Monthly Archives: August 2015

Political Islam

800px-Basmala-smallerThe Brookings Institution has a series on political Islam, a country-by-country discussion with working papers and ongoing reactions to them, augmented by a Twitter discussion at #RethinkingIslamism. A sample about Egypt:

“Since July 3, 2013, Egypt’s government has embarked on an extensive campaign to dismember the Muslim Brotherhood’s formidable network of social services. With electoral participation, civic activism, and social service provision now foreclosed, street activism has become the lone vehicle for Brotherhood mobilization.”

As I recall, providing social services in the Middle East used to be quite dangerous, missionaries being killed and all, since there was a huge competition over who would get to step in when a government was slow to respond.  Just providing a few blankets after an earthquake could engender great loyalty to an organization like the Brotherhood. This could get interesting.


Wikipedia, the 2015 Voltaire Lecture, and death by machete

Earlier this year, in Bangladesh, Bonya Ahmed survived a machete attack that killed her husband, blogger Avijit Roy. Last month she delivered the 2015 Voltaire Lecture to the British Humanist Association in London.

God bless the Humanists, they have provided a transcript:

First, the WP articles:

Avijit Roy was not the only blogger attacked; there were 8 total. Here are their Wikipedia articles, or lack thereof.

Now, some parallels to Wikipedia.  Bonya Ahmed narates:

“We were stabbed repeatedly with machetes on the side of the road. The area was surrounded by police officers and video cameras and thousands and thousands of people. Nobody came to help us, the police stood by.”

Does this not sound like Arbcom, telling women tat if they don’t want to be attacked, to keep a lower profile?

“Two men were arrested at the scene by bystanders….”

…not by the police.  This would suggest the  government is complicit.  And who defends women at en.wp?  Not the admin corps, not the arbitration committee. Time and time again, it’s the ordinary bystanders. (I should know, I was one.)

“They said they killed Washiqur despite never having read his blog themselves, but under orders from someone at their madrasas.”

Internet “brigaders” or meatpuppets these days get their marching orders from Reddit.

“At this point, perhaps, Sheikh Hasina could have slapped down the Islamists. She could have said that no, people have a right to demonstrate, to write, to question, to criticize. But instead, this is what she said: We do not need a new blasphemy law, because we already have a law against ‘hurting religious sentiments’ and we can prosecute the bloggers under that law! So the authorities received the list of suspect bloggers, officials promised to investigate, and then they arrested four of those bloggers from the list and pursued them through the courts.”

The real crime is discussion, the attempt at dialogue, at trying to reach for a consensus.  Asking questions is not okay.  Because, what if vested power can’t think of a reasonable answer?  The questions themselves must be suppressed, the questioners killed.

The Arbcom could have protected the Gender Gap Task Force as it protected the Classical Music and Opera projects in the Infoboxes case, but it chose not to.  The Arbcom could have declared hands off on hate speech directed against women, as it did against gays in the Manning Naming Dispute case, but it chose not to.  When those in authority refuse to curtail hate speech that demonizes particular groups, can violence be far behind?

“So, what happens when you give bullies what they want? What happens when you accede to crazy demands? Soon there were one-hundred thousand Islamists marching on the streets of Dhaka demanding not just ‘death to atheist bloggers’, but for the cancellation of planned new education reforms that would have helped girls into education, and yet the government again made concessions.”

Ah, when the bullies arrive, the girls are the first to go.  Why am I not surprised.

“Even more ridiculously, it seems that you could now get 14 years for criticizing religion online, while 2 years if you do so in print media.”

Yup, it is casual conversation on talk pages–not guest posts in the Signpost–that must be brutally suppressed.

The solution?

“What we are left with is us, ourselves: my thoughts and feelings, my losses as well as my triumphs, the meaning in my life, these are all important, because they are all that counts. And It makes no sense until we extend this realization as far as it will go in the human family. It is not just ourselves, but each other, every trafficked slave, every murdered writer, every lost and lonely mind, that are important and have value.”

Make it so.  We can start by doing away with primitive expressions of contempt for anyone who is not of our tribe.

