The House of Wisdom and the Legacy of Arabic Science


*A summary of the lecture given by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, theoretical nuclear physicist.

**italics are my own take

The lecture kicked off with the Prof. explaining what prompted his interest in the legacy of Arab science. Born in Baghdad to a Iraqi father and English mother he was raised in the UK, and when he got older he became interested in the scientific history of his ancestors. He felt it may something he should be taking pride in, and wanted to promote knowledge of this era of scientific history which neither the West nor the Islamic/Arab east knew much about, or at least an era whose significance in modern-day science is under-appreciated.

Arab science is often viewed as merely presentational, the scientists of the age are assumed to have only translated and kept the scientific discoveries of the Greeks, then passing them on to Europe once it began its emergence from the Dark Ages. The Prof. aimed to present an argument that the Arabs did more than this, and that in fact they can be credited with the foundation of many of the theories and philosophies that drive modern day science.

The “Golden Age” of Arab science began roughly in the 9th century in Baghdad, a city built from scratch as a seat of power for the Abbassid Caliph, Harun Al-Rashid. This Golden Age was characterised by an “obsession with learning and original thinking. Haruns son, Al-Ma’mun, whose mum was a captured persian slave, took over the caliphate after his father. Like his father he had a thirst for knowledge, and claimed to have dreamt of Aristotle. He built what was known as the “house of wisdom”, or Beit Al-Hikmah, which was an academy filled with scholars and books. Today, some western historians try to play down the significance of this house by labelling it as little more than a library, when it was in fact a seat for science and rational thinking.

This interest in science and rational thought without any hint of any conflict with religion contrasts with the more modern viewpoint of some sort of clash between science and religion. 1000 years ago, Muslims took their duty to seek knowledge seriously, whereas today, a minority of Muslims now view with suspicion the advances in science. They wonder why we bother with the study of cosmology when the “Quran tells us all we need to know”.

Al-Khalili then spent the next 1/2 hour or so giving us a crash course on all the scientists of this golden age and their impact on science today. He started with Al-Kindi, a philosopher and polymath who imported and adapted Greek philosophy for the Islamic world. Then he spoke about Al-Khawarizmi, who is credited as the father of algebra, a title which he felt needed explaining since it is known that the balylonians were solving quadratic equations well before he came on the scene. Up until Al-Khawarizmi people were solving specific problems, and even though they used symbols these symbols represented real numbers, and their approach was geometrical and can be classified best as “number theory”. Al-Khawarizmi was the first to treat the symbols as free entities which can be manipulated, which through the algorithm that is used is ‘fixed’ or ‘forced’ to take a value (jabara=forced in arabic). In fact his seminal work in written entirely in prose, no mathematical symbols appear, and as such is accessable to anyone.

He then mentioned Al-Razi, the physician and founder of the modern day hospital. The of Al-Biruni, the persian polymath who provided a very clever and concise measurement of the radium of the earth. And f Ibn-Sina, the persona physician and author of the well known “Canon of Medicine”. Then of Ibn-Alnafis, the Syrian anatomist who first understood that blood must circulate via the lungs and into the heart.

Throughout the talk, Al-Khalili was careful not to over-inflate the contributions of Arab scientists. He was careful to mention that, for example, Al-Biruni was not the first to measure the circumference of the earth, he was beaten by the Greek Eratostheres in 250 BC, and that the Greek Gaelin thought the blood flowed from the right to the left chamber of the heart and that the true nature of blood circulation was figured out by William Harvey. His argument that no science springs out of the vacuum, and that people must stand on the shoulders of the giants that predated them to progress, and as the Arabs stood on Greeks, Indians, Persians and Babylonians, the West today stands on the shoulders of Arab giants.

This brings us to the question, do we call this age the Arabic revolution or the Islamic revolution? He argued that we can’t call it the ‘Islamic revolution’  because the early scientists were not all Muslim, and even though they were not all Arab, the language in which the texts were written in was Arabic. But it was not Arabic culture that prompted the revolution was it? It was Islamic philosophy, so shouldnt we pay credence to this?

He also briefly addressed the issue of the decline of science in Arabia. His reasoning for this was that there was no real answer to it. In the 14th and 15th centuries scholars such as Al-Ghazali came on the scene, he was more orthodox and criticised the early scholars and philosophers for being too pro-Greek (aka Pagan) philosophers. Added to this the Empire fragmented, the Mongols invaded (leading the loss of alot of literature), and the Ottomans took over. The Ottomans were not so much into pure science as they were into architecture (one of the Turkish members of the audience rightly argued that necessity is often the impetus for science and many engineering advances were made from the Ottoman interest in architecture). There was an overall loss of appetite for science, and no one other than Europe to carry the baton of scientific progress. I.e. the natural ebb and flow of life.

Moving on to Arabs today: the Gulf states are really in the best position to ignite another Arabian scientific revolution due to their financial resources, but up until recently they followed the science=technology=economy mentality which left little room for the pure sciences. Now things are changing, and Saudi Arabia for example is building (or has built?) a university dedicated to science for the sake of it.

