Articles of Interest, March 4th, 2008

The Future of Islam in North America

The Central Importance of Education

By Mohamed Ansary

Islamic Writer and Editor — Egypt

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Impact of US Policies

Muslim Organizations and Education

Muslim Media Channel

Prospects for the Future

Conclusion

 

This essay was inspired by a Live Dialogue held by IslamOnline.net’s English Shari`ah Department, on April 18, 2007, with Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Shinqiti, a prominent Muslim scholar and director of the Islamic Center of South Plains, Lubbock, Texas, USA. The dialogue was particularly successful as the varied participants, specially users from North America, asked focused questions. They touched on a number of quintessential issues such as the impact of US policies toward the Muslim world on Muslim minorities in United States and Canada; the activities and performances of Muslim organizations in the USA in the post-9/11 era; the small number of well-qualified Muslim scholars and motivational community leaders in the USA; the need for more Muslim media specialists and social scientists in America; and finally, the challenges and opportunities that face Islam and Muslims in North America.

Impact of US Policies

 

Many Muslim scholars and intellectuals see the RAND Report as a transgression of the rights of Muslims to decide on their own independent criteria for “moderation” that stems from Shari`ah.

In March 2007, the RAND Corporation, an American NGO specialized in policy studies and measuring public opinion, issued a 217-page report titled Building Moderate Muslim Networks. In this report RAND, which is closely tied to the US Air Force, set up four criteria that would be used by the US administration and other parties to assess Muslim partners and to build networks of pressure on Middle Eastern dictatorships. The criteria allegedly define “moderate” Muslim individuals and organizations in the eyes of the authors of the report. The report also devised 11 questions that could be used to measure the level of the subject’s conformity to the criteria.

This was the latest attempt — to the date of the Live Dialogue — by US institutions to interfere in the affairs of the Muslim world. Since former US secretary of state Colin Powell’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) was launched in 2002, several documents and conferences have been conducted under the title of “reform” in the Middle East. Many Muslim scholars and intellectuals see this particular attempt as a transgression of the rights of Muslims to decide on their own independent criteria for “moderation” that stems from Shari`ah (Islamic Law) guidelines.

One of the questions directed to Al-Shinqiti in the Live Dialogue went as follows: “In view of the recent RAND recipe to handle the Muslim world, do you think this will have a negative impact on Muslim minorities especially in North America? What possible changes could happen to US policy in dealing with Muslims?” Al-Shinqiti’s answer ruled out any impact of that particular report on Muslim minorities in North America, although he did note that one part of the report spoke about Muslim minorities in the West as one of many tools to implement the report’s strategy in building moderate networks. However, he expressed his reservations about this role as outlined in the RAND report: “I think that Muslims living in North America could play a significant role in bridging the gap between the West and the Muslim world, in a way that is more constructive than the role assigned to them in the report.”

The impact of US foreign and domestic policies on the lives of Muslim minorities inside the United States continues to be a subject of lengthy discussions, debates, and writings. In 1996, long before the world awoke to the horrors of 9/11, the Clinton administration sanctioned the Secret Evidence procedure through what was called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (American Muslim Voice). It was more publicly known as the Secret Evidence Act. During the 2000 elections, George W. Bush said that Arab and Muslim Americans were being subjected to unfair and discriminatory practices in immigration hearings where secret evidence was used against them (Islamic Institute). How ironic! Those who establish exclusive associative ties between 9/11 and policies that may irritate the presence of Muslims in America may not have the full picture. After all, according to Richard A. Clarke, the former head of the antiterrorism unit in the US State Department, it was President Clinton who first described terrorism as the most dangerous threat to America after the end of the Cold War (Clarke). It is well known that in American discourse back then — notwithstanding Clinton’s — “terrorism” was already used almost exclusively to describe some Middle Easterners and Muslims. “Terrorism” is also always confounding by being extended to mean certain forms of resistance that are legitimate.

However, the Muslims of the United States — and to a much lesser degree, Canada — were mostly hurt by the Bush policies in the post-9/11 era. Even though many sources spoke rightly of many governmental efforts to contain the public rage against American Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration introduced — when things were about to cool down — a series of laws that are considered of discriminatory nature by most Muslim organizations in the United States and Canada.

The first of these laws was the notorious US Patriot Act, which was signed into law by Bush on October 26, 2001, after passing with minimal debate in the House and Senate. The act contained several sections that would clearly be used to persecute members of the Muslim minority. Even though there were a few sections meant to restrict this act from being discriminatory against Muslims, such as Section 102 which provided for Congress’s condemnation of hate crimes against Muslim and Arab Americans, many of the act’s provisions breached a number of civil liberties. Section 201, for example, authorized American law enforcers to “intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to computer fraud and abuse offenses.” Chip Pitts wrote in The Nation:

The Patriot Act has been and will continue to be used mainly against ordinary Americans accused of crimes unrelated to terrorism, or those who disagree with government policies or happen to be immigrants or of the Muslim faith. The result is likely to be an enduring shift of power from the legislative and judicial branches to the executive branch and less privacy and liberty for all.

On March 9, 2006, Bush signed the Patriot Improvement And Reauthorization Act Of 2005, which in effect is a renewal and extension of the 2001 measure. Even though the American president had promised several times that the original act would probably be contingent and temporary, by renewal it is no longer an emergency law but a permanent act.

The reports on Islam and Muslims produced by governmental and nongovernmental think tanks inside and outside the US and Canada, serve as tools of justification for the authorities to adapt measures that harm the civil liberties in their nations. The aforementioned RAND report, for example, adapts criteria that have barely anything to do with the religion, to assess moderation among Muslim individuals and organizations. Among RAND’s criteria for a “moderate” Muslim is rejecting the concept of a Muslim state, not striving for the application of a sectarian source of law (a masked phrase to avoid bluntly saying Shari`ah), and to reject hudud (Islamic criminal penalties) (RAND 66–69).

Other reports and studies by American think tanks do not bother to hide their biases against Islam and Muslims.

With regard to building moderate Muslim networks among Muslims of the diaspora and Muslims in the Islamic world, the report mentioned a number of those who fit its criteria as a base for such networks. The report picked people who resolutely denounced religion altogether in their works. Among them is Shaker Al Nabulsi, who in his Manifesto of New Arab Liberals clearly calls for subjecting “the prevailing sacred values, traditions, legislations and moral values to in-depth scrutiny” (133).

The report also mentions Kuwaiti Professor Ahmad Al Baghdadi, who says outright that he would prefer his son to study music rather than the Qur’an (134). And Irshad Manji is included as one of a list of intellectuals who “appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries” (165). Manji is the author of The Trouble With Islam Today. A second-generation Muslim immigrant to Canada, she rejects Islam altogether in favor of secular values. She openly approves of homosexuality in her book and scorns the Qur’an for giving men twice as much as women in inheritance (Manji).

If the RAND study suggests such people as models for moderate Muslims, then most Muslims living in the world, including those who differ with Manji but, like her, reside in the West, are by the same standard extremists and terrorists just because they believe that homosexuality should be prohibited and that men and women are equal in value but different in nature and roles. Thus such reports could easily harm the image of Western Muslims by presenting a distorted belief in a way that qualifies them all as potential terrorists. The list includes a number of Muslim-born writers who are no less controversial than Manji, including Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, and Ayyan Hirsi Ali. The authors of the report seem to be unaware that you cannot label a group of intellectuals as “moderate Muslims” when all of them clearly deny that they respect Islam as a source of morals and a frame of reference in values and legislation .

This kind of fallacious analysis is also manifest in reports by a number of other American think tanks that serve as an advisory board to American policymakers. In addition to the latest RAND initiative, a number of other reports and studies were published by American think tanks that did not bother to hide their bias against Islam and Muslims: The Muslim World After 9/11 (RAND), Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq (American Enterprise Institute), and ISLAM: America’s Trojan Horse (Cst News), among others.

Muslim Organizations and Education

Cultural and social reception serve as a foundation for future political activism

Another visitor to the Live Dialogue asked Al-Shinqiti about the evaluation of the performance of Muslim organizations in North America after 9/11. He inquired as to what these organizations could offer other than political activism and empowerment for North American Muslims. The second part of the question was quite interesting and opened a wider window. At the same time it touched on an issue that has long been left without serious deliberation: the role of Muslim media and social scientists in North America.

The sheikh answered the first part of the question by asserting that “Muslim organizations are much more active today than before September 11. They have become more aware of the cultural prejudices and negative perceptions that the media is producing every day to demonize them.”

The sheikh went on to clarify that it was time political activism stepped down from the top of the lists of Muslim communities in America and Canada. He then advocated more attention and energy to pour into “academic institutions, media, and interfaith dialogue.”

Politics implies some level of confrontation. But before becoming involved in such confrontation, efforts must be exhausted in building the power of conviction

Al-Shinqiti’s view is very progressive. The obsession of Islamic movements both inside and outside the Muslim world with state and political activities has overshadowed many of the issues that were more original on their intellectual platform such as education, spiritual development, charity, empowerment, entrenchment of intellectual and cultural foundations.

