Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Friday, September 30, 2005

Awesome Blog Discovery

Everybody please check out this blog - it is fantastic with such brilliant posts such as 'rape me musharraf' and 'a reply to stupid comments on feminist studies'. (Also don't miss out her take on female pee cups and Pakistani marriages amongst other things)

More On Women In Islam And The Case Of Sania Mirza

Superb piece on the status of women in contemporary Islamic society, and in particular the treatment of women as property with reference to Sania Mirza by Shabana Mir at altmuslim (also cross-posted at her blog).

Money Quote
"Sania's clothing is an issue because women are still seen as property. "Our women" should not be viewed by others, not because they are women but because they are "ours." It is the same reason why Sher Bano is killed outside the court and Saima Waheed is taken to court by her father for marrying someone on their own and women are killed by husbands for not bringing sufficient dowry"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Asimov on Science

A quote by Asimov in his New Guide To Science via John Gribbin's Science: A History.

No one can really feel at home in the modern world and judge the nature of its problems - and the possible solutions to those problems - unless one has some intelligent notion of what science is up to. Furthermore, initiation into the magnificent world of science brings great esthetic satisfaction, inspiration to youth, fulfillment of the desire to know, and a deeper appreciation of the wonderful potentialities and achievements of the human mind.

I think there is great wisdom in this and makes things such as this (via 3quarksdaily) and this so much more depressing.

Stop Pestering Old Myopic People!??

I'm watching Question Time right now and understandably Patricia Hewitt has had a go against Ken Clarke, questioning his record while in government.

But honestly, is there nothing better that Labour has on Ken Clarke that he stopped free eye tests for old people??? I mean, do even old people care about this??

a) Labour is convinced David Davis is going to win,
b) Labour does not believe Ken Clarke to be a threat,
c) Patricia Hewitt and her researchers are thoroughly incompetent.

Answers please (After listening to more Patricia Hewitt I'm leaning towards (c))

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Teenage Punks Behind Black Hijabs!

Seemingly obvious but nevertheless brilliant piece in The Times by Janice Turner on the Hijab as another form of teen rebellion along the same lines 'as a punk's mohican or a goth's black garb'.

Ms Turner makes a number of good points in her discussion with a group of intelligent young Hijabi's. For example she questions them on issues such as equality and various freedoms for people in the U.K. As I've said before, one of the problems in Muslim thought is the association of liberal democracy with sometimes questionable morality. The point is not that a liberal society promotes such action it is that people are given the freedom to choose how they behave. There is often talk about how liberal democracy needs to be adapted to Eastern or Islamic culture. The point is that it will do so automatically - a liberal democracy in Pakistan will have several problems resulting from people exercising their freedom but mass drunkenness is unlikely to be one of them.

The most interesting part of the article though was this argument,

"I suggested they were far more British than they thought. They laughed that living in Iran and compelled to wear the hijab they would probably spend their lives trying to break the rule."

Of course there is no way of proving this but intuitively it just seems right and definitely provides food for thought.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Prayers

I came out of Friday prayers today and felt there was something refreshingly different. Then it came to me - no annoying as hell Hizb-ul-Tahrir leafleteers were present! There are negative consequences of the government's decision to ban the group but thankfully there are also positives.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Irfan Hussain

Irfan Hussain is one of Pakistan's top newspaper columnists and his latest piece on occupation, terrorism and counter-terrorism is once again deeply thought provoking.

The point I'd like to make is that even though most would consider Mr Hussain a liberal muslim who is unafraid to take bold positions on many controversial issues, his position on Palestine is very much in line with most progressive and muslim opinion. It strentghens my belief that it is a grave mistake for Americans in particular to simplify the issue in terms of democracy v terrorism.

Palestinian groups should be condemned when they engage in bombing Israeli towns. However the assumption many Americans make is that as the P.L.O was so late in recognising the state of Israel, a peace accord without a solution to the Hamas problem is destined to fail as Palestinians will continue the bombing.

This is a mistake. As the period after the Oslo accords showed, when given the prospect of peace ordinary Palestinians will help their administration in clamping down on the radicals. Most Palestinians are ordinary people who do want peace. Most Isreali's are ordinary people who want peace. To make it happen America needs to be involved as an honest broker.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Has Musharraf Gone Nuts?

This was the question asked recently by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof based on the good general's comments on rape being a 'money-making' concern.

My own view of General Musharraf is that given the position he occupies, he is not doing enough to build institutions which can survive his reign, thereby leaving continued good governance to chance. On the other hand, as of right now there are no credible alternatives.

