Happy Thanksgiving

An early happy thanksgiving to all of my readers (well, actually a very late one to Canadians).

I am going home today to cook a turkey and may be a pumpkin pie as well.

Blogging will be almost nonexistent until I return on Monday.

“Moderate Muslim”

Indirectly via Unmedia, I found Daniel Pipes’s definition of a “moderate Muslim.”

Violence : Do you condone or condemn the Palestinians, Chechens, and Kashmiris who give up their lives to kill enemy civilians? Will you condemn by name as terrorist groups such organizations as Abu Sayyaf, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Groupe islamique armee, Hamas, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Al-Qaeda?

Sure, I have no problem condemning them. But, Mr.Pipes, would you acknowledge that Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir issues are about more than just terrorism?

Modernity : Should Muslim women have equal rights with men (for example, in inheritance shares or court testimony)?

Why not? In fact, all women, regardless of religion or ethnicity, should have equal rights, regardless of the specific right, with men. Do you agree? Muslims definitely have a lot of problems in this area, but the problems are not confined to Muslims. Should we designate everyone, of any religion or ethnicity, who does not believe in equality as extremist? I think we should.

Is jihad, meaning a form of warfare, acceptable in today’s world?

In my opinion, it is the rare war that is right. Most wars are unjust and result in killing lots of people but without any redeeming value. Is jihad as a defensive war ok? If not, are you a pacifist? I am not a pacifist, but I abhor war. If other defensive wars are allowed, then why not a Muslim one (unless one is a pacifist, a position I respect)?

Do you accept the validity of other religions?

I accept all religions and none. How many Americans accept the validity of atheism or of Islam? Are those people extremists? What is meant by validity? Meriam-Webster defines “valid” as:

  1. : having legal efficacy or force; especially : executed with the proper legal authority and formalities <a valid contract>
  2. a : well-grounded or justifiable : being at once relevant and meaningful <a valid theory> b : logically correct <a valid argument> <valid inference>
  3. : appropriate to the end in view : EFFECTIVE <every craft has its own valid methods>
  4. of a taxon : conforming to accepted principles of sound biological classification

Which meaning is he referring to? How many religious people accept another faith as “well-grounded or justifiable” or “logically correct”?

Do Muslims have anything to learn from the West?

Yes. Everyone has something to learn from another. I am doing a Ph.D. here after all, ain’t I?

Secularism : Should non-Muslims enjoy completely equal civil rights with Muslims?


May Muslims convert to other religions?

Go for it. As an aside, I knew more atheists in Pakistan than I do in the US.

May Muslim women marry non-Muslim men?

Who am I to decide who a woman can or cannot marry? Mr.Pipes, if your daughter wanted to marry a Muslim guy, would you be ok with it?

Do you accept the laws of a majority non-Muslim government and unreservedly pledge allegiance to that government?

I accept laws everywhere. Regarding pledging allegiance, don’t all naturalized Muslim citizens have to do that when they became citizens? No born citizen is required to explicitly pledge allegiance. Why should it be any different for Muslims? Mr.Pipes, didn’t you just say something about equal civil rights for Muslims and non-Muslims (I hate that word)?

Should the state impose religious observance, such as banning food service during Ramadan?


When Islamic customs conflict with secular laws (e.g., covering the face for drivers’ license pictures), which should give way?

Same as when a Christian’s (or anyone else’s) beliefs conflict with state laws. Mr.Pipes, you would do well to read some legal history as you would find out that non-photo driver’s license cases started with Christians. And while I think Sultana Freeman was wrong in her interpretation, she still has both a right to her interpretation and a right to go to court.

Islamic pluralism : Are Sufis and Shi’ites fully legitimate Muslims?

Yes. What about Ahmedis or Nation of Islam? I think self-identification is the way to go. If Mr.Pipes says he’s a Muslim, I’ll accept his statement. Do all religions do that? Are Mormons Christians?

Do you see Muslims who disagree with you as having fallen into unbelief? Is takfir (condemning fellow Muslims one has disagreements with as unbelievers) an acceptable practice?

There are a billion Muslims in the world and 2 billion disagree with me. So obviously I can’t excommunicate them.

Self-criticism : Do you accept the legitimacy of scholarly inquiry into the origins of Islam?

Go ahead. I look forward to reading scholarly, non-polemical work in this area. And Mr.Pipes, what you do is definitely not scholarship.

Who was responsible for the 9/11 suicide hijackings?

According to all current evidence, Al-Qaeda was responsible. But the burning question is that was Kennedy killed because of UFOs? (via tm on Ideofact.)

Defense against militant Islam : Do you accept enhanced security measures to fight militant Islam, even if this means extra scrutiny of yourself (for example, at airline security)?

I thought you said something about equal civil rights for all, Mr.Pipes?

Do you agree that institutions accused of funding terrorism should be shut down, or do you see this a symptom of bias?

Accused? Or convicted? Accusations can be false, you know. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.

