Zakaria, Zachary, Zachariah and More

I was wondering about my name which by virtue of being in the Bible and the Quran has spread into many languages. So I tried to find the original Hebrew version. This is how it is written I think…

I was wondering about my name which by virtue of being in the Bible and the Quran has spread into many languages. So I tried to find the original Hebrew version. This is how it is written I think.


If I have made a mistake, please let me know. These Hebrew characters look too similar to each other to my untrained, wary of new languages eye. I do, however, recognize some of the letter names (Alef, He, Vav, Kaf, Mem, Nun, Ayin, Pe, Fe, Qof, Shin) as similar to Urdu ones (Alif, Hay, Vow, Kaf, Meem, Noon, Ayin, Pay, Fay, Qaf, Sheen).

From Hebrew to Greek:


And on to English with Zechariah, Zachariah, Zachary, Zachery, Zackary, Zackery, Zach, Zack, Zak, and other variants.

It also passed from Hebrew to Arabic and is mentioned in the Quran as the father of John the Baptist. My name in Arabic and Urdu is written as follows:


There are multiple English transliterations of that, but I use “Zakaria.”

One interesting thing about the Hebrew name is that its root words are zakar (זכר), which means “to remember or mention” or “to make remembrance”, and Yah (יה), which is the shortened version of Jehovah (God). Arabic probably got the word “zikr” (ذکر) from the same root. However, notice that in Arabic, zikr (ذکر) and Zakaria (زکریا) have different first letters.

I know this post is lame and not of any interest to anyone but me, but I am on the road to Atlanta right now. You’ll have to wait until I get to Atlanta for more blogging.

Drive to Atlanta

I have driven between Jersey and Atlanta a number of times, taken the outer route (NJ Turnpike to I-95 to I-85 through Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina), the inner route (I-287 to I-78 to I-81 to I-77 to I-85 through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina), and the scenic route (Atlanta to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then taking the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, going East to Colonial Williamsburg and taking the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the eastern shores of Virginia and Maryland and then to Delaware and finally Jersey).

We liked the scenic route the best obviously, but it is much longer than the others and hence not practical for our drive to Atlanta this time. Among the other options, I prefer the inner route as it is more scenic and less crowded. My favorite part of the journey is the Shenandoah valley and crossing the Blue ridge. The inner and outer routes are about equal in length, but the inner one usually takes less time.

Except for real scenic driving, I drive from Jersey to Georgia, or vice versa, in a day. It usually takes me 13-14 hours. However, this is our first trip with Michelle. Driving with a 2.5 month old kid should be fun. We’ll definitely be stopping a lot more often, probably every 2 hours or so.

While Michelle does get in the car every so often, the longest trip she has taken so far has been the 45 minutes to New York City. Let’s see how she handles a 2 day trip by car. She is generally good in the car. She enjoys sitting in her car seat and often tries to look out the window. There are exceptions, like when she is hungry or when the car is stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic.

One of us always sits in the back with Michelle. The main reason for that is obviously to take care of Michelle. The secondary reason is that with the car seat behind it, the front passenger seat has to be moved forward a lot. That makes it impossible for me to sit in the front passenger seat. Amber also feels more comfortable in the back seat where there is more room than the front.

Blogging will continue while I am driving down to Atlanta because of the “Future Posting” feature of Movable Type. But I don’t blog about news events as they happen.

After we move into our new apartment in Atlanta, regular blogging will resume. That might happen election day (Nov 2) or a couple of days later. When we were planning this move, I forgot that I might not have access to TV or Internet to watch the election coverage. That will not be good since I am an election coverage junkie. I’ll get a free dialup connection as a backup in case my DSL isn’t working on election day.

Presidential Election Polls

I am a kind of data junkie. I follow lots of polls and watch (or follow on the net) election night coverage for quite a few countries. I used to stay up all night to watch election results trickle in during the elections in Pakistan in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997. I watched all the coverage of the 2000 Presidential election and looked at vote counting results and exit polls wherever I could find them.

That is why I have collected together quite a few websites which collect state-by-state polls and/or make electoral vote predictions in the sidebar on the right on the main page.

