Happy New Year

Happy new year, everyone.

Hope next year is better than this one.

See you in 2005.

Nerd Quotient

I am nerdier than 84% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Via Asma Mirza.

Tsunami Tragedy

The death of more than 50,000 people due to the tsunamis caused by a 9.0 earthquake is beyond words. All I can say is that we should all help as much as we can in the relief efforts. Here are some charities:

The Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog has links to more relief efforts.

The death toll has been increasing and disease is a real danger as well.

One of the world’s largest relief efforts is under way to help the millions of victims of the Asia quake, which killed more than 50,000 people.

International disaster assessment teams have fanned out to the affected countries and local agencies are distributing emergency aid.

The UN says it faces an unprecedented challenge in co-ordinating distribution of aid to some 10 nations at one time.

A huge undersea quake triggered sea surges, leaving millions homeless.

The disaster zone is now threatened with outbreaks of disease, which the UN health agency has warned could double the death toll.

Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand were among the worst hit by Sunday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which sent huge waves from Malaysia to Africa.

[…] “The first wave of destruction has caused tens of thousands of deaths, but the second wave of misery is really caused now by the water and sanitation systems.”

In Geneva, World Health Organisation (WHO) expert David Nabarro told reporters “there is certainly a chance that we could have as many dying from communicable diseases as from the tsunami”.

In Sri Lanka alone, more than one million people are displaced and aid workers are under pressure to ensure they have clean water and sanitation to prevent an outbreak of disease.

There have been deaths as far away as Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia.

Award Season

The holiday season has brought the weblog award season upon us as well. First came the 2004 Weblog Awards by Wizbang. I somehow got nominated for the Best Asian Blog contest there and ended up with 0.9% of the vote.

The voting for the Asia Blog Awards 2004 is taking place nowadays. This blog was voted the Best Pakistan Blog in these awards last year. This year, I recommend Chapati Mystery as the best Pakistan blog.

The Koufax awards, which are for the left half (politically, that is) of the blogosphere, closed nominations a couple of days ago and will begin voting soon.

And now, City of Brass and Alt.Muslim have started the Annual Brass Crescent Awards for the Islamic Blogosphere.

The Brass Crescent Awards are named for the Story of the City of Brass in the Thousand and One Nights. Today, the Islamsphere is forging a new synthesis of Islam and modernity, and is the intellectual heir to the traditions of philosophy and learning that was once the hallmark of Islamic civilization – a heritage scarcely recognizable today in the Islamic world after a century’s ravages of colonialism, tyrants, and religious fundamentalism. We believe that Islam transcends history, and we are forging history anew for tomorrow’s Islam. These awards are a means to honor ourselves and celebrate our nascent community, and promote its growth.

The Awards are loosely modeled after the successful Koufax Awards and consist of two phases:

First, bloggers and blog-readers are asked to submit nominations for each of the categories listed below. Both Muslims and non-Muslims may participate in the nominations process. Nominations can be done in the official nomination thread at AltMuslim or City of Brass, or via private email. Self-nominations are encouraged! (AltMuslim.com and City of Brass may not be nominated for any category)

After the nominations period has concluded, we will go through and post a list of nominees, along with brief descriptions of the blog and why they were nominated. This will serve as a snapshot that we hope will serve as a benchmark to track the growth of the Islamsphere over time. Please help us with this by leaving descriptive comments along with the nominations!

Second, based on the number of nominations each blog receives for each category, we will select 8-10 finalists for each category. Voting will then take place for winner in each category. The blog with second-highest vote count in each category will be granted honorable mention status.

The nomination thread is here:
First Annual Brass Crescent Nominations

Remember that Islamsphere does not mean “Muslims Only.”

In defining the Islamsphere, we are not relying solely on adherence to the faith, but an affinity for parts of the diverse cultural fabric that Islam embraces and is embraced by worldwide.

So go and nominate your favorite blogs and posts here.

I’ll update this post later with my nominations as it is late now and I am tired.

UPDATE: Here are some of my nominations:

More to follow.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Civil Liberties, Republicans and TV News

There is an interesting public opinion survey out from Cornell.

In a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should — in some way — curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans, according to a new survey released today (Dec. 17) by Cornell University.

