Monday, July 30, 2012

Mali graced with Shari'a law

Nothing says primitive apes more than reactionary 'Islamists' carrying out 7th-century tribal desert punishments in the 21st century. Hell, I don't think even apes would do this to their own kind.

Now they have taken over Mali.
A spokesman for the radical Islamic group controlling northern Mali says a couple who had an adulterous relationship was stoned to death this weekend in the town of Aguelhok.

Sanda Abou Mohamed, a spokesman for the group Ansar Dine, told The Associated Press by telephone on Sunday that the couple was executed according to Shariah law.

A resident of the northern city of Kidal, who had spoken to witnesses in nearby Aguelhok, said the man and woman were buried up to their necks, then pelted with stones until they died earlier Sunday. The resident requested anonymity because he feared for his safety.

I still don't really get why Islamists get upset the most by intimate adult relationships, 'adulterous' or not. They never seem to get as upset about murder, bombings of innocent civilians, plunder, robbery, slavery, poverty, but nature forbid that they find out about two adults in a marriage-less relationship. It tends to stir the most primitive blood lust urges in them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Legend of Karfan and myths about Syria

Karfan was one of the earliest, if not the first, Syrian bloggers in English, and the protagonist of an award-worthy blog about Syria and Arab society in general. Writing in the third person, he painted a rare, unabashed portrait of what it's like for the regular Syrian to live under one of the most murderous, repressive regimes in the region.

His posts (signed by 'Karfan & Friend') are interspersed with countless personal accounts and anecdotes, and are, at first glance, crude, tongue-in-cheek, nihilistic, and very funny (but not the good 'funny'). In many ways, the Syria he describes in his writings bears a huge resemblance to Iraq under Ba'athist rule. He used to blog intermittently from an Internet cafe in neighboring Lebanon, where he made periodic visits in 2005 and 2006, in order to escape the scrutiny of the Syrian Mukhabarat, until he abruptly stopped posting in August 2006 with no explanation whatsoever for his disappearance.

I figured it was somewhat relevant, given the current dramatic situation going on in Syria, to revisit his humorous blog posts. I strongly recommend the whole blog (including the comments) as required reading for anyone interested in Syrian and Middle Eastern affairs. It's actually not really that long (a total of 14 posts), and it serves as an excellent background to understand the present crisis.

In his first post he introduces Karfan:
This blog is by Karfan, whose name means disgusted. Generaly disgusted with life and everything in it. Recently, disgusted with all those who are trying to make a living from giving false and fictitious analyses about Syria and with those who believe them.
He then goes on in his second post to introduce us to the Syrian people. According to Karfan, in reality, there is no Syrian 'people'. Instead, there are:
Sunnis, Alawis, Druuz, Christians, Smaeelis, Kurds, Palestinians, Mad'umeen (the favored ones), Mas'uleen (high governmental people), Bathists, Shwam (Damascenes), Shawaya (bedouins), Numailatieh, Haddadeen, Khayateen (the last three are Alwai tribes), Umalaa (traitors), Sheu'ieen (communists) , Mukhabarat (secret agents), Manayek (dickheads), Kharawat (assholes), etc. That is how we call each other, but in school books, we were told that we are Arabs. Except this fictitious categorization, Karfan never knew what else actually joins these people, but they were there around him and he could easily tell who is who and what to call them.
Syria itself, as far as Karfan is concerned, is a fictitious, manufactured entity that exists only on paper and in school books. He asks himself what is this Syria that is talked about on the news? In fact:
Karfan lived in cities called Tartous and Damascus, and he was told that these are just cities in a place called Watan Arabi (Arabic Homeland). Besides this fictitious homeland, he never knew what else actually joins these cities except the bumpy roads between them. He could see this Watan Arabi on all the maps around him, but never gone to any of the other places that consist this vast land. He was not allowed to go to cities in Jordan or Egypt because he was told they were traitors. He was not allowed to go to cities in Lebanon because he was told there was a war with the enemies. He was not allowed to go to cities in Iraq because his passport bears the seal (Valid to all countries except Iraq!!). Eventually, these "Arab" places became to him, and his generation, as Djibouti and Salvador, mere names.
He describes with distaste the sectarian and tribal nature of Syrian society with the everyday example of the obligatory 'where are you from?' question that creeps into every interaction between his countrymen (very similar to Iraq). Karfan mentions that this is actually a not-so-veiled attempt to determine the sect or ethnic group of the speaker, and he admits that he often trolled fellow Syrians who asked him this question by inventing an imaginary place to confuse them and watch them squirm trying to figure out his background, also adding that this game of 'where are you from?', mastered by all Syrians, is an essential survival skill.

