Articles of Interest, January 30th, 2008

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Edwards quitting presidential race

(CNN) — Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, two sources inside his campaign said Wednesday.

Edwards has told top advisers about his decision. It is expected he will announce it in a speech at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday in New Orleans, Louisiana.

An Edwards aide said the candidate was not getting the media attention he needed to get his message out and win delegates, especially with races coming up in 22 states next Tuesday.

Edwards has amassed 26 delegates for the Democratic nomination.

Campaign money was not an issue, the aide said.

New Orleans is the same city in which Edwards declared his run to be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee.

Edwards’ campaign Web site said he was to deliver an address on poverty and work on a Habitat for Humanity project Wednesday in New Orleans.

Edwards has trailed Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois in the early contests, including a third-place finish in Tuesday’s Florida primary with 14 percent of the votes. He also came in third in key races in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

  • I guess this means we need to get the popcorn out and ask Don King to promote the Democratic Debate on Thursday as I predict a real fight between Senators Obama and Clinton. It’s sad to see Sen Edwards go. Even though I was not a supporter, I recognize that what he represented was an asset to this race. Hopefully, he will get behind Obama and who know’s maybe run for vice president again or some other high office in the Obama administration. What does this mean for Super Tuesday? God only knows, but I believe Obama’s white support will increase, but latino’s are still an issue for Obama. Whether people want to admit it or not, I truly believe there is a racial component to the lack of support from latino voters for Obama. Black and Latino relations has been on the rocks over the last several years primarily over the issue of illegal immigration. Either way, Tuesday is going to be a battle and Thursday is going to be a fight! In other news, Guliani is gone too………moving right along…..Go McCain and Huckabee!

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Iran sees nuclear power this time next year

By Zahra Hosseinian and Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran expects to have its own nuclear-generated electricity by this time next year and will not bow to Western pressure to halt uranium enrichment, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.

Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the southern city of Bushehr that Iran was approaching the peak of its nuclear programprograme.

Iran’s planned first nuclear power plant is sited close to Bushehr. The plant would begin test operations by late October, a senior official said on Wednesday, two days after Russia completed fuel deliveries to the site.

The West suspects Iran’s nuclear activities are ultimately aimed at building weapons. Iran, the world’s fourth-largest crude oil producer, says it only wants to generate electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.

World powers last week agreed the outline of a third U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran, calling for mandatory travel bans and asset freezes for specific Iranian officials and vigilance on banks in the country.

Ahmadinejad tells West: Accept Israel’s ‘imminent collapse’

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the West Wednesday to acknowledge Israel’s “imminent collapse.”

Speaking to a crowd on a visit to the southern port of Bushehr, where Iran’s first light-water nuclear power plant is being built by Russia, Ahmadinejad further incited his listeners to “stop supporting the Zionists, as [their] regime reached its final stage.”

“Accept that the life of Zionists will sooner or later come to an end,” the Iranian president said in a televised speech.

He added, “What we have right now is the last chapter [of Israeli atrocities] which the Palestinians and regional nations will confront and eventually turn in Palestine’s favor.”

Iran does not acknowledge Israel and Ahmadinejad has in the past sparked international outcry by referring to the systematic murder of six million Jews in World War II as a “myth” and calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Iraq Not Using Oil Cash to Rebuild

Increased Iraqi oil revenues stemming from high prices and improved security are piling up in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rather than being spent on needed reconstruction projects, a Washington Times study of Iraq’s spending and revenue figures has shown.

U.S. officials and outside analysts blame the collapse of the country’s political and physical infrastructure for Baghdad’s failure to spend the money on projects considered vital to restoring stability in the country.

Out of $10 billion budgeted for capital projects in 2007, only 4.4 percent had been spent by August, according to official Iraqi figures reported this month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report cited unofficial figures saying about 24 percent had been spent.
Meanwhile, some $6 billion to $7 billion from last year’s budget is “being rolled over” and invested in U.S. treasuries, said Yahia Said, director of Iraq Revenue Watch, part of the private watchdog group Revenue Watch Institute.

