Monthly Archives: November 2005

Iraq Holy Sites Draw UK Pilgrims

Interesting article by the BBC focusing on ziyarat by Shi’a Muslims from the UK

Iraq holy sites draw UK pilgrims

Three Britons who were killed in Iraq were making a pilgrimage carried out by thousands of Shia Muslims every year, despite risks posed by the volatile country.

Yousif al-Khoei is a director of the al-Khoei foundation, the largest Shia organisation in the UK.

He believes up to 5,000 Shia Muslims from the UK visit holy sites in Iraq every year.


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Filed under Arabs & Muslims, Iraq, Islam, Middle East & Muslim World

Questioning the Iraqi Resistance

Arab world, Iraq and al-Qaeda
Unfamiliar questions in the Arab air

Nov 24th 2005 | CAIRO
From The Economist print edition

As al-Qaeda scores own-goals in its backyard, many Arabs, including some Iraqis, are beginning to rethink their position on violence in the name of resistance

Getty Images

OF ALL the films to extol the fight for freedom from imperialism, one of the most cheering to Arab hearts is the rousing 1981 epic, “Lion of the Desert?. A richly bearded Anthony Quinn plays the role of Omar Mukhtar, the simple Koran teacher who became a guerrilla hero, and for 20 years, from 1911-31, harassed the Italian forces bent on subduing Libya. In one memorable scene his Bedouin warriors, armed only with old rifles, hobble their own feet to ensure martyrdom as Mussolini’s tanks roll inexorably towards them.

Such imagery, mixed with big doses of schoolbook nationalism and more recent real-life pictures of stone-throwing children facing Israeli guns, has bolstered a common Arab perception of “resistance? as an act that is just and noble. The romanticism is understandable, and not much different from how, say, the French view their own underground in the second world war. Yet the morphing in recent years of resistance into terrorism, and the confusion in Iraq, where a humiliating foreign occupation also brought liberation from Baathist tyranny, has increasingly called this iconography into question.

The undermining of entrenched myths is a slow and halting process. But it is subject to sudden, shattering jolts, such as the November 9th suicide bombing of three hotels in the Jordanian capital, Amman. In the minds of the killers, American-allied Jordan had become a rear base for the “crusader? invaders of Iraq, and so its hotels, the sort of places where crusaders and their minions congregate, were legitimate targets for the resistance.

Yet it is perhaps more than incidentally ironic that among the 60 people they killed was Mustapha Akkad, the Syrian-born director who created “Lion of the Desert?. His film, glorifying the bravery of Muslim resistance fighters, happened to be one of the few productions explicitly endorsed on jihadist websites, albeit in a version that replaced the musical soundtrack with religious chants, and cut out all scenes showing women.

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Filed under Iraq, Islamism, Middle East & Muslim World

Guide to Central Asia

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Crescent Conflict

The National Journal devotes a cover story to Islam/Muslims in America, focusing heavily on Washington, DC.

Crescent Conflict

By Paul Starobin,
National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Friday, Nov. 18, 2005

There is something new under the sun in our national capital — a Moslem mosque,” The Washington Evening Star proclaimed in an article from its pages in the fall of 1953. The object of appreciation was the new Islamic Center on Massachusetts Avenue’s celebrated Embassy Row. “The fact that a graceful minaret now arises above a richly artistic edifice, designed to be a religious and cultural center, marks Washington as more than ever a world city,” The Star enthused. In an earlier, no less upbeat piece, The Star asserted that the Islamic Center would help “to foster a better understanding of the mutual interdependence of Moslem nations and the West.”

Ed: Full article below.
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Filed under Arabs & Muslims, Islam, U.S.

A Critical Triangle: Iraq, Iran, and the United States

A talk at the U.S. Insitute of Peace available in .mp3 format.
Iraq’s increasingly close relationship with Iran presents the U.S. with unexpected challenges. Tehran’s ties to Iraq’s Shi’ite parties could provide Iran new leverage not merely in Iraq, but also in the wider regional and global arena. Indeed, ongoing efforts to address Iran’s quest for a nuclear fuel cycle, its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah and its opposition to Palestinian-Israeli peace, have become entangled in Washington’s struggle to bring peace and democracy to Iraq.
  • How will Washington, Baghdad, and Tehran manage this complex triangle of competition, conflict and cooperation?
  • What are the stakes for each and what kind of influence will they wield as Iraq tries to build a new political future?
  • Does the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad all but guarantee an American-Iranian collision in Iraq? Or will mounting concerns about sectarian conflict in Iraq prompt Washington and Tehran to imagine possibilities for formal or informal cooperation?

Babak Rahimi just returned from a visit to Iran and Iraq, where he met with Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf.

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Filed under Iran, Iraq, Media, Middle East & Muslim World

“Weblog of a Syrian Diplomat in America”

Have you ever wondered what the Syrian ambassador to the U.S. is thinking? Probably not, but if you are, Imad Moustafa, has a blog: Weblog of a Syrian Diplomat in America, The Journal of the envoy of Syria to the USA. One thing is clear, he likes dropping names, and heaping praise on the missus. A friend of mine thought it was a hoax (read it to see why) but as Joshua Landis writes in his blog,, the blog of Imad Mustafa is indeed the real deal.

Ed: I don’t know either why Imad Mustafa opts to spell Edward Said as Edouard in his blog; if you do please leave a comment.


Filed under Miscellaneous, Syria

Quote of the Day

Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that he heard Abdullah ibn Umar making dua on Safa saying:

“O Allah, You have said, ‘call on Me – I will answer you’ and You do not break Your promise. So I am asking You, in the same way that You have guided me to Islam, not to take it away from me, and that You make me die while I am muslim.”

From the Muwatta of Malik

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