Who know? Maybe we will shake of the cobwebs and become scientific revolutionaries once more? But will this require political and humanitarian stability in the regio or will it force it I wonder?

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Probing the Very Early Universe (Part III)


Apologies for the delay in this post, I had started writing this ages ago, it was taking me forever to get the images right, and when I thought I was done, I lost both the post and the images!! I lost the will to live.

Catch up with the saga: part I, part II

A Neat Solution, Inflation

In the early 1980s, physicists started to take note of a theory that seemed to hold all the answers. The theory, cutely called ‘Inflation’ by MITs Alan Guth, offers a neat solutions to The Three Paradoxes of the Universe. In this post I will attempt to explain what inflation is, when it happened, and how it works.

What is Inflation?

Inflation is basically the very rapid expansion of the universe, where two points move away from each other at the speed of light(1). This does not contradict the special theory of relativity, since at the time this happened, the universe was classically empty, only energy existed at this time.

When did it happen?

Hard to quantify too precisely, but we can take on board two bits of information from two different sources in order to give a ball-park figure on this. Inflation must obey the physical laws of nature, there is no escape, however we are not entirely sure what these laws looked like such a long time ago.

[Extra Reading] The origin of the fundamental laws of physics:

One of the fundamental ideas of physics is that all the physical forces that we see as independent today (i.e. the force of gravity is seen as independent of say the theory of electromagnetism), were actually all ‘united’ many years ago, when the energy of the universe was ‘free’ (i.e. not bounded by structure, like atoms and such). That is, billions of years ago, physicists think only one law of nature existed, and that as the universe grew and cooled, this one law subdivided into a few sub-laws of nature. If you’re a bioligist or are more comfortable with the ideas of biology, think of this evolution as a top down process, as opposed to biology’s bottom up approach to evolution. So if a physicist had come up with a theory for the origin and diversity of the species she would have imagined one super-being (not divine, just super, as in ‘super duper’) that then spawned lots of other species, who then spawned even more species! But this spawning of mutants was already encoded in the first super-being, i.e. all the DNA any animal/plant needed existed within the chromosomes of that first super-being, and the genes ‘came to life’ as it were in response to the environment. That is the basic idea of the unification and subsequent diversification of the laws of physics, with the environment being the temperature/size of the universe.

Now, the physics world has managed to unite all the fundamental forces… except for one: Gravity. But that is not what we’re talking about, we assume that gravity did somehow unite with the other forces, and generally, gravity appears after what is known as the Planck epoch. The Planck epoch defines a time when the early universe was only a Planck length in diameter. This Planck length is special, in that it defines the smallest size that we know how to analyse physically i.e. we have a theory of how things behave when they are very small, or very very close together, but not if they measure less than or are closer than a Planck length. Since inflation deals with the expansion of space time, it needs general relativity (aka gravity) in order to operate, so Inflation takes place after the appearance of gravity.

So as a first guess Inflation takes place at least billion billion billion billionth of a second after the Big Bang. But to be brutally honest, since the theory of inflation is still work on progress, then inflationary cosmologists also look at scenarios when inflation took place at or before the Plank time, that is: less than 10 million billion billion billion billionth of a second after the Big Bang.

The second bit of information we need is when did the contents of the Universe become dominated by radiation? That occurred about a 10 millionth of a second after the Big Bang, and we need the universe to have ‘settled down’ by this time, because our theories of what happened after this time (the `standard’ Big Bang evolution) hold up pretty well under scrutiny, and we dont want to change things too much.

So inflation took place between a billion billion billion billionth of second after the big bang and 10 millionth of a second after the Big Bang. This would seem pretty precise for most people, but remember in the early universe aLOT of stuff could have happened within this time, after the universe became radiation dominated it took only 3 minutes for the temperature to drop 999,999,999,999,999,999,900,000,000 degrees Celsius. So we may have nailed the epoch of inflation to a few millionth of a second, but that still leaves alot of room for uncertainty.

 

How does it work? i.e. how does it solve the Three Paradoxes of Cosmology

How inflation explains the causality, homogeneity and isotropy of the universe?

inflation1

This is a schematic diagram of the expansion of the universe. The figure on the left represents the standard big bang expansion, assuming only radiation and matter. The figure on the right represents big bang + inflation. To understand this diagram, you need to imagine that our universe is contained within the black lines, and that it grows as you follow the arrows.

Looking at the figure I have included (click on it for a better view), I have attempted to illustrate how the two different scenarios (Standard Big Bang vs. Inflation and Big Bang) expand. You need to imagine that our universe is contained within the two vertical black lines, so it grows as you follow the arrows.  Now, what we know of the age of the universe, and what we know about how radiation and matter (regular stuff) effect the rate of expansion, then it turns out that there were 50,000 parts of the universe not in causal contact. That is, the universe could not have been small enough for these parts to communicate. That is, 14 billion(ish) years ago, according to standard lore, the universe was made up of 50,000 independent regions. So why did these regions all evolve in the same way?

