Worse than Who’s Who

November 19, 2009

The recently released report entitled “The 500 Most Influential Muslims” would barely be acceptable as an IB MYP Personal Project from a 10th Grader. I certainly hope that the people who did the actual work were undergrads and not doctoral candidates or – Hasha lillah! – Esposito and Kalin themselves.

Aside from my personal biases, the most jaw-grind-inducing problem was the sheer inconsistency. There was apparently no criterion for deciding how individuals were assigned to the various categories. This was really noticeable with religious scholars who were haphazardly assigned to three or four different categories. There was also no consistency in the amount of detail or the extension of meaning of terms used in the sidebar. National placement was also fluid – Shaikh Nuh Keller (US born, resident in Jordan for two decades) is listed under the USA, while Shaikh Gibreel Haddad (Lebanon born, US educated, longtime resident of Syria, and settled for about 5 years in Brunei) is listed under Brunei.

The “top 50” are ranked, and the rest simply listed by country and region in their categories. The most offensive category is that for “women.” All of the women included are shoved in this category, no matter what their field. Sheikh Hasina Wazed – the Prime Minister of a country with a population greater than those controlled by the four “most influential” combined is not only relegated to this category but even has her name mis-Arabized. (I suspect the editorial hand of John “qital=killing” Esposito there.) The only exception is Sheikha Munira Qubeysi (!!!?!!1!1!) who makes it as the token woman in the top 50. Read the rest of this entry »


As Fears Grow Over Pakistani President, U.S. Woos Rival

This paragraph is the only real background on NS in the article, and could at best be called counterproductive or misleading:

Mr. Sharif, 59, represents the Pakistan Muslim League-N, a coalition that includes a number of Islamist groups. He was prime minister twice during the 1990s, and received hero status in Pakistan for ordering nuclear weapons tests in 1998.

(Either my headache is more severe than I thought or they changed that in the last twenty minutes from “Muslim League of Pakistan” to PML (N)—there goes 25% of my rant!)

Anyway PML (N) is not a coalition, though presumably they are referring to the APDM which was made up of every party—Islamist, secularist, feudalist, opportunist—which actually wanted Musharraf out at the end of his reign.

His ties to Islamists are nothing but pure political calculation. The PPP and PML have each taken their turns flirting with the religious parties or the military or the West or the Saudis, and neither party has ever had even the slightest hint of an ideology beyond their own political survival, the humiliation of their rivals, and the advancement of the material well being of every hoodlum willing to rob the country blind under their banner. Read the rest of this entry »

Google Translate now includes Hindi-English and English-Hindi. It works as well as machine translation is likely to. If using short phrases, make sure to use punctuation. That seems to prevent it from treating the phrase as a clause. You can use the Indic transliteration tool if typing is tedious or you’re not a frequent Indic script typist. There used to be some online Urdu-Hindi transliteration tools out there, but I can’t find them. Combined you could have Urdu to English machine translation, I suppose.

One cool thing is that Hindi pages turning up in Google results now have “Translate this page” links. For example, the Google translated front page of BBC Hindi. Not bad at all, though this leaves me wondering about the viability of my Urdu to English hack:

A British study found that people of Indian origin in a particular gene क़िस्म because of obesity is likely to be more …
+ Declining not डाइटिंग of obesity

“क़िस्म ” is just the Hindi transliteration of Urdu “قسم” meaning type. The Google typing tool doesn’t seem to have a way to get the letters with dots used to represent qaf, fa, etc. in Hindi, so maybe Google just plain doesn’t recognize them.

The other untranslated word there (“डाइटिंग”) is also a transliteration, this time of the English word “dieting.” The original sentence was “Obesity not reduced by dieting.”

All in all, good fun with maybe an occasional practical use. I could recommend what I did with the BBC page there as a useful way for future NYT Delhi bureau chiefs (who cover everything from Dhaka to Peshawar and Kashmir to Kanyakumari) as a way of supplementing their usual diet of scanning the headlines of the Hindu and Indian Express and calling up Sonia to ask “what’s up?” Of course, don’t do it with the BBC site. (Although the BBC editors could really use some automated Urdu to English translation to examine some of the sketchy stuff that makes it onto their Urdu site. For some reason the Urdu one seems to be the only one I check regularly with original reporting which occasionally differs radically from what I imagine the BBC’s official policy to be. I think I’ve covered this before.)

Noticed via Pravin Satpute’s blog.

Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam – New York Times
Sabrina Tavernise is following in the grand tradition of NYT bureau chiefs reporting on Pakistan from the comfort of their home base in anywhere-but-Pakistan. In this case she at least had someone (Sebnem Arsu) who apparently spent some time in the country send her a quote or two rather than just regurgitating what the English press had to say. In this case, both the reporting and the analysis were uniquely shabby. Read the rest of this entry »

US ambassador launches Apple Computers store in Lahore

Somewhat ironic considering the following absurd chain mail I received last year:

Subject: Construction of Bar in New York similar to Kaabatullah
In the Downtown Manhetten of the New York City in the USA a bar has been constructed under the name of APPLE MECCA, which will serve 24 hours wine and other alcoholic drinks (see pictures below). The Muslims of the United States of America are enough embrassed by this construction and their inconspecous presence in the country is trying to bring down this construction, the Muslims are also appealing US government for not allowing to inaugurate this bar.

