Friday, August 21, 2009


One more year.

One more chance for renewal.

One more chance to reclaim the self.

Feeling hungry, feeling alive.

Feeling thirsty, feeling strong.

The rhthyms of prayer amplified to a crescendo.

The gates of Hell locked for a month.

The month of the Qur'an.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Rifqa Bary

The troubling case of Rifqa Bary.

I don't know if Rifqa's father actually threatened to kill her, or if she really has been brainwashed by Pastor Lorenz to lie against her family. Neither would surprise me. There exists no shortage of bigoted Muslim fathers or creepy wingnut Christan pastors in the world to make either story implausible. For all we know, both narratives may carry some element of truth.

Some parts of her story make sense, and some do not - the argument, for instance, that Islam mandates the death penalty for those who forsake it, is based on a particular reading of hadith (collections of narrations from the Prophet Muhammad's life), and not upon the Qur'an, the fundamental document of Islam. It is clearly a line she has been fed. Sri Lanka has a 7.6% Muslim population with the rest being Buddhists (the majority), Christians, and Hindus; hardly the environment for Muslims to be setting up insane asylums for the religiously wayward. "Honour killings" are called that because they are committed to preserve family honour, not because the murderer feels somehow honoured to have been involved - and they are a mostly South Asian phenomenon, and not restricted to Muslims.

The anti-Islam brigades are meanwhile exploiting the story to the hilt to demonstrate that misogyny and religious intolerance on the part of some Muslims is attributable to Islam itself.

Half of me does not want Rifqa Bary's story to be true, but the fact that it is so plausible is itself troubling. If this is a conceivable thing for a Muslim father anywhere to do - be it in Pakistan, Iraq, or in Canada - then the Ummah has failed; we are not the enlightened nation that we make ourselves out to be.

The other half of me wants it to be true - because if Rifqa Bary has fled her home, taken refuge with a Christian Pastor, and levelled these kinds of allegations against her own family, then I sincerely hope she has done it for good reasons. If she hasn't, then how can her family ever recover?

For now, though, the wise will wait for the truth to come out, because eventually it always does.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pakistan Zindabad

August 14 brings another bittersweet anniversary for Pakistan.

The bitter.

The sweet.

The shameful.

There is too much else to deal with in one post, from the relations with India, the popular war against Pakistan's Taliban, the American desire to force a war with Afghanistan's Taliban, the bizarre presidency of A.A. Zardari, the restoration of the independent judiciary, the decline in religious tolerance in the country, the ramshackle infrastructure, etc, etc. Dawn's Cyril Almeida summed it up well:

Were Pakistan a person, chances are you’d do anything to avoid being in her shoes. Of course, what happened in year 62 has a history, some might argue a 61-year history, so we should at least be glad that we’ve finally begun to get some things right some of the time. Only time though will tell if what we’ve done right so far amounts to applying a Band-Aid to a cancer-stricken body or is actually the beginning of a genuine turnaround.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dr. Abdel-Rahman Lawendy is a resident in Orthopaedic Surgery and Trauma at the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, who visited Gaza during the bombardment. His talk here is informative on an intellectual and emotional level. A spirited discussion follows in the Q&A, also available on YouTube.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 3, 2009

Those are outdated concepts. . .

More fascism from Canada's Konservative party:

From Embassy Magazine:
Leaked DFAIT Memo Documents Struggle between Conservative Political Staff and Foreign Service

"Furthermore, the word 'humanitarian' is excised from every reference to 'international humanitarian law.' References to gender-based violence are removed. And in every phrase 'child soldiers' is replaced by 'children in armed conflict.'"

. . .

Given this ambassadorial "gagging," the source said, it's no surprise Conservative political agents are delving deeper into the fundamental language of Canadian foreign policy.

"It's more than just a close-hold by the this case there's actually a determined effort to re-orient Canadian foreign policy, and so the standing speaking lines don't work and need to be checked.

(Hat-tip to Atlas Hugged).

In principle, it is the job of the civil service to inform and to execute the decision made at a political level. In practice, though, the implications of this are frightening. Either the political agents don't know what they're doing, in which case somebody in the bureaucracy has to do a better job of informing them, or even more frighteningly, the political decisions are being made deliberately - that is to say, with deliberate disregard for any common Canadian sense of ethics or decency.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rates of Change

In calculus, the second derivative of a function describes the rate of change of a rate of change. So if you're heading east along a highway at a constant speed, the derivative of your position with respect to time would be your speed, and it would be positive, but the second derivative of your position with respect to time would be zero . . . until you accelerated.

Late last year, I became the proud owner of a Palm TX. It was a good purchase, because I've actually used it quite a bit - it stores memos and contact information for me, reference materials that I use often for my work, and local transit schedules. It allows me to surf the internet (if I've got a Wi-Fi signal), functions as a second alarm clock, and I can play chess on it.

The other day, a coworker saw me tapping away on it, and remarked "Don't you feel a little outdated using a Palm, now that everyone's got iPhones and BlackBerries? I mean, tapping away with a stylus?"

I grew up around computers. When I was little, my parents started a small business, building and selling them. Though they've more or less abandoned it now, they still have a few clients who call them for service and upgrades. I was the first kid in my class who could boast of an internet connection at home, which really wasn't much a boast since none of my classmates had ever heard of the internet, much less thought that there was anything cool about it.

Paradoxically though, I have never owned a Discman, iPod, portable gaming device, or any other fashionable piece of consumer electronics. My only phone is of the kind that has no roaming charges. The idea of walking around with electronic equipment wrapped around my head has never appealed to me, and to people who know me personally, I'm sure I seem like quite a Luddite.

Not 300 years ago, if you bought a vehicle, chances were that the horsepower was not that great. Actually, the horsepower was unlimited so long as you could get that many horses to run in step. If it was 1750, and you went to buy a new axel for your the buggy you bought in 1730, nobody said "sorry, they don't make those axels anymore." That's how it had been since the discovery of the wheel and the domestication of the first animals, and that's how it continued until the invention of the automobile (considering that few private citizens have ever owned trains).

My paternal grandfather bought a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster. It is a good car, and I can use the present tense because it is still in operation. The engine has been re-bored and the pistons changed, and it has probably had some other replacements, but it is still essentially the same car; it's the only car my uncle owns.

My parents, on the other hand, have owned 4 different cars since 1978, and have leased a few others in between. People my age seem to get a new one every two years.

A device that I purchased in September is now considered outdated.

"Planned obsolescence" is often lamented as scam, dreamt up by engineers at GM or IBM, or some other large, faceless, blamable corporation as a scheme to fleece the consumer by bringing out a new product every year with totally different components and requirements from the previous year's offerings.

It certainly is a scam, but it takes advantage of our own weaknesses, raised as we are in a consumer-oriented economy, inundated with advertisements from those same corporations. How much better does an iPhone make a person's life? It might be true that using one finger to get directions or send e-mail while "on the go" (the default state of the modern North American) probably does have advantages.

But then, probably not as many advantages as whatever comes out next year.

Stumble Upon Toolbar