This is where inflation comes in, because inflation stretches the universe out in such a tiny amount of time (see previous section), it means that the universe could have started out much smaller than was actually thought, and expanded very quickly, all this without effecting the evolution of the universe from light to atoms to galaxies to us (i.e. Big Bang Nucleosynthesis). Referring back to the figure, the red and blue circles represent two regions in the universe, in the inflationary picture they start off very close to each other, so information gets shared between them, or more to the point the universe mixes and homogenizes

How does it solve the problem of the age of the universe? (or why isn’t it older?)

Since inflation causes the universe to grow to the size required by the theories which govern Big Bang Nucleosynthesis in a teeny fraction of a second, our theory of universal evolution now accounts for the age of the universe. We no longer need to add to the age of the universe to account for phenomena.

How does it solve the origin of structure? (or where did all this stuff come from?)

The answer to this one is quite involved, we need to look at how one gets inflation, i.e. what causes the universe to expand so rapidly? Once we answer this question, we discover that inflation also explains the origin of structure AND why it started expanding in the first place.. for next time though 🙂

(1)this is one scenario, but the other one is too complicated to explain right now

Next up: Negative pressure, exotic particles, and the emergence of something out of nothing

European Court rules boycott of Israel illegal


This smacks of outright, racist, hypocrisy! Wasn’t Iraq boycotted all so recently? Isn’t Cuba boycotted (sure they are by the States anyway)? Why is Israel above such boycotts? It’s disgusting!

European Court rules boycott of Israel illegal

Boycott is ‘discriminatory and punishable’ – EU Court judges

‘interference with…freedom of expression needed to protect the rights of Israeli producers.’ – Jerusalem Post

‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win’ – Gandhi

The European Court of Human Rights has moved to criminalise support for Palestinian human rights. The EU has consistently rewarded an Israel sinking ever deeper into crime, with open ethnic cleansers as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister. Now the judiciary joins the executive in aligning with Israel and criminalising those who support the call from Palestine for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against the bloody violence of the Israeli state. Hardly suprising when the British Government is involved in an equally bloody military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Birds of a blood-stained feather flock together.

This ruling is a response to the growing support for BDS following Israel’s most recent massacres in Gaza in January. It criminalises the entire Scottish, Irish and South African trade union movements.

It might soon become illegal to stand up to the violence of Israel with the non-violent weapon of boycott. The courts, then, will leave supporters of Palestine with no choice but to challenge these laws in every way possible, including civil disobedience and non-violent direct action. This ruling is designed to protect those carrying out the ethnic cleansing of Palestine: according to the Jerusalem Post (see below), the European court of Human Rights ‘ruled that interference with…freedom of expression was needed to protect the rights of Israeli producers.’ Producing goods on ethnically cleansed land while working to destroy Palestinian producers.

The growing BDS movement will not be deterred by this latest ruling. After all, the British Government defied the ICJ (International Court of Justice) 2004 ruling that Israel’s apartheid Wall is illegal and must come down. The people of Gaza are being crushed by an open alliance of Israel, the US, the EU and the Arab regimes. They have no allies but a slowly awakening world civil society. They have paid many times over in mountains of corpses for their refusal to accept Israeli/Western plans for them to disappear. Compared to their heroism and suffering, the cost of standing up for human rights against the European Court of Human Rights remains very modest. Here in Scotland, we do not face Israeli death squads, the murder of our children, bulldozed homes, burning farms, prison walls, the kidnapping of our finest sons and daughters into dungeons, routine torture, expulsion or daily humiliation by a murderous soldiery.

Five Scottish PSC members will appear in court on Friday August 7 charged with ‘racially aggravated’ crime for disrupting a musical performance by official ‘Cultural Ambassadors’ of Israel when they came to Scotland last year. The charges are no more absurd than the defence of ‘Israeli producers’ by the European Court of Human Rights while Gaza lives with Israeli-induced hunger and misery. The five are privileged to stand alongside so many others fighting for justice, and with the people of Palestine whose resistance to Zionist crime has inspired the world, but has long been criminalised by Israel’s Western allies.

We invite you to come to the Court on Chambers St, Edinburgh at 9.15am on Friday 7 August to show your:

– solidarity with Palestine

– support for the boycott of Israel

– opposition to ‘interference with freedom of expression to protect Israeli producers’

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1246443852848

European court: Israel boycotts are unlawful discrimination

Israel finally won one last week in an international human rights court.

On Thursday, the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling that it was illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods, and that making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not constitute a violation of one’s freedom of expression.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, has some 47 member states and is independent of the European Union. The court is made up of one judge from each member state, and the rulings of the court carry moral weight throughout Europe.

On Thursday the court ruled by a vote of 6-1 that the French court did not violate the freedom of expression of the Communist mayor of the small French town of Seclin, Jean-Claude Fernand Willem, who in October 2002 announced at a town hall meeting that he intended to call on the municipality to boycott Israeli products.

Jews in the region filed a complaint with the public prosecutor, who decided to prosecute Willem for “provoking discrimination on national, racial and religious grounds.” Willem was first acquitted by the Lille Criminal Court, but that decision was overturned on appeal in September 2003 and he was fined €1,000.