In a similar pattern, his subsequent posts are in-depth examinations and debunkings of what he calls 'myths' about Syria and Syrians, including examples and personal stories in each.

In myth no. 2 "We have an identity," he denies there is such a thing as a Syrian national identity and juxtaposes it with the Syrian regime's 'hammering' about Arab identity and 'Arabism':
Karfan never met a single young Syrian who actually believed in Arabism, in term of believing that we should respect other citizens from what is called Arab World just for the sake that they are Arabs. People who live in Syria never respected each other to begin with for them to respect outsiders. We have been conditioned to say that we want to be united with Arab countries in the Gulf, but call Gulf Arabs Dickheads and have the lowest esteem towards them. We have been conditioned to say that we want to liberate Palestine, but call Palestinians Manayek (Assholes) and treat them badly in Syria most of the time or corner them in dirty areas and speak behind their back as if they are invaders from another planets.
Myth no. 3 is a closer look at Arabism in Syria. Karfan distastefully concludes that it is simply a meaningless term invented by the 'failure generation' of Syrian pan-Arab nationalists and thinkers who left their 'legacy' of Arabism in tons of books that are used by lucky falafel street vendors to wrap their sandwiches with. In addition, he expresses his disgust with foreign political analysts who talk about the 'dying of Arabism' in Syria, noting wryly that it never even existed in the first place.

In Myth no. 4 Karfan calls Syrians 'pathetic' because they strongly react to anyone who dares to reveal uncomfortable truths about their society and imagined unity with vulgarity, also responding to detractors in the comments on his first few posts. Included between the lines is a brief introduction to the Syrian leader 'King Lion the 2nd' (Bashar al-Assad), his father 'King Lion the 1st' (Hafez), and his brother 'the White Knight of Tadmur' (Rifaat).

Myth no. 5 is about Syrians' innate fear of civil war and how it was used as a pretense by the Assad regime to hold on to power by convincing Alawites that the Sunni majority is out to get them if Assad ever falls.

Bashar al-Assad's personality cult is closely analyzed, mocked and derided in Myth no. 6, particularly his long-awaited reforms and the part, parroted by foreign journalists, about how he is 'Western-educated'. Karfan relates his amusing theory about the Assad dynasty and gives an example:
Most people know the French "King Louis the 16th" whose head was chopped like a potato by the angry mob. Karfan has this theory that when this king's ancestors started their dynasty, they actually had names: the first King Louis and the second King Francois the third King Charles or something. After a while though, people noticed that there are no differences between those kings and stopped bothering giving them different names. They just gave them the name Louis and numbered them: King Louis the 3rd, the 4th and so on.
And the natural conclusion of his theory:
It took 16 King Louis for the usually-clever French people to realize that these kings will not get any different from one another. Karfan is wondering how many Kings it would take for the dumb-ass Syrians who still repeat Khitabb El-Kassam (the inauguration Speech) to reach the same conclusion, maybe till the King 28th? Till then.. They can wait for the diamond.
Myth no. 8 is a humorous summation of Syria's three-decade occupation of Lebanon, which Karfan refuses to categorize as an occupation, citing stories from his own military service there as a conscript lieutenant and how he was 'humiliated' trying to smuggle back a few cartons of La Vache Qui Rit cheese (prohibited in Syria). He describes Rafiq Hariri's assassination:
King Lion the 2nd's younger brother and his cousin killed one of the past cooperators there, and the rest of the warlords there found this a good opportunity to stop sharing the cake with King Lion and his gang and moved to kick his army out. This assassinated big thief was until recently a very good friend of the Lion's gang. But the rule of all gangs is that no one is safe in a gang. The people in that country are angry at the death of one of their own thieves by Syrian thieves.
The following posts, or myths, deal with Ba'athism, the Alawite sect, the Syrian opposition, expatriates, the Ismaelis (Sevener Shi'ites) of Syria and their antagonism toward Alawites, Syrian economy, Iskandarun, occupation of Golan. His post about Golan in August 2006 was his last, and it was quite obvious that Karfan had a lot more to say before he was interrupted.

