Muslim = Arab + Iran?

Somehow, a lot of people and the media think most Muslims are Arabs. It pisses me off. Can’t the media look up some data? The latest is a CNN story about the case of Sultana Freeman, a Muslim woman who has brought a lawsuit against Florida for revoking her driver’s license with a fully-veiled photo. (Niqabi Paralegal has detailed coverage of this issue.) Here are the Muslim countries whose laws about photo IDs are mentioned by CNN.

Country Population Photos on IDs
Saudi Arabia 23,513,330 Women aren’t allowed to drive.
Iran 66,622,704 Women wear a traditional chador, which does not cover the face.
Egypt 70,712,345 Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
United Arab Emirates 2,445,989 Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures.
Oman 2,713,462 Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures.
Kuwait 2,111,561 Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures.
Qatar 793,341 Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures.
Bahrain 656,397 Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures.
Jordan 5,307,470 Women can drive if their faces are covered but do not cover their face in I.D. pictures.

(Population figures from CIA World Fact Book)

All of these are Arab countries except Iran. In addition, except for Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the others are really small countries. Compare this list to the list of the countries with the largest Muslim populations.

Publish your Credit card

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Try it!

(Via Geek Grrl)

Tolerance, Perfection and Progress

My previous post on tolerance in Islamic societies of the past linked to most of the debate in the blogosphere. A number of other bloggers have written about Disaffected Muslim’s criticisms, e.g., Shia Pundit, Elham and TheBit. This post is not to criticize Disaffected Muslim since a number of her criticisms are valid but their way of expression makes it difficult for me to take them seriously (I belong to the Volokh school of polite criticism). I mostly agree with TheBit’s post.

Regarding the comparison of the Muslim treatment of minorities to that of Christendom, I think everyone agrees that the Muslim world was better.

Buscaraons wrote:

In general, I agree with him [Ideofact] that Jews had an awful time during the medieval period in Europe. However, I still disagree with him of just how relatively more tolerent medieval Islamic society was in comparision to European society. I’m not denying that Islamic society was ahead of the Europeans; it was.

Ideofact has this to say:

In this discussion of tolerance, I am particularly focusing on the rights granted to minorities by the majority culture. In medieval Europe, that means discussing the relations of the Latin Christians to deviant Christian sects and to non-Christians, a group that, except for a few brief moments, was strictly limited to Jews. In the Islamic realm, there were multiple groups — Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, African animists, and Buddhists. Some groups fared better than others — animists were regarded as polytheists, and given a choice of conversion or death. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians were monotheists. The relations with Hindus were more complex; sometimes they were regarded as polytheists and brutally suppressed, at other times they fell under the “Sabian” exception, and were tolerated. While none of these groups enjoyed the same rights as Muslims, all of them fared better than Jews in Medieval Europe.

Disaffected Muslim says something similar in a roundabout way:

Eventually this record must be at least acknowledged by Muslims and condemned, instead of extolling how Muslims were exceedingly tolerant, respectful, and kind to non-Muslims in a fantastically rosy version of Islamic history, where the lands of Islam were not only more tolerant than Europe during the Middle Ages and the Inquisition, but the status of non-Muslims in Muslim lands compares very well with the status of religious minorities in modern states today, where those of all religions or none have the same rights and are equal citizens!

I want to focus on one specific claim by Disaffected Muslim that I mostly agree with:

I’m not talking about whether it was/was not better than Christian Europe at that time, I’m talking about the fact that plenty of Muslims see this as a fair, reasonable example of “tolerance” today, in this day and age!

I think she’s on to a valid criticism here. Quite a few Muslims, especially modern puritan ones (Wahabi is a misleading term due to a number of reasons which I’ll go into later), consider Islam to be a perfect religion not in the sense of a living, growing part of society but more like fixed in time and space to the early Islamic era in Arabia. They think that everything, like human rights, political systems, minority rights, judicial system, etc. were completely defined 1400 years ago and that was the ideal which we can’t improve on. For example, on the unrelated topic of feminism, Bushra had this to say:

Why has the Islamic world taken it [feminism] up? I don’t understand. As a Muslim woman, I believe I am to be envied. I have rights and priveledges that women through the ages could never have thought of. As early as 14 Centuries ago Muslim women were given rights of voting. The right of inheritance. The right to hold money and dispense with it as they pleased. The right of divorce, the right of choice in maritial partner. They were to be treated with dignity and respect. And while Islam says men and women are euqal, it also says that equal does not mean the same thing as identical. Everyone has their roles and duties and characteristics.

