Study: Iraqis May Experience Sadness When Friends, Relatives Die


July 25, 2007

CHAPEL HILL, NC—A field study released Monday by the University of North Carolina School of Public Health suggests that Iraqi citizens experience sadness and a sense of loss when relatives, spouses, and even friends perish, emotions that have until recently been identified almost exclusively with Westerners.

“We were struck by how an Iraqi reacts to the sight of the bloody or decapitated corpse of a family member in a way not unlike an American, or at the very least a Canadian, would,” said Dr. Jonathan Pryztal, chief author of the study. “In addition to the rage, bloodlust, and hatred we already know to dominate the Iraqi emotional spectrum, it appears that they may have some capacity, however limited, for sadness.”

Though Pryztal was quick to add that more detailed analysis is needed, he said the findings cast some doubt on long-held assumptions about human nature in that region.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, it seems that Iraqis do indeed experience at least minor feelings of grief when a best friend or a grandparent is ripped apart by a car bomb or shot execution style and later unearthed in a shallow mass grave,” Prytzal said. “Last December’s suicide-bomb killing of 71 Shiites in Baghdad, for example, produced unexpected reactions ranging from crumpled, sobbing despair to silent, dazed shock.”

Iraqis have often been observed weeping and wailing in apparent anguish, but the study offers evidence indicating this may not be exclusively an outward expression of anger or a desire for revenge. It also provocatively suggests that this grief can possess an American-like personal quality, and is not simply a tribal lamentation ritual.

Said Pryztal: “When trying to understand the psychology of the Iraqi citizenry after four years of war, think of a small American town roiled by the death of a well-known high school football player.”

According to Pryztal, the intensity of the grief does not diminish if the mourner experiences multiple bereavements over time. “If a woman has already lost one child, the subsequent killings of other children will evoke similar responses,” he said. “In the majority of cases we studied, it appeared as though those who lost multiple kids never actually got used to it.”

Though Pryztal expects the results of the study may be of some interest to students of Arab psychology, he did concede that the data may not be entirely accurate because it was gathered directly from Iraqis themselves.

“Almost all the Iraqis we interviewed said the war had ruined their lives because of the incalculable loss of friends and family,” Pryztal said. “But to be totally honest, these types of studies can be skewed rather easily by participant exaggeration.”

Psychologists and anthropologists have thus far largely discounted the study, claiming it has the same bias as a 1971 Stanford University study that concluded that many Vietnamese showed signs of psychological trauma from nearly a quarter century of continuous war in southeast Asia.

“We are, in truth, still a long way from determining if Iraqis are exhibiting actual, U.S.-grade sadness,” Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist Norman Blum said. “At present, we see no reason for the popular press to report on Iraqi emotions as if they are real.”

Pryztal said that his research group would next examine whether children in Sudan prefer playing with toys or serving as guerrilla fighters and killing innocent civilians.

The Onion

(Published in the Archive without alteration or comment. The “Humor” tag was added in a moment of blackness)

Baba Bulleh Shah


In my youth, several centuries ago, I was walking out with a young lady who gave me two books.

That young lady is long gone and those two books are all that remain of that relationship. Yet they have guided my own writing and literaric development for many years.

“Mirrors of the Soul” led me into all the wonderful writings of Kahlil Gibran. Especially his masterwork, “The Prophet”.

Edward Fitzgerald’s translations of “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” opened up an entirely different mindset to me. Nearly a thousand years old, these verses spoke to me with a power I had never before experienced.

Yesterday I was blog-surfing and I was over on eteraz where I found some of the work of another Muslim poet. Baba Bulleh Shah. He was an eighteenth century literary genius from what is now the modern day Pakistan. Apparently his work is not totally approved of by the Islamic right which puts him into much the same category as my old friend Omah.

Here is the sample I found. Now I have to find more of his work.

I am free, my mind is free,
I am neither a sick person nor a physician
Neither a believer nor an infidel
Nor a mullah or syed
In the fourteen spheres I walk in freedom
I can be imprisoned nowhere.

*

Tear down the Mosque, tear down the temple
Tear down every thing in sight
But don’t break anyone’s heart
Because God lives there.

Hamas Militants vow to free BBC’s Johnston


Hamas has pledged to work to free BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who gunmen kidnapped in the Gaza Strip more than three months ago. The vow comes in the wake of Hamas’ bloody seizure of the Gaza Strip.

“We have started taking practical steps to release Alan Johnston,” the Islamic movement’s armed wing said, without giving further details. Sacked Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh has echoed the sentiment, saying in an interview that the military takeover of Gaza by Hamas is good news for the journalist.

“From now on, there will be one legitimate armed force. We will bring discipline and law to Gaza,” Mr Haniyeh said in an interview with France’s Le Figaro newspaper.  “It will thus be easier to gain the liberation of the British journalist Alan Johnston. His kidnappers will listen to us more closely.”