Al-Shinqiti then brilliantly justified his position against too much politics by citing the life of Prophet Muhammad, who first established firm cultural and social foundations for 13 years in Makkah before he finally established a state. Al-Shinqiti asserted, “Cultural and social reception serve as a foundation for future political activism.” The reasoning is that politics implies some level of confrontation, but “before becoming involved in such confrontation, efforts must be exhausted in building the power of conviction.” If Muslim NGOs in North America thought deeply along these lines and tried to focus on implementing cultural and education foundations, they would be much more successful in reaching out to their compatriots in North America, both non-Muslims and emerging third-generation Muslims.

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The next question touched to some degree on the same issue. A user complained that Muslims in the United States have built many organizations, schools, and institutions but nevertheless failed to have enough people qualified to carry through the message of Islam in a North American environment and engender change in an intelligent and capable manner. They have also spent huge sums on their grand occasions and annual conferences, yet the dearth in young qualified promoters of Islamic values persists. Al-Shinqiti initially agreed with the viewer’s pessimistic remark. He said, “I attended a number of conferences, and comparing the cost incurred in holding these conferences to the results accrued from them, I felt that the results were below my expectations.”

However, he suggested a clear vision to break out of this deadlock. Al-Shinqiti, who holds strong convictions about the indispensable pivotal role of academic institutions in causing the progress and success of Muslims in the West and the Muslim world, explained that the problem is Muslim organizations in North America do not invest enough in education or what he called “training and empowering talented people especially in the area of humanities.” As practical advice, he suggested that both Muslim organizations and Muslim countries help establish Islamic studies chairs in universities. They should also help to establish Muslim think tanks, English-language media, and so on. The idea is simple: In the words of Al-Shinqiti, this is better than “always complaining about the negative portrayal and stereotypes of Muslims by the American media and academicians.”

The next user asked Al-Shinqiti what he should study: medicine, economics, or journalism. Al-Shinqiti’s answer was decisive and revealing: “We are, al-hamdu lillah, blessed with many Muslim physicians and economists, but we are in a desperate need for Muslim journalists and political scientists.”

If Campus Watch has its way, then the limits placed on academic speech by political interests in parts of the Arab world, Latin America, and Africa will have pervaded the American academy.

The issue of education that was stressed in Al-Shinqiti’s answer ties into the previous point: the policies affecting the Muslim presence in North America. First of all a rise in educational levels will raise the awareness of Muslim Americans and Canadians, which will make them vigilant against all formal and informal attempts that may compromise their civil rights. Second, the Muslim minority will be able to enter the debate and lobbying process with a much higher intellectual preparation to deconstruct the legal and cultural mechanisms that limit their contribution to the North American cultural and political scene. In fact it is quite farsighted of Al-Shinqiti to stress this issue.

Several enlightened Muslim and non-Muslim writers have lately pointed to this important issue, which has been largely neglected so far. In his latest book, Anti-Arab Racism in the USA: Where It Comes From and What It Means for Politics Today, Steven Salaita, assistant professor of English literature at the University of Wisconsin, devoted an entire chapter to the issue of the assault by neoconservative scholars on universities with strong, viable departments of Middle East studies and Islamic studies. The assault is very fierce. Daniel Pipes, a scholar of Islamic history and a former US government appointee to the US Institute for Peace (a governmental think tank), established the Campus Watch project in 2002 to monitor anti-Israeli activity and opinions on American university campuses. Pipes is not the only example; there is a long list of scholars and columnists in the USA and Canada today who thrive on providing academic justification for the neoconservative policies toward the Middle East, which include a wide range of sub-policies that target Muslim Westerners as well. Such scholars include prominent names such as Bernard Lewis, the colossal figure in Islamic studies and one of the oldest living classical orientalists today, as well as Martin Kramer, Professor of Near East Studies at Harvard University.

In his book, Steven Salaita examines Pipes and his anti-Arab racism:

Let us look at Pipes for a moment to see how anti-Arab racism functions. Although corporate media usually conceptualize Pipes as an important and responsible intellectual, he has sustained his career by creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia. In 2002, Pipes launched Campus Watch, a group that monitors so called anti-Israeli activity on college campuses. Campus Watch tracks and critiques the speech and classroom pedagogy of academics through profiles of the offending professors. Scholars on the right, center and left have criticized the enterprise, judging it a serious threat not only to free speech and civil liberties, but also to classroom conduct and the ability of students to learn in an environment free of political tension. If Campus Watch has its way, then the limits placed on academic speech by political interests in parts of the Arab world, Latin America, and Africa will have pervaded the American academy, something inimical to the stated mission of American education. (102)

As shown above, Al-Shinqiti urged the establishment of Islamic studies chairs in universities as well as launching of Muslim think tanks. Perhaps the distinguished scholar had in mind the increasing efforts by neoconservative figures to defund Middle East studies. Again, one of the main areas of struggle by Daniel Pipes is to influence American congressmen to eliminate the Title VI[1] funding of Middle East studies academic programs (Salaita, 103).

Muslim Media Channel

In Great Britain and the United States, Muslims are only 3 percent and 2.7 percent of the population, respectively. Yet British Muslims have successfully launched their own TV channel, called Islam Channel, which unites all — or most — British Muslims under one representative media body. In the USA such a step is yet to come. There are several media outlets, including bought air time on non-Muslim TV and Bridges TV. Yet US Muslim media outlets reflect division rather than cohesion. Al-Shinqiti was asked whether the eight million Muslims in America will at any time in the near future be able to set up their own media channel, where they can speak freely and explain to their fellow citizens who they are and what they stand for.

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In his answer, Al-Shinqiti did not give a time frame but rather emphasized the need for such a channel. Pointing to the two types of power, the soft and the hard, he noted that the soft power of persuasion has been neglected for too long by contemporary Muslims. The sheikh noted that this condition caused Muslims to be exploited by others without being able to answer back. He also stressed that the only solution to this problem is through “a powerful, credible media funded by Muslims.” Moreover, he said that “Western Muslims are the most qualified for running this endeavor because of their familiarity with Western societies and languages and their high level of education.”

Prospects for the Future

The last question that will be dealt with here is related to the future. A user asked the sheikh to offer an honest analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing Islam in North America, a peek into the future and what it carries for Muslims in that region, which has high potential for both many advances and many restrictions in light of the tragic events of 9/11. In response, Al-Shinqiti spoke briefly on the history of the Islamic presence in North America as he noted that the permanent presence of Muslims in the West is still a new phenomenon. History tells us that “with long presence and positive interaction, people start to willingly accept Islam. This was the case with many countries in Africa and Asia, when Muslims migrated and settled there.”

Al-Shinqiti then moved to answer the main concern of the questioner: prospects and challenges. He started discussing the challenges by highlighting a crucial psychological rift between Muslims and non-Muslims: the old legacy of enmity. He probably meant by that the legacy of the Crusades between 1099 and 1291. Even though this was a confrontation between Europe and Islam with nothing to do with North America, which was then inhabited by Native American tribes, North America is akin to Europe culturally and religiously. It thus inevitably shares some of this vile legacy albeit in an indirect manner.

If the medieval times did not embroil the Muslim world and North America in conflict, the present definitely does. In modern times, the world witnessed economic and political expansion by the USA, especially after World War II. Many pundits believe that since the end of the Cold War in 1989, expansion quickly moved to hegemony of the global scene under the cloak of globalization. As far as Muslims and Arabs are concerned, the image of the United States is tarnished for two main reasons: (1) the US support of some dictatorships in the Islamic region, and (2) its unconditional, relentless support of Israel. Both reasons have nothing to do with old history but are rather related to the recent past and contemporary politics. The sheikh explained that this state of affairs creates a conflict of perceptions regardless of the changing realities.

The future of Islam in America undoubtedly has a great impact on the future of Islam in the entire West.

The second challenge Al-Shinqiti discussed was that of Muslims’ lack of familiarity with the West (especially the culture and way of thinking). This factor is highly crucial because Muslims have to decode the Western worldview to avoid confrontation with it and at the same time to defend against possible assaults from some elements that belong to it. He referred to some trends among Muslim intellectuals that encourage studying the West as an object of careful analysis in order to understand it very well and turn the tide of Orientalism. The leader of this intellectual trend is Professor Hassan Hanafi, author of An Introduction to Occidentalism.

Al-Shinqiti also spoke about what he called the “open space” in Western societies as an opportunity because, under this system, citizenship is based on geography rather than faith. Here he meant the legal principle of equality in Western societies, which grants Muslim Westerners exactly the same rights as the rest of the citizens. However, this statement ignores that this equality was strongly undermined by the 9/11 incidents and their aftermath, more so in the USA than in Canada. It also ignores that while it is true that Western Muslims remained equal citizens in the West until 9/11, this equality was in most cases only de jure and was violated de facto. However, it is only fair to say that this would be the case with regard to minorities in any contemporary society, whether Eastern or Western. He also pointed to the already vibrant network of “convenient mass communications” that enables Muslims to convey their opinions.