If I have missed any, please let me know. I am looking for the state-by-state data rather than the popular vote.

A Survey About Muslim Americans

Zogby has done a survey of American Muslims for Project MAPS. Here are some poll results I found interesting:

  • 82% of American Muslims are registered to vote this year. The top reason for not registering is not being a citizen (59%).
  • Some vocal, conservative Muslims have the view that voting in a Western country is un-Islamic. Only 2% of the American Muslims who have not registered to vote have done so because they consider it un-Islamic. Combined with the high voter registration, this completely rejects the “voting is un-Islamic” viewpoint.
  • American Muslims are enthusiastic about voting in the Presidential elections this year. 88% of those registered are very likely to vote while 7% are somewhat likely.
  • In terms of partisan affiliation, half are Democrats while only 12% are Republican. This has changed from 40%-23% Democratic advantage in 2001.
  • With respect to political ideology, 11% classify themselves as Progressive/very liberal, 19% as liberal, 40% as moderate, 16% as conservative, 2% as very conservative, and 2% as libertarian. [This doesn’t seem different from the general US population. Does anyone have a link to such data?]
  • The Muslim American vote is very lopsided this year with 76% favoring Senator Kerry and only 7% for President Bush.
  • What is even more interesting is that even among Republicans, Kerry/Edwards lead by a near two-to-one margin, 50% to 28%.
  • The group in which Bush does best is those who are very conservative. They support Bush 27% versus 52% for Kerry.
  • For American Muslims, the most important factor in deciding who to vote for is domestic policy (44%) followed by foreign policy (34%).
  • Eighty-six percent of Muslims say it is important for them to participate in politics.
  • Like most voters, Muslim voters also have the tendency to view their 2000 vote differently than the reality. In the 2004 survey, 38% say they voted for Gore and 27% for Bush. However, in the 2001 poll, Bush voters were 42% compared to 31% for Gore.
  • A majority (64%) of American Muslims were born abroad.
  • Four-fifths (79%) of American Muslims were raised Muslim, but one-fifth (20%) are converts. More women than men are converts (25% versus 17%).
  • South Asians are the largest group among American Muslims at 34%, followed by Arabs (26%), African American (20%) and African (7%). A majority of the South Asians are of Pakistani origin.
  • 59% of those surveyed have at least a college degree. The figure for all US adults 25 years or older with at least a Bachelor’s degree is 24.4%.
  • Similarly, a third have income of $75,000 or more.
  • 10% of the American Muslims surveyed have a spouse who is not Muslim.
  • Islamic financial institutions have taken off in recent years in the Middle East and the UK (among other places). However, it seems they are not very popular among American Muslims as only 4% have stocks in such institutions.
  • Vast majorities of Muslims agree that:
    • Muslims should donate to non-Muslim social service programs like aid for the homeless.
    • Muslims should participate in the political process.
    • Muslims should participate in interfaith activities.
    • Muslims should financially support worthy non-Muslim political candidates.
    • The influence of religion and moral values in American public life should increase.
  • A majority (51%) of American Muslims say this is a good time to be a Muslim in America. Slightly more than a third (36%) say it is a bad time.
  • Muslim Americans are more likely to support the war in Afghanistan than the war in Iraq, with 35% supporting the former and 13% supporting the latter. In both cases, opposition outweighs support.
  • Nearly four-in-five (78%) American Muslims believe that the war in Iraq could lead to more terrorism aimed at the United States.
  • American Muslims overwhelmingly believe that the Iraq war could lead to more instability in the Mideast (82%). But 28% also believe the war could lead to more democracy in the Arab world.
  • 66% think that the U.S. should reduce its support of undemocratic regimes in the Muslim world.
  • 69% support stronger laws to fight terrorism.
  • 60% favor stem cell research.
  • 55% support making abortion more difficult to obtain.
  • 62% oppose human cloning research.
  • 52% support forcing every American citizen to speak English fluently.
  • 51% favor allowing public schools to display the 10 Commandments.
  • 79% oppose gay marriage.
  • 29% of American Muslims say they attend mosque more than once a week. 25% attend it once a week for the Friday prayers. 10% attend once or twice a month. 16% attend a few times a year usually on Eid. 9% seldom attend a mosque and 10% never do.
  • The group most likely to attend mosque is African Americans. The least likely: Arabs.
  • Three-fifths of Muslims rate the religious leadership of their mosque positively, and a third rate it excellent. Slightly more than a quarter rate the religious leadership of their mosque negatively.
  • Like all people, Muslims also try to sound better at following their religion than they actually do. The figures for praying seem exaggerated to me since almost half say they prayer five times a day. 22% do some of the 5 prayers daily. 15% pray occasionally while 5% pray only for Eid and 7% never pray.
  • Only a quarter of Muslims watch media targeted to ethnic groups.

