Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Legends of Cricket

Take a multimedia tour through the cricketing hall of fame at Cricket Clips. The Waqar Younis video clips bring tears to the eye.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Khat and Paste

The government is finally contemplating banning the drug of choice of African/Arab migrants - Khat ('qat, kat, khat, khut, qut or xat depending on which expert you talk to').

The leaves are imported on regular flights from Africa as they remain potent for only 36 hours after being picked.

In the Nacro study 49% of the 553 Somalis interviewed said they wanted to see khat made illegal and even 25% of those who regularly used the drug agreed it should be outlawed. But a substantial minority - 35% - felt that khat use helped to maintain cultural identity.

The home secretary has asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to report by next month on whether the drug should be banned. Khat leaves are legal in Britain but their active ingredients, cathinone and cathine, are listed as class C drugs. The leaves are already banned in America, Sweden, Canada and Norway. (Full story)
Matthew Fort, a Guardian journalist, wrote about his own Khat experience a couple of years ago.

The suspense is killing me

Two juicy snippets of gossip from the literary world about William Dalrymple:

TRAVEL writer William Dalrymple has moved to Bloomsbury, following his editor Michael Fishwick with whom he worked closely for nearly 20 years at HarperCollins. Fishwick has bought five new books via agent David Godwin, the first of which, The Last Moghul, will be published in October 2006. Fishwick said: “I am immensely happy to have brought William Dalrymple to Bloomsbury. I have worked with him ever since I took on his first travel book, In Xanadu, nearly 20 years ago, and am looking forward to a similar period of time working with one of the greatest, most brilliant and exciting people writing today.” (Publishing News)
And from the Guardian:

He is now at work on a Mughal Quartet, four books telling the story of the Great Mughals from the time of Babur to the last Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The first volume will be published by Bloomsbury next autumn.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Desert Camel Jockeys

Having teased several Arab friends (and acquaintances) with the above term of endearment it appears that even this task has been wrestled from their grasp. Enter the Robot Camel Jockeys!

Robots, designed in Switzerland, riding camels in the Arabian desert. Camel jockey robots, about 2 feet high, with a right hand to bear the whip and a left hand to pull the reins. Thirty-five pounds of aluminum and plastic, a 400-MHz processor running Linux and communicating at 2.4 GHz; GPS-enabled, heart rate-monitoring (the camel's heart, that is) robots. Mounted on tall, gangly blond animals, bouncing along in the sandy wastelands outside Doha, Qatar, in the 112-degree heat, with dozens of follow-cars behind them. I have seen them with my own eyes.
Here's the full story.

Bush - Exit stage left

George Bush tried to make a hasty retreat from a press conference in China - through a locked door.

What a moron. See the Channel 4 report here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Cricketing Supplication

Spotted this rather predatory invocation on a banner in the crowd on Day 2 of the Test in Faisalabad:

"Bab Waalmer v.v. good coch
We prey to Pakistan teem"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine the furore if, for instance, a one-eyed, hook-for-hands had uttered the following, reported in yesterday's Guardian? Jovial Irish eccentricity?

A Democratic Unionist councillor who said hurricane Katrina was sent to the US by God to punish the New Orleans gay community yesterday stood by his views despite calls for his resignation.

Maurice Mills, twice mayor of Ballymena, said New Orleans was about to host an annual gay pride festival when God intervened through Katrina.

It was a warning to nations "where such wickedness is increasingly promoted and practised". Northern Ireland gay rights campaigners said he should be sacked. But he said: "This is me as an individual taking a stand for God."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Guardian pulls Chomsky interview

In response to a sorry excuse for an interview in The Guardian's G2 section (the original article has been removed from The Guardian's website but can be accessed here) Prof Noam Chomsky 'complained to the readers' editor over comments attributed to him about the Srebrenica massacre.'

The US academic and activist had complained that the October 31 interview, published in the newspaper and on Guardian Unlimited, falsely portrayed him as denying that massacres were committed there during the Bosnian war.

Professor Chomsky complained in particular about the headline for the interview which read: "Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated? A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough."

The Guardian's readers' editor, Ian Mayes, said today in a corrections and clarifications column printed in the paper, that no question in that form had been put by interviewer Emma Brockes to Prof Chomsky and that "the headline was wrong and unjustified by the text".

In an open letter dated November 13 on his official website, Prof Chomsky attacked the Guardian interview as a "scurrilous piece of journalism" where the reporter had a definite agenda.
Chomsky's letter is worth a read.


Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. ©Tauseef Mehrali 2003

Letter to The Guardian

In response to a text box accompanying an article in today's Guardian:

Dear Sir

The information box outlining the Iranian President's 'devotion to a mystical religious figure' (Second coming - The president's beliefs, November 18) implies that the belief in the Mahdi is a cultish and exclusively Shi'a construct. In fact, the Mahdi is an integral figure in Islamic eschatology such that several individuals have laid claim to the title for various ends. The main difference between the Shi'a and Sunni perspectives is whether the Mahdi has been born or not. The former believe he has, is in a period of occultation and await his reappearance.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Very Indian Outlook

A 10 year old boy from Nagpur, India, considers his rare birth defect to be an advantage:

Devender Harne, 10, was born with 25 fingers and toes -- six fingers on each hand, six toes on one foot and seven on the other.

Though it would be considered an abnormality to some, Devender says it allows him to work faster than the average child.

The extra digits on his hands and feet don't hinder his daily life. Like any normal 10-year-old, he goes to school, plays sports and spends time with his friends.

The Guinness Book of World Records has contacted the boy's family and is investigating whether he has the most useful fingers and toes in the world.

Rumi makes it into the BMJ!