“The government is broken,” said Mr. Said, speaking by telephone from Baghdad. “The country’s midlevel bureaucracy has either fled the country or been purged in de-Ba’athification, [and] a lot of ministers are politically appointed and not professional.”
The result is that orders go out from the ministers in Baghdad, but there is no structure or staff at the middle level to carry out the instructions.

Scientists discover way to reverse loss of memory

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Scientists performing experimental brain surgery on a man aged 50 have stumbled across a mechanism that could unlock how memory works.

The accidental breakthrough came during an experiment originally intended to suppress the obese man’s appetite, using the increasingly successful technique of deep-brain stimulation. Electrodes were pushed into the man’s brain and stimulated with an electric current. Instead of losing appetite, the patient instead had an intense experience of déjà vu. He recalled, in intricate detail, a scene from 30 years earlier. More tests showed his ability to learn was dramatically improved when the current was switched on and his brain stimulated.

Scientists are now applying the technique in the first trial of the treatment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. If successful, it could offer hope to sufferers from the degenerative condition, which affects 450,000 people in Britain alone, by providing a “pacemaker” for the brain.

Three patients have been treated and initial results are promising, according to Andres Lozano, a professor of neurosurgery at the Toronto Western Hospital, Ontario, who is leading the research.

Professor Lozano said: “This is the first time that anyone has had electrodes implanted in the brain which have been shown to improve memory. We are driving the activity of the brain by increasing its sensitivity – turning up the volume of the memory circuits. Any event that involves the memory circuits is more likely to be stored and retained.”

The discovery had caught him and his team “completely by surprise”, Professor Lozano said. They had been operating on the man, who weighed 190kg (30st), to treat his obesity by locating the point in his brain that controls appetite. All other attempts to curb his eating had failed and brain surgery was the last resort.

The treatment for obesity was unsuccessful. But, while the researchers were identifying potential appetite suppressant points in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain associated with hunger, the man suddenly began to say that memory was flooding back.

Carter Stays Neutral in Race,
But Praises Obama’s Oratory

PLAINS, Ga. — Former President Jimmy Carter lavished praise on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama during an interview at his home on Monday, though he won’t formally endorse any candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination.

“Obama’s campaign has been extraordinary and titillating for me and my family,” Mr. Carter said. The 83-year-old former president, who left the White House in 1981, compared Mr. Obama’s speeches to those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said he believed the candidate could carry some southern states if he becomes the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Carter also said he talked by telephone at length on Monday with former President Bill Clinton, who was “trying to explain that he was not raising the race issue” on the campaign trail. Mr. Carter said the phone call was to finalize speaking arrangements for Mr. Clinton’s appearance at a meeting organized by Mr. Carter of moderate Baptists in Atlanta beginning today. But much of the conversation centered on the presidential campaign, Mr. Carter said.

[Jimmy Carter]Mr. Clinton “has said a few things that I think he wishes he hadn’t said,” Mr. Carter said. “He doesn’t call me often, but the fact that he called me this morning and spent a long time explaining his position indicates that it’s troublesome to them, the adverse reaction.”

“I told him I hoped it would die down…the charged atmosphere concerning the race issue,” Mr. Carter said. “And I think it will.”

The Clinton campaign didn’t immediately comment regarding the conversation or on Mr. Carter’s remarks about Mr. Obama.

 

he latest Rasmussen Reports survey of Election 2008 shows Republican frontrunner Senator John McCain with single-digit leads over Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. McCain now leads Clinton 48% to 40%. He leads Barack Obama 47% to 41%. In a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted mid-January, McCain was two points behind Clinton, five behind Obama. A couple days later McCain won the South Carolina primary.

McCain has led Clinton in four of the last five polling match-ups conducted by Rasmussen Reports. He has had the edge over Obama in three of the last four polls. (see history and trends). Following his victory in Florida, Rasmussen Markets data indicates that McCain is the overwhelming favorite for the Republican Presidential nomination.

This weekend, Rasmussen Reports will begin daily tracking of general election match-ups featuring McCain vs. both Clinton and Obama.

