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Sat Jan 10, 2015 at 07:17 AM PST

Images of Muhammad in Islam

by ivorybill

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, I thought it would be a good idea to provide background information on the prohibition of depicting the human form in Islam, including the Prophet Muhammad.  Here’s a 13th century illuminated manuscript from Tabriz (now in Iran) which depicts the Angel Jibril revealing the Qur’an to Muhammad:

So if there are historical depictions of Muhammad from within Islam, where does this current controversy over cartoons come from, is it universal, and what does it mean in terms of conflict within Islam and between fundamentalist jihadis and the West?  Follow me below the orange icon for some art history, a discussion of aniconism and iconoclasm, and the confusion over whether the Charlie Hebdo cartoons are merely sophomoric or images capable of being objects of veneration.
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So what happens when black police use excessive force?  As the nation focuses on two instances in which white cops committed acts of violence against black citizens, perhaps it is worth looking at what happens when black cops commit acts of violence against citizens - either white or black.  Is impunity a matter of profession, or race, or both?  This question has been floating around in my mind since Ferguson and especially since Eric Garner's death in Staten Island. The two stories I present here are anecdotes and I do not have enough data to know whether this is a pattern. Follow below the squiggle for two police brutality cases currently being adjudicated in Chicago.

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Mon Nov 03, 2014 at 01:22 PM PST

We milk the goat even if it's male

by ivorybill

The so-called Islamic State calls out to be mocked... and plenty of comics in the Middle East are happy to rise to the challenge.  Some say that they are so brutal, so awful, and cause so much tragedy, that it disrespects the victims to mock these murderers.  But, in the words of one Libyan-American, “Sometimes, you have to mock, to belittle. Because sometimes, belittlement is your enemy’s greatest fear.”  So in this diary, I offer a short compilation of humor directed at the Islamic State from within the Middle East.  

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Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 05:50 AM PDT

Dawn Chorus: Sweden

by ivorybill

Mute swan - Cygnus olor

I was in Stockholm for work, and had a chance to spend a few days in this beautiful city. We absorb images of Scandinavia from stories and books in childhood; Stockholm reinforces all of them. A bunch of fleshy, gross cygnets swim by?  It's impossible not to immediately think of "The Ugly Duckling".  Even in the city, one can see a range of birds not found in North America, some small avian dramas and occasionally something new or surprising. This diary describes some common birds of northern Europe, with a little history thrown in. Sweden has become something of a refuge for both birds and people, so indulge me in a short digression about refugees at the end of this diary.

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[UPDATE: Just received reports from the NGO coordinating committee and some of our partners in Erbil that the US has begun airstrikes against IS forces between Mosul and Erbil. WP reports that US planes are attacking IS mobile artillery. http://www.washingtonpost.com/...  There were also airstrikes against IS near Kirkuk.]

While the world's attention has been focused on Gaza, fighting between the "Islamic State" (IS) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) dramatically escalated today. I am currently in Kurdistan and wanted to give a brief update on recent developments, provide some analysis, and make some predictions about the future.

Last weekend, IS attacked and occupied the Kurdish/Yezidi city of Sinjar, killing and abducting hundreds of Yezidis and chasing at least 50,000 up a rugged mountain, where they remain surrounded and face annihilation. The Yezidis are a non-Muslim religious group whose beliefs are based roughly on Zoroastrianism, with elements of other pre-Islamic and Sufi beliefs. They are considered "devil worshipers" by IS, and have been targeted for forced conversion or execution. This was the first major IS attack directly against territory controlled by the Kurdish peshmerga forces, and the defeat was both frightening and concerning for everyone here. The KRG has been helicoptering in some water and food to the people stuck on the mountain, who have some weapons and continue to fight off incursions from IS.  [Update:  US aircraft airlifted in 5800 gallons of drinking water and pallets of food to the refugees in the mountain.]  Meanwhile IS kidnapped hundreds of Yezidi women and girls, who because they are not "people of the book" (i.e. Jews or Christians) can be considered the property of whoever captures them, at least in the strange theology of IS.  