Hat tip: Al-Muhajabah.

Handedness and More

Via Political Animal, here are a few tests to check whether you are left-handed or not.

I got the following expected results on the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory.

Using the rating method of Oldfield, Laterality quotients range from 100 (right handed) to -100 (left handed)

This subject’s laterality quotient is: -50.0
Placing this subject in the 2d left decile.

There are a number of tests at World of Handedness to check if you are left-handed, left-footed, left-eyed or left-eared.

I am weakly left-handed, strongly left-footed, strongly right-eyed and ambi-eared.

Here are some statistics about these tests.

Women and Islam

Maryam of A Dervish’s Du`a’ has a Powerpoint presentation titled “Is Your Masjid Sister Friendly?” It is worth viewing as it has photographic evidence of the difference between the facilities for men and women in some mosques.

In another post, Maryam says:

[S]exism in mosques […] is not a new idea, nor is it a particularly hidden one. Mostly Muslims don’t see the sexism because they think it’s the way things should be. But more and more of us are not content to accept the status quo. I just happen to be interested in it, because it’s the topic of my thesis.

That is definitely a very interesting thesis topic. I would very much like to read her thesis when it’s done.

She also provides a list of web resources about gender discrimination in mosques in the same post.

That reminds me: What happened to that survey about women and mosques Hijabman (if permalink not working, try my post about it) was doing? Hijabman, if you are reading, can you please let us know the results of the survey and your analysis of the same?

In other Muslim woman news, A Dervish’s Du`a’ has collected together quite a few recent book covers which have a picture of a veiled woman. Hey, if Armani can use the Muslim veil, why can’t these books?

Electoral College Modifications

I have said before that I am no fan of the electoral college and that statement would stand irrespective of the results of the 2000 presidential election. Unlike Unqualified Offerings, I am more of a small-d democrat than a small-r republican.

One of the most exasperating things about the electoral college is that different states can allocate their electoral votes differently. Nowadays, Maine and Nebraska give 2 electoral votes each to the winner of the popular vote in the state while the other electoral votes in these states are divided based on who wins the individual congressional districts in the state. All the other states have a winner-take-all system in which the winner of the popular vote in the state gets all the electoral votes of the state. This results in a close election (by popular votes) looking lopsided in terms of electoral votes.

This year, there is a ballot initiative in Colorado that will change how Colorado’s 9 electoral votes are allocated. Amendment 36 will allocate the electoral votes in proportion to the popular vote. Given current opinion polls, the passage of the amendment could mean Colorado dividing its electoral votes 5-4 for the two Presidential candidates this year. However, there might be legal issues involved in applying this rule to this year’s election.

I was wondering how previous elections would have turned out if all the states had the same rules as Maine and Nebraska. I found a website which applies the Maine-Nebraska District Plan to all elections since 1968. I decided to do similar calculations to see the results if the proposed Colorado plan had been adopted in all states in 1968. The table below shows the results:

Year Actual Result ME-NE Method CO Method
  R D I R D I R D I
1968 302 191 45 291 190 57 240 226 72
1972 521 17 474 64 337 201
1976 241 297 268 270 265 273
1980 489 49 0 395 143 0 285 224 29
1984 525 13 468 70 320 218
1988 426 112 0 377 161 0 291 247 0
1992 168 370 0 213 325 0 206 235 97
1996 159 379 0 192 346 0 228 273 37
2000 271 267 0 287 251 0 264 269 5

Caveat: I used the voting data tabulated by Jeff Sagarin. If there is any error there, it might have affected my Colorado proportional plan calculations as well.