From this week's British Medical Journal:

Medicine's need

Where lowland is, that's where water goes. All medicine wants is pain to cure.
Delicious laughter: rambunctious teaching stories from the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-73). Compiled and translated by Coleman Barks. Maypop, 1990
BMJ 2005;331:1142 (12 November), doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7525.1142

Friday, November 11, 2005

Moustapha Akkad dies

The Syrian born director/producer Moustapha Akkad and his daughter Rima have been confirmed as two of the victims of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's latest attrocity. The 68-year old directed the groundbreaking 1977 film 'The Message' starring Anthony Quinn that portrayed the life of the Prophet of Islam and introduced his history to a Western audience via the Silver screen for the first time.

BBC News Coverage.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

La Haine

Mathieu Kassovitz, director of the powerful French film La Haine (Hate) which I vividly recall first seeing, posted a statement about La Republique's fortnight of rioting on his website yesterday. The film itself 'detailed the aftermath of a riot on an impoverished Paris housing project' and graphically captures the explosive racial tensions between the Parisian elite and the immigrant French underclass by focusing on the shared experiences of a young ghetto trio comprising a second generation Arab, West African and Eastern European Jew.

The following is an extract (of an extract!) published in today's Guardian entitled 'It's hard not to cheer the rioters':

As much as I would like to distance myself from politics, it is difficult to remain distant in the face of the depravations of politicians. And when these depravations draw the hate of all youth, I have to restrain myself from encouraging the rioters.

Nicolas Sarkozy, who has appeared in the media like a starlet from American Idol and who for the past years has been showering us with details of his private life and political ambitions, cannot prevent himself from creating an event every time his ratings go down. This time, Sarkozy [who last week described the rioters as "scum"] has gone against everything the French republic stands for: the liberty, the equality and the fraternity of a people.

By acting like a warmonger, he has opened a breach that I hope will engulf him. Hate has kindled hate for centuries and yet Sarkozy still thinks that repression is the only way to prevent rebellion. History has proved to us that a lack of openness and philosophy between different communities engenders hate and confrontation. Sound and fury are the only means for many communities to make themselves heard.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam in 5 Bullet Points

  • A beautifully written novel that verges on the poetic throughout - the intoxicating red of the Cinnabar moth; the magnetic luring of snow towards the earth...

  • Very well researched and damn good story - probably did take him the 11 years he claims to have required

  • Portrays a seismic point of contact between two very different traditions of the Subcontinental Islamic World - the traditional Muslim outlook and the disillusioned if not outright atheistic outlook

  • Highlights the unchallenged inconsistencies in people's thought

  • Describes a world (an anonymnous English town given the pseudonym of Dasht-e-Tanhaii - Desert of Solitude) that is simultaneously familiar yet totally foreign to me.
  • Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Eid Mubarak!

    Eid Mubarak to you all.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005


    Something I posted in April. Here we go again...

    With the imminent advent of moonfighting committees to diffuse the havoc caused by moonsighting committees, and the launch of the new Conservative manifesto, perhaps it's time to borrow a Tory phrase and get 'back to basics'. The perennial drive to standardise the Islamic calendar may well be blinkering us from the actual ethos behind the act of moonsighting - regaining a sense of perspective.

    Hamza Yusuf touches on the issue in his commentary on Sachiko Murata and William Chittick's 'Vision of Islam' by quoting an unnamed Scottish phenomenologist:

    There are efforts to standardise the Islamic calendar so that Ramadhan can be started on the same day in different communities. But the relationship of the celestial bodies to the earth is a living thing and every location has its own sky. So why shouldn't religious festivals begin on dates peculiar to different places? The modern mind, however, wishes to generalise and abstract the situation so the phenomena are bypassed. As with the length of the day, the average is calculated and becomes the accepted truth to accommodate the limits of circular wheels in clocks, yet none of the celestial bodies moves in circles.
    You can listen to the relevant extract (in mp3 format) from Hamza Yusuf's commentary here.

    Some comments arising therefrom:

    Mohammed said...
    Yeah i just listened to that snippet yesterday on the zaytuna website. I found it to be insightful. I wish ppl would explain the system of moonsighting itself as well. I think 99.9% of muslims dont understand it, including me.

    10/04/2005 10:55 PM

    Anonymous said...
    Since Islam encourages the use of technology, I (even as a girl) would say it was quite simple to click on an obervatory website (Jodrell Bank for example) and in 2 seconds flat, you can find out if the moon has been sighted. They use these MASSIVE telescopes that are awfully complicated and surprisingly accurate. Easy as pie.

    11/02/2005 12:43 PM

    Leo_Africanus said...
    But where's the fun in that?!

    11/02/2005 1:08 PM

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005


    The Islamic Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ©Tauseef Mehrali 2005


    A couple of months ago I met up with my sister for a pizza in town. Sitting at the table adjacent to ours were a couple of college students: a waif-like girl (G) and a boy (B) who couldn't decide whether he was more interested in her or his mountain of pizza slices.

    B - Are you sure you don't want some pizza?
    G - Nah. I'm on a diet innit.

    [B proceeds to maul his buffet meal while G looks on, having ordered nothing.]

    B - So what's your favourite meal then?
    G - Oh that's a tricky one...hmmm...I don't know.
    B - If you had to choose something that was your number one food...
    G - Ok.Ok. It's gotta be Filet-o-Fish. Man, that is delicious. In fact, I love Filet-o-Fish.
    B - Really? Qasme I think it's rough. Why do you love it?
    G - Oh man. I can't explain it. It's different to liking something. Like, you know, I could like a guy cos he has a nice bag but you don't know why you love something. You just do. It just tastes so different.

    [Some silent munching ensues]

    B - Have you noticed me before?
    G - Yeah, in science innit.