Read them all.

Let's hope Karfan is still alive and that he witnesses his countrymen succeed in overthrowing the Assad dynasty and achieve some degree of political freedom very soon.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Saudi authorities detain webmaster

They are really serious about trying to put an end to those pesky bloggers who 'insult Islam':
Saudi authorities have detained a Saudi national for setting up a website that "harms the public order and violates Islamic values", court documents and his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, which follows an austere version of Sunni Islam, shows little tolerance towards public dissent and censors its media. Cyber crime regulations that came into force in 2007 make bloggers and website owners legally accountable for what they publish online.

The 25-year-old Ra'if Badawi, who runs the website "Free Saudi Liberals", was charged with cyber crime and also with disobeying his father, which is considered a crime in the conservative Arab monarchy and top US ally.

"He did that by setting up a website that harms the public order and violates Islamic values, including insulting the divine being and attacking some religious icons such as the Grand Mufti," a document from the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution showed.

 This is the Saudi 'Grand Mufti':


 I mean, come on. Who can resist not making fun of this guy?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Monica, Monica!"

A crowd of Egyptians in Alexandria pelted Hillary Clinton's motorcade with shoes and tomatoes today while reportedly chanting, "Monica, Monica", in reference to her husband's short-lived White House affair. Lulz.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Saudi Arabia considers law against 'insulting Islam'

Saudi Arabia is studying new regulations to criminalise insulting Islam, including in social media, and the law could carry heavy penalties, a Saudi paper said on Sunday. 
The potential regulations come five months after a Saudi blogger and columnist Hamza Kashgari, 23, was arrested for tweeting comments deemed as insulting the Prophet Mohammad. Kashgari said there were things he liked and disliked about him. 

"Within the next two months the Shura Council will reveal the outcome of study on the regulations to combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia," unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter told al-Watan, adding that there could be "severe punishments" for violators. 

Criticism penalised under the law would include that of the Prophet, early Muslim figures and clerics, it said. 

"The (regulations) are important at the present time because violations over social networks on the Internet have been observed in the past months," the sources said.

The Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari has been under indefinite detention (for 157 days) since his extradition to Saudi Arabia from Malaysia. #FreeHamza

I lol'd at this part:
"I don't want anything to affect my freedom and we don't want Saudi Arabia to be another Iran."
Iran is way more 'free' than Saudi Arabia. They actually have presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections every four years, unheard of in Saudi Arabia. Women enjoy considerably wider freedoms there: for example they are not prohibited from driving or traveling without a male chaperone, and they do not prohibit the 'mixing' of sexes in schools, government institutions and public gatherings. There is an entertainment, art and music scene. Religious minorities are not frowned upon and can worship freely. There is a vibrant atheist community and they openly have publications and discussions without fear of retribution from authorities. They do not have a 'Religious Police' that roams the streets and shopping malls to enforce an archaic dress code on women. Clerics are not immune from criticism or even ridicule. And, the best of all, their country is not named after the ruling dynasty.