Oh, and Bonya Ahmed?  Her Wikipedia article is non-existent. The Google juice for that directs to her husband’s article.  laughing


“There is a deadline”: the death of Khaled al-Asaad

Before he was killed by ISIS, the world had not heard Syrian scholar and head of antiquities in Palmyra, Khaled al-Asaad, but within a few hours, the English Wikipedia and the Arabic Wikipedia as well as the German Wikipedia had start-class articles. Which shows once again that “there is a deadline”. (and I’m indebted to Asaf Bartov for pointing out this WP essay in one of his presentations somewhere).

There is an article, Destruction of cultural heritage by ISIL. Where are the photos of the destroyed works? Is there anything in the public domain? There is also a category for “Monuments destroyed by ISIL“.

In the meantime, the Guardian has published photos of Palmrya, as it appeared before it was seized by the Islamicists.

And for anyone looking to flesh out Khaled’s Wikipedia articles, plenty of reliable sources have now published obits:

    • The Guardian “The archaeologist and scholar, who held a diploma in history and education from the University of Damascus, published many books and scientific texts. Among his titles are The Palmyra Sculptures and Zenobia, the Queen of Palmyra and the Orient.”
    • The Telegraph “The archaeologist had been detained and interrogated for over a month by Isil, Mr Abdulkarim told Reuters.”
    • NYT “In 1963, he was appointed director of antiquities for Palmyra as well as director of its museum, positions he held until his retirement in 2003, when his son Walid took them over.”
    • Lion_in_the_garden_of_Palmyra_Archeological_Museum,_2010-04-21The Times of Israel (citing Syrian state news agency SANA and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) “Since falling to IS, Palmyra’s ancient site has remained intact but the militant s destroyed a lion statue in the town dating back to the 2nd century. The statue, discovered in 1975, had stood at the gates of the town museum, and had been placed inside a metal box to protect it from damage.” [Lion image on Wikimedia Commons]
    • BC News “Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told AFP that Mr Asaad’s other son Mohammed and his son-in-law Khalil actively participated in the rescue of 400 antiquities as the town was being taken over by the jihadists in May.” and here:
  • Born in Palmyra in 1934
  • Served as director of antiquities of Palmyra from 1963 to 2003 until his retirement
  • Worked with Unesco and the European Commission on Palmyra-related projects
  • Most important discovery was that of the largest part of the city’s major intersection and a number of tombs around the ruins
  • Reported to have written more than 20 books on Palmyra and the Silk Road
  • Said to be fluent in Aramaic and translated texts from the language up until 2011
  • Received honours from France, Poland and Tunisia
  • Spieigel (German)
  • Wall Street Journal ““City residents and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based group that monitors the conflict via a network of activists, confirmed it was Mr. Asaad’s remains. The group said he had been held by Islamic State for more than a month before he was killed. His work will live on far beyond the reach of these extremists,” Irina Bokova, director of the United Nations’ cultural agency Unesco, said Wednesday. “They murdered a great man, but they will never silence history.”Locals loyal to Islamic State accused Mr. Asaad of making contact with regime officers, the Observatory said, including his brother, a senior government security officer. Islamic State had promised to release him, it added, citing people close to Mr. Asaad. Those people called his execution a shock.


Sly and the Family Stone live 1974

You’ve been sitting much too long, there’s a permanent crease in your right and wrong
There’s a midget standing tall, and a giant beside him about to fall
Stand. Stand. Stand.

They will try to make you crawl, and they know what you’re saying makes sense and all
Don’t you know that you are free…if you want to be.

(rap) “Seems like every time you get a whole bunch of lights on ya, people have a tendency to want to sit down, and check it out you see, they want to sit down and check it out. So they go home and say, man, that wasn’t nothin’. Shoot, they ain’t did nothin’. You’re in it too, the song is about all of us. You know what I mean. If you believe in anything at all, what do you believe in? What. Well, then, stand on up for it, what’s wrong with ya. Stand up for whatever you believe in, that’s what it is. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.” (Na na na na na na na na.)

[For vintage Sly, at the peak of his game, see Sly and the Family Stone live at the Harlem Cultural Festival, Mount Morris Park, Harlem, NY June 29th, 1969.]