The Truth About Abdominal Fat

By Makeisha Lee, Health and Nutritional Advisor

What your personal trainer has not told you about losing belly fat can leave you frustrated with less than average results. The label on the back of your latest diet pill guaranteed you flatter abs, but never told you that instead you can actually be harmed and still in want of a toned middle.

Millions of people may in fact be satisfied with their over-all body shape but when it comes to getting a flat mid-section, they are completely at a lost as to how they can effectively target that problematic area. Here is the “flat out” truth about getting flatter abs.

Any type of pill that says things like – “Lose the flab in hours with no work.” Don’t buy into that hype. This comes with a high price, minimal results, and damage to over-all health, as most of those pills contain very harsh stimulants. Besides that, they don’t truly work for the average Joe or Jane.

HIV and Black Women: Not Hype, But The “Straight-Up Truth”

Manassas, VA (BlackNews.com) – February 7, 2008 is the 8th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This year’s theme is “Prevention is Power”. This day should be a reminder to all women, especially black women, to love, protect, and value their bodies.

Black women are the fastest growing HIV/AIDS population in the U.S. and they are most likely to be infected through high-risk heterosexual contact. This includes sex with husbands and boyfriends living the down-low lifestyle. Many women who are married or in long-term relationships believe they are safe and not at risk of being infected.

“Women in marriages are lulled into a false sense of security,” says Joy Marie, the author of the explosive, informative, new book, The Straight-Up Truth About The Down-Low: Women Share Their Stories of Betrayal, Pain and Survival (Creative Wisdom Books-February 2008). Joy Marie is the pen name of two women who have survived marriages to down-low men.

Four years ago, the “Down-low” was a hot, controversial topic discussed in the media. Recently, the subject of the down-low seems to be taboo and has been swept under the rug and labeled “hype” and a “myth”.

Briton admits plot to behead Muslim soldier

By Mark Trevelyan in Leicester, England

January 30, 2008 03:14am

A MAN has pleaded guilty to a plot to kidnap and kill a Muslim soldier in the British army by cutting off his head “like a pig”, a court was told.

Parviz Khan, a 37-year-old Briton, pleaded guilty this month to a series of charges including the beheading plot, which was foiled by police and the MI5 security service a year ago.

News of the plot leaked to the media last year, prompting parallels with al-Qaeda hostage killings in Iraq.

Prosecutor Nigel Rumfitt told the jury to ignore what they had heard. While Khan and the other defendants were Muslims, “this is not a prosecution of the Islamic faith”, he said.

Khan was “a man who has the most violent and extreme Islamist views” who wanted to get physically involved in acts of terrorism, Mr Rumfitt said.

“He was enraged by the idea that there were Muslim soldiers in the British army, some of them Muslims from The Gambia in west Africa.”

Khan decided to kidnap such a soldier with the help of drug dealers operating in the central English city of Birmingham. The victim was to be seized while enjoying a night out and bundled into a car, Mr Rumfitt said.

“He would be taken to a lockup garage and there he would be murdered by having his head cut off like a pig. This atrocity would be filmed” and distributed to spread panic and fear in the British armed forces and the public, he said.

Another man, Amjab Mahmood, faces the same charge in the trial that opened today. He and a co-defendant, Zahoor Iqbal, are charged with working alongside Khan and others to supply equipment to help militants on the Pakistan-Afghan border fighting Western coalition troops.

TV chat queen Oprah gets a less than flattering tubby bronze statue cast in her honour

She has famously battled with her weight – but according to this tribute to the queen of daytime television, it appears to be a battle lost.

Controversial American sculptor Daniel Edwards latest work ‘The Oprah Sarcophagus’, is a very full-figured sculpture of Oprah Winfrey – and that’s where the likeness begins and ends.

The work casts Miss Winfrey in bronze, as a nude, full-breasted woman with generous child-bearing hips.

Toni Morrison’s Early Votes: For Obama, Kindle

Toni Morrison made headlines yesterday when she endored Barack Obama, writing, in a letter to the candidate:

Dear Senator Obama,

This letter represents a first for me – a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.
May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or “new-centrist” ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me “proud.”

