Iranian cleric: More opposition should be executed

The Associated Press
Friday, January 29, 2010; 7:55 AM

In this Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, photo, released by the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, walks through the revolutionary court in Tehran, Iran. Iran Thursday, Jan 28, 2010, hanged two men convicted of trying to topple the country's clergy-led regime, and authorities separately announced new death sentences against protesters involved in unrest that broke out following June's disputed presidential elections, the Web site of state television reported. The report identified the two men as Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour and said they were convicted of trying to topple "the Islamic establishment" and for membership of armed opposition groups. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency,Ali Rafiee)
In this Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, photo, released by the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, walks through the revolutionary court in Tehran, Iran. Iran Thursday, Jan 28, 2010, hanged two men convicted of trying to topple the country’s clergy-led regime, and authorities separately announced new death sentences against protesters involved in unrest that broke out following June’s disputed presidential elections, the Web site of state television reported. The report identified the two men as Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour and said they were convicted of trying to topple “the Islamic establishment” and for membership of armed opposition groups. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency,Ali Rafiee) (Ali Rafiee – AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — A powerful hard-line Iranian cleric on Friday called for the execution of more opposition activists to silence anti-government protests, praising the hanging a day earlier of two men caught up in the leadership’s postelection crackdown.

Speaking in a Friday prayer sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said the wave of street demonstrations sparked by the disputed June presidential election would not have lasted until now if protesters had been executed early on.

“Whatever we suffered was because of our weakness. How many did the judiciary execute on July 9?” he said, referring to one of the particularly large protest days. Continue reading

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France moves towards full Islamic veil ban

A woman wearing a niqab, the islamic full veil, uses a cell phone in a street in Lyon, eastern France

(AFP) – 5 hours ago

PARIS — French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Friday asked France’s top court to help the government draft a law banning the full Islamic veil, his office said.

The government’s move comes three days after a French parliament report called for a ban on the burqa and niqab, saying Muslim women who fully cover their heads and faces pose an “unacceptable” challenge to French values.

Fillon wrote to the State Council, the country’s highest administrative court, asking it to “study the legal solutions enabling us to reach a ban on wearing the full veil, which I want to be as wide and effective as possible.”

He asked the court to “help the government find a legal answer to the concerns expressed by parliament’s representatives and to rapidly submit a bill on the subject to parliament.”

The State Council is to submit its findings by the end of March.

After six months of hearings, a panel of 32 lawmakers this week recommended a ban on the face-covering veil in schools, hospitals, public transport and government offices, the broadest move yet to restrict Muslim dress in France.

The commission stopped short however of calling for legislation to outlaw the burqa in the streets, shopping centres or other public venues after raising doubts about the constitutionality of such a move.

France is home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority but the sight of fully-veiled women remains rare. Only 1,900 women wear a niqab, 90 percent of them under 40, according to interior ministry estimates. Continue reading

Muslim inventions that shaped the modern world

In 9th century Spain, Muslim inventor Abbas ibn Firnas designed a flying machine -- hundreds of years before da Vinci drew plans of his own.

In 9th century Spain, Muslim inventor Abbas ibn Firnas designed a flying machine — hundreds of years before da Vinci drew plans of his own.
By Olivia Sterns for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Exhibition celebrates 1,000 years of “forgotten” Muslim heritage
  • From coffee to cranks, items we couldn’t live without today are Muslim inventions
  • Modern hospitals and universities both began in 9th century North Africa

London, England (CNN) — Think of the origins of that staple of modern life, the cup of coffee, and Italy often springs to mind.

But in fact, Yemen is where the ubiquitous brew has its true origins.

Along with the first university, and even the toothbrush, it is among surprising Muslim inventions that have shaped the world we live in today.

The origins of these fundamental ideas and objects — the basis of everything from the bicycle to musical scales — are the focus of “1001 Inventions,” a book celebrating “the forgotten” history of 1,000 years of Muslim heritage.

“There’s a hole in our knowledge, we leap frog from the Renaissance to the Greeks,” professor Salim al-Hassani, Chairman of the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation, and editor of the book told CNN.

“1001 Inventions” is now an exhibition at London’s Science Museum. Hassani hopes the exhibition will highlight the contributions of non-Western cultures — like the Muslim empire that once covered Spain and Portugal, Southern Italy and stretched as far as parts of China — to present day civilization.

Here Hassani shares his top 10 outstanding Muslim inventions:

1. Surgery

Around the year 1,000, the celebrated doctor Al Zahrawi published a 1,500 page illustrated encyclopedia of surgery that was used in Europe as a medical reference for the next 500 years. Among his many inventions, Zahrawi discovered the use of dissolving cat gut to stitch wounds — beforehand a second surgery had to be performed to remove sutures. He also reportedly performed the first caesarean operation and created the first pair of forceps.

2. Coffee

Now the Western world’s drink du jour, coffee was first brewed in Yemen around the 9th century. In its earliest days, coffee helped Sufis stay up during late nights of devotion. Later brought to Cairo by a group of students, the coffee buzz soon caught on around the empire. By the 13th century it reached Turkey, but not until the 16th century did the beans start boiling in Europe, brought to Italy by a Venetian trader.