Goals in the West : Do you accept that Western countries are majority-Christian and secular or do you seek to transform them into majority-Muslim countries ruled by Islamic law?

I don’t particularly like the fact that the US is majority Christian. If it were up to me, I would convert everyone to agnosticism and atheism. Would you like that, Mr.Pipes? On the other hand, I don’t particularly care for anyone’s religion, so I respect your choice of religion.

And don’t some Christians want to run the US according to Christian morals or rules? Are they extremists too?

And while we are on the subject of religion, I live with three other guys: One each from the US, France and Iran. I am originally from Pakistan myself. Guess who is the only religious one in our apartment? A very nice and reasonable fellow, by the way.

It is ideal if these questions are posed publicly – in the media or in front of an audience – thereby reducing the scope for dissimulation.

I have publicly answered your questions, Mr.Pipes. Regarding dissimulation, I don’t believe in it and I don’t practise it. If you had done your research, you would know that dissimulation in the Middle East (and probably elsewhere that I am not familiar with) has been practised by small, persecuted communities or sects.

And for the record, I am not a moderate Muslim, whatever that means. I am a secular Muslim.

Spy? Adulterer? Both?

I blogged about the arrest of Chaplain Captain James Yee who was charged with disobeying an order for allegedly taking classified material from Guantanamo and improperly transporting it. Now, his case has taken a strange turn.

The U.S. military on Tuesday charged a Muslim chaplain accused of taking classified material from the U.S. prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with adultery and storing pornography on a government computer.

The new charges include making a false statement, storing pornography on a government computer and having sexual relations outside marriage, which violates military law.

Does the US military prosecute adultery allegations? Does that happen often? I am completely ignorant here, so help me out.

Raul Duany, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, said the military released Army Capt. James Yee from custody and will allow him to return to duty at a base in Georgia.

He’s being released. Does that mean he’s not a dangerous spy? He’s also starting regular duty. Seems strange to me, but I know nothing about the military.

Yee will be prohibited from having contact with prisoners at Guantanamo, the spokesman said.

Do the previous charges still stand? Or have they been dropped?

Since I have no idea about military law, I checked Phil Carter’s weblog. Phil is a former army officer and currently a law student.

The case of CPT James Yee, the Muslim chaplain suspected of espionage at Guantanamo Bay, took a strange turn today when the Army decided to release him from the military brig at Charleston to regular duty at Fort Benning, GA. The Army also added new counts to his current charges of mishandling classified information, including allegations of adultery, storing pornography on a government computer, and disobeying a lawful order. The next step for CPT Yee is an Art. 32 hearing, which is somewhat like a grand jury hearing, and then he may face a general court martial for his actions. Suffice to say, the stakes are much lower than when I wrote this article arguing for capital punishment in this case. But I still think there is more here than meets the eye. I expect we’ll see more charges in the near future — more to follow.

I hope he has more because I am thoroughly confused.

(Via Talking Points Memo.)

UPDATE: Also, see this NY Times article.

The Two Towers

I watched the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers over the weekend. It’s a great movie and the extended edition really adds to it. A number of scenes and events in the theatrical release are clarified and improved because of the extra 43 minutes. Especially, the director’s thinking behind the changes from the book is much clearer in the extended edition. In the theatrical release, you can’t think of any reasons Peter Jackson deviated from the book and some scenes just don’t make much sense.

Polytropos has a good post about the extended edition. (Via Electrolite)

Happy Eid

Eid Mubarak, everyone.


If you were wondering why I ranted about God or why my family is pressuring me to not spend so much time on the computer, you should really get a life. grin. I guess I am going to tell you in any case.

WARNING: Reading medical info can be bad for a layperson. Read at own risk.

The reason is CRVO in my right eye. That is central retinal vein occlusion. Here is a basic description:

The retina of the eye is the sensory organ for vision. If the eye is compared to a camera, the retina would be the film where the “picture” is formed. Proper blood circulation is needed for the retina to function. Normally, blood flows into the retina through the Central Retinal Artery and leaves the eye through the Central Retinal Vein. Both of these blood vessels enter the eye through the optic nerve.

CRVO is caused by a blood clot in the vein that drains the blood from the retina of the eye. The arterial blood enters the retina but cannot leave it due to a blockage in the vein.

As a result, blood and fluid are backed up into the retina, which causes a loss in vision. Over time, the blood vessels in the retina may close leading to further loss of vision with the possible development of new abnormal blood vessels. These new vessels may cause a very painful type of glaucoma and lead to total blindness. Traditionally, there has been no reliably effective treatment to prevent the loss of vision or to improve vision once it has been lost.

Patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, or glaucoma are at an increased risk for developing CRVO. One researcher estimates that approximately 60,000 people develop a CRVO each year in the United States.

The risk factors for CRVO are old age, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. However, some young healthy adults, like me, also get this disease due to unknown reasons. In that case, it is sometimes known as Papillophlebitis.