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don’t see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can’t train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace–that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country’s citizens as “we,” not “they”? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

A Morrison endorsement that’s gotten less media play, however, is the one she’s given, on the Amazon.com Web site, to Amazon’s Kindle book reader.

Danish Library Seeks to Acquire Muhammad Cartoons

By Tasneem Brogger and Christian Wienberg

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) — Denmark’s Royal Library is in talks to acquire the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that in 2006 sparked riots and violence around the world, including the torching of Danish embassies.

“It would be natural for us to have them at the Royal Library,” Jytte Kjaergaard, a spokeswoman for the Copenhagen- based library, said by telephone today. “We don’t perceive them as works of art. We don’t have any view on their substance or content. Our view is that they hold a place in our cultural heritage. The cartoons have become a part of Danish history.”

The cartoons were published by Denmark’s biggest broadsheet newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September 2005. The drawings, which included images of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban and a suicide bomber arriving in heaven to find out paradise had run out of virgins, led to bloody clashes and consumer boycotts of Danish goods across most of the Muslim world at the beginning of 2006.

“We have no view on what may or may not be controversial,” Kjaergaard said. “We also have a few original Darwin texts and there are some people who believe in intelligent design who are provoked by that.”

Kasem Said Ahmad, a spokesman for the Islamic Community in Denmark, said putting the cartoons in the royal library is “a very, very bad idea.”

“They are opening old wounds, reviving an old provocation,” Ahmad said in a telephone interview. “We don’t need to be reminded of the cartoons. We need to forget about them and build bridges between people, rather than dig ditches.”

The library is in talks with the cartoonists, who would donate the drawings without profit, Kjaergaard said. “These works don’t have a market price,” she said.

According to Kjaergaard, should the library win the drawings for its collection, it won’t be raising security levels.

Gateway adds Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo drives, new eMachines desktops

On the heels of the gaming-oriented (and recently reviewed) Gateway FX7020, we get a few more desktop announcements this morning from recent Acer-acquisition Gateway, as well as from its eMachines subsidiary.

The most interesting component of this news is the hybrid Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive coming to Gateway’s new, retail-only GM5664 desktop. The system also includes a quad core AMD Phenom 9600 CPU, a 1TB hard drive, and a 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics card for $1,150. That’s not a bad config for the price, especially the hard drive, but if it’s Blu-ray and HD-DVD playback you’re after, the $949 HP Pavilion SlimLine s3330f has a better price in a more living room-friendly chassis. The similar, non-HD, 500GB hard drive-equipped Gateway GT5662 also debuted today for $750.

Invaders or Saviors? Islam and the Making of Europe

In his vivid and illuminating new book, “God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215” (Norton, $29.95), historian David Levering Lewis re-examines the 400-year era of Muslim rule in Europe, a period during which a sophisticated and tolerant Islamic empire conquered – and profoundly influenced – parts of a West that had fallen into barbaric tribalism following the collapse of the Roman empire.
Lewis, a professor at New York University, received the Pulitzer Prize for both volumes of his two-part biography of W.E.B. Du Bois and is the author of eight other books, including “King: A Critical Biography” and “When Harlem Was in Vogue.” He spoke from his home in New York City.

Q: What drew you to this period?

A: In a previous book, “The Race to Fashoda,” I wrote about the speed bump that the British empire encountered with Islamic fundamentalism in the 1890s. For 10 years the world’s mightiest empire was simply stymied in the Upper Sudan. Well, I’m a citizen of the American empire, and I began to see that we were headed for similar speed bumps. I thought it would be useful to write a book – a short book – about Islam in Europe. So off my wife and I went to Morocco, and we arrived in Rabat on the morning of 9/11. A meditation of a time long ago suddenly seemed very pertinent.

Q: It was going to be a short book?

A: But that’s not what happened. The post-9/11 culture made it more and more difficult not to write a larger book in which the inferences about then and now would be clearer. I wanted to connect the Iberian history, which is, I think fairly well known, with what it meant on the other side of the Pyrenees in terms of the geopolitics and ideology of the Catholic faith. So I spent a lot of time tracing the bargains that arose between these Germans and the bishops of Rome.