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Wed Aug 28, 2013 at 09:56 AM PDT

Syria in context (not a rant)

by ivorybill

I've felt that the diaries on Syria over the last few days have been more about the US than Syria and that there's been a gap in analysis. Meteor Blades encouraged me to write a diary on the Syrian conflict, so here goes…  The Obama Administration finds itself confronted by a problem in Syria that is virtually unsolvable, but inaction or the wrong action carries with it genuine risks that extend far beyond Syria. This diary attempts to describe some of the reasons why this is rapidly becoming a regional ethnosectarian conflict, and why this matters with respect to stability in Iraq and Lebanon. I hope it is the first in a series – this diary will focus on the war in eastern Syria and how it affects Iraq.  I won’t be arguing for or against airstrikes.  Stop reading if you want a rant about bombing as a failure of imagination, or one that made me laugh, depicting us as a nation of "fat Spartans". (I might have to borrow “fat Spartans”- that was a pretty good rant.) Don't get me wrong - rants have their place, but they are usually about America. if you want to read a diary about Syria rather than America through a Syria lens, follow me over the Orange Itzl.

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Dear Friends,

Do you have a few minutes for a little quick and painless advocacy?  Do you live in California or Maine?  Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) faces an important vote on torture. In 2009, the SSCI announced a review of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) detention and interrogation program, including an investigation into the U.S. government’s involvement in torture and the cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees.  This report, which runs to 6,000 pages, is finally done.

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Sun Oct 30, 2011 at 06:52 AM PDT

Libya - After the Revolution

by ivorybill

This diary is a follow-up to one I published here last week, here: http://www.dailykos.com/...   Some readers suggested that I continue providing updates on the situation in Libya, and add a little color to the news reporting available elsewhere. The celebrations are starting to abate, people's lives are starting to return to normal and the whole society is starting to look around and contemplate what happened, why, and what it all means.  This diary is less a news account than an attempt to provide a sense of Libya a week after the end of the war, and the process of remembering and forgetting that follows all wars.  

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Thu Oct 20, 2011 at 12:01 PM PDT

Tripoli Celebrates!

by ivorybill

Brit suggested I write a diary to expand upon his, so I'll do so.  If you haven't read his yet it's here: http://www.dailykos.com/... Some brief background.  I work for a US-based non-profit organization and was in Benghazi developing a health-related proposal.  A taxi driver stole my passport.  Long story, but it was incredibly bad luck to lose my passport in one of the only nations on the planet without a functioning US embassy, and more than 1200km from Tripoli where there is sort of a US mission. Libya is an enormous country.  To paraphrase what Gertrude Stein once said about America, "There's more of Libya where nobody is than where anybody is, and this is what makes Libya what it is."  

The silver lining of all this, if there is one, is that I am in Tripoli waiting for a replacement passport, and have become an accidental witness to the celebrations at the end of this war. Follow me past the squiggle for some impressions of revolutionary Libya:

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I'm watching this on Al Jazirah outside the US but didn't see it posted yet on Daily Kos.   Al Jazirah is reporting that the FBI has arrested an Iranian-American and indicted a leading Iranian intelligence official for a plot in which Iran transferred $1 million to an FBI-controlled bank account, thinking that they were hiring the Mexican Zetas drug gang to blow up the Saudi Ambassador inside the US.  It seems they approached a DEA agent instead, who played along with them.  God only knows the back story to all this, but it does seem at minimum to be really embarrassing for the Iranian government.  If it's actually true, it is both hugely stupid and provocative, and illegal under any sort of international law.

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OK, this will be a short diary, but this is very good news.  Libya has acknowledged capturing Pulitzer-prize winning NYT reporter Anthony Shadid and three of his colleagues and will release them.  They were captured near Ajdabiya on Tuesday during the government counter-attack against rebels.  Here's the link to the NYT story:

http://www.nytimes.com/...

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Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 11:37 AM PST

Eyes on Iraq - Demonstrations Today

by ivorybill

I wanted to write about some events today in Iraq related to the series of popular uprisings that are spreading throughout the Arab world.  I manage some programs in Iraq and am currently in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, and the information contained in this diary is from our staff who have been monitoring the situation, as well as Kurdish and Arabic radio broadcasts.  It is not sourced with formal news articles or accounts, but I believe the information to be accurate.  Today, two protesters were killed in Sulaimaniyah, to my knowledge the first fatalities to have occurred in Iraq as a result of the pan-Middle Eastern revolution.  The errors which led to this tragedy could spiral in the coming days.  More demonstrations are expected tomorrow in Kurdistan and Baghdad.

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