Johnston has been held for 96 days after he was seized from his car as he drove home from work on March 12 in Gaza City. The 45-year-old, one of the few western reporters to be permanently based in Gaza, is by far the longest-detained westerner in the territory.

The Army of Islam has claimed to be holding the veteran newsman and has demanded the release of Islamic militants, particularly Palestinian-born cleric Abu Qatada who is detained in Britain.

Hamas announced it was cutting all ties with the Army of Islam after it claimed the abduction. Hamas officials, including Mr Haniyeh, have repeatedly called for Johnston to be released.

I hope so! Some of the Palestinians are now kidnapping for the sake of kidnapping. Alan Johnston is a friend of the Palestinians, having lived there for a number of years. He is one journalist who presents the Palestinian point of view.

This action brings nothing but the contempt of the world onto the extremist fools who commit this type of affront to civilised behaviour.

Free him!  Free him NOW!

Sheikh Fehmi Naji el-Imam, First Press Reports


“We, the Australian National Imams Council, are proud to announce that Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam is appointed as the Mufti of Australia for a two-year term, Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam will be working with the Council of Islamic Jurisprudence and Research under the umbrella of the Australian National Imams Council for the benefit of the Muslims and the broader Australian community.
“We recognise the great services that Sheikh Tajeddin al-Hilaly has provided over the years and we pray for his good health.”

THE new Mufti of Australia began his first full day in the role with strong and gentle words for the Federal Government.

As a clue to the Sheikh’s thinking, he has in the past, said of the Jews: “We have nothing against the Jews as Jews, but of course we have our opinion about the situation in Palestine.”

This seems to be an acceptance of Jewishness but a rejection of the political situation. If this attitude of moderation continues, it bodes well for the future acceptance of Islam in Australia.

Here two newspaper reports from today, Monday June 11th, 2007.

From “The Age”
“There is no ‘yes sir’ business here,” was Sheikh Fehmi Naji el-Imam’s message to Prime Minister John Howard and the Government in an exclusive interview with The Age. “We always like give and take. We have to apply the Australian fair go.”

The Australian National Imams’ Council replaced Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali with Sheikh Fehmi, imam of Preston Mosque, on Sunday.

Yesterday, Sheikh Fehmi said: “We would like to tell the Federal Government that we are here, the Muslims of Australia, and we belong to this country, and we are part of it. We would like to offer as much as we can to make the country successful in every field and in every way.”

Sheikh Fehmi, who turns 80 this year, sees his task as the same as before he became mufti, just on a larger stage.

He is a frail figure on a walking stick, who finds speaking more effort than he used to, but the twinkle in his eyes is undimmed. He enjoyed sparring with the media at a news conference. “I hope you are healthy — and in a good mood,” were his opening words.

Questioned about his Australian identity, Sheikh Fehmi asked the reporter how old he was — 31. “Then I’m more Australian than you, because I’ve been here more than 55 years,” joked the sheikh, who came to Melbourne from Lebanon in 1951.

He told The Age that official decisions and comments would no longer be “haphazard”. He will work with the jurisprudence committee of the national imams’ board, so decisions will be their deeply considered consensus. “I am one of them, and so is Sheikh Hilali. He is not out completely,” Sheikh Fehmi said.

People who gathered to pray at the Preston Mosque yesterday spoke warmly of Sheikh Fehmi. “He’s a good man, very honest and straightforward,” said a Somali man. “He’s just a simple man like me and you, but he is a scholar and has the knowledge,” said another.

Changing face … the new Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Fehmi Naji el-Imam, right, with Ahmad Allouche of the Islamic Society. Photo: Melanie Dove


From ABC Online News
Speaking at his Melbourne mosque, Sheikh El-Imam tried to avoid questions about his controversial predecessor. The new mufti says his predecessor is a good man and has urged the media to be more accepting of people from other cultures. “As we say there is a freedom of speech in this country – fair enough, let us have freedom of speech,” he said.

He has also blamed the media for labelling Sheikh Al Hilali as controversial and says he wants to see a better relationship with a more accepting media in the future. He says people should also remember Sheikh Al Hilali for his attempts to free Australian Douglas Wood, who was held captive in Iraq.

Sheikh El-Imam says his predecessor has a good side and has been misunderstood. “Maybe sometimes you let your tongue go too far, but still maybe you don’t mean to harm others,” he said.

Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam, Australia’s new Mufti


Controversial muslim cleric, Sheik Taj el-Din Al Hilali has declined the position of Mufti of Australia and a new mufti has been elected.

An ABC Online News report states that;

The National Imam’s Council has announced Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam as the Mufti of Australia for a two-year term. Imams from across the country were at Melbourne’s Preston Mosque for a meeting of the Council.

The Council said Sheik Al Hilali was appointed first, however he declined the position and proposed Sheikh Fehmi to be appointed Mufti. Sheikh Fehmi, originally from Lebanon, has been the imam at Preston Mosque for 30 years. He is described as a moderate, but he refused to comment on whether he would be less controversial than his predecessor.