His appeal to a higher French court was unsuccessful, and as a result he petitioned the European Court of Human rights in March 2005, saying his call for a boycott of Israeli products was part of a legitimate political debate, and that his freedom of expression had been violated.

The court, made up of judges from Denmark, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Macedonia and the Czech Republic .

According to a statement issued by the court on Thursday, the court held the view that Willem was not convicted for his political opinions, “but for inciting the commission of a discriminatory, and therefore punishable, act. The Court further noted that, under French law, the applicant was not entitled to take the place of the governmental authorities by declaring an embargo on products from a foreign country, and moreover that the penalty imposed on him had been relatively moderate.”

The one dissenting opinion was written by the Czech judge.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor hailed the ruling Sunday, saying it provided important ammunition for those challenging on legal grounds calls frequently heard in Europe for a boycott of Israeli products, as well as calls for a boycott of Israeli academia.

“It is now clear that in every country in Europe there is a precedent for calling boycotts of Israeli goods a violation of the law,” Palmor said. “This is an important precedent, one that says very clearly that boycott calls are discriminatory. We hope this will help us push back against all the calls for boycotts of Israeli goods.”

Visit our website for latest international solidarity news: www.scottishpsc.org.uk

Join Scottish PSC – we are all volunteers with no paid staff – or make a financial donation to help us continue campaigning work:

Send a cheque to:

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

c/o Peace & Justice Centre

Princes Street

Edinburgh

EH2 4BJ

www.scottishpsc.org.uk

SPSC is affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK) www.palestinecampaign.org