In the business area of MID TOWN Manhatten in New York a new BAR is opened in the name of APPLE MECCA which is familiar to KAABA MACCA .This bar will be used supply of VINE and Drinks. The Muslims of New York are pressurizing Govt of USA to not open this BAR.

Please do Forward this mail to as many people as you can. Thanks!

(Original colors and fonts – yes, plural – not reproduced for the safety of reader sensibilities.) That’s probably the only time I’ve ever actually mailed every address (about 50) in the headers of a forwarded email to scold people for believing and spreading absurd rumors. It got me two sincere thank yous. One of those was from the original sender, who apologized, and rewarded me by adding me to his address book. I repaid the favor by creating a special Gmail filter just for him.

UPDATE (3/1/2010): Nearly two years on and I still get a steady stream of hate filled comments from fellow Muslims condemning myself and all America for mocking the Holy Ka`aba. La hawla wa la quwwata illa biLlah! It is as if you are incapable of actually reading. The whole point of the post is that Muslims are destroying our own good deeds and calling down misfortune upon our own heads everyday on the internet, in email chains, in our news media, in our parliaments, and worst of all even from our minbars because we are incapable of heeding the clear warning of the Best of Creation (salawat Allah wa salamuh `alaih wa `ala Alih wa ashabih ajma`in): “It is sufficient lying for a man to convey everything he hears.” (Muslim)

Let me spell it out clearer:

  • I am a Muslim, and would be the first to defend the honor and dignity of sha`air Allah.
  • The email is nothing but lies:
    • It shows the NYC Apple store under construction with a black tarp. The actual building is glass and bears no resemblance to the Ka`aba Musharrafa.
    • It is not known as “Apple Mecca.”
    • It sells computers and not alcohol.
    • There are no legal 24-hour alcohol-serving establishments in New York.
  • Tale-bearing, rumor mongering, and slander are amongst the worst of the kaba’ir – condemned repeatedly in Qur’an and hadith. They are not only a sin which will be punished, but also include a violation of huquq al-`ibad which can result in your own good deeds being given to the offended party on Qiyama, and their bad deeds piled on your back. The casual nature of rumor mongering amongst Muslims today is horrifying. It is incumbent upon each of us to reflect on this and to take a proactive stance against this in our society.
  • May Allah guide and forgive us all.

S.A. Aiyar writes in his column:

Which of the three candidates for the US Presidency — Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, and John McCain — will be best for India? Most Indians would opt for Obama or Clinton. But from a policy viewpoint, McCain would be best for India.

There have been a large number of such editorials in the Indian papers lately. Off-hand I’d say more than in the English language Pakistani or Middle Eastern papers, but my reading habits are biased by the fact that the Indian papers do a lot more with RSS (pun only partially intended – you’d think the Pakistanis could settle for atom!)

He is correct that most of the editorials seem to favor Obama or Clinton. The former seems to be the anti-imperialist favorite, and the latter (+1) is an old favorite of the NRI and NRI influenced crowd. Unfortunately Swamiji fills the next few paragraphs with some nonsense about gender and race which I won’t repeat here. Some of it is of the sort Americans would probably consider somehow distorted or misplaced (if you as an American have ever had to hear US history summarized back to you by someone who learned it from Indian schoolbooks, you know the feeling.) He also highlights some differences between how Indians and Americans perceive the world and America’s role in it’s history, of which many Americans are probably unaware, such as the fact that your average Indian of any political persuasion old enough to be aware of – if not remember it – views the Vietnam War as an act of American arrogance, imperial ambition, and naked aggression in which we got our just deserts.

Aiyar’s main perspective, though, is one which I think Americans should pay attention to:

However, what matters for Indo-US relations is not the colour, gender or war record of any presidential candidate. What matters is their position on key bilateral issues. And in this regard, McCain beats Clinton and Obama hollow.

There seems to be alot of focus on how a Democrat is necessary to restore America’s image. But Aiyar suggests – and I agree – that it is McCain who has the best chance of actually being able to bring us back to a position of respect-worthiness on the world stage, and to guide us back to a point where we can work positively with other governments and international bodies to shape effective and sensible policy on issues of international relations, global trade, development, the environment, and the restoration of peace and security in a real sense.

Mast Qalandar – kashkul presumably in hand – wanders the khayabans and traverses the tree-lined street trees of Pakistan’s capital:
ALL THINGS PAKISTAN: The Nomenclature of Islamabad Streets