Conclusion

Overall, the Live Dialogue was truly stimulating. The topic under discussion was very timely and relevant, and so were the side issues accompanying it. The future of Islam and Muslims in North America has been at the front of political discussion for a while. The issue actually dates back to the end of the Cold War when the secretary general of NATO, among several Western statesmen, said that Islam was the “new threat.” This was long before the 9/11 tragedy.

The future of Islam in America undoubtedly has a great impact on the future of Islam in the entire West. The United States has the largest Muslim population in a single Western country; in addition, it is where the attacks of 9/11 and their aftermath took place. Several side issues were also raised, such as the role of reports by think tanks (especially neoconservative ones) in exacerbating conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, and the need for a Muslim media channel.Al-Shinqiti was very attentive and analytical in his answers within the space and time limits of the Live Dialogue.

However, he could have touched on more challenges and opportunities while giving an analytical peek at the future. He overlooked the battle on the legal front as a challenge (see the field reports by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim NGOs in North America). Muslims fought and continue fighting against many unfair acts, such as the Patriot act, on the grounds of unconstitutionality. Also not discussed were the challenge of racism and anti-Muslim media propaganda, among others. Perhaps Al-Shinqiti was trying to remain focused on the bright side.

One theme of his is very valuable and worth stressing over and over until Muslims inside and outside the Muslim world realize its value: Education. This particular theme is where opportunity and challenge meet. Can Muslims of North America live up to both?

Sources:

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Clarke, Richard. Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror. New York: Free Press, 2004.

Hanafi, Hassan. Muqadimah Fi ‘ilm Al Istighrab (An Introduction to Occidentalism). 2nd ed. Beirut: Al-Mu’assassah Al-Gami’yyah, 2000.

Islamic Institute. “Ashcroft Supported Bush Position Against Secret Evidence Act.” 12 Jan. 2001. American Muslim Voice. Accessed 26 Apr. 2007.

Manji, Irshad. The Trouble With Islam Today. London: Mainstream Publishing, 2005.

Pitts, Chip. “A Constitutional Disaster.” The Nation 21 Oct. 2005, online ed. Accessed 2 May 2007.

Rabasa, Angel et al. The Rand Report on Building Moderate Muslim Networks. Santa Monica, California: The Rand Center for Middle East Public Policy, 2007.

Salaita, Steven. Anti-Arab Racism in the USA : Where It Comes from and What It Means for Politics Today. London : Pluto Press, 2006.

Al-Shinqiti, Muhammad Al-Mukhtar. Live Dialogue. IslamOnline. 18 Apr. 2007.

What is Secret Evidence.” American Muslim Voice. Accessed 26 Apr. 2007.


Mohamed Ansary is the editor of the Contemporary Issues page of Living Shari`ah, IslamOnline.net. He holds a B.A in political science from the American University in cairo and is currently preparing for an M.A from McGill University, Canada. You could reach him at mohamed.elansary@iolteam.com.

[1]Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the Federal law that protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of their race, color, or national origin in all programs that receive Federal Financial Assistance.

Muslim student group kicks off week of awareness-raising events

The Muslim Student Association is hosting a weeklong event to increase students’ awareness about Islam. The week is in response to a chain e-mail vilifying Islam that Student Government President Nick Phelps forwarded to an SG listserv in January.

The week, themed “Unity through Understanding,” is designed to give students the opportunity to ask questions about Islam and debunk stereotypes, said Fatimah Shalash, vice president of MSA.

“People are afraid of the unknown or of what is different,” said Shalash, a family and consumer science senior. “Combined with anti-Muslim images and news found in the media, that creates feelings of fear or apprehension towards Muslims.”

Shalash said the e-mail was a “step backward from the direction that the university was heading,” but many positive changes have resulted.

“With the e-mail came overwhelming support and a new vigor to tackle the cultural divide that has climbed to the top of student leadership,” she said.

MSA was established in 1971 and works to give the campus community a better understanding of Islam by lecturing in classrooms, promoting discussions about Islam, participating in volunteer activities and hosting other events, Shalash said.

Shalash said Islam should no longer be viewed as a foreign concept, but as an important contributor to society.

“It is important for students to know that Muslims make up a part of the social fabric that is UK, and that our beliefs should bring us closer, not distance us,” Shalash said.

Islam Awareness Week begins today with “Does God Exist?: Arguments from Both Sides,” sponsored by Student Activities Board in conjunction with Campus Crusade for Christ and the American Atheists Association. The event is in the Student Center Small Ballroom at 7:30 p.m.

MSA and SG will host a charity reception tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Department of Landscape Architecture’s E.S. Good Barn on University Drive. Free food and refreshments will be served, and donations will be collected to help those affected by Cyclone Sidr, which struck Bangladesh in 2007.

On Wednesday, students will discuss their perspectives on Jesus and religion at “Unity: Jesus in Islam and Christianity” at 7:30 p.m. in the Lexmark Room of the Main Building.

“Islam 101” will be held Thursday at noon in the Student Center to help students learn basic facts about Islam.

Thursday is also “Bring Your Friend to a MSA Meeting” day to show students what the association is about and how to get involved. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in room 211 of the Student Center.

E-mail rsweeney@kykernel.com

McCain Backtracks From ‘No New Taxes’ Pledge, Says He Is Not A ‘Read My Lips’ Candidate

Two weeks ago, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took the “Read My Lips” plunge, proclaiming that as president he would not raise taxes for any reason. “No new taxes,” he declared twice in an interview with ABC News. Watch it:

The Wall Street Journal reports today that McCain is now distancing himself from the pledge not to raise taxes, saying his statement was not a firm commitment:

Q: On ABC’s “This Week” on Feb. 17, in response to a question, “Are you a ‘read my lips’ candidate, no new taxes?” you replied, “No new taxes.” Did you mean that literally?

McCAIN: I’m not making a “read my lips” statement in that I will not raise taxes. But I’m not saying I can envision a scenario where I would, OK? But I’m not making it a centerpiece in my campaign.

In the WSJ interview, McCain appeared clueless about his own Social Security plan. In 2000, he supported President Bush’s efforts to divert part of Social Security payroll taxes to fund private accounts. Asked about his current position, McCain said, “I’m totally in favor of personal savings accounts.”

On his campaign website, however, McCain offers a different plan. He proposes “supplementing” the system with personally managed accounts, which, as the Wall Street Journal observed, would not be financed by diverting Social Security payroll taxes:

mccainss.gif

McCain denied there was a change in his position. “I’ll correct any policy paper that I’ve put out that might intimate that personal savings accounts are not a very important factor.” His website, however, has still not been changed to reflect his support for private accounts.

In light of McCain’s now-famous declaration that “the issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” conservative pundit David Frum said McCain needs to brush up his economic bona fides or will risk looking more clueless in “what may soon become a recession year.”

Rupture between man and bee?

Category: Culture
Posted: Friday, February 29, 2008

Enter the blind beekeeper, He wants to
learn the higher metaphysics of
bees, to touch with the
knowledge of his heart the
geometric perfection of the bee, its
almost symbolically ritualistic sets of
patterns, building patterns, dance
patterns, whose results are
deep medicine for man, prophetically
ordained, and
the continuation of the species.

-Daniel Abd al-Hayy Moore, “The Blind Bee-Keeper.”

with an introduction from
Zakariya Wright

U.S. bee population faces catastrophic decline

Muslims seem to have a special affinity with bees. The honorable Prophet Muhammad was said to be fond of honey, and prohibited his followers from killing bees,[1] a command later repeated by Abu Bakr al-Sadiq to Yazid Ibn Abi Sufian, then a general in the Muslim army: “Do not burn bees and do not scatter them.” [2] Ali Ibn Abi Talib was sometimes called “commander of the bees” because he was on occasion followed by a swarm of bees, once causing a group of people to embrace Islam on witnessing the miracle.[3] The renowned Turkish poet Yunus Emre (d. 1320) claimed that bees hummed blessings on the Prophet when entering their hive; and others wrote that it was such praise that gave honey its sweetness.[4]

The scientific community, drawing on the testimony of beekeepers over recent years, has produced some alarming statistics concerning a sharp decline in bee populations in Europe and America. The article included below summarizes this data, and attempts to explain why some 80 percent of bees have been dying in U.S. colonies. The death of large numbers of bees is alarming because they are said to be a “keystone species”: the health of the bee population is indicative of the health of human population.

