daily archive: 08/21/2005
A Booming Market
When Jennifer Romanello finished reading "The Kite Runner" recently, she immediately started recommending it to friends.New genre of popular novels focuses on Mideast, Islamic culture
"I got a real feeling of what's going on in Afghanistan," says Romanello, a book publicist who has no professional connection to the novel. "That book really explains the Taliban and how it affected everybody's life there. I didn't really understand it until I read the book. It's chilling."
Her next thought? To pick up another volume -- in this case Asne Seierstad's "The Bookseller of Kabul" -- that could teach her more about the region where the United States is at war. That nonfiction work, along with Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner," Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran", Azadeh Moaveni's "Lipstick Jihad" and a host of other books, is part of a fast-growing new genre helping to bridge a cultural divide.
As they've watched sales for Middle Eastern books climb, publishers have eagerly taken on more and works of fiction and nonfiction to feed a new American curiosity. Readers appear to want books filled with dramas of family or friendship -- they want strong emotions to carry them along as they learn about customs and history.
"We here in America live on a planet unto ourselves," says Carolyn Hessel, executive director of the Jewish Book Council, which sponsors programs to promote the reading and writing of books with Jewish content. "It took us a long time to realize there is a world out there that we know very little about . . . 'The Kite Runner' opened my eyes." So did a 2004 book by Jewish author Roya Hakakian, "Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran", Hessel says.
The trend began about two years ago. One of its pioneers is Cindy Spiegel, publisher of Riverhead Books. When she first read "The Kite Runner," she says, she knew it would be a best-seller. So she bought it, edited it and published it in 2003 with a letter on the dust jacket -- a highly unusual move -- telling readers that she felt the novel was important, relevant and compelling, with themes of loyalty, betrayal, father-son relationships and class conflicts.
Author Hosseini, who was born in Kabul and lives in the United States, is now writing his second novel, she says.
The book sold about 70,000 copies in hardcover but is reaching 2 million in paperback and has remained on best-seller lists for dozens of weeks. Reading groups from Santa Monica, Calif., to Johnson County, Iowa, waited for the paperback version, she says, as did many colleges, for required reading.
Spiegel says she thinks "The Kite Runner" and "Reading Lolita in Tehran," probably the next-best-selling book in the genre (more than 1 million paperback copies), developed readerships separately. But "together they made people aware there was interest in this region, and maybe by their success led to interest in the others."
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The Obsession With Toilet Gardens Spreads
Great. There are more people who plant flowers in toilets. I'm sure my grandma feels totally validated.'Toilet Town' Moves to Secret Location
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Jews and Presbyterians
Under sway of radical Palestinians, Presbyterian ties to Jews are fraying
The Presbyterian “leadership has been hijacked by a radicalized" Palestinian Christian population that “represents a fraction of the Christian community in Israel," said Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, the interfaith director for the Anti-Defamation League.
Bretton-Granatoor is referring to groups such as Sabeel, a Jerusalem-based, ecumenical liberation-theology center that has called on churches to divest from companies that profit from Israeli activities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sabeel’s speakers are routinely hosted by Presbyterians and other Protestant groups.
Sabeel’s “Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel" posits a vision of a two-state solution but argues that “the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a binational state in Palestine-Israel," a suggestion most Jews take either as a conscious or subconscious call for the end of the Jewish state.
Meanwhile, members of the Jewish coalition addressing interfaith affairs fume that they are barred from Presbyterian meetings.
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Foreigners in Pakistan madrassas: 20 down, 1400 to go
The problem isn't just foreigners in Pakistani madrassas,
in their own madrassas. I doubt Musharraf will do anything effective to curb the terrorist incitement. Even if he whitewashes the curriculums, he can't control what the local teachers say in private.
ISN Security Watch (18/08/05) - Pakistan has repatriated 20 foreigners studying at religious schools, or madrassas, across the country as part of its crackdown on educational institutions accused of serving as breeding grounds for extremism and terrorists.
According to a government spokesman, the madrassa students forced to leave came from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Somalia, Uganda, and Suriname. Pakistan's Interior Ministry said it was preparing to send home the remaining 1,400 students ordered out of the country by President Pervez Musharraf.