3. Flying machine

“Abbas ibn Firnas was the first person to make a real attempt to construct a flying machine and fly,” said Hassani. In the 9th century he designed a winged apparatus, roughly resembling a bird costume. In his most famous trial near Cordoba in Spain, Firnas flew upward for a few moments, before falling to the ground and partially breaking his back. His designs would undoubtedly have been an inspiration for famed Italian artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci’s hundreds of years later, said Hassani.

4. University

In 859 a young princess named Fatima al-Firhi founded the first degree-granting university in Fez, Morocco. Her sister Miriam founded an adjacent mosque and together the complex became the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University. Still operating almost 1,200 years later, Hassani says he hopes the center will remind people that learning is at the core of the Islamic tradition and that the story of the al-Firhi sisters will inspire young Muslim women around the world today.

5. Algebra

The word algebra comes from the title of a Persian mathematician’s famous 9th century treatise “Kitab al-Jabr Wa l-Mugabala” which translates roughly as “The Book of Reasoning and Balancing.” Built on the roots of Greek and Hindu systems, the new algebraic order was a unifying system for rational numbers, irrational numbers and geometrical magnitudes. The same mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi, was also the first to introduce the concept of raising a number to a power.

6. Optics

“Many of the most important advances in the study of optics come from the Muslim world,” says Hassani. Around the year 1000 Ibn al-Haitham proved that humans see objects by light reflecting off of them and entering the eye, dismissing Euclid and Ptolemy’s theories that light was emitted from the eye itself. This great Muslim physicist also discovered the camera obscura phenomenon, which explains how the eye sees images upright due to the connection between the optic nerve and the brain.

7. Music

Muslim musicians have had a profound impact on Europe, dating back to Charlemagne tried to compete with the music of Baghdad and Cordoba, according to Hassani. Among many instruments that arrived in Europe through the Middle East are the lute and the rahab, an ancestor of the violin. Modern musical scales are also said to derive from the Arabic alphabet.

8. Toothbrush

According to Hassani, the Prophet Mohammed popularized the use of the first toothbrush in around 600. Using a twig from the Meswak tree, he cleaned his teeth and freshened his breath. Substances similar to Meswak are used in modern toothpaste.

9. The crank

Many of the basics of modern automatics were first put to use in the Muslim world, including the revolutionary crank-connecting rod system. By converting rotary motion to linear motion, the crank enables the lifting of heavy objects with relative ease. This technology, discovered by Al-Jazari in the 12th century, exploded across the globe, leading to everything from the bicycle to the internal combustion engine.

10. Hospitals

“Hospitals as we know them today, with wards and teaching centers, come from 9th century Egypt,” explained Hassani. The first such medical center was the Ahmad ibn Tulun Hospital, founded in 872 in Cairo. Tulun hospital provided free care for anyone who needed it — a policy based on the Muslim tradition of caring for all who are sick. From Cairo, such hospitals spread around the Muslim world.

For more information on muslim inventions go to: muslimheritage.com. For more information about the exhibition at London’s Science Museum go to:science museum.org.uk

Find this article at:
http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/01/29/muslim.inventions

Blackwater’s Youngest Victim

By Jeremy Scahill

January 28, 2010

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100215/scahill

Mohammed Kinani RICK ROWLEY, BIGNOISEFILMS.ORG RICK ROWLEY, BIGNOISEFILMS.ORG
Mohammed Kinani

Every detail of September 16, 2007, is burned in Mohammed Kinani’s memory. Shortly after 9 am he was preparing to leave his house for work at his family’s auto parts business in Baghdad when he got a call from his sister, Jenan, who asked him to pick her and her children up across town and bring them back to his home for a visit. The Kinanis are a tightknit Shiite family, and Mohammed often served as a chauffeur through Baghdad’s dangerous streets to make such family gatherings possible.

An accompanying slideshow of Ali Kinani, his family, and the Nisour massacre can be found here.

Mohammed had just pulled away from his family’s home in the Khadamiya neighborhood in his SUV. His youngest son, 9-year-old Ali, came tearing down the road after him, asking his father if he could accompany him. Mohammed told him to run along and play with his brothers and sister. But Ali, an energetic and determined kid, insisted. Mohammed gave in, and off the father and son went.

As Mohammed and Ali drove through Baghdad that hot and sunny Sunday, they passed a newly rebuilt park downtown. Ali gazed at the park and then turned to his father and asked, “Daddy, when are you gonna bring us here?”

“Next week,” Mohammed replied. “If God wills it, son.”

Ali would never visit that park. Within a few hours, he would be dead from a gunshot wound to the head. While you may have never heard his name, you probably know something about how Ali Mohammed Hafedh Kinani died. He was the youngest person killed by Blackwater forces in the infamous Nisour Square massacre.