Given the love for bees in the Prophetic tradition, how are Muslims to read this apparent rupture between man and bee? Even if we might shy from presuming to know the Divine plan in this particular event, it is useful to remind ourselves of God’s words concerning the bee:

And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: ‘Take your habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect. Then eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of your Lord made easy for you.’ There comes forth from their bellies a drink of varying color wherein is healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think. (Qur’an, 16:68-69)

God reminds us here that bees are endowed with a specific mercy for mankind. Indeed, the honey produced by bees has certain medicinal values attested to in Prophetic narrations.[5] Some say the “drink” proceeding from bees may actually refer to “Bee Venom” used in apitherapy (or Bee Venom Therapy) used in the treatment of asthma, physical injuries and cirrhosis, among other things.[6] The Divine mercy implicit in these verses of the Qur’an extends beyond the medicinal value of bees. Qur’anic exegeses explain that it is only the command and guidance of God which inspires bees to live among humans in the first place, or to find their way back to such places after leaving them. According to the famous Tafsir al-Jalalayn, God must command bees to live in the habitations humans erect for them, otherwise they “would not resort to these places.” Ibn Kathir’s exegesis also explains that their “follow[ing] the ways of your Lord” refers to bees’ ability to find their way back to their hives after searching for pollen miles away.

As the article below details, great numbers of bees are leaving their hives, possibly becoming disorientated outside and finding themselves unable to return. If we accept that the movements of bees, as with all creation, are guided by Divine care, how do we explain this catastrophe? Given that bees living among us is a clear mercy, the withdrawal of this mercy must be our own fault; as the Qur’an says,

“Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves” (13:11).

We hope such details outlined above underscore the significance of threat to the bee population. This article resonates with Qur’anic logic in explaining the disappearance of bees by indicting human greed and our deplorable treatment of this valuable species.

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Give Bees a Chance

by Pat Thomas

The Ecologist, July, 2007; reprinted in Ode Magazine, Jan-Feb, 2008.

Reports of catastrophic declines in the bee population have scientists buzzing. Is it mites? GM crops? Mobile phones? Habitat loss? Here’s what the plight of the humble bee says about our own relationship to nature.

Forget everything you thought you knew about the sedate and rarefied world of beekeeping. Bees are big business. In 2006, a Cornell University study found that in the U.S., bees annually pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops—mostly fruit, vegetables and nuts. In the UK, they are responsible for the pollination of $420 million worth of food crops.

Bees’ role in the natural order of our world is crucial, and their importance as pollinators, both for agriculture and for wild plants, can’t be underestimated. Nor can it simply be quantified in monetary terms. Bees are what is known as a “keystone species,” ensuring the continued reproduction and survival not only of plants but of other organisms that depend on those plants for survival. Once a keystone species disappears, other species begin to disappear too—thus Albert Einstein’s apocalyptic and, these days, oft-quoted view: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

This vision may be coming true. Our bees are dying—in record numbers. The recent disappearance of catastrophic numbers of bees from their colonies, in the U.S. especially but also in Europe, has been dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The most striking symptom of CCD is that the bees appear to die away from the hive. One day they fly away and never return. Those few that are left behind, say scientists, are ill indeed. Virtually every known bee virus can be found in their bodies; some are carrying five or six viruses, as well as several fungal infections, at the same time. […]

With CCD, average colony losses have been reported at 70 to 80 percent. Theories abound as to why the bees are dying, but so far none explains it, or provides a clue about how to remedy the situation.

Perhaps our search for the cause is too narrow. If we want to understand why bees are dying off, then a first step would be to examine the myriad ways we have exploited them and corrupted their natural behavior for our own convenience.

As the number of crops we grow increases, the need for pollinators grows too, and these days beekeepers can make more money renting out bees to pollinate food crops than they have ever been able to make selling homemade honey. Migratory pollination is a multibillion-dollar industry. But transporting bees huge distances in giant 18-wheel juggernauts with the hives stacked on top of each other also stresses the insects out. Higher levels of stress in turn make them more vulnerable to disease. Studies show CCD is most prevalent in transported bees, with losses of up to 90 percent within the colonies.

By transporting bees across great distances, beekeepers are also transporting mites and any other parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi to places they might not otherwise have spread.

Industrial-sized colonies may have greater market value, but they bring the same problems to bees that industrial poultry farmers have visited on their chickens and turkeys: the easy spread of disease.

In addition, the boxy structure of modern commercial hives—which makes it easier to squeeze several colonies into a small space—and the configuration of bee yards have largely been designed for the convenience of human beekeepers and not necessarily with the health and natural biology of the bees in mind.

The natural diet of a bee is pollen and honey—a mixture rich in enzymes, antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients. But to beef their bees up for the heavy work of pollination, commercial beekeepers feed them on the bee equivalent of protein bars and Lucozade—a mixture of artificial supplements, protein and glucose/fructose syrup. These sticky mixtures are freighted around the country in tankers to wherever the colonies happen to be. This is expensive and occasionally it proves cheaper to kill off whole colonies rather than feed them over the winter. […]

In a normal colony, the queen can live and produce eggs for several years. In commercial beekeeping, breeding better queens is a profitable business and queens are regularly killed and replaced—as often as every six months. The queen may be subjected to the stress of having her wings clipped to identify her and also to limit “swarming”—when bees leave one colony with a new queen and form another elsewhere (the natural way for bees to ensure their survival and genetic diversity).

To ensure that colonies express the genetic qualities that beekeepers value, however, some virgin queens are artificially inseminated with sperm from crushed males. This practice, while not universal, is gaining in popularity as it becomes more difficult for honeybees to survive naturally. […]

Pesticides used on food crops and other crops can affect bees, even at sub-lethal doses. Exposure can produce a kind of pesticide intoxication that makes the bees appear “drunk” and disrupts navigation, feeding behavior, memory, learning and egg-laying.

Fipronil, for example, impairs the olfactory memory process, which honeybees use to find pollen and nectar. Spinosad can make bumblebees slower foragers even at low doses. The insecticide imidacloprid can cause bees to forget where their hives are located. The French government banned imidacloprid in 1999 due to its toxicity to bees, the effects of which French beekeepers labeled “mad bee disease.” […]

As stories of CCD become more prominent, other theories emerge. Mobile phones and overhead power lines have been blamed for interfering with bees’ homing radar and preventing them from getting back to their colonies. It is not clear how sound this theory is. Better known is the fact that high background levels of electromagnetic radiation can suppress immune response and disrupt the nervous system in a variety of living creatures. It is unlikely that bees are the exception to the rule.

Having been co-opted into industrial farming, commercial bees have become just another type of farm machinery. But the machinery is breaking down. Ironically, the giant farms that destroy natural habitats and use large quantities of pesticides are the ones that need bees the most, and are at the same time important contributors to their decline.

Bees are sensitive, social creatures that have achieved a high degree of harmony and productivity in their colonies. Their social structure is both dynamic and ordered. They are intelligent, and become more so with age. They learn and remember; they can use visual orientation to estimate the distance from a nectar source while in flight. They construct colonies that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They also suffer from occupational diseases, just like we do.

The single coherent thread that connects all the various theories of CCD is a massive failure of these creatures’ immune systems. It is entirely possible that CCD is the inevitable result of an overwhelming, ongoing assault on their immune systems.

Humans have had a symbolic relationship with bees since the insects were domesticated 7,000 years ago, but it is clearly not a relationship of equals. We have long exploited bees for our own ends, even when that wasn’t necessary. Because of our close proximity to bees and our deep reliance on them, any problems in our society—in the way we think and act, in our broader relationship with nature—will also affect theirs. The collapse of the bee population isn’t a scientific riddle to be solved with more and better science and technology. In fact, it could be a frightening vision of our own future.

To view the full article, see http://www.odemagazine.com/doc/50/give-bees-a-chance

—————————————————————————————————

1. According to the Sunan of Abu Dawud, the Prophet said, “I prohibit killing four creatures in this earth: ants, bees, hoopoes and sparrow-hawks.”

2. See Nora Belfedal, “Honey: the Antibiotic of the Future, part 3: Healing ‘Bee Venom.’” Islamonline, November 15, 2001.

3. See Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad is His Messenger: the Veneration of the Prophet is Islamic Piety (UNC Press, 1985), p. 285.

4. Ibid., p. 102-104. The latter idea is attributed to the twentieth-century Indian poet Nabibakhsh Baloch.

5. See, for example, the section on medicine in Sahih Bukhari. Among other things, the Prophet Muhammad prescribed honey for abdominal trouble.

6. See Belfedal, “Healing Bee Venom.”

93% World’s Muslims Moderates (Gallup Poll): Didn’t Believe Us First Time ‘Round?

In Case You Didn’t Believe Us the First Time ‘Round

I dunno about you, but I’m getting bored of all these “revelations” that the majority of Muslims condemn terrorism, are not “radical,” believe in democracy (or at least, don’t mind it), and all that jazz.

Anyway, in case you don’t believe Muslims telling you that most Muslims don’t condone terrorism, aren’t radical, believe in democracy, etc. maybe you’ll believe the Gallup poll telling you that most Muslims don’t condone terrorism, aren’t radical, believe in democracy, etc.

The Great Gallup informs us that:

  • 93% of the Muslim population is “moderate.”
  • Only 7% of the Muslim population is “radical.”
  • Being a religious Muslim doesn’t make you a radical.
  • “Radicals” are politically extreme, not necessarily religiously extreme; and give political reasons, not religious reasons, for condoning terrorism.
  • “Radicals” are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful about the future than are “moderates”; they also support democracy/ believe in democracy more than the “moderates” do, but are just cynical about getting it themselves.
  • Muslims don’t want secularism or theocracy, but a democracy based on religious values.
  • Muslims don’t hate the West, they just don’t want Western ways imposed on them.