I noticed it more than 3 weeks ago in the form of a couple of floaters (i.e., small dark spots in my right eye) and it was diagnosed a day before I wrote that rant. The floaters changed to a dark web in the upper visual field in my right eye. It was very annoying at first, but I got used to it or it got better and I don’t even notice it most of the time now.

Today, I had an appointment with a retina specialist who dilated my pupils and shone lots of light into my eyes. He also did Fluorescein Angiography. The results are hopeful, though I have to see him every month.

There are two kinds of CRVO: ischemic and non-ischemic.

Nonischemic CRVO is the milder form of the disease. It may present with good vision, few retinal hemorrhages and cotton-wool spots, no relative afferent pupillary defect, and good perfusion to the retina. Nonischemic CRVO may resolve fully with good visual outcome or may progress to the ischemic type.

Ischemic CRVO is the severe form of the disease. CRVO may present initially as the ischemic type, or it may progress from nonischemic. Usually, ischemic CRVO presents with severe visual loss, extensive retinal hemorrhages and cotton-wool spots, presence of relative afferent pupillary defect, poor perfusion to retina, and presence of severe electroretinographic changes. In addition, patients may end up with neovascular glaucoma and a painful blind eye.

Ischemic is a dangerous and more severe form which often leads to complications and very poor vision. Non-ischemic CRVO is a mild or benign disease. However, it might progress to ischemic CRVO over time. The risk of that happening is about 12% within 18 months of the onset of CRVO. That is why it is important to regularly monitor my non-ischemic case.

There are some experimental treatments but no real treatment. In the ischemic case, doctors usually treat complications while for the non-ischemic, they just monitor the patient. In quite a few non-ischemic cases, the blocking of the vein clears itself and there is no major loss of vision.

To make things more interesting, I have minimal vision in my left eye.

NEXT: Update here.

Coup? Revolution? What?

I heard there was a revolution here in Georgia, but as far as I can tell Sonny Perdue seems to be the governor still. Then I realized that the revolution happened in Sak’art’velo.

For more serious coverage, visit Cinderella Bloggerfeller and Living With Caucasians.

Terror and Liberalism

In Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman has a few good ideas which either warranted a newspaper/magazine article or a much thicker book. Unfortunately, we got a 210 page book.

The premise of the book is reasonable. Berman tries to compare the Islamists with the totalitarian ideologues of the 20th century, i.e, the fascists and the communists. His contention is that there are lots of similarities between all these groups. For example, they all define both internal and external threats. This is fine as far as it goes but Berman does not really go beyond a somewhat superficial level in his comparison. I am sympathetic to his ideas and he enunciates them very forcefully, but in my opinion he does not make a case that could convince skeptics.

Berman also talks about Syed Qutb and his commentary on the Quran “In the Shade of the Quran” (last volume available online). But he is not the go-to guy if you want information on Qutb. That would be Ideofact’s series on Social Justice in Islam by Sayyid Qutb1.

Berman also seems to consider Qutb, Tariq Ramadan and Bin Laden etc. to be part of the Islamist totalitarian movement(s). I am not sure he really gets the Islamists.

Berman’s ideas about intellectual efforts against the extremist Islamists is a good one, but he destroys the good impression immediately afterwards by advocating retaliation by the US for credibility’s sake. Now, I am not a pacifist (too pragmatic for that principl) but attacking because that would make us a credible opponent sounds too much like bullies in schools.

Overall, the book is a mix. Parts of it are pretty good, but other ideas don’t seem to be well-developed or are just plain bad. I think Berman is hindered by his lack of detailed knowledge of political Islam. Also, it would have helped if he had worked to make it a bigger and more intellectual book than the popular read it is. However, it is not a bad book to read. It gives you some food for thought and is a quick read as well.

Continue reading “Terror and Liberalism”

What to Do in Iraq?

Talking about the despicable desecration of US soldiers’ corpses in Mosul, the Poor Man captures some of mythoughts on US involvement in Iraq.

If this is true, if this is the way things happened, it is going to be very hard to blame this on Ba’athists, foreign fighters, and “dead enders.” If this is true, and this is a sign of the way things are really going outside the Sunni triangle, this venture is doomed. If there is hope to make this thing work, we owe it to the Iraqis and ourselves to stay until the country can stand on its own. But if it is hopeless, if we have already lost, we should leave. What a fucking disaster.

I do think that we need to get Iraq in a better situation before leaving. But I worry that our presence in Iraq might be part of the problem. I am not convinced about that like Max or Jim are, but we cannot discount that possibility. Not sure yet what would take me off the fence.

Grading and More

In case you are wondering, I am alive and well. Just busy with work. Today is grading day for part 2 of the project. So a whole day dedicated to the task.

In addition to work, I am being pressured by people (i.e., family, who else) not to spend too much non-work time on the computer. This has obviously affected my blogging. Anyway, I hope to get rid of that pressure and be back blogging regularly.

I have finished reading Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman. I should have a review up tomorrow. Tonight I plan to watch the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with my roommates on DVD.