The details of how the electoral votes would be apportioned in Colorado if the amendment passes can be found in subsections 3 and 4 of Amendment 36.

Ramazan and Breastfeeding

Ramazan, the month of fasting, is starting or has already started based on where you live and who you believe. Since Amber is breastfeeding Michelle nowadays, what better topic to discuss for Ramazan than pregnant and breastfeeding moms?

Let’s start with some amusement from an Islam-Online chat.

Question: My question is : “Is it allowed for a woman to fast while she is breastfeeding”?

Answer: […] To the best of our knowledge, the fuqaha have agreed that breast feeding does not invalidate a fast. It is permissible to breast feed while fasting. On a counseling note, we would like to remind our sisters that breast feeding can be very exhausting on one’s system if one has not eaten well during the suhur. Some babies require being breast fed several times a day and this could be even more tiring for the mother. So if one intends to fast and breast feed, it is highly recommended to not skip the suhur. Finally, always check with your medical doctor regarding this issue because your particular case might warrant not fasting if your body is unable to withstand the burden of fasting and breast feeding.

Let me repeat a part of the answer so I can laugh some more.

Some babies require being breast fed several times a day and this could be even more tiring for the mother.

You don’t say!

So what is the ruling of Muslim scholars on whether breastfeeding women should fast or not? Here is Moiz Amjad.

[W]hether a feeding mother should fast or not is, basically, a decision regarding the fitness of the woman for fasting. If she feels and is declared to be fit for fasting, she may decide to do so. On the contrary, if she feels weak and is advised to refrain from fasting during these days, then the Shari`ah allows her to miss fasting, during the month of Ramadhan and then complete the number of missed fasts, when she is fit to do so.

Islam Online has a similar position.

As regards a pregnant woman or a suckling mother, if she is worried lest fasting should harm her, the majority of jurists are of the view that she is allowed not to fast, provided that she makes up for the fast-days she missed.

[…] Though jurists have unanimously agreed that a pregnant or a suckling woman who apprehends harms to her embryo or her new-born child is allowed to abstain from fasting, they have disagreed as to whether she must make up for the fast days she missed later, or feed one poor person for each day she missed or both. Ibn `Umar and Ibn `Abbas maintain that she is to feed poor people equal in number to the fast days she missed. The majority of scholars are of the view that she must make up for the fast days she missed. Others yet hold that she is to do both. It seems to me that only feeding the poor is enough on its own for a woman who is constantly either pregnant or suckling, so that she has not got an opportunity to make up for the fast days she missed. So it may be the case that a woman is pregnant this year and a suckling mother the next and pregnant again the following year, and so on. She is therefore unable to make up for the fast days on which she refrained from fasting. So if she is commanded to make up for those days, she will have to fast for several years incessantly, which is definitely going to be difficult, and Allah does not want His servants to suffer hardships.

The strict Salafi Islam Q&A puts it a bit more strictly as expected.

With regard to breastfeeding mothers – and also pregnant women – two scenarios may apply:

  1. If the woman is not affected by fasting, and fasting is not too difficult for her, and she does not fear for her child, then she is obliged to fast, and it is not permissible for her not to fast.
  2. If the woman fears for herself or her child because of fasting, and fasting is difficult for her, then she is allowed not to fast, but she has to make up the days that she does not fast.

It seems that a majority of scholars allow a breastfeeding woman to fast or not fast based on whether it’s hard on the child or the woman or not. My guess is that it is hard on a pregnant or breastfeeding woman to not eat or drink anything for 10-15 hours.

(Amber adds: If I don’t drink enough water, my milk supply goes down.)

The other question is what to do if a woman does not fast in Ramazan. Most scholars want her to fast the 29-30 days later when she can. That attitude shows the sexism of these scholars in my opinion.