Most Muslim scholars from the middle ages would be really surprised to hear that. It’s also wrong in the sense that it freezes society in time. If Islam is universal, it has to cater to people everywhere for all time. So there has to be progress in society. Most scholars and philosophers in the heyday of Muslim world recognized it, but the puritans today don’t.

The concept of tolerance, human rights, women’s rights, etc. has changed quite a lot in the last millenium (mostly for the better). For example, slavery today is considered evil and barbaric, but it was a normal thing in the 7th century and even in the 18th. Islam allowed slavery to continue at that time, but does anyone believe that we should have slavery today? (Note: I have a post or two in the pipeline on slavery).

Similarly, the rights allowed to minorities varied over time and place in the Muslim world, but were in general not comparable to what we like to see today.

Arab Americans in Michigan

An interesting post by Patrick Belton on Oxblog.

Quite simply, I fell in love with Dearborn. The largest concentration of Arabs or Muslims in the United States, it’s a study in contrasts – in between miles upon miles of depopulated Detroit blocks now filled only with commercialized sex – Dearborn appears, a small thriving colony of Middle Eastern hustle, entrepreneurship, and colour. Where everything around them is bleak, they’ve created blocks upon blocks of Lebanese restaurants, social service organizations, Arabic newspapers, small businesses, the practices of Lebanese- and British-educated physicians, lawyers, and accountants. Its colour, its bustlingness, its creativity and entrepreneurship are hard to overstate.

While it’s a commonplace to describe the Arab and Muslim communities in the U.S. as monolithic, this actually couldn’t be farther from the case. Rifts are common and frequent, and continually being patched over or exploited by different would-be leaders seeking a panethnic or more particularist base. The factional difference between Sunni and Shi’a, however, is the smallest – at the Islamic Center of America, the nation’s largest mosque, a Qom-trained Shi’a cleric named Imam Sayed Qazwini leads Friday services to a congregation that’s principally Lebanese and Sunni; Shi’a cleric Imam Elahi preaaches to a congregation which is also principally Sunni, and so on. The real rifts are ethnic.

Go read the whole thing.

Volokh Conspiracy

The Volokh Conspiracy has moved to http://volokh.com. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

Movies

Since our camping plans were cancelled due to rain, all we really did was watch some movies.

Bend it like Beckham is a typical comedy showing the clash between immigrants and their children. It is about a Sikh family in Britain. Their daughter wants to play soccer which they consider a bad thing for girls. The movie poster shows the main character Jess wearing a sari and holding soccer shoes. Well, Sikhs are basically from Punjab (now divided between India and Pakistan with most of the Sikhs in India) and saris really aren’t their traditional wear. In fact, Jess wears a sari only once in the movie, at her sister’s wedding. Another nitpick is that the characters spoke a lot of Urdu/Hindi in the movie. Wrong! Sikhs speak Punjabi (a language I can understand a little when spoken).

It was a fun movie to watch since some of the immigrant idiosyncracies were very familiar. However, being a comedy, it needed a happy ending. In real life, it could have gone either way.

Matrix Reloaded was good, almost as good as the original but not quite. The reason is simple: The Matrix was a pioneer. The action sequences in the sequel seemed more from a Hong Kong action movie than of the caliber of the original. I liked the plot twist near the end though.

This movie does not really end. You’ll have to watch The Matrix Revolutions for that. Obviously, Matrix is not the Lord of the Rings, so the division into 3 parts does not work as well.

To watch X2, Amber needed to see X-men first. So we rented it on sunday. It was good to watch it again. I had liked it originally, but was skeptical that Amber would like it. However, I was wrong; she liked it very much. We didn’t have time to watch X2, so it will have to wait another 2 weeks.

Impeach them all

If it were up to Unqualified Offerings, 7 out of our last 11 post-WWII Presidents would have been impeached. The only ones to finish their terms: Truman, Eisenhower, Ford and Carter. JFK is iffy.

Jim, please don’t make impeachment a joke.