Thursday, October 30, 2008

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

Yesterday, a couple of friends and I were sitting outside under the stars, lamenting the sorry state of the world, but staying hopeful and wondering what role we could play in trying to make it all better. It was a really nice conversation, one of those that keeps you thinking for a long time afterwards. On my way back home, I had my iPod on shuffle in the car, and an old song I hadn't heard in forever came on.

How appropriate, I thought. It was Billy Bragg's "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward." I kept it on repeat all the way home, and enjoyed it so much I wanted to share it with you.

And here are the lyrics, if you're interested.


Monday, October 27, 2008

America Did Do It

The U.S. took credit for the attack on Syria. And Middle Eastern countries are not happy. Here are some reactions:

And for those interested, here's a timeline on attacks within Syria at Al Jazeera English.

U.S. Quickie in Syria

It seems that the rumors are true: The U.S. appears to have staged an attack on Syrian territory late yesterday.

The attack took place in the border town of al-Sukariyah near Iraq. According to eye-witnesses, two American helicopters landed on Syrian territory and 8 U.S. commandoes disembarked, killing at least 9 people and injuring 14 others, all of whom were civilian builders at their jobs. The American troops then boarded the helicopters and left.

Okay, this is completely bizarre. What is going on? How can American troops just enter Syria, kill a bunch of civilians and leave? Even if the attack was close to the Iraqi border. And no matter what stories come out about terrorist bases or whatnot on the Iraqi side of the border (which they already have), this does not excuse an attack on civilians, not to mention a U.S. act of aggression in a sovereign state.

Imagine this had been an attack by a foreign state on Americans near Mexico, with the excuse of trying to root out the drug trade on the border. If just one person had been killed, the U.S. government would have gone wild over another state killing its civilians and violating its sovereignty.

But never mind. These are just 9 nameless Syrian villagers. And Syrian sovereignty rights? What rights? Syria's just another one of those Middle Eastern countries that are always messy anyways.

We have a serious problem here. If the U.S. wants to be at all respected in the Middle East, which is necessary for peace in the region (and around the world), then it has got to stop randomly entering and attacking other states at its every whim. And an attempt at shaking up the elections doesn't make for a good excuse to do that either.

Here's a really good post at the LA Times' Middle Eastern blog, Babylon & Beyond that asks:

Syria: What's behind the U.S. raid?

I'll put up any updates if and when they come along.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reading Iran Through Shirin Ebadi

This has been a crazy two weeks. With midterms and papers all due at the same time, I feel like I've hardly had any time to breathe. But in the few moments I have off in times of chaos like these, I like to escape from my world by reading about someone else's life - be that "someone else" a fictional character in a novel or a real person.

Right now, the life I'm reading about is Shirin Ebadi's. A judge, an Iranian, a woman, and a Nobel Prize winner, I couldn't pass up the chance to learn about her. I don't know much about her work, but I do remember coming across articles she wrote this summer urging the U.S. not to attack Iran.

Ebadi's book, Iran Awakening, is eye-opening. It's nice to see the mainstream media promoting an Iranian woman who is objectively critical of certain aspects of Iranian society without bashing Iran altogether. She refuses to paint topics like the Islamic Revolution or Iranian traditions with a single brush of cliches, but rather exposes the complexities of Iranian society that lead to their creation.

I bought this book as a small present for myself on Eid. And what a good choice it was. Have I piqued your interest enough? Good. Get your hands on a copy and read it, ASAP. We need balanced information like Ebadi's to get a better understanding of Iran, especially as it's taking a position of greater and greater importance on the world stage.

Go on, grab a copy of that book. You won't regret it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Merhaba, Security Council!

Turkey just won a two-year term on the UN Security Council!

The UN Security Council is the part of the United Nations that maintains international peace and security, and can be likened to a state government's executive branch. There are 15 seats on the Security Council: 5 permanent members (the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China) and 10 rotating members.

The rotating members are chosen according to the number of seats allocated per region (i.e. Europe, Asia, Africa). The Turks, along with Austria, beat Iceland for the Security Council's European vacancies.

Having Turkey on the Security Council could not have come at a better time. Both "Western" and "Eastern," the country can play a major role in mediating between the two regions. Issues like Iran's nuclear program, for example, could potentially be more easily resolved through a Turkish mediator.