The most amazing thing is that it took them 6 years of interviewing approximately 95% of the world’s Muslim population to discover what we’ve been saying all along. It’s nice to see that people pay attention to us… NOT!

Anyway, these are basically the main points that the poll reveals, “challenging Western stereotypes of Islam and Muslims.” Personally, I consider the poll to be as useful as Captain Obvious, but whatever. If people choose to listen to another survey instead of what we’ve been saying all along, then fine. Whatever will help people get over their misconceptions about us is worth having around, I guess.

Since I’m supposed to pretend that I’m a political analyst for now, it’s time I get all politically analytical… so here goes.

The first three points aren’t really worth commenting on, since we’ve only been saying it since forever; although as I said, since nobody seems to ever believe us, maybe they’ll believe the Gallup poll. I am, however, quite interested in the second half of the findings – they may not be new to me, but they probably are for the majority of the non-Muslim audience.

If nothing else, the survey creates a new definition for “radicalism,” distinctly different from the one we’ve gotten used to hearing from the media. Rather than defining radicalism or extremism as something linked to religiosity (e.g. a practicing/ conservative Muslim is usually eyed askance and suspected of being ‘radical’), Gallup points out that it’s far more political. Religious reasons are rarely, if ever, given when support for terrorism or terrorist acts are being explained; political views, particularly resentment against America and its disastrous foreign affairs legacy, are what most people use to justify or understand (if not totally approve) the motivations of the terrorists.

The main character in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (by Mohsin Hamed) comes to mind as I think about it – Changez is a young Pakistani man, Muslim in name alone, who goes to New York and lives it up… yet about 9/11, he says: “…I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased… I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees…”

Perhaps not a real-life example of what Gallup is trying to tell the West, but an example nonetheless.

The survey shatters another stereotype: say “radical Muslim” and most people immediately start thinking of a swarthy, bearded, robed guy with his face scarily contorted as he screams out “Death to America!” or (to those less gender-discriminatory) of a niqaabi waving a burning flag. Yet the poll tells us that “radical Muslims” are more likely to be highly educated and have better jobs – basically, professionals!

This different look at what radicalism is and who it affects should lead us to thinking about why it exists in the first place. Instead of settling on simplistic and grossly incorrect explanations such as “they hate democracy” and “they hate our freedom,” those who are truly concerned about the socio-political climate that exists today must realize that there are many shades of grey and there’s no black-and-white when it comes to who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s not about some comic-book-like secret organization suddenly deciding to take over the world, as Islamophobes are constantly claiming is the goal of “Islamists”; rather it’s a much more complex situation with deep roots in the past and constantly experiencing “plot twists” as the political situation becomes more extreme.

Furthermore, it also goes to show that “radical Muslims” do not hate democracy or freedoms, as Bush has (in)famously claimed: it’s quite the opposite! Most Muslims, not just the so-called radicals, agree with the concept of democracy… however, what we do disagree with is the idea that America seems to have, that whatever they do and say is what everybody else should be doing also. In fact, if America truly believed in freedom, then it would give the rest of us the freedom to believe in a society different from America’s; in a way of life different from America’s; in a political system different from America’s.

In recent debates about Shari’ah in the West, many non-Muslims argue that they don’t want Shari’ah imposed on them – now, is it so difficult for them to realize that Muslims don’t want Western ways imposed on us? We’re not telling non-Muslim women to start wearing hijaab, so why do they insist on telling us to stop wearing hijaab (perhaps not in so many words, but that’s the basic message)? It’s attitudes like this, on a societal level and a political level, which so many Muslims disagree with – yet the West must realize that just because we disagree with you, doesn’t mean we hate you and are out to destroy you.

In conclusion, I hope that this poll’s findings cause people to think more deeply about the issue of Muslims and “radicalism,” and to explore the many nuances of the socio-political issues related to Muslims and Islam in the West. Hopefully, this will foster tolerance and understanding of different points of view, which are sorely needed in a time when people are quick to label things as black-and-white and refuse to agree to disagree.

Islamophobia in Action: ABC Catches it Live!

abc-muslim.JPGFor those who stubbornly insist that Islamophobia is nothing but a figment of the Muslim imagination (read this: Islamophobia Part-1: It Exists), ABC News has pretty much proved you wrong. Islamophobia is very real and does indeed exist in this very country.

On the Tuesday night (2/26/08), ABC aired its primetime series entitled What Would You Do? (video below sleeve), in which a controversial scenario is staged with hidden cameras to see how the public would react to such a situation. Last Tuesday’s episode included a scenario in a popular bakery with one actor playing a female Muslim customer wearing hijab and another playing a bigoted store clerk who refused to serve her based on her being Muslim and insulted her with all kinds of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab discriminatory remarks.

The reaction of the public was disturbing to say the least, but unfortunately, not surprising. According to ABC News, the majority of bystanders witnessed the incident yet chose not to get involved, largely due to approval of the clerk’s actions. A minority did speak up… some in defense of the Muslim customer (expressing their disgust to the clerk and threatening to boycott the bakery). While others, unfortunately, actually spoke up in support of the bigoted clerk’s actions. The ABC News article states:

Even though people seemed to have strong opinions on either side, more than half of the bystanders did or said absolutely nothing. This is a familiar reaction for many Muslims such as Javed, [a Muslim-American woman]. “I was shocked because when these things happen to me in real life … I never see what happens after I walk out of that store,” she said. “I would try to justify … that they probably didn’t hear it … when I watched it, I realized, no, they hear it and they see it and they’re okay with it.”

The broadcast seems to point out that, while there are some good hearted Americans out there who did stand up for the rights of the Muslim customer, the majority of the public are still quite indoctrinated with Islamophobia. So much so that they are OK with a store refusing to serve a customer based on religion albeit illegal according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to ABC News, one customer said afterwards, “I really think that a person who owns his own business should be able to say who they sell to.”

Perhaps this isn’t the most accurate sampling of the American people, as this experiment occurred in Waco, Texas, where one might expect to find perhaps a bit more racism and Islamophobia, but in any case, the outcome paints quite a depressing picture. So, to all the Islamophobes out there reading this… guess what, ABC News just proved your existence, so stop living in denial! Accept that Islamophobia DOES exist and it is destroying the moral fibers of the very society we live in!

I urge all our Muslim readers to write to ABC News and thank them for running this special on Islamophobia. You can comment on the website of the article, or better yet, write to ABC News directly thanking them for this service.

Also, our MM staff writer, Sr. Ruth, has written on her chron.com blog about her perspective on this special, so be sure to check that out as well.

Muslims praying in London (archive)

Some 93% of those polled called themselves “moderate” Muslims

The largest survey to date of Muslims worldwide suggests the vast majority want Western democracy and freedoms, but do not want them to be imposed. The poll by Gallup of more than 50,000 Muslims in 35 nations found most wanted the West to instead focus on changing its negative view of Muslims and Islam.

The huge survey began following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

The overwhelming majority of those asked condemned them and subsequent attacks, citing religious reasons.

The poll, which claims to represent the views of 90% the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, is to be published next month as part of a book entitled Who Speaks For Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think.

New policies

According to the book, the survey of the world’s Muslim community was commissioned by Gallup’s chairman, Jim Clifton, shortly after US President George W Bush asked in a 2001 speech: “Why do they hate us?”

The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims – but they’re more cynical about whether they’ll ever get it
John Esposito
Author, Who Speaks For Islam?

Mr Bush wondered why radical Islamist militant groups such as al-Qaeda hated democratically elected governments, as well as “our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assembly and disagree with each other”.

But one of the book’s authors, John Esposito, says the survey’s results suggest Muslims – ironically even many of the 7% classing themselves as “radical” – in fact admire the West for its democracy and freedoms. However, they do not want such things imposed on them.

“Muslims want self-determination, but not an American-imposed and defined democracy. They don’t want secularism or theocracy,” said the professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington.

“What the majority wants is democracy with religious values.”

George Bush addresses Congress (20 September 2001)
The poll sought to answer a question asked by George Bush

Mr Esposito said “radical” Muslims believed in democracy even more than many of the moderate Muslims questioned.

“The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims,” he added.

“But they’re more cynical about whether they’ll ever get it.”

The research also indicates most Muslims want guarantees of freedom of speech and would not want religious leaders to have a role in drafting constitutions.

Those polled also said the most important thing the West could do to improve relations with Muslim societies was to change its negative views towards Muslims and respect Islam.

The authors said the conflict between Islam and the West was not inevitable, but needed decision makers to listen and consider new policies if the extremists on both sides were not to gain ground.

‘Indiana Jones’ trailer a hit — everywhere

Story Highlights

  • “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” due May 22
  • Trailer earning wows in theaters — and, importantly for studio, online
  • Last “Indiana Jones” film was in 1989, pre-Web

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — Times sure have changed in the 19 years since Harrison Ford last donned the signature fedora of thrill-seeking archaeologist Indiana Jones. The viral spread of the trailer for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is proof of that.