Therefore compared to the return of Zardari or the MMA, I'm reasonably satisfied with his performance. However if an 'enlightened moderate' like Musharraf is going to make such remarks then it is deeply worrying for the future of the country.

(Excellent piece on the BBC website)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Monty Hall Problem Answer

This is slightly delayed, but I thought that I'd mention that S Abdul Halim has the right answer on the Monty Hall problem about the goats and cars here .

The essential point is that although you might end up with a choice between a car and a goat, the probability of the first pick being either a car or a goat means that it no longer remains a 50/50 choice.

Anyway, the thing I got from the puzzle is how intuition can get things so horribly wrong. Almost everyone that you give this problem too will immediately say that it makes no difference which door you pick.

For many, even showing the mathematic logic will not leave them convinced. When Marilyn vos Savant initially gave the correct answer, she was inundated with responses by respected academics who criticised her for among other things threatening maths education in America.

Intuition is important - many decisions that we take have to be made at an internal intuitive level. However, we must also recognise logic and reason and this is especially true when states as opposed to individuals are making decisions and that irrationality has to be fought.

When Musharraf Met Sharon

Hilarious snippet in the Times recounting the brief Musharaf/Sharon encounter at the U.N.

President Musharraf of Pakistan had a politically significant encounter with Ariel Sharon of Israel at a breakfast session. “I was standing and I was in a group and he joined me in the group,” General Musharraf told reporters. “He asked me how I was and I asked him ‘How are you?’”

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pakistan and Israel

There is a big discussion in Pakistan right now about the merits and demerits of the government's decision to initiate diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the Gaza pullout s I thought I'd give my take.

Firstly, I don't think that Israel should have come into existence in 1948 in the way that it did with the eviction of Palestinians from their homes and the taking over of their land. Having said that, that was over 50 years and things have moved on since then. Despite the fact that millions of Palestinians have suffered, there is no sense in inflicting similar hardship on Israelis especially considering the fact that after the horrors of the Holocaust it does make sense to have a Jewish state somewhere in the world.

So, where does that leave a country like Pakistan? I think that no recognition sends out the wrong signals by suggesting that Israel itself should not exist rather than a Palestinian state should also exist. Therefore an ideal situation would be to have official recognition but to adjust diplomatic and economic relations based on the progress of the 'peace process'.

I don't however think that that sequencing of events is wholly possible and so I have to broadly agree with what the government has done. There are also strong arguments to make as to Pakistan acting in its own national interest as opposed to basing foreign policy on some utopian vision of pan-Islamic unity. I don't like to use them however as they suggest that determinations of good and bad should never enter foreign policy decisions which is a very Kissingerian view of diplomacy which I'm not very comfortable with. (On that, The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens is a must read)

Chris Patten On The Tory Party

For anyone interested in British politics and the Tory party, there was an excellent piece in yesterdays Guardian by former Governor of Hong Kong and EU Commissioner Chris Patten. The most important point which he makes which can not be reiterated enough is that in a world of free trade (which tories like), the only way for nation states to excercise sovereignty which they would otherwise have lost is through cooperation through institutions such as the EU. If anyone knows why he never ran for Tory leader, please let me know.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Shazia Mirza and Sania Mirza

Very insightful piece at building upon Johann Hari's article in the Independent which featured the work of talented uslim comedienne Shazia Mirza.

It very rightly says that in order for Muslims and especially young Muslim women to be drawn away from fundamentalism, anti-Muslim prejudice must be fought in Western society not only to free people from discrimination, but also so that it can not be used as propoganda to encourage women to rebel against the society in which they live in and adopt a very strict form of Islam which does nothing to help integration.

A key quote - 'But by forcing Muslim girls to choose between their rights as Muslims and their rights as women, we will create more fanatics. It is inevitable'.

Of course even if anti-Muslim sentiment is greatly reduced in society there will still be very strict Muslims who will see only negatives in Western society. However, there comes a point where people who are growing up in a positive environment will come to disregard the anti-sentiment out of hand. If on the other hand they continue to encounter racism and abuse then they may well turn to fundamentalism and in extreme cases violence.

On a similar theme, there is an interesting post at the Gene Expression blog on the role previously played by pilgrims returning from Mecca after completing the Hajj as 'meme fountains'. This might be stretching it, but it seems that there might be an analogy with the previous point with women who are stuck at home and whose main contact with the outside world is through the frustrations of her husbands and relatives. Of course these are often then reinforced through her own limited experiences of the world around her and passed on to the children.

Before i begin to ramble if I haven't started to do so already, just a quick congratulations to Sania Mirza for reaching the fourth round of the U.S Open. She's probably going to be hammered by Sharapova, but that won't take away from the progress that she's made.

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