Q: Was Europe, in a sense, created by Islam as much as by Christianity?

A: Cautiously I would say yes, and that’s what I wanted to emphasize. The Renaissance is profoundly indebted to what I call the conveyor belt of knowledge coming out of Toledo. We would all applaud that, the maintenance and enrichment of the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle, the science of the academy of Athens, the Hindu [mathematics]. In the negative sense, Islam also becomes the template against which Europe compares itself, fights, profits. Finally, the kind of theocracy that emerges in Europe is directly a consequence of Charles Martel’s victory over Islam at the Battle of Poitiers in 732.

Q: What if that battle had gone differently?

A: I honestly am impartial about this, but I think the following argument is a fair one based on what happened elsewhere: That if the heartland of what becomes Europe had been incorporated in the Islamic empire, then it would have profited from the commercial, economic, technological, cultural levels of achievement of the Muslims. Europe would have been spared three or four centuries of its laborious, fratricidal, and economically retarded development. Muslim victory would have also meant that the historian Edward Gibbon would have been right when he wrote that “the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford.” Well, so what? The wars of religion are right around the corner in Europe, so there you are.

Q: What do you think will most surprise the general reader here?

A: That’s always dicey. I tried not to overdo the period of pluralistic collaboration, but it is real… What may also surprise readers is the way in which Charlemagne transformed the Christian faith into a holy war, which, unlike the Muslim jihad, was totally intolerant. In the Islamic empire, much like the Roman empire, as long as you paid your taxes you were pretty much left alone. But with the Carolingians, the Europeans, the Franks, that is not an option. So otherness becomes embedded in European culture in a way that never obtained in Islam and perhaps only today is beginning to be characteristic of that faith.

Q: You write about Karbala, Baghdad, Kufa, and so on. How does it feel when you hear those place names in the news today?

A: It’s hard to put into words what goes through your mind, particularly about sites like Ctesiphon, the great palace complex outside Baghdad. In the first Gulf War, as I understand it, the [US] Air Force just barely missed taking it down and now there’s an airbase nearby. If these places are wiped out, it’s a great pity.

Q: Are you concerned that your book will be viewed as supporting the “clash of civilizations” theory?

A: That would be a gross misreading of the book and certainly not my design. The eschatological simplifiers, supporting that theory, say “Don’t you realize where we’re going?” I believe that these things have become self-fulfilling prophecies. We are now where we knew we would come to if we did all the worst things and the wrong things. Once people are invaded, polarities are inescapable. Anna Mundow is a correspondent for the Irish Times.

Reading the Koran

For Muslims the Koran stands as the Text of reference, the source and the essence of the message transmitted to humanity by the creator. It is the last of a lengthy series of revelations addressed to humans down through history. It is the Word of God -but it is not God. The Koran makes known, reveals and guides: it is a light that responds to the quest for meaning. The Koran is remembrance of all previous messages, those of Noah and Abraham, of Moses and Jesus. Like them, it reminds and instructs our consciousness: life has meaning, facts are signs.

It is the Book of all Muslims the world over. But paradoxically, it is not the first book someone seeking to know Islam should read. (A life of the Prophet or any book presenting Islam would be a better introduction.) For it is both extremely simple and deeply complex. The nature of the spiritual, human, historical and social teachings to be drawn from it can be understood at different levels. The Text is one, but its readings are multiple.

For the woman or the man whose heart has made the message of Islam its own, the Koran speaks in a singular way. It is both the Voice and the Path. God speaks to one’s innermost being, to his consciousness, to his heart, and guides him onto the path that leads to knowledge of him, to the meeting with him: “This is the Book, about it there can be no doubt; it is a Path for those who are aware of God.” More than a mere text, it is a traveling companion to be chanted, to be sung or to be heard.