I'm not in any way implying that Turkey is perfect here. The country, like all countries, has certain setbacks and blemishes in its history. But it also has incredible potential. So seeing it in the Security Council after so long (the last time it had a seat there was 1961!) is pretty exciting. And it's definitely a bonus for EU membership.

Can't wait to see what Turkey does with its new role on the international stage. But for now, I'm celebrating with some Turkish coffee and Turkish delight.

Çok güsel, Türkiye!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Angry at the Economy

So to continue my survey of the coverage on the economic crisis, I've picked out an article that's both a little scary and ridiculously amusing.

The writer, David Michael Green, is angry. He's angry at the situation America and the world are in, he's angry at unrestrained capitalism, he's angry at greedy leadership, he's angry at America's generations of an insatiable appetite and shirked responsibilities.

And he lets you know it through an onslaught of sarcasm that doesn't fail to entertain.

For your reading pleasure, I present: "This Just In: Greed Is Not Good," by David Michael Green.

And if you enjoyed his article, check out his website at

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Another Economy Explanation

Oh! I just came across a pretty good article that tries to explain the economic crisis - by comparing it to a casino! I kept hearing about this whole "casino economy," and now I finally get it.

Here ya go:

"This Sucker Could Go Down," by Peter Constantini.

And here's an older, but interesting article by Ali Khan from Counterpunch (a leftist magazine, by the way) that critiques the economic crisis from the perspective of Islamic financing: "Meltdown in American Markets."

God, things look like they keep getting worse and worse. I wonder how bad this "Crash of 2008" is going to be by the time it's over.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Occupation 101

I just finished watching a GREAT documentary on Palestine called Occupation 101. But man, it left me depressed.

We sit around in our villas and apartments, with our couches and TVs, eating popcorn and chugging down cans of soda while watching people living a couple thousand miles away suffering in places like Palestine.

Their houses are being demolished, they're getting shot at, their culture is being eroded, and their children are suffering so much that psychologists are only beginning to understand the toll living under occupation and constant threat is having on them.

In the comfort of our secure homes and prosperous cities, it's hard to connect to something like that.

But connect we must. Because that's the only way we can feel enough empathy to help people who don't have the luxuries most of us have because we happened to be born in a particular place and time.

I know we might not be able to save the world at this very moment. But we can talk about wanting to save it. And if we do, maybe we can inspire others to do the same. With each additional voice, we'll get louder and louder. Loud enough, maybe, to actually make a difference.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


So I just discovered something pretty shocking in my anthropology course:

Race is culturally constructed.

It has nothing to do with biology. It's all cultural! Call me ignorant, but that was totally new to me.

The American Anthropological Association even has a whole website about it. Check it out!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

America Celebrates Eid

American? Yes. Muslim? Yes.

You can be both. People have been doing it for generations.

Wanna get a tiny glimpse of Islam in America? Check out the Empire State Building lit green for Eid!

Daisy Khan's open letter to America in the Washington Post reflects exactly how I felt when I heard about the Empire State Building going green. It is beyond exhilarating to feel my fellow Americans recognizing one of the most important days on the Muslim calender. Muslims across the country have been working so hard to enter mainstream America, and this is a small tribute to that effort.

Right here is another one of those "I love America" moments.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Eid Mania in Dubai

Eid in Dubai is just a little short of crazy. You're in the middle of a desert, so any outdoor activity is pretty much out of the question. What happens, then, is that everyone goes to malls and hotels. The streets are packed with cars trying to get to some air-conditioned destination, and once you get to that destination, you can hardly move because of the sheer numbers of human beings crammed into that space.

I was at Festival City today and yesterday, and I was nearly climbing over people to get to my seat in the restaurant or to move to another part of the mall. There were so many kids - screaming, laughing, crying, jumping around, showing off their new presents. Being stuck at university all the time, it's sometimes shocking to see so many people under the age of 18 at once. But despite the headaches that I got from all the noise (oh God, I sound like my grandmother), it was a nice change.

I guess that's what Eid, or any major holiday, is all about. Breaking out of our daily routine and submitting to life's blissful craziness. These are the days that stay with us when we get old and look back at our lives. So we might as well enjoy them!

Eid Mubarak!