[…] The Media and Society Research Group, in Cornell’s Department of Communication, commissioned the poll, which was supervised by the Survey Research Institute, in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The results were based on 715 completed telephone interviews of respondents across the United States, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

The survey also examined the relation of religiosity to perceptions of Islam and Islamic countries among Christian respondents. Sixty-five percent of self-described highly religious people queried said they view Islam as encouraging violence more than other religions do; in comparison, 42 percent of the respondents who said they were not highly religious saw Islam as encouraging violence. In addition, highly religious respondents also were more likely to describe Islamic countries as violent (64 percent), fanatical (61 percent) and dangerous (64 percent). Fewer of the respondents who said they were not highly religious described Islamic countries as violent (49 percent), fanatical (46 percent) and dangerous (44 percent). But 80 percent of all respondents said they see Islamic countries as being oppressive toward women.

[…] “Our results highlight the need for continued dialogue about issues of civil liberties in time of war,” says James Shanahan, Cornell associate professor of communication and a principal investigator in the study. Shanahan and Erik Nisbet, senior research associate with the ILR Survey Research Institute, commissioned the study, and Ron Ostman, professor of communication, and his students administered it.

And what do you know, Erik Nisbet has a weblog.

The results are reported in two parts:

I’ll focus on the issue of civil liberties for American Muslims.

Statement Agree
All Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts with the federal government. 27%
Mosques should be closely monitored and surveilled by U.S. law enforcement agencies. 26%
U.S. government agencies should profile citizens as potential threats based on being Muslim or having Middle Eastern heritage. 22%
Muslim civic and volunteer organizations should be infiltrated by undercover law enforcement agents to keep watch on their activities and fundraising. 29%
Agreed with none of the statements 48%
Agreed with one statement 15%
Agreed with two or more statements 29%

While all of these statements are problematic with respect to civil liberties, the monitoring of mosques and organizations could be useful if limited to specific suspicious cases (as Volokh Conspiracy point out.) Profiling might wrong but is an American institution with a history older than the United States itself. The most egregious one then is the requirement for registering every Muslim in the US. Please note that the statement addresses US citizens specifically.

So who are these 27% who want me to register with the government? According to the survey, 40% of the Republicans, 17% of independents and 24% of Democrats want to require Muslim registration. Does this support depend on how personally afraid of terrorism the survey respondents are? Yes, 24% of those with “low fear” and 37% of those with “high fear” want this restriction. Oh and religion seems to make one more of an asshole in this case. Support for registration increases from 15% (low level of religiosity) to 30% (moderate level) to 42% (high level). However, I am not sure how much of this is an artifact of party identity with Republicans being more likely to be more religious and asshole-ish.

Another interesting thing in the survey is the effect of TV news on the opinions of people. Those with low or moderate levels of religiosity don’t show much variation in their support of Muslim registration based on how much attention they give to the TV news. However, highly religious people are affected a lot by the idiot box with only 26% of those who pay low attention to TV news supporting registration as compared to 56% of those whose attention to TV news is classified as high.

None of this is really surprising. It is easy to give up civil rights when those rights belong to the other rather than you. I also remember a Gallup poll from October 2001 in which 49% wanted Arab Americans to carry a special ID and I posted about the effect of media on misperceptions about the Iraq war.

I don’t think that a general measure like registration of all American Muslims or internment like that of Japanese-Americans in World War II is likely to happen. I also don’t think that the US is becoming fascist. But fascist baby steps can happen in a democracy and one of the important battlegrounds is public opinion as Unqualified Offerings points out.

Given the protorture credentials of the Bush administration and the anti-civil-liberties stance of a lot of Republican voters, I don’t understand how any intelligent, reasonable person could have voted for George Bush last month. May be some Bush voter can enlighten me?

And I love the title The Poor Man gave to his post on this topic.

Atlantan Not!

I thought I lived in Atlanta, but it turns out I do not. I was under the impression that this area of DeKalb county was part of the city of Atlanta. But according to this map of Atlanta neighborhoods, I am outside the municipal boundaries of Atlanta. The Census Bureau lists the “Place” we live in as North Druid Hills CDP instead of “Atlanta city.” Our mailing address obviously says Atlanta.

This is no big deal but it is embarrassing. While we moved to this neighborhood last month, I have lived in Atlanta for many years now. In fact, I have lived longer in Atlanta than any other place except my birthplace Wah Cantt.

The question is whether my neighborhood would be classified as suburban.