Student unions and professors at numerous madrassas came together and threatened to sever contact with the Pakistani government, calling Musharraf's decision "inhumane."
According to official estimates, there are some 12,000 madrassas in Pakistan, though only 6,148 of these are registered with the government as legal teaching institutes.
Pakistan is hoping to review and register all approved madrassas by the end of the year, a spokesman for the Religious Affairs Ministry, told ISN Security Watch. Under a new law, schools cannot operate without a government inspection and curriculum review.
Musharraf has come under heavy fire from his opponents and religious leaders for the expulsion of the students. The Pakistani president, who has been under pressure from the US to thwart religious extremism in his country, maintains he will no longer tolerate madrassas being "misused for extremism".
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Rummy snarls back at Chavez
Rummy doesn't want Chavez to think he's being ignored. He sounds kind of funny, though. "Anti-social?" "Destabilizing?"
I'll count my lucky stars he didn't call him "notably unhelpful".
Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, accused Venezuela's radical president Hugo Chavez yesterday of "anti-social, destabilising behaviour" that threatened regional security.
Mr Rumsfeld said that the oil-rich Venezuelan strongman and his Cuban ally Fidel Castro, had interfered in the affairs of Bolivia, lending support to a presidential candidate who has fought US efforts to eradicate cocaine production.
Speaking in the Peruvian capital Lima at the end of a regional tour, Mr Rumsfeld said: "There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways."
Despatching the bluntly-spoken Mr Rumsfeld to the region appeared to be a message to both regimes that the Bush administration was turning its attention to them after being absorbed by the "war on terror".
The two men stand accused of trying to blend South America's many grievances into an anti-American coalition. The Venezuelan-Cuban alliance has taken a number of steps viewed as threatening by Washington, including establishing an anti-American satellite television station called Telesur.
The Venezuelans have also offered cheap oil to some Latin American countries and Caribbean states, allegedly hoping to buy votes in groupings like the Organisation of American States.
Venezuela also expelled US drug enforcement agents this month, saying they were spies.
Most significantly, Venezuela has threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States. Taken together with the decision to throw out American military advisers four months ago, relations between Caracas and Washington are at a low ebb.
US warns Castro and oil-rich ally
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Thailand deploys crack special forces cable guys to fight Islamic insurgency
Well, the London bombers had plenty of access to cable TV and it didn't exactly help much, but I suppose every little bit counts.
The Thai government has decided to step up its fight against the insurgency in the Muslim south of the country with an unusual weapon - cable television.
The interior minister announced that cable TV would be installed in teashops across the south.
The hope is that it will distract young Muslim men from joining the insurgency.
The conflict with government forces has claimed more than 800 lives in the past 18 months.
The Thai government is at a loss over what to do with its troubled southern provinces.
It has tried appealing for peace, at one point dropping thousands of folded paper birds over the area.
It has tried being tough - nearly 200 Muslim men died at the hands of the army last year.
Last month it imposed emergency rule there.
None of these approaches has worked. Policemen, government officials and teachers are still being killed on an almost daily basis by insurgents whose identity remains a mystery.
Now the interior minister thinks the lure of English Premier League football might do the trick.
He wants to install 500 cable television sets in the teashops frequented by young Muslim men, in the hope that watching sport will prove more attractive than joining the militants.
He may be misjudging the mood of mistrust in the south though.
One prominent community leader there said the move would more likely be viewed as an attempt to project government propaganda.
The close association in Thailand between televised football and illegal gambling, he said, makes this an especially insensitive form of entertainment to promote in Muslim areas.
Thaksin fights insurgency with TV
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Interview with an Al Qaeda monster
MEMRI has this:
The following are excerpts from the interrogation of captured Iraqi terrorist Ramzi Hashem Abed, which aired on Al-Fayhaa TV on August 12 and Al-Iraqiya TV on August 7, 2005."(To view this clip, visit http://memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=813.)
Interrogator: "What is your full name?"
Abed: "Ramzi Hashem Abed."