List of Scholarships Available for Palestinians


24/10/2015 Update

Since last I looked at this blog, a Gaza based startup created this app: http://www.menaship.com which aims to link up citizens of the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) to scholarships across the world.

~~~~~~~~

I thought I would compile this list to act as a starting point for any Palestinian wishing to further their education in the UK, hope it helps!The Durham Palestine Educational TrustThis trust funds two Palestinian students to study for a Masters degree at the University of Durham, one of the UKs most prestigous universities.The Website: http://www.dur.ac.uk/durham.palestine/

Whos is eligible: Palestinians who have completed their degrees in one of the Universities in the West Bank or Gaza, and belong to a family that is normally resident in the West Bank or Gaza. You will also be expected to return to the West Bank or Gaza once your scholarship is completed.

Neat ways to raise money for them: You will find ways to raise money for the DPET by using the everyclick search engine, or donating used books. My favourite is by following this link when you purchase items from Amazon, the DPET receives 5% comission on every purchase made this way.

Said Foundation (Formely the Karim Rida Said Foundation)

These scholarships enable you to pursue further (postgraduate) education in the some universities in the UK and the Middle East, with the proviso that you use your knowledge to serve one of the Foundations’ target countries.

Website:http://www.saidfoundation.org/whatwedo/education.shtml

Who is Eligible: Iraqis, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians or Palestinians (including Palestinians inside Israel) who are resident in the Middle East.

Conditions:

  1. you must demonstrate that your chosen course of study will be of use to your home country or the Middle East region.
  2. you must have at least two years work experience.
  3. you must sign a binding undertaking to apply the skills and knowledge you have gained in one of the Foundation’s target countries.

The A.M. Qattan Foundation

I have attached the latest news that I received from the London based Qattan foundation, I could not find much information on their website (http://www.qattanfoundation.org/en/index.asp), but you can email them for further information (and maybe share what you find out?)

Five teachers received preliminary acceptance to the Qattan-Qaddumi Postgraduate Scholarship Programme in Education, which is now in its second year. An independent panel interviewed all prospective candidates, including our Gaza colleagues who communicated via video-conference. Short listed candidates are now required to fulfil a number of other conditions before the panel announces the winner.

******check this site for scholarships for Palestinian teachers: http://www.hq-sf.org/public/English.aspx?Lang=3&Page_Id=1553&Menu_ID=244&Site_ID=0 ****

British Council

The British Council offers scholarships for international students to further their studies in the UK.

Follow this link (http://www.britishcouncil.org/learning-funding-your-studies.htm) to find one that suits you.

The Hope Fund

Based in the USA (http://www.thehopefund.org/)

Update: as of the 10th of September 2009, this post has received 174 hits, mostly from search engine referrals.�

I would appreciate it of people could give me some feedback, did you find this list useful in any way?

Either vote via the buttons at the top of this page, or by leaving a comment.

Thank you! 🙂


Update + Disclaimer: 

Hi,

To everyone who has commented on this post, thank you! and to those students looking for funding for their studies, I wish you all the success.

As you can tell, I am no longer updating this blog, so my replies are very rare. So my apologies for the tardiness.

On the subject of scholarships, I am merely a messenger, and do not administer any of the available funding sources. Apologies if you I misled.

So if you are looking for a scholarship, please do follow the links I have provided, and contact the scholarships directly.

 

Emasculated Muslim Men and the Feminist Hijabi


On Friday the 10th of July I attended the Islamic Circles panel discussion on “Emasculated Muslim Men and the Feminist Hijabi”. The event was introduced by the chair (whose name I did not catch) by mentioning (and slightly mistranslating) the verse from the holy Quran, which states that the men are the ‘maintainers and protectors’ of women, and that they are ‘preferred’ because of what they spent from their wealth. However, women have become victims of the worst forms of oppression:

and yet it is Muslim women who are often at the receiving end of some of the worst abuse and oppression that is taking place today.

On the other hand, he continued to say, there appears to be an increase in ’emasculated’ men, and questions whether they are now at the financial ‘mercy’ of women? I think it is funny that when a man is financially reliant on a woman he is considered at her mercy, but if she were reliant on him she is considered ‘looked after’, and in Arabic she would be moazzazi i.e. cared for. The chair has three daughters of his own, and through his own community involvement had noticed that women are the ones responsible for 80% of all the real work in these events. The Muslim men often lacked chivalry, were inactive, and he actually called them ‘useless’. So he posits, is feminism at fault? The chair was affable, likeable and had some interesting points, but I did not follow the argument from ‘men are useless’ to ‘could it be women’s fault’.

The first speaker was Sarah Malik, a (deep breath) ‘Surrendered Wife Trainer’. My first reaction to this area of expertise was ‘what are they dogs’ and half expected her to turn up in brogues with chocolate digestives stuffed down her pocket, carrying a whip. She didn’t, she was actually very sweet, but let us not be distracted away from  her job description ‘surrendered wife trainer’. This seems to be an American movement, and the all knowing wikipedia lists the beliefs of the “Surrendered Wives” movement as (italics are my personal contribution):

  1. a wife relinquishes control of her husband’s life (understandable, I would not want to be controlled).
  2. she respects his decisions for his life (again, respect is good)
  3. she practices good self-care;  she does at least three things a day for her own enjoyment. (Happy to do that).
  4. she also practices receiving compliments and gifts graciously. (is polite and well mannered)
  5. she practices expressing gratitude; thanking her husband for the things he does. (see above)
  6. a surrendered wife is not afraid to show her vulnerability and take the feminine approach. (not sure I like defining feminity as such…)