Consider a woman who has one child. These same scholars recommend breastfeeding a child for 2 years. Add in the 9 months pregnancy and a woman would miss almost 3 months of fasting. That is a lot of fasting to make up. Plus she also has to make up the week of fasting she misses in Ramazan when she’s not pregnant or breastfeeding because of menstruation.

But most of these scholars are also against birth control. So a woman is likely to have 4 kids than one. Multiply 2 years and 9 months by four and you get 11 months of Ramazan fasts missed. Let’s ask one of these scholars to actually make up 11 months of missed fasts in addition to the month of fasting every year. It is not impossible but is definitely extremely hard.

Voting Rights History

Since the election is only 3 weeks away, I was wondering about the history of voting rights in the US.

As I understand it, in the early days of the United States, voting was limited to white men who also held property. However, as today, the laws then also varied by state. So the first question that arises is whether there were any voting restrictions based on national origin or religion on land-owning white men? Also, when could all white men, whether land-owners or paupers, vote in all states?

The last group to get voting rights in the US were African Americans in the deep South. That I know a bit about. But what about northern states or western ones? Also, in the age of slavery, could free blacks vote in the US?

Talking about minorities, for a long time Native Americans were considered sovereign, though usually without much in the way of rights, and hence not citizens. When did that change specifically regarding voting?

Did other minorities (Hawaiians, Asians, Mexicans, etc.) have any problems with voting rights?

Women got the right to vote in most democracies in the early part of the 20th century (the Siwss being the major exception as usual). I believe the 19th amendment gave that right to the women in the US in 1920. But didn’t some states allow women to vote in local elections even in the late 19th century?

Since the US constitution is one of the older democratic constitutions, it has some features which would never be put in a modern constitution.

One of those features is leaving voting rights to the states. This has some interesting consequences. The disenfranchisement of the Washington DC residents in Congressional elections is the first example that comes to mind. Why shouldn’t the residents of the city where Congress resides be able to vote for their own representatives? It just sounds crazy.

The electoral college is another strange idea left over from the 18th century. I don’t particularly mind the different weighting given to different states for the Presidential election. I would prefer popular election of the President with an instant runoff system, but in a federal system, some attention has to be paid to states as well. What bugs me is that the constitution allows a lot of leeway regarding the electors. State legislatures can, if they wish, nominate a slate of electors completely different in party affiliation from the popular vote in that state. Plus an elector is free to vote for whoever he wants regardless of the wishes of the voters of that state. These are big loopholes in the constitution.

While the Voting Rights Act improved the voting rights situation quite a lot, the US still doesn’t really give the right to vote to all its citizens. Over a dozen states bar felons from voting permanently. Most states have some form of disenfranchisement of (ex-)felons. The only exceptions are Vermont and Maine. Being from Pakistan, these laws seem to me to have a large potential for abuse. I believe in an absolute right to vote for all citizens. Anything less can be used by a corrupt justice system or government to disqualify its opponents.

While no one today would argue about giving the federal vote to non-citizens, it is not so far-fetched as some people suppose.

[T]he United States has a long history of allowing noncitizens to vote. Twenty-two states and federal territories at various times allowed noncitizens to vote – even as blacks and women were barred from the ballot box – in the 1800’s and 1900’s.

Concerns about the radicalism of immigrants arriving from southern and Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led states to restrict such voting rights. By 1928, voting at every level had been restricted to United States citizens.

In recent years, there has been some movement towards giving municipal voting rights to non-citizens.

UPDATE: Spurred by Gary Farber, I have answered some of my own questions in the comments.

Missing Her

I am watching the debate right now, but instead of live-blogging the debate, I am missing my daughter. Since Michelle was born, I haven’t been away from her for more than a few hours. But now I am out of town for 2 days. So I am missing Michelle a lot. Amber tells me Michelle is missing me as well.

Eyes open Sleeping on her side See the look on Michelle's face
First time bottle-feeding 1 month old Nose to nose
Baby Bjorn rocks I love my swing Amber and Michelle
Tummy time Lifting her head