-plagiarism is disdained, I am going to repeat here what I wrote then, with very minor changes:

    It’s my recollection that [Tlingit / Kwakiutl winter ceremonials] were both entertainment for the long winter nights and “schooling” for the young, and I have a vivid recall of reading somewhere a shaman’s admission to an anthro of the exact nature of the dramatic means by which the shaman’s capacity to defeat death was demonstrated.

    I read this in the early eighties, but searching on the web I’ve found something that comes close — Clellan Stearns Ford’s record of Charles James Nowell’s memories in _Smoke from their fires: the life of a Kwakiutl chief_. Around p 120, there are two stories, the first about a girl who “turned the wrong way” during a dance, the second about a girl who is put in a box and burned. In both cases, the nature of the trickery is described but in the version I read all those years ago, the two stories were one — the girl who was put in a box in the fire pit and “burned to death” escapes through a false bottom to the box along a tunnel into the adjoining room, and her voice then issues as if from her ashes, via a kelp tube that goes from the tunnel to the adjoining room where she’s now standing.

    She describes her descent into the sea realm, where she is chastened and eventually granted a boon to return to the tribe. A canoe sets out to fetch her, but by the time the audience sees it set out, she’s already secured by rope to the far side of the boat, and at a suitable distance is hauled aboard and brought back to shore, alive.

    A child seeing this would be mightily predisposed to believing the shaman had healing powers, and by the time the ruse was revealed, that underpinning of faith is already in place.

    In the Nowell version, even the adults, who “know” the deception involved, are deceived: “The fire burned and the box burned, and she was still singing inside, and then the box go up in flames, and they can see her burning there in her blue blanket, and all her relatives just cry and cry. Although they know it is not real, it looks so real they can’t help it. It was all a trick. There was a hole under the box with a tunnel leading out of the house, and the woman went out of the box and put a seal in her place wrapped in a blue blanket, and then someone sang into the fire through a kelp tube, her song. Oh, it looked real!”

    The Winter ceremonials of the Pacific Northwestern tribes are by turns opera, history, religion and “general education” to the children of the tribe, and “continuing education” to their elders…

    Do we have anything to equal them?

    Bearing such things in mind, we may want to consider trickery — a quality of the trickster gods, after all, in many mythologies — a not entirely illegitimate activity for a religious performer…


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