Indiana Jones

Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf star in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

The trailer for the May 22 release has drawn highly enthusiastic responses in theaters. But it may have had its biggest impact online, on a younger audience that may not think of Ford, 65, as equal to today’s spry action heroes.

After premiering February 14 on “Good Morning America,” Lucasfilm and Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures sent the trailer to the Web, plus movie theaters and TV stations around the world. Paramount estimates the trailer was seen more than 200 million times worldwide in the first week alone.

Harry Knowles, who runs the movie fan site AintItCool.com (his official title is Head Geek), says he first saw a bootleg version of the trailer online, then the official version online, and then saw it twice in theaters. Video Watch the whip-cracking trailer here »

There were cheers in the theater when the familiar theme song kicked in, Knowles said, and comments on his Web site have been positive. “People generally really, really loved the trailer,” he said. “Some people think it’s a little more cartoonish-looking compared to the prior (films), with him whipping the lights and swinging on them and stuff. But at the same time, it seems that everyone is extremely excited that there’s a new ‘Indiana Jones’ film. The excitement for it is palpable. It’s much more aggressively anticipated than anything else that’s coming out right now.”

“The trailer caught on like wildfire, around the world, in all mediums,” said Gerry Rich, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing, who’s targeting moviegoers “from 8 to 80. The response has been sensational and it shows what technology can do when you have material that is so appealing to audiences.”

Older audiences certainly remember Indy, but that’s not the prime ticket-buying demographic. Thus the aggressive online campaign, which included what Paramount says is a record 4.1 million views on the Yahoo movie site in the first week and 2.6 million on the official IndianaJones.com site, the most ever for the studio.

“It looks to be THE highly anticipated movie of the summer,” said Mark Mazrimas, marketing manager for independent theater chain Classic Cinemas. However, “this hasn’t been on the screen for so long, (the challenge) is capturing the youth.”

Iran’s president says foreigners must leave Iraq

Story Highlights

  • Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wraps up historic two-day trip to Iraq
  • Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian president to visit Iraq
  • Ahmadinejad tries to build new ties with Iraq, says U.S. is spreading terrorism
  • Ahmadinejad demands ‘major powers’ leave Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, heading home from Iraq after a two-day visit, again touted the closer relations between Iraq and Iran and reiterated his criticism of the United States.

art.iraq.ap.jpg

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

“No one likes them,” said Ahmadinejad, who departed Iraq after a news conference on Monday.

“We believe that the forces which crossed oceans and thousands of kilometers to come to this region, should leave this region and hand over the affairs to the people’s and government of this region,” Ahmadinejad said.

Ahmadinejad’s visit follows trips to Iran last year by top officials of Iraq’s Shiite-led government, who have been fostering a closer relationship with predominantly Shiite Iran since the Saddam Hussein regime was toppled.

His visit was greeted warmly by Iraq’s Shiite Muslim leadership, who have had longtime links with Iran that predate the overthrow of Hussein. At the same time, many Sunni Muslims in Iraq dislike the Iranian regime and have demonstrated against his visit.

In a press briefing on Monday, Ahmadinejad noted that both countries have signed memorandums of understanding, such as economic and border agreements, and will sign many more.

The Iranian president made digs at the United States. He contrasted his trip, which was advertised in advance, with the “stealth” visits of others, a reference to visits by U.S. officials, who don’t broadcast their visits to Iraq for security reasons.

His official welcome on Sunday and his meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was at the presidential house outside of the heavily-fortified Green Zone where most high-level events in Baghdad are held. He met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other officials as well.

And his early Monday visit to the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in Kadhimiya, the Shiite district in northwestern Baghdad, served to underscore his point.

He repeated his criticism of the United States that Iran was backing violence in Iraq. The United States has accused Iran of supporting some insurgent groups in Iraq, including supplying explosively-formed penetrators, the deadliest and most sophisticated type of roadside bomb.

“We do not care about their statements and remarks because they make statements based on erroneous information. We cannot count on what they say,” Ahmadinejad said.

“We can offer them a friendly recommendation. We think that leveling allegations against others will not resolve the problem Americans are facing in the region.”

He said the foreign forces that came to Iraq from afar “shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of regional countries” and “should allow the region’s countries to run their own affairs.”

Ahmadinejad’s visit — which comes during a drop of violence in Iraq — coincided with a visit to Iraq by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who walked openly on the streets through two cities.

SMEARED O HAS ‘CROSS’ WORDS

DECLARES AT RALLY: ‘I PRAY TO JESUS’ (NOT ALLAH)

By GEOFF EARLE, Post Correspondent

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Barack Obama stumps yesterday in Westerville, Ohio. He earlier tried to quash rumors about his faith, which have been...
PASSION PLAY: Barack Obama stumps yesterday in Westerville, Ohio. He earlier tried to quash rumors about his faith, which have been…

March 3, 2008 — TOLEDO, Ohio – Barack Obama yesterday lashed out at political enemies who are spreading false rumors that he’s a closet Muslim as he proclaimed, “I pray to Jesus every night.”

“I am a devout Christian,” he told voters in this key state.

“I pray to Jesus every night and try to go to church as much as I can.”

In some of his strongest comments to date, Obama, in response to a question about his religious beliefs, said he wanted to put an end to “so much confusion [that has been] deliberately perpetrated.”

Obama’s bid to end the rumor-mongering came just days after his campaign accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of launching a deliberate smear after the Drudge Report Web site reported that one of her staffers had forwarded photos of him wearing a turban on a 2006 trip to Africa.

In addition, numerous e-mails have circulated for months saying falsely that Obama is a Muslim.

Obama’s late father, who was from Kenya, was a Christian who converted to Islam, though he was not religious. Obama himself was never a Muslim and has been a member of the same Christian church for the last 20 years.

On a recent visit to Cleveland, The Post conducted an informal survey of about a dozen people and found that most didn’t know Obama’s faith – and many incorrectly assumed he was a Muslim.

Some Ohio Democrats even thought he had sworn the oath of office while holding the Koran – another false Internet rumor.

Trying to reassure voters yesterday, Obama told the audience in rural Nelsonville that they would feel right at home in his church in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Clinton and Obama were battling for an edge in Ohio – which holds its primary tomorrow – as polls showed her with a lead.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer put Clinton up by 4 points, 47 to 43 percent, while the Columbus Dispatch poll gave her a 16-point lead, 56 to 40 percent.

Both campaigned in Westerville, Ohio, but missed each other by several hours.

Clinton continued to hammer Obama’s experience, saying he, while eloquent in making promises, was short on results.

“For some people, this election is about how you feel, it’s about speeches,” Clinton told a rally of about 2,000 people. “Well, that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about solutions.”

Clinton held rallies in Youngstown, Akron and Cleveland, and had another event on tap for today in Toledo before she flies for a nationwide town-hall meeting in Texas.

Obama hit back hard at Clinton, blasting a TV ad she released that called her the candidate better able to respond to a national crisis in the wee hours.

“What precise foreign-policy experience is she claiming that makes her qualified to answer that telephone call at 3 a.m. in the morning?” Obama said at a town-hall meeting.

“She didn’t give diplomacy a chance. And to this day, she won’t even admit that her vote was a mistake – or even that it was a vote for war,” he said.

“When it came time to make the most important foreign-policy decision of our generation, the decision to invade Iraq, Sen. Clinton got it wrong.”

geoff.earle@nypost.com

AMD Ships 45-Nano Shanghai, Deneb Chips

The latest server and PC chips also contain faster transistors and wire insulation made to absorb less energy.

Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) on Tuesday said samples of its first 45-nanometer processors have been shipped to computer manufacturers, and the company is on track to start production in the second half of the year.AMD plans to initially release two quad-core processors, one server chip codenamed Shanghai; and the other a desktop processor codenamed Deneb. AMD’s current products are built on an older 65-nm architecture.The latest manufacturing process shrinks the size of transistors, so hundreds of millions more can be placed on chips. As a result the processors are more powerful and power efficient. The key technology enhancement in Shanghai and Deneb is related to a technique called immersion lithography, which enables AMD to make the drawing of the pattern on the chip a one-step process, instead of the two-step process of more conventional methods, Bill En, manager of logic technology development at AMD, said. The pattern on chips maps the location of transistors, wiring and other components.The use of immersion lithography is 40% more efficient than using conventional lithography, lowering the cost of making the chip. As a result, AMD said it can pass along some of the savings to customers. “That’s the expectation,” En said. “If it costs us less to make it, then it will be better for our customers.”The latest chips also contain faster transistors and wire insulation made with a new material called ultra-low-K dielectrics. The material absorbs less energy, so the chips are cooler and are more power efficient, En said. The overall reduction in power consumption is 15%, compared to comparable 65-nm chips.By shrinking processors through the 45-nm process, AMD is creating more room on the die, which can be used in the future for adding a graphics processor unit. Such CPU/GPU integration at the silicon level is what AMD has planned for a new class of x86 processing, called the accelerated processing unit, or APU. Codenamed Fusion, the first APU is set to ship in the second half of next year.Nevertheless, AMD is far behind rival Intel in shipping 45-nm chips. Intel started selling such chips for servers and desktops late last year, and released its first 45-nm notebook processors in January.Along with the chip announcement, AMD launched an integrated graphics chipset the 780G, which replaces the previous 690G. The latter was developed by ATI Technologies, which AMD acquired in 2006, but released under AMD.