This is Saudi Arabia:

And this is Iran:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Today's Iraq

An interesting and revealing photo slideshow from Iraq by Ayman Oghanna, an Iraqi British freelance photographer. Images are from Baghdad, Basra, Erbil, Tikrit, Najaf and Ramadi. Notice the brigadier general on his cheesy 'throne', the grim wedding decorator and the fiery display of Shi'ite pilgrims in Najaf. My favorite is the bar scene at Abu Nawas St.. It reminds me of days bygone.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Banner from Qatif

Shi'ite protesters in the eastern region hold a banner during the funerals of the protesters shot by Saudi riot police. It reads: "This is the Republic of al-Ahsa and al-Qatif. No to the kingdom of Wahhabis and Al Saud."


A child from Syria holding a sign: "As long as you respect my rights you are my brother. It doesn't matter if you worship God or a stone ~ from free Yebrud 7-10-12"

Monday, July 09, 2012

Saudi lizards

Dogs are considered 'unclean' in Saudi Arabia, and they also say 'angels' do not enter a house where a dog is raised. Dhabb (uromastyx) lizards are a a different story, however, and Saudi angels don't seem to fear them as much. According to the Sunnah, they were Prophet Muhammad's meal of choice.

Anyone for Saudi lizard stew?

Saudi security forces respond to Shia protests with force

Saudi riot police snipers fired live ammo at hundreds of unarmed Shi'ite protesters in the city of #Qatif today. Three protesters were killed and 20 others wounded. The demonstrations erupted after a prominent anti-government Shi'ite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was chased, shot and arrested by the authorities earlier today. More from al-Jazeera.


The demonstrators are shouting 'Death to Al Saud', 'Down with state security' and 'We will never be humiliated.' Hillary Clinton will not utter a word of protest, of course, so as not to embarrass her Saudi buddies.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Afghan woman publicly executed near Kabul

I thought one of the reasons the US invaded and occupied Afghanistan was to 'liberate' oppressed Afghan women. But this still happens and in Kabul of all places (video in link):
A man who Afghan officials say is a member of the Taliban shot dead a woman accused of adultery in front of a crowd near Kabul, a video obtained by Reuters showed. In the three-minute video, a turban-clad man approaches a woman kneeling in the dirt and shoots her five times at close range with an automatic rifle, to cheers of jubilation from the 150 or so men watching in a village in Parwan province. "Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it's the wrong way," another man says as the shooter gets closer to the woman. "It is the order of Allah that she be executed."

Of course the adulterous man was probably congratulated and awarded a medal by his peers.


A group of Libyan girls after voting in today's landmark election

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Maliki is so full of himself

On the road from Fallujah to Baghdad, security checkpoints feature large posters of #Iraq PM Nuri al-Maliki (via Prashant Rao, AFP Baghdad bureau chief)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Pakistani mob burns 'blasphemer'

Nice allies you got there, America.

A Pakistani mob has taken a man accused of blasphemy from a police station and burnt him to death, police say.

The man was being held for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran in public. The incident took place on the outskirts of Bahawalpur, in Punjab province.Witnesses said hundreds of people looked on as he screamed for help.

Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law imposes the death penalty for insulting Islam, but it is rarely carried out. The area where the lynching took place is home to hundreds of madrassas - religious schools - run by radical Islamist or sectarian groups.


I now have a one-bedroom apartment in NW SATX, a roomie from Iraq (who has a job and studies), a 2002 Mazda sedan, and $1500 in my bank account. The apartment complex is a bit run down and the neighbours aren't the best folks the city can offer, but it's a start. What I like about it is that it's somewhat diverse, and management seem to be serious about any would-be troublemakers. Still waiting to retake my TOEFL test later this month so I can start applying for dental schools again (my best shot is Penn Uni.). My family have been trying to track me down but I'm not budging on my position. Still need to get my furniture and books from them but I'll figure it out. Also need to go to University Hospital to negotiate a way out of my hospital bill or get better terms for my Carelink payment plan. Things could have been better but at least I still have my job, and for the first time in two years I'm breathing freedom again.