Not so bad huh? Is common sense, which made me object even more to the title ‘surrendered wife’ as it implies that women are rude and boorish and must surrender to something to give up their awful ways and become well mannered people. But again I digress, back to Sarah. She started by stating that feminism had given women many advantages, and acknowledged that 1400 years ago Islam had also given Women many rights (protection from abuse. the right to inherent etc.). Over the years, the East had picked up some Western customs, women became shunned  if they got divorced, they did not receive education and so on. I admit I was confused by this, being an Arab Western influence is very recent, but Sarah Malik appeared to be of Pakistani descent, and the Indian peninsular certainly did receive alot more western influence alot earlier on ‘thanks’ to the British Empire. But I simply could have misheard! Feminism, she said, did a great job reclaiming rights for women. It gave women support, a voice, refuge, acceptance in society and the ability to choose a career.

She then started talking about the immigrant communities in the UK. When the previous generation emigrated to the UK, they faced many problems. The loss of extended family and sense of community was very stressful. Girls were encouraged to work by their mothers because according to them men were useless. This sort of upbringing resulted in highly independent, fiery women, who maybe didn’t have that much respect for men. Boys also were pushed to develop their careers, and in the process lost out on the family experience, and became rather rubbish around the home. OK, I cant to relate to any of this, and it is clearly culture focused.. I am especially not sold on the theory that mothers tell their daughters men are useless!

‘The Media’ cropped up (as it is wont to at such events), and its the negative portrayal of Muslims. This has driven Hijabis to become very focused on preserving their rights and showing the world how emancipated they are. This is something I do relate to, however due to the lack of media attention to Muslim women while I was growing up, or where I grew up, I cannot blame the media for my attitude. I think it had more to do with me growing up at a time when Arab nationalism was declining, and enlightenment on the teachings of Islam were on the rise. Since the Arab Culture is often incompatible with ones rights in Islam, I did become rather hell bent on preserving my rights as a Muslim woman. She then said that Men had complied (due to this Media pressure I guess), given women their rights, and for some unfathomable reason abandoned their duties towards women!

Sarah then declared to us that ‘Men too have rights’, aww bless them, the weaker stronger sex is having their rights stripped away! I couldn’t help that sarcastic comment there.. back on topic. Men, said Sarah, have a right to admiration, respect, and sex, in the sense that men should not be vilified and called ‘animals’ for having a sex drive ‘, fair enough I say. Men ‘have feelings too’, a statement which amused me since I actually do fall into the trap of dismissing the fact that men have feelings. However these needs are not often met by women, who in fairness were too exhausted to comply. This is due to the mother effect (there we go blaming women for the deficiencies of men 😀 ), men are often over-mothered and end up entering the marital home with scarce little life skills, which women have in abundance. The weak man then ends up shirking his responsibilities and depends on others to do his job for him e.g. his wife. She cited the example of the husbands who don’t bother to pay the electricity bill and their families end up suddenly without electricity.

We were then introduced to the phenomena of the Single White Female Single Female Feminist Hijabi who are characterised by:

  • Men not meeting their expectations.
  • Scare men off with their ‘masculine ways’ (seriously I never classed men as wimpy)
  • Masculine (rubbish!, never came across someone like that!)
  • Ends up with a submissive male

and then to the Emasculated Muslim Man who as a consequence of his dealings with the Single Female Feminist Hijabi:

  • looses his aspirations
  • looses his willingness to help
  • ceases to be attracted to her

Now, I am not sure what to make of this. Why is it problematic that women preserve, and fight for, their rights? Why would this result in the decreasing contribution of men to the society/marital home? Are the women preventing their husbands from doing their duty? Are they denying them their rights as husbands? I find it all a bit hard to swallow..

The next speaker was Susie Heath author of “The Essence of Womanhood- Re awakening the authentic feminine” and relationship coach with many years experience. Susie feels that there is a serious imbalance in relationships these days. Many business women came to her for help, they were quite masculine (with deep voices) and were a bit frightening, complaining that their husbands were no longer attracted to them ‘the idiots’, and the husbands would come ‘dripping in’ whining about their tough wives.

Susie believes that once a couple aim for an ‘equal’ relationship that said relationship was doomed, because we ‘are not equal, we are different’. She then apologised to the men in the audience for ‘stealing their power’, and said that we ‘had dishonoured ourselves as women’. She is grateful to the feminist movement, but does not view women as being 50% male and 50% female, and it is problematic that women try to emulate (agree) and overtake (disagree) men. That due to their taking on more and more work, and enduring more stress, women were producing more testosterone, that their bodies are not equipped to handle (aren’t they?) and hence they are wrecking their adrenal glands. But what can women do? when men don’t step up to the job, when they cease to honour their responsibilities, like keeping his family safe by say locking up at night, then women end up doing it, becoming more controlling, and compounding the emasculation of their husband. Susie recommends men step up and women take a step back. Not in an evolutionary sense or in the sense of giving anything up, but in the sense of allowing him to do something, to cease to take all the responsibilities on her shoulders.

Susie was really the only panel member to define feminine traits, describing the feminine as ‘beautiful, soft and creative’. I admit my notes are a bit disjointed, I am not sure whether this next point is related to the previous one, because she goes on to say that we have to accept that someone has to make the decisions, and if it is not the man, then it is the woman. She objected to the portrayal of too much female flesh in the media (cant escape the media), because ‘it takes away a sacred part of women’ parts that we don’t want to share with all men. I thought it was nicely put.

It isn’t all pink and fluffy though, Susie firmly believes that women are very competent, but they need to be able to feel safe with men, and only then will they feel nurtured and cared for, and she hopes for the day when cherishment and chivalry return. Her plan? Thank, acknowledge and admire men, and then they will step up (in my notes I had written: are we being held responsible for THEIR behaviour again!!!). She said that the more women do, the more they take on financially the less men have to do, and we should change this.. hey I am all for handing over financial responsibility, and totally agree with her on this point… we wouldn’t want men to feel unneeded would we 🙂