The latest chipset, which is embedded in a motherboard, supports Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)’s latest graphics technology DirectX 10, which is only in Windows Vista. In addition, 780G uses the ATI-developed unified video decoder for boosting processing speeds to handle high-definition movies, eliminating the need for a separate graphics card, Adam Kozak, product manager for AMD chipsets, said.

The chipset is substantially more powerful than the older 690G with 205 million transistors versus 72 million. “It’s a huge leap forward,” Kozak said. In addition, the latest chipset uses less than a watt of power while in idle mode, which is 40% less than the previous chipset.

Other advancements include technology called “hybrid graphics,” which means the chipset can work in conjunction with a separate graphics card, boosting the performance of the latter 60%, according to Kozak. Older integrated chipsets would automatically shutdown when a separate card was added to the motherboard.

The 780G has been paired with the new SB700, an input/output chip that handles SATA and USB connections to a variety of devices. The SB700 can support up to six SATA connectors and 14 USB connectors, including a dozen that support the USB 2.0 standard.

Finally, the 780G supports DisplayPort, a digital display interface standard that defines a state-of-the-art digital audio/video interconnect intended to be used between a computer and its display monitor or a home-theater system. Manufacturers are not expected to start shipping computers supporting DisplayPort until the second half of the year, Kozak said.

The 780G is made to run with AMD’s Phenom quad-core and triple-core chips and its Athlon dual-core processors. Motherboards with the embedded technology are official scheduled to go on sale March 4, but a few Internet retailers offered them over the weekend. “There are sufficient quantities (of the chipset) available,” Kozak said. “This is not a paper launch. There’s actual product in the channel.” Pricing for the motherboards are expected to range from $80 to $120.

Egypt arrests 43 Muslim Brotherhood members ahead of municipal elections

Egyptian police on Monday arrested 43 members of the country’s largest opposition movement, the banned Muslim Brotherhood, police officials and the group’s Web site said Monday.

The dawn arrests in six provinces were the latest in an ongoing crackdown on the Brotherhood and came five days after 25 other members were arrested in sweeps elsewhere in Egypt, the Brotherhood’s official web site said.

A police official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, confirmed Monday’s arrests.

The new arrests were believed by the movement to be targeting potential candidates or people related to the upcoming local council elections set for April 8.

Intel Aims ‘Atom’ Processor At Mobile Internet Devices

The new processors were previously code-named Silverthorne and Diamondville.



SAN FRANCISCO – Intel Corp has picked “Atom” as the new brand name for its latest microprocessor, the world’s largest semiconductor company said.The Intel (NSDQ: INTC) Atom processor is the name for the new family of low-power processors, the brains of digital devices, that will power mobile Internet devices and ultra low-cost and small notebook and desktop personal computers.Intel sees a big market for the Internet-connected devices that can fit in one’s pocket and for what it is calling the netbook, a low-cost PC costing around $250.The Intel Atom processor is based on a new microarchitecture designed for small devices and low power consumption, Intel said. The chip is less than 25 square millimeters, and 11 of the chip’s dies — the slivers of silicon with 47 million transistors each — would fit in an area the size of a U.S. penny.The new chips, previously code-named Silverthorne and Diamondville, are made on Intel’s 45 nanometer chipmaking technology and slated for introduction toward the middle of this year.”Diamondville and Silverthorne both represent an attempt by Intel to sell chips profitably for a whole lot less,” said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at market research firm Insight 64. “This is the first new processor design coming out of Intel since the Pentium Pro in 1995.”Atom joins other Intel brands including Core, Core 2, Celeron, and Xeon, names for other processors the Santa Clara, California-based company makes and sells.

Intel also announced the Intel Centrino Atom processor technology brand aimed specifically at mobile Internet devices. It was formerly code-named Menlow.

Centrino Atom includes the Intel Atom processor, a low power companion chip with integrated graphics, a wireless radio, as well as thinner and lighter designs.

Sean Maloney, chief sales and marketing officer for Intel, said that Atom is “a fundamental new shift in design, small yet powerful enough to enable a big Internet experience on these new devices. We believe it will unleash new innovation across the industry.”

Intel also said that Atom has potential for new sales dollars in consumer electronic devices and other gadgets, and said it was well positioned for growth in all of those segments with Atom’s low-power architecture as a foundation. (Editing by Carol Bishopric)

By: Duncan Martell

Bungie Steps In to Restore Ruined 360

By Susan Arendt EmailMarch 04, 2008 | 10:22:37 AMCategories: Console Games
360custom The tale of a unique 360 that was inadvertently ruined by Microsoft’s Xbox repair service touched many hearts here at Game|Life, and also, apparently, at Bungie.The saga began when a Halo-loving 360 owner sent his signature- and custom cartoon-bedecked 360 off to Microsoft to repairs, after the unit suffered the Red Ring of Death. The repair service wiped the console’s case clean, removing the custom ink and ruining the 360’s one-of-a-kind nature.Members of the team at Halo developer Bungie heard the tale of woe and immediately got cracking on a plan to right the wrong. So far Bungie is keeping quiet on just what they have in store for Nathaniel, the Halo fan who suffered the loss, but community manager Brian Jarrad is confident that “when it’s all said and done, justice will prevail.”
The gaming community, and the Halo community in particular,is often seen to be populated by bitter, misanthropic jerks who delight in the suffering of others, but Jarrad says the response to Nathaniel’s situation has been quite supportive.”Our team and the community as a whole is rallying to help fix this unfortunate situation. It’s been awesome to see such an outpouring of sympathy and support from our community. We can’t replace the exact item that was lost but, but we should come very close,” says Jarrad.Given Team Bungie’s resources, and their track record for rewarding members of the Halo community, I wouldn’t expect them to simply ship a Halo 3 limited edition 360 off to Nathaniel and call it a day. Something very special is, no doubt, going to come out of all of this.Of course, those bitter, misanthropic jerks I was talking about earlier will likely say that was Nathaniel’s plan all along.

Bungie to Rectify Fan’s Wiped 360 [Next Gen]

Getting ready for Vista SP1

I’ve now carried out well over a hundred Vista to Vista Service Pack 1 upgrades. While many of the upgrades I carried out were experimental and done on test rigs which I considered to be sacrificial, quite a few have been key production machines which I cannot afford to have out of service for any extended period of time.

Getting ready for Vista SP1With the public release of Vista SP1 drawing nearer, it’s a good time to share with you the Vista to Vista SP1 action plan that I developed that has meant that I have (so far … ) enjoyed a 100% success rate. By following this action plan I’ve kept downtime to a minimum and suffered no data loss at all.