Interrogator: "What is your alias?"
Interrogator: "Where do you live?"
Abed: "Nabi Yunis in Mosul."
Interrogator: "What organization do you belong to?"
Abed: "Ansar Al-Islam."
Interrogator: "What organization is this?"
Abed: "It is bin Laden's group."
Abed: "Mullah Al-Shafi'i said that we were going to carry out operations in Najaf."
Interrogator: "What kind of operations?"
Abed: "The Al-Qabanji operation, for example, or sending them poisoning food on the day commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein."
Interrogator: "Give me an example of an operation."
Abed: "The Turkish embassy, for example."
Interrogator: "The Turkish embassy in Baghdad?"
Abed: "Yes, or the Red Cross. We bombed it. The guys and I bombed it."
Interrogator: "What was the goal of bombing the Turkish embassy or the Red Cross?"
Abed: "By bombing the Turkish embassy, we wanted to cause a problem between the Turkmens and the Kurds."
Interrogator: "In other words, to cause civil strife between the two sides?"
Interrogator: "As for the murder of Muhammad Baqer Al-Hakim, you were one of the perpetrators, right?"
Interrogator: "Tell me how it took place."
Abed: "The operation... It was agreed upon right from the start by Mullah Al-Raikan, Mullah Al-Shafi'i, and Al-Zarqawi. They took us Iraqis to do surveillance from a distance. There were people there who specialized in bombing operations. They are still in Baghdad and Mosul."
Interrogator: "How many were you?"
Abed: "About four or five people."
Interrogator: "Those who carried out the operation?"
Interrogator: "They sent an ambulance and used remote control."
Interrogator: "Where were you exactly at the time of the incident?"
Abed: "We were in the cemetery."
Interrogator: "Why weren't you close to the incident?"
Abed: "Because there were specialists who carried out the operation."
Interrogator: "Specialists? Who were they?"
Abed: "Abu Sajjad, Abu Haidar, and Abu Hamza."
Interrogator: "All these are aliases. What are their real names?"
Abed: "They never give out their real names."
Interrogator: "You don't even know their real names?"
Abed: "No. For example, my name is Ramzi, right? They call me Abu Shema', after my daughter."
Interrogator: "Okay. What was your role in this operation?"
Abed: "They brought us to monitor the security forces' movements."
Interrogator: "How did the vehicle enter?"
Abed: "It came in through Sweiliej."
Interrogator: "I mean the city itself, how did it enter Najaf?"
Abed: "It was easy for an ambulance to enter."
Abed: "They gave Abu Sajjad $4,000."
Interrogator: "And you?"
Abed: "They gave us $400."
Interrogator: "A religious leader gave you $400? Okay. Did the operation target Muhammad Baqer Al-Hakim specifically, or the Al-Imam Ali mosque?"
Abed: "No... The people in charge, Mullah Al-Raikan and Al-Zarqawi, targeted Al-Hakim specifically."
Interrogator: "Why in this specific place? Why would they try to target Muhammad Baqer Al-Hakim near the Al-Imam Ali mosque? It is the mosque of the Emir of believers. Didn't you think of all the innocent people around?"
Abed: 'There were also people from Iraqi military intelligence, from the Fidayin, and the internal security, who were also involved in this operation."
Interrogator: "So Mullah Raikan had ties with the old internal security and military intelligence?"
Abed: "And they are still in Mosul."
Interrogator: "What other operations?"
Abed: "Operations we carried out in Mosul."
Interrogator: "Like what?"
Abed: "Against headquarters in Mosul. The headquarters of Mas'oud..."
Interrogator: "Mas'oud Rajab?"
Abed: "Yes. Against Jalal Talabani. We attacked them on the first day of Ramadan 2003."
Interrogator: "What squad did you tell me you belong to? Abu Sajjad's?"
Interrogator: "The groups you mentioned... Each group had a special mission?"
Abed: "Each group had suicide bombers, who are Afghans, not Iraqis."
Interrogator: "There were murders of police and National Guard officers."
Interrogator: "Slaughtering National Guardsmen and policemen – tell me about it."