Finally, the only male member of the panel! Imam Shahnoaz Haque, a Psychotherapist, Teacher and Khatib (sort of like a preacher). The Imaam conducted a mini survey of the audience, asking people to state one property that they consider to be ‘feminine’ and one that they consider to be ‘masculine’. One lady objected saying she was uncomfortable with such classifications, and I agreed with her. But the man was driving at something, he ended up with the following (rough) list:

Male strong, decisive, powerful, confident, trustworthy, protective

Female gentle, playful, shy, compassionate, caring, classy, emotional, clean/hygienic, soft.

Then by giving examples from the life of the Prophet Mohammed, he showed that he (the Prophet -PBUH-) exhibited all these qualities, the feminine and the masculine. I think that he was confusing the word hayaa’ with shy, but it is more closely related to the word humility. His point was that it is a mute point to discuss the ‘feminine’ traits and the ‘masculine’ traits as if they were mutually exclusive to their respective genders, because the Prophet -PBUH- was known for both.

He concluded by saying that if feminism meant standing up for rights, then all hijabis should be feminists.

Update:

iMuslim also has a post on this event link

The Brutal Murder of a Muslim in a German Court


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Translation: "To Marwa's soul, the martyr of the hijab and the accusation of terror"

It has been 7 days since the Egyptian pharmacist, Marwa Al-Sherbini was brutally stabbed to death by a nutter in a German court. The attack lasted 30 seconds and resulted in 18 stabs. I am not sure what the police or court security were doing during this time, but they seem to have managed to jump to action when her husband came to her rescue, but then only to shoot him. Egyptians are clearly angered and upset, Marwa -may she rest in peace- was buried in her hometown of Alexandria the other day, and Egyptians flowed into street protests chanting La Illaha Illa Allah wal al-maan a3daa2o Allah (There is no god but God and the Germans are the enemies of God) (The Huffington Post).

There are many elements of the case that puzzle me, how could a 30 second attack be sustained in court without anyone intervening? Where were the court security at the time? It must have been clear who the assailant was, why shoot the husband when he tries to intervene? and finally why cant I find any news stories in English about this?

All I have come across is a translation of a German article by the blogger Too Much Cookies, and a comment in the Guardian newspaper, which I must say felt more like a denouncement of the reaction of Egyptians and Arabs to the case. The writer was objecting to their paranoia, because apparently they were convinced that there was a premeditated European media blackout on the case while Europe ‘over report’ Muslim attacks on non-Muslims, thus signifying an era of justifiable attacks on Muslims.

Now, personally I prefer to avoid such conspiracy theories, and having lived in Europe, and dealt with Germans in the workplace, do not believe that they are generically racist Islamophobes. But this case and its fallout has me confused and surprised me, it certainly does feel the crimes committed by Muslims, even if they are in isolation, are well reported in the media, but this crime committed by a Russian immigrant and compounded by the bizarrely incompetent (and dare I say prejudiced?) behaviour of the German court security has barely made it into even the most left wing British newspaper! and even then only as a pithy comment written by someone with a conveniently Muslim sounding name.. seriously this case has me worked up enough to start reading meaning where none may exist!

Sure, it is a massive leap from this case, and the way it has been handled, to conclude that Europe is on the cusp of Islamophobia, or that Germans are in general the enemies of God (and yes that is a racist ignorant thing to say regardless of how you are feeling!)… but still the facts of the case are unclear, and whether the court security personnel are being subjected to an investigation has not been reported, but I hope they are. And I hope Marwa rests in peace, and that her family find a way to live with their horrific loss, 3athamma Allaho 2ajirhom.

Update:

After a more careful search of The Guardian I found two more articles (here and here) but again they are more focused on the reaction of Egyptians and her family to the murder, rather than the murder and circumstances that lead up to it.

Turns out the BBC also has an article, again focused on the reaction to the murder, and they claim that the defendant was in court for ‘insulting her religion’ (her being Marwa).. when acccording to the Guardian he called her a ‘terrorist’ and ‘islamist whore’ and was in court on charges of defamation (link)

The wounds of Gaza 2009


Received this by email today:

The Wounds of Gaza 2009

Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang,

30 January 2009 The wounds of Gaza are deep.

Dr Ghassan describes it as multi-layered. Are we talking about the Khan Younis massacre of 5,000 in 1956 or the execution of 35,000 prisoners of war by Israel in 1967. Yet more wounds of the First Intifada, when civil disobedience by an occupied people against the occupiers resulted in massive wounded and hundreds dead? We also cannot discount the 5,420 wounded in southern Gaza alone since 2000. Hence what we are referring to below are only that of the invasion as of 27 December 2008, Over the period of 27 December 2008 to the ceasefire of 18 Jan 2009, it was estimated that a million and a half tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza Strip. Gaza is 25 miles by 5 miles and home to 1.5 million people. This makes it the most crowded area in the whole world. Prior to this Gaza has been completely blockaded and starved for 50 days. In fact since the Palestinian election Gaza has been under total or partial blockade for several years.

On the first day of the invasion, 250 persons were killed. Every single police station in Gaza was bombed killing large numbers of police officers. Having wiped out the police force attention was turned to non government targets. Gaza was bombed from the air by F16 and Apache helicopters, shelled from the sea by Israeli gunboats and from the land by tank artillery. Many schools were reduced to rubble, including the American School of Gaza, 40 mosques, hospitals, UN buildings, and of course 21,000 homes, 4,000 of which were demolished completely. It is estimated that 100,000 people are now homeless.

ISRAELI WEAPONS

The weapons used apart from conventional bombs and high explosives also include unconventional weapons of which at least 4 categories could be identified.

1.Phosphorus Shells and bombs.

The bombs dropped were described by eye witnesses as exploding at high altitude scattering a large canopy of phosphorus bomblets which cover a large area. During the land invasion, eyewitnesses describe the tanks shelling into homes first with a conventional shell. Once the walls are destroyed, a second shell – a phosphorus shell is then shot into the homes. Used in this manner the phosphorus explodes and burns the families and the homes. Many charred bodies were found among burning phosphorus particles.