Vista SP1 upgrade action plan

  • Get the SP1 bits
    Microsoft will make the SP1 upgrade bits available in a number of ways, but I’ve approached SP1 in the same way as I’ve approached every other service pack upgrade. That means that I don’t bother with automatic updating and instead I download the relevant standalone update packs instead. Sure, the download itself is larger but once you have it in you can check that it’s OK by verifying the MD5 hash (the MD5 hashes are as follows: 32-bit (434MB): d597866e93bc8f80ecca234c4e9ce5a2 and 64-bit (726MB): 983308426e8ee7649f53b41f4e5c42d4).
    Once you have the updates, burn them onto CDs, pop them onto a USB flash drive or just send them over the network to each machine you are planning to update.
    Large organizations can push SP1 using WDS, SMS 2003 or SCCM 2007. Also, SYSPREP and the Windows Automation Installation Kit can be used to create SP1 images.
  • Get the SP1 deployment guide
    Bedtime reading!
  • Plan for the worst
    Any major update has the capability to hose your system. It’s far better to plan for the worst and not need to put those plans into action than it is to expect everything to go fine and experience one of those “oh darn” moments.
    At the very minimum make sure that you have all data backed up safely. If you can add a complete set of drivers to this backup, so much the better. However, I much prefer to have a full image of the system at hand because this makes restoration a snap. Lately I’ve been using Acronis True Image Echo Workstation for my backups. This product is fast (I can backup or restore a 20GB image in just over 5 minutes), it’s also far more powerful and flexible than Windows backup. Having an up to date image of a system avoids all those reinstallation hassles such as activation, having to find drivers and reinstalling updates.
  • Get rid of SP1 beta/RC
    Getting ready for Vista SP1If you have a beta or release candidate version of SP1 installed, uninstall it before installing the final version.
    To do this go into Control Panel and find Programs and Features and select View installed updates. Under Windows find and uninstall Service Pack for Microsoft Windows (KB936330).
  • Check for incompatible applications
    Got anything that’s on this list installed on your system? If you do then it is best that you update these applications before installing SP1.
  • Don’t expect SP1 to heal a sick system
    SP1 is a collection of patches and system updates. It’s not a paramedic, priest or voodoo witch doctor and it’s not going to heal a sick system. If your system isn’t working right, get to the bottom of that problem before applying SP1. Putting a service pack over a system that’s got problems will, at best, do nothing, but it’s also got the scope for giving you numerous headaches and a weekend project that you didn’t plan on.
  • Plan on each update taking about 90 minutes
    I always plan on each RTM to SP1 update taking about a 90 minutes. Usually they are over in about an hour but it’s better to give yourself some extra time in case things don’t go according to plan.
  • SP1 and power outages don’t mix
    That Do not turn off your computer message displayed while SP1 is being installed is there for a reason. One thing that I’ve found through experimenting with SP1 is that a power outage in mid-install can be deadly to your Windows install and leave your system in a state where it won’t boot into Windows and where you can’t restart the SP1 update. Make sure that notebooks are connected to the mains outlet and that desktop PCs are connected to a UPS where possible.
  • You don’t need to stand around watching the whole upgrade
    After you’ve been through the initial wizard at the beginning of the install process the SP1 upgrade doesn’t need any user input (remember to check Automatically restart the computer). In fact, given how little feedback the update process provides, and the number of reboots it needs, it might be better to walk away and leave the system to it.
    Once the update process has finished I like to log into the PC, let it finish loading everything up and restart it again. Things might seem noticeably slower for the first few reboots but this should go away.
  • SP1 has been installing for two or three hours! What should I do?
    The average SP1 upgrade takes about an hour but it might take longer. As long as you’re seeing the hard disk light flash then chances are that it’s still installing. However, if things seem to have ground to a halt then the system may have hung. You may have to reboot the system and see what happens.
  • If things go badly wrong …
    If things go badly wrong during the install process then the quickest way I’ve found to bring a system back to life is to recover it from an image.
    If you don’t have an image or backup (shame on you!) then all is not lost – dig out your Windows Vista DVD, boot up off it and go through the repair process (click on Repair your computer from the Install now screen).
  • Once you’re done – reimage the system!
    Once you’ve upgraded to SP1, avoid having to do it again by taking an image of the system.
  • SP1 is causing me problems!
    If SP1 is causing you problem (your system was great before you installed SP1 but now it’s not), you can uninstall it just like most other updates. Go into Control Panel and find Programs and Features and select View installed updates. Under Windows find and uninstall Service Pack for Microsoft Windows (KB936330).
  • I don’t want SP1!
    If you don’t want SP1 coming down the tubes to your PC once it’s made available, then it’s time to take action now. Download and run the Windows Service Pack Blocker Tool. This will immunize your system against SP1 for 12 months. After that you’ll either have to disable automatic updates and sift through them manually or take your medicine.
  • Can I slipsteam SP1?
    Officially, no. However, if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands you can try this unofficial method. TechNet and MSDN subscribers don’t need to bother doing this as integrated ISOs are available.

Wishing you a happy install!

Photo shows avalanche on Mars

Story Highlights

  • Robotic spacecraft circling Mars captures image during routine tracking
  • Photo shows at least four avalanches of fine ice and dust
  • It is rare to catch a natural event in action on surface of Mars

PASADENA, California (AP) — A robotic spacecraft circling Mars has snapped the first image of a series of active avalanches near the planet’s north pole, scientists said Monday.

art.mars.ap.jpg

A false color image from NASA taken February 19, 2008, shows an active avalanche on Mars.

The image, taken last month, reveals at least four avalanches of fine ice and dust breaking off from a steep cliff and settling on the slope below. The cascade kicked up massive debris clouds, with some measuring more than 590 feet across.

The landslides were spied by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter during a routine tracking of seasonal changes. The probe arrived at the planet in 2006.

It is rare for scientists to catch a natural event in action on the surface of Mars. Most of the landscape that has been recorded so far has not changed much in millions of years.

The avalanches occurred near the north pole and broke part of a 2,300-foot cliff.

“We were checking for springtime changes in the carbon-dioxide frost covering a dune field and finding the avalanches was completely serendipitous,” Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Candice Hansen said in a statement.

Scientists were unsure what set off the avalanches and whether they occur frequently or only during the spring. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Angry Barack Obama bombarded by media

Tuesday, March 4th 2008, 4:00 AM

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – An exasperated Barack Obama scurried away Monday from the toughest news conference of his campaign, telling reporters who kept shouting questions that he’d spent enough time on the grill.

“Come on! I just answered, like, eight questions,” Obama, looking surprised, told shouting reporters as he fled the room. “We’re running late.”

The Clinton campaign has long complained that Obama gets soft treatment from the press corps. But Monday’s exchange was no pillow fight.

The first question was about a private talk an Obama economic adviser had with a Canadian official – reportedly saying that the harshness of Obama’s criticisms of the North American Free Trade Agreement was for political show.

Last week, Obama denied an initial media report about the conversation. But after a Canadian government memo surfaced, he acknowledged yesterday there was a conversation.

“When I gave you that information, that was the information that I had at the time,” he said. His camp still disputes the memo’s account of the discussion.

The questioning then turned to Obama’s links to ex-fund-raiser Tony Rezko, who went on trial in Chicago Monday on corruption charges. A reporter asserted Obama hadn’t fully answered journalists’ questions on Rezko.

Obama insisted he had – during a past news conference with Chicago media. But another persisted that questions remain unanswered, such as ones about fund-raisers Rezko held for him.

Obama replied, “These requests, I think, can just go on forever. …” He said the “pertinent” information had been provided.

When Obama declared the press conference over, one reporter yelled that he was dodging questions just minutes after claiming he wasn’t.

msaul@nydailynews.com

Moses was high on drugs: Israeli researcher

High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week. Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

“As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics,” Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the “burning bush,” suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

“The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a clasic phenomenon,” he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to “see music.”

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest in 1991. “I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations,” Shanon said.

He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.

Muath, 19, a Sunni, joined an insurgent group in Baghdad last spring to help support his family. (Johan Spanner for The New York Times)

Young Iraqis are losing their faith in religion

BAGHDAD: After almost five years of war, many young Iraqis, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara Sami, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.”

Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.”

The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religiousness among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology. While religious extremists are admired by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied.

Fingers caught smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its owner. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold.

It is far from clear whether the shift means a wholesale turn away from religion. A tremendous piety still predominates in the private lives of young Iraqis, and religious leaders, despite the increased skepticism, still wield tremendous power. Measuring religiousness furthermore, is a tricky business in Iraq, where access to cities and towns that are far from Baghdad is limited.

But a shift seems to be registering, at least anecdotally, in the choices some young Iraqis are making. Professors reported difficulty recruiting graduate students for religion classes. Attendance at weekly prayers appears to be down, even in areas where the violence has largely subsided, according to worshipers and imams in Baghdad and Falluja. In two visits to the weekly prayer session in Baghdad of the followers of Moktada al-Sadr last autumn, vastly smaller crowds attended than had in 2004 or 2005.

Such patterns, if lasting, could lead to a weakening of the political power of religious leaders in Iraq. In a nod to those changing tastes, political parties are scrubbing overt references to religion.

“In the beginning, they gave their eyes and minds to the clerics, they trusted them,” said Abu Mahmoud, a moderate Sunni cleric in Baghdad, who now works deprogramming religious extremists in American detention. “It’s painful to admit, but it’s changed. People have lost too much. They say to the clerics and the parties: You cost us this.”

“When they behead someone, they say ‘Allah Akbar,’ they read Koranic verse,” said a moderate Shiite sheik from Baghdad. “The young people, they think that is Islam. So Islam is a failure, not only in the students’ minds, but also in the community.”

A professor at Baghdad University’s School of Law, who would identify herself only as Bushra, said of her students: “They have changed their views about religion. They started to hate religious men. They make jokes about them because they feel disgusted by them.”

That was not always the case. Saddam Hussein encouraged religion in Iraqi society in his later years, building Sunni mosques and injecting more religion into the public school curriculum, but always made sure it served his authoritarian needs. Shiites, considered to be an alternate political force and a threat to Hussein’s power, were kept under close watch. Young Shiites who worshiped were seen as political subversives and risked attracting the attention of the police.

For that reason, the American invasion was sweetest to the Shiites, who for the first time were able to worship freely. They soon became a potent political force, as religious political leaders appealed to their shared and painful past and their respect for the Shiite religious hierarchy.

“After 2003, you couldn’t put your foot into the husseiniya, it was so crowded with worshipers,” said Sayeed Sabah, a Shiite religious leader from Baghdad, referring to a Shiite place of prayer.

Religion had moved abruptly into the Shiite public space, but often in ways that made educated, religious Iraqis uncomfortable. Militias were offering Koran courses. Titles came cheaply. In Abu Mahmoud’s neighborhood, a butcher with no knowledge of Islam became the leader of a mosque.

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