Abed: "Sir, the slaughtering was done by people who belonged to the Syrians."
Abed: "Yes, the slaughtering..."
Interrogator: "From your own group?"
Abed: "No. There was a squad that came from the Syrian border."
Abed: "We carried out an operation in Mosul. We attacked the Islamic movement."
Interrogator: "The Islamic movement party?"
Abed: "Yes. This was in Mosul. We also hit the Al-Hisk headquarters."
Interrogator: "What is Al-Hisk?"
Abed: "It is the Kurdish neighborhood. We hit them, and we also hit the Communist headquarters, in Mosul."
Interrogator: "The Communist party in Al-Mosul?"
Interrogator: "Why did you mainly target Kurds?"
Abed: "Because in 2000-2003, Jalal Talabani brought the Americans to attack us."
Interrogator: "You mean that this was just revenge, or did you want to cause strife between Arabs and Kurds?"
Abed: "No, it was revenge."
Interrogator: "Did you kidnap women?"
Interrogator: "There were operations of kidnapping and rape, carried out by the squad you belong to?"
Interrogator: "Tell me how many rape and kidnapping operations were carried out. My information says that the kidnapped women were university students or daughters of famous people. You raped them and got money for it, and if they were not slaughtered afterwards.... Did this really happen?"
Abed: "Yes, it did."
Interrogator: "Who would carry out these operations?"
Abed: "Abu Sajjad."
Interrogator: "Your superior?"
Interrogator: "Is this Jihad – raping women? Is this Jihad?"
Abed: "It is because they collaborated with the Americans."
Interrogator: "That's why they were raped?"
Interrogator: "A student who is simply going to her university is kidnapped, raped, and then slaughtered?! This was an American collaborator?!"
Abed: "Mullah Al-Raikan would give the names to the squad commander."
Interrogator: "My information says that they were kidnapped and brought to Mullah Al-Raikan's headquarters. True or false?"
Abed: "He would interrogate them."
Interrogator: "Were they raped after the interrogation?"
Abed: "Yes. He would give them to the squad, and they would kill them. Some would rape them."
Interrogator: "You bastards. This is Jihad? You call this Jihad? "
Interrogator 2: "What was your role in these operations?"
Abed: "I would stand at the entrance to the headquarters. It was a house, and they would bring them there."
Interrogator 2: "Did you participate in the rape and murder?"
Abed: "No. Just one who worked for the PUK. She was a Kurd."
Interrogator: "In the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan?"
Abed: "Yes. We brought her too."
Interrogator: "And you raped her?"
Abed: "Our Ansar Al-Islam military camps were in Halabja."
Interrogator: "This was in the days of the previous regime?"
Interrogator: "And now?"
Abed: "Now, there is nothing. They were all scattered. The training area was in Falluja."
Interrogator: "And then?"
Abed: "After Falluja was hit, they would come through Syria to Mosul... I mean, through Falluja to Mosul. "
Abed: "I want to say one thing. Lieutenant Muhammad respected me and gave me food. I never thought it would be like this. He gave me food, and we had lunch together, and the honorable lieutenant-colonel gave me some Pepsi. I never believed Shiites could show such respect and care. We were taught by people like Mullah Al-Raikan that Shi'a is not Islam."
Interrogator: "You mean we show you respect and you slaughter us?"
Abed: "Yes. Mullah Al-Raikan thinks so, and he said so more than once."
Interrogator: "That's what they think."
Abed: "Yes, that Shiites are not Muslims, that they worship the Imam Ali and do not accept Muhammad."
Interrogator: "Did you rape anyone?"
Abed: "Only one woman, a relative of mine."
Interrogator: "A relative of yours. You kidnapped her and raped her?"
Abed: "No, we did not kill her."
Interrogator: "You didn't kill her, only raped her?"
Interrogator: "You have some nerve..."
Abed: "I want to say one thing. Before the operation they would give us pills."
Abed: "Not capsules. They would give us something like hashish and opium, and tell us we would not feel the operation we were carrying out."
I'm glad Iraq is keeping a death penalty.
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