One area of concern is the phosphorus seems to be in a special stabilizing agent. This results in the phosphorus being more stable and not completely burning out. Residues still cover the fields, playground and compounds. They ignite when picked up by curious kids, or produce fumes when farmers return to water their fields. One returning farming family on watering their field met with clouds of fumes producing epistaxis. Thus the phosphorus residues probably treated with a stabilizer also act as anti-personnel weapons against children and make the return to normal life difficult without certain hazards.

Surgeons from hospitals are also reporting cases where after primary laparotomy for relatively small wounds with minimal contamination find on second look laparotomy increasing areas of tissue necrosis at about 3 days. Patients then become gravely ill and by about 10 days those patients needing a third relook encounter massive liver necrosis. This may or may not be accompanied by generalized bleeding , kidney failure and heart failure and death. Although acidosis, liver necrosis and sudden cardiac arrest due to hypocalcemia is know to be a complication of white phosphorus it is not possible to attribute these complications as being due to phosphorus alone.

There is real urgency to analyze and identify the real nature of this modified phosphorus as to its long term effect on the people of Gaza. There is also urgency in collecting and disposing of the phosphorus residues littering the entire Gaza Strip. As they give off toxic fumes when coming into contact with water, once the rain falls the whole area would be polluted with acid phosphorus fumes. Children should be warned not to handle and play with these phosphorus residues

2Heavy Bombs

The use of DIME (dense inert material explosives) were evident, though it is unsure whether depleted uranium were used in the south. In the civilian areas, surviving patients were found to have limbs truncated by DIME, since the stumps apart from being characteristically cut off in guillotine fashion also fail to bleed. Bomb casing and shrapnels are extremely heavy.

3Fuel Air Explosives Bunker busters and implosion bombs have been used .

There are buildings especially the 8 storey Science and Technology Building of the Islamic University of Gaza which had been reduced to a pile of rubble no higher than 5-6 feet.

4Silent Bombs

People in Gaza described a silent bomb which is extremely destructive. The bomb arrives as a silent projectile at most with a whistling sound and creates a large area where all objects and living things are vaporized with minimal trace. We are unable to fit this into conventional weapons but the possibility of new particle weapons being tested should be suspected.

5Executions Survivors

describe Israeli tanks arriving in front of homes asking residents to come out. Children, old people and women would come forward and as they were lined up they were just fired on and killed. Families have lost tens of their members through such executions. The deliberate targeting of unarmed children and women is well documented by human right groups in the Gaza Strip over the past month.

6Targeting of ambulances

Thirteen ambulances had been fired upon killing drivers and first aid personnel in the process of rescue and evacuation of the wounded.

7.Cluster bombs

The first patients wounded by cluster were brought into Abu Yusef Najjar Hospital. Since more than 50% of the tunnels have been destroyed, Gaza has lost part of her lifeline. These tunnels contrary to popular belief are not for weapons, though small light weapons could have been smuggled through them. However they are the main stay of food and fuel for Gaza. Palestinians are beginning to tunnel again. However it became clear that cluster bombs were dropped on to the Rafah border and the first was accidentally set of by tunneling. Five burns patients were brought in after setting off a booby trap kind of device.

DEATH TOLL

As of 25 January 2009, the death toll was estimated at 1,350 with the numbers increasing daily. This is due to the severely wounded continuing to die in hospitals. 60% of those killed were children SEVERE INJURIES The severely injured numbered 5,450, with 40% being children. These are mainly large burns and polytrauma patients. Single limb fractures and walking wounded are not included in these figures. Through our conversations with doctors and nurses the word holocaust and catastrophe were repeatedly used. The medical staff all bear the psychological trauma of the past month living though the situation and dealing with mass casualties which swamped their casualties and operating rooms. Many patients died in the Accident and Emergency Department while awaiting treatment. In a district hospital, the orthopaedic surgeon carried out 13 external fixations in less than a day. It is estimated that of the severely injured, 1,600 will suffer permanently disabilities. These include amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, large burns with crippling contractures.

SPECIAL FACTORS

The death and injury toll is especially high in this recent assault due to several factors.

1.No escape:

As Gaza is sealed by Israeli troops, no one can escape the bombardment and the land invasion. There is simply no escape. Even within the Gaza Strip itself, movement from north to south is impossible as Israeli tanks had cut the northern half of Gaza from the south. Compare this with the situation in Lebanon 1982 and 2006, when it was possible for people to escape from an area of heavy bombardment to an area of relative calm – there was no such is option for Gaza

2.Gaza is very densely populated.

It is eerie to see that the bombs used by Israel have been precision bombs. They have a hundred percent hit rate on buildings which are crowded with people. Examples are the central market, police stations. Schools, the UN compounds used as a safety shelter from bombardment, mosques (40 of them destroyed), and the homes of families who thought they were safe as there were no combatants in them and high rise flats where a single implosion bomb would destroy multiple families. This pattern of consistent targeting of civilians makes one suspect that the military targets are but collateral damage, while civilians are the primary targets.

3.The quantity and quality of the ammunition being used as described above

4.Gaza’s lack of defense against the modern weapons of Israel.

She has no tanks, no planes, no anti-aircraft missiles against the invading army. We experienced that first hand in a minor clash of Israeli tank shells versus Palestinian AK47 return fire. The forces were simply unmatched.

5.Absence of well constructed bomb shelters for civilians.

Unfortunately these will also be no match for bunker busters possessed by the Israeli Army.

CONCLUSION

Taking the above points into consideration, the next assault on Gaza would be just as disastrous. The people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of yet another attack. The International Community if it were serious about preventing this large scale of deaths and injuries will have to develop a defense force for Gaza if it is considered desirable for Gaza were to continue to be inadequately armed to defend herself.