In May 2008 Mohammed flew to Washington to testify in front of a grand jury investigating the shooting. It was his first time out of Iraq. The US Attorney, Jeffrey Taylor, praised Mohammed for his “commendable courage.” A year after the shooting, in December 2008, five Blackwater guards were indicted on manslaughter charges, while a sixth guard pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed Iraqi. American justice, it seemed to Mohammed, was working. “I’m a true believer in the justness and fairness of American law,” Mohammed said.

But this past New Year’s Eve, federal Judge Ricardo Urbina threw out all the criminal charges against the five Blackwater guards. At least seventeen Iraqis died that day, and prosecutors believed they could prove fourteen of the killings were unjustified. The manslaughter charges were dismissed not because of a lack of evidence but because of what Urbina called serious misconduct on the part of the prosecutors. Continue reading

An Interview With the Late, Great Howard Zinn

WAJAHAT ALI

A great titan of the progressive movement passed away today.

Howard Zinn died of a heart attack in California at the age of 87.

The indefatigable Zinn maintained a prolific activist and academic jab fueled by his political and social activism nurtured during The Civil Rights Movement. The esteemed historian and controversial rabblerouser’s seminal work, A People’s History of the United States, endures as a popular and beloved history that gives voice to the marginalized, oppressed, and downtrodden members of our society whose stories are usually edited out of the textbooks. Despite his advanced age, he was still touring, giving lectures, and showing no signs of stopping.

Over the past two years, I exchanged several emails and correspondences with Zinn after we conducted this interview. He always had a kind word, some encouragement, or bit of advice for me. He made time to respond in spite of his hectic life.

I will always remember and respect him for his unwavering moral and ethical compass, which was always directed towards ensuring social justice and equality for all.

Last year, Professor Zinn agreed to an interview reflecting on his historic and memorable time at Spelman College in the ’60’s, his thoughts on the Democratic Party, his philosophy of dissent as democracy, and his hope for America’s future.

And now, I will let the man who spoke for the voiceless speak for himself.

ALI: Your experiences and acts of civil disobedience at Spelman College are, by now, thoroughly well known. However, in the 21st century, one could look at the student body at many liberal college campuses and see that fiery protest and consciousness replaced by apathy and materialism. Where has that fighting spirit gone? You spoke against “discouragement” at the 2005 Spelman College commencement speech – what of it now?

ZINN:
What you describe as the difference between the Sixties and today on campuses is true, but I would not go too far with that. There are campus groups all over the country working against the war, but they are small so far. Remember, the scale of involvement in Vietnam was greater – 500,000 troops vs. 130,000 troops in Iraq. After five years in Vietnam, there were 30,000 U.S. dead vs. today we have 4,000 dead. The draft was threatening young people then, but not now. Greater establishment control of the media today, which is not reporting the horrors inflicted on the people of Iraq as the media began in the U.S. to report on U.S. atrocities like the My Lai Massacre.

In the case of the movement against the Vietnam War, there was the immediate radicalizing experience of the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality, whose energy and indignation carried over into the student movement against the Vietnam War. No comparable carry over exists today. And yes, there is more materialism, more economic insecurity for young people going to college – huge tuition costs putting pressure on students to concentrate on studies and do well in school.

ALI:
You were heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement that dealt not only with racial empowerment and equality, but also re-examination of U.S. foreign policy and withdrawal from the brutal Vietnam War. Here we are now in 2008 with a seemingly unending, and many say illegal, occupation of Iraq. “Racism” has emerged as a contentious topic due to Obama running for President and his Reverend’s controversial comments. Yet, most say he and other candidates talk “pretty” but are unwilling to fundamentally confront and change the problems of race and foreign policy. As one who has observed this socio-political climate from the grassroots since the 1960’s, what has changed if anything in regards to racial enlightenment and the humanizing of non – American, “foreign others”?

ZINN: The Civil Rights Movement was an educational experience for many Americans. The result was more opportunities for a small percentage of Black people, perhaps 10% or 20%, so more Black youth going to college and going into the professions. A greater consciousness among White people – not all, but many – of racism. For most Black people, however, there is still poverty and desperation. The ghettos still exist, and the proportion of Blacks in prison is still much greater than Whites. Today, there is less overt racism, but the economic injustices create an “institutional racism” which exists even while more Blacks are in high places, such as Condoleeza Rice in Bush’s Administration and Obama running for President.

Unfortunately, the greater consciousness among Whites about Black equality has not carried over to the new victims of racism – Muslims and Immigrants. There is no racial enlightenment for these groups, which are huge. Millions of Muslims and an equal number of immigrants, who whether legal or illegal, face discrimination both legally from the government and extra-legally from White Americans – and sometimes Black and Hispanic Americans. The Democratic Presidential candidates are avoiding these issues in order to cultivate support among White Americans.

This is shameful, especially for Obama, who should use his experience as a Black man to educate the public about discrimination and racism. He is cautious about making strong statements about these issues and about foreign policy. So, in keeping with the tradition of caution and timidity of The Democratic Party, he takes positions slightly to the left of The Republicans, but short of what an enlightened policy would be. Continue reading