“And so we want to have a very nice relationship with everybody around us and everyone else have a nice relationship with us,” he said. “Extend [our] hand to you, you extend [your] hand to us. “Give us a fair go, we’ll give you a fair go and that’s what we want.”

Sheikh Al Hilali refused to comment on why he declined the position as he left the mosque.

Here is an interview transcript with the new Mufti from mid-2005.

No Veil?


 I found this on the ABC Online News this morning.

Jordan’s Queen says Islam does not demand veil

Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan says Islam does not require women to wear veils, and has called on Muslim moderates to “make their voices be heard”.

“Islam neither requires one to be practising, nor to dress in one way or another,” the stylish 36-year-old queen told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera during a visit to Rome.

“So imposing the veil on a woman is contrary to the principles of Islam,” said Queen Rania, who is in Rome for the launch of a Group of Seven (G7) program to develop vaccines against diseases that are endemic in poor countries.

“Unfortunately, after all the suspicion weighing on Islam, many people have begun to consider the veil as a political problem, but this is not the case. Wearing the veil is a free personal choice.”

Queen Rania urged “all moderates to stand up and let their voices be heard”.

She added: “Many people are frustrated in the Arab world. Many give in to the anger because they are accused of violence. But instead we should get up, explain who we are and what we believe in. Over the last three years, most victims of terrorism have been Muslim. So there’s not a war between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between extremists and moderates of all the religions,” she said. “What is important is not to live in fear. The most dangerous [thing to do] is to give up and lose hope. The main enemy is not terrorism or extremism, but ignorance.”

AFP

Is this a sign of hope, that the extremists are finally being “outed”? More work needs to be done within Judaism and Christianity (especially Catholic Christianity and American Fundamentalism) to bring about real world-wide change.

Even the modern Catholic Nun no longer “Takes the Veil”, a religious ploy which gave the impression that “Old is Holy” and that the Catholic Church is unchangeable. Of course, the Nun’s Habit was of medieval origin, not of Christ’s time. Just another of those small misdirections which lead an unthinking populace down a slippery slope, away from the Divine Leader’s teaching into the errors and self-seeking of the human fanatics who claim the direct ear of God.

Perhaps soon, within a hundred years or so, we may find, in the modern airconditioned world,  the wearing of “desert” clothing will pass out of religious fashion and into history. For all things do pass and are replaced – eventually.

But then I am a curmudgeonly old atheist who believes the world would be better off without any religion. Ethics and altruism yes, religion, NO!

I’m going to sit in my rocking chair on the porch, watch the rest of the world passing by (going to Hell in a handbasket) and grumble to myself for the rest of today!

Genealogy, Christianity and Islam


Studying Genealogy can be as dry as dust. Yet every now and then a genuine nugget of gold is unearthed. Some years ago Buff and I unearthed a will made by one of her ancestors. It showed clearly the legal status of women at that time. Here is the beginning of that will, with the bolding done for my emphasis. It is dated to April 1729, less than 300 years ago.

elsomwill1.jpg

In the Name of God Amen I Susanna wife of Robert Elsome of Whittlesey within the Isle of Ely in the County of Cambridge Blacksmith being of sound and perfect mind memory and understanding by virtue of a power for that purpose to me given by my said husband Robert Elsome in and by one Sunand[?*] it in writing bearing even[?] Date herewith or by virtue of any other power or Authority whatsoever to me given by my said husband Robert Elsome do (by and with the consent of my sd husband justified by his signing of these presents[?] make and ordain this to be my last Will and Testament in manner and form following . . .

The only legal reason Susanna was able to write the will was because her husband allowed her to do so. It was required that he, a blacksmith, declare her to be of sound and perfect mind, memory and understanding. And he had to do it in writing.

These quaint little folkways were justified by a reading of the Bible which proved that woman was inferior to man. Therefore man ruled his household by divine right and all within; wife, children and servants, were subject to his will. In reality, this was a case of the Bible being bent to fit the folkways of the Saxons and Normans who successively ruled in England. After all, it was the English who burned Joan of Arc, not because she was a general fighting against them but because she wore men’s clothing!

The accepted reading of the “fixed and unchangeable” Bible has since relaxed as women have gradually gained their independence from the tyranny of men and their institutions.

With my kangaroo mind, jumping from one subject to another, I wonder if the perceived subjugation of women within Muslim society through the use of Koranic authority is of a similar nature. FGM being justified in some parts of the world and not others through the pronouncements of the Imams, the Saudi experience where women are required to wear the totally black burka in a climate where white would be much more comfortable, the Afghanistan Mujahadeen rulings that women were not permitted to leave their abode even to get food. The list goes on.

Will the move away from their tribal origins lead to the Islamic Authorities to relax their differing interpretations of a woman’s place in society?

It is interesting to see the origin of the strange word in the will extract above.

elsomwill2.jpg

* Sunnud or Sanad.. A deed of grant, charter, patent, warrant (From the Urdu and Arab = signature, deed). According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary it was first used in Britain in 1759.

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