Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
I'm sure it's great; I just had a very hard time getting through it. No doubt that's more of a comment on my mental state than on the novel. Because I wasn't reading as attentively as I ought to have been, I didn't remember the characters that show up again in the last quarter of the novel and are crucial to the religious-political aspects of the plot.
I loved the what-if premise of a Jewish settlement established post WWII in Alaska. I loved the genre-bending; it' a noir murder mystery, historical sci-fi and a love story rolled into one. I appreciated the cynical take on how the expectation of a messiah can be used and exploited, by those trying to make a buck and by governments. There was way too much convenient coincidence to suit me, although that's maybe a nod to its noir platform.
Trivia: I noticed that Chabon gives Nabokov (Speak, Memory) a h/t for devising the Zugzwang (the condition of having no good moves) of Mendel Shpilman.
Spoilers behind the cut.
After a long absence while controversy over the mosque near Ground Zero smoldered, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf finally held forth this week both in the New York Times and on CNN.
Imam Rauf and his supporters are clearly more interested in making a political statement in relation to Islam than in the mosque's potential for causing community division and pain to those who lost loved ones on 9/11. That division is already bitterly obvious.
As someone who has been involved in building mosques around the country, and who has dealt with his fair share of unjustified opposition, I ask of Imam Rauf and all his supporters, "Where is your sense of fairness and common decency?" In relation to Ground Zero, I am an American first, a Muslim second, just as I would be at Concord, Gettysburg, Normandy Beach, Pearl Harbor or any other battlefield where my fellow countrymen lost their lives.
I must ask Imam Rauf: For what do you stand—what's best for Americans overall, or for what you think is best for Islam? What have you said and argued to Muslim-majority nations to address their need for reform? You have said that Islam does not need reform, despite the stoning of women in Muslim countries, death sentences for apostates, and oppression of reformist Muslims and non-Muslims.
You now lecture Americans that WTC mosque protests are "politically motivated" and "go against the American principle of church and state." Yet you ignore the wide global prevalence of far more dangerous theo-political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and all of its violent and nonviolent offshoots.
In your book, "What's Right With Islam," you cite the Brotherhood's radical longtime spiritual leader Imam Yusuf Qaradawi as a "moderate." Reformist American Muslims are not afraid to name Mr. Qaradawi and his ilk as radical. We Muslims should first separate mosque and state before lecturing Americans about church and state.
Imam, tell me if you can look into the eyes of children who lost a parent on 9/11 and convince them that this immodest Islamic center benefits them. How will it in any way aid counterterrorism efforts or keep one American any safer? You willfully ignore what American Muslims most need—an open call for reformation that unravels the bigoted and shoddy framework of political Islam and separates mosque and state.
There are certainly those who are prejudiced against Muslims and who are against mosques being built anywhere, and even a few who wish to burn the Quran. But most voices in this case have been very clear that for every American freedom of religion is a right, but that it is not right to make one's religion a global political statement with a towering Islamic edifice that casts a shadow over the memorials of Ground Zero.
As an American Muslim, I look at that pit of devastation and contemplate the thousands of lives undone there within seconds. I pray for the ongoing strength to fight the fanatics who did this, and who continue their war against my country with both overt violence and covert strategies that aim to undo the very freedoms for which so many have fought and died.
Imam Rauf may not appear to the untrained eye to be an Islamist, but by making Ground Zero an Islamic rather than an American issue, and by failing to firmly condemn terrorist groups like Hamas, he shows his true allegiance.
Islamists in "moderate" disguise are still Islamists. In their own more subtle ways, the WTC mosque organizers end up serving the same aims of the separatist and supremacist wings of political Islam. In this epic struggle of the 21st century, we cannot afford to ignore the continuum between nonviolent political Islam and the militancy it ultimately fuels among the jihadists.
So at a time when the American government reacted to the horror of 9/11 mostly with missiles and bombs, detentions and waterboardings, Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley turned to education and poverty-alleviation projects — in the very country that had incubated a plot that had pulverized their lives.
The organization they started, Beyond the 11th, has now assisted more than 1,000 Afghan widows in starting tiny businesses. It’s an effort both to help some of the world’s neediest people and to fight back at the distrust, hatred and unemployment that sustain the Taliban.
Kristof tells their story here.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
[Hmmm, for some reason I'm unable to paste the article even though I'm allowed to reprint. Guess anyone who's interested will just have to go read the thing at their site so I'll double check the link.]
My only minor gripe with the article is that I'm not certain the US would or should treat (in terms of retaliation) an EMP attack as a conventional nukular attack.
Bottom line is that an EMP threat is pretty darned remote.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
NPR's blog offers a reality check about threats to kids.
Based on surveys Barnes collected, the top five worries of parents are, in order:Parents are busy worrying about all the wrong things. It matters to all of us because parents who are worried about their children being killed by terrorists will vote in line with candidates who reflect that fear and make promises to keep them safe from terrorists, an unlikely threat. Meanwhile, a candidate who advocates for greater spending on mental health professionals to guard against suicides, a more likely threat, will be dismissed.
But how do children really get hurt or killed?
- School snipers
- Dangerous strangers
- Car accidents
- Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
(Warning: NPR's post contains not-fully explained statistics. The threat of death for everyone is 100%. Period. I think the writer means "the threat of death before the age of 18..." or something like that.)