Throughout the Muslim world, in mosques, in homes and in the streets, one can hear magnificent voices reciting the divine Words. Here, there can be no distinction between religious scholars (ulema) and laymen. The Koran speaks to each in his language, accessibly, as if to match his intelligence, his heart, his questions, his joy as well as his pain. This is what the ulema have termed reading or listening as adoration. As Muslims read or hear the Text, they strive to suffuse themselves with the spiritual dimension of its message: beyond time, beyond history and the millions of beings who populate the earth, God is speaking to each of them, calling and reminding each of them, inviting, guiding, counseling and commanding. God responds, to her, to him, to the heart of each: with no intermediary, in the deepest intimacy.

No need for studies and diplomas, for masters and guides. Here, as we take our first steps, God beckons us with the simplicity of his closeness. The Koran belongs to everyone, free of distinction and of hierarchy. God responds to whoever comes to his Word. It is not rare to observe women and men, poor and rich, educated and illiterate, Eastern and Western, falling silent, staring into the distance, lost in thought, stepping back, weeping. The search for meaning has encountered the sacred, God is near: “Indeed, I am close at hand. I answer the call of him who calls me when s/he calls.”

A dialogue has begun. An intense, permanent, constantly renewed dialogue between a Book that speaks the infinite simplicity of the adoration of the One, and the heart that makes the intense effort necessary to liberate itself, to meet him. At the heart of every heart’s striving lies the Koran. It holds out peace and initiates into liberty.

Indeed, the Koran may be read at several levels, in quite distinct fields. But first, the reader must be aware of how the Text has been constructed. The Koran was revealed in sequences of varying length, sometimes as entire chapters (suras), over a span of 23 years. In its final form, the Text follows neither a chronological nor strictly thematic order. Two things initially strike the reader: the repetition of Prophetic stories, and the formulas and information that refer to specific historical situations that the Koran does not elucidate. Understanding, at this first level, calls for a twofold effort on the part of the reader: though repetition is, in a spiritual sense, a reminder and a revivification, in an intellectual sense it leads us to attempt to reconstruct. The stories of Eve and Adam, or of Moses, are repeated several times over with differing though non-contradictory elements: the task of human intelligence is to recompose the narrative structure, to bring together all the elements, allowing us to grasp the facts.

But we must also take into account the context to which these facts refer: all commentators, without distinction as to school of jurisprudence, agree that certain verses of the revealed Text (in particular, but not only, those that refer to war) speak of specific situations that had arisen at the moment of their revelation. Without taking historical contingency into account, it is impossible to obtain general information on this or that aspect of Islam. In such cases, our intelligence is invited to observe the facts, to study them in reference to a specific environment and to derive principles from them. It is a demanding task, which requires study, specialization and extreme caution. Or to put it differently, extreme intellectual modesty.

The second level is no less demanding. The Koranic text is, first and foremost, the promulgation of a message whose content has, above all, a moral dimension. On each page we behold the ethics, the underpinnings, the values and the hierarchy of Islam taking shape. In this light, a linear reading is likely to disorient the reader and to give rise to incoherence, even contradiction. It is appropriate, in our efforts to determine the moral message of Islam, to approach the Text from another angle. While the stories of the Prophets are drawn from repeated narrations, the study of ethical categories requires us, first, to approach the message in the broadest sense, then to derive the principles and values that make up the moral order. The methods to be applied at this second level are exactly the opposite of the first, but they complete it, making it possible for religious scholars to advance from the narration of a prophetic story to the codification of its spiritual and ethical teaching.

But there remains a third level, which demands full intellectual and spiritual immersion in the Text, and in the revealed message. Here, the task is to derive the Islamic prescriptions that govern matters of faith, of religious practice and of its fundamental precepts. In a broader sense, the task is to determine the laws and rules that will make it possible for all Muslims to have a frame of reference for the obligations, the prohibitions, the essential and secondary matters of religious practice, as well as those of the social sphere. A simple reading of the Koran does not suffice: not only is the study of Koranic science a necessity, but knowledge of segments of the prophetic tradition is essential. One cannot, on a simple reading of the Koran, learn how to pray. We must turn to authenticated prophetic tradition to determine the rules and the body movements of prayer.

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